My plant-strong journey officially began last August 2012.  My mom had been reading Joel Furhman's Eat to Live book on our summer vacation and we got talking about this idea of limiting animal products in an effort to improve health, lose weight and fight our family history of heart disease.  I also watched a documentary that was a huge wake-up call:  Forks Over Knives.  

Now, I'd have to say I grew up eating extremely healthy compared to the standard American diet (acronym SAD is so applicable).  We didn't drink soda or eat potato chips regularly.  We ate fruits and veggies.  We did ok.  I developed a love of cooking at a fairly young age and processed food wasn't something we ate a lot of.  Brownie mixes?  Unheard of.  We made pretty much everything from scratch.

I was a college athlete (cross-country and track) so it didn't really matter what I ate (so I thought) since I was burning a ton of calories.  My speedy metabolism stuck with me after college for a couple years and I really didn't change my eating style (read: large portions) until the number on the scale became a bit frightening.  Turns out a desk job doesn't make the same sort of dent in one's daily calorie output as running 60 miles a week does.  Bummer!  I had periods of time where I stopped eating meat (usually after watching PETA videos on YouTube) but I wasn't really serious about it and usually went back to eating meat a couple weeks later when I got the horrible images out of my mind.  

Fast-forward to August of last year again.  I got some blood work done and found I had pretty high cholesterol (over 220).  Apparently my love of cheese was not breeding good will in my arteries.  I'd also been fighting with the scale again.  About that time I was at Whole Foods market and saw an advertisement for a 28-Day Challenge following the Engine 2 Diet book as a guide.  I don't believe in coincidences and signed myself up for the challenge along with beginning to attend the Whole Foods weekly cooking demonstrations geared towards plant-based eating and recipes.  

I am convinced that eating a plant-based diet has helped my body heal from severe physical and emotional stress and I have more energy and feel a vitality that I didn't feel when I was eating animal products.  I have a fairly lethal family history when it comes to heart disease and I feel that this lifestyle is helping me keep that at bay.  

Do I follow the plant-strong/plant-based diet exclusively?  I aim for the 90/10 rule:  Eat a plant-strong, vegan diet 90% of the time and the other 10% I don't stress out about.  I don't like to use the term "vegan" because it's very polarizing, but I'd say I am pretty much vegan.  I haven't bought meat to cook at home since last year and I don't miss it, much.  When I went to meet Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet and My Beef with Meat, he said something that made me laugh but also really struck a chord:  "If you were driving down the road and saw a cow in an open field, would you think 'Gosh, I'd really love to just dive in and eat that.'  No!  We don't crave the meat itself as much as the way meat is prepared--the salt, the added fats and seasonings."  Well put, Rip, well put.  

It's been awesome to see my family becoming more plant-strong.  I believe that even if you are not ready to totally embrace eating a plant-based diet (and that's ok!  No judgement here!) that the more plants you can add to your diet can only help you!  

Plant Strong Resources:

Engine 2 Diet (Rip Esselstyn--he's kind of like the rock star of the plant-based movement.  Cool dude.)

Forks Over Knives (this is an excellent documentary.  Even if if doesn't convince you towards a plant-strong diet, it may convince you to look at the meat and dairy products you are eating and moving away from processed foods.)

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (Rip Esselstyn's dad and part of the Forks Over Knives documentary and runs the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.)

Eat to Live (Joel Furham--this was such a great book and got me started on my journey).

The McDougall Program (the irony is that we followed this way of eating for a stint during my childhood.  It did not meet with a great deal of favor with us kids 100% of the time but taught me some good principles.)

Dr. Colin Campbell (his book The China Study shows the research and evidence between diet and health.)

Dr. Neil Barnard (his book Food for Life was also in our kitchen growing up...before plant-strong was as popular as it is now!)

Whole Foods (probably the leader among retailers in terms of offering plant-strong options like the Engine 2 products, special "Health Starts Here" plant-based foods in their prepared food bars and offering educational classes and events geared towards a plant-based diet.)

Rip Esselstyn and I @ Whole Foods June 2013

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