Faith came to us via LinkedIn when we discovered her in a group discussion there and learned about her fascinating story and transformation from a woman who lived and ate the standard American diet to a plant based nutrition coach. The following is our interview with this remarkable woman.
Where does your interest in nutrition come from?
In the summer of 2007 I read Barbara Kingsolver’s, “Vegetable, Animal, Miracle”, about a family’s year of living almost exclusively on the produce from their garden and small livestock. It was the first time I had heard the term CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) used to describe the industrialization of “manufacturing” animals to create food products for humans; in other words, the torture and abuse of animals and our earth to provide vast quantities of cheap meat.
Over the next few years, I read over a dozen books on diet, animal welfare, vegetarianism, veganism and the Locavore movement and watched half dozen documentaries on the same topics. I quickly and easily eliminated meat after watching Fast Food Nation the weekend of Thanksgiving in 2008 and then decided that eating organic, locally grown animals was acceptable to my health and the world.
However, the more I learned, the clearer it became that if I could meet my nutritional needs without causing any animal suffering, why would I choose to do otherwise? My former favorite foods such as cheese, ice cream and seafood became less and less appealing. As I discovered new foods and recipes, I was thrilled to find that my diet was not full of deprivation, but actually enhanced with new foods and flavors I didn’t even know existed.
What was the single biggest motivation behind going plant based?
Initially, it was to end my support, through food purchases, of animal suffering. However, since learning more about the enormous health benefits of eliminating all animal products from my diet this has become an equally compelling reason for my vegan diet.
When and how did you decide to make a career out of your passion for plant based nutrition?
This was a natural integration of my life’s education and experiences in the fields of psychology, business, accounting, life coaching, fitness training, and nutrition. After completing T. Colin Powell’s Plant-Based Nutrition program through eCornell in the summer of 2011, I realized that there was nothing I wanted to do more than help others achieve and maintain optimal health and fitness.
Are there any essential nutrients that vegan and vegetarians must pay special attention to?
Even though we need very little vitamin B12 for health, it is a critical nutrient that vegans may have difficulty obtaining. I recommend that everyone be tested for B12, specifically Methylmalonic Acid. By the way, this is also recommended for people over age 50 regardless of their diet, due to poor absorption in older adults. I take a vegan supplement and my B12 is within normal range.
Where do you stand on the issue of essential fatty acids in our diet? How can vegans best meet their requirements for these fats?
This is a great questions and I’m glad you asked it, because my answer would be the same if you replaced “essential fatty acids” with “protein”, or “fiber” or “calcium” or any other very specific nutrient.
Put simply, I urge everyone to get their nutrition from food, not pills. Eat a wide variety of plants, fruits, nuts, beans, legumes and seeds. While there are some exceptions (vitamin B12 for vegans being one), almost everyone in a first world country can easily get the necessary vitamins, minerals and fatty acids if their diet is sufficient in calories to maintain a healthy weight AND the foods they eat are nutrient dense.
What are the best sources of nutritional information for your work?
There are some fabulous resources available. My go to book resources right now are T. Colin Campbell’s, “The China Study” and Julieanna Hever’s, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition”.
As a practitioner, do you direct your patients to any particular sources?
It really depends on the client’s motivation to change and their goals. I have a list of dozens of resources (books, DVDs and web-sites) that I have organized by type so clients who are interested in learning more about animal welfare vs. health, vs. the environmental impact of their food choices have a list that resonates with them.
I have a similar list of cookbooks depending on the person’s comfort in the kitchen and other types of food sensitivities such as gluten.
How do you think we can best cut through all of the confusion people have over nutrition today? One study says this and another contradicts that same claim.
The bottom-line is that people can find any study to support their particular eating habits. To truly cut through the hype, be willing to read the actual study, not just the headline. Ask the hard questions. One of the most important of which may be: Who funded the study?
Every day more and more physicians, dietitians, researchers, and nutritionists are coming to see the overwhelming health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.
The evidence is clear that populations of people that do not consume animal protein simply do not have heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and a host of other “Western diseases” that Americans assume they are genetically pre-determined to suffer from regardless of what they do.
I urge everyone to watch the documentary, “Forks Over Knives”. I have seen first hand how viewers have come away with a new understanding of how each of us can positively and dramatically improve our health through diet.
How has your experience with cancer shaped your views on nutrition?
After my own cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2010, I became even more vigilant in my diet, and more passionate in sharing what I have learned and continue to learn, with others. Fortunately for me, my diagnosis of Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma is a very, very slow growing cancer. While there is no treatment yet, I have learned how a completely plant-based diet has been shown to stop, and in some cases, even reverse the growth of cancer cells.
Would you care to share any other thoughts with us?
This year, at the age of 50, I ran my first half marathon, and biked 200 miles in two days to raise money for cancer research. On a completely vegan diet, I have the energy, stamina and strength to run, hike, bike, kayak, and ski all year long.
I have learned how proper nutrition can have a dramatic effect on not just prevention, but also the possibility of actually reversing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. I understand, as well as anyone, that the path is not typically straight, but full of bends, turns, steep hills, detours and side trails that require backtracking. Everyone needs to take their own path, on their own time.
I have been amazed at the number of people who are also beginning their own journey of learning how their food choices affect their health, the environment and the welfare of animals. Because I know how hard it can be to make changes in your diet, I have created a program called the “TLC Solution for Optimal Health” specifically designed to provide the education, support and inspiration people need to make dramatic, powerful and lasting changes to their diet, their health and their life. This program and contact information can be found at my web-site, www.tlcforyourlife.com.