There is nothing I love more than exploring a new city on foot. Early this morning I went for a 6 mile run around Shreveport and over the Long-Allen Bridge into neighboring Bossier City, Louisiana. I lounged a bit before running to the store to pick up a few things. I grabbed a kale mango smoothie and hit the road for Marshall, TX and day one of Healthfest 2015.
Some photos from my run
On the drive I got to thinking about what possessed me to come all this way for a health conference. This weekend was all about getting out of my comfort zone in many ways. It’s not enough for me anymore to sit in the comfort of my home reading health and nutrition websites, blogs and listening to podcasts. I am passionate about nutrition and the healing potential of a plant based diet on the body. I need to be more active in pursuing my passion.
I enjoy learning and furthering my education. I was seeking an experience that would allow me the opportunity to spend time around like-minded people as well as access to those who are not just talking the talk but also walking the walk.
I don’t remember exactly how I found out about Healthfest. I believe it was on the Rich Roll podcast. Nevertheless it was a couple of years ago when I first heard about the conference and it instantly struck a chord in me. I looked it up on line and must have signed up on some sort of email list because sometime around Christmas I received an email offering a significant discount for early registration to Healthfest 2015. When I read the line up of speakers I knew I had to go…not only was Rich Roll going to be presenting, but Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Garth Davis, Chef AJ, Ellen Jaffe Jones, and Matt Frazier as well!
OK I know most people are probably reading that list and thinking Who The ?! But I knew of them all, I’ve read many of their books, visited their websites, listened to their podcasts and subscribed to their blogs or newsletters.
Let me stop for a moment to say that although this experience was uniquely about the benefits of a whole food plant based diet, I am not here to preach. I am not judging anyone for their decision to eat meat and dairy. I plan to share my experience at the Healthfest conference as information that might be of interest to some. I find this subject matter fascinating and thought provoking. I respect you if this isn’t your cup of tea.
Before I get into the conference I want to revisit my own transition to a mostly whole foods plant based diet. I’ll get around to why I say mostly, but first I will confess that I didn’t eat a green vegetable until I was about 23 years old (I may have eaten some as a baby, but for as long as I can remember the only “vegetables” in my diet were ketchup and corn). It was rather pathetic that I didn’t even eat salad. Prior to leaving for the Peace Corps when I was 25 years old I did begin to eat a little bit of romaine lettuce and broccoli.
My time in Mozambique transformed my taste buds in a miraculous way. I went in with a horrible diet and emerged with an expanded palate, but best of all I craved all sorts of vegetables and became a very adventurous eater. I returned to the U.S. in 2002 but it wasn’t until 2011 that I became vegetarian after a visit to Mozambique. I had been easing into vegetarianism by then, but at some point during that trip I announced out loud to my husband that I was done eating meat. I honestly have never looked back on that decision. I truly believe it was best for me and my body.
My progression to adopting a mostly plant based diet happened because of running. As I began running longer distance races I became acutely aware of how my stomach often felt “off” on race day. I had to incorporate extra time pre-race to make sure I could get it under control so I didn’t have to go to the bathroom mid-race. Somewhere in my reading I kept coming across advice to cut out dairy the week before a race. I tried it and surprise surprise no stomach irritability. I did this for a number of races before the light bulb went on that my stomach wasn’t only irritable on race day, it was like that every day! Perhaps if I stopped eating dairy I wouldn’t feel that way anymore. So I stopped and lo and behold I began feeling better. Am I lactose intolerant? I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I feel infinitely better without dairy.
I can’t call myself vegan because I occasionally eat small amounts of cheese, milk or butter if it is mixed in something when I’m out to dinner. This is very rare, only happens out of my home and it is the extent of my dairy intake. You can follow me on My Fitness Pal if you want a glimpse into my diet. I stick as closely as I can to a whole foods plant based diet aka fruits, vegetables, whole grains and no processed food.
I know I’m getting closer and closer to adopting a purely vegan diet. That is my choice. I do not push it onto family or friends. Orlando is vegetarian at home as I no longer cook meat per his request. He does eat meat at times when we are out to dinner or at someone’s home and he still eats dairy. He enjoys the food I cook and likes the way he feels. Interestingly he found it challenging when he recently went home to Mozambique because he insisted on eating the way he does here and he experienced a great deal of resistance from his family. He actually had to cook for himself a few times which goes against the cultural norm in his country. Ironically Mozambique is an incredibly easy place to be vegan because of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables particularly the agricultural town where his family lives.
Carlos is a picky eater, much like I was until I was in my 20s. If we let him choose his diet would consist of macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets (the frozen ones not McDonalds), cheese, and bread. I call it the white diet. Fortunately he will drink smoothies with spinach. He loves fruit. The chicken nuggets he eats most of the time are actually vegetarian. Shhh! He is transitioning to almond milk as he doesn’t drink milk anyway and only uses it in cereal. Carlos is most certainly not vegan. However, he understands what it means and I continue to encourage him to eat vegetables and more variety of foods overall.
So that turned into a very long explanation of why I decided to go to Healthfest 2015 in Marshall, Texas. I hope you’ll take the time to read about my experience. Maybe you won’t agree with the information and that’s ok. Maybe you won’t become vegan or even vegetarian and that’s ok too. Do me one favor though, read with an open mind and please feel free to ask questions if you have them.
Healthfest Day 1 coming sometime this week!