Stop Shaming

Stop ShamingOver time, I’ve become better and better at navigating social situations while making food choices that align with my values. I get better at the dance of going out to eat with friends, going to parties, and traveling while enjoying myself without falling off track or feeling like an outsider.

But last week I was at a conference in Baltimore for my work as a web developer, and the food issue was especially challenging. Take a look at this group text from last week as our team was deciding where to eat.

Two things to consider:

  1. I mentioned that I was going to slip away to a vegan, soul food restaurant I had heard about, but didn’t mean to suggest that the whole group should go (someone else texted that to the group).
  2. I’m close friends with the guy who sent this text and talk openly about these things with him. I didn’t take it personally, as the text might suggest.

But still, it’s a good representation of the kind of social pressures that many of us have to deal with on a nearly constant basis.

The more I look, the more I see this kind of health shaming everywhere

And it’s not just limited to conversations between friends and family. Blatant examples of health shaming can be found in the media and in pop culture at large.

As an example, take a look at this article about a new juicer that has been making headlines recently, entitled,“As Juicero gets publicly shamed, let us not forget that juice itself is a lie.

This quote, taken from the article, is especially troubling:

“Juice is one of the pillars of the modern wellness movement, right up there with yoga, healing crystals, Korean sheet masks, and whatever else Goop is hawking this week. And wellness is the ultimate 21st-century status symbol. Forget about designer labels and expensive vacations. There’s nothing more difficult to attain, or more enviable, than a natural glow from within. To that point, whether we’re forking over $400 for a Silicon Valley-approved juicer or $10 for a local shop’s kale-ginger-cucumber-apple blend, we’re not just paying for puréed produce. We’re buying into a vision of ourselves at our radiant, virtuous, energized best. Buying cold-pressed juice has always been a way to signal to ourselves, and the world, that we’re enlightened enough to prioritize our health—and financially secure enough to invest in it.”

There is no doubt that wellness services and products are largely available only to those of a certain socio-economic class. We need to do more to make healthful food available and affordable to everyone.

And as wellness has become trendier, it HAS become a certain kind of status symbol. But frankly, I find it seriously awesome that people may be more interested in buying organic produce, taking a yoga or meditation class, or sipping a green juice instead of buying hummers and huge houses.

TV shows love to make fun of plant-based eaters and talk about how gross raw food is. Journalists love to publish stories about how there isn’t any evidence to support claims made about the benefits of supplements and detoxification.

I’m not saying that we should ignore the science. It is true that certain supplements can do more harm than good. We need to do our due diligence by consulting with qualified medical professionals and pay close attention to the data being released by independent quality-control companies like Labdoor that test supplements for their safety and purity.

There may not be many scientific studies that show how certain foods aid in the detoxification process, but I’ve personally been witness to some incredible health transformations over the years. When I worked at the Tree of Life, many of the guests arriving with Type 2 diabetes were off all medication and had a normal fasting blood sugar level by the time they left – and that was after just three weeks on a plant-based, low-glycemic diet.

I don’t know if they were “detoxing” or not, but I can tell you that they made life-changing improvements to their health and well-being.

I’ve been doing a lot of outreach for our new, big project lately, fueled by some truly shocking facts.

According to the CDC, 7 out of 10 people in the US die from chronic diseases that are largely preventable.1

1 out of 4 people continue to die from heart disease.2 As many as 1 in 3 adults could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue.3 More than 2 out of 3 Americans are considered overweight or obese.4 These chronic conditions are epidemic.

Yet we already have a solution to this crisis.

Through diet and lifestyle changes alone, we can reduce heart disease by 90%5,6, type 2 diabetes by 92%7, stroke by 80%8 and cancer risk by up to 60%9. In 2013, Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States, noted that despite the strong body of evidence in support of a plant-based diet as a first-line treatment for chronic disease, physicians often ignore the facts in favor of quickly prescribing medications. The medical community is not giving patients a chance to manage their disease through healthy eating and active living.10

The hard truth is that so many of our loved-ones will experience a significant decline in their quality of life and eventually die, in part, because of what they choose to eat.

As Americans, we pay more for health care than other nations and yet as much as 86% of our healthcare costs could be avoided through simple changes in diet and lifestyle.1

And for that reason, I’m super-grateful for the fact that people have discovered juicing and yoga, even if it has become a trendy status symbol. I don’t give a damn what’s motivating people to eat more veggies, when just 2.5 servings per day can reduce early mortality by over 13%.11

The Real Cost of Health Shaming

The Standard American Diet is literally killing us, has a huge environmental impact and costs us over a trillion dollars each year in medical bills. It’s making the people that we love sick.

This is too important for me to not speak up. This isn’t a trend. This is a movement that must grow, because we have no other option than to radically change our current food culture if we want to live happy, healthy lives and do better for our planet.

So how about we stop shaming people who choose to buy $10 juices, and instead focus on making real, organic, plant-based food more available to everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status.

Let’s stop making fun of people who are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo or whatever else they are because they choose to take on the difficult task of standing in opposition to the cultural norm in order to create better health for themselves and their families.

Let’s stop fighting about what diet is best, and celebrate each and every small victory that moves people towards eating more veggies and less processed food.

We need to shift the cultural conversation and stop alienating those of us who have the courage to make personal changes in a society that continues to marginalize and shame them. You might feel like an outsider in your community, but our movement is growing. Our strength and numbers are growing. We are in this together, and the more that we create acceptance, the more the tides will turn.


  1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Chronic Disease Overview.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
  2. CDC, NCHS. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2013, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed Feb. 3, 2015.
  3. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Number of Americans with Diabetes Projected to Double or Triple by 2050.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 03 May 2017.
  4. “Overweight & Obesity Statistics.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.
  5. Chiuve, S. E., M. L. McCullough, F. M. Sacks, and E. B. Rimm. “Healthy Lifestyle Factors in the Primary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease among Men: Benefits among Users and Nonusers of Lipid-lowering and Antihypertensive Medications.” Circulation. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 11 July 2006. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
  6. Akesson, A., C. Weismayer, P. K. Newby, and A. Wolk. “Combined Effect of Low-risk Dietary and Lifestyle Behaviors in Primary Prevention of Myocardial Infarction in Women.”Archives of Internal Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Oct. 2007. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
  7. Hu, F. B., J. E. Manson, M. J. Stampfer, G. Colditz, S. Liu, C. G. Solomon, and W. C. Willett. “Diet, Lifestyle, and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women.” The New England Journal of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 Sept. 2001. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.
  8. Chiuve, Stephanie E., Kathryn M. Rexrode, Donna Spiegelman, Giancarlo Logroscino, JoAnn E. Manson, and Eric B. Rimm. “Primary Prevention of Stroke by Healthy Lifestyle.”Circulation. American Heart Association, Inc., 26 Aug. 2008. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
  9. Katz, David L. “Facing The Facelessness Of Public Health: What’s The Public Got To Do With It?”. American Journal of Health Promotion 25.6 (2011): p361. Print.
  10. Tuso, Philip. “Nutritional Update For Physicians: Plant-Based Diets”. The Permanente Journal 17.2 (2013): 61-66. Web.
  11. Boseley, Sarah. “Forget Five a Day, Eat 10 Portions of Fruit and Veg to Cut Risk of Early Death.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 22 Feb. 2017. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

* indicates required

Did you dig this article? Sign up for updates!


We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.


On his way home from the hardware store, Gene Curtin lost consciousness and crashed his car.

Apart from the injuries from the crash, he came home from the hospital with another challenge to contend with — a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, he is not alone. Nearly one out of every ten people in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes, and there are more than a million new diagnoses each year.

What people choose to do with this common diagnosis, however, varies dramatically from person to person.

In Gene’s case, the diagnosis eventually introduced him to the concept of food as medicine sent him on a healing journey through the world of holistic health.

But Gene also something else about him that is entirely unique.

He is a fictional character.

Sweet Healing: A Whole Health Journey

Today, I’m excited to share a health book with you that takes a completely novel approach.

I LOVE reading health books. But while the content differs from book to book, the method is almost always the same.

Eat lots of x, don’t eat y, and make sure to exercise for z-minutes per day.

But the process of actually implementing the advice — creating and maintaining a lifestyle of health and well-being — can be a transformative journey that affects every single part of who we are.

Our body changes. Our relationship to food changes. Our taste buds change. Our worldview and social relationships change. Our daily habits change.

During the time Regan and I spent at the Tree of Life, we were constant agents to this process of transformation — supporting guests as they went through the 21-Day Diabetes Recovery program.

Often, this change is forced by life circumstances, and has to happen at a very accelerated pace. It can be an extremely difficult and isolating experience. That’s where Sweet Healing comes in.

Sweet Healing: A Whole Journey is a fictional book written by author Michael Bedar that explores these concepts so often missing from traditional health books.

Michael was inspired to turn his master’s thesis, a project involving a survey of over 200 people diagnosed with diabetes, into a page-turning, parable-like novel that motivates and informs people towards living in a way that is proven to heal through nature.

The story accompanies Gene and his wife Hope as they navigate Gene’s diagnosis, are faced with the inevitable hurdles along the way, and discover health and science secrets that may dramatically transform his future if he can change his daily habits.

It’s a profoundly empathetic and inspiring story about a lot more than diabetes, with the potential to support change on a deep level.

The Story of Type 2 Diabetes and How to Heal Naturally with Author Michael Bedar

I sat down with Michael to talk about what inspired him to write the novel, our fascination with the process of behavioral change, and what’s next. Hope you enjoy!

Show notes:

If you like this video, please subscribe to our youtube channel!

* indicates required

Did you dig this article? Sign up for updates!


We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.

Photo credit: Giuseppe Chirico

I am a master at justifying my bad habits.

Like when it’s 10pm and I really don’t need to be eating a bowl of coconut bliss ice cream.

Give me 30 seconds and I can convince myself that it’s been a tough week and I’ve earned this small reward — after all, there are much worse things I could be eating.

Or that it’s really no big deal because it only has 13 grams of sugar per serving.

Or that I haven’t had any sweets at all for nearly two weeks, and I had a super healthy lunch. Surely a little ice cream before bed can’t hurt.

Any of this sound familiar?

It’s amazing how, in an instant, we can talk ourselves out of our big picture goals — what we TRULY want for our lives, for a few seconds of pleasure that we’ll instantly regret.

Yes we want to lose weight, to be healthy, to look and feel our best and be an example of health for our loved ones.

But in the moment, we decide that we’d rather have the ice cream!

Instead of saying no, instead of taking a stand for our radiant health and our goal weight, we take a step in the other direction, promising to do better tomorrow.

Now, I’m a big fan of the “crowding-out” strategy.

The idea is that you focus on adding good habits and good foods to your life. These good choices eventually “crowd-out” the bad and the bad falls away on its own.

But sometimes crowding out isn’t enough. Sometimes we get stuck and it becomes clear that there is a craving or habit that is standing in our way that we must let go of.

Especially when months or years pass and we still aren’t making progress.

How can we breakthrough so that in 3 or 6 months we can look back and see how far we have come?

How can we begin to make real progress towards our goals?

At a certain point, true transformation means you have to get serious. You have to make a commitment to yourself and stick to it. You have to learn how to say no.

But what we sometimes miss is that saying no is also something that we can learn. It is something that we can practice.

If it’s time for you to take the next step to take your health, weight-loss and well-being to the next level, here’s how to get started.

1) Draw a bright line

One of the most effective ways to create change is to make a single rule and commit to it 100%. Start with a meaningful commitment, but something that doesn’t terrify you.

For example you might commit to attending a single party without eating anything with sugar, a week of eating 100% vegan, no animal products, or a month of starting each day with a green smoothie.

This is called drawing a bright line — making a clearly defined rule that comes with a 100% commitment.

Yes, we all love freedom. Believe me, the last thing I want to do is to make a 100% commitment to never enjoying my favorite chocolate treat ever again. In fact, the idea of letting go of something forever can prevent us from ever getting started (more on that on the next point.)

But drawing a bright line removes the in-the-moment decision of whether you are going to make a good choice or a bad choice. It removes that possibility of justification.

As we’ve already covered, and I’m sure you’ve seen in your own life, we are all masters at justifying the choices we make that are not in our best interest.

Trick the justifier. Get the upper hand on your psychology. Draw a bright line.

2) Set a start and end date

Bright lines work best when you set both a start date and an end date.

A start date also helps you to formalize the commitment. It allows you to prepare yourself mentally and makes it more likely that the commitment will stick.

Most of us make 100% commitments after a particularly brutal fall off the wagon, but it becomes all too easy to throw that commitment out of the window when presented with the temptation again.

Give yourself at least a couple days to let the commitment marinate. Mondays, the first of the month or the new moon are also good dates to pick.

Setting an end date, on the other hand, removes the fear that you are never going to be able to enjoy a (insert your favorite vice here) ever again.

Again, make the commitment meaningful but not terrifying. A week or a month is a good length of time to start with.

Finally, mark both the start date and the end date in your calendar. If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real.

3) Start with one thing at a time

Making big change is awesome.

I love it when people go 100% plant-based, or quit sugar cold turkey. When you make a drastic change, it doesn’t take long to experience the benefits, and getting quick results is a powerful motivator to keep you moving forward.

But making big changes that last is difficult for most of us. If your personality is better suited to making small changes or you’ve tried to make big changes before that haven’t stuck, then taking a step-by-step is the way to go.

The behavior change literature supports small steps as the more effective way to make life-changes that are sustainable.

Again it really comes down to knowing yourself and your personality, but I recommend making just one single commitment at a time.

Pick something realistic that you know you can accomplish. Engineer a win for yourself. A small success now can cascade into bigger wins down the line.

4) Eliminate decisions

Bright lines work so well because they eliminate the in-the-moment decision of will we stay on track or will we indulge?

If you haven’t drawn a bright line then every time you are faced with temptation you have to make that choice.

Do we decide to grab the candy when it’s there? Do we order the healthy option at a restaurant or the old favorite? Do we give in to that afternoon sugar craving?

Long-term success on any diet or health plan really comes down to consistently winning these small daily battles.

If you have to make this decision every time you place an order at your favorite restaurant, or every time you walk past the candy bowl at the office, it is almost guaranteed that eventually you will give in.

The amazing power of bright lines is that eventually the decision becomes automatic. Once saying no becomes habitual you no longer even consider reaching for the candy bowl.

The golden rule here is to make your decisions in advance, and eliminate as many decisions as possible.

For example, try planning your meals and snacks the day before, or deciding what you’ll order at the restaurant before you go.

5) Practice accountability

Let’s get real. Nobody wants to be held accountable, because deep down we don’t want to give up our indiscretions.

As much as I want to put my health first, I don’t want to have to give up my afternoon Miracle Tart. And when I’m sneaking my afternoon chocolate, I surely don’t want anybody looking over my shoulder!

That’s why accountability is so often talked about, but so rarely put into practice.

But in the same way that we can begin to practice saying no, we can also begin to practice accountability.

When you draw your bright line, make the commitment to mention it to someone. Make your commitment public in whatever way pushes you out of your comfort zone just a little bit.

You can ask your friend or significant other to help you keep the commitment or post it on facebook.

Just take that small step to let someone else know what you’ve committed to.

Do this now

You can get started right away. Decide on your commitment, pick a start date and an end date and mark it on your calendar.

There will never a perfect time to get started. There will always be something coming up or some excuse about why this can wait another week.

But I care most about what is best for you. Honor yourself enough to make this top priority. Care about yourself enough to set a higher standard. This is game time.

Let us know your commitment and start and end date in the comments below, and we’ll follow up and help hold you accountable.

* indicates required

Did you dig this article? Sign up for updates!


We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.


I dream of the day when you can pop into a 7-11 and grab a green juice and a bag of kale chips.

But until then, making progress towards our health and weight loss goals while on the road takes a bit of planning, flexibility and ingenuity.

I cut my teeth on the subject in the most ridiculous way possible.

Imagine this: You’ve just gone plant-based, your best friend (also named Matt) calls you up — he’s engaged! And there is going to be a bachelor party! And the bachelor party happens to be a 5-day party/rafting trip with 8 other guys!

For me, this was a challenge akin to when I strapped on skis for the first time at an aerial ski jumping camp.


Photo credit: David Morris

Needless to say, I spent a good two weeks figuring out what I was going to take to eat on the trip. And what did I end up eating? Probably close to my body weight in avocados, hummus, and almond butter.

And the great thing was that I had a blast! I didn’t miss out on this important event, and I had the time of my life with some of my best friends.


I’m not sure why we decided to run around throwing bocci balls into the air during our rafting trip…but it was awesome!

A couple weeks back Regan and I finished a 5-day trip of our own — a move across the country from Arizona to Washington DC.

Road trips are a bit easier than some of the other travel challenges, and I was amazed how little effort it took to stay plant-based on the road.

So today, we thought we’d pull back the kimono and share our best tips and tricks of how we eat like plant strong foodies on the road.

This is just our take, and I’m sure you have tips and tricks of your own. Share your best travel strategies in the comments!

Air Travel

There is one golden rule to healthy air travel: Take your own food — the more hydrating (ie salad, cucumbers, veggies, sprouts) the better.

I don’t know why it took us so long to realize this, but you can prepare a meal in advance, put it in a tupperware and take it on the plane!

We usually will put together a big salad or stop by the hot bar at whole foods before heading to the airport.

In addition to one pre-made meal, we also take some snacks along with us.

Our favorites are:

  • Bag of baby spinach
  • Cut up celery sticks
  • A whole cucumber or two
  • Mary’s crackers
  • Ezekiel tortillas
  • Container of hummus
  • Single serving packets of nut butter (almond butter or cashew butter) to spread on cucumber or crackers
  • Avocados

Other things we sometimes take:

For example, we’ll often find a standard mexican restaurant or burrito bar and order a couple sides of guacamole and pico de gallo. These sides make great dips for Mary’s crackers, or we add them to a tortilla along with our spinach and volia — filling and delish veggie wrap!

Another good option is to order a bare bones salad anywhere you can find one and supersize it with the addition of avocado, hemp seeds and hummus.

Finally, it’s important to understand that decisions, stress, difficult social interactions and walking past restaurants when hungry all place a strain on your willpower, and this strain is cumulative!

That’s why I like to make sure we have enough food to not feel deprived, with the addition of a special treat.

Make sure you are well prepped with the right food in situations where you are likely to be stressed. Filling up on the right food makes it much more likely that you won’t stray.

We pack all our snacks in a canvas grocery bag that we take on the plane in addition to our regular carry-ons, and we have never been hassled about the extra bag.

Road Trip


Green juice on the road!

For us, the cooler bag is the rosetta stone of the perfect plant-strong road trip. It allows you to go where you will and still eat like you are just a few minutes from your favorite Whole Foods.

Oh, and the cooler bag can also substitute for a fridge if you are staying at a hotel that doesn’t have one.

We stock ours with the essentials and use the Chipotle Method to put together most of our meals.

In our cooler bag goes:

  • Ezekiel tortillas
  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Bell Peppers
  • Sprouts (if we can find good ones)
  • Mixed greens (pre-washed)
  • Avocados
  • Hummus (and lots of it)
  • Salsa
  • Babaganoush
  • Mary’s crackers

Optional snacks/treats are:

  • Larabars
  • Lydia’s cacao crunch bars
  • Hail Merry miracle tarts
  • Coconut water
  • Kevita coconut kefir or kombucha

We stopped for dinner at a rest stop in Arkansas and decided to make a little video to show you how we make a typical meal on the road.

If you liked this video, subscribe to our youtube channel.

We are almost certainly more food obsessed than the average traveler, so we go out of our way to plan ahead and check out appealing restaurants along the way.
When eating out, we use the same strategy of thinking ahead and seeing what we can buy to bolster future meals.

For example, at the Whole Foods in Memphis we couldn’t figure out what we wanted to eat for lunch. Finally we purchased a few different items from the cold bar and ended up with potatoes, quinoa, broccoli, seasoned kale salad and hummus.


Our cold bar lunch at the Whole Foods in Memphis

We then used the leftovers of these items over the next couple days to add to wraps, salads and just to have around for snacks.


Broccoli and hummus for a snack


Though we have a long way to go, there are more veg friendly options and restaurants than ever before.

We use yelp and to find accommodating restaurants along our route.

Chipotle is a good alternative of ours when nothing else is available. It is a national chain with relatively fresh ingredients, works well both for the veg heads and omnivores and can be found in most moderately sized cities.

In addition, we’ve found that the following kinds of restaurants tend to have available or easily adaptable options for us.

  • Indian
  • Ethiopian
  • Thai
  • Mexican
  • Lebanese
  • Steakhouses (they usually have great veggie sides)

One of our little secrets is to look for Hari Krishna temples with restaurants. They usually offer healthier than the norm indian cuisine with lots of delicious options, are inexpensive and have super fresh ingredients and a fun atmosphere.

We stayed with our dear friends Phebe and Mac in Dallas, and they treated us to an amazing meal at Kalachandjis, by far the best Hari Krishna restaurant we’ve ever been too. Thanks guys!


This is my kind of meal


Lunch with Phebe and Mac

Regan and I are super fortunate to share the same dietary preferences, and we know that not everyone has this luxury.

Especially when traveling for business or with family that doesn’t share your values, it can take a lot more compromise and duct taping things together to make it work.

When I’m out with others, I never like to dictate the choice of restaurant based on my preferences. I might make a recommendation or two (making sure there are good options for everyone) and then let everyone else decide what they want.

Last month, I attended an organic farming conference in Wisconsin for work, and ended up going out to eat at a steakhouse with a group of organic seed producers.

I didn’t want to make a fuss, so once we arrived at the restaurant I slipped away and talked to the server privately. I asked if she had any vegan options or suggestions of what I could eat.

She gave me a couple good recommendations, and I was able to enjoy a fantastic meal without creating any social awkwardness.

Nine times out of ten I’m able to make a meal at almost any restaurant work. Sometimes though, there just really aren’t any options. Or they are extremely limited.

For these cases, I will usually carry with me my trusted salad expansion pack. I’ll take with me an avocado or two along with some hummus. I might also bring my own salad dressing, olives, crackers, pumpkin seeds, or anything else to add a little zing to a meal.

I’ll then order as many house salads or side salads as necessary to get a decently sized meal and add my ingredients to it.

Is it awkward to be sit down to dinner with friends, family or complete strangers, slyly reach into your jacket, pull out an avocado and/or hummus and/or olives and start adding them to your salad?

Not if you do it with a smile and a wink!

But yes, it might put you out of your comfort zone. Be confident. Smile. Delight in how funny it is to be the one pulling condiments out our pockets and everyone else will think it’s funny too.

I sent this to my Mom to proofread and she mentioned that family is usually happy and relieved that you have something to eat!

This process is all about learning how to dance. We are always becoming more adept at staying true to our health and values while ensuring that we can still participate in the fullness of life.

Traveling and social situations can be a big barrier, but they don’t have to be. And I promise over time you’ll develop your own methods for making things work.

Now, I wouldn’t think twice about what I was going to eat if I was heading out on a five day rafting trip with my best friends.

Just keep at it!

Have a funny travel story or addition tips to share? Let us know in the comments. We’ll read every one.

* indicates required

Did you dig this article? Sign up for updates!


We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.


Photo Credit: Stacy Spensley

Food is an integral part of social life.

I have such fond memories of the stew that my Mom would cook for every birthday, of the local burger joint that we used to go to on the last day of school, of leaving campus at lunch with my best friends to grab lunch at Taco Time.

And then there are the holidays.

I’ll never forget driving down to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas. We would open presents and then sit down for the traditional meal of ham and Grandma’s famous (and very weird in retrospect) green jello.

Who doesn’t equate those beautiful, serene, and happy holiday moments with the smells wafting from the kitchen or sitting down with loved ones around an abundant table?

Every single one of my most cherished memories has a dish, diner, smell or taste associated with it.

Can you relate?

On top of personal holiday memories, we often have family traditions that go back generations. Our very heritage and deepest identity is tied into the foods that we eat.

And these feelings run deep.

So when we make the decision to take our health destiny into our own hands and start living the veggie-centric life, we have to make our way through some treacherous territory.

The everyday challenges we all face pale in comparison to the holidays — when family dynamics, old memories, travel, and stress all come together to create the perfect storm.

It’s hard enough to separate the memories from the food, and stay on plan when faced with so much temptation.

And then there is the real difficulty is taking our personal decision to change our diet into a the public arena.

Best case scenario, you stand out like a sore thumb and feel awkward turning down dishes and explaining the decisions you’ve made to wonderfully supportive family and friends.

Worst case scenario, your mother-in-law, dear ol’ Dad, or obstinate uncle take your decision as a personal affront.

They decide to spend the entire holiday making vegan jokes, loudly worrying about your looming protein deficiency, feeling sorry that you can only eat rabbit food, and trying to get you to have “just one bite” of the Turducken.

If you run into this issue, you might want to take a look at the article I wrote about how to talk to others about your plant-based lifestyle.

My First Plant-Based Thanksgiving


Photo Credit: Liz West

I first went plant-based around June of 2009, and I was pretty set on my new lifestyle when Thanksgiving rolled around.

But I sure didn’t have a clue how to travel, talk about what I was doing, or prepare any semblance of a holiday themed plant-based meal.

I spent a ton of money buying and preparing food that I could take with me to North Carolina to visit my Mom.

And while I was committed, it didn’t mean that I didn’t have any cravings for my old ways.

Did some part of me want to be chowing down on turkey and stuffing, laughing with everyone around the table and falling into the post-meal food coma?

Of course!

Instead I sat in the middle of the table, eating my wimpy salad, and defensively attempting to sound like I knew what I was talking about, answering questions about protein, enzymes, heart disease statistics and so on.

Luckily, I happen to have a very supportive and understanding family. They are always there for me even in the midst of my craziest adventures.

But I was so protective of my baby lifestyle, that I even turned down the baked yam that my Mom made for me — her super sweet gesture of support and acceptance.

So continues my proclivity for making things more difficult than need be.

But I survived. In fact, I even remember enjoying myself. But it certainly wasn’t the old relaxing Thanksgiving that I used to enjoy.

And with each passing year the holidays have gotten easier and easier.

My family now knows what to expect, that this is part of who I am, and they know that I’m not judging their choices.

We are just happy to be in each other’s company, and we don’t let our differences get in the way of that.

I’ve found the more that I can take a relaxed and joyful attitude, do everything that I can to participate and share my lifestyle without being evangelical, and let everyone how happy I am just to be there, the more things go smoothly.

In fact, I asked my mom proofread this article, and she made a very interesting comment.

I don’t think either side knows the best way to extend and accept the changes that a new lifestyle brings, so they try to cover it up with jokes and too many not helpful offers that can get annoying and make the plant-based eater defensive.

One of the parts I thought was particularly significant to emphasize is the part about your own “relaxed and  joyful attitude”, because it appears to have the potential to be a landmine kind of experience, but really people just want to be sure you are fed and cared for (of course this is a mom speaking).

Confidence carries a lot off.  I think it would be really helpful to let people know how hard the holidays are and will be and that you’d love to be eating that stuffing and mysterious green jello concoction, but you are committed to this lifestyle.

Along with confidence, not taking ourselves too seriously, and a little vulnerability goes a long way.

Difficult social interactions will happen. Learn to laugh at them, and keep the focus on what is most important — having a good time with the people that you love.

A Little Prep Goes A Long Way


Photo Credit: Faith Goble

If you are getting ready for a Thanksgiving away you might be wondering if there will be anything for you to eat. What is the proper protocol? Do you bring your own food?

If you are hosting others, what will they be expecting? Is it your duty to cook up a turkey even if you won’t be eating any?

What about the temptation of Grandma’s famous stuffing? Do you indulge once a year? Make a plant-based substitute?

You used to impress everyone with your famous pumpkin pie, what if they hate the plant-based version?

Is it even worth it? Should you just go along with the crowd and get back on track once the holidays are over?

Fortunately, as our plant-based whole foods community has grown, so have the resources available for us choosing to celebrate both the holidays and our health.

There are delectable Thanksgiving recipes, travel tips, ideas on what to bring to a Thanksgiving gathering, and even how to host your own.

Today, Regan and I want to showcase some of the best resources out there, so that you can have the best Thanksgiving possible.

After all this is important!

As I’m oh so fond of reminding you, the lifestyle works, but for the lifestyle to work you have to stick with it.

And for it to be sustainable it has to be easy, it has to be joyful, it has to be abundant. It is very possible to thrive not just physically, but emotionally, and socially.

So take a few moments and invest in yourself. Read a few of these fantastic articles and plan how to navigate the challenges presented by the upcoming turkey centered holiday.

How can you make it easier on yourself?

We wish you a very happy plant-based Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and loved ones. We’re hoping it’s the best one yet.

The Ultimate Plant-Based Thanksgiving Resource Roundup

Chapter 1: No Fail Thanksgiving Recipes

Chapter 2: Tips for Hosting or Dining With Others

Chapter 3: Getting To Your Destination: How to Travel on a Plant-Based Diet

Chapter 4: Overcoming Temptation and Staying On Track

PS: Are you worried about the holidays? Leave a comment and let us know what your biggest concern is. We’ll read every single one.

* indicates required

Did you dig this article? Sign up for updates!


We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.

The Six Pillarsof Lasting Health

Photo Credit: Terence S. Jones

When I used to fall off the plant powered wagon, I would experience anguish that can only be understood by watching this hilarious youtube clip of Denver the Guilty Dog.

Oh the guilt!

And I’m not the only one.

When we take a tumble, we often say things like, “I am having so much trouble following through…I don’t know what is wrong with me.” “I feel like such a failure for not being able to stick with this way of eating.”

We think that our failure is due to the fact that we lack willpower, discipline, and motivation, and come to the conclusion that we are somehow faulty human beings!

Not only are we left with the guilt and pain of failure, but even worse is the confusion, the overwhelm, and not knowing the next step forward.

But as you know by now, my manifesto is different. It is my passionate conviction that the problem isn’t you!

Though our first instinct is to blame ourselves, there are factors that play an enormous role in determining whether or not we succeed — yet we don’t often give them the attention they deserve.

Things like social support, organization and planning, and our inner psychology.

That’s why I talk about building Lifestyle Support Systems — the habits, programs, systems, psychology and safeguards of health that help us to orient our lives our health and well-being.

Your One Key Action

Now this can be a pretty overwhelming concept,

The last thing I want is for you to read this post and decide to spend the afternoon seeing for yourself why ostriches stick their heads in the ground.

Maybe it’s super fun?

So last week I introduced the Six Pillars of Lasting Health and Successful Weight Loss and gave you a six question quiz.

Today we’ll get minutely practical and use your quiz results to identify your one big win — the single most important action you can take to move forward towards lasting health and your goal weight.

Ready to begin? If you haven’t yet, take the quiz, identify which question you scored the lowest on, and click the corresponding link below.

I scored lowest on:

  • Question 1: I know exactly what to eat to get healthy and lose weight.
  • Question 2: Healthy foods are easy to prepare and readily available.
  • Question 3: I have friends or family that support me on my journey towards better health.
  • Question 4: If I get off track I will be held accountable.
  • Question 5: I do NOT usually have self-sabotaging or negative thoughts.
  • Question 6: I know the issues that sabotage my health goals, and I am working through them.

The Six Pillars Of Lasting Health and Sustainable Weight Loss


1. The Right Food

Even if you overcome emotional eating, have the most wonderful social support network, and never go off track, you will probably not lose weight if you are on the twinkie diet.

You have to know what foods are going to help you lose weight and get healthy and which only moonlight as health foods.

And in this day and age, that’s not super easy!

There are a million different ideas and approaches, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and throw in the towel before you begin.

But interestingly enough, the research shows that following through on any program is more important and effective than finding the perfect one.

Your one key action to improve this pillar:

If you don’t know what to eat to get healthy and lose weight, the best thing to do is to try a plant-based whole foods program.

Discuss the options with a qualified medical professional, pick the program that resonates most with you, and follow it as diligently as possible. Usually the time frame is anywhere from 10 days to six weeks.

At that point, objectively step back and look at the data. Did you see improvements? Were you able to follow though? What is working? What isn’t?

The first hand experience is invaluable, and you’ll begin building the nutritional understanding that will allow you to sort through all the conflicting advice out there.

The more you learn, the more you will be able to become your own health scientist, evaluate the different approaches, and decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t.

And if you get stuck, you can make tweaks and changes and find a solution.

Need help choosing a program? Are you not getting results on your current program? These are what I have found to be the most important questions to ask:

  • Does it focus on real food?
  • Does it make veggies the focal point?
  • Does it promote eating lots of nutrient dense foods such as greens, veggies, beans, berries, and seeds?
  • Does it promote eating foods that are low in caloric density?
  • And the most important, am I likely to follow through?

The follow through is the most important! If you know the program is too strict for you and you won’t follow it, start with an easier option. Engineer a win for yourself.

When you have a win under your belt, it’s easier to fine tune things and pick a more disciplined program.

You can modify or experiment with different approaches as you learn more about nutrition and what works for you as an individual.

2. Organization and Planning

When willpower fails, it’s often because we haven’t made it easy enough on ourselves.

And so once we know what to eat, the next step is to make sure that those foods are easily and readily available!

How can you organize your life in a way that makes it as easy as humanly possible to follow through?

Your one key action to improve this pillar: Think about the one meal that is the most difficult to prepare or where you get off track. Is it breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Snack time? Dessert?

Take 5-10 minutes and make a step-by-step plan of how you will make sure you have easy access to the right foods. Here are a couple examples.

Afternoon Snack:

  • Afternoon snack is my biggest weakness. I get ravenous after lunch and end up eating junk food.
  • So I need to have snacks available in my car for my after lunch craving.
  • I’m going to identify three snacks that I can buy or make.
  • To make the snacks, I need to shop for these ingredients on Sunday.
  • To have the snacks ready, I need to prep the veggies, put them in a little cooler bag, and put them in the car before I leave for work each day.


  • I get home from work too tired to cook, so I usually end up getting fast food.
  • So I need a quick and easy way to get dinner on the table.
  • I’m going to pick one meal that I love, make a triple batch on Sunday and freeze the leftovers.
  • I’ll have leftovers on Monday and Wednesday,  use the Chipotle Method to put together something on Thursday and Saturday, and eat dinner at Whole Foods on Tuesday and Friday.

It can take some time to get your particular system figured out. If this is your biggest barrier, take some time to learn how to buy and prepare healthy foods in a quick, easy, efficient and cost effective manner.

It will get easier over time. It can also help to start with a meal plan, or you can use a resource like the Chipotle Method to learn how to put together quick and easy meals.

3. Social Support

In a study highlighted in the New York Times, the researchers found that when we have a close friend that becomes obese, we are 57% more likely to become obese ourselves.

Even more incredible is that we are 20% more likely to become obese if the friend of a friend becomes obese.

The takeaway? It’s critical, absolutely critical, that you find some friends that support your journey to optimal health.

Your one key action to improve this pillar: Find a meetup group (, a yoga class, or a local support group that you are interested in joining and sign up now.

Put it in your calendar.

If there are no groups available, reach out to one person who shares your health values. Call or email them right now and Invite them over for a meal, for a walk, or for a Sunday food prep session.

If there isn’t anyone else in rural South Dakota who cares about health, then join a facebook group or find a virtual accountability partner.

4. Accountability

If I told you that you could double your chance of success without any additional effort, would you do it?

Accountability often makes us squeamish, but adding real consequences to our goals can more than double our chances of success.

A Yale economics professor founded the website Stickk, in order to do just that. The site is an online commitment store that allows you to set a goal and add a financial incentive to ensure that you follow through.

From 2008 – 2011, the Stickk found that average success rates of 33.5% skyrocketed to 72.8% when an additional incentive was added.

Your one key action to improve this pillar: Call somebody close to you, a friend, your significant other, your son or daughter and tell them that if you haven’t set up some accountability by this time next week, you owe them $20.

Then go to, set a goal, find a referee, and put some money on the line.

You really want to make this thing happen right? Do you want a 30% chance of success or a 70% chance of success?

Think about what it will be like to succeed. How great you’ll feel. How good you’ll look. How your life will improve. Imagine all the money that you will save on medications and health care costs.

It’s worth it. Put your money where your mouth is.

5. Psychology

This may seem a bit ambiguous.

But remember Nora’s success where she overcame a lifetime of failed diets, and lost 100+ pounds?

In her story, the big shift happened when our heroine not only found the right information, but shifted her mindset.

Negative or self-sabotaging thoughts can have a huge impact on our ability to stay the course and follow through long term.

Your one key action to improve this pillar: Simply recognize when you are having a negative thought and acknowledge it.

Here are some common ones:

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I’m just going to fail anyway.”
  • “I deserve this treat.”
  • “What is wrong with me, why can’t I stick to this?”

Just becoming aware of our thought patterns is the first step towards changing them. Recognize the story you tell yourself.

When you recognize the story, you can begin to rewrite it.

We are all going to have negative thoughts. We are all going to struggle. Know that the path can be difficult.

The right mindset is understanding that this is a process. Keep your focus on getting healthy, expect some ups and downs, and know that if you just keep at it you will succeed.

Progress over perfection. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down as long as you get back up. It doesn’t matter how many times you spill the milk as long as you don’t lose the cow.

6. Address Your Issues

Health isn’t just physical. Shifting from a diet mentality to a healthy lifestyle mentality is so effective for this very reason. It broadens our focus to look at the whole picture of health.

A healthy lifestyle involves physical, emotional, mental, and social health, and these are all intertwined.

That’s why Addressing Our Issues has to be included in the equation.

Fascinatingly enough, this shows up as one the biggest factors that separates people who are able to lose weight and keep it off, from those who end up yo-yoing.

In a study, 90% of the people who were able to lose weight and keep it off shared this common trait: They dealt with their problems head on.

Note: It doesn’t say that they solved their problems. Only that they were willing to deal with them head on.

We all fall off the wagon. We all have moments of self-sabotage. We all have some weird piece of ourselves working in our best interest, and some weird piece of ourselves working against it!

Whatever the issues are, we must face them. Emotional eating? Stress because of work?

There are a million different examples and possibilities, but I’d bet top dollar you aren’t scratching your head wondering what it is for you.

Your one key action to improve this pillar: Find the tiniest thing that you can do to begin to address your issue, and put it into practice.

Addressing our issues can be a daunting task, so the best way to move forward is to break it down into the smallest possible steps.

What is the first step that you can take to begin to move forward?

Do you struggle with stress? Sign up for just one meditation class, or begin meditating just three minutes a day.

Is it emotional eating? Commit to keeping a food journal for just ONE of your meals.

The most important thing here is to simply begin. Find the smallest step forward and take it!

But this is hard!

Did you skim through the article, but not take action? Most of these things are not easy to do, because they involve looking at the root of the issues that are holding us back.

It can be uncomfortable to look at your issues, pay attention to your inner psychology, put some money on the line, reach out to someone or sign up for a new class.

But I’m not here to help you be comfortable. I’m here to help you make real transformation in your life. Be brave.

I believe in you. I know you can do it. Just take that one single next step. Take the one little action to move you forward.

And let me know in the comments: What is your one key action? What are you going to do right now to move forward with your health goals?

* indicates required

Did you dig this article? Sign up for updates!


We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.

Photo Credit: Vinoth Chandar

Life doesn’t always go as planned.

My grandpa passed away last week and so Regan and I ended up traveling to Salt Lake City for the services.

It was of course a sad and difficult event for our family and friends, and I’ve greatly appreciated the many condolences.

Grandpa lived a long, successful life and his unconditional support was the foundation of our family. His memory and legacy lives on.

And while heartbreaking, I think these difficult events also offer us a special opportunity. And that’s what I wanted to share with you today.

Life is a precious and fleeting affair, and the silver lining is the perspective that these events bring.

Sometimes we need a bit of jolt to shake us out of our routines and help us remember what really matters.

Times of tumult require deep reflection. And that crystallizes our deeper purpose and motivates us to make changes that we might not have made otherwise.

These moments help us discover or reinforce our Why.

I’ve found that many plant powered journeys are sparked by just such a moment.

It can be anything from watching an inspiring film, to stepping on a scale and saying enough is enough.

Sadly it’s often watching a loved one struggle with or even lose the battle to a serious health challenge.

Or a personal diagnosis, sitting in the Doctor’s office and hearing those words that you dreaded, wondering, “How did I get here?”

Whatever the situation, in an instant a decision is made, a new direction is taken, and behind that life altering action is the Why.

So today, I want to give you an opportunity to reconnect with your Why without the catalyst of an unfortunate life event.

Take a moment and remember what sparked you to make the decision to get healthy. Why did you make the decision to change your lifestyle?

Do you want to be around for your kids and grandkids and have enough energy to play with and take care of them?

Do you want to lead by example and leave a legacy of health and wellbeing for those who follow you?

Do you want a happy, healthy, and quality second half of life without the chronic health conditions that other loved ones have struggled with?

Are there items on your bucket list that you’ve yet to accomplish? Do you want to learn to play the piano, travel to Ecuador, or do life life changing, world-saving work?

Your Why is your most powerful motivator, so write it down and display it prominently.

Put it on the fridge or on the bathroom mirror.

Remind yourself daily why you have set a course for healthier living. Deep purpose is a powerful anchor when we are tempted to stray from the path.

If you don’t yet have a Why, take a moment and reflect.

Why do you want to get healthy? Why do you want to embrace a plant strong lifestyle?

Personal health goals? Compassion for all beings? Leaving the planet better than you found it?

Personal goals are great, but when we make the decision for a reason beyond ourselves the motivation is often even more powerful.

Connect your Why to your deepest values, the kind of life you want to live and the legacy you want to live behind.

My Why

I haven’t written out my own Why before this, and so I thought I’d take the opportunity and share it with you.

I choose to live in a way that uplifts the entire web of life on the planet, that nourishes my body, that supports the health of the planet and the ecology, and that helps me feel connected to all of life.

I choose a plant-based lifestyle for my own health and to lead by example, to support all people in living a life of health, harmony, and happiness.

Now That You Know My Why, What’s Yours?

I’d be so honored if you would share your Why with me in the comments below. I promise to read and respond to every one.

* indicates required

Did you dig this article? Sign up for updates!


We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.