Food for Life, baby!

I found out about Food for Life after going to the Lifestyle Medicine conference, and like I said, I knew I wanted to do it.    I went home and within a month, had a video with a cooking demonstration on YouTube as part of my application and paperwork filled out and I settled in to wait.  And I waited.  And waited.  When I submitted my application, I didn’t realize that the deadline for submission was 5 months away with a decision date of 2 months after that!  In order to fill my time I took a plant-based nutrition class through eCornell which I thoroughly loved.   I enjoy learning and while I’d considered myself well read on the benefits of a plant-based diet, I was gaining new knowledge with every class.

Finally August came and I was off to Washington DC for my training.  I had no idea what to expect, even down to how many people were enrolled.  I had in my head that maybe 20 were attending but had no idea where I got that number.  It wasn’t 20, but 80!  The room was packed with people as excited as I was to start learning the process of teaching Food for Life classes and the energy was so high, you could almost see it.

The people ranged from health professionals to restaurant owners, fitness professionals and reporters.  Their experiences were all personal, whether it was getting off diabetes medications themselves or wanting to help a loved one increase their survival.  The thing that we all held in common was feeling passionate about wanting to spread the “gospel” so to speak.  Also, there seemed to be a sense of relief about being around people who got it.  I am lucky in that in my everyday life, I get to surround myself with people who are interested or curious or on the same page as I am and sometimes I forget that the majority of the world doesn’t eat like I do.  Sometimes I remember because someone says something that is just jarring , usually about eating meat.  And then I remember that as far as the rest of the world is concerned, I’m the abnormal one.  Being in the same room with these people felt like being home in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.  I didn’t get to meet even half of them but it didn’t matter; the commonality was just soothing. I made sure to sit someplace different every chance I could so I could meet someone new and even though I’m an introvert by nature, I found myself walking up to new people and sticking out my hand for an introduction.  The fact they were at that class meant that I wanted meet them!

The training was great.  Some of it was rehashing of stuff I already knew, some of it was just fandom (Neal Barnard, what?) but a lot of it was real life experience with tips and tricks for how to really run a class.  And there were a lot of questions.  There really wasn’t time for all the questions we had but they sure tried to answer as many as they could.  And as I’m trying to figure things out a month or so later, I didn’t even know what to ask.   But I’m figuring it out slowly.  And in the meantime, I made some friends and contacts and created a support system that will carry me through this journey so I couldn’t be more excited.

American College of Lifestyle Medicine and Food for Life, baby!

A brief caveat:  I haven’t written anything besides an evite since nursing school and I’m sure I’m going to struggle finding my voice in this blog.  I know I used to be a good writer lo, these many years ago, and I’m excited to get back to that.  Please, God, let me get back to that.  I’m cringing right now, reading my stilted prose but I promise to get better, as fast as humanly possible…

Almost a year ago, my husband and I went to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s conference in San Diego.  It was an event for a couple reasons: it was the first solo trip my husband and I had been on since our daughters were born 3 and 5 years prior (cue angels singing) and it was a veritable who’s who of nutrition dignitaries.  Dean Ornish, T. Colin Campbell, Michael Gregor and Caldwell Esselstyn were just a few of the notables speaking; I geeked out just being on the same elevator as Michael Gregor and even though I’d basically heard his speech before, somehow hearing it from HIM made it better.  The other thing was that the conference was at least 500 people, correction, 500 like-minded people who all believed that Americans are slowly killing themselves with a knife and fork AND that we have the power to prevent and even, reverse disease.  It was a heady experience.  Oh, and the food was amazing.  A-MAZing.  I felt bad looking at the boring food other conferences were being subjected to.  Well, not that bad.

Prior to this, I’d worked as a pediatric nurse, mostly in the intensive care unit.  I applied to Master’s programs in both peds and adult medicine but the latter was very begrudgingly;  I didn’t like working with adults and their co-morbidities and there was always the vague blaming going on.  Blaming, in that they had brought this on themselves because they didn’t have enough will power to put down the potato chips, cigarettes and candy.  Graduate school was delayed by the birth of my daughters and in that time, I started eating plant based, then started eating healthy plant based and learning more about how the food industry stacks the deck against people being healthy AND I started working in an adult ER.  This was eye opening, mostly in that now I had individual faces who were suffering, it wasn’t faceless statistics on obesity, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.  I was seeing people losing digits and limbs from diabetes, losing their lives from clogged arteries and knowing that it was all so preventable made me angry, but I still felt powerless.  I’d gently mention a plant based diet here or there, answer vague questions on protein and calcium  but I could tell I wasn’t getting through.  I felt like I didn’t have the credentials to persuade people and I was leery about my ability to counsel someone through a change.

At the ACLM conference I found out about Food For Life, the PCRM’s community outreach arm (at least, that’s what I call it) and the spark that had been being nurtured burst into flame.  Here was a turn-key, guided nutrition program with recipes, scripting if desired and the full support of the prestigious Physician’s Committee.  I went for it, hook, line and sinker, turning in my application within a month (had to get my cooking demo just right, ya know) and then realizing that the deadline for submission was 5 long months away.  Finally, June 12, 2015 came and when I received my congratulatory email, I may or may not have screamed, startling my 5 and 3 year olds who then joined me in a celebration dance around our kitchen.  I was going to go to Washington D.C. in August.

What happened in August?  That’s a topic for next time, my lovelies.