I’m a plant-based health nut. I get it. Most people generally aren’t interested in hearing about plant-based nutrition or changing their dietary habits. Maybe it’s because the connection between their diet and the way they feel day-to-day in relation to their overall health isn’t strong enough. Or maybe it’s because the dietary shift is perceived to be too strange, too costly, too time-consuming. Or because they think the benefits of keeping meat/fish/poultry and their by-products in their diets are greater than the benefits they think they will gain from eliminating them. Or simply because they think eating only whole plant-based foods is too restrictive and unpalatable.
Whatever the reason, I get it. I’m a plant-based health nut and any extended conversation with me is bound to wind up somewhere around nutrition and our microbiome.
One of my best friends told me that I sometimes sound like I’m talking about a religion when talking about my dietary lifestyle. I really appreciate when people are open and honest about things like that, and I’m always receptive to hearing personal observations and constructive criticism. I truly value her opinion, so I paused and reflected, and right then and there decided that is not how I want to be perceived.
I treasure that my inner circle of family and friends finds my special brand of goofy and enthusiastic plant-based superhero antics both entertaining and a testament to my undying affection, but I have chosen to give everyone a break for a while .
Why? Because they’ve heard my spiel before. More than likely more than once, too. And although it’s ridiculously hard to only offer a compassionate ear and lots of long squeezy hugs as they tell me about all of the health and weight issues troubling them and their circle of family and friends, I have to zip it or risk isolating the people I care about most.
With all of this zipping going on, it was beyond wonderful to be invited to share my plant based health journey with the congregation at the Rogers Adventist Church. Here’s how it happened:
I became a co-Leader of Eat Green NWA last month. Eat Green NWA is a local grassroots chapter (called a pod) of the PlantPure Nation. Our goal is to inform and support the population in shifting away from the Standard American diet (SAD) and towards whole-food plant-based nutrition.
My co-Leader Sean suggested that we have our first meeting at the vegetarian soup kitchen at the Rogers Adventist Church.
Shameless plug: If you’re in the Northwest Arkansas area and are curious about plant-based nutrition … check us out of Facebook at EatGreen NWA!
Sean had been meaning to go to the soup kitchen for a while, and I’ve been curious about it every time I pass by the sign for it, so this was a great opportunity for us to check it out together.
Not only did Sean and I discuss future chapter activities over a tasty and well-balanced meal, but we were also engaged by quite a few church members who overheard our conversation and started to ask questions. We had a great time answering questions about our plant-based lifestyles, about our outreach and activity plans for the pod, and about our individual plant-based pursuits. And we especially enjoyed hearing about the soup kitchen and the church’s efforts to help improve the health of its congregation and broader community.
I was happy to share that my husband and I have recently decided to build a commercial kitchen to develop and sell my very own line of plant-based products. Stay tuned. ?
I was surprised when Marc, a leader in the church, invited me to address the congregation “this Sabbath” (yesterday). Both nervous and excited, I accepted, and organized my main talking points over the next few days.
Remembering my previous frustration at not having business cards to distribute, I seized this opportunity to finally order them. It’s not like I haven’t had the design completed for months now I was lucky enough to find a place that printed my cards and had them on my doorstep in 2 days. Yay!
I arrived at church early and sat in the fellowship hall listening to the lovely sounds of choir practice. When Marc arrived, he greeted me warmly and later introduced me to the pastor and members of the church involved with the soup kitchen and fellowship nutrition. They were all pretty busy with greeting other members and doing last minute tasks before service, so I sat in the dining hall until the service started.
When the time came, Marc made opening comments and began introducing me. I was humbled by what he said. He spoke about how he had been wanting to find ways to help the congregation improve their health through plant-based eating. About how he usually doesn’t go to the soup kitchen, but happened to go on the same day that Sean and I happened to visit the soup kitchen for the first time. About how this seemingly random meeting at the soup kitchen was a predestined divine appointment. And now let us welcome Jasmine. Oh my goodness.
I don’t know about predestination, but I do know that his welcoming introduction and invitation to share my experience and knowledge was exactly what I needed. It helped quell the frantic butterflies in my stomach and make them fly in formation. And more importantly, it helped bolster my confidence in this crazy pursuit of mine to share plant-based nutrition in a meat-crazed world. Here was an audience that wanted to hear about taking charge of their health through plant based nutrition.
And when I recognized that, I walked more confidently up to the pulpit and began sharing my lifelong history of chronic sickness and autoimmune conditions. You know, the usual … food and skin allergies, regular sinus infections and issues, susceptibility to colds and flu, days missed from school, weight struggles … all that good stuff. Doctors prescribing prescriptions, not lifestyle changes. New autoimmune conditions expressing themselves every few years as the pounds continue to pile on, along with the “necessary” prescription and medical care costs. I stopped weighing myself when I reached 230 lbs in my 30s. I was only 5’2″ (I’m 5’3″ now, but that’s a tale for another time). And then after an emergency room visit, I started asking myself can “how I change this?”.
From there, I went on to share how I took charge of my health by adopting a whole food plant based lifestyle, and I did it with the guidance and tireless support of my amazing friends at Delicious Healthcare. Phree (my high school friend) and Erin (his lovely wife and my health muse) have been saving lives using plant-based nutrition for almost 20 years, and I gotta say that they probably saved me, too, even from thousands of miles away. I’ve always been a bit of a chef, but they vegucated me and helped me shift my culinary talents away from animal products and towards the widest and most colorful array of nutrient-dense plant-based foods I can find or grow. And now, at 50, I’m in the best health of my life and am doing my best to share the health with others. Mahalo, my friends.
I’ll share my story another time. This post is about the importance of this speaking engagement, not its content. ?
But I will say that speaking to this congregation felt good. I never thought I’d hear an “Amen!” after anything I said, but different members of the congregation sprinkled Amens throughout my little 11 minute talk. I felt like I connected with many of those attentive people in the room and that I might really be able to help someone make a positive difference in their health and life. Maybe even someone in that room.
After the talk, members of the congregation went to different rooms for bible study (though agnostic, I respect all religions based in compassion and listen and learn about the beliefs of others with an open mind). I was invited to one of the bible study groups, and enjoyed chatting with different people as we made our way to the room. We started the study with more conversation about our experiences with plant based nutrition and then read a few verses before moving along to service and then fellowship dinner.
I laid out samples of my probiotic treats and a few quarts of my fermented veggies for the congregation. I was overwhelmed by the amount of feedback and questions about my journey and about my food. I completely bubbled over when a former plant-based instructor said, after tasting one of my probiotic treats for the first time, in an amazingly appropriate hushed tone: “this is perfect”. He went on to say that he wants to help me because my energy and enthusiasm about plant-based nutrition reminds him of himself 10 years ago.
And he wasn’t the only one to offer help or suggestions and requests for collaborative efforts. I feel so much more hopeful now about our pod’s success in advocating and supporting plant-based nutrition in our area, and of setting Jazzy’s Creative Kitchen up in its very own plant-based commercial kitchen.