Want to have more energy, look better and lose weight? It all starts with what you put into your body! I have been taking nutritious cooking classes/lessons from our local Whole Foods Healthy Eating Specialist Genevieve recently and have come to really admire and respect her. I thought her story was a great one to share and her outlook on food is one we can all relate with. Each lesson she creates these amazing and filling dishes from all real, whole plant foods. Nothing artificial, no animal products, gluten or soy and each dish is….heavenly. But the best part is you feel great after! If you subscribe to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Stepsinstilettoscom you can see some of her dishes and recipes!
1. When did you decide to go plant-strong in your diet?
I decided to adopt a plant-based diet originally stemming from health reasons after graduating High School. Being almost 245 pounds, and eating a diet high in processed snacks and fast food, I was literally sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I started off slowly becoming more mindful of the types of foods I was eating, decreasing the amount of refined carbohydrates, and choosing leaner meats, beans, and whole grains. After several months, I felt great and had lost about 50 pounds, and it was then that I decided to go vegetarian as I had lowered my consumption of animal proteins to the point that I no longer craved, nor felt I needed them in my diet. About a year after becoming a vegetarian, I decided to dive into a vegan diet, and have been following one for the past 4 ½ years. Whilst it was hard at the beginning, especially coming from a large Italian family who adores food of all sorts, I have finally found a stable ground with the foods I consume and my feeling of overall wellbeing.
2. What was the transition period like?
My initial transition from eating lean animal proteins, such as chicken and fish became less and less frequent, as when I did eat it, I would have nausea and digestive discomfort. I was eating it so rarely that my body’s chemistry had adjusted and so, not ever really feeling the “need” to eat meat, I simply left it out. Becoming a vegetarian was a bit overwhelming at first, especially coming from a large Italian family who adores food, and friends who thought inviting me out to dinner was a no-go. I fell into the trap of the highly processed meat analogues, and the addictive General Tso’s “Chicken” they sell at my work, but didn’t ever feel any better. It wasn’t until I realized that although I was no longer eating meat, I was simply replacing it with vegan junk-food. It is then I adopted a more whole-foods approach, instead of trying to replicate the meat I was leaving out, I focused on what I could add in. Seitan and “chicken-less” nuggets were no longer my source of protein, instead I combined whole grains and beans, as well as a never ending array of vegetables and fruits. Whilst this took some time, I have finally come to a point where I am flexible in the types of foods and cuisines I eat, and have learned to loosen up and realize that no one is perfect. I feel the biggest eye opener for me on this journey is that we are all human, and no matter how hard you try, you are going to have slips every now and again that are out of your control, and that is okay.
3. What is 1 thing you wish every American would do?
I honestly just wish that people were more conscious about the types and quality of foods they put into their bodies. Our bodies are our temples, and if we fill them with junk, then junk is what we shall receive. My approach towards spreading a plant-strong diet, is to never slap anyone on their hands for eating this or indulging in that, instead I act as a constant source of support. I love to think outside of the box, and reel people in with simple recipes that are not only delicious but nutritious as well. To be honest, it does take a little bit of time and effort, but in the long run, you have to remember it is for your health and well-being. Knowing how the food you are feeding yourself and your family was raised/grown is one step, as is rethinking your plates to incorporate more plant based foods, whole grains, and beans/nuts/seeds.
4. What are your major tips for staying healthy?
My biggest tip is to attempt to eat a rainbow of foods each day. A lot of times, when people start a new “diet,” they live in a state of restriction, completely cutting out specific nutrients or food groups. This is not the way to approach any long-lasting change, so instead, trying to make smaller, more impactful changes and goals, I feel leads to the biggest successes. Whether it be cooking a new-to-you grain each week, or trying to eat a green salad each day, I find people have the most success when their goals are attainable and feasible for their day-to-day schedules.
5. Where do you see yourself in the future?
I am working on attaining my degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, but honestly feel that my experience with Whole Foods has been quite a blessing. I see myself continuing to grow with the Health Starts Here program, and one day would love to open up my own health/wellness café/clinic, but that is still sometime down the road.
Thanks Genevieve for making eating healthy fun and delicious! Looking forward to learning more from you!