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I'm starting a new column here on Happy Herbivore that features inspirational interviews from people who changed their life when they changed their diet. I'm also really excited to kick this column off with an interview of my friend Natala a.k.a. Vegan Hope. I hope Natala's story inspires you as much as it has me!
HH: Let's start with the million dollar question. How long have you been vegan and why did you go vegan?
I have been vegan for a year and a half. It started because I almost lost part of my leg due to diabetes. I was only 30 years old and my life was in ruins. I was morbidly obese with out-of-control diabetes. I was taking 200+ units of insult per day, I had arthritis in my feet and nerve damage in my legs and eyes. My cholesterol and blood pressure were also through the roof. I was on 12 medications and every doctor wanted to give me more medication. Finally, the doctors told me I shouldn't expect to live past 40.
HH: They gave you only 10 years to live? That's heart-breaking! What changed?
In the midst of my darkest days I started taking water aerobics classes. My instructor, a friend, suggested that I look at food as medicine. That led me on a path to discovering how food was affecting my body. I read a few books on how to naturally heal type 2 diabetes, all of which promoted an animal-free diet. The evidence and research was to overwhelming to ignore. Plus, I figured what did I possibly have to lose? I was already at deaths door.
HH: What was your diet like before you switched to a vegan diet?
Every doctor told me to eat ALL protein and very little carbs, even fruits and veggies. My diet had been mostly animal products so it was HUGE news to hear a vegan diet can cure type 2 diabetes.
HH: I understand you recently adopted a low fat/no oil diet like I promote here on Happy Herbivore. What was the force behind this choice?
I have been completely oil free for six months. Before that I only used oil in cooking but after I reread The Engine 2 Diet and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease I knew including any amount of oil, just like including any amount of animal product, was unhealthy for me. I don't need it. It provides nothing of nutritional value and it's not a whole food.
HH: Have there been any recognizable health benefits in cutting out all oils?
Prior to banning oil I my weight loss had slowed down and my blood sugar had occasional issues. Taking away oil was the last step in opening a door to new health.
HH: You've said that going vegan saved your life -- and health. Tell us about the changes you've experienced since adopting a plant-based diet.
Within a month of going 100% plant-based I was off ALL my insulin! As anyone with diabetes will tell you, that is HUGE. Within six months, I was off all medication completely. My cholesterol went from almost 400 to 170. I have more energy than I know what to do with and I no longer feel depressed or have anxiety. To say every aspect of my life has changed would not be an understatement!
HH: You've also lost a lot of weight -- over 150lbs! Tell us how you did it!
First and most importantly, it was the dietary change. I tried EVERY diet in the past -- I have not found ONE 'diet' that I did not previously try. There was even a point where I was working out three to four hours a day, and still with limited to no results. Once I eliminated animal products, the weight came off fairly easily. I do work out and stay active, but it's the change in diet that changed everything. I started at 410lbs and I still have a lot to lose, but I'm confident that I will be able to accomplish a healthy weight this way.
HH: A lot of people view veganism as a lifestyle and not just a diet or dietary choice. When you're working with others and promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet, what do you tell them about veganism?
My focus has been the health side of being vegan but I don't want to reduce "vegan" to only being about diet. I often tell people that I went plant-based and then became a vegan. I found out why people were vegan and it changed my life. Being vegan is about being kind, having compassion, loving the Earth, social justice and making sure everyone has food and water. When I opened my eyes to the true costs of consuming animal products -- for my health and the world -- I could not turn back.
HH: I know you have a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from Cornell and are now hosting workshops to help others get healthy. Tell us more about that.
I received my Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from Cornell under the direction of T. Colin Campbell (author of The China Study). I want to help people on their quest to better health and I've been fortunate to talk to and work with hundreds of people. Last year I did four workshops and they went really well. My workshops are informative but also have challenges, recipes, videos and most importantly, a supportive community. Many past attendees have been able to go off their medications for cholesterol and diabetes. Many have also lost weight.
HH: Thats incredible! Are there any upcoming workshops or events?
Yes! I have another Vegan Hope Workshop coming up and if any Happy Herbivore fan would like to join the class, I'll give a discount of $25 off tuition. Send an email to email@example.com with coupon code HHSENTME in the subject line before enrolling. I'm also giving scholarships to anyone who is unemployed (see "Register" on the website for more info!).
HH: Anything else you'd like to add?
I'd also like to thank you, Lindsay, for all that you are doing for veganism and for having a healthy approach. Your recipes have been a huge help in my journey and I am VERY excited about your cookbook!
HH: Aww.. thanks! *blushing* I think I can speak for everyone when I say, we all wish you much continued success in your journey to health and for all the lives you are touching.