A big welcome to Kathy Freston! Kathy and I were both speakers at McDougall weekend and after watching her fabulous interview at McDougall, I couldn’t have been more excited to interview her on Happy Herbivore.
If you’re unfamiliar with Kathy, she’s the author of Veganist and the Quantum Wellness Cleanse. You may also recognize her from the vegan episode on Oprah last year. Busy as a bee, Kathy has just released a new book, The Lean, a revolutionary (and simple!) 30-day plan for healthy, lasting weight loss.
Fans: You're often described as a health and wellness expert. What are your credentials and how did you become an expert in your field?
Well, first of all, I’m obsessed with health and wellness! I believe there is so much in our power to heal and make better, so I’ve made it my business to learn about this stuff. I’m a researcher and writer - not a dietician - so I track down the best and most definitive peer reviewed studies on how food affects our health and weight; I try to pull it all together so that the science is easy to understand and applicable to anyone’s daily life.
I’m lucky to know and work with some of the nutrition science rock stars of our time, like Drs. Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil, Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic, T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, and Neal Barnard, professor of medicine at George Washington University. I use their work and expertise to substantiate the medical soundness of The Lean plan.
HH: "Diet and exercise" comes to mind for most of us when we want to get leaner, but you also recommend meditation and self-reflection in The Lean. How important is meditation/self-reflection to weight-loss?
What you eat is supremely important, but what you think and feel – what drives you to eat – is also plays a key role in weight loss. As the old adage goes, “If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will kill you.” Or make you fat!
I think it’s important to know why and how we go into a trance when we are overeating, because once we connect with that stuff, we aren’t driven to cover it up with food any more.
HH: In The Lean, you suggest starting the day with water, why?
I recommend that you drink 8 glasses of water, 8 times a day. This keeps your metabolism (and every other system in your body) running optimally. In regards to weight loss, it’s called pre-loading: people who drink 2 cups of water before meals in a study lost 5 pounds of fat more than people who didn’t drink water in a 12 week period. Easy peasy!
Fans: How do you feel veganism and the meat industry were portrayed on the Oprah show?
The Oprah show producers were committed to being fair and balanced in their portrayal, and I think they were successful. Frankly, I think seeing the Cargill kill floor was the best argument in favor of skipping meat. Although it’s one of the “most humane” slaughter houses in the country, it was horrifying for most people to watch the cattle approach their death, and then to be cut up.
Fans: What's a sample dinner or holiday menu that will please meat-eating guests and kids alike?
I like the classic, traditional favorites: Turkey (Tofurkey or Gardein), mashed potatoes (made with soy milk and Earth Balance), stuffing (made from mushrooms and bread crumbs), Brussel Sprouts and cranberry sauce! It looks and tastes very much like the feast we grew up loving, but it’s just a healthier version!
Fans: You often suggest faux meat and faux cheese products like Field Roast and Daiya, why is that? For convenience? Familiarity?
Those meat and dairy alternatives are wonderful to ease us away from animal based foods. In an ideal world, we would all eat completely whole foods; but it’s not an ideal world! My husband, for instance, would not be interested in sitting down to rice and beans and veggies; but he would be interested in a delicious dish of “chicken”, rice, and veggies because it is a tradition that he loves. So it’s a good step! Those alternatives harm no animals, they have zero cholesterol, less fat, and do much less harm to the environment. I’m all about progress, not perfection!
Fans: There have been huge steps in the vegan movement over the last 5 years, where do you see veganism in the next 5 years?
I think over the next 5 years, we are going to see more restaurants and businesses offering plant based options along with their typical fare. The market is going to demand it, and in order for restaurants to stay current with the changing tastes, they will begin adding things in so that there is something for everyone.
HH: What are 5 easy things people can do today to start on a healthier path?
- Set your intention to get healthier
- Nudge yourself forward a little by taking 1 or 2 easy steps
- Have a hearty, whole grain breakfast to amp up your metabolism
- Drink your 8 glasses of water a day
- Eat an apple a day; the fiber will fill you up, and you’ll have a slow steady source of energy
HH: In The Lean, you dedicated an entire chapter to flax seeds. Why are flax seeds so important?
I recommend adding 2 Tbs ground flax seeds to your food every day (in a smoothie or soup, for instance, or mixed in with oatmeal) because the fiber adds volume to your food and fills you up so you are satisfied for hours. And flax has a powerful antioxidant in it called lignans, which are cancer preventative. Perfect weight and health are intricately connected.
HH: The recipes in The Lean were written by Dayna McLeod, tell us a little bit about this very talented chef and how you came to work with her.
She’s a wonderful chef I met in Santa Barbara, who traveled the world cooking on fancy yachts; she took all those great recipes from around the world, and learned to make them so that they were really healthy. I love her approach to cooking, that it should be easy and make EVERYONE in the family happy!
Thank you Kathy!
If you’re interested in snagging a copy of Kathy’s new book, she is selling autographed copies of The Lean in her OpenSky shop - you can also find more suggestions and tips from her there as well.
Thanks Kathy for a wonderful interview, you have such a happy, positive spirit -- keep spreading the word and changing lives!