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Meet our Herbies of the Week: The Greener Family (They lost 335 POUNDS together after a cancer diagnosis. They're now cancer-free and healthier than ever!)
The Greener Family has made drastic health improvements together over the past 3 years.
I'll let Erin tell her family's story...
Our journey began 3 years ago when my husband Justin was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. Being a family of 4 on a SAD diet it was a wake up call to revaluate our lifestyle and diet. After a thyroid removal and radiation (he is now cancer free) we began our plant-based journey as a family. We started out watching a slew of documentaries including Forks Over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, and of course reading books, The China Study, My Beef with Meat, and of course Happy Herbivore cookbooks!!. We cut out all processed food, meat ,dairy, oil and began to incorporate more whole foods and plants and couldn't believe how great we began to feel. I suffered from chronic migraines, skin problems, low energy, painful menstrual cramps from my endometriosis and all of those disappeared or almost went away. I lost a total of 100 lbs. and have never felt better. My husband lost around 200 lbs. (When he first went to the Dr. the scale couldn't even weigh him, it maxes out at 400 lbs. so the 200 is an estimate, could be more. He is such an inspiration to our family!!!) along with the weight he also no longer needed his CPAP for his sleep apnea, his back pain was gone, and I have never seen him more fit and healthy, and we have been married for 17 years. We also noticed a change in our two children Hannah (17) and Hayden (12). Grades improved at school, their moods became more level, and they weren't running back and forth to the pantry! Hannah' s acne cleared up and she has more energy than before. She lost around 15 lbs. Hayden lost 20 lbs!! Which was such a blessing since he was on a path of becoming overweight. His eczema cleared up, and we were able to slow down any early onset puberty. Even though it has been a few years we have reached out to family members and are proud of our family for supporting us, and some even made the switch with us!!!
Our transition to a plant-based lifestyle was different for myself, our kids, and my husband. He made the switch by starting with a juice cleanse and after that started. As for myself and the kids, we were slower in the transition. I had to rewire our way of thinking about food and to have it be healthy and beneficial to our bodies. My grocery store trips were such a learning experience since I now cared about what was in my food. The kids and I cut out processed foods first and then cut out meat and dairy. Luckily we weren't big milk drinkers, but we loved meat, especially beef. We would order a 1/4 cow about every three months . I know, crazy, we would eat a whole cow in a year!! The last part of the transition was my kids lunches at school. They were eating plant-based for breakfast and dinner but were eating school lunches. It was about a 3 month transition for myself. I feel so blessed to have had a smooth transition with the kids. Since they are older we had family movie nights and watch all the documentaries (FOK, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Food Inc., Vegucated, Cowspiracy, OMG GMO etc.) together as a family, and I think that really helped them understand why we were making the switch. They have been troopers trying new foods and dishes. They met some resistance from peers at school, more so with my oldest. My daughter would have her lunch taken by her from other students and they would eat her lunch. Looking back on the situation now I figure at least they were getting a healthy and nutritious lunch!! When changing our eating habits, it created a ripple effect on other areas of our lives. We became more active and began to work out and to do more activities together as a family. We also evaluated the environment our kids were exposed to at school and what they were being taught. My daughter was in an Ag Science class, and it was tough for her to learn how factory farming and GMO can impact the world. We made the choice to pull the kids out of public school and to start homeschooling. We are now on our 3rd year of homeschooling and LOVE it. Our first year I put together a plant-based health curriculum using movies and the College Greens Engine 2 Plant strong kids. This year my oldest is doing a Permaculture course and we are exploring other areas of "green living" and sustainability. Amazing how it all came to be and so excited to see what the future holds for our kids.
Our family has been very supportive to our transition and lifestyle change. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law have made the switch and are plant-based. My mom has been trying plant-based for a couple years. She feels better while sticking to it but has periods that she doesn't and then starts to feel tired, aches and pains. My father in law also tries to be plant-based when possible but also has struggled with it. Most of our family is out in Idaho and Colorado so we share with them new recipes and pointers. Most of them all have an Instant Pot and a Vitamix which is super handy for when we travel to visit them. In fact my daughter has been out in CO for a few weeks staying with family and is cooking plant-based meals! Makes us proud that she is plant-strong even when she is not at home. I think most of our family was curious about what we were eating and also seeing how we had lost a lot of weight piqued interest. We were not afraid to share information with them and help get them started.
As far as advice for other families, I would recommend getting the family involved. Watch a documentary, and get everyone in the kitchen. Check out local farmers' markets and try new dishes. Cutting out processed foods was hard because of the convenience of them. This was the hard part for me. I don't mind cooking, but finding dishes that were easy to fix and tasted good were hard at first. Having snacks on hand is a must for kids. We love air popped popcorn with nutritional yeast, and we make granola and kale chips. Another thing that is a must is to plan ahead. We always try to bring either fruit or sliced raw veggies in case we get hungry we won't be tempted to just "grab" something. Starting with one or two nights a week that are meatless is a great way to ease into it. Making a whole grain pasta or brown rice instead of white is an easy swap. It can be very overwhelming so start with a small, reachable goal so you don't get discouraged. Transition at your own pace and have fun with trying new foods/dishes!
Thank you Erin for sharing your family's inspirational story!