Creating healthy food is my specialty and I love sharing the importance of a plant-based lifestyle. But I wasn’t always vegan, and I understand very well the challenges a new vegan can face. And that’s why I became a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. Now I work with clients around the country, helping them establish new healthy, happy, energizing habits, one delicious meal at a time.
I was around 12 years old when my mom learned that she was diabetic. Along the way, she struggled with high blood pressure, angina, painful neuropathy, and congestive heart failure. Before we lost her, she suffered two heart attacks and a massive stroke. This is the backdrop for my story, because I believed (because she did) that chronic illnesses were a normal, unavoidable part of aging. We thought my mom was a bit of a health nut; after all, she bought skim milk, low-fat cuts of meat, and she used margarine - not butter. I had never heard the word vegan.
Years later, after the birth of my own two kids, I flirted with the South Beach Diet to lose 10 stubborn post-baby pounds. But instinctively I knew that something was wrong with any eating plan that allows fat-free Cool Whip and sugar-free Jell-O, but does not approve of fresh fruit. That diet may have been effective, but I knew even then that it was not healthy.
Over the next few years I developed an intense interest in the best nutrition for good health. That led me to The China Study, and later to as many books as I could find by Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dr. Neal Barnard. I could barely read these fast enough. I was fascinated by plant-based nutrition, and my eyes were opened. This stuff was jaw-dropping and empowering.
I gave up most animal products easily, but dairy was a hurdle. Processed oils took me even longer. If only I had known all the strategies I use now! I did it in stages, but finally my transition was complete. I was fully immersed in plant-based eating. In the process, I lost that same 10 pounds (this time effortlessly). I had more energy than ever. My blood pressure fell to 110/70. My cholesterol dropped 40 points.
I had always loved to cook, but now that I was vegan, I was having more fun than ever. Creating recipes became my new passion. When I was offered an opportunity to write a vegan food column for The Ann Arbor News to share ideas about healthy food, I jumped in with both feet, and that inspired my Ann Arbor Vegan Kitchen blog. Soon after, I was conducting cooking demonstrations, and teaching heart-healthy plant-based cooking classes at Washtenaw Community College.
I was so excited about the power of healthy food, that I wanted to shout from the rooftop, and that ignited my commitment to further training. I became a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator through Main Street Vegan Academy, and a Certified Personal Chef through Wellness Forum Health. I completed training in Nutrition for a Healthy Heart and earned a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. I also became Forks Over Knives Plant-Based Certified through Rouxbe Cooking School, and recently graduated from the Starch Solution Certification program through Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center.
My recipes have been featured in The McDougall Newsletter and the Center for Nutrition Studies Newsletter, and included in Vegan Magazine, Honest Cooking, and The Vegan Friends Cookbook, a collaborative collection of original recipes from vegan chefs around the world.
In an amazing twist of fate, I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Joel Kahn in New York City in 2014. He had flown in to teach a class on our last morning of training at Main Street Vegan Academy. When Dr. Kahn learned that I was from Michigan, he told me about Paul Chatlin, and the work he had begun with his new Plant Based Nutrition Support Group. I could hardly wait to talk with Paul, and was immediately impressed when we spoke. I continue to be thrilled by the incredible, far-reaching work Paul does every single day to improve the lives of others, and I am proud and truly honored to serve as one of the chefs on the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG.org) team.