Welcome to a new our new plant based stories series! Our aim in this series is to feature REAL plant based stories from REAL people from all walks of life.
If you have read our personal stories, you have read that we believe a plant based lifestyle is the best way to achieve optimal health, fight inflammation and care for the environment – but we don’t want you to take our word for it, that is why we are partnering with guests so you can hear from them why they decided to go plant based.
Let’s dive in and meet Lauren and learn why she adopted a plant based lifestyle.
Meet Lauren, Plant Based Lifestyle Enthusiast & Heart Disease Defeater
Hi Lauren! We are so glad to have you be our first post in our new Plant Based Stories series, can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
My name is Lauren Bernick. My website is Wellelephant.com and it contains all the information one needs to live a whole-food, plant-based, oil-free lifestyle based all upon my experience in adopting a plant based lifestyle! There are recipes, information about how to cook without oil, how to travel and socialize and there is even a list of restaurants where you can eat if you happen to live in Austin, TX. My motivation in naming my website Well Elephant is two-fold; no one ever asks the elephant where she gets her protein. The other reason is that elephants are strong, beautiful herbivores supported by their community. I want to spread that same message to others too!
You mention that you started your website based upon your experience in adopting a plant based lifestyle, can you tell us what that turning point was?
Three years ago I found out that I had cardiovascular disease and that I was at high risk for having a heart attack. I was 46 years-old. I really wanted to reverse my disease, not mask it with drugs and continue my bad eating habits.
Wow! That sounds like no news that anyone wants to hear when they go to the doctor! What happened with your health when you transitioned to a plant based diet?
Since adopting a plant-based, no added oil lifestyle, I have lost almost 20 pounds, dropped my cholesterol from 288 to 178, and all of my blood work is excellent. I have tons of energy, I rarely get sick, my weight doesn’t fluctuate, I sleep great and I no longer suffer from any allergies. I am beginning to notice that some of my friends who are the same age as me are starting to have a plethora of health issues that I simply do not have.
That is amazing, I am sure your whole family was excited about the turnaround in your health! Speaking of family, I know for many people transitioning to a new diet can be a stressful situation for their family, can you tell us how your family supported you in your lifestyle?
My husband and three children were terrified to hear that I had a heart attack waiting in my future. My son, who is now 17 adopted a plant based diet with me. He has been right by my side every step and loves it. He does eat oil when he goes out, but he is 100% plant based otherwise. My husband is slowly getting on board now after seeing all of the health benefits.
Sounds like you have had some great support behind you every step of the way! What was the hardest food to give up when you went plant based?
The food I struggled to give up the most was cheese. I think I even once said, “I’ll give up cheese when they pry the brie out of my cold dead hand.” Now I would never eat it.
And what makes you stick to that? The ‘never eat it again’ part?
I want to be a healthy person until the day I die at an old age.
Speaking of health, America is in what most healthcare experts are calling an ‘obesity crisis’, which in turn has played a huge part in heart disease being the leading cause of death for our many in our nation – yet you reversed heart disease by going plant based!
Do you think other would benefit from a plant based diet?
YES! Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans and Cancer is number two. A low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet without oil has been shown to fend off and even reverse these two killer diseases. It has even been shown to help with type 2 diabetes and auto-immune diseases. Your body wants to be healthy and repair itself. All you have to do is help it. I know this way of eating seems scary and hard to do, but everyone who tries it LOVES it! Why do you think there are so many jokes about “vegans” and how they can’t wait to tell you about their way of eating? There is a great substitute for anything you currently love to eat. What is the one thing everyone says before they go plant-based? “I could never do that.” I said it too.
I think a lot of people think about going plant based but then when faced with obstacles such as going out to eat or traveling, they run the other way, because it just seems too hard. Any tips you can share on how you have handled these REAL life situations?
It definitely requires planning. But this, like anything else, can be done if you desire it and are willing to stick to it! When someone tells me they can’t do this I ask them if they have kids. Most of the time they do. I ask them if their baby ever cried during the night or woke up as a toddler at 5:00am ready to play? When they answer ‘yes’. I then say, “Did you keep them or put them out on the curb? If you kept them, you can also find a solution to eating plant-based, you’re obviously a genius at figuring things out.” I have an entire section on my website devoted to going out to eat and traveling because it does have a learning curve.
My best tip for going out to eat is to use www.happycow.net and opentable.com. Happy Cow is an app and website for vegan/vegetarian restaurants. You can find restaurants that may be suited for you and then call to see if they can make you something oil-free. Opentable.com lets you filter by options such as “vegan” and then, again, sometimes you will just have to call the restaurant. Explain to the chef that you absolutely can’t have any oil. You can even say you’re allergic. Ask them to sauté some veggies in white wine, vegetable broth or water and throw it over an egg-free pasta or baked potato. After a while you will know where you can eat in your area. Worst comes to worst, bring your own oil-free salad dressing from home. You can always get a salad.
We have encountered those same things when dining or traveling and we have found that most of the time people are always glad to help and want to help find a solution, all it takes is getting over your own worry and asking.
What about the grocery store? What do you usually fill up your care with when shopping for making plant based dishes at home?
I normally fill my grocery cart with these staples at the store: Lemons, limes, oranges, bananas, apples, grapes, berries, mangoes, scallion, onions, garlic, cilantro, lettuce, kale, cabbage, bok choy, celery, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, white potatoes, nutritional yeast (it makes things “cheesy”), sesame seeds, lentils, beans, brown rice, amino acids, tamari, Dijon mustard, salsa, low-fat or Engine 2 hummus, tempeh, Ezekiel sprouted grain bread, Ezekiel cereal, old-fashioned oats, steel-cut oats, oat milk, oat flour, garbanzo bean flour, Ancient grains pasta, fat-free marinara and frozen vegetables to use in a hurry.
Sounds like there is plenty to be found almost anywhere to support a plant based oil – free lifestyle! Do you have a favorite plant based food?
Hands down sweet potato fries in my air-fryer or oven!
Oh! We both love our air-fryers here at Bad to the Bowl! We just have to know as well, what is your favorite food to eat in a bowl?
Veggie stew and mashed potatoes.
That sound delicious, can we share the recipe with our readers?
Yes! You can find the link to download this recipe here or read on below for the recipe:
Veggie Stew and Mashed Potatoes
• 5 large carrots peeled and chopped into thick pieces • 4 stalks of celery chopped • 1 onion chopped • 8 oz of sliced mushrooms • Half a small bag of frozen green beans • Quarter of a small bag of frozen peas • A handful of frozen organic corn • 2 cups of apple cider or juice (go for dark and cloudy) • 15oz vegetable broth or stock • 4 tbsp flour • ½ tsp smoked paprika • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce • 1 tsp garlic powder • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 2. In a large stew pot or Dutch oven with lid, sauté the fresh vegetables (not frozen) in a drop of broth or water for one minute. 3. Coat vegetables with flour and stir for a minute 4. Pour in all liquids and the rest of the ingredients from apple cider/juice on down and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. 5. Simmer for five minutes 6. Throw in frozen vegetables and stir. 7. Cover with lid and transfer to a hot oven and cook for up to 45 minutes.
That sounds absolutely delicious, thank-you for sharing this with our Bad to the Bowl readers! In closing, do you have any other plant based tips to share?
I truly believe anyone can adopt a plant based diet and be in control of your health! I want nothing more than for everyone to live a long life free of disease, pain and medications. I have a lot of resources on my website, including links to other sites that have recipes and information. I love to talk to groups of people, so if you need a speaker, please consider booking me. As a former stand-up comic, I make the talks fun and informative. I never pressure people to go plant-based; I just provide information. People come to a plant based lifestyle when they are ready. I just want to be here for them when they are!
Thank-you Lauren for sharing your story! Where can people learn more about you?
I am on Facebook @wellelephantand Instagram @laurenbernick_well_elephant