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Jodi is a very sweet part of the Eco-Vegan Gal team - I love her kind, open spirit and it was so wonderful learning more about her journey in this feature. I think you'll be inspired by Jodi's story about how the vegan lifestyle helped her connect with her family and lose weight:
I’m 23, and currently reside in Menomonie, Wisconsin. I studied Technical Communication and recently graduated in May 2014—woohoo!
I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin with a couple horses, dogs, barn cats, and chickens. Horses are my greatest passion, and I’m fortunate to be able to work at a stable that caters to the dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper crowds while I’m at school. I have two horses back home, Star, a ten-year-old Breeding Stock Paint, and Swayze, a four-year-old Paint/Arabian sporthorse. My family also has an eight-year-old European Crème Golden Retriever named Ryla who is very dear to me.
I, along with my mother, became vegan nearly four years ago due to the health benefits. My family has a history of health problems, and we wanted to prevent those same problems from happening to us. My mom discovered the vegan diet, and we began the process of eliminating animal products. At first, I began eating vegan because I agreed with my mom’s reasoning, but after doing some of the reading for myself, I started to eat vegan because I wanted to.
The book that fully converted me was The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. (A dense, but informative book.) Since reading The China Study, I’ve read numerous books on veganism and nutrition, in addition to the dozens of cookbooks my mother and I now own. The transformation that has occurred since I went vegan has been unreal—I went from a size 8 to a size 4 in a summer, and the positive shifts in my demeanor have increased drastically. After being vegan for nearly four years, I could never imagine eating the way I used to. ￼
Health has always been a part of my life, but until I went vegan, it had been on the backburner. Now, cooking is one of my favorite pastimes and all my friends know me as the organic-eating, vegan girl. (Which I find rather endearing while they consider it humorous.) A couple other tidbits of information about me: soccer is my favorite sport—I’ve played for sixteen years and love every opportunity to kick a ball around; I love to work out and be active; fashion is more of an addiction than a passion; and books—I love to read and could spend all day in Barnes & Noble.
Jodi's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: "My favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video is: “How Recognizing Your Personal Value and Power Contributes to a Better World”. I’ve always been drawn to inspirational quotes, videos, and people. Whitney is one of those inspirational people. This video nearly put me in tears because everything Whitney says in the video is true. Oftentimes, we forget how much power we truly have over our lives and the influence we have over the lives of others, and this clip reminds us of our power and influence.."
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Amanda plays a very active role on Eco-Vegan Gal, most notably via her wonderful product reviews. She and I have a lot of things in common, from living in Boston, MA to having a passion for the enviornment, animals, holistic living and organic, gluten-free food! Here's more about Amanda and her mission to take care of all species and the planet:
I went vegan in July 2012 after watching Food, Inc. and Earthlings, and doing my own research about the meat industry. I was a vegetarian for a couple of months and thought I would never go vegan. I was that person who said, “I could never give up cheese”, but learning about the dairy industry and chick culling broke my heart. Choosing a compassionate, cruelty free lifestyle is by far the best choice I have made in my life. The added environmental and health benefits are amazing! I was diagnosed with anemia during my adolescence and since going vegan it has been reversed. Removing gluten from my diet and losing twenty-five pounds has helped curve my PCOS symptoms. Overall, I feel healthier, lighter, and happier since going vegan.
I am a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Boston with a BA in women’s studies and psychology. Since college I have been involved with social justice campaigns from women’s rights to LGBTQ rights. Going vegan encompasses my commitment towards ending oppression for all living beings. Being part of the EVG team has inspired me to co-launch The Envi Girls, a site dedicated to eco-vegan living. When I am not interning and working on The Envi Girls, I work for Vegan Cuts and an app. In my free time I enjoy trying out vegan & gluten-free recipes, writing, reading, practicing yoga, and volunteering.
Amanda's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: "Eco-Vegan Gal plays a role in my life as a vegan committed to eco-friendly living. I find Eco-Vegan Gal to be the most informative, well-rounded site out there for eco-veganism. Whitney’s passion and dedication captures my attention, and I know other viewers feel the same. My favorite EVG video is Feel: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health. I love this video because it speaks to how much our emotions affect our overall well being. I know since going vegan my emotional health has improved and I have become a more positive person. Positivity is an amazing emotion that greatly affects our health versus negativity, which brings our health and others around us down. Optimism and positivity keeps me healthy, happy and productive."
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Lily has been a dedicated member of the EvG Apprentice Program since spring 2013. I've had the lovely opportunity to spend time with her in Los Angeles and she is such a joy - I am blown away by her knowledge and dedication to the vegan movement. Reading her story was so enlightening - I loved hearing about her journey and her childhood and I hope you find it equally as inspirational:
My name is Lily, I'm 26 years old and I live in Los Angeles, CA with my two cats Daisy & Juniper. I'm the founder & author of www.greenlilies.com, a vegan/green lifestyle blog dedicated to inspiring everyday people to adapt a more natural way of living. I'm also graphic artist (www.lilytrahandesign.com) and I work full-time for peta2, the youth division of People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals as a social media strategist.
I was raised in a household where my mother cooked everything from scratch, grew 90% of the produce we ate in our backyard & always relied on holistic alternatives for our health instead of conventional drugs. She also trained me to minimize waste, the use of electricity, etc. so many of my desires to reduce my carbon footprint stem from my upbringing. In high school I flirted with the idea of becoming a vegetarian (but was really a pescetarian) as I knew meat was not very healthy. Although when I first learned about the term "vegan" meant at the age of 15 I thought the concept was downright crazy and impossible.
It wasn't until about 4.5 years ago that I met a vegan for the first time in real life (I grew up in Colorado where I hardly knew any veggies at all.) We had a nice dialogue about her journey and all of the benefits so I decided to give it a go strictly for health reasons. I had nothing against animal rights activists but just never really felt or understood the empathy they had for other beings. "The Kind Diet" by Alicia Silverstone became my guide, but for some reason I still missed the memo on the way animals were raised. I did see many improvements in my health though! Suddenly so many things I just accepted over the years as "normal" such as skin problems, digestion issues, gas, insomnia, congestion, excess fatigue, headaches, etc. all diminished over time.
From that point on I ate a mostly-plant based diet, until 2012 when I finally saw the truth about how animals are treated and finally understood that there's really no "humane" way of killing someone. It doesn't matter if they're a human or a cat, cow, rabbit, etc. we are all sentient beings, we all have same capacity to feel love & pain and we all have the desire to live in peace. I also had this sudden realization that if I'm in the position where I'm able choose what food I want to eat everyday, then I should choose the option that not only benefits myself but other living creatures as well. That was when I declared myself as an actual vegan and knew that I was no longer doing this for myself, but for the planet and for the billions of voiceless animals who have the right to be happy too.
Blogging and activism have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I encourage everyone to join in on the fun. On another note- I hope to write my own Korean vegan cookbook very soon!
Lily's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: "Eco-Vegan Gal has been such an amazing resource for me and my lifestyle - I really recommend the website & Youtube channel to anyone who's seeking to adapt healthier habits the right way. I especially like Whitney's video "Learning How To Lose Weight & Love the Body In a Healthy Way" because it addresses how diets are very skewed in our society, particularly for women."
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Do you find yourself dining out too often because you don't know how to make exciting food at home? I can relate. Almost every day I question whether to go to a restaurant or a grocery store for pre-made food, or wrangle up ingredients in my kitchen and make a meal from scratch. I know the latter is most cost effective, likely healthier, and more sustainable than eating out, but sometimes I'm just lazy! Time gets in the way, and on busy days I dread how long a good meal takes to make (and clean up). Plus, I often crave specific flavors from a chef-made meal that I'm not sure how to reproduce at home. It's for all these reasons that I decided to take an online cooking class, and since I suspect you're in the same boat.
It was during Expo West this past March when I first learned about Rouxbe. I was excited to be at a talk by chef Chad Sarno, who I have admired for some time now due to his work with Kris Carr. He gave a beautiful lecture about being part of the health movement to help Americans thrive. Here are some of my favorite bullet points from his presentation:
- The average American eats a variety of only 19 fruits and vegetables in their life - it is an overfed yet undernourished nation.
- You can either set yourself up for success or failure - "genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger."
- Our diets are sacred, thus many people are terrified of changing. Other fears include lack of confidence, time, accessibility and affordability.
- Most people are lacking cooking fundamentals and basic knowledge (like how to cook beans and grains properly).
- In the food service industry it is rare to hear the words "chef" and "health" in the same sentence. Many chefs don't want to learn about special diets, and are reliant on fat, salt & sugar to make food taste good. It's a matter of what we want to know vs what we need to know.
- Culinary educators have a responsibility to either add to the problem or add to the solution. Chefs have responsibility to take the reins because they are the key holders of health; the modern chef is a well(ness) versed chef.
- Chad says that he is "not pushing vegan" but is instead "pushing plants" and increasing nutrient density through whole foods.
- He suggests approaching veganism from a place of abundance instead of a lack mentality. ie "we can do xyz" instead of what we can't do. "Look how easy it is, how fun, how delicious!" Plus bringing in elements of camaraderie and accessibility.
- It's also important to set people up for success by teaching them how to cook and prep food hands on.
With all this in mind, Chad felt compelled to be part of the online culinary school Rouxbe, which is on a mission to:
- Build an army of plant-based educators
- Empower people to take control of their health and wellness.
- Demystifying cooking by understanding the basic skills and foundations
Rouxbe works by guiding students through the process of making food by unlocking secrets to the kitchen and helping them understand what chefs know. It may be as simple as explaining how to open your fridge and make a meal with what you have. And it works! When I mentioned the course on social media a former student sent me this beautiful testimonial:
It is giving me more confidence in the kitchen, exposing me to foods I hadn't tried before, teaching me how to make some of my stand by recipes more appealing and flavorful and by the time I am finished with the course I will have learned many new cooking methods that were not previously part of my cooking experience. Not to mention just having more food knowledge.
Another person said:
I have a life time subscription to their lessons, best money I spent - they are a great school, and offer amazing tutorials. The quality is unmatched in any medium besides hands on.
After reading these words from people within the Eco-Vegan Gal community, I felt extra excited about my decision to enroll in Rouxbe's plant-based course. If you're starting to feel inspired, here are some more details:
Rouxbe and Wellness
With hundreds of culinary technique videos and whole food based lessons, Rouxbe is diving head first into the health and wellness realm, as this is the driving principle of the company. In addition to the Plant-Based Professional Certification Course, Rouxbe just launched the Doctor and Patient Healthcare Portal that will allow physicians and healthcare professionals and their patients to access wellness-based culinary content to help support health and lifestyle changes through food and cooking. A series of mini-courses will be launched through this portal that include topics such as Healthy Eating for Families and Kids, Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes Health and more. Check out the: Rouxbe Wellness Page for more information.
Plant-Based Course Details
- The food photo montages seen on this page are just a few examples of the many mouthwatering recipes you will create during the course.
- The course is split into 5 parts, which each have lessons and quizzes/assessments to make sure you're absorbing the info. A quick summary of the parts:
- Guide for shopping and equipment, basics of plant-based nutrition and debunk some misconceptions around plant-based diets.
- Kitchen basics, knife use, basics of different cooking methods
- Building and developing flavors, using herbs and spices to enhance dishes
- Culinary techniques for oil, salt and sugar restricted and gluten free diets.
- Introduction to raw food, including dehydrating, fermenting, and sprouting; Entertaining and cooking for a crowd.
More info is on the syllabus page.
- When the course is completed, each student receives a professional certification!
- Graduates from this course will form part of an elite group of professionally trained culinarians and wellness specialists needed to address the global need for plant-based educators in many sectors (healthcare, professional cooking, insurance, nutrition/wellness, and food product development).
- Video is a huge element of the course, and there are weekly live seminars for interaction with the instructors, which is an amazing resource.
- The course starts on May 15th and you can go at your own pace for as long as six months.
- It will take about 120 hours to complete. Think 4 to 5 hours per week, 20 hours per month.
- If you're unsure about whether you can commit to it, sign up for the 7 day free trial to try before you buy.
Courtney is a rock star member of the EvG Apprentice Program. Her passion for animals extends well beyond her companions at home, and she is dedicated to fueling her fitness routine with a plant-based diet. Courtney shares what sparked her interest in the vegan lifestyle and how it has shaped her life:
Hey There! My name is Courtney Rasbach. I am the creator and writer for SouleJourney. I’m 23 years old, I live in the Indianapolis, IN area. By day I work as a veterinary technologist and in community outreach speaking to the public about animal welfare issues for the Indianapolis Humane Society. By night I am a writer, equestrian, photographer, fitness freak, painter, gardener, lover of life and all animals.
I became vegan in February of 2012, for a couple of reasons. First let me explain that I have always believed that when one buys something from a company they are directly supporting the company’s values and mission. I soon realized I have had a cover over my eyes for way to long! I started researching my favorite companies and soon saw just how many places still do animal testing or exploit animals! THIS HAD TO STOP! I was being a hypocrite. How can I claim to believe what I stated above and still buy Tyson chicken or certain coats or even Tampons. So, I chose to stop being a hypocrite and start being a stronger voice for animals.
I began to watch all the documentaries on Netflix: Forks Over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, etc. I began doing research on the internet: PETA, The Vegan Dread, Happy Herbivore, etc. I began to see how twisted the web of animal exploitation was and ever since then have slowly made life changes and tried to educate people along the way.
The next reason I chose to become vegan stem from my love of fitness. When I read The China Study I was sold. I also found inspiration and motivation in the first vegan competition team, PlantBuilt. I saw that I can achieve my physique on a vegan diet which gave me even more motivation to become vegan.
During my free time I absolutely love to spend time with my beautiful animals! I have a horse named Indian Red, a dog named Carl, two cats Althea and Emma. I also love working on my blog, going for hikes with my Carl, working on my yoga practice or going to the gym.
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better. I hope you find your way over to my blog where you can learn more! I know I can not wait to get to know the viewers of EvG more as I continue to contribute to the site!
Courtney's favorite Eco-Vegan Gal video: During my research in how to make the switch to veganism I found myself on Eco-Vegan Gals website. I fell in love. I loved the content and the creator, Whitney. The part that I love the most about this site is you get the chance to watch Whitney develop into the well-educated Eco-Vegan chick she is today. It gave me motivation when I made the switch early on when things got hard to keep going and to keep learning. One of my favorite video of Whitney’s is one of her most recent ones, “How Essential Oils Can Help You Reach Wellness Goals in 2014”. This video is right up my ally in holistic healthcare. I am not a fan of antibiotics and such, I would much rather take a Epson salt bath or see the chiropractor and use some essential oils to help feel better.
Follow Courtney's journey: