Why Vegan?When did you decide to go vegan? Let me see, today is the 11th, yesterday was two years. Really! [Ask any vegan and they can usually tell you down to the date when they made the decision to go vegan!] Yes, the 10th of September, 2010. I had attended the P.C.R.M. (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) course as a student. There’s a gal who teaches them out of Bellevue and she came on an employment wellness grant to my work we funded for her to teach the series and I was already vegetarian, well, actually not at the time. I had been vegetarian off and on, I was not at the time and I missed the first class and maybe the second one, but I caught the last two and that was all it took because I didn’t realize the connection with cancer and they don’t teach that in traditional nutritional school. They really only teach the healthy version of the Western diet. It’s the plate method with the meat and the starch, so I had no idea. I have a Masters degree in nutrition and how did I not know this? So I did a lot of research that night just on-line and different groups. The cancer risk with the dairy and dove right in.
On Family & FriendsSince you dove right in, what was the reaction from your family and friends? Ahh…[Laughter], my mom likes to call things “faces”. When I went vegetarian, first I cut out beef for a year and I can remember the day that happened too and she called that a “face” and I haven’t eaten beef since then and then when I told her I was going to go vegan, she asked, “How long is this face going to last?” And I asked, “How long do I have to do it till you stop calling it a face?” [We laugh some more!] My family has been very supportive. My immediate family has. My mom just likes food, so she’ll go eat at all the vegan restaurants with me and my dad will try anything. I made an all vegan Thanksgiving dinner this past year.
Being Married to a Meat EaterMy husband is a different story. He is still a meat eater. How is that? What does he eat? It is hard. He will eat whatever I make for dinner, so he’ll eat vegan. He’ll eat whatever I make him for lunch, so he typically only eats meat if we go out to eat or if he has some guys over from work, so he’s vegan 80 percent of the time at least and he likes the food, but he’s choosing to be ignorant. He promises me that he’ll watch “Earthlings” and what is that other movie? “Forks Over Knives“? No, he’s seen “Forks Over Knives”. I just trick him into watching documentaries all the time on Netflix. I’ll just start something. What about “Food Inc” ? Yes. “Vegucated“? Yes, he’s seen “Vegucated”. What about “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead“? Yes, he’s seen all three of those and he’s told me he’ll watch “Earthlings”. Oh, he has. Yes, he says he’ll watch that, but I won’t watch it. I don’t need to watch it. I haven’t watched it either. I think it’s pretty graphic, but he’s promised he’ll watch it. He’s an animal lover and we have ten pets and I think that might be what it’s gonna take. I’m convinced that some day…some day, I’ll convert him to at least vegetarian. [Jenelle giggles.] So he’s not opposing you on it? No. What do you do? Does he ever bring home his meat and cook it? He’s not much in the kitchen. Very occasionally he’ll get something if he has some friends over, they might grill something and that is usually outside. I won’t buy it at the store, so if he wants it he has to go get it.
About PCRMTell me a little bit about your experience going to the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). It’s been almost a year ago, I went in November. I went for the partnership program/track. I can’t teach it in the community, which is frustrating because I work in a hospital with other dietitians and one of them teaches some college courses and would love me to come teach it. Technically it doesn’t have to be me to teach the classes, I have access to all of the materials and I could train someone. Seattle and Tacoma are sister hospitals so if someone in Seattle wanted to teach them they could, but that hasn’t been the case yet. I had intended to go up there to teach them, but it would take a full day to go up there, packing everything up and travel.
The training was very interesting we got some very practical experience, talking on camera experience and so we watched that back as a group and got some feedback. Everybody was very nice with their feedback, but you learn a lot from just watching other people do it and we did cooking demos in front of a class with a provided recipe. Some of the cooking demos revolved around the equipment that’s available, but not mandatory, like the Vitamix and the cookware. I did not take those because I do work for the hospital and there’s an annual renewal fee and I just wasn’t sure how that’s going to go, but it’s not much, but it’s a government hospital and you just never know how that’s going to go. It can take forever to get anything done and there’s a fee to send the equipment back and I just didn’t want to be personally responsible, so I got some funds donated to purchase some equipment, so I have a very basic food processor and pot & pans and electric skillet that I use for my courses. A lot of hands on and a lot of learning from other people; why they are there and how they got there. We had some talks by Dr. Barnard, a talk by Jennifer K. Reilly – she did the kid’s curriculum, which I won’t be using in my workplace setting, but it was some very neat materials they had available for children. We attended a live demo. We walked down the street to a Whole Foods and I think the gal was from Alaska. She does it full-time. I don’t know how many classes per week and she came in and gave a demonstration because a lot of people had never seen a class, so I was fortunate to have seen one and know how it’s supposed to go. Everyone else had not. Where can you actually go see one? On their website they post any classes that are offered, so you could come sit in on one of mine. Yes, I’d love that! But the gal up north, hers are all posted on-line, but mine won’t show up like that because they are not open to the public – they are for patients only. Hers are and she does them in a variety of places. Some may be open to the public and some not.
On Animal Activism
I know that PCRM is also into animal activism and rescuing, so what about you? Since going on a vegan diet, have you yourself gotten involved in that? Yes, very much so. That was why I originally went vegetarian, but I just didn’t know enough to be committed to that yet, so at one point I was eating everything except fish. I hadn’t made that connection, and now that I know, except how we get our meat and how we get our dairy. I think that’s the biggest motivator. Health is important, but if I stop and think in the moment…that is what keeps me motivated and keeps me going. I volunteer every Sunday at a cat only shelter, doing adoptions and cleaning and foster kittens as well. I had intended to attend my first demo at the circus a couple of weeks ago and didn’t make it there on time. Yes, I know. I was thinking of being there myself. Yeah, so I was going to go to my first. It makes me a little nervous to do something that out there but I definitely want to. I’ll go with you for the next one. My friend Joseph will probably be there. But on a smaller scale I share information with people.
I learned afterwards that there is vegan tattooing and some is not. I’m sure I have some that are not, but I have eleven. You have eleven tattoos? Yes. What does it mean that it’s not vegan? How does that work? The black inks are the most concerning. They might use bone char to get the black color and some might use glycerin from animal sources as the binding agent and some use vegetables, so some of the major brands are vegan they just don’t know, so you may call a shop and ask, “Do you use vegan ink?” And they are like, “We don’t do that here!” I’ll then ask, “What brand do you use? Oh, yes you do!” So how do you know what brand is vegan? I found a list on-line and if I’m not sure I’ll just find the company’s website and usually they have that in the frequently asked questions. Like my arm, the gal said she didn’t know but said, “This is what brand I use” and I looked it up and it was safe, so I said “Ok!” It’s very cool! [Jenelle has a large colorful tattoo on her left upper arm that looks like something out of a fairy tale or a fable!] So, which tattoo did you get first, may I ask? I have a little tiny rose on my back that I got for my eighteenth birthday. That was about ten years ago, so I’ve been getting one about every year. I got quite a few in this past year, actually. It’s quite addicting isn’t it? When I was getting my first one done (Sunday), I thought, “Why haven’t I done this sooner? Why haven’t I gotten one before?” I’d really like some birds. Next week is the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death and he loved birds. Well, and so do I. I have gotten four in the past six months. Besides the one notable “V” for vegan that you have on your wrist. Do you have any others that say anything about being a vegan? Not vegan, but my shoulder says, “Eat better feel better”. Great! That’s so true!
How do you feel your life has changed as a result of going plant-based vegan? A lot!!! It has redefined my relationship with some people. It’s interesting to see how some friends and family react to that. I have definitely had some negative. Very very negative experiences. Are we talking family and friends? Family. I had a very upsetting family experience last Thanksgiving. Not my immediate family – they are wonderful but… I feel like I’m looking at everything differently. Asking myself, “What is it that I don’t know yet?” Let me go back a little bit, so you mentioned family, but what about your friends? Have you lost any friends because of the diet change? No, my friends are great. Some are better than others. I have a couple of girl-friends, who if they host a gathering are great about making sure there’s something there for me to eat and I don’t have to bring my own food. I’ll make vegetarian chili and have available (for non-vegan friends) cheese and sour creme that they can put it on theirs. I don’t think I have lost any friends, but I definitely speak to some family less though because of it. Well, we had that Thanksgiving and we hosted it. My aunts and my cousins are also vegan, so that’s nice. But my aunts son – he’s not. He came, my husband and my dad would have been fine without it, I’m sure. He’ll eat whatever too. My mom made the turkey, but everything else…our stuffing etc. was all vegan. My brother even asked for the stuffing recipe. At first he was looking around the kitchen going, “What is this? I’m just trying to see what I can eat here.” I said, “You can eat all of it!” But he loved it! My dad tried the “Field Roast” that I got and he actually had seconds of that. Now he tells my mom, when she makes casseroles, “You should put some of that loaf in there.” [I laugh. Field Roast products are delicious!] That’s great!
Lets Talk About FoodSince we’re talking about food, do you have any favorite dishes? If I’m trying to impress somebody else I might not bring the healthiest thing because I want to show them that normal foods can be vegan, like at work there are usually sweets and baked goods all over the place and people always ask, “How do you refrain?” I answer, “I have no desire.” But I will bring cupcakes some times, make them, and everyone will say, “I can’t believe this is vegan!” But for myself, I love quinoa in any way. As a breakfast, as a side, as an entree. How do you eat it for breakfast? What do you put in it? I put fruits: blueberries, strawberries, sometimes a little cilantro even. Do you eat it hot or cold? I eat it cold and a little dressing with lime juice. Sounds good! It is good! I love cilantro! [Laugh!] Anything with quinoa! I don’t know that I have a favorite meal. I’m always trying new recipes. I try to avoid the processed items, but it’s tough because that’s the stuff that my husband does like, so if I do a pasta I might make noodles for him and then I have a spiralizer and then make zucchini or sweet potato noodles for myself and just use the same sauce. So you’re eating it raw, basically? Yes, but I’ll heat them and add a marinara sauce. Actually one night, my husband called and said that he and a co-worker were stopping in. They had a while, so I asked, “Do you want dinner?” And trying to think of what I could make really fast, so I did those noodles & marinara, grilling up some asparagus and said, “I’m sorry, strange person I’ve never met before, but you’re getting a vegan dinner!” He was like, “Hey, it’s good!” [I laugh!] Some people think it’s too restrictive or difficult to go on a plant-based vegan diet. What would your response be to them? I have not found that. What I found was it opened up my eyes to so many foods that I hadn’t tried. The typical American diet is very boring! [Jenelle makes her voice sound funny.] “You got a starch, you got a meat and maybe a vegetable…and that’s about it!” But I have tried so many grains, vegetables, and produce items that I would just never have tried. I feel I have much greater variety in my diet now. It can be a little tougher when dining out but I haven’t ever been somewhere where I couldn’t have something. Oh, I suppose I would avoid some places like “In and Out Burgers”. [We laugh at this appalling thought!] But I haven’t gone any place where I couldn’t make something out of side dishes or have something special. Probably my best meal ever was at a restaurant that didn’t have anything on the menu. They maybe had a vegetarian dish with cheese. It was my husband’s birthday and that was where he had chosen. He said, “Well, it’s my birthday and we’re eating here!” I said, “Okaaay!” So I talked to the server and it was a nicer restaurant, so they talked to the chef and I got the most amazing plate of grilled vegetables, but I think they grilled them with slices of lemon and slices of jalapeno and they were so great and they made a trio of dipping sauces. [I’m saying, “Ohh!” and “Ahh!” Sounds yummy!] They were great! It was amazing and it was not on the menu!
Supplement Talk with the Sexy Dietitian
I’m out of questions, but since you’re a dietitian, should someone on a plant-based vegan diet be taking any supplements like a daily B-12 vitamin? I would say yes. Daily? It’s really hard to say. I don’t think the research is conclusive. I don’t think its been looked at that specifically. Do you take one daily? Yes, well, I ran out for a while and wasn’t worried that I was going to keel over but I do take one daily. I don’t recommend over-supplementation. If you’re eating a balanced diet you should be getting adequate nutrition. There once upon a time wasn’t any supplements, but B-12 is one that I do think we should take. What about vitamin D in the winter time? Do you think it’s necessary? It depends. I had to! Mine was low this year and I was feeling fatigued so I did and that’s just in the winter time. [Same here!] We have gotten some nice sun in the past few weeks, so I haven’t been taking any, but I do in the winter because I know my levels drop. Do you take any other vitamins that someone on this diet should be taking? No! I am actually currently working on an article on supplements for vegetarians and vegans. It is for a website called, “The Good Calorie“. It’s a new website. I think it launched at the beginning of August and I’ve committed to being a contributor every two months. It’s put together by a board of dietitians, so it’s all dietitian submitted information and it’s got a variety of topics. How did they find you? The gal who is the editor for the website went to the Texas Women’s University VA Houston and that’s also where I went, so she found me. I did my bachelor’s here in Central Washington, but I went to Houston. You have to have a four-year degree in nutrition or dietetics and a certified internship program that has to be at least 900 hours. Mine was 1500 hours. [Impressive!] They wanted to overwork us, but I’m glad they did! And then it was a combined Masters program with Texas Women, so I did 1500 hours of internship plus a Masters in 13 months. I was the only one to finish! [As we say in Danish, “Hats off to you, Jenelle!” That’s impressive!] That’s partly why I went out of State was to focus and get it done because I came back here and got married, knowing I would be much less focused. [Laughs!]…if I was at home doing that! She went to the same program two years after me and found me via there. Yes, so I’m writing an article on supplementation. All I have so far are headings, but what I’m addressing is what people think you might need and explaining where they come from in the diet and how you can get them through food. My iron levels have improved greatly since going vegan, which is very interesting to me. But it’s proof because I’d normally have borderline low levels. I definitely think this comes from the greens and the beans! I eat huge amounts of greens. Kale! I love all the hardy greens! I’m sure that’s why. I go once a year and get my own blood tested, so I can’t wait till December to go get mine tested and see where my levels are at. I was always borderline anemic and was always told to take a supplement in my teens and it’s wonderful now. That comes through the food! Finally I asked Jenelle, before writing this, if it was Okay that I named her “The Sexy Dietitian”? She laughed and said, “Yes, I actually entered a contest to be in a book about sexy vegans. She also did a guest post for “Full Circle Farms”. They do a produce delivery to your door. To learn more about Jenelle and to read her blog. Please go to: http://www.yorkandspoon.com/ Jenelle hopes to do some more modeling for “Pinup Angels”. I personally think they should book her right away, don’t you? Thank you so much, Jenelle, for meeting with me and sharing your personal plant-based vegan journey! You’re inspiring not only to me, but to many others! It’s a small world we live in, especially when I think back to that raw food cooking class where I first met “Farmer/Veteran Bob” whom I introduced to “Forks Over Knives”. He’s the one who told me about this dietitian, who had also been talking to him about going on a plant-based diet …and that was you! Thanks again! You’re amazing!