Meet my friend Bethany! When I first met Bethany, she reminded me of a childhood friend back in Denmark. Let me tell you, this gal is a mover and a shaker! She is the kind of woman that you want to be on your team because, trust me, things will get done! Bethany has a contagious enthusiasm and passion for health and wellness. At PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) in Washington D.C., Bethany had made up a song to go with her presentation that was so fun and unforgettable that we are all still humming “Veggies in a blanket”!
Tell me something about your background. Where did you grow up?
My dad was a military chaplain, so I grew up in several different places. Mostly in the south: Alabama, NC, KY. I went to high school in Germany, and got to see several different amazing countries in Europe: youth group ski trips to Switzerland; our school science fair was in London; our French class went to Paris. I have three children: Chris, 23; Brianna, 21; and Lacey, 16.
What do you do for a living and for how long have you been doing this?
I’m a K-12 credentialed teacher. I work for a public charter school, supporting home school students and their parent educators. I especially like teaching at the elementary level, but have come to appreciate high school, too. I’ve been teaching for about 12 years.
Who inspired you to go on a whole foods plant-based vegan diet?
Our family transitioned to a vegan diet & lifestyle after reading Kathy Freston’s book, The Veganist. Her reasons and promises were so compelling and ‘right on,’ that once we wrapped our minds around the information and explanations she presented, it was an obvious choice for us. She discusses the many positive benefits to health, world resources, animals, and social consciousness. We decided as a family to make the change over a weekend, an educated decision based on our sense of moral responsibility once we became aware of the global impact of our choices. Once you know, you can’t ‘un-know:’ …there really wasn’t any other choice than to move forward!
I also read this book and this book was the one that really nailed me! It opened my eyes to so many things that I had previously been blind to! I highly recommend it both in audio and book format!
How long have you been on a whole foods plant-based vegan diet now? How has it changed your family?
…That was nearly two years ago, and has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It has changed our life, and our priorities. I strongly believe that following a vegan lifestyle is the single most significant act of stewardship any one person can make, with maximum impact for our own health, for feeding the world & social justice, for responsible use of the world’s resources, for compassion & conscious caring toward animals, and for the overall health of our planet. At the time we changed over, we really didn’t know anybody else personally or in our social circle that was vegan/ following a vegan lifestyle. Now, we have a whole new group of vegan friends—an entire community, really!
What has the response been to you going plant-based vegan? What has your family said to all of this?
My 16-year old daughter is fully vegan, and really enjoys creating original recipes! She is awesome in the kitchen. Her asthma completely resolved within a month of getting off of dairy, and now she can participate more fully in sports! She can run a mile in under 8 minutes, without even trying or consistently training. She recently ran 7.5 miles on a relay team in the California International Marathon. Wow, that’s fantastic! Way to go!!!
My husband is probably 85% vegan: at home, definitely. But out-and-about, he is more or less vegetarian. His arthritis is better when he avoids dairy and gluten. He is definitely glad that Oreos and beer are vegan, though!
I have a younger sister who transitioned to vegan after watching Forks Over Knives earlier this year.
My mom is in a slow transition toward whole-foods, plant-based following a bout with breast cancer. Old habits are hard to break, though! She’s significantly reduced the amount of meat, dairy, and oil that she eats, but has not fully adapted yet.
My dad has cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. But he lives in Texas, and he prefers pills & procedures versus giving up his BBQ, unfortunately. He’s of the generation that really, really resists the evidence to change, no matter how convincing the research or recommendations. He’s cut back on sugar and carbs, though. Sigh.
Tell me more about the work that you’ve been doing in Sacramento. The Vegan Chef Challenge, right?
Over the past year and a half, I’ve become a vegan advocate & community organizer in Sacramento. We just wrapped up our 2nd Vegan Chef Challenge event. We had chefs from 22 restaurants create vegan dishes to add to their menus for the entire month of October. The dining public had the opportunity to vote for their favorite appetizers, entrees, and desserts. We keep the competition positive and strive to celebrate every chef and restaurant that participates, because the whole point is to spread awareness and increase vegan options for the community. We know that well over 3000 vegan meals were served throughout the month by our participating restaurants, and most restaurants end up keeping vegan options on their menu! That’s fantastic, Bethany!
In between, we created a group called Sacramento Vegan Challenge. We are a group of vegan friends committed to increasing vegan awareness throughout the community through events, education, and outreach. In April, we held a 1000 Vegan Cupcakes for Charity challenge, involving 10 different bakeries. Then, in October, we coordinated with the vegan societies to host our first Sacramento Vegan Community Fall Fest & Picnic. We just held a vegan tamale-making workshop at one of our restaurants. And next, we are planning a Vegan Souper Bowl fundraiser event to raise money for A Well-Fed World, and to increase awareness of the positive impact going vegan can have on helping to address world hunger.
What is your family’s favorite dish that you make? What is yours?
Probably vegan green enchilada casserole, with Yukon potatoes, mushrooms, and baby asparagus or spinach. We use gluten-free tortillas, and change up the ingredients nearly every time we make them: sometimes we use beans, sometimes add zucchini or corn. So good! That sounds yummy!
I also like experimenting with substituting healthier ingredients to make pudding, cookies, and brownies. For any of these, we will commonly use combinations of sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or squash; tofu or beans; bananas, dates, flax, and nut butters as primary ingredients. We also tend to use gluten-free flours, oatmeal, etc.
How has a whole food plant-based vegan diet changed your life?
Being an advocate for a healthy, whole-foods plant-based lifestyle is my passion! I’ve committed myself to learning as much as possible about healthy vegan nutrition and more about the global impact of a vegan lifestyle. My goal is to transition to full-time vegan nutrition educator and community awareness/ event organizer. I’m certified in plant-based nutrition through eCornell University, and am now a certified Food for Life Nutrition Educator, and look forward to teaching the classes in my community. I hope to influence my students, their families, and my church community, also.
Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know? Any recommendations for someone new to this diet? Books?
Watch Forks Over Knives. Watch A Life Connected (free on nonviolenceunited.org)
Read The Veganist by Kathy Freston; Food for Life by Neal Barnard; Diet for a New America by John Robbins. Also: Comfortably Unaware by Oppenlander.
THEN watch Farm to Fridge (12 min/ very powerful) and Peaceable Kingdom (new version).
Follow Dr. McDougall’s website/ newsletter & book: The Starch Solution; Dr. Esselstyn’s website heartattackproof.com & Preventing & Reversing Heart Disease; PCRM/ Dr. Barnard’s website, resources & books for preventing cancer & diabetes. Dr. Doug Lisle: The Pleasure Trap.