Reasons for Hope

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Photo by Natala Constantine (used with permission)

“Nutrition trumps genes” – T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.

Colin Campbell spoke those words at the recent Farms 2 Forks gathering in Claverack, NY. If you ever get down, if you ever get discouraged, if you ever feel alone in trying to follow a plant-based diet, his words bring great hope. And hope was arriving in truckloads at the event. Here’s what I heard:

You Are NOT Alone
One of the most encouraging, most thrilling aspects of the whole weekend actually came upon arrival Saturday morning at 6:30 am. Walking across the dewy grass from the parking area to the registration tent, you felt this electrical surge of energy from the throng of like-minded people. A sell-out crowd of nearly 600 women, men, and children converged on the Esselstyn family farm for “Plant-Stock” – 44 years to the day after Woodstock and only 40 miles down the road. There was an almost spiritual connection between these two festivals. In fact, to kick off the first morning, the crowd was treated to a recording of Richie Havens (the lead-off performer at Woodstock), and they were ready to rock and roll and go whole (whole-food, plant-based, that is).

You Can Persevere
One of our new friends, Elizabeth (an architect from Boston), made a perceptive comment that might ring true for you. She said, “Adopting the diet is not an intellectual problem for me anymore. At some point, you’ve done the intellectual study and mental processing. You know what you need to do. Then, it becomes an emotional, psychological, and social problem.” What a great insight! And there to tackle those aspects was the wonderful Doug Lisle, Ph.D. His wit and his incisive understanding of these real-life issues wowed the crowd. Several people sitting near us noted how important it was to hear him say that it’s difficult to persevere in the face of social pressures. You need reassurance that eating and living this way is not easy in our society and culture – but it can be done.

Your Story is Important
At a meal or during a break at the event, you could easily start a conversation by asking, “What brought you here?” or “How did you get started?” Everyone we met was very willing to share their story [1]. And every story was interesting, and every story was different. You learn that everyone is at a different point in their journey – each with different perspectives and different needs and different expectations.

One vague perception suddenly became clear: you don’t need to be a complete “success”, you don’t need to be at some arbitrary finish line, to tell your story and inspire others. This point was driven home by Natala Constantine, the director of online media for the Engine 2 crew. She gave the after-dinner speech on Saturday night. Natala struggled with weight issues since childhood, was on the verge of losing a leg to diabetes, and was even contemplating suicide. Through a friend, she discovered and tried the whole-food, plant-based approach, and she has returned from the brink. She’s not done, but her progress and her joy and her enthusiasm truly touched everyone. For a hilarious yet poignant finale, she invited Rip Esselstyn to the stage, and together they managed to step into a pair of her old pants.

You Can Inspire
This blurb started with a quote from Colin Campbell. Below are some more memorable, pithy statements that might give you hope, inspiration, and a smile. But even more, I hope you come up with a mantra of your own to say and share …

  • “Health Care is Self-Care” – Jane Esselstyn, recipe author for “My Beef with Meat
  • “At Coke, they refer to their best customer as a ‘heavy user’” – Michael Moss, author of “Salt, Sugar, Fat
  • “Coronary artery disease is a food-borne illness” – Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., author of “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
  • “Try any new food at least 3 times” – Ann Esselstyn
  • “You don’t eat brains for intelligence. Why should you eat muscle for strength?” – James “Lightning” Wilks, Ultimate Fighter
  • “Plant strong makes you pant-strong” – Jane Esselstyn
  • “There’s no glory in the middle.” – Rip Esselstyn, author of “The Engine 2 Diet” and “My Beef with Meat

[1] – If you would like to tell your story here, please email me ( or leave a comment. We’ll be adding a “Story Board” area to the web site very soon.

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