Group Leader Articles

Impact Of Plant Based Diet on a Rural Indian Artisan – A True Account

By | Doctors, Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Nutrition, Pod News, Sharing the Message | No Comments

The Virsā Pod strives to bring the whole food, plant-based nutrition health message through the empathically persuasive means of wellness coaching and motivational interviewing to artisan women and their families in Punjab, India.
Group Leaders and mother-daughter team, Nivi Jaswal (Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach, NBC-HWC and ACLM certified Lifestyle Medicine Coach based in Boston MA) and Dr Sushma Jaswal (retired Anthropologist and Researcher based in Punjab, India), are passionate and motivated to educate women in the rural areas of Punjab, their homestate in India, about the benefits of lifestyle change, eliminating animal products and eating a low-fat, plant-based diet.
The short-film shared here showcases a true account of the impact of Plant Based Diet Intervention (Sept 2018) and Wellness Coaching (April 2019) has had on an elderly Rural Handicraft Artisan that the Virsā Pod serves.
Read the September 2018 Pod News Story about the Virsā Pod here!

Nurturing Nutrition | Venice Healthy Eating Group, Venice, FL

By | Advocacy, Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Nutrition, Pod News, Sharing the Message | No Comments

July 27, 2017

After switching to a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle in 2012, Amy Tase and her husband Rick saw improvements to their health almost immediately. Both lost the extra pounds they’d been hanging onto, and Rick was able to stop taking his prescription medications. These changes made them eager to find a community of like-minded people in their area of Venice, Florida. Over a year ago, the duo decided to create a Meetup group and membership quickly took off. The group has since expanded to join the Pod Network and accomplished much along the way.

Over the past five years, Amy has immersed herself in WFPB resources and recently created a website called Be Green with Amy to share her knowledge, recipes and tips with others; meanwhile, Rick has become a “fantastic WFPB, SOS free, unprocessed chef,” says Amy. Together, they take what they’ve learned and lead interactive, educational events for their Pod.

“I enjoy events where Rick and I are in teacher mode, presenting recipe demos or giving presentations,” Amy explains.

The pair hosts twice monthly potluck dinners but also a variety of other events, most recently including a make-your-own frushi night, sushi recipe demonstration, yoga luncheon, gardening class, and kitchen gadget show-and-tell. They have had special guests like plant-based cardiologist Dr. Jami Dulaney, and even a movie night featuring What The Health.

“I try to bring in a little education and hopefully fun at each event,” Amy says.

In conjunction with their monthly potlucks, Amy and Rick offer members the ease of continuing their health journey when they leave–attendees can pre-order organic produce bags and microgreens to pick up during meetings.

The events are usually very successful, with anywhere from 15 to 30 members attending on average and a great mix of both regulars and new members, which Amy is excited to see.

“We recently did a radio show and three slideshow presentations for the public,” Amy explains. “These events, along with registering our Pod, have brought many new members who, within weeks of changing their eating habits, have experienced weight loss and other health benefits. Some people bring generations of family members to our events, many of whom are making the transition to a WFPB diet.”

Amy and Rick strive to cultivate a group that is friendly and non-judgmental. They accept everyone to their group, including vegetarians and vegans, those who are SOS free and those who are not.

“Regardless of if you are just curious about this lifestyle or have been eating this way for awhile, our members will make you feel welcome,” Amy says. “We all want to eat healthy food that tastes delicious, and we also want a safe place to share that food.” She keeps this in mind when choosing themes for the events.

“One of my recent favorites was the frushi event,” Amy says. “We had about 25 people attend and not one had ever made frushi before. They all brought a dish of cut up fruit or vegetables. Everyone had fun and was so appreciative. We even had a mom bring her school-aged children! It was so gratifying to see the children learn how to make healthy food taste delicious. It was also nice to see the child in all of us as we made, ate and shared our creations.”

Amy and Rick would like to see membership continue to grow, and are determined to bring well-known WFPB leaders to their group, whether in person or through Skype presentations. Most of all though, Amy hopes that members can learn something new at each meeting.

“I want everyone to be able to positively impact their health, and share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others,” Amy says.

The Pod also wishes to thank the volunteer nonprofit organization, Venice Holistic Community Center, for providing their meeting space.

To get in touch with the Venice Healthy Eating Group, visit their Meetup page, FB page, or Pod page.

To contact Amy, visit her website:

We love seeing the ways you are creating PlantPure communities in your area! Send an email to if you would like to share news, updates and events or use our online submission form.

Harnessing Digital Activism | 10 Minute Armchair Activists, Everywhere, USA

By | Advocacy, Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Pod News, Sharing the Message | No Comments

July 10, 2017

Thirty-six years ago, Shanasy Bratt gave up animal products and has never looked back. She has been plant-based for more than half her life and continues to advocate for animals–but now, in a very unique way.

Shanasy is the Pod leader for 10 Minute Armchair Activists, a virtual Pod where members can find and share effective activism tips they can implement from the ease of their own home. She started the Pod over a year ago because although she has always believed in activism, due to some eye issues, Shanasy is not always able to drive or leave her home to gather with others.

“I was an inactive activist, with a cause I was quite passionate about,” she explains. “Then it occurred to me that there were probably lots of other people in the same boat.”

Whether people are confined to their homes due to health issues, disabilities, familial caretaking, or just have busy work schedules and limited time, Shanasy is determined to help everyone find an easy way to make a difference and share their compassion for factory farmed animals by taking action on a cause close to their hearts. She feels that if people know an action will only take 10 minutes, they are much more likely to do it.

Shanasy is adamant about what she calls, “positive activism.”

“We need to show others that our stance is all about compassion for all sentient beings,” she says. “We can be much more effective if we are not stirring up the defenses of those we are trying to share our message with.”

Back in the 1980’s when Shanasy was first getting started, the plant-based world was “isolating and quite challenging.” Back then, there was no internet to help people join forces or share images and messages globally. Now, it is much easier and Shanasy believes social media has been the powerful driving force behind this.

Social media is great because, as Shanasy says, “many are willing to do things online like sign petitions, post messages, share videos and more.”

In fact, in recent years, social media has nearly reinvented activism, acting as a catalyst for larger change by giving people a voice and platform they wouldn’t have had in the past.

“There is a big opportunity for activism on social media for people who don’t want to–or can’t–leave their armchair,” Shanasy continues.

Every day, Shanasy interacts with her members (nearly 90 on her Pod site and over 300 on her Facebook page) by sharing information, resources and ideas to encourage others in their activism. Her daily tips are designed to be completed in under 10 minutes, which Shanasy hopes will inspire more people to get involved.

“I work hard keeping abreast of current studies showing which animal activist campaigns are the most effective,” Shanasy says. “It’s not enough to just post anything–we must always be thinking, ‘what’s going to stimulate the most attention; create the highest emotion; and stir the most action?’”

Although growth and engagement have been slower online than Shanasy expected, she is hopeful that with continued strategy and commitment, membership will expand. Her activism tips rotate between the three main benefits of a plant-based lifestyle: human health, animal well-being, and environmental conservation.

“Whether you believe in being a reducetarian or you’re an abolitionist–the ultimate goal is the same–to end animal agriculture,” Shanasy explains. “We need to all come together using our different approaches harmoniously. We have to always remember that what grabs one person’s attention may not grab another’s.”

Shanasy wants her Pod to stimulate the plant-based community to ultimately step up their activism game, and she encourages people to go beyond ten minutes of activism every day as they find their particular niche or skills in the movement.

In between posting tips on her Pod and Facebook pages, Shanasy also runs another Facebook page called Super Quick Plant-Based Recipes, where she shares tons of delicious, WFPB meal ideas that only take 20 minutes or less to prepare and use as few and as simple ingredients as possible.

“Besides helping busy plant-based cooks, my main intention is to show meat/fish/dairy consumers how eating plant-based doesn’t have to take a lot of time and can be quite easy without complicated or expensive ingredients,” Shanasy says. “Whether they go fully plant-based or not, hopefully this will spur them to at least include more plant-based options.”

If you would like to join Shanasy’s group, you can do so by visiting the 10 Minute Armchair Activists Pod Page or Facebook Page.

Contact Shanasy by email:

Shanasy’s other Facebook page, Super Quick Plant-Based Recipes:

We love seeing the ways you are creating PlantPure communities in your area! Send an email to if you would like to share news, updates and events or use our online submission form.

Organizing LexVeg Fest | Lexington for Health, Lexington, KY

By | Group Leader Articles, Pod News, VegFest | No Comments

May 16, 2017

Today, PPC’s Katya Trent, Director of Pod Operations & Development Support, is here to share her VegFest experience. Katya organized the first VegFest in Lexington, Kentucky in 2016. Since then, her Pod, Lexington for Health, merged with the Plant Medicine/Mindful Medicine Pod.

Organizing the first LexVegFest was a great honor and opportunity. I met and worked with many wonderful people, some of whom became my close friends. We invited our community to come together and celebrate a plant-based lifestyle. We offered delicious plant-based foods, educational presentations, exhibits, yoga, and guided meditation. The day of the event was like a dream come true.

As one of our organizers noted, “It is all connected. When you eat calming food, you have calming thoughts.” I absolutely agree with that statement. Eight years ago, when my husband and I embraced a plant-based diet, we felt a sense of joy and liberation. For the first VegFest in Lexington, KY, I found initial support from our local Vegan Society and scheduled the first meeting for January 14, 2016.

As it often happens, the excitement and enthusiasm of the first couple of meetings faded and only a handful of people continued working with me till the end. We had a number of “moments of truth” where doubt and discouragement threatened to postpone and even cancel the event. Overall, a positive energy and genuine desire to share the knowledge of the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle carried us through.

Our local LexVegFest arrived at an opportune time in an air of curiosity about the plant-based lifestyle. On October 1st, 2016, World Vegetarian Day, Lexington was ready for a VegFest. With over 2000 people interested on FaceBook, the community enthusiasm exceeded my expectations. We had over 1500 people attend the event. Most vendors either sold out or nearly sold out. Dr. Debora Tallio, our keynote speaker, held an audience so captivated that after her presentation, she was invited to speak at a number of other events about the benefits of the whole foods plant-based diet.

Organizing the first LexVegFest was an amazing and humbling experience. With the support of our community, we plan to make it an annual affair. We hope it will grow and reach more people in Kentucky and beyond to help improve our health, as well as the health of the planet and animals. We also hope to inspire local entrepreneurs to look into offering more plant-based options. I look forward to a day when my husband and I can go out to eat at a 100% plant-based restaurant in Lexington, KY.

The plant-based support groups launched by Dr. Tallio and myself after the PlantPure Nation premier merged into one group and continue to meet. Every month there is a potluck and discussion on practical steps and ideas around the concept of plant-based nutrition. The support group’s focus is on sharing experiences and supporting members. Community is incredibly important when embracing and sustaining new habits.

  Our meeting in November 2016 was very special because Dr. John McDougall joined the group via a video call. It was exciting to have an opportunity to learn directly from Dr. John McDougall, a pioneer in the field of plant-based nutrition as it relates to health!

For more information about the Lexington for Health & Plant Medicine/Mindful Medicine Pods, visit their Facebook page and Facebook group.


To contact Katya, please email:

We love seeing the ways you are creating PlantPure communities in your area! Send an email to if you would like to share news, updates and events.

By Katya Trent, Director of Pod Operations & Development Support
Edited by Kristyn Helm, Digital Marketing & Communications Manager

Dentist Advocates Systemic Health | Plant Empowered Redding, Redding, CA

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May 9, 2017 

The PlantPure Pod group, Plant Empowered Redding, held a screening of the new documentary film, What The Health, on March 21st this year. The event was attended by 55 members and is just one example of how the Pod is leading the way in their community of Redding, CA, in a movement group leader Dr. Mike Nelson, DDS, calls, “systemic health.”

Dr. Nelson is a local dentist who began his journey into the whole food, plant-based lifestyle after watching Forks Over Knives and reading The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, recommended to him by a friend, Dr. James Bennie. After experiencing the immense benefits of the lifestyle and witnessing its ability to help his patients suffering from oral health issues, Dr. Nelson started a group called McDougall Mondays with Dr. Nelson in 2012.

“My purpose is to empower people to own their oral health and it has grown to become a mission of empowering people to own their total health,” Dr. Nelson says. “Through dentistry and an understanding of the consequences, the oral connection to systemic health, we have an opportunity to see, diagnose, teach, and ultimately change people’s lives.”

Now, Dr. Nelson offers an evening extension of the group through the Pod, Plant Empowered Redding. The group is very active, hosting a variety of fun and informative events biweekly. In the past, the group has held potlucks, visited a local grocery store, screened PlantPure Nation, and even Skyped with Dr. Klaper.

Both Dr. Nelson and Dr. Shanhong Lu, an internist practicing in Mt. Shasta, spoke at the March 21st event. Dr. Lu, who leads the Mt. Shasta Integrative Medicine Pod, shared her personal journey from China 25 years ago to the U.S. Both doctors were available for a question and answer period for those attending.

Plant Empowered Redding benefits and supports many local residents dealing with chronic health conditions by providing information and resources through the Pod meetings.

“We have people with MS who have benefited from referrals to the McDougall 10 day program,” Dr. Nelson explains. “Others with RA, GERD, cancer, high cholesterol, and afib attend, as well.”

Dr. Nelson says participants are seeing improvements in their health. He is adamant about providing people with proper nutrition education.

Since the movie screening in March, Plant Empowered Redding has hosted a Taco Tuesday potluck and a presentation of Dr. McDougall’s book, The Starch Solution.

If you live in or near Redding, CA, and would like to join this group or find out about an upcoming event, you can do so by visiting the Plant Empowered Redding Facebook page or contacting Dr. Mike Nelson:

To find out more about Dr. Nelson’s practice, visit his website:

We love seeing the ways you are creating PlantPure communities in your area! Send an email to if you would like to share news, updates and events.

By Kristyn Helm, Digital Marketing & Communications Manager

New Pod Gaining Ground | Plant Based Chico, Chico, CA

By | Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Nutrition, Pod News, Sharing the Message | No Comments

February 28, 2017

Plant Based Chico Nancy MathewsOnce a sufferer of hypothyroid disease, fatty liver syndrome, high cholesterol, eczema and joint pain, Nancy Mathews has witnessed firsthand the healing abilities of a plant-based lifestyle. In the five years since making the switch, all of Nancy’s health issues have disappeared—her numbers have dropped, her pain is gone, and she’s 100 pounds lighter.

Now, Nancy is on a mission to help others find success: she recently created the PlantPure Pod group, Plant Based Chico, and has committed herself to educating as many people as she can in her local community of Chico, California, about plant-based nutrition. In the mere weeks since starting her group, membership has skyrocketed—and Nancy and her husband Nick intend to keep the momentum going.

In January, the group held its first meeting with 24 in attendance. Nancy brought her library of plant-based books along to share with the group, and Nick prepared Kim Campbell’s minestrone soup, which everyone devoured. The couple also baked corn tortilla chips in their air fryer and prepared a hummus from the Engine 2 Diet.

“I think having food at the meeting relaxed people,” she says. “It’s communal to share a meal. People were asking about the recipe, and I showed them Kim’s new book.”

Nancy was determined to introduce the group to healthier options they could easily make from ingredients found at their local grocery store. After sharing her weight loss and health journey, she discussed the importance of a plant-based lifestyle and is looking forward to delving more into the science behind it at future meetings.

“My goal for Plant Based Chico is to be a resource where people know they can attend consistent monthly meetings and expand their knowledge of nutrition,” Nancy explains. “I want them to bring their family and friends and feel confident that the information provided through the group is backed by science and research.”

Plant Based Chico Nancy MathewsNancy has a lot of big dreams for the group. Next month, Plant Based Chico will hold a viewing of PlantPure Nation, and in March, Lani Muelrath, M.A., an award-winning teacher, author and Certified Specialist in Behavior Change and Plant-Based Nutrition, will be guest speaking. April’s meeting will include a viewing of Forks Over Knives, and Nancy is also in the midst of scheduling field trips to Whole Foods for guided grocery tours, as well as to Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center and to True North, both in Santa Rosa, CA.

“So many people in our community have no clue that a plant-based lifestyle exists, and that there are hundreds of experts, resources, doctors, restaurants and an entire economy devoted to vegan living,” Nancy says. “Several members at our meeting were amazed by the amount of resources out there!”

In the meantime, Nancy and Nick are doing their best to keep the group engaged online between meetings. They’ve created a Facebook group where they share recipes, articles from PlantPure Nation, Forks Over Knives, and Dr. Greger, and photos of what they’re cooking up at home. They encourage group members to ask questions and offer answers for beginners making the transition. Only in their second month, the group has already expanded to 152 members. We are inspired by Plant Based Chico’s success in their community!

If you live in or near Chico, CA, and would like to join this group or find out about an upcoming event, you can do so by visiting either the Plant Based Chico Pod page or Facebook group.

We love seeing the ways you are creating PlantPure communities in your area! Send an email to if you would like to share news, updates and events.

By Kristyn Pankiw Helm, Social Media Manager, PlantPure Communities

Dinner with the Doctor | Long Island PlantPure™, Long Island, NY

By | Cooking, Doctors, Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Nutrition, Pod News, Sharing the Message, Speakers | No Comments

February 16, 2017

The Long Island PlantPure™ Pod hosted a fun and interactive Dinner with the Doctor event at the home of Caroline Hartridge, Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), on December 15, 2016.
The event, organized with the help of Pod leaders Mitchell Castell and Bobby Nagelberg, was a huge success, with 26 people in attendance.

Dr. Hartridge and her wife Elaine Danoff created a delicious taco bar for the Pod to indulge in, which featured everything from rice, beans and guacamole to homemade salsa, hot sauce, and nut cheeses. There were also roasted potatoes, cumin roasted cauliflower, purple cabbage with lime, corn and flour tortillas, and dates with dried black olives and almonds for members to munch on.

After the dinner, Dr. Hartridge spoke about her personal journey to wellness from osteopathic medicine to whole foods, plant-based medicine, explaining that, “these modalities combined helped me heal myself from two chronic health conditions.”

With an undergraduate degree in Environmental Education, Dr. Hartridge has created a practice that acknowledges the connection between the environment and our health. She calls this practice ‘sustainable medicine.’

Dr. Hartridge also held a question and answer session, which gave those attending a chance to hear directly from a professional. In fact, thanks to the connections made at the December event, Dr. Hartridge has since been able to help several people on their plant-based journey.

The Long Island PlantPure™ Pod is active and growing. Mitch says members are quickly spreading the word about the Pod to the local community. Many are from local vegan meetup groups, which provides an opportunity for the Pod to connect the issues of animal and environmental welfare with the health benefits of eating plant-based.

“Providing a support group is just one of the many services our Pod offers,” Mitch remarks. “Many of the people who attend love the comfortable atmosphere to talk all things plant-based with likeminded others—something they really don’t have an opportunity to do at home, work or with friends.”

“It was a wonderful evening, everyone was actively engaged, including those well into their journey, and those new to plant-based eating,” says PPC’s Executive Director, Jody Kass, who is a member of this Pod and attended the event with her husband, Arthur Finkel. “What was especially wonderful was to see all the young people who enthusiastically participated,” she added.

So, what’s next for Long Island PlantPure™?

We are in the preliminary stages of putting together a VegFest on Long Island,” Mitch explains.

Mitch says they are working on a resource paper to hand out, which would provide basic information and help beginners on their plant-based journey; there is also the potential for another event at the Cinema Arts Center where local WFPB doctors can host presentations.

If you live in or near Long Island, NY, and would like to join this group or find out about an upcoming event, you can do so by visiting either the Long Island PlantPure™ Pod group page or Facebook page, or contact Mitch Castell:

To find out more about her practice, visit Dr. Hartridge’s website.

We love seeing the ways you are creating PlantPure communities in your area! Send an email to if you would like to share news, updates and events.

By Kristyn Pankiw Helm, Social Media Manager, PlantPure Communities

Cruelty-Free Feast | South Shore Herbivores, Duxbury, MA

By | Cooking, Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Nutrition, Pod News, Sharing the Message | No Comments

February 1, 2017

South Shore Herbivores, a PlantPure Pod group in Duxbury, MA, held a delicious Cruelty-Free Feast on November 5, 2016, as a plant-based alternative to turkey-centered Thanksgivings.

After hearing many people express their difficulties going plant-based, group leader and holistic health counselor Andrea Liddell came up with the idea for the Cruelty-Free Feast. Her goal was to show that those following a WFPB lifestyle can easily indulge in their favorite comfort foods.

“I wanted to show they could still enjoy a holiday without missing out on anything,” she explains. “Being plant-based is about progress, not perfection.”

For the feast, the group switched out a traditional turkey for Gardein’s Holiday Roast. They also had vegan mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, veggie sides, gelatin-free cranberry sauce, salad, oil-free cheeses, crackers, and fruits, plus a few decadent desserts—including pumpkin pie, cupcakes, and Kim Campbell’s brownies from the PPN cookbook.

“We had about fifteen people for the feast—even a plant-based vegan baby, who couldn’t get enough of everything!” Liddell exclaims.

Her group serves as a learning tool for many people in the local area. Liddell and other members work to clear up major health and diet misconceptions by holding interactive monthly events. Many people have made the switch to plant-based vegan or vegetarian since the group’s creation, and many who were already plant-based have decided to give up oil, as well.

“They see that plant-based doesn’t have to be boring,” Liddell says.

She believes the best thing about the Pods is the ability for others to see firsthand the immense benefits and abundance that come with being plant-based, without sacrificing their favorite foods or compromising taste. Liddell always makes sure the events are centered around not just food, but education.

“Delicious food grabs your attention,” she explains, “but at the same time being able to teach about the impact on your health, the environment and animal welfare—you walk away with a better connection to your choices.”

Liddell is currently brainstorming the theme for their next meet up in February. We can’t wait to see what creative event she and her group host next!

If you live in or near the Duxbury/Plymouth area and would like to join this group, you can do so by visiting the South Shore Herbivore Pod group page.

Have exciting news to share about your PlantPure Communities Pod group? Send an email to for a chance to be featured on our social media and profiled in our newsletter each month.

By Kristyn Pankiw Helm, Social Media Manager, PlantPure Communities

A Lifesaving Journey | Heartbeats for Life, Savannah, GA

By | Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Nutrition, Pod News, Sharing the Message | No Comments

July 21, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 5.13.24 PM

Jeff Adams is the group leader of the pod group, “Heartbeats for Life” in Savannah, GA.  Jeff’s story begins in upstate North Tonawanda NY, where he grew up watching his Father run a small business, and after learning the tools of the trade, set off to begin his own wholesale tire business in Rochester NY at the young age of 19.  Shortly after starting his franchise, Jeff found a local YMCA, and discovered that he could use squash courts for free, which led him to become an avid player. His hobby led him to cross paths with many doctors in the community, who eventually became close friends. During this time he also got married and had his first child.  Life with his family in Rochester was good, and Jeff continued to play squash, and maintain seemingly good health into his 50’s.

In the end, you could say it was the game of squash that inadvertently led Jeff to the life he’s living today. It all began when he went to the doctor, who happened to be a fellow squash player, for his yearly physical.  His doctor suggested that having some extra tests run, due to Jeff being in his mid 50’s, wasn’t a bad idea. So Jeff agreed, and when the doctor called several days later and said a few more tests were necessary, Jeff began to feel uneasy. A few more days later, the doctor called again, this time asking him to come in to talk.

Jeff recalls the atmosphere as he walked into the office that day, the same office he’d visited often, as both a friend and a patient. He noticed his doctor’s formal demeanor right away, and was told that there was something very important to discuss, but first, he wanted Jeff to know that he’d checked with all the other doctors he knew (all squash players as well) in order to make sure he was accurate in his assessment. The doctor went on to tell him that, unfortunately, he had a heart condition that no stint or bypass could fix. Jeff laughed, and said he must be kidding him, because he’d had no symptoms, other than a bit of chest compression, which he passed off as indigestion. It became clear that this wasn’t an interaction among friends, as the doctor continued in a formal manner, to tell him that the only solution was a heart transplant, and the waiting list for this was over a year long.  Finally, he told Jeff that a heart transplant wouldn’t be an option, as his heart condition would give him four, maybe six months to live. Jeff recalls the doctor’s advice to “contact your accountants and lawyers and get things arranged now, because you don’t want to wait until you’re sick, and laying in this hospital with tubes sticking out of you, trying to figure out what you’re going to do with your business. You want to do that now, while you still can.”  Afterwards, Jeff remembers sitting in the car for over an hour and coming to several conclusions.

Given the evidence, he decided to take the doctor’s advice, and contact his lawyers and accountants, to make sure his death wouldn’t be a burden to his wife. Next, he decided he’d get a second opinion, and last, he decided he wouldn’t tell any of this to his wife. He reasoned that having her worry one day less was one day less worry she would have.

Jeff had retired from the tire business years ago, and at this time, ran his own wholesale and retail book business, which included five stores in Rochester. After making these initial decisions, he took advantage of his resources, and began scouring the shelves for books on heart disease. He quickly happened upon Dean Ornish’s book, “Program for Reversing Heart Disease” went home, called everyone at his business, and let them know he’d be at home for a few days.  After finishing the book, when his wife came home from work one day, he announced to her that he was making some changes in his diet, and would be doing all the cooking from now on. He figured if he did all the cooking, she wouldn’t have a choice, and his wife, still not knowing what had happened, agreed. Jeff says she “probably figured this would only last a day or two.”

Shortly after Jeff happened upon Dean Ornish’s book, he went to the second doctor group as planned, where, after taking the tests again, they told him his first doctor was optimistic, and they felt he really had between 2 and 4 months left to live.  Despite this, he continued to change his diet, and within a few weeks, began feeling better, which was when he bumped into his doctor in the squash gym. When he told his doctor he’d changed his diet and was feeling better, the doctor shrugged it off, and assured him this was serious, and diet wouldn’t do anything, but that he could come in for a few more tests to assess the situation.

Once more, Jeff walked into the doctor’s office, and found his doctor with the tests spread out, but this time he could see he was nervous. Jeff, not knowing what this meant, became nervous himself.  He recalled the moment, saying “I watched him sit there, just looking and looking, and then he hung his head and I started to cry. So I figured this is it, I’m done.  But then he (his doctor) says to me, “there must have been something wrong with the machines.” I was bewildered, and still confused – it made no sense. He said, “there must have been something wrong with the machines when we did the tests for the first time, because these tests show that you’re getting better, and I know that it’s medically impossible.” He now knew that this diet wasn’t improving his health by some sort of placebo affect, as he’d worried before, but was making him better. Although Jeff had already told his two children about his diagnosis, he could now safely tell his wife, knowing that he’d found a solution.

15 years later, Jeff attributes his continued success to Ornish’s book and the work of other plant-based doctors and scientists. He went on to read The China Study, Whole, and Dr. John McDougall’s work among others (his group has even had Dr. McDougall do several skype sessions with his pod group). Jeff initially found support at the Dean Ornish support group in Rochester, but today, he tells his story at Heartbeats for Life group meetings in Savannah.  Jeff described the transformation that takes place not only health wise when curing a terminal diagnosis, but also the newfound appreciation you have for health and life, telling group members, “if I should keel over now and die, nobody should feel bad for me whatsoever, because when someone convinces you – when you’re absolutely positively convinced that you’re about to die – and you don’t die, every day you wake up, it’s a new day, it’s a new life, it’s absolutely something you never expected to have.”

Despite the fact that Jeff has received mixed responses from speaking engagements at hospitals, he’s taken things into his own hands and developed a class series in Savannah. The seven and nine week class series was developed for those that want information on a WFPB lifestyle at an accelerated pace. The classes meet for 3-4 hours per week, and consist of taste testings, cooking demos, and trips to the supermarket, learning about labels, ingredients, and shopping.  Jeff says, “by the time they’re done with the sessions, they know why they should do it, and they know how they should do it.”  Over the course of these classes, Jeff has seen people reverse diabetes and other chronic diseases, lose weight, and experience countless benefits. He says “it’s a hell of a bunch of work, but it’s so worth it when you see these people.”

In Savannah, an area rooted in barbecue and pork, Jeff says things are slowly changing, and “one step at a time is all you can do.”

** If you’re in, or nearby the Savannah area, check out Heartbeats for Life on the PlantPure Pod page:

** You can also contact Jeff at:

(585)-370-3374 (Cell)

(912)-598-8457 (Home)

** Heartbeats for Life for Life will be hosting Dr. Michael Greger on July 20th.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Leading the Way | Palmetto Plant Eaters, Hilton Head Island, SC

By | Advocacy, Group Leader Articles, Leadership, Nutrition, Pod News, Sharing the Message | No Comments

June 30, 2016

Carla Golden practices massage therapy, and works as a nutrition consultant out of a private wellness practice in Hilton Head Island, SC.  She leads the PlantPure Pod group, Palmetto Plant Eaters, which meets in the neighboring town of Bluffton.

Her personal journey started in 2007 when she read The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  This book introduced her to the problems of factory farming, which inspired her to become vegetarian. After cutting meat out of her diet, she slowly started reading more books about a plant-based diet and enrolled in the University of Natural Health, where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in 2012.  Although she had moved closer to a WFPB diet, she didn’t become fully plant-based until January 2015.  She says, “finally I just discovered that I had run out of excuses and had to commit 100%.  You’d think that last little bit wouldn’t make much of a difference, but when you fully commit it’s like everything falls into place, so like most WFPB eaters, I wish I had done it sooner – I just didn’t know what was waiting for me.”  Shortly after, she was surprised to see her husband and daughter jump on board.  The movie Unity, done by Earthlings, had an impact on both her husband and daughter, and it was around this time that her husband woke up one morning and decided he was going to commit to this lifestyle.  She was excited, and also surprised, since she had thought her family might take a little longer to make this commitment..  They’ve now been plant-based as a family for almost a year.  Although there are challenges here and there, whether it’s eating out or traveling, she says they figure it out most of the time, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Carla employs this same philosophy in her pod group – she says if you just stay consistent for meeting dates and places, and persistent in your communications, even when you think nobody’s listening, the message will get out.  She emphasizes the importance of reaching out to people in different ways, whether through social media, or posters and flyers around town at different locations.

At first, Carla has led most of her group meetings, but lately has been having guest speakers, whether they’re members of the group or people from outside, which creates diversity and helps to grow interest.  In addition to regular monthly meetings, they also do accessory meetings – a book club every month, and an “Eco Vegan Lunch Bunch”, which allows people who didn’t make it to meetings to participate – she says this attracts people from different angles, since people come at this for all different reasons.


Carla leading a PPE meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry in Bluffton.

She also says their meetings stay within the one hour time frame, and an alarm is set for the end of every meeting.  This allows those that need to leave to do so without feeling awkward, while allowing those that want to stay, to stay and talk.  A Q&A session is saved for this time, which Carla says is helpful for both newcomers and those already on the diet – new people can ask questions, and the veterans can feel helpful in providing answers.  It’s this sort of participation by group members that makes Carla’s role more about organizing and facilitating, rather than leading meetings.

When asked about advice for others wanting to start a plant-based community, Carla says, “At some meetings, there may not be a lot of people, but you have to just roll with it, because the next month there may be more.  It’s nothing personal, it’s just the timing, or the topic, or anything happening that day.  Just like with any business, whether a small business or entrepreneurial venture, you just have to keep showing up and plugging away, and stick with it.  Eventually it becomes a permanent fixture in the community and people know about it, whether they’re using it or not, and then eventually they show up or start asking questions.”  As far as reaching new people, Carla emphasizes content.  She says “Rather than telling them to listen to me, I tell them to listen to the doctors, the experts, the chefs, and all the resources they provide.”

Carla’s goal as a plant-based activist, as a massage therapist, and a nutritionist is simply to spread awareness.  She says, “I encourage people to just show up to the pod group, just come and learn, I’m not trying to sell you anything, even my time – I’m giving you my time.  Just come to the group, we’re doing it together.  I feel like this is my work for the rest of my life because so many people are unaware of the potential and the possibility of healing themselves and the planet.”


PPE book club meeting

The Palmetto Plant Eaters are hosting the first ever VegFest in South Carolina, so if you’re in Hilton Head on October 22nd, be sure to put VegFest on your calendar!  Carla’s goal is for everyone to leave the festival with a cookbook, walk to the grocery store, and just start making food – plain and simple.  Explaining her philosophy about the transition process, she says, “You don’t have to understand everything before you make your next meal.  Just follow the recipes and then learn along the way why these are the chosen ingredients.  To me, if I can just get a cookbook in everybody’s hands, then I feel successful – I think that’s the best place to start – just start cooking it, and eating it.  You don’t have to know completely why initially, but you can learn along the way.”

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.