In the Spotlight
Tracy is one of the founding members of The Ark and The Olive Branch Café in Lewiston. There she cooks and teaches lifestyle classes. She is also a student pursuing a degree in Exercise Science and Physical Therapy.
How Long have you been eating plant-based?
I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian in 1998 and then 100% plant-based in 2011
What made you decide to go plant-based?
I grew up overweight and spent most of my life trying to lose weight. In 1998 I attended a lecture about the horrors of factory farms and was so appalled I stopped eating meat, plus I thought it might help me lose weight. I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian – meaning I ate cheese and eggs – but also I rarely ate vegetables! I was a total cheese addict and instead of a vegetarian I just became a junk-food-etarian. My staples were mac and cheese, chips, pizza, nachos, grilled cheese sandwiches, candies, cookies, and ice cream. The only time I had vegetables was when I went out for Chinese, which wasn’t often. Becoming vegetarian didn’t help me lose weight, I was 215lbs at my heaviest. Then in 2005 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and everything changed. I began to research about how the body works and what I could do to help it heal. It was a slow process but finally in 2010 I stumbled upon the plant-based diet as a cure for many diseases. I saw the documentaries Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead and Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days. They gave me hope that eating this way could help heal me but the problem was I had a real food addiction. I was a compulsive binge eater. Every time I tried to go plant-based I lasted only a day and would spend the next day pigging out on ice cream, cakes, and chips until I made myself sick. My MS symptoms grew steadily worse. I had chronic fatigue, foot drop, bowel control problems, memory loss, and vertigo. My life was spiraling out of control, but an amazing thing happen that year. A series of unexpected events (which I believe was divine intervention) lined up everything in my life so that I was without a car (so I couldn’t run to the store for a binge), working from home (no influence from vending machines or coworkers), almost completely cut off from the world outside my door (no influences from friends and family), and able to connect online with a 24/7 support group. This enabled me to be able to do a Raw Food Fast. I told myself I would try it for 30 days and if I didn’t feel better I could go back to my old ways. But after the 30 days I felt amazing and I kept going for 4 months, losing 44lbs and putting my MS into remission. I felt energetic and the mental fog I had lived with most of my life was gone. Best of all my symptoms went away!
What are your go to foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Breakfast is usually a smoothie or oatmeal if it’s going to be a very active day. Lunch varies between a sandwich and salad or soup or a rice dish of some sort – beans, greens, and rice are my new staples. Variety is important. I try to eat a variety of colors each week. Dinner is rare for me. I don’t need extra calories at night so I usually skip it. If I eat anything in the evening it’s usually a piece of fruit.
What did you find to be the biggest challenge to becoming plant-based.
Being the only one. None of my friends and family were plant-based. I had to learn how to cook from YouTube until I met new friends through working at The Olive Branch Café. Now my biggest challenge is time! I am going back to school and while juggling it all I find it hard to eat a balanced diet and to exercise.
Do you have a recipe, favorite cookbook or tip to share.
Oh I have many favorites! Cookbooks: Give Them Something Better, Seven Secrets, DIY Vegan, The Homemade Vegan Pantry, & Kitchens of Nature’s Harvest just to name a few.
Favorite Vegan Blogs: OhSheGlows.com, HappyHerbivore.com, MinimalistBaker.com, and HealthyHappyLife.com
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup raw cashews
3 T nutritional yeast flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 T lemon juice
Blend all in a high speed blender until creamy (make sure it passes the grit test).
Then cook in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. It doesn’t take long, maybe 5 minutes.