Jessica, a teacher and mother of three, shares her personal experience transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle.
The journey began for Jessica after a recurrent episode of gestational diabetes carrying her third child. What started as a search for better health led to a new way of life for her and her family.
“I had gestational diabetes when I had all three of my kids. I had some different things, and I was really overwhelmed and confused by what to do. I mean, I could choose all these different diets.There was a lot of information.”
While every diet she found claimed to be the best, one thing became clear. She needed to eat more plants.
“I really felt like, ultimately, what do we need to be successful in life? And I felt like it all boiled down to plants and not a lot of extra junk and processed stuff. From there, I really found plant based (eating) just 100% supported my thoughts about life. And just, you know, what do we need? Simple.”
However, Jessica's transition to plant based was not so simple in the beginning. She faced a lot of judgment and controversy while she struggled to make this change.
“So my experience being plant based and being a person of color, it was so hard. It was hard when we have a culture that revolves around food. Especially when my family is like, ‘Oh, what are you doing? That's what you're eating? What does it smell like?’ It's terrible and it's very isolating. And so I went through a period of almost full depression. I felt like I wanted to eat in a closet, hide, eat as quickly as I could, or only snack. I'd take crackers or something if we'd go somewhere. I avoided big social functions because I just didn't want anybody to say anything. I really had to dig deep and find my community.”
Despite the rocky start, Jessica persevered and continued to eat plant based. Very quickly she began to see a difference in her life.
“There's a ton of life growth that happened that I feel has to do with eating. I feel great. I've been really trying to stay away from junk and things. And I've lost 20 pounds since I've been super strict and really probably since I came in contact with Whole Harvest. I lost about 20 pounds and I feel a lot better.”
Jessica has a unique way of measuring how well she’s doing and she calls it, “counting her feel good.”
“I can count my feel good, is what I call it. I work in an old building and it has three flights of stairs to get to my classroom. So when I eat junk, I can literally tell, ‘uh-oh, I hit stair seven. Oh, it's not a good day.’ And, ‘Oh, I made it all the way to the top. I jogged up the stairs.’ So I really can literally count my health steps, I guess.”
Jessica was feeling great and adjusting well to her new lifestyle when the pandemic hit.
When COVID-19 swept the nation, Jessica, like many others, experienced a dramatic change in her day-to-day life and brand new stressors.
“First there was COVID, then there was a whole school year of COVID and now we're coming out of COVID and so what do you do? So it's been three very different years. And so going into the summer, I was stressed. It was bad, and I had health issues I've never had before. And so I was like, ‘We've got to do something different.’”
Something different is where Whole Harvest comes in.
Jessica was familiar with home delivery meal services but only the ones that you had to prepare yourself. In the midst of the COVID chaos, she did not feel she could add another thing to her plate. Then one day when taking a wrong turn, she stumbled across Whole Harvest. When she realized we delivered she said, “Sign me up!” Here was a company that shared her values and provided nutritious and tasty ready-to-eat meals to her door when she needed it the most.
“I have a freshman in college in Atlanta. I have a high schooler who just started driving who is athletic and in everything, and then I have an elementary school student who--we was in the process of being tested for some learning disabilities. So the level of stress--I mean, everybody is stressed out. But I was at a place where I couldn't do it. I could not commit to making a healthy meal for my family and after such a journey, that was really kind of heartbreaking.”
Jessica goes on to explain, “I can't do any better than processed crap for you because I didn't know what was out there to help me. So I was like, ‘God, please send me something.’ And I took this wrong turn and then ended up inside (Whole Harvest). You know, I don't know what anybody else believes, but I really feel like God put this in my path. Because it was just--I can't do more. I can't do any more than I'm doing.”
A ready-to-eat plant-based meal was not the only reason Jessica chose Whole Harvest.
In addition to the convenience factor, each meal is gluten-free and dairy-free. This is particularly important because Jessica’s children suffer from several different allergies and cooking for everyone is always a challenge.
“We are nobody's favorite dinner guests, ever. I have a soy-free, a nut-free. I have omnivores. My 16-year-old daughter decided that she should be a vegetarian and everybody in the house is gluten-free but me. Even my parents are like, ‘Oh, can you just cook it and bring it and we'll make our own?’ So it is rough going. But we sit around on Sunday night and we have a family meeting and we pick what meals we want, what works for us, what doesn't. Everybody gets a meal.This is how we use the meals (Whole Harvest) at my house.”
Suddenly family dinners were possible again.
“Sometimes we share a meal because it's a lot of food. So a lot of times we will split a meal and eat a salad. That way I feel like it's so much less food waste because everybody is picking, but we can all still eat together and it takes three whole minutes, you know, to make a meal. So it has really revolutionized our whacky family of eaters.”
Jessica’s family, once resistant to this lifestyle change, have slowly come to embrace it.
“You know, my son told me one day, (and my son is the most resistant--he's the oldest) he's like, ‘Mom, I eat vegetables people have never even heard of.’ I'm really raising some trailblazers. I'm not raising people that follow a normal path. They say, ‘No, this isn't just my wacky mom. This is a way of life that I can sustain.’”
Even her parents, who once asked that her family bring their own food over for Sunday dinner, now have a fresh perspective.
“They do Meatless Mondays and he (Dad) sends me recipes. Now for the first time with COVID Thanksgivings and everything, we're going to have Thanksgiving together with our family. And for the first time ever, he said, ‘Are you going to cook?’ I was like, ‘What? Oh my gosh! Am I going to cook? What do you want me to cook?’”
At the time of this interview, Jessica has been eating plant based foods for 10 years. During casual conversation about which Whole Harvest meals she enjoyed the most, I mistakenly referred to her as a “fan.” This is what she had to say:
“This has been revolutionary and life-changing, and really the answer to so many prayers.”
She goes on, “I'm not a fan. I am a super fan. So this is not just a product I support. This is like a part of my life that has changed and really made every aspect of my family--my relationship with my kids, my relationship with my husband--better because we can sit around the table now. Whereas before we were feeding here, feeding there, feeding everywhere. So this is not just, ‘Oh, you're a fan.’ I'm a fan of a lot of things. But this is life changing.”
Before concluding the interview, I asked Jessica one last question. “What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to transition to plant based?”
“I had a lot of gross meals in the name of being vegan and so I had to get to the place where... I loved cauliflower. I didn't know I loved cauliflower and it would be one of my favorite meals, but I had to keep going to get to that place. I guess it's not a black or white thing, like yes or no. I am or I'm not. You don't have to be anything. I think sometimes we feel like everything has to be all or nothing and we beat ourselves up when we fail instead of just saying, ‘Okay, I'm just living, and that's part of life sometimes.’”
“Nobody who's an omnivore goes around saying, ‘I'm an omnivore.’ They just eat, and they don't make a big deal out of it. In fact, we've all mindlessly eaten before. So just eat. You don't have to tell people, you don't have to...anything. You can choose a salad without saying, ‘I’m taking a stand,’ or ‘I’m a vegan,’ or ‘I'm a this. I'm a that.’ Just eat. Just live. Just love it. Find what works for you, but keep looking if it doesn't.”
“Just eat. Just live. Just love it. Find what works for you, but keep looking if it doesn’t.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.