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How A Pastor Made Her Family Go Plant-Based Overnight
“We’re told things are genetic, but we have also inherited dietary patterns and so things that seem inevitable aren’t always inevitable”
If you are thinking about transitioning to plant-based but haven’t been able to take those first steps, then you’ve come to the right place! Erin, who has only been plant-based for a month, is a newbie like so many of you out there. Her family enjoyed and celebrated a meat-centric diet for a long time. But after a recent visit to the doctor, she found out that she and her husband’s cholesterol were dangerously high. In order to avoid the same fate as family members on both sides, she dove headfirst into nutrition research and transitioned her whole family onto a plant-based diet. Erin’s enthusiasm is infectious, and she surely will inspire many more people to go plant-based along the way.
Erin is an ordained clergyperson in the United Methodist Church and CEO of REALNation, a virtual women’s fitness community consisting of 280+ women around the world. Based out of London, Erin helps women nurture rhythms of self-care while mentoring a team of female entrepreneurs creating high-impact coaching businesses of their own. Erin holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to her work in women’s health, Erin worked as a full-time nonprofit fundraiser and program director, serving in areas of prison ministry/reentry, community organizing, and raising $2 million in grant funding to help low-income families overcome unemployment and homelessness as a professional grant writer. She is wife to Henri Roesch and mother to Ella (age 4 at the time) and Nadia (age 1 at the time)—all of whom are fueled 100% by plants.
From bacon all day…
Like many of us, Erin grew up eating meat. Her mother grew up on a multi-generational dairy farm. She grew up in a milk and dairy culture and her family got really into cattle raising, cattle herding, cattle ranching, and wrangling cattle. They actually planned their life around hunting seasons. After meeting her husband, who is South African, Erin was introduced to the Banting diet, which is quite similar to the keto diet. It was developed by a physician out of South Africa. It’s basically your standard high fat, low carb fad diet. It’s based mostly on anecdotal and observational evidence of its founder training athletes to go keto. Erin was hooked: she could eat bacon every day now! But apart from that, it was actually a vegetable-heavy diet too. But, in addition to meat and vegetables, Erin ate three pieces of bacon a day and drank whole milk for an entire year.
At her annual health check, however, her physician was utterly alarmed. He never saw cholesterol that high at this age – for both her and her husband. To not be dependent on statins, drugs that are used to lower blood cholesterol, the physician recommended seeing a dietitian. After looking at their diet, the nutritionist pointed out all the cholesterol-increasing foods – in other words, all those that were animal-based. At this point, Erin turned her life and diet around and became friends with carbs again – predominantly complex carbs, that is. She swore to herself: no more extremes, no more tossing out food groups, no more following toxic influencers on social media. And her behavior was rewarded shortly – but only partially. Her husband lost 50 pounds and was in the greatest shape of his life. But his cholesterol was still too high – he was likely dealing with a history of high cholesterol due to excessive meat eating that was passed on from one generation to the next. So, it might take a little more time for it to decrease even further.
And Erin has experienced dysfunctional relationships with food in her life, too. Her mother struggled with chronic depression, in and out of hospitalization over the course of her life, and emotional eating, such as buttering brownies, hiding things and stashing candy bars. A lot of Erin’s leaning into nutrition was fueled by her own fear of having a similar future to her mother, which she was trying to avoid. By the age of 31, Erin had removed both of her parents from life support. Her dad was in a traumatic motorcycle accident with brain trauma, and her mother passed away due to cardiac arrest. Naturally, it was incredibly scary for Erin when she heard that her husband’s health was now in jeopardy, too.
…to tofu all night long
On one night of doing research, Erin stumbled upon Dr. Greger’s Nutrition Facts, who mentioned a plant-based diet to avoid heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s. She was hooked. And she wasn’t going to keep that information to herself. She got 70 women to go plant-based with her just for the month! She strongly believes in its cause, as she saw first-hand how nutrition can save a life – or take it away. So, she decided that if she can prevent a woman from going through what she’s gone through with her own mother with something as simple as plants, then that is a gift she wants to give the world.
Erin wants people to go plant-based to take matters and their health into their own hands. She even wants to start a movement. A movement to revolutionize medicine in public education. To help people to be able to self-educate and to know why they’re making a good decision. Because when you’re able to express that vision to someone in a space that is open and the person’s receptive, it’s so clear that it’s just not only a way of eating. It goes so much deeper than that, and it can help someone else understand you and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Erin started by taking one week to plan the foods that she could eat that were plant-based and then spent the next three weeks actually doing it, proving to herself that she could. Before her journey, she did not know what tempeh was or jackfruit that comes in a can. She basically looked at the things in her life that were meat or dairy-based and found some basic minimal ingredient recipes to start and replace them with.
Once she switched her entire family’s diet, she noticed an improvement in everyone’s bowel movements, which was great as colon cancer runs in her family. And even though Erin is experiencing a lot of firsts, she is exploring things with an open mind – but it would be a lie to say that things always worked out perfectly. When you turn a whole lifestyle, your entire diet upside down, it requires patience. Erin made is as easy as possible for herself. She just swapped animal products for plant-based products, which was simple and yet broad enough. And that’s the key to how you can make it sustainable and make it as simple as possible. Sometimes we are so good at overcomplicating things when it can really be easy.
Become Like Erin
According to Erin, to make the transition you first need to know why you want to change. For her, it was the information provided by Dr. Greger on nutritionfacts.org. But, it might be something completely different for you. There are compelling reasons to stay plant-based, but you’re only going to know them if give it a try and stick with it. Changing the way you eat is one of the biggest life decisions you can probably make other than the career you have, the person you marry, or the religion you may or may not have. The research you do will uncover your why and help you realize more and more why you’re doing what you’re doing.
And your “why” might change over time, too. Even though Erin started this journey for her health, like so many other people, she discovered more and more about the animal industry and just can’t imagine eating any other way.
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