On the first weekend of July, 2012, the Enrich team attended The Farms 2 Forks Immersion at Heritage Prairie Farm in Elburn, Illinois. This 2-day immersion was the 2nd of 4 sold out events in 2012. The event run by Engine 2 has grown to include week-long immersions across the country.
You may have heard about Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s world-renowned preventative cardiology work, seen parts of the “China Study,” or read about a group of meat-loving Texas firefighters that changed to a plant-based diet.
We watched the Forks Over Knives documentary last year and have been interested both individually and as a company ever since. When Kory learned the Forks Over Knives experts were going to be 5 hours away in rural Illinois, we signed up!
What is it? An Immersion with Engine 2 is a nutrition education program designed to explain the science of food — how amazingly good and surprisingly bad certain foods can be for your body.
We would like to share with you what each of us took away from the enlightening experience.
Gretchen's Experience: Fit and Healthy
The audience started the weekend by brainstorming all the reasons WHY we don't eat healthy. We came up with over twenty, here are a few: convenience, taste, expensive, food addictions, peer pressure, don't like veggies, born and raised this way, upset GI, business trips/traveling, eating out and "our kids won't eat it." Most Americans encounter only 10 types of fruits and vegetables throughout their lives. By choosing a plant-based diet, 70 percent of disease is preventable: including type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
The Esselstyn family (Caldwell, Ann and Rip) and their colleagues (Jeff Novick and Dr. Doug Lisle) really delivered! The experts were a great combination of smart and funny — they truly live the life they love. They taught us the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of food — why the Standard American Diet is so extraordinarily hard on the body and how to eat better to improve our health. Among the crowd I was impressed to see stunningly fit and healthy folks, and wanna-be’s like me seeking to improve their eating habits and overall health.
Kory's Experience: A Transformation
When I watched the documentary last October, it really affected me. The film provided answers to my question, "Why is everyone so sick?" I immediately cut meat out of my diet and began labeling myself as a vegetarian. The Enrich team heard all about this film, what I was doing and supported my mission to eat healthier.
The immersion we just attended taught me so many things I was doing wrong — to truly live a plant-based lifestyle. As a "vegetarian," I was still consuming eggs, dairy, oil and seafood, which is normal for this style of eating. But I learned about how all of these items adversely affect my body and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
They taught me how to cut out all of these items from my diet, consume even more fruits and veggies and use milk substitutes. I also learned about the different types of whole grains and everything I needed to know about the world of legumes! Not only that, how to truly calculate whether or not there is the right amount of fat, sodium, sugar and whole grains in each product I buy.
Medical, psychological and nutritional talks were presented — it was a real spectrum for me to sink my teeth into. At the end of the weekend, we were all encouraged to embrace the 28-day challenge. I excitedly raised my hand in a tent filled with 350+ people and started the next day. I am now labeling myself as a "vegan" and have asked my husband to join me. I've created a pictorial food diary to help me recollect what I've been eating, to keep me honest and to show off my culinary skills within the confines of my new food knowledge. It's a lot of work, but I truly believe it will be worth it and see this as a new lifestyle beyond just 28 days.
Suzanne's Experience: High Sodium in our Food
I didn’t realize exactly how high the sodium levels in our food were until I started looking more closely. Jeff Novick’s label-reading session really opened my eyes. USDA dietary guidelines say we should take in at most 2,300 mg per day, but we actually consume between 3,000 mg and 4,000 mg per day. That’s a problem. We aren’t adding 3,000 mg of table salt. So where is all that sodium coming from: processed foods, beverages and meals at restaurants.
Do you know how much sodium is in the food you’re consuming? Countless studies have shown shocking levels in dishes at some of our favorite restaurants. In fact, we’ve come to expect the salt overload when we go out to eat. We even recognize that canned goods and most processed foods have pretty high sodium levels. But it’s much higher that we think and also in some surprising foods that might not taste salty — salad dressings, breakfast cereals, bread and water… yes BREAD AND WATER!
Just take a look at these examples:
- Aquafina Water, Raspberry Flavored: 0 calories, 65 mg sodium
- Grape-Nuts Cereal (1 cup): 400 calories, 80 mg sodium
- Colonial White Bread (2 slices): 160 calories, 340 mg sodium
- Kraft Zesty Italian Fat-Free Dressing (2tbs): 15 calories, 480 mg sodium
No wonder there are so many people on blood pressure meds! If we just limit the amount of sodium in our diet, we might be able to get off some of the pills and reduce our risk of high blood pressure and stroke. I know that’s what we’re now doing in my house after this weekend.
If there’s salt to be added for flavor, we’ll do it ourselves. We don’t need someone else to do it for us.
Bruce's Experience: The American Diet
and the Continuum of Evil
During the two-day immersion we were shown lots of slides about how Americans have gotten really fat in the last 40 years. In the end, the blame was placed on meat as the greatest evil. But looking closer at the stats, since 1970 we’ve only consumed an average of 20 extra calories per day of meat. From my perspective, the biggest culprit in the obesity boom is processed food and misleading “health food” packaging. Jeff Novick’s presentation on understanding health food claims on labels was informative and shocking. Compared to 1970, every day Americans eat an extra 250 calories in the form of added fats, oils and sweeteners and 300 extra calories from things that we think are healthy such as dairy, flour and cereal products.
One of the things that I liked about the immersion was the range of topics. Dr. Doug Lisle discussed the psychology of how we think about food. His “Continuum of Evil” offers a way to grade the food we eat from whole natural food (A+) to fried meat (F). When trying to get the A+, we often sabotage ourselves if we think there’s a chance we might fail. You aim to get the best grade possible, but you don’t need to be perfect. With an overt anti-meat bias, he grades refined carbs and sugar as a C+. This doesn’t seem right. Following that logic, you would get a passing grade if you only ate donuts. On my personal grade scale, I’m going to put my chickens’ fresh eggs (B+) ahead of refined carbs (D).
For me, being plant strong is not about completely removing meat from my diet, it’s about eating more plants. The Standard American Diet is only 8–12% fruit and vegetables (and half of that is potatoes). Instead of going completely vegan, it’s a good idea to start to bump that number up. I’m going to start by taking away as many of the processed foods as possible to eliminate the added fat, sugar and salt. I grow my own vegetables and shop at the farmer’s market every week, so I hope my fruit and vegetable consumption is a little higher than average, but I’m still trying to improve.