Getting to know other enthusiastic, healthy lifestyle lovin’ chicas is one of the most glorious aspects of my life. I am completely serious. I relish my time spent getting to know other people who share my desire to help as many people as possible reach their ideal health via lifestyle choices and following a plant-based, nutrient-rich diet. Speaking with these individuals always, always results in wide smiles, numerous laughs and positive energy that radiates throughout my body as I bask in the knowledge that other people care just as much as I do about helping other people feel their best in the present and prevent chronic and/or life-threatening diseases down the road.
Helping to educate the American public about the enormous importance and priceless benefits of treating plant foods as medicine is not a job for one person, let alone 10, 20, or 100. As with any valuable information not yet made common knowledge, each and every one of us has the power to be a vital, noteworthy contributing voice in the effort to educate an increasing number of people that brightly colored plant foods are truly our best friends in the fight against the most deadly diseases (such as heart disease and the biggest cancer killers) currently plaguing our junk-food rich, developed world.
These young role models I’ve met in the health-food lovin’ community have become my friends. They tend to be the sweetest, most kind-hearted people and Emily Shaw is no exception. She is motivated, cheerful, and lives each and every day with a glow of passion for health and wellness. I am delighted to feature an interview with her on this chill, pink-filled virtual reading space. Read on for the interview, a fabulously delicious smoothie recipe and then get pumped to eat plenty of dazzling and healing plant foods today and every day forth!
1) What was life like before adopting a plant-based lifestyle?
My journey to eating a whole-foods plant-based diet was a gradual one. Although I grew up on a relatively healthy diet in a unique Iowa town where roughly half of the population is vegetarian, my eating habits and relationship with food were challenging, especially as an adolescent. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved food- thinking about it, making it and especially eating it. As a child I would compare my plate to my dad’s and could not understand why his helpings of food were bigger! It didn’t seem fair. I developed the habit of overeating early on, especially of refined grain breads, pasta and sweets which I craved. For many of my teenage years I was heavier than some of my friends so I felt the need to diet and spent countless hours exercising hard at the gym.
In 2004, I moved to Los Angeles to attend fashion school and work as a fashion stylist which definitely influenced my eating. My energy was consumed by the material world and I didn’t so much care about the quality of my food, as long as the quantity was under control and I could burn off whatever I ate at the gym. I had gained control of my weight for the most part, but had to work very hard for it and I still dealt with cravings. Underneath it all what I really craved was connection to my true self and a greater sense of purpose. Little did I know transformation was right around the corner!
2) What caused you to change your diet and lifestyle?
My best friend loaned me Skinny Bitch which I read cover to cover in one day. I didn’t care for the title but instantly became mesmerized by what I was learning. Space and time stopped as I read about modern day factory farming and all the tortureous practices animals endure for human consumption. Without question, I went vegan overnight, running to the store to purchase substitutes for meat, cheese and milk. Early on in my food transition I ate a lot of processed vegan foods because they filled the animal product voids very well. But that was just the beginning of my food (and life) transformation. I became very interested in how our food choices effect the planet. Reading John Robbins’ Diet for a New America and Michael Pollans’ In defense of Food provided many more reasons to care about my food choices. I began to favor fresh, whole foods straight from nature which is when my relationship with food began to change.
3) What changes did you notice?
The initial and most dramatic change was how quickly I dropped weight when first going vegan. In fact, there was a period of time I was slightly underweight. However as I studied nutrition and became accustomed to the lifestyle I found my ideal weight.
I’ve also enjoyed many gradual changes since embracing a whole-foods plant-based lifestyle- both small and large- that continue to deeply enrich my life! My skin has improved, frustrating warts on my knees vanished and my nails are stronger. I am more focused, productive, have more energy in general and my digestion has improved. Eating a cleaner diet also inspired buying natural makeup (and wearing less of it) in addition to non-toxic cleaning products. I would say, however, that the most profound change are the foods I now crave. I can’t go a day without my green smoothie because I love the way they taste and make me feel.
The most fascinating thing I’ve noticed is how much more I enjoy nature and the simple things in life. I believe eating closer to nature has a tendency to bring us closer to other people, animals, wildlife and the big picture of how we all relate to one another.
4) What impact has changing your diet and lifestyle had on your life?
It has completely shifted the direction of my career and personal life! I’ve since gone back to school and completed a degree in Health & Human Physiology and training in health coaching. I’m a holistic nutrition coach specializing in helping women lose weight (for good), understand and manage food cravings, increase energy and improve digestion- all the same challenges I’ve overcome- while making healthy food delicious! However my holistic approach extends to all areas of life to ensure we receive nourishment not just from food but also physical activity, relationships, career and spirituality.
I’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation since I was a child, a scientifically-sound practice for decreasing stress among a wide range of other well-documented health benefits. It’s interesting to note that since adopting a more natural lifestyle, my experiences with TM are even more profound.
For more information about Transcendental Meditation, please visit www.tm.org.
5) What do you love most about living a plant-based lifestyle?
Have I mentioned I love food?! This lifestyle allows you (and in many cases requires you) to consume a high volume of food which is great for people like me who love to eat. The plant kingdom provides a wealth of different varieties of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains all with distinct flavors and textures. I think the lifestyle encourages abundance rather than lack or deprivation not just regarding food, but this feeling of fullness also spills into other areas of life.
6) What advice would you like to give other 20somethings wishing to make the switch towards a healthier lifestyle?
Instead of jumping into a new diet or exercise plan cold turkey, I recommend making small but steady improvements that will last a lifetime. Learning to live a healthy lifestyle should be fun, not depriving, confusing or overwhelming. I think the best strategy is to get into the kitchen and have fun exploring new foods by trying new recipes. For example try one new recipe every weekend or whenever you have some downtime. Learning to cook and make healthy food delicious is a skill that takes time to learn just like anything else- only this skill could be the most important one you’ll ever learn!
7) What is your favorite summer fruit? Vegetable?
It is very challenging for me to pick one, but I would have to say perfectly ripe peaches. They are simply divine when baked with some cinnamon and served hot with homemade coconut vanilla ice cream.
I really enjoy summer squash, particularly the delicate, creamy Italian Zucchetta squash. It pairs well with fresh basil and is delightful piled high on vegetable pizza!
8) What is one of your favorite recipes?
I created this creamy, dreamy smoothie a couple months ago and have made it several times since. It’s a luscious breakfast, dessert or decadent snack to enjoy anytime of the day!
Berry Pink Beautifying Smoothie
Serves 1 as a meal or 2 as a snack
1 very ripe banana
1/2 cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup halved strawberries (frozen or fresh)
1/4 medium avocado
1 cup non-sweetened almond or coconut milk
1/2 of 1 fresh vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
extra 1/2-1 cup filtered water if thinner consistency is desired
Optional: 1 chopped, pitted date for more sweetness
Add all ingredients to a blender, blend till smooth. (A high-speed blender works best)
Serve garnished with fresh mint and organic blueberries. Serve in a wine glass for an indulgent experience!