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A Bag of Potatoes, Microwaves and Being Kind


A few weeks ago I got this e-mail:

“Hello, My name is Nancy I am 74 years old. I live on a fixed income and I am disabled. I have diabetes (type 2), and a bad heart. I am very limited in what I can do. I can’t cook anymore, or cut up vegetables. I want to be healthy, please help.”

My response to Nancy was that I was so proud of her for wanting to become healthy, and that despite that she has some difficulty getting around, chopping vegetables or even cooking, I was sure we could help her figure something out.

I went through ways that she could eat healthier, despite her limitations. First, we found a grocery delivery service for her that doesn’t charge over a certain amount. Second, we picked out things that she would not have to prepare. It was mostly all frozen food, oatmeal, some cereals, all things that she only needed to open a bag and heat up in a microwave.

Even some of that was hard for her. The easiest things were the steamed bags (frozen and not frozen). We found that steamed brown rice and steamed (packaged) potatoes were the most simple things for her to prepare, and provided a good source of calories for her as well. She didn’t have to wash the potatoes, poke holes in them or even put them in a microwave safe dish, same with the frozen brown rice.

After 2 weeks Nancy wrote this to me:

“Well dear, my blood sugar in the morning was 132. I am happy, because when I wrote to you before it was always near 250 when I woke up. I think I’ve lost some weight, because my pants are a little loose. I am glad that being healthy isn’t as hard, and I don’t have to chop up lettuce and carrots all day long.”

Nancy’s story is not unique. There are 1000′s of people who have a hard time either being able to prepare food, or sometimes being able to afford it. And, beyond that, there are 1000′s of people who just need eating healthy to be easy. They need it to be a no-brainer. For some that means being able to prepare a meal without chopping, dicing, processing, following a recipe. For some that means that they just need to throw something in the microwave for a few minutes, and not even concern themselves with turning on an oven. It would be nice to think that every persons situation is perfect and ideal. That we could all just go and pick our vegetables from our farm out back, that we could spend time preparing, cooking, chopping to make gourmet meals. And maybe, that is your situation, but for most that is not what they are faced with.

When I started eating this way I was morbidly obese with out of control diabetes that had lead to some serious complications in my feet and legs. I was tired most of the time, and I was severely depressed. It took me so much effort to even want to get out of bed most mornings. I needed this to be simple. For a while, I stuck to my microwaved oatmeal, microwaved brown rice, cans of beans and vegetables.

Now, there are people that might harshly judge me for doing that. “You use a microwave?!” “You used canned beans?!” “You didn’t check to make sure every thing you bought was gmo free and organic?! You didn’t eat local?!”

The reality is, that all of that potentially saved my life. The microwave, the non-gmo/non-organic food, the cans of beans. I still got well. I did not become more sick. I was virtually off all my insulin (over 200 units per day), I was losing weight, my blood pressure dropped into a normal range, an infection that could have cost me part of my leg cleared up, all while consuming things that many people would gasp at.

And you know what? I still use a microwave, I still used cans of beans, I use TONS of frozen vegetables. Sometimes my fruit and vegetables are non-gmo/not organic. And guess what? I’m still getting healthier and healthier.

Recently we ran an article about how to shop plant-strong at Walmart. It was written by one of our brilliant interns. I was honestly surprised by the backlash we got from the article. It was shocking to see how many people were so quick to judge those who shop and work there.

And then we got this e-mail:

“I’m an single mom with 2 young kids. I work at Walmart, full time, and have been there for 11 years. I really like my job actually. Yes, money is tight, like it is for anyone else. I’ve applied to other jobs and they all pay less than what I’m making. I was really upset when I read the comments by your fans on the article on Walmart. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s a job, and I’m fortunate, many people don’t have one. Your article was very helpful to me. I’m obese, and I have type 2 diabetes. I have been struggling to know what to buy, and I work at the store! For the first time in 11 years I was able to go and shop and buy all healthy food. I know that people don’t like Walmart, but for me that is my only option. I wish I wasn’t made fun of and mocked for shopping or even working there. Thanks for knowing that not everyone can afford to shop at fancy stores, I think I can get healthy just fine shopping at Walmart still, even though people might hate me for it.”

I was really sad to see this e-mail. I spent a few years working with people who were struggling. I was always shocked by the harsh judgement those people would get from society. Honestly, for the most part they were doing all they could to make a better life for themselves. Like my family, when I was growing up. We struggled greatly, despite that my father worked a few jobs. We relied on help from others, a lot. I can assure you that the number one priority for my parents was not to shop at fancier stores and to make sure all of our food was organic, it was simply to feed us so that we did not starve.

And the reality is that a lot of Americans are in that situation. In order to change the health of this country it is going to take ALL sides. It’s going to take people knowing how to shop at Walmart. It’s going to take people knowing how to make a perfectly healthy meal in a microwave. Over the next several decades we can start dealing with some of the other issues. But those issues, seem to be more of distractions at the moment, rather than things that will actually solve our health crisis.

We need to focus on the bigger picture for a little bit. We need to practice kindness in the way we interact with others. If someone shops at Walmart, doesn’t use all organic food, can’t shop at their farmers market, is unable to chop vegetables, doesn’t have an oven, they should not be made to feel like they cannot be healthy.

There is a great analogy I used to hear a lot in Church when I was growing up. It went something like this:

A man was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was waiting for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.” The stranded fellow shouted back, “No it’s ok, I’m waiting for something better to come along!”
So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”
To this the stranded man said, “No thank you, I’m waiting for something better to come along!”
So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”
To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m waiting for something better to come along!”
So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water began to rise and he didn’t have a way out, he couldn’t figure out why nothing better had come along – when a voice whispered “you were sent a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter! What were you waiting for?!”

The point is, that how we solve this health crisis might not look what we want it to, it might not be pretty, or perfect, or even all at once. Let’s look for ways that we can solve things, help people, even if it is not the “something better” we’re waiting for.

Let’s lift others up. Let’s attempt to cheer people on in whatever step in the journey they are on. Let’s find things that make being healthier, easier for most people. Not one of us is perfect, we all have work to do. And I’m sure that even if whatever it is you are most passionate about, you were not born with that idea, it developed, you learned, you grew, and you worked on over many years.

It’s time we focus on the big picture, and it’s time we start encouraging people where they are, rather than putting them down for even trying.

But back to Nancy. What I didn’t tell you about those steamed, packaged potatoes was that I had sent the link to the product along to Dr. McDougall (who we all know LOVES a potato). I thought it might be helpful for people who might be in Nancy’s situation or just people who need things to be a little bit more easy. He posted it on his facebook wall. And I was absolutely shocked to see the hate and judgement projected over a bag of steamed potatoes. People saying that he sold out, calling him all sorts of names, putting down people who would ever think of touching a bag of steamed potatoes.

And let us not forget that because of Dr. McDougalls work, advice, events, books and more he has saved what I’m sure is 1000′s of lives in the past few decades. Yet, this post suggesting that people buy a bag of pre-washed, steamed potatoes that you microwave, and people were ready to dismiss all of his work.

This product, which might not be perfect in everyones eyes is what Nancy is basing most of her meals off of, and is becoming a healthier person because of it, it could even have a part in saving her life.

We love teaching the plant-strong message, but we hope that along with it comes a message of being kind-strong as well. So before you comment on a facebook post, respond to someones question on a site or in other social media setting, ask yourself it is something that is kind and encouraging. Remember that it could be someones first time even interacting with a page or a website, let’s make sure we are welcoming people, no matter where they are in their journey.

For more on the potentially dangerous distractions we are facing, please watch this lecture by Dr.McDougall:

YouTube Preview Image

And be sure to read this great article by Jeff Novick, MS, RD about triaging your health. Jeff goes through the real picture when it comes to what is most important when it comes to your health.

About the author

Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.

95 Responses to “A Bag of Potatoes, Microwaves and Being Kind”

  1. Mindy says:

    Thank you so much for this. My husband and I both lost our jobs this year. Before that we were both very uppity about shopping at high end places, only buying non-gmo. I had to sell the expensive kitchen tools. I felt so much shame when I first walked into a Walmart, there are actually organic items at Walmart, but I had talked so badly for so many years about them, and now was looking at the bargain bin to save money. Our Church also was helping, and I wasn’t about to turn down help, even if the food wasn’t up to our previous standards. I once commented on an article that I found great brown rice pasta at Walmart for 2.88 and I got a slew of negative comments that I shopped there. I am glad you brought this to light. Being on “the other side” has opened my eyes.

  2. Randy says:

    Natala you are wise beyond your years. I absolutely love when you write. I just signed up for a weekend retreat because you are speaking.

  3. Kelli in WI says:

    I saw that McDougall post on facebook about the potatoes and I was also shocked. First, the misinformation, I thought that Dr. Greger, McDougall, Esselstyn, Novick and Dr. Campbell have all put the fears microwaves and even non-gmo to rest!! People need to stop the fear mongering it just scares people away. I agree, let’s be kind, lets stop the fear. People have enough to worry about.

  4. James says:

    I needed to read this, because I’m one of those people who can argue with people on the internet, and I don’t ever think it could hurt someones feelings or that it might derail them. Worse yet, even though I am very picky and don’t ever use a microwave and I only eat food that is non-gmo, and I’ve been vegan, for ethical reasons for 6 years I still have very high cholesterol, and it is due to my poor eating choices. A lot to think about tonight.

    • VegHead says:

      me too. I do think you can do both sometimes. But I should stop calling other people out, and work on my own problems first.

      • deweyswakms says:

        Thank you and James, now you’ve learned better so you will do better.

      • watcherwoman says:

        James and VegHead – I just want to say KUDOS to you both for being honest enough with yourselves to take something away from Natala’s article. And THANK YOU to you for being brave enough to share your reactions with the rest of us!

    • Enough shaming, people! says:

      Way to be honest with yourself!

    • Christie Arnold says:

      How beautiful that you wrote this. We’re all humans and we’re all growing. It takes a strong, mature soul to admit it. I love it!!! I think we can all be hurtful sometimes, but it’s so healing to shed light on our shadows.

  5. fdzimmerman says:

    Natala, your essays are consistently brilliant. Logic and compassion shine through in each.

    I’m on a fixed income and find Walmart to be a great resource for eating healthy on a budget. Potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, beans and enormous bags of frozen vegetables at great prices! I can’t afford to eat the sort of GMO-free, non-microwaved, organic, locavore foods that the purists advocate. But I can afford to eat healthy. I’m not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Walmart and Wild Oats are teaming up to lower the price of organic foods. I’m supposed to ignore this because some folks don’t like Walmart? Stupid! http://news.walmart.com/news-archive/2014/04/10/walmart-and-wild-oats-launch-effort-to-drive-down-organic-food-prices

    Besides E2, Walmart and Lindsay Nixon (aka Healthy Herbivore) have made eating Plant Strong practical and affordable for me. I’m very appreciative.

    • Yvonne says:

      I was excited to see that article as well. Good news for consumers when the cost of healthy food drops.

  6. Scott says:

    I had to go look at the facebook post on Dr. McDougalls page, I can’t believe that people are so unkind, so misinformed, it’s why I don’t like things like facebook, people can hide behind the computer screen. I have to admit though, as a vegan I’ve got angry at friends for “not getting it” when it’s true what you said, I wasn’t born vegan, and it took me a while to get it. There is always room to be more kind, thank you for writing this.

  7. RDtoBe says:

    I’m more shocked that people still believe the myths about microwaves,I thought we put those to rest a few decades ago! :) Dr. Greggor has a video on how it’s actually the best form of cooking when preserving nutrients! I myself use one a lot, I do the Jeff Novick meals that way, I don’t have a stove! I’m in grad school, pretty broke, live in a basement studio and all I’ve got is a microwave , fridge and a toaster. I don’t think everyone is not kind, but just that many have not been in situations where they’ve struggled financially especially, so they end up focusing on things that don’t matter much.
    Oh, and I want to say, GO NANCY!!!! What a great story. I’m glad she is doing well!

  8. Sarah says:

    The ironic thing to me, is that I used to work at (store name withheld) and people think that it is SOOOO much better than Walmart or other stores. I got paid the same as a walmart employee, my benefits were actually worse because they mess with hours so they don’t have to give people benefits, they have the same anti-union policies, and honestly most of the food isn’t that much better. But the high price, the superior attitude makes people think it’s so much better. It’s sad to me that people can be so harsh to others. It doesn’t surprise me though, I think we’ve all created the mess, it would go such a long way if we all tried to do one kind thing a day. Thanks Natala, as always, you nailed it.

  9. Michele says:

    Wonderful! A perfect message!

  10. Kayla says:

    Incredibly written post. I am so tired of seeing so much negativity in the plant based and vegan communities, when we all really just want to get to be healthy and live better. Eating plant based doesn’t have to be hard or expensive, and even baby steps are a step in the right direction. Progress > Perfection. Less judgment, more plants. Thanks for posting this, Natala. :)

  11. In Health says:

    Yes, I was appalled at the comments Dr. McDougall got for posting that. I couldn’t believe how hateful so many of those people were. Thank you!

  12. Mom and a Pedal says:

    This made me cry! I just started out, and the other day got chastised on another site because I didn’t know honey wasn’t vegan, and my husband is still a meat eater. I also don’t worry about if my food is organic right now, because most of the time I can’t afford it. I thought about giving up because of all the people giving me a hard time about the smaller details. I want to fix the food part first, and then I’ll worry about if honey is vegan or if all my food is organic.

    • justine says:

      It took me about 2 years to be truly plant strong. but I never considered myself Vegan. I still have my leather belt. I’m not throwing out a perfectly good belt because I eat better. I occasionally eat local honey for allergies, that a coworker have his bees for pollinating his large garden. Yes people will judge, they are looking at you from their experiences and not yours. Stand strong and be Plant Strong. we are all human . You may give in to your old cravings at times and thats ok as long as you can get back on track for Your health not for societies judgments. I also was taught about self sustaining living very old school. native american philosophy waste nothing. you use the whole plant or fish or animal, each part has value, the fish heads would be used to fertilize the plants that they ate. the bones for sewing, the plants stalks turned into nets or line to get more fish. its the circle of life. I dont eat meat or fish or eggs anymore but I will get egg shells from work and compost them for my garden. better than ending up in a land fill. So I never will consider my self vegan but I will be Plant Strong. Whole food plant based diet…..So Glad they came up with this new title for eating healthy.

      • Tammy says:

        This describes me too! I didn’t know what to call myself because I do make some non-vegan choices outside of food. Plant strong is a great name.
        Thank you for posting your comment. It made me feel so much better.

      • Susan Sasek says:

        Well said-I have been plant based for nearly 5 years, but like you, I have leather goods. I amy or may not make a different choice in the future, but throwing out a wonderful leather purse just makes the problem worse-now I would be wasteful too.

      • justme says:

        I agree with the Walmart thing and the vegan thing. We do what we can. I still wear leather shoes and likely will continue. I too am not a vegan but eat with whole foods plant perfect ideas as my goal. It is possible to eat cabbage, sprouts, carrots, potatoes, and beans for very little money. But if someone needs convenience foods, a microwave, honey, or leather orthopedic shoes, we should all mind our own business. Until I am perfect, I won’t cast stones. Worrying about others uses too much energy anyway.

  13. Shelly DeVito says:

    STANDING OVATION!!!! BRAVO!!!!!!! I too was pretty dismayed over the comments on that potato post, people can be so cruel, and to put down a doctor like Dr. John. We don’t have enough plant-strong doctors, and if people treat doctors like him like that we won’t have ANY. I always love when you write Natala, you are the most sensible person and have a lot of love. I’m going to do something kind today in your honor.

  14. TADinator says:

    I love you.

    • Shelly DeVito says:

      RIGHT??? Who doesn’t love Natala?? I am saving all my money to go see her speak!!

  15. miranda2060 says:

    I agree with this entirely. I also use canned beans, frozen vegetables and hash browns, and shop at Walmart (which will be making organics affordable). The judgmentalism is not helpful, and it’s not necessary to be perfect to have a healthy McDougall-compliant diet. I thought the frozen potatoes Dr. McD posted about sounded like an excellent idea.

  16. CarolinaGirl says:

    AMEN! Thank you for your wisdom Natala. We all are doing the best we can.

  17. Angela says:

    Love it that you are keeping it real and kudos to everyone that was willing to read this and admit their own faults. Good to see how you got creative and showed Nancy how to make it work. There was a potato argument on a Nutritarian page yesterday that kind of got ugly and I got so disgusted reading it that I just stopped. It’s pointless, we all can make our own choices without expecting others to think the same way we do.

  18. Emma says:

    This is a brilliant article, thank you! Having lived on next to nothing for a couple of years, I always try to put people’s health in perspective- not everyone has the means to eat “perfectly.” We kept ourselves very healthy on a diet of bulk-bought (non-organic) oats, potatoes, brown rice, canned (unsalted) legumes, frozen vegetables and bananas. In fact my blood work was never better. Comments sections make it far to easy for people to spread their negativity and under-researched opinions. I tend to avoid even looking at them any more! Glad to help keep this once positive :)

  19. Sandi says:

    Thankyou Natala. You are sooooo on target. Why all this hate in the world? We are all struggling to get along. We do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. You are such inspiration!!! Keep cranking it out gal. You shine!!!!!,

  20. Encourager says:

    Old school. If folks can’t say something nice, they need to keep their lips buttoned! This philosophy is still apropos!

  21. Lauren Stewart says:

    My boyfriend and I use our microwave EVERY DAY to cook our veggies and potatoes because it’s so convenient! And we are both healthy and plant strong! And when I was in college, I shopped at Walmart for my healthy food and produce all the time because it’s the best I could afford. Thank you for this post, Natala. So true.

  22. deweyswakms says:

    This is a great article, and don’t we all need a reminder (daily!) to just be kind to people. Everybody is on a hard journey, and if all we can do is just be nice, smile, don’t be snarky or judge other people, that is a huge blessing. I’ve received a few barbs myself when I was honest about my plant-strong journey. I can stay you will be treated gently at the plant-strong junkies facebook group. Meanwhile, I’m now inspired to buy a few bags of potatoes to put in the ever-present food collection bins at the stores.

  23. Kathryn Polster says:

    I’m all for the microwave, the can, and the freezer. Whatever it takes. I think that the underlying problem with advocating a store like Walmart is that they don’t take care of their employees. It is not a good job by any means (but I do realize a crappy job is better than no job!) and by supporting a store like that with our dollars we are supporting the idea that it is ok to pay a low wage to hard working people. When we spend our money we support more than just cheap food and products. There is a bigger issue. It is not that it is a store for undesirable people or that undesirable people shop there it is a problem of what is being supported at the top. The Waltons own much of the wealth in the US and they could easily give all of their employees a better job experience but they don’t. They don’t seem to care about the people making them their millions. Instead they exploit them. That is why I don’t condone shopping there. Sometimes my parents shop there and they hate to do it, but the unfortunate economic circumstances make that the best food bang for their buck and they live on a small fixed income. I get why people shop there, but if you don’t have to support them I think that is better. At the end of the day feeding yourself well is priority though. I just think that is why people have a bad feeling about walmart. At least that is why I do.

  24. Kate says:

    Thank you for this very well written post Natala! It really puts things in perspective!

  25. Leah says:

    Thank you Natala, this post is right on! I do not even use facebook anymore because of these negative comments you mention. When we put out positive thoughts, we receive positive thoughts in return. To improve our own lives and everyone else’s we should be positive, encouraging, kind, loving, welcoming, and overall positive that today will improve and tomorrow will be better and better!

  26. Stu Berkowitz says:

    Millions of Russians/Soviets survived on nothing but potatoes during World Wars One & Two (and during the Russian Revolution), due to famine and shortages.

  27. cmf1267 says:

    I hate to say it – but I can’t stand all the judgment in the vegan/plant-based community. I don’t pass judgment on others by where they shop. Guess what I shop at Walmart, I buy very little organic produce, and I’m not obsessed with 100% plant-based or raw or whatever. My diet right now is 100% better than what it was. I haven’t had any meat in 6 weeks and had slowly worked my way to that over the last year. This community does not do itself any favors by being preachy & condesending. This was a good article and I was glad to see Dr. McDougall promote those potatoes so I don’t have to feel like if I sometimes just need to throw some steamable potatoes in the microwave I’m still doing o.k. Some times I do need that reminder. Thanks for this article and I hope to see more like it!! Connie

  28. Terri Cole says:

    Natala, I adore you! Thank you for the gentle reminder of where our priorities should lie!

  29. Amy says:

    Hi Betsy! I worked at Walmart for 5 years through college. It was the only employment opportunity in my town, except bartending, working fast food or stripping. I got paid above min. wage, which was more than anywhere else was willing to offer. People get scared off because they hear something or see something on a documentary, not realizing that millions of people rely on the income. Every employer could be doing a better job. Walmart just teamed up with a big organic store, they are making headway. If the employees were unhappy about their pay – they would not be working there. All of my friends who worked there were happy to have a job in a miserable economy. And you don’t have to look like a super model like some stores require, we had people of all shapes, sizes and disabilities. Ask yourself the last time you saw someone with a disability or someone who was obese working at one of the fancier organic stores. Maybe that’s what we should all be angry about. Natala, I’m glad you wrote this post, I don’t think people even realize how judgmental they are being.

  30. Marge says:

    My problem with Walmart is that it is so big, it dictates prices from suppliers. The supplier then must cut their costs in order to stay in business. Often, the supplier is not domestic, and they have to pay their workers next to nothing and make them work 80 hours, or more.

    Walmart’s use of their buying power is driving down wages, and driving down the quality of products produced worldwide.

    I think that it is very, very dangerous for one company to control half the grocery supply chain in the US.

    You will never catch me at Walmart.

    • Megan says:

      Some don’t have that luxury – which is what this article was all about.No need to get defensive about your position on Walmart – let people do what they need to do in their own lives. My parents only shop at Walmart, they are elderly. My Dad is a greeter, and loves his job, it has given him a lot of joy through depression and my mom becoming sick. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not needed in some ways as well.

      • Donna says:

        Just wanted to wish the best to your dad. My mom got sick and my dad went through terrible depression. Of course no one would hire him because he’s elderly , he’d love a greeter job, never thought about that. He shops at Walmart, because it’s easy for him, and (he’s not plant-strong) he likes to sit in the Subway cafe and talk to people. I agree, it’s not perfect, but if people knew the business practices of ALL major corporations they would never ever shop there again. For instance, most people have a smart phone (Iphone/Droid) but I bet they don’t think much about the child labor that goes into it. Or if people drive a car, are they checking the factory conditions of the car company? Same thing with their tvs, electronics and shoes? Walmart is an easy target because it’s big.

        • Stacey Walker says:

          I’m really curious how many people who hate Walmart or think they are doing something by boycotting have actually worked at a Walmart? I’ve been working there for 7 years, no, it’s not the perfect job. But as someone who just got my GED, was a teen mom and had no job before, it really saved me and my amazing boy. My co-workers have been really kind, when we had some flood damage they all helped me. Remember that there are real people who work there. Thank you so much Natala, I’ll be glad to see your book on Walmart shelves one day! :) :) :)

    • Dan Zuke says:

      This was a lot more than about Walmart, it’s too bad some people missed the greater point. :(

  31. MadCity Minnie says:

    Right on as always, Natala! I’m still praying for you to publish that book. Yep, just gather up these articles and put ‘em in a book. Lots of people (millions, billions?) who don’t know about Engine2, and have never heard about plant strong eating, are waiting for this message. You are the one to bring it. Re the Walmart issue: through good luck I can afford to shop anywhere I want. I can choose to not shop at certain stores because I disapprove of some of their business practices. But I would NEVER criticize anyone else for working or shopping there. It’s great that people can find healthful food on a low budget, no matter where they are.
    P.S. I love my microwave and eat frozen veggies too – ain’t nobody’s business if I do:).

  32. StrawberryFields says:

    Just adding to the choir – WRITE A BOOK. You’d be a best seller. People love you. I bet you would be on Ellen in a heartbeat, she’d absolutely love you. Or maybe we should start a Natala TV show petition. I follow everyone else, and you are the only one I relate to.

  33. VegetableJerk says:

    Well, I feel like a jerk now. I blasted McDougall for the post about the potatoes, because I would never, ever use a microwave and they are not organic. Guess I need a little bit of a reality check. I guess I thought that the plant-based movement was all organic/non-gmo, if I’m being honest I haven’t actually read any of his books.

  34. Patrick Nottingham says:

    This is not unique to this community. Every group has its own self appointed purist who are always ready to burn the heretics at the stake. Honestly, the prejudices against microwaves are based on pseudo science bunk.

  35. Yvonne says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I LOVED the Wal-mart article by the way. I buy the Spinach for Cooking all of the time at my grocery store but it is cheaper there! I picked up some Organic Kale cheaper than what I would have paid at the grocery store. For me all of the stores are in the same proximity so I pick up what I need where I can get it the cheapest. Whole Foods is great too – I think the no salt canned beans are cheaper than at Wal-mart (89 cents). And I went to buy some plastic bins at the Dollar Store (yes, the Dollar Store – I am not paying $5 for something that I can get for a $1 – I am just using them for pottery). Because of the Wal-mart article I checked out the food section (yes I did, I know, scandalous!) and there were beans and rice. I didn’t look too closely but that might make an interesting article as well. I can’t always control what I pay for something but little savings add up. Thank you for sharing all of these tips. And thank you for sharing that tip with Dr McDougall – those bagged steamed potatoes would be great on a business trip (where you proably don’t have a knife to scrub and clean).

  36. Katie says:

    This is a wonderful post about being kind, then I watch the video where people’s pictures are shown with large ‘FAT’ label. I get the point of it, of course, just an observation.

  37. ldm says:

    I suggested to a Libertarian candidate running for Texas Agriculture commission that vegans might be a natural constituency. Sadly, he said he had attended a Veg fest event and found vegans to be some of the meanest and most judgmental people he has met. Very sad.
    It has been said but Natala is doing a fabulous job helping me stay encouraged. Thank you.

  38. Tammy says:

    I became vegan, or so I thought, about 3 months ago. I am not truly vegan though, because I do not check all of my household items or clothing. But I am trying my best to eat vegan. I was on a popular forum that is linked to a popular vegan who puts out popular cookbooks. I am certain she would not have mistreated me, nor did a number of other posters. But I posted the most innocent statement one day about discovering a person who had vegan meal plan subscriptions, and that I was trying to eat less vegan junk. I then made the comment that I had been a pretty “good” girl the past week. In turn, I was berated and ridiculed for my choice of the word “good” as well as trying not to eat vegan junk food. I was basically run off of the site. I won’t go back and I am desperate to find other support. That is why I am here. Thank you for your wonderful stories.

  39. John says:

    Let me tell you, for the past 9 years my wife and I ate only organic, non-gmo, tried to eat local as much as we could. For 5 of the 9 years we ate organic, grass fed meat/dairy/eggs. We even drank raw milk. In the first 5 years we collectively gained 50 pounds and I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Then we switched to an all gluten free, vegan diet, stayed away from organic, gmo foods. I gained 11 more pounds, and my diabetes remained the same. I was doing what I thought was healthy, drinking juices, smoothies every single day, eating all vegan, using coconut oil when I could. Then we went to the Engine 2 retreat in Phoenix and reality hit hard, it was your talk actually Natala that drove it home. All of the products you showed were products we currently had!! (except for the pasta sauce). I was really dismayed. Then I realized we had made it possible to stick to our unhealthy habits, but just with fancier labels on them. When we got home we stopped the juicing and smoothies, got rid of the junk food and got back to basics. I’ve lost 14 pounds, my wife has lost 10 pounds and my blood sugar is the best its been in a long time. I still want to eat organic food, but as it would be it’s not the most important factor in getting healthy. Go figure.

  40. Jennie says:

    You are amazing and inspiring. Thank you for all of your articles which often bring tears to my eyes.

  41. Mark says:

    I’ve been fortunate in my life and make a very good salary out in the bay area. I can afford to shop anywhere. Sometimes I shop at Whole Foods, sometimes I shop Walmart, Target, which is part of why I am doing pretty well in the finance department. I am glad you wrote this post, people should know they can do this with any limitation. I love Nancy’s story. You are a wonderful writer, and I would love to see you write a book. Please contact me at the e-mail below, if you need help financing your book, I would like to offer, the world needs your voice.

    • Sandy says:

      Maybe you should do a kickstarter Natala, I know I’d support it! Or you should do your own retreat.

      • Randi says:

        I would also support that! And I’d definitely come to a retreat that you are speaking at!!

  42. Steve says:

    Nicely put, thanks for posting. Let’s lose the distractions and snobbery. A good reminder to lead with compassion.

  43. Trying Every Day says:

    Thank you so much for the reminder about why I became vegan in the first place. Because above all, I want to be kind. This is such a great reminder about the importance of keeping an open mind, and remembering that we all come from different situations and walks of life. Bless you!

  44. Randi says:

    Natala, do you also work with Dr.McDougall? He would be very wise to have you speak at his events and work for him as well. You speak so well to people who really need to hear this message.

  45. KeepOnSwimming says:

    I hope McDougall sees this! He should know that not all of us are ready to throw him under the bus because he uses packaged foods and microwaves! I want to know if all those people really never use packaged foods? Do they grow their own food?
    You are wonderful Natala, I’m so glad you write and speak for Engine 2 Diet, you give me a lot of hope. THank you!!!

  46. Macy says:

    Write a book, write a book, write a book. Then get a talk show. I’ll work for you for free as your personal assistant. I adore you.

  47. Jay. B. says:

    I loved this post. I am a struggling single person living in NYC, I wish I could do more than I am, but I just can’t. It’s mostly rice, beans and potatoes for me. Just echoing the fans of yours, you owe it to the plant-based community to write a book, you easily have a books worth of material in what you’ve written on this site, no? We don’t need another stupid diet book or book promising miracles, we just need a real story, by someone who is living it out, with struggles and things we can relate to.

  48. Bonnie says:

    This should be required reading for all people on the plant-strong journey. It made me cry too.

  49. Joanna says:

    We all have to start somewhere. Going from SAD to plant strong can’t happen overnight, especially if one has been eating that way their whole lives and they’re so un-informed they think healthy is pairing pizza with a salad… Sorry folks, some people had it so tough they didn’t have the time to study nutrition science from the beginning. But a start is a start.
    Plus, how could we be promoting veganism’s feel good properties when we’re so grumpy and hateful all the time? I mean, that sounds like a person who really doesn’t fit in their skin, let alone be happy… :p
    We advocate kindness and compassion… I mean, seriously???????

  50. sandir says:

    So true! I shop at Wal-Mart because we are on a strict budget in a small town without many food choices. I also shop at a health food store and a grocery store. I put a lot of effort into my diet with my food budget and it is hard to hear people putting others down who are doing the best they can to eat healthy on a budget or with limited shopping options.

  51. Laura says:

    What an incredibly, uplifting story! Nancy is healthier, and many thousands of others are making better choices every single day!! If we only made one different choice a day for better health, be it food related, water related, rest related, etc, that would be 365 different/better choices a year! Natala, you have an amazing gift with words. I enjoyed reading your writing, and I loved how you brought attention to something that is not constructive and used it as a teachable moment at the same time. We all judge, some about food, others about clothes, others about ‘you name it’. When we live from our perspective, it’s easy to ‘say’ how we’d do things better or differently than someone else, someone we might be criticizing or judging. That’s not always the case, as our perspective dictates our choices and our actions. We could all practice loving others where they are. My mother taught us as children, “if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all”. I can’t say that I’ve been perfect with that rule all my life, but I try to find the positive in others. I’m more aware of it as I’ve gotten older, and I strive to make it a daily choice to be positive and kind. It’s important to encourage those around us. We all struggle – some more than others. Natala, thank you for writing this.

  52. VeganMartha says:

    Natala is going to win a Pulitzer one day – and have her own show, I’m calling it. I got to speak in Phoenix, and while I love all the other speakers, she was my favorite by a mile. She is honest, real, and doesn’t have any arrogance (well except she’s clearly the hottest person on the team, lol) :) :)

  53. amym says:

    You are awesome and I love what you’re talking about here!!! I’ll be looking for more of your articles! Keep it up!!

  54. Denise says:

    I’d also love to see you on the McDougall weekend line-ups. He’s pretty known for his fat shaming, and you present the message in such a clear, non judgmental way. He’d be smart to hire you.

  55. Patricia N. says:

    You are the perfect balance to Engine 2 – I don’t know if I would be interested in E2 if it weren’t for you, no offense to the rest of the people there. The Whole Foods connection, Rip being a “perfect” looking athlete, I just don’t relate at all. But then you write, and I relate completely. You are real, and know what it’s like to have struggled. Thank youforbeing open and vunerable.

  56. kathy says:

    I have wanted to make a change from junk food and processed food for awhile. But it’s SO intimidating to go in to Whole Foods, and not know what to buy (or be able to afford it for longer than a week). Thank you so much for writing this article. Maybe the people who are already healthy will try to help the rest of us instead of making fun and judging!

  57. Tessa says:

    Love, love love! Thank you! KIND-STRONG! Everyone has a story, don’t judge.

  58. Arun Mukherjee says:

    What an inspirational story. I totally identified with it as some one who has turned her and her family’s life around with plant strong diet. Reading about Nancy gives me the courage to approach a relative of mine who is in the same boat and try to see if I can persuade him to change. I do have a question. I was told by the hospital dietician that potatoes should be banished from my diet and I have religiously followed her advice. Now that my numbers are in the normal range, would it be ok to bring them back in? Thanks.

  59. Susan Sasek says:

    This is so brilliant! Well done

  60. Chef Aj says:

    I volunteer at a women’s shelter and we buy lots of the plant food at the 99 cents store, and much of it IS organic. A 5 pound bag of Russets is only 99 cents!

  61. Carol B says:

    Thanks for this article. It was awesome. I think I might be more of a foodie-snob than I realized. I think I might have needed this. :-)

  62. PlantChef says:

    This is what I teach in my plant-based cooking classes, sometimes to the rebuff of a student or two, but mostly to the great relief of students who are struggling with the transition. Of course, I talk about non-GMO, organic and local (local farmers’ markets can save you lots of $), but I also emphasize the FAR greater importance increasing one’s intake of any whole foods, whether they are conventional, frozen, canned, prepped, microwaved or all five. I can definitely relate to being on a very tight budget and also having the desire to improve my and my husband’s chronic health issues, both of which I’ve been able to do eating whole plant-based foods, regardless of the source and heating method, and now I have the honor of teaching others how to do it for themselves, Thanks for sharing this important message of creating compassion and community instead on divisiveness and judgement.

  63. Lucy Hope says:

    I was fortunate enough to participate in Dr. McDougall’s Diet Study for M.S. patients. In 2008, at age 51 I was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after 40 years of being misdiagnosed. The first three neurologists pushed me to start taking disease-modifying medications and I refused. I applied and was accepted to the study and went to Dr. McDougall’s clinic for 10 days and had to eat a plant-based diet for a year. Four years later, I am still eating a plant-based diet and still not taking any disease-modifying medications. My M.S. symptoms now are more annoying than debilitating.

    Eating a plant-based saved my life and I credit Dr. McDougall and Mary McDougall Jeff Novik, and the rest of the team at Dr. McDougall’s clinic in Santa Rosa, California for helping me understand how our bodies respond to nutritious whole foods. I grew up eating bologna sandwiches and Twinkies. Now I’d gag if I tried to eat something like that.
    I have a friend who eats vegan when she is with me but not at home, another friend who is a vegetarian and gave up meat, but not cheese and eggs, and a husband who would best be described as a carnivore. We are all on our own individual journeys, and as my mother always said, “Actions speak louder than words.” People do not know I have multiple sclerosis until I tell them I have that disease. When they ask what disease-modifying medication I am on, I tell them I am not taking anything, and then explain my journey through the diet study and my continuing to consume a plant-based diet.

    If you start eating Plant Strong, it will show. Believe me, I know.

  64. Penny Nickels Harrison says:

    Great article… I love the fact that using what you can -is making a step in the right direction. It is important to transitioning into a much healthier lifestyle. I have been working on eating better for over 2 years now and it comes in steps… In my rural area I am not able to choose organic or GMO-free most of the time, but I am still making an effort to change my poor eating habits. I also work at Walmart and see how most people shopping there eat the Standard American Diet without even knowing it. They haven’t a clue that they are killing themselves. I try to share a little piece of knowledge with each one of them and most of it is well received…. some of it is not. I have even done some juicing demos with friends at church or in private settings for the opportunity to share my knowledge, books and DVDs. Everyone seems to have a great time too. I still have a ways to go but I lowered my bp without going on meds, which was a direct goal. Thanks for your blog.

  65. macbev says:

    Wow. I’m sorry to hear that so many people are so quick to judge…not only because it’s painful to the ones being judged, but it indicates tremendous insecurity on the part of the judgers. Some people are terrified of diversity. If you don’t believe exactly the same things that they believe it makes them fearful.

  66. hardaway says:

    Thank you Natala. You are so right. Although I go to Farmer’s market and belong to a CVA, I still don’t always eat organic, non GMO, bla bla bla.

    I live alone, and in Phoenix it is over 100 degrees for about six months of the year. If I didn’t microwave potatoes and veggies and use canned beans to make hummus, I would never be able to be plant strong. You can’t cook in that weather. You don’t want to. In the winter, I make oatmeal. In the summer I want to eat Rip’s big bowl and fruit. I also eat a lot of meals in Whole Foods, from the HSH choices. And I eat in restaurants. But I’ve been plant strong for 3 years now and I feel great. I’m 73 and I don’t have diabetes or heart disease..

  67. Gretchen says:

    Well said, Natalia. People need to stop judging others. We need to be kind, always. You never know what the other person is going through.

  68. […] Here is an article I’d like to share with you, about judgement in the vegan and plant-based community.  I am guilty of these sins myself at times. […]

  69. Trisha Mandes says:

    I love this I love this I love this!

  70. Jessica says:

    I got a bunch of nasty comments on Facebook because I said I loved shopping at Costco because organic is more affordable there. Why the nasty comments? Because Costco doesn’t carry “real” organics. For one, what does it matter? Two, why call me names because of it? I’m an idiot, a sheep, and brainwashed because I take “certified organic” to mean “certified organic”??? Sheeesh!!!

    I think non-organic vegetables and grains are better for you than the best organic, pastured beef and raw milk, anyway…

  71. Linda Patrick Myler says:

    Beautifully said! Each journey begins with one step & compassion & love make the world a much better place. You show both in your post! Thank you!

  72. Christie Arnold says:

    I love this!!!! Thank you. :)

  73. careychi says:

    This post is wonderful. I rarely read comments on blogs or Facebook because of this. It is hard to want to engage in thoughtful discussion when people just want to put down others. I really loved what Rich and Julie said on one of their podcasts (The RichRoll Podcast), (to summarize) everyone is at a different place on the journey to plant based living. We need to support each other on this journey, whereever we are–not tear each other down.

  74. Kathy G says:

    Well said, Natala. As always. ;-)

  75. Bobbi Tazbin says:

    What a wonderful post!!!!

  76. chloe says:

    Wonderful article. I’d love to know where to get the steamer potatoes in the bag.

  77. Paul A Johnson says:

    An outstanding piece of writing Natala, it comes to the realisation I have about my own health since following plant based nutrition, is that no matter what I do like using the microwave or using canned beans myself, I just get healthier and healthier!

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