The Daily Beet

31 Mar Creating Plant-Strong Community: Guest Blogger, Jean

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This week we have a guest blogger: Meet Jean!  Jean has been doing great following Engine 2, but was a little hesitant to reach out to local folks who may also enjoy Engine 2.  One day, she decided to give it a shot.  Read on to find out what happened!

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Challenge yourself to challenge others!

Are you all alone in your plant strong journey? Do you yearn for a companion or a group of friends with whom you can share delicious, healthy food and talk about your passion for your plant based lifestyle? I am very fortunate that my husband and daughter have joined me in my journey, but we still wanted to meet others in our area who shared our way of eating and our excitement for the wonderful changes in our health and relationships since we started down this path at the end of 2012. My first attempt at getting a group together to sample plant based fare was in March 2013. I hosted a party at my home and used Facebook to invite friends to “Jean’s Veggie Table.”  We had a great time, lots of food, and an all around good time, but it was just a onetime event and didn’t lead to any regular kind of support or gatherings.

We spent the next 10 months immersing ourselves in the plant strong lifestyle, getting healthy, getting off of medications, and enjoying fabulous food! I joined www.engine2extra.com for support in January 2013 and it is a great source of information and support and it made my family happy that I had somewhere else to talk about my new obsession.  At the end of December 2013, I found out about a group of people only 25 minutes north of us that met on a monthly basis for plant based pot lucks. I saw a Facebook post on the page of a man I had only met once 10 months earlier at an event with a mutual friend.  We chatted through much of the dinner about our new found lifestyle as my husband rolled his eyes and Paul’s wife patiently put up with our chatter. We attended our first pot luck dinner with P-BEG (Plant based eating group) in January 2014. The group was started a year ago by Virginia Fennelly, a chiropractor who encourages her clients to eat for optimal health and has been eating a plant based diet for about two years.   We enjoy attending once a month and have shared our story with the group about how plant based eating has improved our physical and mental health and strengthened our marriage.

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Shortly after we went to our first P-BEG gathering, Engine 2 announced a Nationwide 28 day challenge. Even though I had been a member of Engine2extra for over a year, I had never participated in a 28 day challenge. I figured I had this plan pretty well figured out and didn’t need to do a challenge; I just needed to keep on eating good food. One night while chatting on the web site, two of the Engine 2 coaches, Ami and Natala nudged me to not only do the challenge but to host a 28 day challenge meet up group and invite others to join me in the challenge! I decided, why not?! I would find a way to fit this into my schedule and invite friends to my home for the meet up. I went to the meet up page for the Engine 2 challenge and created an event and used Facebook to invite people.

I still wasn’t convinced anyone would come but was pleasantly surprised to have 11 at my home on February 2nd!  People helped by bringing dishes to share and the friends we had met a year earlier over dinner, Paul and Barb K., came and Paul prepped toppings for tortilla pizzas and helped everyone make their own personal pizzas on his pizza stone! We chatted after dinner about what the Engine 2 diet is and watched two videos of Rip Esselstyn explaining how to prepare for the challenge and what to eat week one. Virginia, the leader of the P-BEG group brought three friends and all of them left our home ready to start the challenge the very next day! Michele F. turned to Virginia on the way home and said “Let’s get healthy!,” and Marlene and Eric Z. decided to go all in, too! Not only were people willing to join me in the challenge, but they were excited to meet once a week throughout the 28 days to check in, share tips, and enjoy great food! After everyone left, I felt like it had been a dream.  Could it be possible that people had shared my excitement about eating the way I had been eating for the past year AND wanted to try it for 28 days?!

We created a Facebook page for our Engine 2 diet 28 day challenge group of Northeast PA where we could check in between meet ups with one another and share pictures of our food (https://www.facebook.com/groups/544847468955656/) and planned our next meet up for the following week. We met a total of 4 times and had excellent food, great conversation, and learned so much from one another about healthy eating and living. Even though my house is small, no one seemed to mind being cozy and everyone pitched in to make dishes to share and participated in the discussions. We talked about label reading, how to stock a plant strong pantry, had a demonstration about how to grow sprouts and even watched Forks over Knives together at our last gathering at Marlene and Eric’s home. We welcomed those who weren’t sure they wanted to eat this way for life but wanted to learn more and I not only made new friends, but having their support and friendship helped me through a tough Northeast PA winter! Each week through our dreary February I had something to look forward to and plans to make. I had to hold back tears as I thanked everyone for their willingness to listen and be open to new ideas and try something that so many people think is just too hard.

At our last meeting, Virginia asked people what made them want to try this when some of them had heard about plant based eating before and even tried plant based dishes. Not only did people want to try this on after our first meeting, but came back at our second meeting saying they felt so great already that they had decided to do this for life! Three themes emerged. The first response was that it was the delicious food we all made the first week. The second was that the nature of the challenge was intriguing and manageable. One of the members said she could do anything for 28 days. The third catalyst was the inspiration from others who had done so well on this plan and the wish to prevent further health problems. We also all decided it was just so much fun to get together and eat good food that we want to keep meeting on some kind of regular basis! AND, they came to an event at my church after the end of the challenge, “Eating your way to a healthier you” to talk to the folks there about how plant based eating has changed their lives! I am so thrilled and proud to have met this group of people who cared enough about their health to do what many call drastic or extreme! Here’s to supporting one another in this wonderful journey!

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I would like to thank all of the plant strong rock stars who have challenged me to learn, grow, and reach out through the Engine 2 Nationwide 28 day challenge—my husband, Scott, my sister, Bonnie Y., my daughter, Annabelle, Virginia F., Michele F., Marlene M-Z, Eric Z., Barb and Paul K., Gail T., and Cathy C..

—- Way to go Jean!!


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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • Lynnette
    Posted at 06:11h, 01 April

    Jean, I am SO proud of you and so pleased that this went so well. It was exciting watching it unfold and wonderful to have such a great wrap up to share. You were brave to give it a go. I am so pleased and happy for you. Thanks for making a difference for so many people.

    • Jean Hayes
      Posted at 06:25h, 01 April

      Thanks Lynnette, it has been a blast! I can’t wait to hear how your group goes!

  • Kirsten
    Posted at 07:43h, 01 April

    So very happy for you and your husband and the success you have both had! Can’t wait to read more about your continued success 🙂

  • laurie
    Posted at 10:16h, 01 April

    Wow! This is so inspiring! You not only THOUGHT about stepping out of your comfort zone to make this happen, you actually DID it! I need to take my passion for this way of eating and share it with more people. Thanks for the inspiration!

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