The Daily Beet

29 Jun Family Friday: Karlin & Izze’s Story

Today, we have an amazing young lady to introduce you to. Karlin and Izze have had some struggles in life, but that didn’t stop them from becoming plant-strong and getting healthy together. We hope that their story inspires you. We also want to do something really special for Izze. Izze was born with something called “congenital amputation”, she was born without an arm beyond her elbow. Izze’s dream is to go to amputee camp, so that she can meet kids just like her. We want to help make that dream come true. We are asking all of you, our big plant-strong family to pitch in (if you can) to help get Izze to amputee camp.

If you can pitch in, or if you just want to see Izze and listen to her wonderful song check out her donation page.

We have also decided that if we can all help Izze to get past her fundraising goal, we will do a big giveaway on the blog (you don’t have to donate in order to enter). If we can get Izze past her goal by the end of next week we will do our biggest giveaway yet!

A signed copy of Engine 2
A copy of Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue
An Engine 2 T Shirt
A call from RIP!

We just have to help her get her to camp, and then we’ll do the big giveaway next week.

Now, let’s learn all about Karlin and Izze.

E2: Tell us about your family:

Karlin: We have a small family, its just Isabelle (9) and I. Although having only one kid around does make it easier to prepare meals, I still have shared custody with her father and that brings along a whole new set of challenges. Her dad isn’t exactly supportive but there are a lot of things you can do to make plant-strong parenting possible across two households.

E2: When did you make the decision that a plant-strong diet was right for Izze?

Karlin: In 2006 I began to unexpectedly gain weight and my hair started falling out. I had a whole other host of embarrassing symptoms. An ultrasound showed that my adrenal glands were three times their normal size. I was sent to several different doctors, none of whom agreed on any sort of diagnosis. I continued to gain weight and I struggled for two years after that to get my weight under control. By 2008 I was told I was pre-diabetic and was taking a handful of pills ever day including two to control my blood sugar. My blood pressure was also dangerously high and I was no longer able to fit in regular clothing. My sister was vegan and kept telling me that I should try it but I was still skeptical. I resisted her for a few years until a friend gave me a copy of E2 for my birthday last July. As I began to lose weight and get healthier, I noticed that my kid was eating more fruits and veggies along with me, and that that her GERD symptoms began to improve significantly. By October I was convinced it was the best thing to do for my family and committed myself to teaching Isabelle about being plant strong.

E2: Did you have any fears about changing her diet?

Karlin: I did! But I found that the more you put healthy food in front of your kids, the more they are willing to try it. Its as simple as that. Sure, they give you a little resistance at first but after a while my daughter became as enthusiastic as I was. At the grocery store she actually begs for artichokes!

E2: Did you face any criticism from family or friends?

Karlin: I didn’t get much from my family since I have a sister who has been Vegan for longer than I can remember and her kid is incredibly healthy. Isabelle’s father and his family were not thrilled though. They still don’t support it but I have managed to negotiate a handful of terms when she is staying at his house. If you have concerns about making the switch because you have an unsupportive ex, remember that half healthy food is still better than the standard American diet trust me! I have negotiated with her dad and have gotten him to switch to whole grain bread, and to offer her at a minimum two veggies at every meal (at least one fresh). This was an incredibly easy thing to achieve. When you ask a busy single parent to switch out one prepared side dish with one that simply requires washing and placing on the plate, they hardly argue at all. When you explain to someone how oatmeal is ten cents a bowl and breakfast cereal is 75 cents a bowl, they are happy to make the change. Its all in how you frame it to your opponents. Most people wouldn’t dare criticize you for having a kid who eats more veggies and fruits, most people just stare in awe when my kid is wolfing down cabbage or spinach.

E2: What was the first thing you changed in her diet?

Karlin: I stopped letting her eat out period! This is really where kids learn some of the worst dietary habits, somehow industrially produced food has convinced us we need to eat three servings of refined carbs in every meal! I never told her that it was because I was changing the diet, I just said it would save us money and it would allow me to teach her how to cook. She was excited at the opportunity to learn some cooking skills. In fact she has started making her own cooking show and hopes to have it up on YouTube very soon.

E2: How did your Izze react to these changes?

Karlin: At first she was a little bit unhappy, but it only took about a week for her to start eating what I was preparing. I found that if I didn’t label food as “healthy” and I just said “try this its so good” that she would try it without hesitation. I also learned that kids watch your reactions closely. So even if you are struggling with enjoying some fruits and veggies that you have never tried before… Don’t show it! There are a few veggies that I still cannot bring myself to enjoy no matter how hard I try, but my kid LOVES them! If I would have made an “ewww” face after eating green peppers, they would not be her favorite food. The peppers have since replaced chips for dipping and I couldn’t be happier.

E2: What was the biggest challenge you faced making the change to a plant-strong diet for Izze?

Karlin: The biggest challenge was the criticism from her step mother and father. Luckily Isabelle had seen me lose almost 70 lbs with plant strong eating and so she was already on my side. The health improvements I experienced literally gave me my life back. I went from sleeping almost 16 hours a day to having more energy than I needed. She was convinced that it was the food that healed me from the horrible fatigue and she wanted me to stay healthy. I did discuss compassion and ethics with her a little as well and she made it clear to her father that she was going to do this as much as she could when she was at his house. I have shown her how to identify the vegan symbol and have taught her how to shop and prepare basic meals. It has improved her relationship with her step mother because they do something together and she gets to feel like she has choices. I do have to send stuff from time to time like nutritional yeast or salt free seasoning but they don’t complain about it any more. Her dad says that when they don’t cook something she can eat she simply eats the whole bowl of salad on the table, or she digs veggies out of the crisper. Her step mom is still confused by the “protein” and “calcium” myth but I really believe in making small steps towards progress. You cannot force the change on anyone who isn’t ready. I must admit though, losing almost one third your body weight really makes the skeptics take notice and listen to what you have to say!

E2: Does Izze have any favorite meals? Recipes?

Karlin: We have some easy meals that she loves. Cabbage wraps with peanut sauce, scrambled tofu in a tortilla with salsa, veggie burgers or dogs with baked beans and a salad, grilled open face mushroom sandwiches with sweet potato fries, mushroom fajitas, pasta with fresh sauce, spaghetti squash … I could go on forever.

E2: How do you overcome the obstacle of lunches, hanging out with friends and other events?

E2: Lunches were actually one of the easiest changes to implement. There are several vegan lunchbox cookbooks as well as bento box blogs that are incredible. I bought a few bento boxes and found that spending a few extra minutes to cut the food into silly shapes or to put a decorative toothpick in it was all I needed. When you make food exciting kids are more willing to eat it. Her lunches are the most exciting part of her day, all the kids cant wait to see what she has in her box and I hear from her friends all the time how jealous they are of her “gourmet” lunches. Liberate yourself from the mentality of juice boxes and fruit snacks and you will see that hummus and veggies, celery and peanut butter, or veggie sushi rolls are fantastic alternatives that kids love. When you open up a bento box full of vibrant colors and sit it next to a smooshed sandwich, chips and a juice box, almost any kid would choose the bento box.

E2: Have you seen any health changes?

Karlin: She has gone from taking two different medicines for reflux twice a day to just one taken before bed. If she didn’t have a specific birth defect she probably wouldn’t be on any at all. A lot of GERD medicines can have scary side effects that people do not even consider before they give them to their children. Dietary changes are far easier and less traumatic than lifetime health problems that might stem from taking a medicine that might not even be necessary with dietary changes. Isabelle’s pediatric gastroenterologist was very supportive of the dietary changes and said that he had other parents try it with success as well. Another positive change was the complete elimination of horrible stomach aches that would keep her up for hours at night. She used to have them at least once a week, she would hurt so bad that I even took her to the ER a few times. It was heart wrenching. Since we switched she has not had one painful night.

E2: What advice would you give to parents who would like to see their children become plant-strong?

Karlin: Don’t convince yourself its too much work or too complicated or difficult before you try it. Its actually easier than you realize. On Sundays I prep fruits and veggies for the week and make sure they are where little hands can reach them in the fridge, that also makes them available when I am preparing meals and I can easily put them on the plate with no extra work needed. Every meal I put two green things on the plate and make sure one of them is always raw! I cannot prevent Isabelle from wanting to eat pasta all the time but I can make sure she fills up on the good stuff first. Sometimes we have the two course dinner. Instead of serving a salad first we have a big plate filled with salad, veggies, and a fruit. After that I serve an entree on the salad plate. She still gets what she wants but eats all the nutrient rich foods first. I honestly feel that this is easier than the standard diet lifestyle. Cooking times are shorter, food prep is safer and its cheap! There are some amazing resources for plant strong parenting on the internet, its worth the five minute google search.

We want to thank Karlin and Izze for inspiring all of us today! Izze wanted to share a picture of a dinner she made all on her own:

(that looks like a pretty great meal!)

And don’t forget, we would really love to see Izze’s dream come true of going to amputee camp this summer! Please consider pitching in a few dollars if you can and sharing with your friends/family. – Rip and the Engine 2 Team

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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • Karlin

    Thank you to everyone in the Engine 2 community, not only for the support to make my health goals attainable but for supporting Izze! You have changed our lives for the better!

  • Laura

    What an amazing family! I’m crying over here, I love this plant-strong community that Engine 2 has created!

  • DAWN CASSIDAY-TURNER

    So proud of this brave and spunky young girl and her inspirational Mom!! Glad to help in our small way, hope Izze has a wonderful time at camp!!

  • Dana

    What an amazing young lady!

  • Kelly

    I have to say, Rip, you are one classy guy. I am involved with a lot of the other plant-based communities, and none compare to this one. You guys just seem like the best group of people, and really caring. That stands out so much to me, you offer so much of your time, you answer every question, have tons of resources, it never ends, you guys are the hardest working in the whole industry, but you care the most, and it shows. Thanks for sharing this story!

  • Tina

    I just started the E2 and I kept making excuses for cheating, like it “it was too hard” or “too complicated ” to do with kids. I have a particularly fussy toddler who is horrible with eating. I read this story and realized I was the problem, I was making too many excuses and I have healthy children and I should do what’s right for my kids before illness becomes a possible motivation for going 100% . Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Karlin

      Tina, even I make little mistakes now and then! There is a lot of temptation, and it is really easy to do. I just have to remind myself that the little ones are looking to me for an example. You are just as much of an inspiration to me for sharing.

  • Jen

    I am full of excuses, I need to stop with all of my excuses, it’s boring, it’s hard, it is expensive and start realizing that I am the only thing standing in my way, thanks I needed this.

    • Karlin

      Jen,
      You can do it really, the hardest thing to overcome in this fight is the space between the ears, at least it was for me. If cost is an issue have you looked into any produce co-op’s in your area? I do bountifulbaskets.org (they are in half of the states) and you can buy cheap organic produce.

  • Melanie Blake

    Amazing family and will certainly help and share her story. Thank you Engine2 Team. You are the most amazing group of caring individuals who are changing the world a bite at a time.

  • Marcia

    I just can’t believe how amazing the Engine 2 Team is, Rip you are truly changing the world. There is just no other place online that you get this kind of love, support, kindness. It has made me a believer for sure! Sharing this story and Engine 2 with everyone I know!

  • Martha

    Thanks so much for this opportunity to help out! It’s another example of your family’s dedication to helping others – it shines through all your work! Luv ya back!!

  • http://www.veggieteach.wordpress.com jude

    That’s determination! I gave. How do we enter the contest?

    • Engine 2

      If we meet our goals, we will do the contest next Friday – give people plenty of time to contribute :) Thanks Jude!

  • Jennifer Edwards

    :)

  • Debra

    Your story gives me even more motivation to ensure I’m making the best choices for my family’s nutrition. I’ve been plant strong for about a month now. While reading your story, it dawned on me that my gerd has virtually disappeared as well. Now I’m wondering what other wonderful things are happening to me that I’ve missed!

  • http://katesgreatkitchen.blogspot.com Kate

    I love the bento idea and plan to get some bento trays. My son loves to order bento any time we go to Japanese. I bet he would love it at home. What do you put in your bento besides vegan nori wraps?

    • Karlin

      Kate, I draw a lof of inspiration from the vegan lunch box cookbooks. There is also a blog here http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com/2006/10/vegan-bento.html

      but typically I end up using a leftover for one box and fill the rest with fruits, veggies and sometimes a cocnut figs or another sweet treat!

  • April

    Wonderful story/interview and wonderful family. I donated to Izze’s camp fund. I hope she gets to go to her camp. My story is a lot like Karlin’s, and my daughter Chloe jumped right on board the plant strong train with me. Together we have lost 45 pounds in six months, and we have improved our health and vitality immeasurably. My 12-year-old daughter took right to a plant based diet (we are vegans), which rather surprised me – I expected a lot of resistance. But Karlin is right — put healthy food in front of kids and they EAT it. Duh! :)

    • Karlin

      Congratulations on your success April! Kids really do look to us as the example! You are an awesome mom for keeping them plant strong!

      • Karlin

        And thank you for helping with a donation!!

  • Robin

    Karlin- my son is Type 1 Diabetic and is at a 6 week long diabetes camp north of Dallas. I dropped him of last Sunday for the summer (sob, sob). Camp has changed his life. It is, by far, the best part of his year and I can’t image how special it will be for Izze to go. My son told me that he is finally with people who really understand and he returns uplifted and hopeful. During the year, when things get hard, these kids all lean on each other (thanks to email and Facebook) and support each other when the going gets rough. Izze must go to camp – and we’ll all make sure that happens. Thanks for sharing your story – please let us know how camp goes!

    • Karlin

      Robin, Thank you for your kind thoughts. Sometimes I do forget how it feels to be different! I am glad that he was able to make it and we are excited to go. I am amazed and humbled at the kindness from all of you and we can now make this happen! I hope your son has an amazing time at camp!

  • http://www.theveganmenu.com Bethany

    What an awesome mom! I know she’ll make it to camp! :)

  • Patti

    This story made me realize that my son and I can do this as well. As a single mom, I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking my son already has had so much hardship with the divorce, moves, a terrible father. So I rationalize the bad food because he deserves a treat. Maybe the treat is him growing up healthy and well, and having a healthy mom.
    Thank you Karlin. You changed the way I think about my life today.

    And thank you E2, Rip, you are an incredible person, while everyone is trying to get rich, you are actually helping people.

    • Karlin

      Patti,
      I too used food from time to time as a way to “treat” her, I fell into the trap where I was using food to show her I loved her. The bad part was I did it with unhealthy food. To win her over to E2 I really made it about spending time together, learning to cook, eating meals together stuff like that and she now loves my dinners more than at her dads house because they are a guaranteed one hour period each day where we are hanging out and my attention is focused solely on her and that is better than any treat. You can do this!

  • http://lotsayum.com Cynthia

    this is such a great story!

  • Michelle Cruz

    Can someone give me some alternatives?? My husband and I have switched to a Plant Based Diet and he still wants to use Whey Protein Shakes! Big no no. Any suggestions? I think he still thinks that’s the best way to get his protein after a morning work out. Thanks

  • Kim

    I love this story, but I think I love equally that Rip is doing stuff for our community. All of these giveaways, all of the help online, every question is answered, so much free resources, it is endless. I’ve e-mailed the E2 team probably 2 dozen times and I get answers within minutes sometimes. I love that Rip is helping Izze go to camp, it shows where his heart is, and he’s not just another money making sell out like some of the others in the field, won’t mention names. It is refreshing, and I’m glad to be doing Engine 2 if only for that reason!

    Proud of Izze! Way to go girl!

  • Kris

    Way to go, Izze and Karlin! You story is so inspiring. Hope you have a super time at camp, Izze.

  • Andrew

    Yay Izze and Karlin, have a great time!

  • Susannah

    Your story is very inspirational! Izze have a great time at camp!

  • Chris Gentile

    You are an amazing person, Izze–and a true inspiration!

  • Lisa Clarke

    Great job Izze! I hope you have a blast at camp!

    Lisa and her 4 boys :)

  • Cathy

    Izze I am so glad you get to go to camp. You will be an inspiration there for the other campers. Have a wonderful time and soak in every moment and experience there.

  • Heather

    Wishing so many more beautiful moments for you very special ladies. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Terry Bailey

    Izze: Stay strong and listen to your Mother.

  • Nancy

    Izze, you Go Girl!!!! Have a blast at camp and stay plant strong!

  • Justin

    Izze- I hope you have a wonderful time at camp. You are a true inspiration!

  • ASH

    The dinner you made looks delicious! Have fun at camp!!
    xx

  • Antionette

    Hi Izze! I am glad that you’re going to camp. It’s always nice to meet new friends. The beauty of it all is after camp, you can stay in touch with them.
    Stay plant strong and have a wonderful time.