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