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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

Plant-Strong Learning

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When I started on my plant-strong journey, all I wanted was to absorb as much information as possible. I think most of us have been there. We feel as though a huge door has been opened, and an entire new world is staring back at us, ready to learn.

Today I wanted to go through a few ways I personally educate myself when it comes to being plant-strong.

1. I read studies. I don’t just read the headline, I read the entire study, I see how it was done, who conducted it. I find out how many people were in the study. I remember one study that made headlines that stated that coffee was shown to reduce T2 diabetes. I read through the study to find out that it had been conducted on 16 people, over a short time, and one of the sponsors was a major coffee manufacturer. The fine print is always telling.

I find this to be very helpful when I hear something very specific in regards to a single nutrient or food. When someone says something like “X is found to reduce rates of heart disease” or “People who eat X don’t get breast cancer” I am automatically wary. As most of us have found out from the book “Whole” by T. Collin Campbell, we need to look at the overall diet, rather than just single parts of it. Our diets should be looked at in the whole context, rather than very small parts.

2. I read books. Not just books that you’d find in a book store. I like reading books on biochemistry, science, physiology, clinical psychology and other books that explain how the body and brain work. I find this very helpful. Basic biochemistry has not changed in a very long time. What our bodies need hasn’t changed much. In fact, if you look at very old nutrition books, you will find that most recommend the same things we recommend today. Learning exactly how the body and brain works has been tremendously helpful in understanding how nutrition works.

3. I’m willing to be wrong. I’m very lucky to have someone I consider a mentor. Jeff Novick, MS, RD is perhaps one of the most straight forward people I’ve ever met. he analyzes everything that he reads, and stays 100% consistent. I trust Jeff to tell me if I’m off on something, because he takes the time to go through exactly why he has reached a conclusion. He just doesn’t say “you are wrong” or “I disagree”. He goes through the science, in detail and explains (without putting me down) where I may have missed something. I love being wrong. It means I’m learning. If I was right about everything, what good would that do? We learn by making mistakes, and by learning from those mistakes. My personal opinion is that we should never stop learning.

4. I look to people who have been doing this for at least 2 decades and have clinical experience. That’s my minimum. I figure after 2 decades that person has seen multiple case studies, has worked with all kinds of patients, and has been answering questions and researching answers for a very long time. I ask to see their resume, and if they do not send one or if they do not have one, I am very careful. I also look at where they obtained their degree/education. Was it an accredited institution or was it a mail order degree? When did they graduate? How long have they been in the field?  I look into doctors and experts just like I look into doctors I’d see for my personal medical care. I want to know who I’m getting advice from. I want to know if they have any conflict of interest. Is their only motivation health? Does anything get in the way of facts and science? What are their motivations? Why are they doing this? What do they have to gain or lose?

*this is not to say I don’t listen/read/learn from people with less than 2 decades of clinical experience, just that I seek out people with the most experience first.

5. I take classes. Currently I am pursuing a degree in nutrition science. Short of that pursuing a degree there are a lot of classes you can take online to further your knowledge in regards to health. These are not for purposes to get a job, or to become an expert, they should be looked at self-education. For me, one of the online classes I loved was the certificate in plant-based nutrition, offered through E-Cornell. This is a great course for anyone who just wants to learn more for themselves. It’s not a class to take in order to become a health professional, or get a job in the field. However, I think that it is GREAT for self-learning so that you have a strong knowledge base for yourself. The more we know, the easier it is to stick to being plant-strong.

6. I am involved with a community that challenges me and supports me. For me, that is our community, Engine 2 Extra. However there are a lot of great communities out there, like Dr. McDougall’s forums. Find a community that is positive and that has connections to experts in the field.

7. I ask questions, A LOT of questions. Because I’m not afraid to be wrong, I am also not afraid to ask questions. I ask all kinds of questions, to all kinds of people. There is nothing wrong with asking a question, or for not knowing an answer. After all, the experts became experts because they once asked a lot of questions.

8. I talk to people I trust. When it comes to health, we should trust the people who are giving advice. Trust is something that takes time. I like to really dive into everything that someone has written, or has spoken about. Jeff Novick is a good example of someone who has put out 100′s of articles, it is very easy to look up and read everything Jeff has written. Because of this, it is easy to see that for the past few decades Jeff has been 100% consistent. The same can be said for people like Dr. McDougall, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell. They all have given many reasons to trust them, over many years.

9. I talk to people with different opinions than my own. This can be one of the more challenging parts of learning for me. There are people who are just as passionate about what they believe in regards to health, as I am about what I believe. I think it is important to listen (and be respectful) of their opinions. I find it fascinating how people reach a conclusion, and often find that even if I don’t agree that I still learning something.

10. I have fun. This might be the most important part. This is why I LOVE retreats weekends, immersions and conferences. While a lot of learning goes on, a lot of fun happens as well. This past weekend at our 2 day event on the Esselstyn farm there were lots of laughs, dancing in between breaks, time with new friends, and even a dance party with all of the volunteers and speakers one night after everyone left. We have a lot of fun on the E2 team. We joke around and we laugh a lot. Sure, we have serious jobs, but we balance that out with a good amount of fun.

Keep learning! I believe it is the most powerful tool we have.

About the author

NatalaE2
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.

8 Responses to “Plant-Strong Learning”

  1. Beth says:

    I like the part of seeing how the person makes money. Recently I found out one of the people I look to for information is involved selling supplements, basically it’s an MLM. I was very upset and disappointed and it made me question everything they say.

    • Kara says:

      I think I know who you are talking about, and I was also disappointed. I bought a book by someone only to find out they really do push supplements, even though they say they don’t.

    • Brenda Rowe says:

      Beth I do that too. If they are profiting from what they tell you why should you believe them. I also like to check out clinical trials pier reviewed clinical trials. I listen to my heart and what sense it makes to me. Sometimes you just get this nagging feeling that it can’t work. This is when I check it out very closely. I used to think I my Dr. said it then it must be true. I learned when not only my Dr. but the Dietician he sent me to could not help me.

  2. Gene says:

    I find it very disturbing when plant-based experts fall into the trap of singling out a certain nutrient/food. They miss the whole point. I have also found that there are a lot of vegans, who I think are well meaning, but they let their emotional side dictate their opinion. I have seen vegan RD’s who will advocate things like oil or vegan junk food because it is better than eating something non-vegan. While we all slip up, no one should be encouraging people to eat unhealthy food.

    • ameliaBedelia76 says:

      How is this even relevant to the post?

      • Gene says:

        In the post she talks about learning from people who have clear motives and who do not focus on silly studies. What Engine 2 and others in the field do is about science and health, if people stray from that I think we should be wary. The goal should people becoming healthy.

    • Rick says:

      I think you’ll find that Natala, like myself, is promoting a whole foods plant based diet as opposed to a vegan diet. A whole foods plant based diet is more concerned with human health and a vegan diet is more concerned with animal rights. Related, yes, but not exactly the same. You might want to read Colin Campbell’s book “Whole” as Natala mentions above. It is a groundbreaking look into the science of nutrition that addresses the concerns that you mention in your post.

  3. Robyn Groth says:

    Great post, and I especially appreciate point number nine. A related point is that learning can be pretty easy when you’re new to a subject. You can pick up just about any book and get a wealth of new-to-you basic information. Once you’ve become more knowledgeable about a subject, finding new information can be more time consuming and tedious. You might have to read a whole book, listen to a whole lecture, etc. that relates mostly information you already know and/or don’t agree with just to pick up a small nugget of new and interesting info that you find helpful.

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