We are back from Camp Plant-Stock! During the next few weeks, will be sharing guest blogs from members of our community that attended the event in Black Mountain, NC.  It was a whirlwind weekend, with so much to talk about. We hope you enjoy hearing from folks who were there last weekend.

The odds were not good. I didn’t know anyone there. I am overweight and self conscious about it in a crowd like I imagined this would be. I’m an introvert. The walk uphill to dorms and meeting rooms knocked the breath right out of me. There were 700 people there…and I don’t like crowds.

The first day, I wrote on Facebook that I had evidently joined some kind of cult. As I struggled to make it up the hill to the main meeting room, Ann Esselstyn breezed right past me, decades older, but younger at the same time.

The second day, I settled into my introversion and my aversion to crowds, and found a way to navigate, making sure to take care of myself by getting some downtime and enjoying the silences without feeling lonely.

The third day, after days of compelling talks by leaders in their fields, hearing transformational stories of people like myself, seeing the energy of the Esselstyns, watching Puddles Pity Party and understanding the complexity and beauty of that, and eating anything I wanted on the Plant-Strong buffet, I was a convert and want to go back next year. Will I ever be a rah-rah “Kale Yeah” kind of Camper? Probably not. Will I ever love big crowds? No. But I can sit in the back and take in all the juicy information, eat well for three days, and leave inspired, motivated, and ready to be completely Plant Strong for the long haul.

My dad died at 53 from a series of heart attacks. My brother had five bypasses at age 55. After my heart attack in 2016 at 56, I found a doctor who is pro-Esselstyn and insisted on my following Dr. Esselstyn’s plant-perfect diet, which I did for 10 months. I lost 50 pounds, my cholesterol, blood pressure, and all other important numbers were excellent, I felt great, was clear-headed for the first time in a long time. And then, I fell off the wagon, regained the 50 pounds I had lost, had to have a second stent, and fed my depression with junk foods.

What I know now after Plant-Stock is that genes are just suggestions and I’m not destined to this fate.

So, Plant-Stock was my reboot weekend, and it worked! I left on Sunday and went straight to Whole Foods in Asheville to stock up on produce and some Engine 2 products, and have been compliant since Plant-Stock and intend to be forever, one day at a time. (By the way, those triple seed crispbreads are fantastic.)

Something Rip said has stuck with me, and resonates deeply: “Don’t argue for your limitations.” That has become a mantra of sorts – thank you.

I’m attaching the photo of me and Puddles from Saturday night. Let’s let this be my “before” photo. I hope to be back at Camp Plant-Stock next year for the “after” photo.

Thanks to the Engine 2 team for your work in the world, your energy, and your passion.

Patti Digh is the author of 8 award-winning books on diversity, inclusion, and mindfulness. She is also the founder of The School of Inclusion + Activism, and is determined not to have another heart attack.