My dad isn't quite 60. He's been the president of a bank, a sedentary career with high stress and lots of hours, for as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I watched him eating a lot of diner and fast food meals. I get it -- it's convenient and, like many folks, he didn’t really know any better. For a long time, my choices mirrored his for the same reasons. The last I knew, his nutritional path hadn’t changed much from the habits I’d observed as a kid. His dad died in his mid 60's of cancer, so he often states that he probably won't have many more years on this earth. How sad. How different his last 20-30 years on earth could have been. And how different his years ahead could still be!
The good news is that it’s never too late to start making more health-conscious choices. It is amazing that we can eat poorly for years and "abuse" our bodies, and yet, our bodies can still heal! We STILL have many mercies with food & health. I wish very badly that my father and many others will come to see food for what it really is... medicine.
To kick off the upcoming post about how we meal plan, where we shop, and what we keep on hand, I thought it best to give you some background on how I started learning about real food. I never planned to start this company, and I certainly didn’t plan on making crazy dishes from chia seeds, kale, sweet potatoes, and various beans, yet here I am! I asked my friend and copywriter, Sarabeth, to hit me with some questions that may draw out the background story behind Beetroot and how my life transformed from real food. Sarabeth has been around since the start of this and she was at my very first “class” I hosted.
So what initially motivated you to become more conscious about your food and nutritional choices?
Four years ago, in addition to being depressed, extremely fatigued, and overweight, I was also going through rehab for my second ACL tear in 3 years. I remember being devastated the second time around, knowing that there was so much rehabilitation involved. I realized that with an already-fatigued body, the rehab would be hellish. I bought a shiny new road bike, thinking it was my ticket to getting my knee back in shape, and hoping that an added bonus would be some additional weight loss. The road bike wasn’t the magic pill I’d hoped for, but it did start me down the right path! To spice up a boring biking regime, I downloaded the most popular health & wellness podcast by Rich Roll, an ultra-athlete who is also vegan. Inspiration and motivation kept me rolling, and the rest is history.
What difference have you noticed in your life since you “made the switch”?
During my lowest years, I avoided nearly everything -- social events and gatherings, public speaking, even just hanging out with friends one-on-one. Hiding out protected me from being seen as truly was, so I didn’t have to deal with it. The boost of confidence this new path gave me is probably the most valuable change -- I was no longer puffy and fatigued, and I had the energy to heal emotionally and physically.
Even now, the energy boost is obvious to me. Having not had a full night’s sleep in over a year with a new baby, I still have more energy now than I did in college when I was sleeping 14 hours a night. I have enough energy to focus on serving my family and friends. I can be a better mom with more energy to take August backpacking, play at the park, and prepare his meals. I am a better wife and can invest more energy into my relationship with Dalton. All in all, I am more productive in every department of my life -- my business, my relationships, serving at my church... the list goes on.
Good habits make you feel good and want to make other choices that are good for you, right? Having more energy helped me create better coping mechanisms and make even better choices, too. It became a cycle of positive momentum in my life. After I started eating well, I wanted to get outdoors to hike, find local food from farmers, make sure I was getting enough rest, maintain a healthy balance of my schedule, and buy body products that weren’t toxic. It kept snowballing and creating new & refreshing habits in other ways. Over time, rewriting the script on my eating habits has positively affected every area of my life.
Speaking of your family, how did you go about getting Dalton on board? What advice do you have for people who are cooking for more than themselves?
Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to get anyone on board. It’s been great because I know many struggle with a spouse that is not happy to eat better. Dalton has always been adventurous with food, so I didn’t even have to talk to him about it; I just started making new recipes and he started right in on it too. He’s a natural chef, so he enjoyed creating new recipes from things he wasn’t used to seeing at his dinner table growing up. We had our son, August, a year ago, so he just got ushered right into the fresh & wholesome foods. He loves earthy things and eats lots of eggs, fresh herbs, pureed chicken liver, spinach, you name it!
As for advice for others, planning a menu and giving yourself prep time goes a long way. It really does relieve the stress if you have a game plan for a week or even a month ahead. Also, if you’re cooking for someone new to adventurous eating, then choose something they love and build from there. If they love sweet potato but not many other veggies, get all sweet potato crazy! Make enchiladas, loaded sweet potatoes, find new recipes and keep going. Then you can try other new foods once you’ve warmed them to the idea of whole foods.
Still, even with your family on board, you really clung to this new passion of healthy living and eating. What inspired you to take the giant step from living this path and expand it into a business?
I was very photo-happy with my fresh food photos in the beginning, and people were asking me to host a class. The first class I hosted at Defiance College on a Saturday morning in the Fall of 2014 garnered 25 people in attendance. Then, I hosted a larger event four months later and the audience doubled. I had no idea going into it what the response to be, so it was a great surprise to find people were hungry to hear about my story and how they could eat to live well.
I know you, and I know your tendency to be a visionary and goal-setter, so I know there’s a bigger picture... What do you envision for yourself and for Beetroot in the next year? Five years? Decade?
I try to slowly build with my little building blocks: corporate speaking, community events, producer features, and my homemade snack bars. It’s not much, but it’s getting my message out there, and that’s what I need to move up a step each year. Next year I’d like to see my bar operation expanded to more retailers, and I’d love to test a fresh & local food delivery box concept.
In 5 years, my goal is to have a storefront in Defiance. I picture it being a cute snack shop with a meal pick-up option in the evenings… If you want a paleo dinner to take to your soccer game, or maybe a fresh, plant-based meal to take to your friend that just had a baby, Beetroot will be the place. And then I’d like other facets to the business -- a Naturopathic doctor with office hours, and potentially, cooking classes. I know my concept will morph as I see what the needs and desires of Defiance are.
In 10 years, I want to be building an organic farm retreat and have farm-to-fork dinners on the river where we live. I am a dreamer, it’s true. But you can’t get anywhere if you aren’t envisioning your destination. I have always been willing to work very hard for this mission and people on the same wavelength are attracted to it, so I know Beetroot will be a long-standing entity.
I make a big deal out of food because food is a big deal. What we put into our bodies multiple times is one of the most impactful acts we have control over during our day, whether helpful or harmful. We have a great opportunity to prevent disease and influence our energy levels with what we eat each meal. Our body repairs and rebuilds with what we put in it, so what building blocks are you giving yours? I used to give mine diet coke, cinnamon rolls, Doritos, processed deli meats, Starbursts, and.. you get the idea. Eventually, my body’s "check engine lights" all started lighting up. You cannot use poor building blocks and escape disease and illness. I had to learn that the hard way. I was totally hopeless and wondering how I would live a normal, productive life as an adult. My goal is to keep people from that low point, to get people excited about real food, and to create a different legacy for my children.
I used to see food as confusing -- a source of anxiety with too many choices. I have come to see food as not only crucial for vitality and nourishment, but also a very delicious and rewarding experience. Now I see it as an opportunity to nourish myself, to teach others, and to treat others to wholesome foods. I love the idea of feasting, enjoying the meal, and relishing good company.
Catch part 2 of this blog series to see the nitty gritty details of how we menu plan, shop, and what staples we keep in our fridge and pantry. Coming out in August.