19 October 2010

Interview with This Dish Is Veg team member Lori Zito

Have you ever wondered about the team of writers behind This Dish Is Veg? Well this is your chance to learn more about us. Over the next several weeks we will be featuring interviews with our fabulous contributors from all different backgrounds and walks-of-life who are dedicated to bringing you the articles you see on this site each and every day.

Lori Zito, our health and nutrition expert, is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She initially made the change to vegan when she acknowledged the horrors of factory farming. She has since learned that living vegan not only rejects this cruelty, but it vastly improves health, supports our planet, and tastes absolutely amazing. Lori believes that feeding people delicious, nutritious vegan food is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate the many benefits of a plant based diet. She is fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who have welcomed her vegan lifestyle with open arms, and many of whom have made small and large changes in their own lives as a result. Lori is a holistic health and nutrition coach, a physical therapist, and a certified yoga instructor.

JL: On your website you describe beginning a journey to healthier eating. Was there any one thing that kicked off this journey?

Lori: I have been a self proclaimed lover of animals all my life. I literally woke up one day and thought, "Why in the world am I EATING animals?" I went vegetarian that day, and was basically vegan within a week. Though I initially made the change for reasons other than my own health, I soon noted amazing changes in my body. I struggled with high blood pressure for years, and it corrected itself effortlessly with my new diet. I began my path as a vegan purely due to my love of animals, and my inability to support the cruelty of factory farming any longer. I soon learned that with my new diet also came amazing health, as well as a positive impact on planet Earth.

JL: Why did you decide to become a Health Coach? How long did it take? What was the most challenging?

Lori: My path to becoming a health coach came soon after my transition to becoming vegan. I am a physical therapist, and one day a friend asked me what the typical career path of a PT is, and how did I plan to evolve in my profession. This question really got me thinking. I realized that as much as I enjoyed practicing as a PT, I didn't have any aspirations of growth, or a strong passion to learn and expand within the profession. What I did know was that I was passionate about health and nutrition, and my newfound vegan diet. I began to seek out professional training, and was enrolled at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition within a month. The course is one year. The most challenging thing for me was staying open and receptive to learning about alternative ways of eating. The curriculum teaches all dietary theories, and encourages students to find what resonates with them, and to honor the bio-individuality of every client. I am passionate about a vegan diet, and so it was tough to sit through lectures touting heavy animal food diets as being healthy. I listened with an open mind, but I still came out of the program with an even stronger conviction that a vegan diet is the best choice for optimal health

JL: Can you describe your typical day of eating and exercise?

Lori: I start EVERY day with a green smoothie! These have literally changed my life! Seriously! If I miss my smoothie for some reason, I can really feel the difference. I usually have a salad and some fruit for lunch, and I typically have a cooked meal for dinner. I try to eat raw for breakfast and lunch, and then cook some grains (usually quinoa or brown rice), and steam some greens or veggies for dinner. I have a few staple meals that I make often (ex. lentil soup with sweet potatoes, steamed kale and avocado over quinoa, a burrito of brown rice, beans, corn, greens, guacamole and salsa) but I try to make one new recipe per week, to add some variety, and to nurture my creativity. As for exercise, I either practice yoga or run outdoors 5-6 days per week. I rarely work out in a gym. I love being outside, and so I try to get my workouts completed outside whenever possible. I take at least one day off per week, and instead use these days to take my two dogs on an extra long walk! Oh, and I LOVE coconut water as a pre and post workout drink.

JL: How do you incorporate what you have learned about yourself into how you work with your clients?

Lori: I have found that a huge obstacle to making healthy changes for most people (and certainly for myself) is time management. I help clients strategize how to make the changes fit into their lives. If I hand someone a nicely typed list of a diet plan, the chances of them really following through are slim to none. You have to be realistic. I also know that no one is perfect, and if you try to be perfect, and deprive yourself of things you enjoy, you are fighting a losing battle. I know for myself that I am much less likely to want to binge on some sugary cookies if I treat myself to a square or two of quality dark chocolate now and again. It's all about balance.

JL: Describe your coaching style.

Lori: A little bit of hand holding; a little bit of tough love :)

JL: If someone is thinking about using a Health Coach, what should they look for in the practitioner?

Lori: Look for someone you feel comfortable around; someone who reminds you of one of your most trusted friends. If the program is going to be successful, you have to work with a coach that you can be honest with. You will have to share your triumphs, and your defeats, with this person, and you don't want to feel like you have to withhold any truths out of guilt or fear of being judged. I would also suggest that you look for someone who has gone through similar struggles as yourself. For example, if you are dealing with sugar addictions, look for someone who has fought this battle and won. They will be best equipped to be able to provide you with most realistic and doable ways to kick the habit. Most health coaches offer this type of information on their website, so that perspective clients can get an idea if they would be a good fit or not.

The school I graduated from has a search tool to connect with a coach in your area that will fit your needs: Institute for Integrative Nutrition: Find a Health Coach.

JL: If I could do one healthy thing for myself today, what would it be?

Lori: MEDITATE. I can't stress this enough. It doesn't even have to be fancy chanting or anything complicated to have an impact. Just sit in silent gratitude for 5 to 10 minutes a day. If you do this consistently, it will be transforming.

For more information about Lori visit liveinthebalance.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

JL | @JLgoesvegan
Post-40 JL became a marathoner and triathlete, changed careers and transitioned from vegetarian to vegan. She now blogs about vegan cooking (and wine!) and fitness. Follow JL on her blog and Facebook.

Photo credit: Lori Zito