15 May 2012

My experience at PCRM's 'Food for Life' teacher training

I recently had the opportunity to enter the hallowed halls of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, D.C., and left three days later, a new, improved and definitely FIRED UP human being. As a relatively new vegan (2 years and counting), PCRM and Dr. Neal Barnard, have been two of the most influential gurus in my health world. When I was recently chosen as one of 20 Food for Life instructors slated for May training, it was difficult to contain my enthusiasm.

My educational co-workers (I’m a high school counselor by day) were annoyed, I’m sure, by my obvious glee and intermittent Scooby Doo bursts of energy as my trip to D.C. got closer. They are all omnivores and have learned to tolerate my plant based diet deep in the heart of barbeque land (Texas). I’ve used my powers of positive persuasion on them in the form of faux deviled eggs, black bean brownies and yummy casseroles with good success so far and have been looking forward to learning new, easier concoctions they might be interested in.

The other teachers at the training and I were an eclectic mix and it was interesting to see which humans had made the cut from an extensive questionnaire, resume with photo and video clip of us teaching a cooking class, phone interview, recommendations from employers and finally a criminal background check. PCRM was as thorough and thoughtful in choosing us as they are in the daily legal battles they wage with Obama and his junk food propensities, the controversial billboards that dot the landscape of the northeast (“Hotdogs can give you butt cancer”) and the recipes they create for the books they publish. I went in the front door already impressed and just got more and more so as the three days wound down.

We started our training with a medical lecture by Dr. Barnard (collective sighs echoing throughout the room as he walked in.) The man is a walking picture of plant based uber health and vitality with sparkling eyes, a snappy wit and reams of his own research information. His lean frame darted around the room throughout his power point and I just soaked in all of the fascinating information he shared from years of medical research. Fat levels in our bodies are directly connected to the risk of getting cancer? Makes sense to me. Since my own bout with breast cancer two years ago (pre-vegan diet) was a mild and non-lymph node invasive event, I silently thanked my historically low cholesterol numbers and began to get a very firm visual of why a whole foods vegan diet works so well to fight chronic disease.

In fact, as a succession of registered dietitians, nurses, doctors and expert plant based teachers were introduced, I became more and more convinced and thankful that I was eating plants and taking my health into my own hands after being diagnosed with the “Big C.” Just like the trainees, PCRM’s staff is a mixture of ages, gender and background stories. All are confirmed vegans, everyone is lean and no one wears animal derived clothing of any kind in the office. They fed us their own recipes (amazing raw steel cut oats for breakfast), catered in Whole Foods and local Ethiopian fare and left us feeling confident, catered to and fully armed to teach others about the healing properties of plants. They “walked their talk” and encouraged us all to do the same. It’s difficult enough to encourage omnivore friends and family to consider a plant based diet. We all left wanting to be better physical manifestations of veganism.

Meanwhile, I am happy to wade through the three textbooks and four curriculums we were given to teach and cannot wait to schedule my first class of 30 students. Since PCRM is sponsored by Vitamix and Salad Master, I am one of the 100 plus Food for Life teachers throughout the country who have state of the art culinary tools at our disposal. We don’t even need a kitchen to demonstrate the recipes. There has NEVER been an easier time to go plant based and with PCRM’s evidence based recipes and research backing me, I am ready to spread the good word to the traditional meat eating Texans all around me. Bring it, cowboy!! I got your Smokey Seitan Roll Up right here!!

(Go to www.pcrm.org for more information and where you can find a Food for Life class in your local area or apply to become a certified teacher.)

Kathryn Lorusso | O'Neill 365 | Twitter | Blog | Bio
Dallas, TX Kathryn is a former journalist and English teacher who now counsels and mediates teenage drama on a daily basis in the Dallas, Ft. Worth metroplex. Time away from school is spent cooking up new macrobiotic/vegan specialties, writing various blogs and newsletters and taking as many bikram yoga classes as possible. She gives vegan cooking classes at the Arlington Bikram Yoga studio, mentors a vegetarian/vegan student group and has just been chosen as one of six fitness icons for O’Neill Clothing Company.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/cleopold73