Our diets play an essential role in how bodies function, and can have a negative or positive impact on wellbeing depending on what we eat. In an effort to restore their health, vitality and overall quality of life, Turlock residents Tammy Jones and Sherri Villarreal took it upon themselves to change their eating habits and in turn, change their lives. Now, they are hoping to share their knowledge and teach others to “eat to live” through their series of Soon2bhealthy classes.
Six years ago, Villarreal suffered from acid reflux, constipation, joint pain, fatigue, depression, severe memory problems and insomnia. Her husband also experienced multiple issues, including intestinal problems, elevated blood pressure, fatigue and high cholesterol. Eventually, Villarreal decided enough was enough.
“I told my husband, ‘This is not how it’s going to end for us,’” said Villarreal.
She took the last of their cash and the pair headed to a week-long Health Getaway, hosted by Dr. Joel Fuhrman – physician, author and president of the Nutritional Research Foundation. At the getaway, Villarreal and her husband were able to meet hundreds of people who had either arrested or completely reversed their health issues by adopting a nutritarian, or plant-based, diet. Immediately, she became hopeful that they could regain their failing health and reduce their need for medications by changing the way they ate.
The plant-based diet focuses on nutrient-dense plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and legumes. “Toxic” foods, such as salt, sugar, sweeteners, white flour, processed and greasy, fried foods are limited and meat and dairy foods are restricted to less than 10 percent of one’s total dietary intake. Though similar to a vegan diet, the two differ in that many vegan foods are still highly processed and contain some ingredients that Dr. Fuhrman discourages.
Now, Villarreal and her husband no longer rely on the countless medications they used to take. Within months, her husband had lost 45 pounds and Villarreal is down 35 pounds. She now can walk, work out, swim and play tennis with her grandkids, which she did little of before.
“All of those things, I could have never done before,” said Villarreal.
For Jones, switching up her diet came as a challenge, but with two grandchildren and a third on the way, she knew that a change needed to happen if she wanted to see them grow. Previously, she ate out as often as twice daily, six days a week. Over the years, her habits led to the development of high blood pressure, a heart condition, planter fasciitis and pre-diabetic symptoms.
Jones avoided the doctor, fearful of finding out that her health was ill-fated because of her family history. Her mother suffered a stroke and required open heart surgery at the age of 70, and her brother and father underwent the same surgery at ages 52 and 50, respectively.
“Deep down I knew I needed to make some changes for the sake of my health, but was overwhelmed as to where to start,” said Jones.
The defining moment came, she said, when she finally saw the doctor, who told her that she would need to increase her medication or be at greater risk of suffering a stroke. Villarreal challenged Jones to take charge of her health and introduced her to Dr. Fuhrman’s plant-based diet. Jones, a picky eater, began tasting everything Villarreal cooked for her and eventually, the two were cooking in the kitchen together, prepping meals for one to two weeks at a time.
“I was amazed to find that I actually liked nearly every dish we prepared, and that the transition off of meat, dairy and added salt was not nearly as difficult as I imagined,” said Jones.
Soon enough, Jones was seeing the results of her lifestyle change as well.
“She is the perfect picture of health today – full of life,” said Villarreal.
Jones has lost 46 pounds and has gone from a size 14 to a size two. Not only is she now off all of her previous blood pressure medications, but she also has improved blood work, is no longer pre-diabetic, her planter fasciitis has resolved and has also been taken off of her heart medication. After a recent heart scan, the results showed that her heart is now perfectly healthy.
As the pair’s health improved, friends of Villarreal and Jones began to notice the fact that they were shedding pounds and leading overall healthier lives. They wanted to know the secret, and began joining in to watch how the two prepared their meals.
“This is something that people are searching for, but they don’t know how to go about it,” said Jones.
Inspired to help others, the two decided to start Soon2bhealthy and spread their plant-based wisdom to others. Through classes and a new website which is set to launch on Jan. 1, Jones and Villarreal hope to teach those looking to change their lives tips and tricks for infusing flavor into plant-based recipes, providing education, motivation and inspiration just in time for the New Year.
“This is about overall health,” said Villarreal. “It’s really doable, and I want people to know that.”
Both Jones and Villarreal have completed certification in plant-based nutrition through E-Cornell University, and they have also completed a three-month online Forks over Knives culinary course.
“Most of all, we want people to understand that they have options to help prevent and reverse disease, get off dangerous medications and live life vibrantly into the ‘golden’ years,” said Villarreal.
The classes, which begin as a three-course series, begin on Wednesday, Jan. 11 and will continue on the following two Wednesdays, Jan. 18 and 25. The first class will focus on why and how to begin eating a plant-based diet. A power point presentation will educate attendees, and they will be able to sample plant-based recipes and learn useful tools, such as how to check food labels for toxic ingredients.
“We’re going to let them know what it is, how to get started and why they should,” said Villarreal.
The second class will focus on the “nuts and bolts,” said Villarreal, focusing on how to implement new eating habits daily and overcoming obstacles, whether it’s eating at home, a restaurant or on the road. The third class will be hands-on, teaching cooking techniques and sharing recipes for plant-based foods, like veggie hotdogs and other unique dishes.
The cost for all three classes is a single fee of $75, which is payable on or before the date of the first class. Classes will be held at 3700 N. Berkeley Ave. in Turlock, and to reserve a spot, those interested may contact Villarreal at 831-596-5574 or Jones at 209-404-7632. On Jan. 1, those interested can also find tips and tricks at www.soon2bhealthy.com.
“It’s been a six-year journey to get to this place,” said Villarreal. “My hope is to create a roadmap for anyone to have this information in an affordable way.”