One of my biggest concerns moving into my new home almost four years ago was who was going to be my neighbors above as the space was vacant. After a year or so it went on the market and before I knew it I had new neighbors, Keith and Scarlett Ferstl. We exchanged pleasantries and I remember at one point Keith and I shared a thought to get to know each other a bit more by having lunch. Almost a year went by and we agreed to go to a new restaurant in Safety Harbor, Screaming Jalapeno and off we went.
We had a great lunch exploring who we were with one of the topics of discussion about how and why I was plant-based. I invited Keith and Scarlett to join one of my Healthy Giraffe Events that I host every two months at my home or Celia and Joel Dubey’s home (when we need extra space). At each event I provide education on nutrition and/or wellness in some way, we cook a plant-based meal together and then play a fun game where I get to play a game show host. The game show host aspect of these events is the most stressful part…ha! They came to the next event and just mixed in with the group like they had been to several prior.
They expressed interest in learning more, we continued our conversations and they continued coming to events. We used their kitchen in one of the events as we needed space and cooking surfaces. Fast forward to two weeks ago on July 11, 2020 – they both celebrated a one year anniversary going plant-based. When I saw their post on Facebook I reached out to them to see if they would be interested in sharing their story and they were.
I sent questions to help them reflect and here we are. Here I share the questions and their responses below. I am so happy to have Keith and Scarlett as neighbors and be a part of this journey with them. I hope you enjoy their story.
Describe your diet growing up through adult hood
Keith: meat and potatoes family; Influences: General Mills, McDonald’s and Elsie the Cow. Education: My 6th grade teacher taught us the importance of vitamins and the importance of sucking on lemons to avoid rickets.
Scarlett: meat and potatoes with food pyramid; Influences: 1. My dad who insisted on vitamins and wheat germ in my cereal every day. 2. Two home economics classes. 3. Major influence: my maternal grandparents’ Tennessee farm. Spent every summer and Christmas break there. My grandfather raised one cow and pig for each of his three daughters’ families. Grandad would have them sent to the slaughterhouse to be prepped to return to Florida with us in a Uhaul outfitted with dry ice. We ate steak year-round. My grandparents had a free-range farm, so I didn’t see the other horrors you hear about in the care of animals. My grandfather took care of his animals in a kind way, but they were still being raised as a food source.
What sparked a change?
Our neighbor, Alan, asked Keith about writing because Keith writes, too. Keith started reading Alan’s blog to get a better idea of what he and Alan were discussing. From there, Keith saw a list of resources and we decided to watch Forks Over Knives. We went into our kitchen the next morning and emptied our cabinets and fridge of all items that were not plant-based and bought a few additional useful tools. As Keith said, once you commit to the idea, you just do it and you do it wholeheartedly.
Alan also invited us to one of his hands-on learning get-togethers. Our education became exponential from there, picking Alan’s brain, reading his blogs, and anything else we could get our hands on. We also watched The Game Changers and other documentaries. One of our favorite additions, especially to librarian Scarlett, was building a plant-based/vegan cookbook library and experimenting. Every holiday or remembrance, we add another title to the collection.
When and why did you explore plant-based?
We just celebrated our one-year plant-based anniversary on July 11. We explored it because we wanted to improve our health and correct any bad habits. Life is a learning curve, so it’s never too late to learn!
What were some of your challenges when making the switch?
Keith: Finding suitable replacements for favorite meals. As a newbie, it took a little while to figure out which replacements would do the job.
Scarlett: Mind-switching regarding vocabulary, such as talking about cheese and then realizing you mean a plant-based one. Also, going into restaurants and re-evaluating menus.
What were the positives you noticed early on?
We both noticed our stomachs felt much lighter. Our digestion was better. Weight started dropping naturally.
What are some of the positives you notice now after one year?
Easier meal prep. Food flavors taste so much better. Clearer skin and weight loss continues. Keith has lost 20 pounds and Scarlett has lost 17 pounds.
Scarlett’s annual checkup shows improvement in lab results and blood pressure. I had gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy and diabetes runs in the family. I had tested this past year as pre-diabetic. But at my one year checkup, it was now gone. My doctor attributed it to my healthier plant-based lifestyle.
Keith hasn’t had his annual yet.
What are some of the most significant things you have learned?
Keith: You develop an awareness of the marketing of foods that do not live up to the hype or that are in any way beneficial to you.
Scarlett: A full education on various foods and how they affect your well-being and the well-being of animals.
What resources were most influential in your switch?
Alan and his blog, various documentaries, blogs, and books (like Dr. Michael Greger and Rich Roll), plant-based cookbooks, and supportive friends we’ve made since the beginning. Also kitchen organization and keeping healthy snacks close by in tiered open shelves. No excuses.
What is next?
Keith: An oxygen-only diet. (Yeah, he had to go there! Lol…via Scarlett) And finding a decent angel food cake recipe! Ha! (If anyone has one, please share. It’s Scarlett’s birthday favorite and it’s right around the corner!) Trying not to be obnoxious ‘born again’ plant-basers!
I have just become the proud owner of a 4×10 boxed community garden plot. Already researching and getting ready to begin. Home-grown produce! You may now refer to me as Farmer Ferstl.
Scarlett: Next is continuing what we started, keeping the switch a lifelong habit. Sharing with others when the opportunity presents itself. It’s already having an affect on my 80+ yr old parents. See?? Never too late!
Any other things not covered you would like to share
Making mistakes. It can happen and it’s ok. Just remember to get right back up on that bike again! Our favorite laughable mistake – We had spaghetti with meatballs one night. We had decided to try a packaged item. Scarlett mentioned that the companies were ‘sure getting good at making mock meat’. Silence as we absorbed that thought. We jumped up to check the wrapper of the plant-based product. Sure enough, Scarlett had grabbed a real beef product that someone had dropped back into the wrong freezer area.
I found myself smiling and laughing as I read their responses in preparation to write the blog. This is what The Healthy Giraffe is all about. This motivates me so much to continue sharing education, stories, and resources so we can live as healthy as we can while eliminating the suffering and slaughter of animals and having positive impacts on the planet. It’s a win-win-win.
– Add Health to Your Life
Featured Blog Photo Above – Whew…my new neighbors, Keith & Scarlett, are fantastic!