So on the 1st of this month, Oprah dedicated a whole episode to the topic of “veganism.” Um, awesome! The show included special guest Michael Pollan (who holds my dream title of a food expert/journalist), along with New York Times best-selling author Kathy Freston. Also seeing a few minutes of screen time was Lisa Ling, who gave us a stomach-churning peek into Cargrill’s slaughterhouse. (Cargrill is the biggest producer of ground beef in the world, so props to them for allowing Ling to take a look around and report from inside the plant. Also props to them for keeping a comparatively cleanly and non-ruthless environment, although ending the life of millions of cows is an inherently brutal procedure.)
The show centered around a challenge led by Freston who guided Oprah and 378 of her staff members on a one week vegan expedition. In between much discussion about poop and bowel movements (I wish I would’ve counted the # of times busy poop schedules were mentioned), more than a few of the staff members revealed that they will be sticking with the vegan diet, at least for some additonal time. Energy levels, headache cures, regularity, and other positive health benefits were all credited as reasons why many of the staff members will at least be making some kind of changes to their diets. Many also happily saw some weight loss, with a combined total of 444 pounds lost among staff members. Rich, the video editor, alone shed 11 pounds. Just to reiterate that, that’s 11 pounds in one week. Yeah, pretty cool stuff when it’s sourced from a switch to a healthy diet, which is what Freston guided staffers into doing. This certainly wasn’t a week of chips and french fries style of vegan eating, although Freston did show staff members that American classics like pizza don’t have to be thrown out the window. (Simply ditch the cheese for Daiya, and you’ve got yourself a killer vegan pizza.)
Freston has influenced far more people than just Oprah and her staff to increase their awareness of their food choices. After having lunch with the 7-year vegan during a recent interview for Vanity Fair, journalist John Heilpern ended up concluding his article by stating, “I will never become an alfalfa-and-brown-rice man, but since my lunch with Kathy Freston I have decided to give up eating all meat.”
And I’m sure her influence will only continue to spread. Following her last best-selling book, Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness, at the beginning of this month Freston released Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World, which has quickly became one of Amazon‘s top sellers.
Freston uses a very friendly, empathetic approach in how she advises people on making the shift to veganism in the Veganist. “I encourage people to lean into a veganist lifestyle, gradually giving up eating one animal at a time,” she told me. She also acknowledges that you have to find what works for you, which I’m a huge advocate of.
Growing up on ribs and fried chicken, she knows that eliminating animal products won’t be easy for everyone. But she also knows the benefits of doing so.
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a Q and A I held with Kathy Freston to get to know this vegan-champion a little bit better. In the interview, Freston discusses some of her own obstacles she faced when going vegan. She also sheds light on working with Oprah and divulges some of her favorite vegan treats. Yum.