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Leaning Into Veganism: Kathy Freston on Why Eating More Plant-Based Foods Can Save Your Life and the Planet

Freston's new book makes 10 bold promises about ditching dairy and meat products.

You don't have to have to quit cold turkey. In Kathy Freston's new book, Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World, she is careful to stress that moving toward a plant-based diet is key.

"It's not about making a radical conversion. It's not about strict discipline," she writes. "It's more about empowering you to take your health into your own hands in a practical and easy way." Freston believes that by gradually working toward a plant-based diet you can dramatically alter your health for the better and figure out how to deal with those tricky social situations, while at the same time contributing to a greater good -- a healthier environment, a more compassionate way of life, a defense of animals.

Through her own research and interviews with experts and vegan converts, the book makes 10 bold promises about ditching dairy and meat products:

  • Your body will find and maintain its ideal weight--effortlessly
  • You will lower your risks for cancer, heart disease and diabetes--and even reverse diseases already in process
  • You will live longer--and better
  • You will take yourself out of harm's way
  • You will save money
  • You will radically reduce your carbon footprint and do the single best thing you can for the environment
  • You will be helping to provide food to the global poor
  • You will reduce animal suffering
  • You will be following the wisdom of the great spiritual traditions
  • You will evolve--and take the world with you

I recently had a chance to talk to Freston about her own transition to veganism, her favorite veggie meats and the need for big changes in food policy and medicine.

Tara Lohan: Tell me how this book came about.

Kathy Freston: I had written about body/mind and spirit approaches to health and wellness and I realized that the thing that packed the most punch all around was eating a plant-based diet. The more I read about how it prevented and reversed the most serious diseases, affects the environment, really helps you to live your values, I realized that this is the thing I'm most excited about. So, I wanted to write a whole book just on the effects of eating a plant-based diet.

TL: The book talks about all these wonderful things a vegan diet can do -- including helping to prevent cancer and heart disease, helping the environment and the treatment of animals, but the first chapter talks about losing weight. Do you think most people are attracted to a vegan diet because they want to slim down?

KF: Absolutely. Let's be honest, we care most about how we feel and how we look, and that comes first. So that is a great way to grab attention and a truthful way to start talking about a vegan diet. I think that most of us want to improve our health, starting with our weight, so it seemed a good place to start.

TL: Better than with the horrific conditions in factory farms?!

KF: Yes. Exactly, that is way back in Chapter 8. No one wants to go into the bad news, the sad news. I wanted to make this a book full of promises, that you get all these great things from just leaning toward a plant-based diet. You get to lose weight, you get to prevent and reverse disease, you get to avoid all kinds of germs and infections, so I thought that was very exciting.

TL: What's most attractive about it -- what drew you into it?

KF: What led me into it was avoiding the process of how animals get to our plate, because I was pretty horrified to see the reality of that. I had avoided it for a long time and finally I thought, I'm being a hypocrite if I'm someone who talks about evolving and talks about being conscious and aware and alert, and I have not even looked into where my food comes from. So, I saw the process of animals being processed, it just made me realize that I have to start doing something different in my life.

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