Embracing whole foods

Local author touts benefits of a plant-based diet

Local author Lani Muelrath, at Farm Sanctuary in Orland with her husband, Greg. Muelrath says the inhumane treatment of animals is one reason she transitioned to a plant-based diet.

Local author Lani Muelrath, at Farm Sanctuary in Orland with her husband, Greg. Muelrath says the inhumane treatment of animals is one reason she transitioned to a plant-based diet.

Photo courtesy of Lani Muelrath

The Plant-Based Journey continues online:
Visit www.lanimuelrath.com for more info on Muelrath and her book as well as resources for your own plant-based journeying.

Lani Muelrath was a dynamic presence with carefully tousled ash-blonde hair flowing about her deeply dimpled and often smiling, youthful face as she addressed a crowd of 25 or so interested listeners seated in Barnes & Nobles’ magazine aisle Sunday (Oct. 11). Clad in a soft blue velvety dress that accented her fit physique, the 63-year-old author, lifestyle coach and plant-based diet advocate is a walking advertisement for the virtues of healthful living delineated in her latest book, The Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight.

The Magalia-based writer and lecturer spent 20 years teaching sixth grade in Durham and currently lectures as associate faculty in kinesiology at Butte College—where her book has been adopted as a required course textbook. She’s also been a guest lecturer at San Francisco State University and appeared multiple times on national television shows. Muelrath is certified in plant-based nutrition by Cornell University and maintains multiple teaching credentials in California. She recently sat down to converse, via keyboard, with the CN&R about her lifetime of struggling with weight and subsequent “plant-based journey” to better fitness and health, and her recent book on the subject, which has spent 14 weeks as the No. 1 selling vegetarian cooking book on Amazon.com.

CN&R: What motivated your decision to base your own diet on plant-based foods?

Muelrath: Health and weight management, the environmental impact of what we put on our plates, and the lot [i.e., inhumane treatment] of animals are three reasons that inspired my dietary choices.

What type of diet did you have before?

We had a mixed, omnivorous diet yet with a decided “healthy” perspective. My mother was keen about eating whole grains, eschewing junk food and eating lots of vegetables and fruit.

Any particularly memorable life events that fueled the decision or facilitated (or hindered) your pursuit of a healthier diet?

For decades, I sought a way of eating that would allow me to be full without being fat—which was delivered by following the whole foods, plant-based diet that I describe in depth in The Plant-Based Journey, including the rules of satiety that plant-based eating is a perfect match for. This success, harnessed with my work as an environmental educator and volunteer field biologist, have informed my decision to live and teach plant-based living.

How does a whole-food, plant-based diet differ from a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Whole plant foods include whole grains, starchy vegetables, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds in their intact form. This means all of their properties are intact, including fiber. For example, a slice of white bread might be vegan and vegetarian, but it is not a whole plant food. Whole grain bread and whole-wheat kernels and cracked wheat are whole plant foods. This makes a big difference when it comes to health and weight management. This is the part of whole-food, plant-based living that makes weight management without hunger so easy.

Was the improvement of your own health the motivation for researching and writing your book?

The Plant-Based Journey is not only informed by my personal journey and 50-pound weight loss—which has been sustained now for 17 or so years—but by extensive research on plant-based nutrition, experience with hundreds of individuals and clients who I have had the opportunity to coach and work with, and the over 1,200 surveys I conducted of people who had transitioned successfully to plant-based nutrition. The overwhelming impact of our dietary choices on the environment and the lives of [food] animals are also deeply influential issues.

Did/does living in this highly agricultural environment help in developing interest in and providing access to healthful foods?

Compared to clients and friends I have back East … living in Northern California can put one at a distinct advantage with access to good produce. Yet anyone can easily get more whole plant foods and less of everything else in their diet—even without farmers’ markets and backyard gardens, there are frozen and canned foods that make plant-based living delicious and easy.

You also emphasize that mindfulness is important in creating and maintaining a healthy, plant-based lifestyle—what mental, physical and spiritual practices do you follow that might help others enhance their motivation and success on transitioning into plant-based living?

I am physically active and also engage in mindfulness meditation daily. Getting some degree of mastery over ingrained habits of thinking is very crucial. This can be cultivated easily through simple physical activity (because of the affect it has on your brain) and mindfulness practice—achieving some degree of awareness of and mastery over habits of thinking—as well as developing awareness of some of the challenges to change that are always part of making a transition [in one’s lifestyle or habits].