I’m so excited to share this YU Should Know interview with Jessica Murnane (pronounced “Mur-nan” without the “e”), health coach and founder of One Part Plant (OPP) today. See, we’ve known of each other from the old days as designers in Chicago, and we’ve emailed each other a bunch, and supported each other from afar over the years as we built our plant-focused websites, but I’ve recently had the pleasure of spending more QT with her and I just really, really like her. She’s a good egg.
Jessica recently interviewed me for her addictive new podcast and it was such a fun conversation—she truly has a gift for asking questions that encourage you to discuss the deeper stuff. The stuff you may not be sure you want to talk about, but afterwards, you realize that it may connect with someone sooo, you get over it. The goal of her podcast is to share “next-level inspiration,” and even though I was the one supposed to share the goods, I left the call with her feeling energized and excited about where plant-based is headed—inspired. She reminds me that there’s a real loving, supportive community out there and it nurtures each and every one of us to do our best.
I was on the “Greener Path” panel moderated by Jessica at Chicago’s Taste Talks in early October and once again, she asked those great questions. For example, she said that she didn’t think that my new book would have done as well five years ago as it would today and asked me “why is that?”
It got me thinking about how people are just not happy and feeling well these days. They’re fed up, they want to make changes, and more folks are ready now to take matters into their own hands. Smart food choices can do that, yes, but it goes beyond what we eat. Jessica does a great job introducing us to the many ways that we can find wellness.
This summer I worked hard on making personal changes—mainly learning how to strike a better life/work balance. I spent many days hiking and playing in the river and so many of those days I would lay on a rock and listen to Jessica interview a range of people from beer aficianados to natural beauty masterminds—I’ve learned a powerful lesson from each one.
So, let’s dive in, shall we?
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HC: Tell us about your transition to plant-based. When did it begin? What/who was your catalyst?
JM: Wow. It still feels like just yesterday. But I slowly started my way over to the green side almost five years ago.
I have really bad endometriosis and after years of different medications and surgeries not working, my Dr. gave me the option of crazy drug therapy or a hysterectomy. I opted for the hysterectomy, because I just wanted the pain to stop. But before I did, a friend sent me a website that was about how plant-based eating could help with endo pain. I thought it sounded really crazy—but thought I would give it a shot. I lived on Diet Coke, Lean Cuisines, and Sour Patch Kids… so the transition was pretty extreme for me. I started out by ditching meat, gluten, dairy, and soy and after that, I cut out fish, processed foods and sugars. For me, it was process. I did it one step at a time. My pain started to fade and my husband said I had “my sparkle back”. I still can’t believe how much my life has changed. It still surprises me. Oh, and I never got the hysterectomy. Take that endo.
HC: Girl, you have SO much sparkle. I’m so happy that you found a way without surgery. For folks who want to try out a plant-inspired diet can you tell us what one of your favorite newbie-tips is?
JM: Changing to a plant-based diet can feel like such a challenge at first, but not just because of the food, sometimes the social and emotional changes can really mess you up. I think it’s so important to seek out other people doing the same thing and educate the skeptics around you (and that could just be making them plant-based treats!). You have to surround yourself with people that are down with your change and phase out the shine blockers. With my coaching programs we talk 50% about food, and 50% about loving the new you. It’s so important to accept and love the new you during this transition.
HC: Great stuff. Keep going—what are some of your best tips for saving time and staying prepared?
JM: Having the basics on hand! I have about 10 pantry items that are my go-tos and then I just make sure I also have greens and a few fruits and veggies on hand. Because I’ve been traveling, just today I looked into a pretty empty fridge. But because I always make sure to have some form of green, almond butter, and some frozen berries stocked…I whipped up a quick smoothie to drink while I answered these questions!
HC: Yes! I agree, keep the basics on hand and when you need something, throw it all together. So, when you went plant-based, what were some of the biggest surprises you discovered about the lifestyle and yourself?
JM: My biggest surprise is that a plant-based diet took away a lot of my eating issues. For my entire most of my life, I would judge myself based on what I ate. I would wake up in the morning, think about what I had for dinner the night before, and then that would set the tone of my day. Something healthy? Happy and awesome. Something not-so-healthy? Sad and depressed. I had been to therapists about my eating issues, but nothing really worked. But then when I changed to a plant-based diet… everything changed. I stopped judging myself so much. I woke every morning and didn’t think about last night—I just thought about the present day. My hair is better now, my skin more clear, I’ve lost some LBs—but the shift in how I judged myself has been the greatest thing that’s happened. It’s a huge sense of relief.
A few pics from Jessica’s A Year of Cookies e-cookbook.
HC: I can relate to that bigtime, and I bet many others can, too. It’s why I love to think about what we eat as a lifestyle, not a diet in conventional terms. It makes a huge difference to approach it that way. Ok, for some fun: you’re stranded on an island (with electricity!). What are your top three must have kitchen tools and appliances?
JM: My new YumUniverse cookbook (plug, plug), a good set of knives (to cut open the coconuts on the island!), and my blender.
HC: Ha! Did I mention that I really like you? (wink). What inspires you to stay on track day to day? Do you ever fall off track? And if you do, how do you get back on?
JM: I know the second I’m off track. If I get really busy and forget to take my Vitamin D or decide to skip my morning greens… shit gets real, real fast. Anxiety, sadness, and I start getting hints of my old tummy aches. It’s not like I’m replacing good stuff with bad, I’m just not doing anything… and my body isn’t cool with that. If I get off track, I just try to remember that ONE day can truly make a difference and decide to start again.
HC: Amen sister. What I like most about approaching this as a lifelong journey is that with each week, we experience how good we can feel, and when we have an “off” week, we now have a basis for comparison that motivates us to get back on the horse. Actually experiencing how good we can feel, sharpens the feeling of when we are “off track” and makes it a bit easier to get back on. It may not be pretty, but that’s ok and you are so right: one day can make all the difference.
With your podcast, you get to interview all sorts of inspiring people. Can you name one plant-based/vegan magazine, blogger, brand, book and/or documentary we should all know about (besides your lovely self).
JM: I love so many people! Can I choose a few? My very favorite cookbook ever is Clean Food by Terry Walters. I truly believe her book taught me to cook. I love Laura from The First Mess and Dana from Minimalist Baker. And I am so excited about Michal Siewierski’s new documentary Food Choices.
HC: You’re a Chicagoan (Go Chicago!), so tell us what your favorite veg-friendly restaurants and shops are.
JM: Pickings can feel a little slim here, but we are getting better! It’s one of the reasons why I started my restaurant program. I partner with some of the best chefs/restaurants in the city to start offering more plant-based options. I love the idea that you can enjoy plant-based meals in some of the coolest spaces in the city. But I am super pumped about Owen + Alchemy. It’s a new juice and plant-based food spot that just opened in Logan Square. I live downtown… but they deliver, so I can get my O+A fix whenever I need it.
HC: You have so many cool things going on, what upcoming or existing projects can you share?
JM: I am doing a followup to my A Year Of Cookies e-book… A Year Of Breakfasts. It will launch in the beginning of December. I have a part in the Food Choices documentary with some pretty baller plant-heads. When I watched the trailer, I actually cried. It’s really powerful. And I have been jamming on my new podcast. One of my favorite things in the world is to get to share other people’s stories and I get to do it every week. It’s so damn fun.
HC: I don’t know how you do it all, but I’m glad you do. What else would YU like to share with us? The soapbox is yours.
JM: I think it’s so important to know that it doesn’t have to all or nothing and not all successes happen overnight. When you look at someone like you (talking to you, Heather)—your skin is all glowy, you’ve got all the answers on wellness, and it looks like you are the (perfect) picture of health. But I bet this wasn’t always the case. I am sure you had ups and downs on your journey or had to experiment a lot to get there. The first weekend I changed my diet, I cried at a birthday party because I couldn’t eat the cake. Now I could care less about that cake… but it took me some time to get there. Look for inspiration and connect with other people who are doing the same thing you are…you might be surprised how nice and encouraging strangers can be.
HC: Oh Jessica, I thank you for your kind words, but there are no guarantees about anything—I’m far from perfect. I partied hard for a long time, I grew up with smokers, and ate my first salad at 19. Who knows what lies ahead, but I sure do feel one million times better on a day-to-day basis than I ever have, and I know you can relate. Step-by-step is the name of the game. Thanks so much for sharing with us. Keep up the awesome, lady.
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Go say “hello” to Jessica:
I want to hear from YU—tell us what you think of all this goodness with a comment below.
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