Monday, June 1, 2015

Healthfest 2015, Marshall Texas

March 27, 2015 over 650 people came out to Marshall, Texas to participate in this year’s Healthfest event. Although Marshall is not exactly close to a major city, the energy and the guest speakers were amazing. Kicking off the event was Mayor Ed Smith and his wife Amanda. These two individuals have been on a mission for the past five years to change the way we eat, and to encourage their town and others to take better care of themselves. As the key coordinators they did a fabulous job!

I wanted to attend the event because I felt it was a great way to meet more like-minded individuals and have a chance to meet some of the key thought leaders in the plant-based movement. There are few opportunities to have so many fabulous speakers all in one place.

As I scoped out the forum and looked for a front row seat, I met an Ultra athlete from Chicago - Dave Wiskowski. We hit it off right from the start. He and I had similar stories for regaining our health, becoming ultra-runners, and having the same passion to sharing this message.

As we gathered in the room Friday night, you could feel the energy building. First I met Dr. Garth Davis, a Houston bariatric surgeon who is changing lives every day.

Then I got a chance to meet Dr. T. Collin Campbell. We discussed how his book The China Study changed my view of the food I eat and discussed his plant-based nutrition course I attended through e-Cornell last summer. He was also first up on stage as he led a discussion around the impact of food on our health. He pointed out that there is a clear correlation between animal protein and cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The work that he has done over the years has had a tremendous effect on educating other in his field about the science.

I then I got to listen to Rich Roll share his story. At 40 years old he was a coach potato and decided he wanted something more, to be there for his kids, and to regain his own health. In a very short period of time he lost weight, started running, and ultimately participated in a Double Ironman event in Hawaii. He later went on to complete the “Epic 5” event, which was completing five full Ironman events in seven days - one each on a Hawaiian island. I have been a Rich Roll fan for years; he is one of the main reasons I went plant-based.

After his talk, I got a chance to spend a few minutes with him. It was great to briefly share my story with him and thank him for his inspiration. We discussed one of the plant-based groups I help start and he surprised me by telling me he was aware of the PPNSNG group.

The dynamic and very funny Chef AJ then took the stage as she shared how different food groups have different caloric densities. She discussed how we should stay left of the “Red Line” which is where the natural whole foods are. These foods include all the fruits and veggies. Right of the red line is processed foods, simple carbs, meat, and oils. Nuts and seed are also on the right so they should be consumed sparingly.

Saturday morning started out with a short run with Matt Frazier, the No-Meat Athlete. We ran about three miles around the town square. I met some pretty incredible athletes such as Josh LaJuanie who lost over 200 lbs. and became an Ultra runner. I was also able to connect with runners from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The runners’ skills varied from fairly new runners to Ultra athletes.

The next discussion was with Ellen Jaffe Jones, an accomplished runner, author, and chef. She wrote eat vegan on $4 a day and The Divided House. She talked about feeding a divided family (those who eat vegan and those who do not). She talked about her journey and how being plant-based has allowed her to compete in short distance races at the Master level even though she is now 62.

Following this was the Athlete panel where Rich Roll, Matt Frazier, Omwale Adewale (MMA Fighter), Ellen Jaffe Jones, and Christy Morgan all discussed fueling, training, protein, and supplements. Interesting enough - the consensus was to say no to protein supplements.

Next up was Dr. Garth Davis who discussed America’s obsession with protein. He is current publishing a book called Proteinaholics which will be released in the fall of 2015. His assessment is if we eat enough variety of plant-based foods, then the protein will take care of itself. He showed how protein is contributing to the obesity problem and shared the science to back it up.

Rich Roll was back on stage to discuss food sustainability. In this talk Rich dove deeper into the challenge that the meat industry is not only killing us - but also killing the planet. He reviewed some of the science around the amount of resources need to support factory-farming of cattle, pigs, and chickens. When you do the math - the best answer is plants.

The next day started out with a 5K Race. We ventured through downtown with Rich Roll and Matt Frazier. There were some amazing runners there. I enjoyed the run and actually got a chance to catch up with an old high school friend whom I had not seen in over 30 years. I personally just ran the race at a comfortable pace, I did not plan to push too hard or try to PR (set a personal record). Just being with all these great plant-based athletes was my reward.

Dr. Garth Davis had the next talking segment. He discussed how our genes can certainly impact our health and weight, but that you can overcome these challenges with a plant-based diet. He also shared some amazing stories about some of his patients and their weight loss journey. He spent some time talking about the challenges many obese people face. These challenges include their environment, family history, work, health, and emotions. He is leading the way to get his peers to look at food as part of the problem. He shared that many doctors do not make the correlation back to food and that the medical industry has a lot to learn. He spent some time sharing his own weight loss journey and his accomplishments as an Ironman.

Ellen Jaffe Jones was back up and discussed how she changed her life, became a health advocate, and vegan. She is a top female senior runner who has won many events and competes at the national level in the 100-1.5K races. Her husband recently had a heart attack and her month long experience supporting him in the hospital was truly eye-opening.

The last speaker was Gene Baur from Farm Sanctuary. He shared stories of animal cruelty and the un-sustainability of factory farming. While I personally chose plant-powered living to improve my health, you certainly cannot deny the fact that factory farming is hurting our environment.

Finally we finished up Sunday afternoon with an All Star panel of speakers. Questions were asked about health, nutrition, specific diseases, and much more. The panel did a great job of answering the questions from the audience. The sense I got from some of the questions was “does this lifestyle really work?” Based on the information presented over the weekend and the results shared form the speakers, I would say “yes it does!”

In the end this was a wonderful event. Never would I have imagined so many of the top wellness advocates all in one venue.


  1. it's tough to put so much into something and not get the pass. But you have the right makeup to finish the job and go get that number. I have a ton of respect for you.


  2. Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post.