The Vegan Weight-Loss Solution with Author Del Sroufe

March 31, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good and we’re so honored to have with us today Del Sroufe. He’s the author of the amazing and famous book, Forks Over Knives and the new book, Better Than Vegan. Welcome to Green is Good, Del. DEL SROUFE: Hi. How are you today? JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re great. We’re great. We’re so thankful for you to come on today and before we get into talking about your new book, Better Than Vegan and of course the great work you’re doing at Wellness Forum Foods, Del, share a little bit about Del Sroufe’s journey and how you got here and what led to this platform that you’re working in now. DEL SROUFE: Sure. You know, it’s interesting. When people ask you what you want to be when you grow up, I never thought I’d end up being a chef, let alone a vegan chef. I’ve been cooking since I was a kid though. I started cooking when I was eight years old but I cooked the standard American diet, leading to a lifetime of bad eating habits and yo-yo dieting. I actually was attending business school at Ohio State University and dropped out to go work for this little vegan restaurant, looking for management experience and for something to do and I ended up being there eight and a half years. In that eight and a half years, I not only became vegan but decided to open up my own vegan bakery and in 1997, I opened a vegan bakery, became vegan myself, of course, and then proceeded to work myself crazy and not only to work myself crazy but to gain over two hundred pounds eating a diet that was vegan, yes, but unhealthy too and full of processed foods and white flour and sugar and oil and all of that so that led me to eventually get to the point of where I weighed 475 pounds and at 475 pounds, life is really hard. I eventually closed my business because I was just tired and I started a personal chef service, a vegan personal chef service here in Columbus and I delivered meals to clients around town and eventually, I got to the place where I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired and I came to the Wellness Forum. I had been making products for them since 1999 and I came to the Wellness Forum and said I need some help and I started on our program. I took our ten hour class on health and wellness and proceeded to change my way of eating and my way of thinking about food. I’ve lost well over 200 pounds and am well on my way to losing the last 50 pounds and getting myself in shape. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is a very inspiring story and really a good one and that brings up a really important point that’s not spoken enough. Talk a little bit about eating vegan doesn’t really always have to mean eating healthy. Explain that push-pull with regards to veganism and sometimes the false hope that it gives people if they’re not watching all the other markers in their life. DEL SROUFE: What you have to realize is that the marketing machine that is processed foods has taken hold of the vegan world too so we can eat vegan sausage and we can eat vegan burgers and we can eat vegan ice cream and potato chips and beer is vegan, one of my favorite foods, and all that. And there are high fat plant foods that are healthy but in excess quantities, they’re not healthy. So you know, it’s easy to fall into that trap and a lot of people do, changing out their healthy or unhealthy eating habits for unhealthy vegan eating habits and that’s what happens far too often and that’s what happened to me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Interesting. Talk a little bit about, there’s a lot of people out there moving towards veganism. I see it every day. I’m a vegan. My family, my wife and children, are vegans. Talk a little bit about the science behind, why make the change to whole foods and a plant based diet nowadays? DEL SROUFE: Well, if you look at the amazing that T. Cohen Campbell did in the China study and the research that’s been going on and on, and not only him, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard, even our own Dr. Pam Popper that we have here at the Wellness Forum, we are seeing that people are falling off of the medical wheel and seeing that the medical wheel isn’t working for them. It’s not curing them. All it’s doing is managing their diseases and you get sick and tired of that when you see that over and over again, this is just kind of an obvious choice because one: it’s based on sounds science, the sound science of eating well. People, when you look at them in Forks Over Knives are looking at the science in that movie and it’s like oh my god, it’s right here in front of me. It’s kind of an easy choice for some people. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You are the author or co-author of Forks Over Knives, right? DEL SROUFE: The cookbook, yeah. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Yeah, and that’s one of the great vegan cookbooks out there so for our listeners out there who haven’t had the opportunity yet, please watch the movie and get the cookbook. I’ve given that cookbook out to more people and more people have said that that book has helped them transition and it’s their favorite book I’ve given them so my hat’s off to you and I’m so honored to have you on today, Del, because I didn’t know you were the co author but thank you for that book. That book is so important. I mean, so important. DEL SROUFE: It’s a great book and I think it really shows people that you can not only eat healthy but eat well. I love good food and I think that I try to show that in my cookbooks and my recipes and I think people are responding to that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What are you seeing? I know your friends and partners with Doctor Pam Popper, who has been on this show now twice. What are some of the benefits of eating a plant based diet? What can our listeners expect to happen as they transition their lifestyle and their diet over? What happens to a person? DEL SROUFE: Whether you are overweight or not, one of the things I think people see first is weight loss, getting rid of the excess body fat, which is a great thing because body fat is a precursor to all kinds of diseases. You see more energy. That’s an easy one. You stop counting calories and managing this little wheel of dieting. You focus on a dietary pattern of eating starchy foods and beans and grains and vegetables and fresh fruits and staying away from high fat foods and all those and then other than that, you just eat well. It’s not about starvation and it’s not about deprivation. It’s about eating and to eat to fuel the body. You gain energy and you quit managing disease. That’s a big one. I don’t go to the doctor once a month to check my blood pressure. I reduce my risk for all of these diseases. It’s too powerful to ignore and I’ve seen it in this business. I’ve been with the Wellness Forum. I’ve seen people walk in the door sick and diseased and walk out with their health back and just being so happy to be living their life again. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners that just joined us, we’re honored to have Del Sroufe with us today. He is the author of Forks Over Knives and his new book, Better Than Vegan. You can find Del at wellnessforumfoods.com. Del, talk a little bit about your new book, Better Than Vegan. I’m on your website now. I’m looking at the book and to you, what does the title mean, Better Than Vegan? DEL SROUFE: It goes back to the fact that you can eat a vegan diet and still not be healthy if you’re eating a lot of processed foods. I learned that the hard way. There’s nothing easy about weighing 475 pounds and there’s nothing easy about getting rid of that. I still work hard at weight loss to this day and it’s something I have to work at every day so Better Than Vegan is simply the fact that if you eat the right diet, the minimally processed food, foods that are low in fat and low in protein, devoid of animal protein and animal foods, if you eat the right diet, then it is better than vegan. It’s really going to help you achieve optimal health so what it gave me was the ability to share with people, especially vegans because we’re seeing a lot of sick vegans coming into our practice. We’re seeing a lot of vegans who are seeing some of the same diseases, overweight, diabetic, etcetera, that the main stream is suffering and they’re confused by it so that’s kind of why I wrote the book and just to be able to tell my story and say that, look, it is possible to achieve health, to achieve a lifestyle that is vibrant and happy and eating the right foods is one way to do that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And Del, for our listeners out there, they can buy your book on your website or, of course, on Amazon.com or other fine book stores around the United States. DEL SROUFE: Yep. That’s correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And you’re based in Columbus, Ohio. Is that correct? DEL SROUFE: Yes. That is correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So if people want to taste your delicious food, is there a place they can go? DEL SROUFE: Yeah. We have a deli case full of foods that we prepare every day so you can walk in nine a.m. to nine p.m. Monday through Friday and pick up some lunch or dinner to take home. We deliver and we ship. We’ve shipped some of our foods frozen across the country from time to time. If you’re in town, stop by and let us feed you some lunch. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Like I said earlier, Del can be found at wellnessforumfoods.com. Del, let’s talk a little bit about perception and reality when it comes to meat and deli. What’s bad in them and why should they be taken out of your diet? DEL SROUFE: Well you know, talking about perception, we are told every day that protein is essential to our bodies and that animal protein is key and that we have to drink three eight ounce glasses of dairy every day. We’re told that by people who supposedly have our best interests in hand and some of them do. There are many well-meaning people out there who have been told the same thing and taught the same thing. The problem is it’s just not true so when you start looking at the science and you start looking at what really goes on, we know that meat and dairy promote disease. When you get your animal consumption, and this is from the China study, when your animal consumption goes up above a certain percentage point, then you increase your risk for all those degenerative diseases that we talk about. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I haven’t had the honor yet of enjoying your delicious food and I’m going to because I go through Columbus quite often but my experience with vegan restaurants across America, both when it comes to the regular foods that they create and also the wonderful desserts they create, you’re missing nothing. You’re a chef. You can create vegan food that has so much taste in it that the people are missing nothing with no meat and no dairy in it. Is that not correct? DEL SROUFE: Yeah, the misperception that vegan food is like eating tree bark is just that. It’s a misperception. The simple fact is that I eat really good food. I love really good food. I have all my life. I come from a family of really good cooks and flavors is key for us and our foods. It’s just that flavor and healthy foods can go hand in hand and do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Del, the issue that you so caringly shared at the top of the show of eating too much of even a good thing and gaining weight and now being on the other side of that, losing 200 hundred pounds successfully and continuing to monitor that and continuing to lose, can you share some of your greatest hits and tips with listeners? What got you ahead of the curve instead of behind the curve. Even though you do know the science and you have the ability in your talent and your DNA to create great food, how did you get ahead of it instead of behind it now? DEL SROUFE: A couple of things that I do differently now than I did before, before, eating was just something that when I was hungry, I grabbed what was in front of me. Now I really plan my life out to eat well. In other words, I schedule my eating. I know what I’m going to eat at the next meal so there’s no surprises. In other words, when you get caught out in public and you’re hungry, there aren’t a lot of choices for you so you better have a plan in mind so I schedule my eating and I eat six meals a day and then I sanitize my kitchen so you can’t walk in to my kitchen and find potato chips or beer or oil or sugar or any of those processed foods that are bad for me. I don’t even have flour, whole wheat or white flour, in my kitchen because I’m a baker by trade and I can easily throw together the pancakes and the cookies and all of those unhealthy things so sanitizing your kitchen, stocking your kitchen full of healthy foods. When you have healthy foods in front of you, you’re more likely to make healthier choices. Get plenty of rest. Tired people make not so great choices. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. Those are some great tips. DEL SROUFE: Those are some good ones. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How about exercise? Where does exercise play a role and fun, fun time for Del, fun time for all of us? Where does that play a role in this nutritional vegan journey? DEL SROUFE: If you had asked me seven years ago about exercise, I’ve exercised off and on all my life. I used to love riding my bike. I’d ride my bike 150 miles a week through trails and do a 30 mile bike ride, all of those things. I was just never very consistent with it. Six years ago, when I was weighing 475 pounds and we talked about exercise, to me it was just pain and discomfort. There was no joy or happiness surrounding that but we started off with where I was and did what I was able to do. I now work out with a trainer four days a week plus I exercise on my own and I’ve picked up one of my favorite things I’m doing right now, fitness boxing. I’m learning how to box. I don’t ever really want to hit another human being but the amount of energy that you spend on boxing and the strength training that goes behind that and all those things make exercise fun so finding something that you like to do is important but it’s also important to make sure you’re getting that heart rate up, keeping it up there for about sixty minutes, and then doing plenty of good stretching as well as some strength training. All of those things come in to play and you have to have all of them to achieve optimal health. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is great. You know, Del, I’m on your great website, wellnessforumfoods.com. Also, you teach cooking classes. Can you share a little bit about what that’s about and how has that movement grown? How has that practice of yours grown? Are more and more people coming to you and saying, ‘Please show me how to cook healthy foods’? DEL SROUFE: Yeah, I think the big thing that people realize is once they learn the science, then they have to put it into practice so that’s what our business teaches. It helps people put it into practice and our cooking classes are just one extension of that so learning to put some recipes into your collection that are healthy, again, it goes along with that whole planning thing of having something ready and available to go so if you don’t know what to cook, most likely, you’re going to fall back on the old bad habits so our cooking classes are fun. We do one or two a month and they do a variety of different themes. We do everything from soups, stir fries, pasta dishes, etcetera. We’re doing a whole grain bread making class, coming up here one day soon and I think people enjoy them because for them, it’s fun to have the light bulb go on, to see that they can do this and it actually tastes good. They’re growing well. More and more people are signing up for our classes. Sometimes I do a wine and dine and I’m going to hear about this but sometimes I bring a bottle of wine and we’ll do a four course meal. A bottle of wine is a treat. It’s not an everyday thing but it’s a treat and we do a meal surrounding that and those are very popular. We’ve had 50 or 60 people show up for this and not everybody brings wine but some people do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And for our listeners out there, there are vegan alcohols and vegan wines to enjoy for special events. DEL SROUFE: And let me just say it’s really important to distinguish between this isn’t about deprivation, again. Every now and then, I have a piece of chocolate cake. I actually decided not to have cake for my birthday this year because I just didn’t want to go that route but every now and then, you have a piece of cake but it’s not something that you have every day or even once a week. It’s a special treat. It’s a special occasion kind of thing, the same thing with wine or any other kind of treat like that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m with you on that. We’re down to the last three minutes or so and I just want to ask a couple more questions. Fact or fiction? Cooking vegan is more expensive than just cooking regular processed food. DEL SROUFE: No, processed foods are more expensive by far and the more that you do for yourself, the less expensive your food bill. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And more difficult or easier? When you’re coming up with your recipes, when you’re showing your recipes, is it more difficult to cook vegan style mac and cheese? DEL SROUFE: Not at all. When you see my recipes, you’ll see a little bit. Lasagna’s always going to be a complicated thing to put together but you’ll see a stir fry that can take ten or fifteen minutes to do. It can be very easy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to two minutes. Share a simple recipe for a nutritionally rich meal right now, just to give them a little taste of Del Sroufe. DEL SROUFE: One of my favorite recipes from the cookbook is a smoky black bean bisque and it’s a really easy recipe to do it’s onions and garlic and it’s canned adobe chilies and pepper sauce so it’s black beans and salt and a couple of other things that I can’t think of off the top of my head and you cook your onions and you cook your garlic. You don’t use oil. Add water when you need to keep them from sticking but you may not need to and when those are done, you add your chipotles and you add your beans and your broth and then let that cook and then you puree that and I’ll tell you what I love about this. Season it with salt and pepper as you will. I love this soup. It’s a great soup but sometimes I’ll just pour it over a baked potato. It’s full of flavor. It’s a smoky rich flavor and it’s delicious and easy so I actually have some in my freezer so when I just want it for entertaining or for something like that, it’s one that I go to so it’s a good one. Another thing that I have, I make hummus a lot because hummus is a five minute meal and I do five different hummuses in my cookbook just for variety, made with things like fava beans or spinach artichoke or basil and sundried tomatoes and things like that and it’s a five minute meal. I put them in a wrap with some salad greens and off I go. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow and like you said, hummus is so versatile in so many ways. How about a quick cookie or a quick dessert? What’s a quick fix for people for a special event? DEL SROUFE: Slice some bananas and put them in your freezer in a good freezer bag and then pull out two ripe bananas and put them in your food processor with a little bit of almond milk and a pinch of Stevia and maybe some vanilla and you have an instant ice cream. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh my gosh. I’m getting hungry already. DEL SROUFE: That’s a good one. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s a great one. Well listen, for our listeners out there that want to have more recipes and learn how to be better than vegan, please buy Del’s new book, Better Than Vegan. You could go buy it on his website, wellnessforumfoods.com or, of course, at Amazon.com or other fine bookstores around the United States or around the world. Del, a couple other things. I just want to thank you for all the great work you’re doing. I want to thank you for Forks Over Knives and thank you for showing us a better way to eat and take of ourselves and the planet and Del Sroufe, you are truly living proof that Green is Good. DEL SROUFE: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.