Documentarians Paul David Kennamer Jr. and Merrilee Jacobs did not agree to take a meeting with a local allergist with the intent of turning their own lives upside down. And they certainly didn't think the other four people in their Collegedale-based production company would also buy into a lifestyle upheaval involving the way they eat, but that's what happened when they went in search of their next project in February 2015.
Kennamer says he grew up in Alabama on a "traditional American diet of red meat, fried chicken and whatever else I wanted to eat."
Jacobs grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist family and had "dabbled in vegetarianism over the years, but I have a cheese addiction," she says.
So it was when they sat down with the doctor two years ago to discuss producing a series of seminars on healthful eating. On the drive back to the office after the meeting, Kennamer mentioned he was intrigued by the whole-foods/plant-based diet the allergist had discussed, in part because of a family history of heart problems.
Find out more at www.eatingyoualive.com.
For research, the two then watched "Forks Over Knives," a documentary that links an animal-based/processed foods diet with many of the chronic health issues Americans face today.
Soon, Kennamer and Jacobs were talking to the others in their office about trying a whole-food/plant-based diet. To their surprise, everyone jumped on board. Suddenly they were eating only foods that came from plants, including vegetables, legumes and fruits. No meat, no eggs, no dairy, no processed foods.
"It changed our lives," Jacobs says.
The group dove head first into the world of whole-food/plant-based eating, and the six co-workers have dropped a combined 500 pounds and gotten off meds for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now, rather than the seminars they discussed with the allergist, they've created a feature-length documentary called "Eating You Alive."
Wanting to expand the scope of "Forks Over Knives," the team traveled the country, talking to not only scientists and food industry people but to celebrities such as comedian Penn Jillette and director James Cameron. They also included segments on how to actually eat a whole-food/plant-based diet.
"I can't cook," Kennamer says, "so I wanted to dumb it down to show people how to do this."
Eventually, Kennamer and Jacobs were even joined in their dietary quest by family members, many of whom at first told them they were crazy or silly for eating what some might call "rabbit food."
The filmmakers say they are on a mission to educate people, including people in the health-care industry, about the harmful effects of an animal-based diet and the benefits of a whole-food/plant-based one.
The film was shown to a group of physicians recently at the Majestic 12 and will be screened to the general public locally in the next couple of months. The film should eventually find its way to digital download, DVD, Blu-ray and Netflix, according to Kennamer.
Both say it takes a commitment to eating healthfully, especially since society is not geared that way. It involves everything from planning your meals ahead of time, especially when traveling, and it can mean bringing your own food to luncheons, dinner parties or work-related events where food is involved.
"When we go on location, we bring everything with us," Kennamer says.
"I've even called ahead to restaurants," Jacobs says. "Maybe a week or two ahead. Most chefs seem to enjoy the challenge. I give them the parameters and tell them they are the professionals, have fun with it and surprise us, and it's been wonderful."
The other secret to being successful with a whole-food/plant-based diet is "to never let yourself get hungry," Jacobs says. "That's when you want to cheat, usually out of convenience because you eat whatever is close."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Vegan Mac and Cheese
1 cup cashews
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup oat flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon date sugar
2 teaspoons powdered mustard
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 cup dry macaroni
1 cup water or unsweetened nondairy milk
Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until a powder is formed. There should not be any discernible chunks or large granules of cashews, so this may take 3 to 4 minutes of processing.
Mix may be stored in a jar or portioned into 1/3-cup increments in zipper-lock bags. Will keep in pantry for a month or two or in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Cook 1 cup of dry macaroni according to package instructions, and drain.
Combine 1/3 cup mix with 1 cup water or milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk well and bring to a boil.
Simmer for 1 minute, then toss with hot cooked macaroni.
— Recipe by Miyoko Schinner from MiyokosKitchen.com
Black Bean-Corn Salsa
2 cans black beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoon lime juice
Combine all ingredients, and toss until evenly mixed. Serve with your choice of oil-free chips, or use to top off a salad or a baked white or sweet potato.