From Boston to Italy – Transforming Health and Friendship with the Power of a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet

Kickstart in Italy
By Tracy Hines

In 2013, I had a remarkable physical with my doctor. I always prided myself on being pretty healthy – I exercised and thought I ate “right.” I had a few health issues – nothing too serious – and a few extra pounds I could stand to lose. But overall, I felt okay. Turns out my doctor knew better. After the devastating loss of two seemingly healthy middle-aged male patients to “sudden cardiac death,” he embarked on his own research to figure out what he had missed. Through his research, he found Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, and his perspective on what defines a healthy diet was completely changed. During my physical, he recommended I consider a plant-based diet and suggested I read The China Study and watch Forks Over Knives and I agreed.

My mind was completely blown. I gave my husband a head’s up that I wanted to make a total switch to a plant-based diet and that it would have a pretty big impact on our family. He said to go for it – that he would join me – and I did. And then I started reading and learning. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn, and my decision was reinforced many times over. Layered on top of all of this learning about improved health were the environmental benefits of eating this way and the horrors of animal food production, which reinforced my decision. Soon after, my then 8-year old daughter and I watched the movie “Vegucated” and she joined me. I realized that I wanted to share this powerful approach to health with others and went on to get a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, Plant-Based Chef Certification through Rouxbe Cooking School, and became a Certified Food for Life Instructor with the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine.  I began teaching plant-based workshops and cooking classes in and around the Boston area in my free time.

In the spring of 2016, my longtime friend and former colleague, Canan Orhun, reached out about getting together for dinner since she was going to be in town from northern Italy’s Piedmont Region – the world-renowned wine region –  where she now lived with her husband. Canan and I worked together at an environmental non-profit back in the 90s. We met for dinner at an Indian restaurant, where I ordered the vegan option and she was curious to hear about this way of eating that I was so excited about.

Back in Italy, she did her own research and discovered that eating this way could help with some joint and inflammation issues she was experiencing – gave it a try – and was blown away by the positive changes she experienced. She was so inspired that, in the fall of 2016, she also went on to earn the Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition.

Canan and her husband Umberto had recently renovated an old farmhouse in the beautiful hillside town of Calamandrana in the Piedmont region. This part of Italy has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its “Outstanding Universal Value” represented by the deep-rooted culture of wine and the extraordinary landscape shaped by human labor, related to grape growing and wine production. Canan had often invited me to visit, and I dreamed of going, but had never been able to make it work.

After her certificate course, Canan sent me the most wonderful proposition: What if we worked together to bring tours to Italy to experience the wine, architecture, culture, landscape, incredible hospitality of the people, and food with a plant-based twist and I could teach cooking and nutrition classes in her farmhouse kitchen in between daily excursions? We set out to design a personalized plant-based tour where travelers felt more like they were visiting family abroad than tourists. Canan and Umberto worked with countless restaurants to offer plant-based meals for our travelers, and the wineries to provide plant-based snacks during our wine-tastings.

Our first tour was a ladies-only group, and the feedback was truly inspiring. The women who traveled with us said they have never before experienced a trip that felt so much like being with family. Lifelong friendships, wonderful memories, and new converts to the power of a plant-based diet were made. Being able to provide a plant-based option to people wanting to experience Italy in partnership with my good friend has been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever undertaken. We now offer both ladies-only tours and couples/singles tours.

Eating this way has completely changed my life in so many wonderful ways and brought me incredible gifts, far beyond improved health and vitality –  new friendships, new experiences, a newfound appreciation for the impact our food choices have on our bodies and the planet, and the opportunity to empower people to take control of their health with every meal. Now, I can’t imagine living my life any other way.

AUTHOR BIO:

Tracie Hines lives and teaches on Boston’s North Shore and travels to Italy each year, leading plant-based tours that include cooking and nutrition classes with her friend and partner, Canan Orhun. Find out more at www.sageplantpoweredhealth.com/italy-tours

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