“I usually eat mung beans with fresh spirulina and sauteed greens for breakfast. Is that ok?”
This was Stacey’s first question when she joined my 28 Day Transformation.
That’s when people are usually giving me pushback about dropping their Diet Coke or nightly wine habit.
And she’s asking me for MUNG BEAN permission!?
I’ll be honest: I was like, “alright – who the hell is this person?”
And that’s when I learned that Stacey is a real food activist who speaks to audiences of all ages about food, farming, and culture.
She eats mostly vegetables and most of her food comes from her San Diego back yard – which is the size of an SUV and which she shares with 10 housemates.
This is not my average client.
If you are anything like me, you are wondering:
- Why the hell would someone like that want to take an online fitness and nutrition challenge?
2. Is is seriously possible to grow that much food in that small a space? And is it a huge pain in the ass?
Since that day when she asked the Mung Bean question, I have become friends with Stacey and I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone as passionate about healthy living. This is Stacey’s Fitness Story.
(PS. Stacey is so into getting everyone to eat healthy that she’s offering a freebie on 6 Easy-to-Grow Delicious Microgreens Anyone Can Grow! <====HIGHLY recommended! )
Were you always an exerciser and healthy eater? Did this stuff always come to you naturally?
I was a free-range kid of the 70’s and grew up in my mom’s garden. I begged my mom for more Brussel sprouts, so I’ve always preferred vegetables.
But I’ve also had a wicked sweet tooth my whole life.
If it were up to my cravings, I would eat chocolate, cookies and greens for every meal.
My mom was super strict and didn’t allow candy, soda, cookies or chips in the house which probably saved me in my early years.
But I gained a lot of weight in college and during my masters degree was surprised one day to find myself in the obese category at my doctor!
I easily get off-track if I’m not having fun working out somehow whether that’s playing a sport or in my later years… farming.
What was the situation right before you signed up for the Transformation? What made you take the plunge when you were already pretty fit?
I’ve tried pretty much every way to stay in shape and eat well over the years. And just before the Transformation, nothing was fun.
I wasn’t feeling comfortable in my own skin. I was feeling resentful at all the energy I was putting into keeping weight off as I was aging.
Ever since 40, my body just doesn’t respond like it used to.
And what happened during the 28 Day Transformation?
This is going to sound crazy, but lemon-ginger water in the morning changed my world as well as tracking how much water I was drinking throughout the day.
So much of what I was experiencing was me being dehydrated! And I had no idea.
I felt so energized in the morning and felt great in my body in a way I hadn’t experienced in years.
Without someone to shine a light on all your routines, sometimes you miss the most basic things.
The other amazing transformation was how inspired I was to wake up in the morning and rock my workout. It was so nice to have someone tell me exactly what to do so I didn’t have to think about it.
And I loved the workouts had a bit of gamification in them. I enjoyed trying to beat Oonagh’s times for those workouts.
After the first week, I felt strong again in my upper body. Over the months, I’ve noticed my shoulders changing shape and un-hunching after years of being hunched over.
I know you already had a really healthy diet before you signed up. Can you describe what you’d eat on a typical day?
I am vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, flour-free so I basically eat plants in their most basic plant form.
I like simplicity. Beans, greens, sauerkraut, avocado topped with hemp seeds and flax meal or flax oil 😉
But I prepare them a little different each sitting. Like refried beans with sautéed garden greens, rosemary-orange-lemongrass sauerkraut for one meal and then curried lentils with sautéed garden greens, dill-garlic sauerkraut another meal. Typically I have a couple berries each meal too.
How much of the food you eat regularly is stuff that you’ve grown yourself?
My garden is small, about the size of a large SUV. And I share that garden with 10 housemates.
About 50% of my typical meal plate is homegrown: all my greens, herbs and sauerkraut. Squashes, tomatoes, peppers are typically from my garden as well.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about growing their own food?
Most people tell me they don’t grow because it takes too much time.
Here’s the deal: yes, it takes a couple hours to set up a small garden. If you want to grow a lot of greens and root vegetables and you automate your watering. Then only thing you have to do in the garden is harvest which takes a couple minutes.
When you take the time to set up a garden right, it’s no different than brushing your teeth each day. It can be that simple.
How has growing your own food contributed to your health and fitness?
I could tell you all the things that people typically say: my food is nutrient dense because it is fresh-picked, I know exactly what’s in my food, I know it’s organic, my garden gets me moving outside, and my food is packed with flavor! And all of that would be true.
But the biggest benefit I find is the peace I feel being this connected to plants. I watch the magic of life in my garden and suddenly everything is easy. Plants miraculously grow and flower overnight and turn into tomatoes. It is so beautiful to watch.
What would you say to someone who is reading this and thinking ‘I could never do that. I could never be fit and wholesome like Stacey. I just don’t have the time.’
We alone set our priorities. We choose what we have time for. I have two ways of approaching this myself:
1) When I’m in scarcity mode and I’m thinking I have no time… Sometimes I trick myself. I force myself to stretch and move for 5 minutes right when I get out of bed. You know what happens? After 5 minutes, somehow I feel like I have time for 30 minutes, because all the endorphins have taken over, I feel great and I want to keep moving.
2) When I feel like everything is getting to be routine and I’m a little bored and I want to just stop… I think about the alternative. Do I have time to spend in a hospital bed, sick and weak? That doesn’t sound like fun at all!
And when all else fails, I think of my friend who has two kids 6 and 8, runs an international non-profit, puts 3 REAL meals on the table for her family and still manages to run at least 5 marathons each year. Which means she is running pretty much every day.
It’s all about designing your life so that your priorities come first.
I know you are so passionate about what you teach. Why do you care if people grow their own food?
I believe everyone deserves fresh, organic food and one of the best ways is to grow your own.
We have the power to nourish ourselves, to get healthy, to grow our own medicine and to live a wonderful life.
Growing food is a health plan that everyone can afford.
…And it’s up to us to show future generations how to carry on these traditions.
When you grow food, you start to see the relationship between the biology in your garden and the physical health of your gut and you see why people say, “You are what you eat.”
It’s a cosmic moment that I see all my students experience, and their world is never the same. I feel so blessed to join them on that journey.
Anything else you’d like to say to people who are trying to eat better and move a bit more?
You got this.
Have some fun. And if you’re not having fun, hang out with some people who are eating like you want to eat and moving (like Oonagh)… because this health stuff is contagious!
Note from Oonagh: I LOVE Stacey’s last note about having fun and surrounding yourself with people who have habits that you want to cultivate. I’m not going to lie – hanging out with Stacey makes me want to up my game a bit (just when you thought you were healthy…sheesh!).
If you have ever been curious about how Backyard Gardening could maybe cut your organic grocery bill, I highly recommend you check out Stacey’s awesome workshops: