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It Started With A Dress.

By Jennifer Filice

This past spring, my brother’s now wife asked me to be a bridesmaid in their August wedding. Soured by the thought of being a bridesmaid at 38, and mortified by her choice of bridesmaids’ dress, I knew that I would have to lose some weight. Always on some diet or another, it seemed like I would never be able to lose it. Any success with fad diets, starvation or diet pills was short lived and frustrating. In order to wear that purple, strapless, backless, floor-length bridesmaid gown, I decided to completely clean up my approach to food. I decided to become a vegan, and as a result, easily dropped 25 pounds.

A true example of “Let food be thy medicine,” this change in diet became a transformation of lifestyle. While I had been a vegetarian for a few years in college, my food selections then had mainly consisted of frozen yogurt and Doritos. Being vegan ignited my recognition of the power of fresh, whole foods. I had more energy, opted to prepare meals for myself, and made healthier choices when eating at restaurants. Feeling better made it easier to exercise, as well. My world seemed to open up.

To educate myself, I started buying vegan cook books, searching for vegan recipes from my favorite chefs, and researching vegan products online. I started becoming interested in the social and political impacts of food, and its importance in community. I became aware of the connection between my access to fresh fruits and vegetables and a healthy lifestyle. The numerous farmers’ markets in my area began to have an appeal for me, and I began to enthusiastically seek them out. I even planted tomatoes and other veggies in a garden, and watched them grow over the months. I posted comments and pictures of my growing veggies and pictures of things I had cooked to my facebook page, giving my bacon-loving friends plenty of opportunities to poke fun. In addition, I began inviting my friends over to share vegan dishes and meals. Some recipes were successful, and others were politely consumed by people who would only have done so because they loved me. But, it was all interesting and fun.

As a result of my new hobby and passion, I decided to investigate cooking schools. One focused on natural foods and vegetarian cooking, another provided an externship with a local farm to underline the importance of farm-to-table food rearing, and many others offered a traditional education with all the basics of flavor development and cooking techniques. I am happy to say that I have been accepted to cooking school in my own town, Monterey, California, which is located in the heart of the one of the world’s most vibrant agriculture regions. I have plans to be a vegan chef, creating dishes that share the importance and power of quality, local ingredients and fresh, whole foods.

In August, I was able to wear the purple, strapless, backless, floor-length bridesmaid gown, and was happy to celebrate my brother’s wedding with our friends and family. I really should be grateful for that dress. It was the catalyst for a whole new life.

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