Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Guest Post: Jack & Trisha’s amazing year!

(Lynne here) I met “Santa Jack” & Trisha of Happy Times Two about a month ago when they passed thru Chicago on their “around the U.S.” RV tour.  Their vegan transformation this year has been nothing short of AMAZING (together, they’ve lost a staggering 120 lbs and counting!).  I just knew that fellow Vegan Vagabond readers would love to hear their story, so I asked Jack to write this guest blog post.  Enjoy!)



We’re Jack and Trisha, and are currently 6 months into a 7 month RV excursion around the country to celebrate Trisha’s joining me in retirement. When we started planning this trip, we were excited about seeing so much of the country, but as it’s turned out, by far the greatest gift we’ve received from this experience is a total transformation in our health, as we’ve become “mostly vegan!” I can’t begin to describe how wonderful this has been, how much better we feel physically, and how our outlook on life has changed since we started this journey.

First, a little background. All my life I’ve wrestled with being overweight, starting in childhood. Through the years I’ve done probably every conceivable diet, with some success at times, but invariably I’ve put back on the weight I had lost, and steadily gaining more. I’ve often said my closet looked like a men’s store--from slim and trim sizes all the way up to designs by Omar the Tentmaker! Even though I had run a marathon at age 35, in recent years I had become much more sedentary and less active. I started taking cholesterol and blood pressure medications years ago, and my doctors kept having to increase the dosage. In January of this year my doctor added a third BP med to my regimen, and this was pretty unsettling-- I had figured I would always be on these meds, but adding this new one was sobering.

Some “Before” pictures--DSC00300

Well, about this time we were preparing to embark on our trip and while surfing the web for tips on RVing, I ran across Lynne’s WinnieViews blog, discovering to my delight that she had the identical model RV we had recently bought. Her blog was incredibly helpful, and she was kind enough to answer many questions I had. But by far the most significant thing about her blog was her link to Vegan Vagabonds, and a gift for which both Trisha and I will be forever in her debt.

On a lark, I just started reading some of her posts on this blog, as well as those from Tessa and Evelyn and a light just went off in my head, I mean like exploded!! For reasons I can’t really explain, the picture she posted of the spinach and kale smoothie just hit me like a ton of bricks--just a sudden enlightenment moment!! I was also intrigued by her stories of weight loss due to adopting a plant based diet. I showed Trisha the picture and some of the blog posts and we both just said “Let’s do this!”

At the beginning of our trip!

So I ordered a Blendtec, and we both read Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, and were amazed at the many success stories he described. What was without a doubt the most helpful advice to us from his book, as well as from all three wonderful women who started Vegan Vagabonds was that you didn’t have to be a slave to this approach. As Lynne says, she occasionally eats non-vegan foods, just doesn’t make a habit of it anymore. We had known some vegans who were just Nazis about it and this approach was something of a turn off. But hearing that you could successfully be “mostly vegan” was just the approach both of us needed.

I had been scheduled to go back to see my doctor in February since she had been concerned about my increasing blood pressure and she wanted to monitor it more closely. We had just started this new way of eating a couple of days before my appointment and when I told her what we were doing she was just ecstatic! She told me that she and her husband eat about 80% plant based, eating some meat/fish/dairy usually on the weekends, but with this way of eating her husband had been able to get off his blood pressure medications completely.

I went back to see my doctor in March, just before we left on our trip, and in this one month I had lost 24 pounds, and my blood pressure was starting to come down! In just one month! So she told me to send her a log of my bp readings so she could decide whether to reduce my meds. It’s now been 7 months since we started eating this way and I’ve lost 80 pounds, and she has taken me off two of the three bp meds! Hopefully, by the time we get back home in another month she will be able to take me off the other meds as well. Trisha has lost more than 40 pounds, and we both just marvel at how much better we feel.

We didn’t have bikes when we started our trip, but bought some 7 speed bikes in Alabama and started riding. By the time we got to Colorado we traded these in for 24 speed bikes and we’ve done some 20 mile rides and one over 30! We’re hiking a lot and just feeling super!


And it’s been much easier to eat a vegan diet on the road than what you might expect. We brought our Blendtec on the RV and have smoothies just about every day for breakfast. When we are dry camping and can’t run the generator, we have oatmeal, with blueberries, sometimes craisins, sometimes a little honey. Our smoothies are variations of the recipe Lynne posted on this blog--we add some chia powder, sometimes a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder and use just frozen blueberries for a dark chocolate flavor/color; sometimes we add peanut butter (we have been able to find stores where we can grind our own fresh), and we’ve just experimented with different frozen fruits. When we’ve been able to get fresh berries at farmers markets or “u-pick” places, we’ve frozen those to use later.

For lunch we usually have tomato sandwiches, made with either whole wheat pita pockets or other whole grain organic breads we’ve found at health food stores along the way, usually just using one slice, open face style. We use tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, avocado, greens of any variety. We’ll usually top this off with some fresh fruit.

For supper we have a variety, lots of times with quinoa or black rice topped with steamed or grilled veggies, a salad made with whatever fresh veggies we’ve been able to find at roadside stands or farmers markets--for grilling, we like to use chunks of onion, beets, carrots, yellow and zucchini squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, cauliflower, whatever. We’ll spray a little PAM over this, use some Mrs. Dash salt free seasoning, some basil, maybe other spices, wrap it in foil and use our little portable grill out on the table at the campsite. We discovered black rice on this trip and really love it, either hot and topped with veggies, or cold added to salads; same with quinoa. I’ll often saute some tempeh, tofu or seitan to put in salads as well.

Always load up the salads with chickpeas, black beans or other types of beans, and add some seeds or nuts. We often use nutritional yeast sprinkled on salad, or over the steamed veggies, great flavor, more protein--good on corn on the cob!

For snacks we usually have carrots and hummus, some we buy and some we make, or some raw cashews or almonds and dried fruit. When we’re out hiking or biking, we take along a baggie of nuts and dried fruit, apples or oranges, and usually some Cliff Bars--the Builder Bars have a really high protein content and this really helps.

We love finding farmers markets along the way, stopping at roadside fruit and vegetable stands for whatever is fresh and in season. We’ve been able to find lots of health food stores or organic/natural grocers along the way, so we can stock up on protein powder. almond milk--unsweetened original--ground flaxseed, dried fruits (especially love white figs!). In Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Oregon we discovered Winco grocery stores, where we found wonderful bulk items, including a hummus powder we use to make up batches of our own.

We eat mostly meals we fix in the RV, but we do eat out from time to time, usually when we want to enjoy local specialties, like sampling the seafood gumbo along the Gulf coast, Mexican food in the Southwest, or a lobster roll in Maine. When we do this we try to make sure we avoid side dishes like fries, bread, etc. We’ve had great success using Happy Cow to find vegan friendly places to eat, and it’s always a good bet that at Mexican, Indian, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants you can find several vegan choices. More and more places are responding favorably to requests to make something vegan by either withholding cheese, cream, etc. or substituting a vegan alternative.

Vegan Platter we ordered at a restaurant--

We use recipes from Eat to Live, Everyday Happy Herbivore, and the Blendtec cookbook, but more often than not, we’ll just make it up as we go along, with whatever fresh veggies we have on hand.

Delicious dinner of corn on the cob with a little salt free Mrs. Dash, salad topped with black rice and sauteed seitan--

We’ve found a brand of prepared dishes we really like, called Tasty Bite. Mostly Indian, like lentils or chickpeas, and they also have different rice varieties--great for when we’re late getting into a campground and are tired, just microwave for 90 seconds and you’re done! We make a lot of soups, using some quick dry mixes we’ve found at health food stores, some from bean mixes we brought from home. One of our best purchases was a small microwave steamer we got at Camping World, and we use that a lot. It will steam a meal of vegetables in 5 minutes or less and it’s just so easy!

Now I can honestly say I don’t find myself craving all those foods that I always have, such as ice cream, donuts, fries, etc. People ask how hard this is, and for both of us it has been so much easier than we had ever thought possible. When we go out to eat, if there simply are no vegan alternatives, we just find the closest thing we can and don’t worry about it. When we’ve visited friends along the way, we’ve let them know about our eating pattern, but have always insisted that they not go out of their way to change, and we’ve been able to do okay just eating mostly salad and veggies that are usually part of their meals, and when they have asked, suggesting things to fix that aren’t radically different from what they usually have.

All those times in the past when I would go “on” a diet, I would eventually go “off” of it, which inevitably lead to the regaining of the weight. Now, we look at this not as a diet, but just a different way of eating, and I can’t imagine ever leaving this path. There are so many benefits we’ve already experienced, and I know our lives are so much better now! Not only are we able to exercise more and more, but just simple things of everyday life are so much easier, like walking up stairs, bending down to pick something up off the floor--before, we would tend to find excuses for not doing things, but now we look for ways to be more active. It’s just made a tremendous difference in all aspects of our lives!

We had the wonderful chance to meet Lynne when we were in the Chicago area! What an inspiration she has been to us and thank you to Tessa and Evelyn as well for all your wonderful inspirational blog posts!!


  1. What a fantastic blog post! Thank you so much, Jack and Trisha! I love the details you provide on what you like to eat on the road, etc. And 120 pounds between the two of you just this year?? WOW! You are an inspiration. I have to say that you both look GREAT- honestly 20 years younger- but the most impressive thing is how great you feel and how much your health is improving. That gives me chill-bumps it makes me so happy! Thank you, thank you for sharing such a fantastic blog. Wow!

    1. Thanks, Tessa, for your kind words, but most importantly for all the work you, Evelyn and Lynne put into starting this blog. I'm sure we're not the only ones who have been inspired by this to work towards a healthier way of eating, but we certainly owe all three of you an immense debt of gratitude for helping us start down this wonderful path!

  2. You too look wonderful, wow! I have fallen off the wagon a bit lately and your story inspires me to get back on. Thank you so much for telling us your story.

    1. Thanks, Evelyn! I'm sure you'll get back on track and wish you the best of luck. The three of you have really been a big motivator for us and I'm sure countless others!!

  3. What a great post. Congratulations to you both and to a long and healthy life.

  4. Wow. I'm impressed! We have been "mostly vegan" for a little over a year and have had good results as well. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves sliding back to our old eating habits. Your post has inspired me to get back to where we should be. Thanks!

  5. Glad you've found some inspiration in our story--all of us can use all the support we can find! It's been pretty easy for us on this RV trip, but know it will be a bit different once we're back home, so we're working on ourselves to be sure we figure out ways to stay with this new way of eating back there. So this blog is a wonderful way for helping us all!

  6. Congratulations, Jack and Trisha! I'm a little late here but I just read your terrific story. I'm so happy for your new life style and new found health. I do get a little nervous though, when I read things like "mostly vegan" and Evelyn's comment (and Karen and Al's) about "falling off the wagon a bit lately". Admittedly, my first year of being vegan, I too, thought that just one meal per week was just 5% of my weekly meals and certainly okay. We have a Sunday morning Group Run and always eat out afterwards and I would still eat the bacon and eggs! Then, I reread Caldwell Esselstyn's "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease", Chapter 5, Moderation Kills. I hope that you will read that, maybe you already have. Now, the restaurant we go to on Sunday mornings, always makes a Vegan Burrito for my wife and I. The thing about being mostly vegan, is that it makes it so easy to "cheat" and that often leads to failure. "Diets Don't Work".

    Your excursion is over now and I hope to hear more of how the two of you are doing. It is so inspiring to read of couples like you. I too, thank Tessa for many things Lazy Daze and this blog.

  7. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and for the founders of this blog as well. The comments also give me a lot to think about. It is true that eating "mostly vegan" is a much better alternative to eating the typical American diet. I can also see the point of needing to be careful to not backslide into eating "mostly NOT vegan". I feel strongly, however, that there is a great deal of extremism amongst vegans (there tend to be zealots). I cannot buy into extreme anything, but I totally agree with the reasonable and rational ideas in Eat to Live and Eat for Health and love that you are living examples of how changing what you eat can change your life and health. I am on a similar path to better eating and better health as well. Cheers!

  8. Tom and snoozenkaye, just now saw your posts, as it's been a little while since I've looked at this blog. Anyway, it's now mid-March and we're currently at the end of a two month stay at an RV park in Sarasota. But appreciate your comments/questions so figured I'd respond. First, by way of update, it's been about 13 months since we've started this journey, and we're still following our "mostly vegan" eating. Actually, probably more technically accurate to say that we eat mostly a plant based diet, given that some vegans are more into aspects of the lifestyle beyond just eating habits, but that's a bigger mouthful to say, so I stick with the mostly vegan tag. Anyway, I've lost close to 90 pounds, which was about where I was when we got home from our RV trip last November, and my wife is in about the same place with her weight loss as well. Admittedly, both of us picked up a bit during the holidays, but this was not so much about eating non-vegan, but more about just quantity, as we made lots of vegan holiday treats. But we've lost that added weight and a little more. Would like to lose another 10-20 pounds, but rather than obsess about it, just figure it will happen when it's time. Since we're here on the Florida Gulf Coast, we have had some seafood occasionally, but still only occasionally. Rather than try to say what is the "best" way to do this, I'm a big believer that we're all different and each of us needs to find what works best for us. For my wife and me, this approach has worked for over a year now, so think we'll keep it up. From my past history with diets, when I try to be perfectionist, or super strict, it generally leads to binging, born out of a sense of deprivation. For me right now, I just don't experience the same cravings for meat/dairy/fish like I used to, and my occasional seafood or dairy consumption so far has not left me with a feeling like I've gone totally over the cliff. So whatever works for each individual I celebrate; I just feel so much better than I ever have that I believe I'm changed.

  9. Jack, thank you for updating your progress. I'm happy that you and Trisha have gone for more than a year and still enjoying your new life and health. You will be, probably already are, an inspiration to so many! Thank you.

    Tom Riley