FOOD FOR LIFE COURSE OPENS NEW DOORS
Katarina Tawiri has always been interested in food and food production, but her introduction to it, although traditional in many countries around the globe, is a long way from the way she sees and does things now.
“I’m originally from Switzerland. In those days, in the 70s, the girls had to do a cooking class when they left high school. I chose to do a one-year self-sufficiency apprenticeship on a farm and learned everything about gardening, food preserving, cooking, sewing and small animal husbandry.
“After working for a year as a nurse aid in a private hospital in Zürich, looking after famous soccer players and the Princess of Bhutan, amongst some of the people, I started my four-year apprenticeship as a farmer (being one of the few females in those days). This is when I was faced with the often cruel reality of animal farming. But, of course, as a young female, I did not dare to speak up. I was part of some really awful practices during my farming time.”
When asked if she ever rebelled against it, Katarina says she just did what she was told, “like most of humanity, you want to fit in.
“I think it’s a kind of cognitive dissonance because the world around us says it’s okay, so I just ignored my inner feelings. But, the thing is, I never liked meat, although I had to eat it, of course. As soon as I left home, I stopped eating meat.”
About the animal cruelty on farms, Katarina says she never really stopped and thought about it more deeply when she was training to be a farmer.
“After a while, it becomes normal. I don’t know how it psychologically works, but it’s called cognitive dissonance. You have to disassociate yourself from your innate feelings, although there are children who take a stand when very small. They say they’re not going to eat meat, even when they’re in a meat-eating family. It does happen, but the majority of us humans just want to fit in and not be different to everyone else.”
A new journey
Katarina has been a vegetarian almost all of her life, and in 2006 got invited by a friend to an ‘Uncooking Class’ by Wild Health Nelson. This is when she was introduced to the concept of raw food.
“I then decided to go ‘cold tofu’ and eat only raw for one year. I did incorporate some raw fish, because I was still caught up in the protein myth. This was also the time when I heard about Kris Carr, New York Times bestseller, who has a rare vascular cancer and keeps it at bay by eating high raw vegan.
“But like so many people, life happened, and I went back to eating what I was familiar with, vegetarian, including dairy, eggs and oil. Fast forward, and I turned 50, mostly feeling exhausted, without energy or joy for life. After having several anxiety attacks, and doctors saying, ‘just relax more, you are all fine’, I started searching for answers on the Internet and came across Dr Brooke Goldner’s protocol called ‘hyper-nourishing’. She specialises in reversing autoimmune diseases with green smoothies and reversing her own lupus.
In classic Katarina-style, “I went all in. I did Dr Goldner’s free online course to better understand how plant foods, especially raw cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens, combined with high doses of Omega 3s (flax and chia seeds for anti-inflammatory properties), support cellular repair. This was followed by me doing her six-week protocol of green smoothies. This experience was my turning point of going fully vegan on February 14, 2020.
“I like her approach, as she also focuses on the other pillars of lifestyle medicine, especially self-care. Through her, I heard about Dr Neal Barnard, T Colin Campbell, Dr Michael Greger, the Esselstyn and so many more wonderful people in the whole food plant-based movement. I fully immersed myself into the science of the whole food plant-based eating. For the last three years I have been eating whole food plant-based (WFPB), high raw but also including cooked food and I now feel better at 61 than when I was 40.”
Katarina lives near Christchurch in a small community of around 250 people. Before starting the Food for Life course, she began to run free cooking classes for members of the community. Usually, around four to five people attended, and that was her first brush with teaching whole food plant-based cooking techniques.
“It was during Covid-19 and the classes also served as social support during this time. I wanted to learn more and get a certification with a reputable science-based organisation.”
That line of thinking led to her next big step.
Food for Life certification
“I decided to do the Food for Life instructor course. It’s run by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and has been running for twenty-one years. Before Covid hit, you had to go to the USA and study on-site. In 2021 the course was redesigned and the whole programme can now be done online. That’s what made it possible for me.”
Katarina did the six-week course between September and November last year. “It costs around $1000 USD, but”, she says, “it’s worth every cent.
“It blew me away. The knowledge that was shared was absolutely amazing, and the ongoing support you get is excellent. As an instructor I can send nutritional or medical questions to PCRM and they will email me back with answers.
“We have monthly professional development sessions via Zoom where we hear about the latest research in nutrition and can ask questions. PCRM is also dedicated to end animal testing by introducing more modern techniques to medical students and research centres.
“Every week, on Saturday at 8 am NZ daylight saving time, PCRM runs a Zoom session called Mission Critical. That’s where Neal Barnard and other staff share the latest research and other activities. Everyone can register to these 30-minute Zoom sessions.”
Food for Life classes in communities
As a result of completing the PCRM course, Katarina says instructors are strongly encouraged to share their knowledge and go out into the communities. “In fact, it is incentivised,” she says.
“There are about 50 odd curricula I can teach. I have a huge palette that I can choose from. For example, I can run a course on healthy foods to prevent heart disease or breast cancer and foods to combat Covid 19. Each curriculum is made up of one to nine classes.”
“How I run the classes is clearly laid out in each class manual. It starts with a welcome, then I introduce PCRM, then I play a video on the theme followed by a quiz, a cooking demo, tasting of the food and a Q&A session. I also hand out PCRM’s core literature, beautifully printed material, making a transition into the WFPB lifestyle achievable.”
“There are usually two to three recipes per cooking demo. As I demonstrate the food preparation, I talk about the different micro and macronutrients and their benefits.”
Katarina has now established herself to run Food for Life classes and started her business called ‘Plantise your World’.
“My main focus will be teaching in communities where people can’t afford to pay much, and where the WFPB message is often needed most.
Practical help included
“The Food for Life course wasn’t only teaching us how to teach the programme, it also taught us how to create our own website, how to market ourselves, and how to accommodate different learning styles. There was so much else that was shared with us.”
Converting to a whole food plant-based diet isn’t always easy for everyone. Katarina is a strong believer in meeting people where they’re at. For her, it’s all about presenting the information and supporting people along their journey to reclaim their health.
“I am an ‘all or nothing’ sort of person, but for most people, it will be a gradual process. For those who want to change, though, I am there to support them and cheer them on all the way. It is one of the best things I have ever done!”