Midlanders find community, health through plant-based eating

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In 2011, Jeanne Calkins made a diet and lifestyle change. She is now 160 pounds lighter, has reversed her diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes, and is the leader of Midland’s Plant Based Nutrition Support Group.

The Midland Plant Based Nutrition Support Group hosted its first meeting this month, and has about 35 to 40 regular members. The group meets monthly to share support, advice, and a dish to pass at New Life Vineyard Church. Meetings include guest speakers, cooking demonstrations, plant-based book reviews from doctors and other health demonstrations.


“People like to connect with other people that have the same goals,” Calkins said. “And we eat great food.”

The spread at meetings fits into the group’s guidelines of plant-based, minimally processed food, with no animal products and no oil. The potluck-style meetings show newer members the great food you can make within the plant-based diet, Calkins explained.


“We meet people where they’re at and try to encompass all aspects of a healthy lifestyle, not just food but through activity, the environment, and animal welfare — we want to touch on all of it to make people aware,” Calkins said.

In the end the No. 1 goal is still to meet people where they are at and support them to “get them on the right track” health-wise, Calkins said. Some people come in still eating meat or animal products, and they might take baby steps to clean up their diet.

The original Plant Based Nutrition Support Group was established in Detroit with the main goal of supporting those who had been diagnosed or were at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Now chapters have formed mainly across the state and support anyone looking to improve their health with a plant-based low-fat diet.

“It’s not a diet, it’s really a lifestyle,” said Andra Ginis, a member of the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group. “That’s why we like the support group, we feed off each other.”

Members share their goals, times they have strayed from the plant-based diet, and tasty, healthy plant-based cooking tips for the kitchen.

Jennifer Gay, another member, said she considers herself a good cook but has found more complex flavors in her cooking now that she is embracing plant-based eating.


“We were all foodies to begin with,” Gay said. “But you don’t have to be a foodie to be in the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group. It’s not about perfection. It’s about mindful eating.”

Ginis said some of the recipes she uses now for staple dishes like cornbread are better when made using plant-based eating guidelines.

All three women shared the sentiment of having more energy and feeling better once they embraced the lifestyle change. Having the support group on top of that makes it easier for them to find community and work toward their goals.

“We try to take that intimidation and scary stuff away, and share successes and questions we have,” Ginis said.

The next meeting will be on Oct. 11, focusing on fitness for all ages at New Life Vineyard Church, 1014 E. Ashman St. in Midland. Anyone interested in joining the group can learn more information on the group’s Facebook page: PBNSG Midland, or email plantbasedmidland@gmail.com.

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