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Apr 30, 2013

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing the fabulous and inspiring Ellen Jaffe Jones! I had been following her work for a while before I met her at a San Diego VegFest last fall. Ellen has always impressed me with her running accomplishments, practical vegan message (I was "amen-ing" the whole time I heard her talk at VegFest!), and warm presence. So sit back, have some tea, and get to know Ellen - you'll be glad you did!
How long have you been vegan, Ellen?
32 years...on and off. I had a few diversions when I went to work as a financial consultant at a Wall Street firm and had no control over my working lunches and dinners for 5 years.

I love your book “Eat Vegan on $4 A Day” – what was your main motivation for writing it?
I got tired of all the media stories saying you can’t eat well on a budget. I remember one story in particular with a woman who was morbidly obese. The reporter caught her loading her shopping cart with Twinkies and as he shoved the microphone in front of her face she said, “You just can’t eat well on food stamps.”
I thought, "I’ve been doing this for the better part of 32 years. It’s time to take the best of both careers - financial services and investigative/consumer reporting, crunch the numbers and write this book."
What do you feel are the key messages in your book?
1) You don’t have to shop at a health food store to eat a well-balanced vegan diet. You can find 99% of all the ingredients of recipes in my book at big box stores, if that’s the only place you can shop.
2) By putting an estimated price on every recipe, and providing lots of tips on how to look for bargains, I stress what you can save at the store. But I also emphasize how much money can be saved by avoiding disease. If you average the cost of a $100,000 bypass surgery over a lifetime of $5 burgers...those burgers are more like $1000 a piece, depending how many are eaten.
What's been the response to your message that eating well/eating vegan doesn't have to cost a fortune?
Excellent. I’ve been a speaker at VegFests all over the US and almost fainted when I heard both Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Michael Gregor mention my books in their talks. As Dr. Barnard told me, the perceived expense of eating vegan is the last holdout or excuse that people give for not going vegan.
Totally! I often mention your books in my classes and talks too. So, thanks for providing such a good reference!! What else do you do that we should be talking about? What other revolutionary things are you up to?
One of the things I do that I guess no one else out there has done, is I take pictures of food prices and boil them down to the lowest common denominator...the unit or per ounce price. And then I start comparing. I’ll show that a 4 ounce serving of beans is 7 times cheaper than the cheapest form of 30% fat hamburger meat. Or that beef tenderloin is 37 times more expensive than an equal serving of beans. I’m trying to reach people with their wallets.
I love it! What are some of your favorite tips for eating well on a budget?
Shop the circumference of the store. The more processed, boxed and expensive products are in the center. Look for bargains on top and bottom shelves. Manufacturers pay for that eye level product placement. Buy in bulk, especially beans. Store them in jars with rubber gaskets that keep the beans fresh and bug proof.
So, here's a subject changer, but I have to ask you about your running since I personally find it and you so inspiring! How long have you been running?
32 years also. Though I took many years off when my 3 daughters were young. The fancy running strollers that exist now didn’t back then. So I walked, backpacked with my girls on my back, and biked. We had a huge common ground area and I often went there with my girls running down the hills.
What do you love most about running?
I love to run on the beach with my iPod. When the seagulls, ospreys and pelicans soar overhead, it is easy to feel like you are one of them.
What do you like the least?
If I have to cut back on my training when I’m traveling heavily, it’s a struggle to get back on track when I return.
What are your biggest accomplishments with running?
When I started racing again in 2005, I really was just glad to finish a 5K. Finish without injury was always the goal. Then I joked that I started winning or placing in my age group just by showing up. But 49 5K races later when I have continued to place in my age group, I’m thinking maybe that a vegan diet does give me the edge. I did my first marathon in 2010 and was the 5th oldest female to finish the Palm Beaches Marathon.
And then recently, I discovered I obviously have more fast twitch muscles than slow twitch. I am currently 3rd in State (FL) in the 200, 400 and 1500 meters. 4th in the 100 meters. Finishing in the top 4 at the Senior Games qualifies me to compete in the National Senior Games in Cleveland this July. My 100 meter times are :06 slower than NCAA girls’ personal records listed in the University of Southern California 2012 Track and Field Media Guide.
My daughter was a pole vaulter on the team, so that’s how I got the guide. I write a monthly column for “The Running Journal” and the publisher recently encouraged me to get tested to see if I really do have more fast twitch than slow twitch muscles. He says it is unusual for anyone with my sprint times to have ever finished a marathon.
Wow, that is fantastic. OK, so this is one I’m personally curious about – can you give us any tips on how to overcome obstacles in running? Such as strains and knee issues? I’d love to be even half the runner you are!
You’re too kind. I’ve actually gotten faster in the past few years. Part of it was training with the high school cross country coach. She saw me clock an 8 minute mile and asked if I would like to volunteer coach as her assistant, which I did pre-book. I ran with the girls every day in a park with soft trails. That helped build my speed as well as keep me injury free. Any time you can run on natural surfaces, it helps to stave off joint and muscle injuries. Concrete and asphalt are fairly new inventions evolutionarily speaking.
Oooh, very good to know! I'll try that. Any other tips?
Also, get a gait analysis at a good running shoe store. That should include running on a treadmill and getting recorded on video from behind. If there is any collapsing of the ankle when you run, the video will show that. When fitted with the correct shoes, or orthotics, the video should show the correction. Knee pain is common if you don’t have correct fitting shoes and/or orthotics. The relief can often be instant. Also work on building the muscles that surround and support the knee.
Start with a slow program. As a certified personal trainer (AFAA) and running coach (RRCA), I work with clients structuring a program based around past injuries, and current needs and goals. If you’re just starting, I always recommend a walk/run method and build a base from that. Doing too much too fast and not listening to your body can derail you. You have to start slowly.
I want you to be my running coach when I'm in Florida next winter, Ellen!! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us today?
As the last slide in my presentation that I use at VegFests says, “Genes don’t determine destiny.” My mom, aunt and both sisters had breast cancer. And much more. Figuring out how to dodge our family’s medical history has been the investigative reporting job of my life.
Amen, sister!! Genes do NOT determine destiny. Couldn't agree more. And thank you so much for sharing with us today. You're a rock star! Friends, thanks for joining Ellen and me today - I hope you're inspired to get the most out of life with a plant-strong diet and just-right-for-you exercise plan. Be sure to join Ellen on her website, her Facebook page, and her Twitter page! : )

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Posted: Tuesday April 30, 2013, 2:38 pm
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