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Gail Larsen Transformation Maven: For 10 Days I Changed What I Ate And The Results Were Stunning.

Written by meg donahue
Gail Larsen Transformation Maven: For 10 Days I Changed What I Ate And The Results Were Stunning.

As we at MamaSezz well know, changing to a plant-based diet can change your life in ways you never expected. In this series, we talk with some of the world’s most soulful, dedicated (and often funny) individuals. We get to hear their stories of suffering, transformation, and service — and we learn how food is an essential part of their journey. We're thrilled to talk today with Gail Larsen.

Gail is one of the warmest, deeply rooted, funny, and visionary people we’ve talked to. Enjoy!

Gail is also the the founder of Real Speaking® and author of Transformational Speaking: If You Want to Change the World, Tell a Better Story

But Gail would never have predicted this career for herself. Back in the early 1980s, she gave her first-ever speech at the Tennessee Women’s Career Convention—in front of 4,000 people.

That speech led to Gail becoming the first-ever woman chosen as Tennessee Small Businessman of the Year Award by the U.S. Small Business Administration—which led to an invitation to speak at the White House!

Gail’s professional life began to include more and more speaking. Eventually she served as the National Speakers Association’s first-ever full-time staff. (“Trailblazer” might be the best way to describe Gail!)

But Gail saw a speaking culture that forced people to follow scripts and conventions in order to be taken seriously. This seemed to her both artificial and uninspired. How could original stories and messages come forth when conformity was the watchword?

So Gail developed an approach, rooted in part in traditions of indigenous wisdom, that helped people discover and draw forth their uniqueness as speakers and storytellers.

As Gail’s speaking career emerged over time, her journey to plant-based eating evolved over several decades. In our interview, we talk about this long walk to plant-based food, and how it helps Gail live in alignment with her deepest values.

Transformational Speaking has had a seismic impact on the world of speaking.

Leaders from Marie Forleo and Kris Carr to Danielle LaPorte and Gabby Bernstein have studied with her, along with thousands of changemakers, coaches, entrepreneurs, CEOs, publishers, community leaders, artists, healthcare professionals, educators, authors, and more.

As Gail’s speaking career emerged over time, her journey to plant-based eating evolved over several decades. In our interview, we talk about this long walk to plant-based food, and how it helps Gail live in alignment with her deepest values.

How Gail's career in transformational speaking began.

In 1981, I won an award as the first woman to be the Tennessee Small Businessman of the Year and it required that I speak about it. So it started me on a speaking journey where I never really loved being out in front, but I ultimately joined the National Speakers Association as their first full-time staff executive. So I got to step back and watch speaking in all its ways and ultimately after four or five years there, I asked, what is it that makes a speaker really unforgettable? And it's their originality, not following the rules.

So as I moved on in my professional career, I started consulting with speakers, helping them get their books published. And at the same time, I was on a personal growth journey and I started integrating what I was learning from indigenous wisdom into a way of having us really get in touch with our own power and sense of truth and originality and bringing that forward as speakers, rather than some prescribed way of being.

I'm blessed to say it's worked. For 20 years now, I've been working with small groups helping them find their way to speak powerfully about what they love.

How Gail helps people speak powerfully about what they love

One thing that’s consistent is learning to trust yourself. And when you find your way to speak in a way that feels aligned and true to who you are, not my way, your way, then you'll actually speak up about what you care about and that's transformation. It's transformed. I loved what Fast Company said about my book when they reviewed it, they said transforms your relationship with your voice via the deepest stirrings of your soul.

And so for me, it's when we can get to that part of ourselves that really wants to be expressed and find your way to do it, not what I think, but your way, then it starts to work because I'm not asking you to be something you're not. Many presentation skills type programs [do that]. So it's trusting your originality, experimenting, dropping the script, seeing who you are when you're in your Home Zone™ (instead of your comfort zone).

Gail’s journey to plant-based eating

Choosing to become a vegan was one that took many years. I think when we decide to make a change, we have to have it come at us a lot of different ways over many years before we finally say, Oh, well, this means me too?

Twenty years ago, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the founding partner of a venture called Journey Wealth Center for Integrative Health. I was really looking at what was going on in health at the time to try to find a model similar to what I was doing in speaking: how do we find our way that our body says yes to so we'll heal?

I spent four years in the exploration and developing the pilot program. And one of the people that influenced us way back when was Dr. Neil Barnard and the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. We ultimately decided not to continue with this venture, but it was the beginning of the health journey for me.

I was also influenced by a book called Changing for Good, A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward.

And when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, we got real serious about diet for her. She's been a vegan for many years and then had to really recommit after a second occurrence.

Then last summer, I signed up for Kris Carr's, three-week crazy sexy you vegan program with support. In that program she gave us some statistics. She asked us, in three weeks on a vegan diet, how did that change our personal footprint on the planet?

This is the estimate:
Each person in the program contributed to saving the lives of 20 animals and saving 630 square feet of the forest by refraining from only two servings of meat during the whole program. You save more water than if you didn't shower for a full six months.

I mean, whoa! That's really one person's impact making a dietary change?

That's so important to me. We say we love animals, we say we love the earth and this diet is a way to demonstrate that. To really look at the impact of how we eat, on deforestation, on air and humane treatment of animals. It's pretty rare that production of beef or chicken or dairy is done humanely. And I think we close our eyes. It's time to open them and say, “This is a beautiful world and my job is to do my part.” It may seem small but those statistics blow you away.

And then Gail was diagnosed with diabetes...

And then, in December, my doctor called me and said, “You're diabetic, here's a drug.”

At my stage of life, I do not need one more chronic anything to manage. So I said, “I'm not going to take the drug I think I can reverse this.”

And they were fighting words when she said to me, “Oh, you're too old. You're not going to be able to reverse it.”

And I'm like, “Watch me.”

So I called my sister Janice and I said, “Okay, I have this diagnosis.”

I had always said that if I had a cancer diagnosis I would go to one of these clinics, I would learn what I needed to do and get on it. So I thought well this is my wake-up call.

I did a 30-day program. I thought, “I have nothing to lose by giving this a shot, I do not want to be on a drug.” A month later and when the doctor did my blood tests, my A1C was already normal.

Next came a 10-day program in Mexico with people with pretty grave illnesses. I was probably the healthiest person there at that point. And they did blood pressure every day and then they did the blood tests again at the end.

Honestly, the results in just 10 days from changing our way of eating were stunning. Blood pressure, cholesterol... it was a no brainer at that point to say this worked for me in 30 days, it's going to support my health from now on.

I'm going to be 75 this year so it's like, do it.

Talking (or not talking) about plant-based eating with others

While I was first trying to figure it out I'd try to choose restaurants where I knew plant-based eating would be easy. But for example, a client was in from Canada and wanted to take me and another colleague to dinner this week. I looked at the menu and it didn't look very good but I just said, “Hey, it looks like you've got a lot of nice vegetables here. Can you fix me a vegetable plate and some roasted potatoes?” And it was beautiful, they did it so well and no one at the table said why aren't you doing this?

We all have our preferences around food and if plant-based foods are our preference, who's going to argue with that? So it's not like I'm vegan and I can only go certain places. It's pretty easy to accommodate it wherever you go.

Sometimes people say, oh, you look great, because you drop weight with this. I've dropped about 15 pounds pretty quickly. So if they ask me why I tell them.

But hey, it's the year of the vegan! We can eat easily. I's becoming popularized even if a lot of what's being sold as vegan isn't necessarily healthy.  If people think you're weird just say, “You know, my doctor says it's fine and it's working for me so far.” Don't get into arguments about it. I mean, we don't want to alienate the people we love.

Gail on aligning values with behavior 

What I noticed the most when I changed to plant-based eating was this inner alignment of what I care about with my behavior. There's something about it that's just like a deep breath of Thank You. Because many of us are really concerned about our planet and what do we do about the ecological problems. And when you look at the impact of one person making this choice, that's, “A small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it's the only thing that ever has,” as Margaret Mead said.

So I think that's what keeps me committed to knowing that this matters not just for me in my body, but that it matters to our impact on the planet. Even if a lot of mainstream vegan food is unhealthy it's still a step in the right direction in terms of impact. Generally I'm slowing my work down a bit and I'm enjoying my time just being, with a lot more peace. Not roaming looking for something to fill some gap, you know, whether it's in the kitchen or anywhere else. I just feel calm.

Gail Larsen Transformational Speaking
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