Dianne and Pat Doyle have spent the past six years building a community of devotees of a plant-based diet, hosting frequent get-togethers and creating connections on social media.
When COVID-19 put a temporary halt to social gatherings, they quickly adjusted to keep their community as vibrant as ever.
The Doyles, both 60, founded the Plant-Based Dallas Facebook Group, which has grown to more than 2,000 members who share resources and encouragement to keep each other going. They are cancer survivors who credit their good health to practicing healthy lifestyles.
Pat’s prostate cancer was diagnosed in 2011, and Dianne’s breast cancer was discovered in 2013. After prostate removal and a double mastectomy, the couple focused on preventing future illness. They tried a four-week experiment, adhering to the whole food, plant-based food diet advocated by Drs. T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., top-tier nutrition and disease experts featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives.
The “WFPB diet,” as it has come to be known, is centered on whole unrefined or minimally processed fruits, vegetables, tubers, grains and legumes. It excludes animal proteins (meat, chicken, fish, dairy products, eggs) and highly refined foods such as bleached flour, refined sugar and oils.
Dramatic improvements in their health statistics after just a few weeks convinced the Doyles of the merits of the whole food, plant-based program.
“Pat and I have been cancer-free for nine and seven years, respectively,” Dianne says. “Our cholesterol numbers have dropped from over 200 to 120-160. We have each dropped 20 pounds, have no joint pain, rarely get sick, our allergies have disappeared, and we have an abundance of energy.
“We don’t call it a diet,” she says. “A diet is a temporary change, unsustainable. This is a new lifestyle with so many immediate health benefits that it makes it easy to maintain.”
Sold on its merits, the couple began reaching out to others, inviting groups to their home to learn about the plant-based lifestyle. Dianne established a private Facebook group, a website and a YouTube channel where members could exchange recipes, news and resources.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, on any given weekend you might find 20 people at the Doyles’ North Dallas home sharing a potluck dinner. At such an event earlier this year, two dozen guests gathered to hear vascular surgeon Dr. Rizwan H. Bukhari speak on the link between diet and health.
A spacious kitchen island held an abundant buffet of salads, soups, stews, curry dishes, bean chili and sides, all 100 percent plant-based and oil-free.
Annette Baker and Marianne Lacko of Nature’s Plate, a retail business specializing in grab-and-go plant-based prepared dishes and baked goods, provided cookies for dessert. Many in the crowd shared testimonies of their own health improvement since moving to the whole food, plant-based plan. Some weren’t yet all in, but they were curious.
“Everyone here has different goals. There’s a range. Some are 100 percent compliant — no meat, dairy or oil. Others are not there, but come from a point of view that they want to be healthier,” explains longtime participant Tom Pimple, 65, of Garland.
Dianne, the mother of five, explained what motivates her to put such effort into the cause.
“The reason Pat and I are doing this is we want our children to follow this way of life and not have the health issues we have had,” she says. “We can only do what we can do, but our mission is to convince as many people as possible about the healing power of plant-focused food and teach them how to make the transition.”
Today, the Plant-Based Dallas Facebook page is buzzing with activity, as members post recipes, instructional videos and news of local restaurants offering whole food, plant-based dishes. Dianne notes that over the past two months, requests to join are happening multiple times daily, an increase over the handful of requests she used to get per week. She also hosts jar swaps, in which people drop off Mason jars with ingredients that are prepped to swap with one another.
“The group is helping us stay connected,” says member Sharon Keeler, 60, of Dallas. “I’m seeing posts with meal ideas, coronavirus information, and messages of hope and inspiration. It’s an uplifting and positive group, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.”
Dianne adds, “It would have been impossible to foresee the circumstances that we now find ourselves in, but, now that it’s upon us, it’s my hope that people who weren’t plant-based before quarantining may be seeing the benefits of eating more fruits and veggies now.”
Facebook: Search “Plant Based Dallas Group” in Facebook for access to apply for admission to the private group.
Plant-Based Dallas website: Visit plantbaseddallas.com for tips and extensive lists of books, websites, films, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, podcasts, recipe sources, and Dallas-area restaurants offering plant-based dishes.
Nature’s Plate: Visit naturesplate.com for this retail business with three North Texas locations offering plant-based grab-and-go products.
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