Readers share their nutrition stories as part of The Longevity Project

In conjunction with The Longevity Project, we asked readers to share their stories about nutrition struggles and successes.

Janet Graham
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I have been a mountain resident since 1980. I moved to Vail when I was quite young. Then five years later, I landed in Summit County. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I began thinking about my mental and physical health. I started to exercise regularly and eat healthier (or so I thought). I decided to pursue a career in medicine and became a nurse. After many mission trips to Haiti and Ecuador, I decided to become a nurse practitioner.

Several years ago, when I was building a new home, raising two boys and working full time, I went to a doctor and told her my symptoms of fatigue, lack of energy, aches and pains. She left the room and returned and said, “I think you’re depressed” and wanted to put me on an antidepressant. I politely declined, and when things calmed down several months later, I returned to normal.

I have always been attracted to holistic health and found functional medicine several years ago. Recently, I opened Radiant Health & Wellness. What I love about functional medicine is that it encourages health through nutrition and works to identify the root cause of illness. This is a unique relationship where I look at sleep, nutrition, genetics, environment, toxins and mental and gut health to determine where illness began, then correct it with nutrition and education to help individuals maintain a healthy and more radiant lifestyle.

I truly believe that through good nutrition our bodies can function optimally. I grow a garden every year in Summit County. Last year, my harvest was all container grown and quite amazing. I grew turnips and beets and had fresh greens all summer long. My husband and I eat organically and enjoy elk meat when my husband is fortunate to bag one.

We are fortunate in Summit County because there are so many talented providers that are passionate to help people achieve optimal health through nutrition, chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture and so much more.

Each one of us is unique, and functional medicine focuses on the individual. You know what they say, “In life there is no dress rehearsal.” Living a healthy and radiant lifestyle is priceless.

— Janet Graham

Hilary Terrell
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Growing up in Summit County, being able to play hard outside has always been a priority for me. However, in my early 20s, I developed chronic knee pain that seemingly had no logical explanation. I was told I’d live with the pain forever, preventing me from pursuing the sports I loved like hiking, climbing, biking and skiing.

Unsatisfied with this verdict, I began experimenting with changes in all areas of my health, including my diet. I cut out all heavily processed foods, shifting instead to a whole-foods-based diet that emphasized quality. Within just a few months, my knee pain of two years finally disappeared, and I felt even faster, stronger and more clear-headed than I had before.

Inspired by this personal change, I knew I wanted to help others experience the same life-changing shift in health that I had, so I pursued a career that would allow me to support others in leveraging the power of proper nutrition to optimize energy, strength and well-being.

As a certified health and wellness coach, I am now able to help my clients access increased levels of fitness and energy by making nutritional changes — alongside other lifestyle changes — that allow them to get out and play in our beautiful mountains in the way they desire to!

— Hilary Terrell

Nutrition impacts numerous aspects of our lives and the lives in our community and our world. Food can heal us, make us sick, fuel us, oppress us, bring us together and separate us. The growing of our food has ancient roots, and the processing and subsidizing of our food is now the norm.

The nutrition journey of my family has brought us much joy and exploration as we have become more educated and clear about how to eat in a way that is consistent with our values (as lovers of animals and as a family concerned about the condition of our Earth) and help us meet our health, sport and longevity goals.

I grew up on a horse ranch, and my dad had a small herd of cattle, which we raised and had butchered for our family. My mom had a large garden that provided us with a variety of vegetables. When I left for college, I found that I didn’t feel well whenever I ate meat. I hypothesized that because I had grown up on truly free-range meat, that my body didn’t like the factory-farmed meat I ate at school. Or was it that I rarely ate meat, on my meager budget, so when I did eat it, my gut couldn’t digest it well? Regardless, I stopped eating red meat and poultry in order to feel good.

I lived as a vegetarian and pescatarian (eating some fish) for many years as an athlete, mom of two kids and fitness professional. About eight years ago, a vegan friend of mine asked me why we still ate dairy and fish. I had the usual under-educated answers: to get enough protein and calcium, or (from an animal welfare perspective) that drinking dairy doesn’t harm animals, or that eating vegan is too expensive. A few years later, I decided to consider if my answers to her question were valid. I discovered that I was way off on my answers and focused on becoming more educated.

I took a course on plant-based nutrition through eCornell University and received my certificate. I watched documentaries such as “The Game Changers,” “Forks Over Knives” and “Earthlings” (although, I couldn’t watch all of this film as the images of how animals are truly treated in our world are so disturbing). I have listened to many podcasts, such as “Rich Roll,” “Switch4Good” and “The Proof with Simon Hill.” I read numerous books such as “No Meat Athlete,” “The Proof is in the Plants,” “This is Vegan Propaganda” and many other science-based sources on nutrition.

My conclusion was that becoming a fully plant-based (vegan) family made the most sense for us. Wow — what an amazing journey this has been! I have found that at 51, I can trail run, mountain bike, strength train, ski, etc., without becoming sore (the inflammation is gone). My husband has had the same results and is able to push his body harder then when he was much younger. My kids, ages 15 and 12, are multisport athletes and thrive on a plant-based diet. They get more than enough protein, calcium and all the nutrients they need through plants. We are helping our planet, as our footprint is at least half of what it was when we were not vegan. Finally, we are living in a way that is consistent with our love of fellow sentient beings. We are not perfect and know that the politics of food can lead to some questioning our path.

I’ve flipped the saying “the proof is in the pudding” to be “the proof is in the put-in” to help explain where we are in this journey. We put in good, whole, plant-based food. We put in the hard work in our sports development and exercise. The proof is in how good we feel, physically and emotionally.

I hope that I can be helpful to others who wish to become more educated about a whole-foods, plant-based nutrition journey. It takes being vulnerable and a having a willingness to make changes, to look deep into the science and politics of food. For us, this nutrition journey has been such a positive force in our lives, and we are full of gratitude.

— Stacy Montgomery

Jim Goers
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On my doctor visit last fall, I weighed 210 pounds, had high blood pressure and dizziness. Now age 74 and 5 feet, 7 inches tall, the weight was a significant issue.

My doctor said I needed to cut alcohol and lose 30 pounds. So, I found several nonalcoholic beers, and they are actually pretty good. I also started Nutrisystem and started seeing good results.

Today, I weigh 175 pounds. I am now playing much better pickleball and may ski next month. My waist size was 38 and is now 36.

— Jim Goers

I own Health & Harmony Nutrition based in Frisco, and I see a great deal of health problems in the area dealing with disordered eating habits and false belief systems around food for men and women. Some of these issues manifest as underweight or overweight, digestive upset, brain fog, heart disease and fatigue.

The great news is most people in Summit are into health and feeling good and want to be active, so they are motivated to change behaviors and habits to meet their health goals. I have found that my clients just need to be pointed in the right direction and shown love and compassion to start feeling better. My passion is to help anybody from any background to start to feel good about their health choices and work toward achieving their health goals.

— Lindsey Spivey

In addition to being the executive director for Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers, I have a huge passion for fitness and nutrition. I currently teach a few group fitness classes at the Silverthorne Recreation Center, including the mega-popular muscle madness on Monday mornings as well as a few cycling classes during the winter/indoor training season.

My journey in fitness and nutrition started over a decade ago, when I first became a group fitness instructor. Over time, I have grown my expertise to include nutrition coaching as a certified fitness nutrition professional. I am not a dietitian, but I can help folks troubleshoot some of their routines to present new ideas that might help them reach their goals.

Food is such a fundamental part of any health and fitness program. We say “abs are made in the kitchen” and “you can’t out-train a bad diet.” Both sayings are so true and a big part of what I share with my friends and clients.

Here in Summit County, we are lucky to be surrounded by one of the best outdoor gyms in the world: our mountains. With awesome winter sports options and our recpath and lake access in the summer, we’ve got it all going for us. But to enjoy those things and be able to do so at your best means you also have to eat the right things by fueling your body for success.

A well-balanced diet — filled with fruits, veggies, lean proteins and healthy starches — goes a long way to getting folks ready to hit the trails or the slopes.

I think a lot of our local athletes understand these things, and folks who move here seem to get it, too. Our general tendencies toward an active lifestyle as mountain dwellers lend naturally to wanting to eat well because anything less leads to feeling sore, tired and lacking energy overall. Sampling fruits and vegetables of all types increases nutrient absorption, and complementing these with lean proteins and starches helps to increase the bioavailability of such nutrients while on the go. That’s why it’s so important to eat a complete diet filled with all of these things.

We are also very lucky here to have excellent community resources like the Family & Intercultural Resource Center pantry and Smart Bellies to offer access to nutrient-rich foods for everyone. Smart Bellies was a wonderful help to my own family during the pandemic, and we were thrilled to receive weekly deliveries of fresh veggies, kid-friendly snacks and new ingredients to try. Smart Bellies continues to deliver food to so many in our community, and I think what that organization has been able to create is nothing short of awesome. It certainly eases the pressure for families and allows parents the ability to offer healthy choices to their kids. It also makes it possible to teach kids that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring and makes us feel great, too!

— Julie Koster

Sabrina Stratford
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A few years ago, I decided to go all in, and this former Texan went 100% plant based. Initially, I had great results as my gut cleared itself of years of red meat for two meals per day. After a couple of years, I compared my vital statistics, and the changes were negligible. It seemed like an awful lot of sacrifice for such little gain.

Now, I just limit my red meat intake and try to use it as a seasoning as opposed to the majority of my plate. I think it always comes back to moderation in all things.

I just returned from 15 months in Alaska and came back to Summit County with 12 more pounds of me than when I left. It’s so dark and cold in Alaska that it’s hard to stay active. After my first month of being back in Silverthorne, I dropped 8 pounds just by doing the things I love to do in Summit County and enjoying the sun on my face.

We are blessed to live here, and I am grateful.

— Sabrina Stratford

Sandi Bruns
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Cooking and eating natural, nutritious, delicious, fresh, organic food is an obsession at our house after early years of experimentation with diets and cuisines. I have have discovered that in spite of mastering how to fry terrific chicken — and learning to make fancy French sauces and desserts — meat and butter are not our all-stars! Featured on our plates are colorful veggies and sustainable seafood that is baked and grilled with bold herbs, seasonings and olive oil. Soup is also a favorite food. We are now 80 and 82 and have enjoyed Summit County’s fresh air and beauty as residents for over 30 years.

— Sandi Bruns

Bethanny Crouse
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My husband and I moved to Summit in 1998 before we were married in order to pursue my love for snowboarding and competing in competitions representing K2. By 2009, I noticed my performance lacking — not only on my snowboard but also at CrossFit Breck. I was introduced to a simple superfood system that was extremely affordable at only $3 per meal. At the time, the economy was tough, and we owned three local businesses, so this truly helped us save money by each of us implementing two of these superfood meals into our daily routines.

In 2015, the company introduced an informed sport certified athletic performance line, and I became one of their former pro athletes to represent and share this incredible nutrition and the new line with people around the globe. Since then, I have sold my businesses and have been able to impact over 9,000 lives helping people flood their bodies with the absolute best nutrition on the planet! I found my calling to help people live in their healthiest bodies.

— Bethanny Crouse

Tyler Zipperer
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I’m an amateur cyclist, youth mountain bike coach for Team Summit Colorado, and run my own cycling and nutrition company Biked Goods. I live in Breckenridge with my wife, Haley, and dog, Jasper.

I grew up in a small Wisconsin town where I played a lot of ball sports and ate a lot of cheese. Because what else do you do in Wisconsin? In high school, I was a three-sport athlete eating many processed foods, like chicken patty sandwiches, Lay’s potato chips, fast food and cookies. I continued to college, where these same eating habits occurred. Piles of processed dorm food, weekly frozen pizzas and three to four nights of pretty heavy drinking.

As I graduated college, moved away from home to Minneapolis and started becoming more independent, you could say I hit my low point. I was slightly overweight, moderately active and had no real sense of purpose or direction in life. I knew something needed to change.

That’s when I got my hands on my first real cookbook “Eating Purely,” by Elizabeth Stein. It was filled with wholesome meals, snacks and treats. I started trying new ingredients I’d never heard of before, like quinoa, chickpeas, dates and other whole foods. I kept an open mind to incorporating different foods into my diet while documenting how they made me feel. Slowly, things started to change. I had more energy, my mind felt clearer, and I could impress my now-wife with new home-cooked meals.

Understanding how much I valued a healthy lifestyle prompted me to make other changes in my life. I began eliminating alcohol and incorporating more exercise into my routine. This led me to pick up my first bicycle, a Raleigh Willard. I started cruising around the lakes of Minneapolis, commuting to work, and participating in bike rides and events like the MS150. I was hooked on the freedom and pure joy the bicycle brought me.

My diet and the bicycle propelled me to join a cycling team and start competing in endurance mountain bike and gravel events like Day Across Minnesota, MDH Buck-Fifty, Co2Ut and Breck Epic. With this also came more training, dialing in my nutrition and altogether falling in love with the sport of cycling.

To this day, I can confidently say my diet, food choices and habits have helped transform my life tremendously. I believe nutrition is a lifestyle and a series of small steps we take each day to help us live the lives we desire. Whether we want to perform on the bike or in life, what we put into our bodies is what we get out of them.

I consider food the best medicine I can prescribe myself. As part of a well-balanced diet, eating quality food helps in many ways. It keeps my mind clear and gives my body the ability to take on the challenging yet rewarding experiences I seek, mainly in the endurance cycling world, as well as life’s everyday demands.

When it comes to my food philosophy, I like to keep it simple. I love to eat whole, fresh, real, local and seasonal foods that include a variety of nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. From a physiological perspective at its highest level, food should also be enjoyed, satisfy our taste buds and make us happy.

Aside from what I like to eat, I also believe in the social aspect of food. Food has been bringing people together since the beginning of time. And when you combine food and cycling together, you get the ultimate recipe for unity and community.

Whether it’s for the youth cyclists I coach, my family and friends, or a local food fundraiser I’m running, food and cycling have the power to make a difference in the lives of others — and that’s what it’s all about for me.

The goal with sharing my nutrition story is aimed to help inspire others to transform their own story into one that is full of good health, connection, purpose, fulfillment, adventure and growth.

— Tyler Zipperer

Mary Brooks
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I have lived in Summit County since 1984. I was carbo loading as an athlete 36 years ago and ended up getting really sick, and it changed my life forever. It was a five-year journey, and now I am super healthy and still very athletic.

I eat only organic veggies, free-range meats and cook my food from scratch as much as possible. I avoid sugar, dairy and wheat (which is most carbs). I also avoid nightshades as much as possible since they cause inflammation and can cause arthritis symptoms. I drink lots of water and avoid coffee and sodas.

I am an advocate of vitamin supplements and use homeopathic remedies, herbs and diet as my go-to when I am sick, which is very rare. Magnesium has been a game-changer for me. It helps with dehydration, which is a huge issue here at 9,600 feet. My lifestyle is all about natural products and using nature to heal. We have an innate immune system that heals us; we just need to support that system by what we put in our mouths and how we care for our bodies.

Life is wonderful at every age!

— Mary Brooks

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