Today I’m excited to welcome Courtney Pool to my monthly interview series! Courtney is a nutritionist and vegan of twelve years. I have been following Courtney on social media for quite some time and while we haven’t met in person, I’ve discovered we’ve literally been at the same place at the same time on more than one occasion. Perhaps our paths will cross in person at some point soon– I sure hope so!
If you’re interested in plant-based nutrition, juicing and healing from overeating, this is the interview for you! Courtney shares her personal struggles and journey to a healthy lifestyle which in turn put her on the path to help others.
Thanks so much for being here to share today Courtney!
Cowgirls & Collard Greens: I like to start by asking all of my guests to share their vegan story. Why and when did you become vegan?
Courtney: I went nearly all vegan in 2005 and then completely in 2006, and have been ever since. I was researching into natural health due to a number of health issues that had developed despite that I was quite young. I had chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, hormonal problems, and autoimmune symptoms. I came across the book The Food Revolution by John Robbins and began reading it, and that’s what changed it all for me. It’s still one of the books I recommend because it covers all aspects of the importance and benefits of veganism: health, animal rights, environmentalism and human rights. All of these aspects resonated with me, I cried a lot and decided I was going to go vegan. I never again ate meat or fish, and never bought any animal products. However, I had struggled all my life with food addiction/overeating and so it took me a bit longer to say no to free brownies containing dairy etc., though eventually I was able to go 100% vegan and have been since. All my health issues cleared up within a year, something I attribute to both the change in diet as well as emotional work through therapy and other tools.
C&CG: You have a varied background when it comes to plant based eating, nutritional coaching and juice cleansing. Can you share a little bit about how you became interested in these areas and helping others heal?
Courtney: My interest in plant-based eating, nutrition and juice cleansing began with my personal healing. My health became far better after going vegan, and I felt empowered by the truth that I–and all of us–can make a substantial positive difference in this world by adopting a vegan lifestyle, and so I wanted to share the truth about all of these components with others and show how to do it on both the physical and emotional side. After having been vegan for a year or so, I went to study at a retreat center run by a vegan doctor named Gabriel Cousens, M.D. At the time, there were far fewer options than there are now for formally studying veganism and juicing, so I went to study under him and the other doctors there, and ended up being there for five years. There I learned a great deal about juice cleansing, juicing, raw food, veganism through seeing thousands of people try these things, and also learning more through my own experience. At the center I began having classes and Q&A sessions for guests on these topics. After leaving the center, I created my own business to continue teaching these topics and have had this business since 2011.
C&CG: Do you have any formal culinary training? Have you always enjoyed being in the kitchen?
Courtney: I don’t have formal culinary training, though I do enjoy being in the kitchen. I prefer meals that are relatively convenient and quick, say under half an hour to make, though occasionally I will make more elaborate recipes. I didn’t always enjoy being in the kitchen though! In fact, before going vegan I never made anything, and even after, I had very little culinary skills. I had to get through emotional associations that spending time on food preparation was a bad use of time and unproductive, and re-training myself to see that prioritizing the time for shopping, prepping and cooking is a part of self-love and an essential part of being healthy and successful long-term on a vegan diet. Food prep is in fact a very valid and important use of time!
C&CG: Would you say that you primarily eat a vegan raw food diet? Is that something that you specialize in and share with your clients?
Courtney: I was nearly all raw food for the years I was at the center, though now my diet varies in how much raw food I eat, usually seasonally. Most of my clients don’t eat an all raw vegan diet, though some people do have the aspiration to be all raw or have a high percentage of raw food. I do know how to go all raw though if that’s what a person wants: it’s a great dietary option! Including raw food in our diets is something I recommend to every person, even if that’s just through more smoothies, salads and juices. I believe experimenting with raw food recipes and finding favorites is a great thing to do even if you also enjoy vegan cookies and pizza (as I do too!).
C&CG: I’ve done A LOT of green juicing (1.5 years consistently after my diagnosis with breast cancer), but you have done extensive juice fasting (some call it feasting). Can you share with us what that was like? How long was your longest juice cleanse?
Courtney: That’s awesome you did that! I bet your body loved it. My longest juice cleanse was for about 60 days, and then I’ve done many over the years that were under two weeks, and still do one or two per year. The 60-day one really changed a lot of things for me: it helped me lose a lot of extra weight I still had, and it felt like it helped clear out the gunk from so many previous years of a superbly junky and animal product-filled diet. But the most helpful aspect of the long juice cleanse for me was actually that it helped begin to address the underlying emotional root causes of my lifelong compulsive eating problems. It was kind of like going to food addiction rehab; it removed my favorite addiction and crutch in food, meanwhile supporting my body nutritionally, and then I was able to do some deeper emotional work in that place. The juice cleanses since that long one have not been so much to heal any health issues, but rather to both give my body a break to do repair–kind of like an oil change for your body–and also help me continue to address root causes of overeating.
C&CG: You live in Salt Lake City, Utah. What’s the vegan scene like out there? Do you have a vegan community? Are there any vegan restaurants in your area?
Courtney: The vegan scene in Salt Lake City is growing at an insane pace! I went to high school in nearby Park City, Utah, and went vegan during my first year of college in Salt Lake City, moved away for many years and then moved back, and the vegan scene has exploded here during that time. We recently had our second annual VegFest hosted by the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, and this VegFest both years have attracted 4k + people. We had four or five new vegan places open this past summer and autumn to add to the already substantial list of SLC vegan bakeries, restaurants, cafes, juiceries, and some food trucks. There is a thriving SLC vegan facebook group, and in the last couple years, Park City’s first animal sanctuary opened, called Sage Mountain Sanctuary. It is truly a vegan heaven here both in the sense of community, events, and eating options.
C&CG: What would you say is the most challenging thing about being vegan?
Courtney: After about 12 years of being at the time of this article, I truly don’t find anything challenging about being vegan anymore. When I first went vegan, there were some challenging aspects. The hardest parts when I first went vegan were: lack of vegan options, family and friend resistances, and emotional temptations. With the lack of vegan options when I first went vegan (only two places with vegan options in SLC at the time), what I needed to do was take responsibility for my own meals and my own food preparation. I was determined to be/stay vegan, so I just had to prioritize making my own food at home. I also needed to plan ahead when I was going somewhere and have food I’d made or snacks with me. With the family/friend resistance, this was also challenging: people said I was going to be unhealthy, and accused me of wanting to go vegan solely from eating disorder tendencies. The main thing that helped me with this aspect was to grieve all the unloving projections from other people and how they were treating me, and this made it easier to stick to my guns without being swayed. The challenge with temptations, which for me was just that I was quite emotionally addicted to baked goods and was so compulsive with food, that I just wanted the cookies whether they were vegan or not! What helped me shift this was emotional work to assist with the compulsion, and also growing a conviction about the morals of veganism, so that even if I was tempted I wouldn’t eat non-vegan things.
C&CG: Do you have any advice for those who are interested in going vegan?
Courtney: I recommend saturating yourself with education: documentaries, books, coaches, videos. Learn as much as you can. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with the vegan diet. I have observed over the years that there are many ways to do a healthy vegan diet and what works well for someone else may not work for you. I feel people worry too much about how to do the vegan diet and if this or that will be healthy. If you’re eating a lot of fruits, veggies, leafy greens, and other whole foods, you’re very unlikely to be deficient in things or have major problems with the diet. Invest time in the kitchen and learning new recipes and favorites: for many people, going vegan can really feel like re-learning how to eat, and so it’s ok to take a phase where you’re making a lot and trying a lot of new things–being vegan won’t be very fun if all you eat is toast and apples and it won’t be healthy if all you eat is Oreos and french fries.
C&CG: Outside of eating yummy plant based meals and working with clients to add more plants to their diets, what other passions and hobbies do you have?
Courtney: Fitness is one of my main passions and I enjoy working out of various kinds for about 6-9 hours per week, which includes weight lifting, high intensity classes, and hiking. I also enjoy art, particularly painting and drawing, and also writing. My pain other passion though aside from health and nutrition is spiritual development; this is something I spend a lot of time learning about and attempting to develop in myself. I’ve been listening to some teachings called Divine Truth for about six years and it’s enhanced my life and helped me become happier.
C&CG: What motivates you to stay vegan?
Courtney: Staying vegan is something I know without a shadow of a doubt that I’ll do for the rest of my life. I feel it is the most loving way to treat my body, and is the most loving, moral and ethical choice for my diet and lifestyle with regards to animals, the planet, and other humans. Every bite we do or don’t take impacts not only ourselves but others. And… it’s easy and super delicious! I’d love to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from John Robbins:
“Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.” -John Robbins
Courtney Pool is a nutritionist specializing in the areas of juice cleansing, vegan nutrition and healing overeating. She has been vegan for 12 years and teaching others in these areas for the past 10. She works with clients globally one-on-one and educates through her youtube channel, website, and social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.