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Carla Golden practices massage therapy, and works as a nutrition consultant out of a private wellness practice in Hilton Head Island, SC. She leads the PlantPure Pod group, Palmetto Plant Eaters, which meets in the neighboring town of Bluffton.
Her personal journey started in 2007 when she read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This book introduced her to the problems of factory farming, which inspired her to become vegetarian. After cutting meat out of her diet, she slowly started reading more books about a plant-based diet and enrolled in the University of Natural Health, where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in 2012. Although she had moved closer to a WFPB diet, she didn’t become fully plant-based until January 2015. She says, “finally I just discovered that I had run out of excuses and had to commit 100%. You’d think that last little bit wouldn’t make much of a difference, but when you fully commit it’s like everything falls into place, so like most WFPB eaters, I wish I had done it sooner – I just didn’t know what was waiting for me.” Shortly after, she was surprised to see her husband and daughter jump on board. The movie Unity, done by Earthlings, had an impact on both her husband and daughter, and it was around this time that her husband woke up one morning and decided he was going to commit to this lifestyle. She was excited, and also surprised, since she had thought her family might take a little longer to make this commitment.. They’ve now been plant-based as a family for almost a year. Although there are challenges here and there, whether it’s eating out or traveling, she says they figure it out most of the time, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Carla employs this same philosophy in her pod group – she says if you just stay consistent for meeting dates and places, and persistent in your communications, even when you think nobody’s listening, the message will get out. She emphasizes the importance of reaching out to people in different ways, whether through social media, or posters and flyers around town at different locations.
At first, Carla has led most of her group meetings, but lately has been having guest speakers, whether they’re members of the group or people from outside, which creates diversity and helps to grow interest. In addition to regular monthly meetings, they also do accessory meetings – a book club every month, and an “Eco Vegan Lunch Bunch”, which allows people who didn’t make it to meetings to participate – she says this attracts people from different angles, since people come at this for all different reasons.
Carla leading a PPE meeting at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry in Bluffton.
She also says their meetings stay within the one hour time frame, and an alarm is set for the end of every meeting. This allows those that need to leave to do so without feeling awkward, while allowing those that want to stay, to stay and talk. A Q&A session is saved for this time, which Carla says is helpful for both newcomers and those already on the diet – new people can ask questions, and the veterans can feel helpful in providing answers. It’s this sort of participation by group members that makes Carla’s role more about organizing and facilitating, rather than leading meetings.
When asked about advice for others wanting to start a plant-based community, Carla says, “At some meetings, there may not be a lot of people, but you have to just roll with it, because the next month there may be more. It’s nothing personal, it’s just the timing, or the topic, or anything happening that day. Just like with any business, whether a small business or entrepreneurial venture, you just have to keep showing up and plugging away, and stick with it. Eventually it becomes a permanent fixture in the community and people know about it, whether they’re using it or not, and then eventually they show up or start asking questions.” As far as reaching new people, Carla emphasizes content. She says “Rather than telling them to listen to me, I tell them to listen to the doctors, the experts, the chefs, and all the resources they provide.”
Carla’s goal as a plant-based activist, as a massage therapist, and a nutritionist is simply to spread awareness. She says, “I encourage people to just show up to the pod group, just come and learn, I’m not trying to sell you anything, even my time – I’m giving you my time. Just come to the group, we’re doing it together. I feel like this is my work for the rest of my life because so many people are unaware of the potential and the possibility of healing themselves and the planet.”
PPE book club meeting
The Palmetto Plant Eaters are hosting the first ever VegFest in South Carolina, so if you’re in Hilton Head on October 22nd, be sure to put VegFest on your calendar! Carla’s goal is for everyone to leave the festival with a cookbook, walk to the grocery store, and just start making food – plain and simple. Explaining her philosophy about the transition process, she says, “You don’t have to understand everything before you make your next meal. Just follow the recipes and then learn along the way why these are the chosen ingredients. To me, if I can just get a cookbook in everybody’s hands, then I feel successful – I think that’s the best place to start – just start cooking it, and eating it. You don’t have to know completely why initially, but you can learn along the way.”