Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Meghan Telpner

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Meghan Telpner (photo credit: Lindsie Grey)

Undiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health (Random House Canada) is the first book by popular internet food and health writer Meghan Telpner.

The Undiet idea began for Meghan when she was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, a serious gastrointestinal condition. Seeing little positive results from traditional treatments, Meghan devised a healthful eating plan that transformed and virtually ended her symptoms. She went on to share her journey, tips, recipes and stories on her popular website.

Today Meghan speaks to Open Book about vibrant health, the practice of "healthwashing" and her very favourite thing to eat.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, The UnDiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health.

Meghan Telpner:

UnDiet is about breaking the rules, ditching the calorie counting and bringing fun, and joy back into our health promoting lifestyle. It is the opposite of a diet book. It’s not about restriction or shame or deprivation — it’s about setting yourself free from labels and doing what is right for your individual health. In the book, I offer practical nutrition information that includes the what, how and why, healthy recipes, a meal plan and an eight-week transition program, all designed to help readers make the changes they need to make in their lives order to feel absolutely amazing.


What does "vibrant health" mean to you?


Vibrant health means feeling your absolute best — waking up with abundant energy that remains stable throughout the day. It’s more than the absence of symptoms but about having a positive outlook and really feeling food. I like to define UnDiet living as looking at the world through a fuchsia-coloured lense. It’s not about adhering to one particular style of eating. It’s about figuring out what makes you feel amazing and living your life according to those guidelines, not anybody else’s.


What are some of the barriers you've seen to eating in healthful, natural ways? How can people work around these difficulties?


One major barrier to eating healthfully is the fact that so many of our foods are now ultra-processed and packaged. Walking around the grocery store, we’re bombarded with foods full of ingredients better suited for a chemistry lab but that carry flashy labels declaring their health benefits. This is a practice I define in my book as ‘healthwashing’. All these claims make choosing the right foods seem like a very complicated process when there is actually nothing simpler.

The best first step is to buy food in its least processed form, or if you do buy packaged food, to make sure you recognize every one of the ingredients on the label. If you can’t find those ingredients in the grocery store, leave that package on the shelf!

The biggest excuses people make are often the time/financial commitment. It has been proven repeatedly that eating well is far more cost effective and as for time, I often ask what we’re trying so hard to save time for. If we’re not fueling our lives with great food, the enjoyment of the rest of our lives suffers.


What are some of the health and lifestyle benefits of your creed that have pleasantly surprised you? Did you realize, when you first were diagnosed, that it would be possible to change yourself so much?


When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, all I knew was that I had to try something because the conventional path of medication and surgery was not right for me. I couldn’t have predicted that four weeks into my alternative healing treatments, I would be symptom-free, or that I would eventually teach cooking classes, let alone run a culinary nutrition school. I’m so grateful to be able to share my experiences and knowledge every day with people facing similar health challenges.

What I didn’t realize was that getting healthy wasn’t about just getting rid of the symptoms of Crohn’s. Healing from that disease put me in a place where I felt better than ever before in my life. I didn’t realize how challenged my health was as so many around me had the same complaints.


If you had one day to cook and eat anything in the world, what might you choose?


That’s a hard question! I have so many faves, but my Spiced Apple Carrot Muffins from UnDiet are pretty tough to beat…


Do you have favourite cookbooks or food-centric blogs you like to read?


Unfortunately I can’t spend as much time as I like reading food blogs, but I have been known to frequent the food section of Pinterest! I look to look at beautiful recipes and then work out how I can healthify them. That is my greatest cooking inspiration. I’m also a fan of Food 52, Mind Body Green and Elephant Journal for food and lifestyle inspiration.


How about reading for entertainment? What are some of your favourite books and authors?


The truth is, I am so passionate about the work I do — as it is how I live — that I love health books! I just interviewed Dr. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, which was fabulous. Before that was Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss about the insanity that is the industrialized food system. I love books about health that are a bit outside my own area of specialization. As for fiction, I am currently reading Maya’s Notebook by Isabele Allende.


What are you working on now?


Right now, I’m busy getting ready for the launch of my online Culinary Nutrition Expert program where we have nearly 100 students from around the world ready to become the culinary nutrition leaders in their own communities. As well, we’re just wrapping up the final details on my Winter 2014 UnDiet Escape retreat in Costa Rica.

Meghan Telpner is a certified holistic nutritionist whose popular blog, online culinary courses and frequent press coverage have garnered a worldwide following. When not messing around in her kitchen, Meghan spends her time riding her flower-covered bicycle, getting her yoga on, flirting with farmers at the local market and adventuring in faraway lands with her husband Josh. Follow her on Twitter @MeghanTelpner, and join the #UnDiet Revolution!

For more information about Undiet please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the On Writing interviews in our archives.

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