Featured Blogger - Molly Patrick, Clean Food Dirty Girl
Our first Featured Blogger of 2016, Molly Patrick, is on a mission to inject humour and fun into healthy eating.
Each month in 2016 we'll be picking a Featured Blogger to showcase here on Neeach. We're all about making new food discoveries here, and the blogosphere is a great place to find people who are writing about food in different and interesting ways. With Veganuary going on this month, it seemed like a good time to feature a plant-based blogger to help those of us doing the challenge find some 'veganspiration', and Molly Patrick fitted the bill. Food blogger and nutrition coach Molly started her blog, Clean Food Dirty Girl, just over a year ago and has since enjoyed growing success with her straight-talking and humorous approach to healthy plant-based eating. We talked to Molly about where it all began and why she decided to take the unconventional route to health and food blogging.
A bit about Molly...
Molly grew up in New Mexico, but since college, she says, she has lived "all over the place". Right now, she's living in Arizona with partner Luanne Teoh, who also works on the CFDG blog on the technical side, having worked in tech for a long time and been a website designer. Molly was raised vegetarian by vegetarian parents, so she's never actually eaten meat herself, and she transitioned to veganism in 2009 when she got a job with a vegan company. She started writing vegan cookbooks as a creative outlet while she still worked full time, then started writing a blog called Bold Vegan, which then evolved into Clean Food Dirty Girl.
"Let's face it, all that nutrition and healthy eating talk can be a real snooze!" she laughs. Molly's mission, therefore, was to make it fun and interesting. She decided to go for it and do the project full time after leaving a job that she wasn't happy in. "I wanted independence" she says. "I wanted to be able to do what I do from anywhere in the world". Given that the pair are now considering a move to Hawaii later in the year, we'd say she's nailed it. Clean Food Dirty Girl has really taken off and is actually pretty popular with an older audience that you wouldn't necessarily associate with healthy eating. "The approach has to be practical and possible for people" explains Molly. "A lot of my clients have the motivation to get off medication, for example, or improve certain health conditions. I'm really motivated by seeing positive changes in people". It's many of her older clients, the ones in their 60s, for example, who make the biggest changes through adopting the CFDG way after being pushed by their doctors to change their diets. "It's ridiculous how sick people are when they don't need to be" she says. Molly's blog has been praised by a prominent doctor in the US for helping to empower patients to take their health into their own hands.
What will you find at Clean Food Dirty Girl?
As well as offering what she describes as "a safe space for people who want to make healthier choices without being judged and can learn and be supported without shame" Molly also offers private health and nutrition coaching through CFDG, informed by her own studies in plant-based nutrition at Cornell University through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. Unlike some of the "clean eating" bloggers out there, Molly has the qualifications to advise her clients how to adopt a plant-based diet safely and in a healthy way. Programmes that people can follow online, such as the Re*wired programme that started in January this year also help those who have overindulged over the festive season and want to get on track with healthier eating. The ethos on CFDG is to celebrate progress along the way; small changes lead to big ones, whether it's just adding a green salad every day or changing one meal. Change in baby steps is a lot less scary for most people, so Molly's approach is to praise and encourage even the smallest of improvements. A lot of people also join CFDG's Facebook group, which is described as "a private space free from assholes".
On "a-holes and Jegans"
So, are assholes a problem? It seems they are. The vegan community isn't always a nice place full of love, peace and hummus. Molly has received criticism from the more purist vegans out there because her approach isn't necessarily "pure veganism". Molly's approach of being encouraging and celebrating even small dietary changes is not radical enough for a lot of the vegan community - or, the "Jegans" as she calls them (short for "judgemental vegans). The main criticism is that plant-based eaters aren't doing it for the animals, but Molly refutes that strongly. Improving people's health is the primary motivation behind CFDG, but that doesn't mean she doesn't care about animals, "I do think the animal foods industry is bad but I don’t want to get stuck on it. I’d rather focus on getting people on it for health reasons and getting them to realise the benefits – then animals win" she says. However, as she explains "I don’t push my views on that on my blog. I personally feel that animals are conscious, but most people are conditioned a different way and it takes time to un-learn that – for me I just never ate animals, so I didn’t have to un-learn it. I never had to deal with missing meat because I’ve never had it. And everyone misses cheese". Molly does work with some people who are already vegan, but mostly she's trying to bring the message about plant-based nutrition to those who haven't heard or experienced it before. As she explains, "there's no point preaching to the converted".
On not always being perfect
Molly also admits freely that she's not always 100% vegan, for example when they go to visit Luanne's family in Malaysia. It's not always easy to find vegan food there and she also doesn't want to be rude to her hosts. Luanne herself isn't a vegan, although she doesn't eat as much meat as she used to. But allowing this flexibility in her diet has also meant criticism from that particular element of the vegan community. But Molly just shrugs it off "I get hate mail every week" she says "but I just stopped caring about whether everyone in the vegan community liked me". Another source of some controversy is Molly's writing style and the fact that she's not afraid of a swear word (or several), but again, she just lets the criticism roll off. "I wanted to be able to be myself" she explains. The posts on CFDG are candid, sometimes playful, sometimes emotional, but mostly they're honest. Molly includes life anecdotes alongside the nutritional advice and recipes, which help the readers get to know her as a person and it's actually quite refreshing that she can admit to not always being perfect. Because goodness knows the rest of us aren't.
We'll be featuring a few of our favourite blogs from Clean Food Dirty Girl over the next few weeks and trying out a couple of Molly's recipes.
Interview and article by Liz Smith. Photos courtesy of Molly Patrick/Clean Food Dirty Girl