Photo courtesy of Phillip Ennis.
Photo courtesy of Phillip Ennis.

How I Turned My Passion for Plant-Based Living Into My Full-Time Job

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6 min read

I grew up in Luxembourg, a tiny country nestled in between Germany, France and Belgium. The running joke when it comes to food in Luxembourg is that we eat the quality foods of the French and the quantities of the Germans.

It’s easy to quickly grasp that the culinary traditions in Luxembourg are similar to the ones of its neighboring countries and having grown up with a French grandmother, these traditions were even accentuated. I like to say I grew up eating every part of the animal, in every shape and form: I ate blue cheese when I was six, snacked on goat-milk yogurt as a breakfast staple and ate all types of meat things like black sausage, cow tongue and rabbit.

Most of this however never felt quite comfortable nor natural. I vividly remember how I felt absolutely horrified by my dad throwing live crabs into boiling water when we would spend our summer vacations in the south of France. I also remember the farmers’ markets displaying bunny rabbits with fur and eye balls. At the same time, I grew up in a family of animal lovers: We grew up with dogs and spent time at the petting zoo. I quickly wondered how and why we made a distinction between the animals we ate and the animals we loved. 

Photo courtesy of Phillip Ennis.

When Personal Wellness Contradicts Tradition

After I moved away from home and went to university in France, I decided I would never cook animals. I became vegetarian and constantly felt that I was offending people with my choice. As I already alluded to before, in most European countries food is an integral part of tradition. And in France that is more the case that anywhere else. 

Food IS culture and tradition. But I realized over time that tradition is not something we absolutely need to follow. It’s something we can and should ask into question. Because at the end of the day, traditions aren’t based on some laws that were given to us by some abstract, intangible authority. They are entirely and completely man-made—human constructs, if you will.

While I got more and more into thinking about traditions in the context of food, I decided to emancipate myself fully (as I like to say) when I moved to NYC in 2013. I stopped eating animals entirely and progressively cut out animal products from all parts of my life. What happened from there is what I call “emotional wellness.” Not only did I feel physically better (I used to suffer from massive acid reflux when I ate so much dairy during my vegetarian days), but I also felt for the first time in my life that I was emotionally 100 percent well when it came to my food choices. I felt that even in a day where I wasn’t “achieving” much for myself, I still achieved to minimize harm by making a conscious consumer choice.

What happened next was a liberation into something I like to call “emotional wellness.” As it relates to my food choices, I was wholly confident that I was making the right decision that I felt full empowerment over. Even when I might otherwise feel as though I wasn’t “achieving” enough in my day-to-day, I knew that I was making a decision (or rather, at least three decisions a day!) to minimize harm. That (along with the added benefits of feeling physically better by eliminating dairy-caused acid reflux!) meant it was a no-brainer for me.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Ennis.

Helping Others Understand Plant-Based Living + Venturing Into Entrepreneurship

What was fascinating was that in the United States, nobody felt culturally offended by my food choices. That being said, one major question would start to haunt me: Where do you get your protein from? At first, I wasn’t sure if it was meant as a bit of a joke. But then I started understanding that food in the U.S. is a bit more utilitarian—it’s more of a fuel and health-related issue. So I decided to start the Plantiful blog and podcast at the end of 2015 and inspire others to eat more plants, while learning about how to live a balanced vegan life through the numerous doctors and vegan experts that I interviewed over time.

Alongside that, my day job at various early-stage startups in the tech space got me hooked on building brand new businesses from scratch. In the fall of 2018, I left my last startup job, driven by an urge to combine my passion for building new things with my desire to work full-time in the vegan space. I have spent hundreds of hours over the last six years studying plant-based nutrition, interviewing industry experts and (quite frankly) thinking about veganism.

I decided to follow this urge and joined a NYC-based startup studio. I started researching the vegan market with them and was blown away to find out that 10 percent of the U.S. population had tried to go vegan and 87 percent state that they actively try to reduce their animal-protein consumption. However, the biggest hurdle for all these people to be able to stick to eating plants was the same thing my anecdotal experience had taught me: They worry about protein—not getting the right type and/or enough for it.

Lupii, my new business launching later this fall, was born out of this insight. We are introducing the small but mighty Lupini bean to the U.S. market to help people overcome this challenge in an easy, on-the-go format, with the best new protein in town. 

My co-founder and I are dedicated to building a delicious and sustainable food business because, ultimately, we care profoundly about human health, animals and the environment. Ultimately, our goal with Lupii is to change the conversation around plant based protein and make it an absolutely no brainer.

It feels almost unreal to be able to dedicate all my time to something that I am so deeply passionate about. I feel thankful for the opportunity and humbled by the thought that Lupii, and what we are building, can be a platform for others to feel inspired to make conscious food choices. When at times my career was moving into places that I didn’t always feel were directly in line with my passion, I am a deep believer in trusting your gut throughout the journey. I am super results and outcome oriented, but this personal experience has taught be to trust in the journey because that’s the only way you ultimately will arrive where you are meant to be. 

Interested in learning more about Lupii? Sign up for their newsletter or join us at WELL Summit 2019 to meet the co-founder in person.

About The Author

Isabelle Steichen

Isabelle Steichen

Through The Plantiful Podcast, Isabelle and Noah look to empower everyone who is curious about plant-based nutrition and a vegan lifestyle to take control over their own journey. Their individual journeys to a plant-based lifestyle took detours along the way, but that's what ultimately brought them closer together. Today they want to share their story with other individuals and couples who are looking to build a healthy, sustainable life. The Plantiful Podcast shares the inspiring stories and practical advice of vegan change makers across the health, wellness and fitness industries. Isabelle's newest baby is her plant-based snack business Lupii, launching fall 2019 (www.getlupii.com).

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