Since March 2016, the couple has been conducting workshops on the benefits of plant-based eating.
“We started doing workshops to empower people with skills they need to make lasting diet and lifestyle changes to tackle their weight and health issues,” explained Dr. Ajun Rayapudi, who works as a general surgeon at the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre.
“Over 80 per cent of diseases in Newfoundland are due poor diet and lifestyle choices,” he said.
“Changing diet and lifestyle is more effective and safe than treating chronic diseases with drugs and surgery.”
Dr. Rayapudi said he improved his own health by making the same changes he recommends in the workshops.
“I lost over 70 pounds and kept it off,” he said. “My family is enjoying being healthy by taking charge of our lifestyle.”
His own father also enjoys the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
“My dad avoided having invasive surgeries on his heart, and reversed diabetes and high blood pressure by changing his diet.”
To date, approximately 120 people have taken part in the workshops.
“It really is about a lifestyle change,” said Kim Slaney. “It’s learning to cook different, view food differently – make the connection with your health as opposed to your weight.”
Slaney made the switch to plant-based eating last November when she took part in one of the workshops offered by the Rayapudis.
Anne Brenton also said the focus is not on weight loss.
“The weight thing is not an issue,” she said. “If it is an issue for you –
for example, it was for me – that kind of took care of its self. You didn’t have to count calories or anything.”
She added she was able to eat until she felt full, while still losing weight.
“I remember at the workshop they said, ‘eat when you’re hungry and eat till you’re full, that’s it.’ I didn’t do that before,” said Brenton, who added she has tried other means of weight loss in the past without success.
Brenton said she switched to plant-based eating in the past; due to lack of support in the area, it didn’t last.
“The supports weren’t in place the same as they are now,” she said. “I gave up and a year or more later I started again – that will be two years January coming and I have been 100 per cent plant-based ever since.”
Apart from weight loss, participants say they have seen other health benefits from changing to a plant-based way of eating.
“I was a diabetic and I just kept getting (prescribed) needles and pills and (my) sugars just kept going up,” said Myrtle Kelly. “I was doing everything according to the Food Guide but it just wasn’t working for me.”
She heard about the workshops from her friend, Marie Letemplier, who was preparing the food.
“I didn’t have anything left to lose,” said Kelly. “I was on two insulin shots a day. I was on three metformin pills and four Glyburide pills a day, plus I had stomach issues. (Now) five months later I’m off insulin and metformin.”
She also added she no longer needs medication for stomach issues, or cholesterol medication.
“Within five months I feel 100 per cent better, and I really love it. I go through the recipes on the nights that we have the meetings, and somebody will bring something new (they) tried.”
The crowd at the most recent workshop consisted of people who have attended in the past, as well as first-timers.
Come from away
Venkata Vedam of Naperville, a first time participant, made the journey from Illinois to Marystown to attend the workshop because there are so few doctors offering it.
He was also motivated by his in-laws, who have been following the plant-based lifestyle.
“They have a lot of energy, they sleep well at night – it’s just incredible. When they started this program, they were walking two or three miles a day – now they walk eight miles and they’re not tired.”
Vedam said he found out about the workshop while researching plant-based eating online.
“I am very familiar with the concept of plant-based, so I wanted to introduce it to my father-in-law and mother-in-law. This program does a very integrated job of bringing the whole thing together.”
Vedam said he feels the Rayapudis do a great job putting together the workshops.
“There’s nothing like this in Chicago, which is a big city” he said. “Very few doctors are doing it at this level.”
Marie’s Pea Soup
Recipe by Marie Letemplier
Recipe and photo taken from the Gift of Health website.
1 package yellow split peas (1 pound)
1 large onion
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups potatoes, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 cup turnip, chopped
salt/pepper to taste
Split pea soup is a traditional Newfoundland staple. This pea soup recipe is much healthier compared to soup loaded with salt beef. It was created by our good friend Marie, who is head chef at our Gift of Health workshops and cookout sessions. It is so tasty that you will be going for second and third bowl.
Put peas in a large pot and add 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir in the onion, celery, carrots, turnip, potatoes, and salt and pepper. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Add cilantro or parsley, if desired.
Let it rest for 5 minutes before ladling into bowls.