Mitt.TV owner Ruth Heidebreicht is partnering with several organizations to try to bring broader awareness of healthy eating habits to northern Macomb County.
She is partnering with Chickpea and Bean and Willow Pond Farm for the Northern Macomb Lifestyle Challenge that will kick off April 22 with a documentary showing at the Masonic Lodge in downtown Romeo.
We want to show people in our community how much a plant-based diet can affect their short-term and long-term health, Heidebreicht said. We can make a difference in our community, and I want to help with that initiative.
Local community leaders will be participating in the intensive 21-day program, and 14 local restaurants have created plant-based menu items.
The program will kick off with a screening of the 2016 documentary Eating You Alive at the Masonic Lodge at 6 p.m. Participants will be able to ask the filmmakers questions and try out plant-based foods.
The challenge will then begin on April 29 at the Lodge from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with program registration and more food to sample. Blood tests will be taken to compare with tests taken at the end of the program. Presentations will be given throughout the program by dietary experts and doctors.
One person who can attest to the positive results of the plant-based diet is Chickpea and Bean co-founder Marc Ramirez.
Ramirez, who founded the company with his wife, Kim, after learning the benefits of a plant-based diet, had a history of chronic illness in his family.
After a career as an offensive lineman on the University of Michigan football team, he weighed in at 305 pounds with diabetic, blood pressure and cholesterol issues.
I thought that was my fate; that was my future, Ramirez said of his problematic health issues.
In December 2011, he began a plant-based diet knowing his issues would only worsen with time.
Within 60 days he was off all the medications he was taking to control his diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
He lost 50 pounds in three months and now weighs 210 pounds.
I will never go back to that lifestyle, he said. I am in the best shape of my life, and my diet helped change my entire life.
Ramirez and Chickpea and Bean were featured in the Eating You Alive documentary. He said that a change in diet can be the key to obesity issues facing millions of people around the nation.
Food is what is killing America, but it is also what can save America, Ramirez said.
Local restaurants like Thee Office Pub, Youngers Irish Tavern and 4 Corners Diner will each be adding plant-based items to their menu to help participants be able to eat healthy when they head out for a meal.
I think it is a great idea, 4 Corners owner Marty Hutnick said. We need to listen to the community and see what they want and keep them from going somewhere else if they want to try and eat healthy.
Local leaders such as Romeo Village Trustees Christine Malzahn and Bob Hart along with Bruce Township Clerk Susan Brockmann and Supervisor Richard Cory will participate in the program as well.
I was reluctant at first, but then realized what little I knew about this type of nutrition or how to cook with plant-based foods, Malzahn said. I am stepping out of my comfort zone and challenging myself to try something a little different, and I hope everyone will join me.
Heidebreicht said that a Facebook page will be set up to help participants in the program. She said that to date 100 people are set to try the program.
The cost of the documentary screening is $10, and the cost to participate in the 21-day program is $50.
To register for the Eating You Alive screening, visit diginextfilms.com/events/eating-you-alive-screening-in.
To register for the challenge, go to whoozin.com/76Q-GU9-VAVV.