For as long as she could remember, 58-year-old Christine Laberge strived to live a healthy lifestyle.
What prompted her to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet were a series of stressful events that took place a year before moving to lakeside.
Laberge’s mother, who was living in a nursing home since having a stoke at age 57, was paraplegic, and her health was declining. Also, Laberge’s best friend, who had been the pillar of health, was diagnosed with clogged arteries and was suddenly dealing with major heart issues. All the while, Laberge kept putting on more weight.
Inspired by her friend who decided to switch to a plant-based diet, Laberge found herself watching movies such as “What The Health,” “Forks Over Knives” and “Cowspiracy.”
“I felt like I had no control over my health,” she says. “I was seeing the healthy changes that some of my friends were enjoying from this lifestyle after suffering from serious diseases.”
Once she decided to change her diet, she did it overnight, on May 1, 2017. “I told my husband, I’m switching to a plant-based diet. He decided to switch as well, and we’re both much healthier as a result.”
On August 1, she started her Facebook group, Ajijic Plant Based Vegan Community.
Says Laberge, “I’d never started a Facebook group before but decided to follow a strong internal urge to do it. Although it’s a closed group, anyone who is on the path to greater health is welcome.”
Laberge got busy writing out a list of goals for the group, including approaching some local restaurants to offer vegan menu options.
She says, “I realized that eating a plant-based vegan diet had limited options when it came to shopping and eating out at lakeside. Being a social person, I wanted to enjoy eating out but with more options. At that time there weren’t any totally vegan restaurants at lakeside. Now there are two.”
She approached the owner of Casa Domenech, asking if he’d be interested in hosting a four-course vegan meal. He gladly agreed and they set a date for the event. With her prompting, Casa Domenech later implemented a secondary vegan menu. She also organized a vegan cooking class with Ajijic’s popular AbueLinda’s Cuisine.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend either of these events because I had to leave for Canada to be with my mother, who was very sick. Sadly, she passed away that August.”
Laberge has created an Ajijic Vegan Resource Guide, which can be found on her Facebook page. The guide lists all local restaurants that offer vegan menu options, businesses that sell vegan products, and market venders who sell vegan products.
To date, Laberge has lost 40 pounds and does 14 hours of exercise a week, including Pilates, Pickleball and gym workouts. “I feel as strong and energetic as when I was 30 years old, plus my cholesterol and blood sugar levels are excellent.”
In addition, she can breathe easier, her joint aches are gone, and a body rash and severe sinus issues that she suffered with for years disappeared after two weeks on the diet.
She adds: “Dwight, who looks and acts much younger than his 67 years, has lost 25 pounds and has been able to maintain his weight. He’s actively engaged in all kinds of sports and seems to have no problem following the diet.”
Laberge doesn’t miss any of the foods she used to eat because she makes the same things using only plants, such as lasagna, pizza, hamburger, curries, pasta and desserts.
“If Dwight and I want to go out for pizza I’ll buy vegan cheese, bring it to the restaurant, and they’ll add it for us.”
So far, Laberge and her team have organized 21 events. A memorable event was the Annual Chili Cookoff – the first time in 40 years that a vegan chili was entered into the contest.
The Facebook group now has almost 340 members, and about 140 of those are full-timers at Lakeside. They’re gearing up to celebrate their one-year anniversary on August 1.
Says Laberge, “Our group is a meeting place for anyone who wants to participate on this plant-based vegan journey. We share resources, recipes, and encourage one another. So far, we’ve organized potlucks, restaurant events and a monthly games night. Future events may include picnics, educational movies, and exploring Guadalajara’s vegan restaurants.”
She adds: “I’ve seen substantial growth in the number of local businesses who are offering vegan products. I hope more vegan restaurants will open in the area or, at the very least, be inclined to include more vegan dishes on their menus.”
For information, visit the facebook page Ajijic Plant Based Vegan Community.