Overcoming 30 Years Of Pain By Eating Plants

In this week's episode, I had the honor of interviewing Catherine Van Tassell, a licensed clinical social worker and physician assistant who talks about her journey to plant-based eating. Catherine switched to a plant-based diet for ethical reasons after watching the documentary "Earthlings." A surprise benefit she wasn't expecting was that she stopped her lifelong urinary pains in only 14 days of being plant-based. After a massive increase in energy from eating plant-based, she started running ultra-marathons and Ironman races. During the interview, she discusses how a plant diet can help with various chronic diseases and offers tips for improving your exercise and mental health. In addition, she provides practical advice for switching to a plant-based diet, including ways to overcome common obstacles such as cravings and lack of motivation. This inspiring interview will leave you motivated to make a change in your own life!
Hosted by
Laurie Marbas
Last updated
October 21, 2022


00:01:36 Introduction
00:02:13 The beginning of Catherine's plant-based journey
00:08:43 The health results of Catherine switching to a plant-based diet
00:13:03 How Catherine became a physician assistant
00:18:07 How a plant-based diet improves mental health
00:29:33 Tips for getting more exercise
00:32:48 How Catherine got into ultra-marathoning
00:39:36 Catherine's advice to others starting a plant-based diet
00:47:06 What Catherine eats in a day

Episode Transcript

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Welcome to the podcast. I'm very excited to welcome a dear friend of mine, Catherine Van Tassel. How are you?

Catherine Van Tassel: Good, how are you?

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Very good. So Catherine and I work together. She's one of our wonderful physician assistants, but oh, she's so much more. I can't even for you guys to hear her story and how a plant-based diet and just healthy lifestyle has really changed her life. She looks, you know, 19, but I'll let her share her age should she choose to, but yeah, <laugh> pretty amazing. Will, Catherine, I'm so excited to share your story. Can we just kind of get back and tell us a little bit about your history growing up and what you were dealing with?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. This is really fun. And I always love to talk about all things plant based and health and mostly because it changed so much for me and I feel like I wish I would've known it at an earlier age. So the more I can tell somebody and maybe it will help them. So I, I kind of fell into the world of plant-based lifestyle medicine essentially because I had watched this documentary before I turned 30. So I'm 43 right now. That's my age. So before I turned 30, I was having a quarter life crisis of, oh my gosh, I'm gonna be the dirty 30. And I've gotta do something

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Into my life. I, I'm, I'm in my fifties and I'm apparently not a familiar with that terminology. What does dirty 30 mean? <Laugh>?

Catherine Van Tassel: I don't even know. I mean, now having some hindsight on it, I was like, Why were we even worried about that? But it, I don't know, it's just

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Called unhealthy un sad thirties. Okay. Dirty thirties. It's not, it's not preferable. I get it. Okay, We'll go with it. <Laugh>,

Catherine Van Tassel: Essentially you're moving outta your twenties and everybody thinks their twenties are the best I have now discovered. And you probably have that. I don't think that's actually

Dr. Laurie Marbas: True. Twenties is just ramping up to the best.

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah,

Dr. Laurie Marbas: We totally get you. But go ahead. Yes. So you were, you were trying to get outta your

Catherine Van Tassel: <Laugh>. Fair enough. And I was watching a documentary called Earthlings and it was essentially about factory farming. And I was horrified by the things that I saw. And I think like a lot of people were just not very familiar with our, where our food comes from. You know, I went to the grocery store to get chicken and cheese and dairy. I didn't actually see where that came from before the store. And it, you know, it pulled back the veil. And I, I have a soft spot in my heart for animals, and I just thought, Oh my gosh, you gotta be kidding me. Like, this is awful. And so kind of at this cusp, which is, you know, and behavior change, it's always you make a change when there's a new something coming. So this new decade of my life, my commitment was, Well, I'm gonna stop eating all animals and I'm gonna go to yoga every day.

Catherine Van Tassel: <Laugh>, that didn't happen, the yoga part. But I stopped eating animals. So the reason why this was so powerful, and we can rewind to how this affected me since my childhood is that when I was a little girl, when I was two years old, my parents started taking me to the doctor to see why I was always, and you know, as a child, they didn't know why I was always in pain. They thought that I was getting bladder infections. So they told my parents like, no bubble bath. She can't take baths. This kind of like preceded throughout my life that I would go to doctor, I would get put on an antibiotic, which now looking back the years of antibiotics that I was on is terrifying and what that did to my microbiome. But, you know, this was the answer.

Catherine Van Tassel: Just, Here's another antibiotic, no bubble bass, you know, all the things that you're supposed to do to try and avoid urinary tract infections. But they were constant and persistent. And as I got older, kept getting worse and worse and worse. And when I was in college, they got to the point where, you know, my mom flew out here. She took me to specialist for weeks to try and figure out what we needed to do. Cause I just couldn't go on like this. I couldn't go to classes. They gave me a handicap path cause the pain was so bad that I couldn't walk from my car to my class. You know, college campuses, they're big. It's, you know, you have a ways to, to drive. And I couldn't make it because I couldn't make it from bathroom to bathroom. And that was in my twenties and in college, I mean, it was a completely disrupt disruptful in my life.

Catherine Van Tassel: And and I really, I thought, how do I keep living my life like this? I I can't do this. So they did everything that they could for it. And they sent me to another specialist who diagnosed me with interstitial cystitis, basically saying that I hadn't had bladder infections my whole life. That my bladder is essentially allergic to itself. So it's an autoimmune condition. And some of the treatments that they give you as a medication, it's called eleron that made my hair start to fall out. So we had to discontinue that medication. They do these treatments where they catheterize you a couple of times a week and they put a solution in your bladder and you're supposed to hold it as long as you can. Why they say as long as you can is because it creates a really intense burning, almost like there's a fire, somebody just lit <laugh> in your abdomen.

Catherine Van Tassel: It's incredibly painful. Essentially, you know, that's supposed to shed the lining and create new lining. And I did that with no success. And eventually what they said to me, I had a procedure where they descended my bladder that didn't work. It actually made it worse. And so what they eventually said is, we're just gonna manage this with pain medications. You know, gave me every script for an opioid that I wanted. And I feel so blessed. I mean, that was before we'd heard about the opioid epidemic. I was in medicine, knew anything about that. I mean, really all I should have done was trusted this provider and take it. But for some reason, in my mind I was like, Oh, I just don't wanna do this. I'm, you know, 22 years old, I shouldn't be doing this. So, well, this was later, This is right before I turned 30.

Catherine Van Tassel: So I just kind of suffered for years after that. You know I then I started going to what I called every witch doctor that I could find. I mean, when I tell you I drove hours to see somebody in their basement with like, you know, who knows what growing from the walls. And they would like take tinctures and mix them up and crush them and put them in capsules. I mean, I was so desperate I would take anything. And I did, I, I have no idea what I was taking at that point, but it was like somebody had told me that this person had cured their cancer by using witch hazel. I mean, that's how desperate I got. And I didn't know any other options. So getting back to the documentary, I watched this documentary, I was horrified about the animals. That was the only reason why I stopped eating meat. And two weeks later, my pain that I had had my whole life since I was a two year old was gone. And I couldn't believe it. I just thought

Dr. Laurie Marbas: In 14 days,

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah,

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Three, almost three decades worth of suffering.

Catherine Van Tassel: Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, yeah. Of, of pain that I would be like on the floor or in the bathroom for hours and hours and hours. I mean, my best childhood friend growing up, I remember she would sit in the bathroom with me for hours cuz I couldn't leave. I think about, I think about how I lived my life back then and I can't, I can't imagine going back. And at first I thought, you know, this is too good to be true. Like, this must be a coincidence. I don't like, why would this happen? And, and I didn't know anything about, about plant-based medicine. And so like, well I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the face. Like I'm just gonna keep going and we'll see what happens. And at this time I just stopped eating meat. So I still was having dairy and I was still having eggs and and it still made that big of a difference. And so I never went back and my pain never came back. Wow. And then I just thought, <laugh>, wait, why aren't we telling people about this? Like, what's going on? And so of course that then turned into the next 12, 13 years of my life, of this deep dive into why would I eat, make such a difference for me and, and, and differences in other places in my life. And we can talk about that at some point if we want to, but that's kind of the back part of that story. Wow.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Geez. So, I mean, I feel like it's such a disservice to summarize that in a matter of, I don't know, three minutes of 30 years of most of suffering and pain and suffering. I mean, what did that do for you, like growing up and your confidence and social? Am I, I'm just curious, how was that affecting you? Someone with that type of chronic pain is so young and not having a clear even diagnosis till you were older even?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah, I mean, you know how traumatic events get steered into your brain and you can re have these like very clear times in my life. Like in ninth grade we had ninth grade lagoon Day here in Utah. That's kind of like going to it's whatever amusement park. Like it's not as cool as Disneyland, but it's our local amusement park. We get to go for ninth grade lagoon day. And I was having a really bad flare that day and I didn't wanna miss out. I wanted to go. It was like one of the biggest things cuz it was, you know, before you went to high school. And I spent the whole, the whole time in the bathroom and I remember like, you know, when you're in a lot of pain how you get hot, like your body gets hot and you'll sweat. It was in the summer and it was hot.

Catherine Van Tassel: And I just remember I was just sweating in the bathroom and I can remember what I was wearing. I wore this cute denim dress that was in style, that <laugh> and this red and white striped undershirt. And I remember just sweating through it cause I was in so much pain and I, and I couldn't go out and do anything with anybody. And I can think of times when I was dating and I had to come home, I, I, you know, and I didn't wanna tell them why. It's not like, Oh my back hurts, you know, I don't wanna really tell this boy that I have to stay in the bathroom because I can't get out. And I think of nights where I just laid on the floor and it, it just goes through everything from events that I missed to, you know, not going out to things.

Catherine Van Tassel: And it was awful. It was awful. And I, you know, I of course I joined all these self-help groups online. And, and I think about women's stories too. I remember hearing this woman, she was flying across the country to go see a specialist. I mean, cause people just get desperate with this disease, just like any other, you know, chronic disease. And I remember she was on the airplane and couldn't leave the bathroom in the airplane and, you know, they were trying to lay on the plane and trying to get her out. And she was sobbing and it was, I just like, my heart broke for her. And yeah, it's, it's a horrible disease. Wow.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: So how did that lead you? Did you feel like that led you, was it the plant based diet that led you to be a pay? Were you a PA before? Like how did, how did you becoming a physician assistant? Well you're also a licensed clinical social worker, so there's that side of you as well. Oh. And we're not even getting into the athletic, There's many parts features to you that are amazing. So let's start with the PA stuff. What, where did that come from?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah, so I was working, I went straight from, you know, undergrad to graduate school and loved social work. So that's what I gravitated. I loved being around people and and when I was working in social work, which it's so funny because all of these things in my world have circled around each other. So I was working in dialysis. So essentially people that had kidney failure and had to come into dialysis clinic and have you know, their kidneys aren't working for them anymore. So a machine does the job of their kidneys, but that's, you know, four hours, four hours, three times a week. Most people at least in the clinics that I was working in, and I think across the country have renal failure secondary to diabetes and hypertension. And we know that a great amount of those are caused by lifestyle.

Catherine Van Tassel: So I remember having this conversation with nephrologists and I asked people, do you think wouldn't be here if they would've had different patterns in terms of nutrition and exercise? And he said, Oh, probably about 75% of my patients. And it like blew me away. Cuz again, I keep feeling like I'm not anybody special. Like why am I hearing all these secrets? You know, like, I'm not the smartest person, I'm not anyone special, but why am I getting this information? Why doesn't everybody know this? And that really affected me and it affected me in the fact that, I mean, people that are on dialysis, they, a lot of them can't work. Their families are completely disrupted. They don't feel well most of the time they have risk of amputations, you know, secondary to their diabetes not getting better. There's just all this sequela that comes from that.

Catherine Van Tassel: And I just kept thinking, why, why aren't we doing more? Why is the healthcare system not doing more? So then I was like, okay, here's the social work crusade. I'm gonna go to PA school and I'm gonna go into primary care. And when I'm in primary care, nobody's gonna have diaper hypertension or diabetes. Like that's it. I'm putting an end to it, <laugh>. And you know, I, I think that that was a very good intended <laugh> project. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. But very quickly I got into primary care and I realized, oh my gosh, this is a huge monster. Our medical system's a huge monster. And I felt like I wasn't making effective change that way. So I was like, I gotta find a different way to do this. So that's what led me into pa. And then ever since I've been doing that, I've just been looking at avenues to be able to help people in terms of lifestyle medicine.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: So you had been drawn to the, to the licensed clinical social worker, but you said you were working in a Dallas Center. So I'm curious if we could talk a little bit about, just as a segue a little bit to the depression and anxiety and what you have seen with your work with lifestyle medicine and you know, those type of things with mood disorders. Any improvement or do you feel, and and, cause I know you like to do research as well, looking into the research of like how many people in chronic disease have depression or anxiety? Cause I know it's, it's fairly significant, but what is your take on that?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah, so again, this theme of where everything seems to cross one another and, and I think I heard Dean Ornish say this the best is that a plant-based diet isn't just a diet for somebody who has hypertension or somebody who has diabetes or somebody that wants to be a better athlete. Plant-Based diet is for all of these conditions, it crosses over so many things. And at first for me it was just interstitial status. And then when I was working in dialysis, you know, learning that well, that could have helped prevented somebody from getting diabetes or hypertension. And then mental health, I think that was probably cuz the, the anti-inflammatory aspect of it, that makes sense, right? If you eat less foods that are anti-inflammatory, I think that's easy to like, okay, yeah, that makes sense. And even like, I think in terms of trying just to eat I never want anybody to feel like unless I'm a hundred percent plant based, I won't get any of the benefits.

Catherine Van Tassel: You see them making small changes and those small changes breed, oh, I wanna keep doing this more and more. And that's what happened to me. Like it wasn't, I just stopped eating meat and then I felt so good. I was like, well what happens if I stop eating eggs? What happens if I stop eating dairy? And so so, so anyways, so you're seeing these like improvements in, in health and I'm using health as like, okay, let's not think of mental health, even though I do think mental health's health, you can see, oh, this makes sense. But in mental health, I never really made that connection of, well why would that improve somebody's mental health in terms of depression and anxiety? However, there's so like now that I'm more into it, I can see how there are so many ways that it does, if you were to just look at chronic health, people that have chronic health conditions are at such an increased rate, you know, 50% more of having than a mood disorder.

Catherine Van Tassel: So depression, anxiety, and I think that's multifactorial. And we see that in the research too. One of it is just life circumstance. I mean, if you are caught up in a condition that makes you not feel well and not be able to participate in your community and do things that bring you purpose, of course you're gonna have, you know, depression, anxiety. But now we're seeing how that's affecting brain health in terms of inflammation. We're seeing inflammation in the brains atrophy in the brains. I think one of the well there's a lot of cool research that comes out. And this kind of crosses over into another pillar of lifestyle medicine is movement. You know, they were doing trials that were head to head with Zoloft. So one of our first line SSRI medications. So put a group of people into medication and then another group into an exercise class.

Catherine Van Tassel: And at the end of the trial, both people did just as well. So then they were thinking, Oh well, but this group was exercising together and we know that community helps mood too. So they thought, well maybe that, you know, that confounded the, the results, let's try it again. So they did Zoloft group exercise group together, and then exercise group alone, same thing. It didn't matter if you were exercising with people or alone, you still did just as good. Wow. They did exercise in patients that had schizophrenia. So there are certain parts in their brain that atrophy. And they noticed that they actually had regrowth in those brains. So the places that had aed, they saw reversal of that. And they also saw that in people that ate certain plants that are high in bdnf or increased BDNF in their brain. So I, I mean I could go on and on and on about the research about that, but we're seeing this decreased inflammation in our brain. I always say our brain is just another organ of our body. Just like if we had a disease of the heart or the lungs. And that a plant-based lifestyle. And then just the pillars of health in terms of like community and exercise. All of these things that are going into play too, in terms of your mental health, everything from psychosis to mood disorders.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Well, we could probably speak for an hour on any of those topics, but someone may not be familiar with the bdnf. Can you talk a little bit to what that is and what that does in the body?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah, that's interesting. Very interesting. It's really interesting. So essentially what they're seeing in this is it helps I'm trying to think of a good way to explain it. <Laugh> it, it's like con connecting neurons in our brain. So like the way that we process things in our body. So if you can increase that and the ways that they've shown that is by exercise, fasting and nutrition. So there's a list of certain foods, Please don't ask me. The list off of top of my head had that increases that. That's why the hypothesis is, is that they're seeing improvement in mood. And then specifically in the schizophrenia group in terms of atrophy of their brains, they also did a nurse's health study on this too. And those that had higher diets in bdnf they had improved mood. So lower rates of depression and anxiety.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Yeah, so brain derived natural what is this

Catherine Van Tassel: Tropic?

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Yeah, so basically it's just helping growth of nerves and preservation. So what foods would those be? Because I feel like that's gonna be a question if I don't ask you, I will get comments. So go for it. <Laugh>.

Catherine Van Tassel: Remember I said don't ask me that because I can't remember off the top of

Dr. Laurie Marbas: My head. I gave you a minute. Come on man. I

Catherine Van Tassel: Can it up in my notes

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Here. I can look real quick here. So let's talk. Okay, so, okay, here we go. Look at this. Thank you. Something. Ah, the Amos Institute. Very good. So green tea, it says, not look for one source from Japan, not China blueberries, who doesn't look blueberries, Red grapes, olive oil, soy with big fan of soy, dark chocolate. Dark chocolate and blueberries. I made my day. <Laugh>

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Let me says are more items here. One sec here. Coffee. Oh, interesting though too. But also lifestyle factors. Speaking of exercise, managing your stress, intermittent fasting, sun exposure, sleep, all the things that we like to, to discuss. Wow, that's awesome. So if you have someone come and see you and let's say they're depressed or anxious or some car disease, what is the first thing you tell on the folks and like what do you feel like the biggest bang for your buck? So cuz you said before, you know, just even small changes make you start seeing those change benefits. Where do you feel, because you're kind of our spa behavior change specialist, are there any things that you think people should look at starting first that makes it easier to transition?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah, so first when I meet somebody, essentially what I do is, I mean, of course get a good history, but explain. So what I always say is there's this continuum. So there's all these ways that we can treat mental health. So everything for medications, which I prescribe medications all the time. I'm not saying that medications aren't good for you. Sometimes we absolutely need medications and they provide, I'm so thankful for them. But we have all these other options too that we might not have to use medications. And why would we not wanna do that? Well, because all medications that we use end up having side effects and then we have to treat the side effects. So if we could get to the root cause, of course that would be ideal cause we don't have side effects. You also don't have to have the cost of the medications.

Catherine Van Tassel: You also don't have to keep seeing your provider for that cause that's disruptive to life. So that's ideal. What's the root cause and can we address that? And sometimes the root cause isn't, you know, I always say people sometimes are genetically loaded. So meaning they have a long history of depression in their family. And so that does not mean that somebody's condemned to having that, but they just may be more predisposed for that. And then if they have poor lifestyle factors on top of that, it pretty much, you know, flips that switch. But we can look at those factors then look at what's going on in their life, right? Are they under extreme stress at work? We can't medicate that, right? And we can improve your nutrition that will help you be able to, you know, have better, you know, feeling better in your body and be able to cope better with that.

Catherine Van Tassel: But if you're under this extreme constant stress, that's gonna increase your risk factor of chronic disease for so many reasons, right? You get this dump of all of your stress hormones and what that ends up turning into, you know in turn of terms of chronic disease. So we gotta really look at what's happening in your life and then how can we address this? And sometimes somebody has enough capacity to address multiple things like nutrition and exercise and community, you know, so I'm gonna see my girlfriends once a week and I'm gonna completely change my diet and I'm gonna go to an exer exercise group three times a week. Oh man, that would be amazing. But that's usually not what people can, what, you know, people can do. So, okay, here are all of our options. The the two things that I always say that I think have the biggest bang for our buck if we're gonna focus on them first is either nutrition or exercise.

Catherine Van Tassel: Exercise. If I only have one thing that really helps because the minute we exercise, we get a dopamine drop in our brain and you get that positive reward right away. So there's a lot of reinforcement in that. And I get a lot, I mean, anybody who does that, they get a lot of, okay, I got this, there's a reason why I wanna keep doing this. And it becomes, you know, lack of better term addicting, right? We want, we want this dopamine. And then if somebody's only willing to let go of one thing in their diet, I always say dairy take dairy first. Dairy's very inflammatory. Dairy has full of growth hormones. Dairy is a hundred percent of a perfect food, perfect, perfect food, just not for humans. It's meant to grow these tiny, tiny calves into big, huge cows. Nature's perfect food for that full of growth hormones and all the things to do that. I don't need that <laugh>, I don't need any of that. So people have problems with their skin. They notice their skin clearing up congestion. Notice that clearing up brain fog. I, you know, that's one of the biggest bang for your buck. So if I had to choose, you know, just a couple, that would be, that would be the two.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Yeah. So the dairy is by far, I agree with you 100%. People see a significant change in their gi their skin, which is your biggest organ, right? Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. So when it's red and inflamed, it's like, let's go deeper, right? It's not just a skin issue. So but also like constipation, I tell you a hundred percent of kids if we get 'em off dairy would probably have significant improvement in their gut health. And you know, the poor little people sitting there crying and mom and dad are like, What do we do <laugh>? You know? So but I had one little girl and one of my patients, she had really severe case of for years since birth two months old until she was a little bit older when I saw her and her mom and they pulled her off the dairy within three weeks, completely cleared, a year later, still gone and cleared. And she, I'll never forget, she's like, Dr. Mar, I'm not a baby cow <laugh>.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: So that's what I tell people. I'm like, You keep on telling I'm that sweetie. So I'm like, and so it's such a wonderful thing to hear young people expressing, you know, they understand the nutrition and what that plays in their bodies and then the exercise. So what is a good, we're gonna, let's just a great segue to your exercise, but let's just move through someone else. Let's say that someone is starting an exercise program. What would you recommend to get started? And then I'd love to have you share your own exercise triumph since you went from not being able to walk to your class to running. I'll let you tell. But anyway, please go. <Laugh>

Catherine Van Tassel: <Laugh>.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Just fun.

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah. So I always want movement to be something somebody enjoys. So do they, do they like walking? Do they like group sports, like playing pickleball? Do they like <laugh>? I mean pickleball, man, that's like a whole we can do talk on pickleball.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Let's just talk about pickleball. Yes, yes, yes. Keep

Catherine Van Tassel: Going. Do they like to exercise outside, inside? Cause that's a good place to start. I don't care how you move your body, it doesn't matter. You're gonna get the same effects as long as you just move your body. And if we can find something that brings you joy, then you're gonna do it over and over and over again. So in terms of like recommending something really, let's find something that you love and if you don't know, okay, well let's try a group exercise class at your community rec center. Let's try going on a walk in the afternoon with your dog or your family. My husband and I started dog walking after work quite soon after we got married. And I think that was probably one of the best marriage tools that we'd ever been

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Given. Or just for just walking your own dog.

Catherine Van Tassel: Just, just walking, like, just us walking together. <Laugh>.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: So your people and dog walking.

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah. Yeah. So and then if you can get into some green space to exercise. So we know that research has shown if you exercise in green space, it's kind of like the power booster on exercise. So not only you get that benefit, you get this like extra boost. Cuz our brains respond really well to being in green spaces. So let's find something you love. Let's not tomorrow start an exercise re regimen that's not gonna let you walk for a week. So if you've done not done anything, you know, let's try maybe 10 to 15 minutes a couple times a week and then the next time we'll do, you know, we can increase that as you go along. And then I always suggest for everybody the importance of doing some sort of weight. Again, you're not in a CrossFit class, you're not out there competing. This can be, you know, so many different ways that you can incorporate weights, but it's so important for your bone health, especially aging bone health. And in women aging in their bone health too. So if we can incorporate some sort of resistance or strength that's fantastic too.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm, wonderful. Yeah, absolutely. And the interesting, I can't remember what I was reading or it was somewhere when I was traveling last week, but it's called biophilia, right? The love of Nature. And they were talking about, there's a whole like interior design movement around bio helia. And so I was like looking at all these cool pictures and it toys were, so I got my first sitting at a plant since moving to California. So I'm like, I can't wait to make this space, but I hear more green. So I'm like, yeah, you just get excited, right? It just, you're drawn to that. So I, it's so very true. But now tell us a little bit about how you started into your, your athletic career because it's pretty awesome, Geez. Traveling the world, all sorts of stuff. So help, please share.

Catherine Van Tassel: So when people always say, I I could never exercise or I could never be like you cause they know what I do. I, I always have to say, Okay, listen, you gotta sit down and, and hear me out because I was not an exerciser. Like exercising for me was walking around the mall. Like that was not my jam. You know, and then sometimes I would pick up my mom's Jane Fonda videos, you know, check what that was all about. Pain, fun, What's the best? The grapevine? Oh my gosh. But I wouldn't say this wasn't like a main stain of my life. And then I was in so much pain how I couldn't even think like, how am I supposed to exercise? So I didn't start doing this until my thirties. I think that's wasn't like a, you know, a collegiate athlete or a D two runner or whatever that, you know, would look like for people that have had sports in their, in their lives.

Catherine Van Tassel: Never played a sport. So I always say careful who you make friends with. I was, another social worker was running ultra-marathons and the thought of that, so we're talking about hundred miles. I would've thought it would've been more possible for me to go to the moon than run a hundred miles. I mean honestly like that, just like, no, no way. And it didn't start like that day one, but I started getting into movement by just walking. I would walk around my neighborhood and it felt so good, you know, cuz I was feeling good. I started small jogs and I mean, I'm telling you like a mile at most, and that was walking and jogging. But these little habits, this is, you know, exactly where I recommend this, they kind of just build up and it does become addicting in some way because I'm so much happier and I make better decisions and I have less brain fog.

Catherine Van Tassel: And I just kept noticing how everything kept improving and improving. So then it was like, okay, I'll do exercise classes. And then I signed up for a half marathon. It was the rock and roll half marathon in Arizona. I remember my body had never hurt so much after that. I didn't think it was possible to run for that long. But I did it and then it turned into this, well, what else can I do? What else can I do <laugh>? And then I had friends in the ultra running community and, and I always did it, did my runs with groups of people. I'm a very social person and I just got so much from that. And I always said that was like the trifecta. I was outside I was moving my body and I had community. So it just became this overwhelming love of my life essentially.

Catherine Van Tassel: And I didn't wanna stop. So in my thirties I ended up running a hundred miles. I still have no idea how that happened. I think it's insane that people do that. Even when I hear other people do that, I think it's crazy. I now have done 200 plus mile bike rides in one day. If in here in Utah we go from Logan to Jackson Hole, you go through three states. I've done multiple Ironman and I don't say this to like pat myself on the back at all. I say this to, I feel better now in my, you know, being gonna be 43 than I ever did when I was 18, 19, 20. Even when I got better from IC in my early thirties. I'm stronger, I'm fitter. I fit into my same clothes, I fit to into, in high schools. I mean actually probably a little smaller. And this has just all been these gifts that I keep getting from this lifestyle that we stumbled upon. And I wanna give it to somebody else because man, it has may has changed my life in so many ways.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Hmm. So explain what an Iron man is cuz I think people don't, just in case they're not familiar or surely they are, but I, it just blows my mind when people do this thing <laugh>.

Catherine Van Tassel: So you do an open water swim, it's two and a half miles, and then you ride your bike 112 miles, and then you run a marathon at <laugh>.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: That's all in one day. Insane.

Catherine Van Tassel: All in one.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Yeah. So my husband did his first one at 49. And I'll tell you, it's just, it's a remarkable feat of a human to see one swim that far with a bunch of people and legs splashing. And usually it's pretty cold when you guys get started, but then ride 112 miles. I mean, I ride, you know, 10 miles, my butt hurts. I just, it's just, I just am impressed. I love the running part, so I get that for sure. But yeah, amazing Kathryn, it's so incredible. And okay, when she said she, she got happy. I don't, I don't, I people don't know you, so I don't under, I don't think they truly understand. So we're in meetings, we zoom a lot and

Catherine Van Tassel: <Laugh>,

Dr. Laurie Marbas: She's walking, she's moving on her little thing and she's smiling and always happy and she's like always got this energy and people like feel it emanate through the zoom, whatever the zoom universe <laugh> like, I like you truly are a happy loving. You can just feel it person. So I just, it's such a joy. People go like, I just love her. Energy's like, yeah, <laugh>. So if you want some of that, do what she's doing. So

Catherine Van Tassel: <Laugh> yeah,

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Really wanted to share with people, like to really emphasize you embody all things that would be what people would be d desiring in their life. So, I mean, even with our,

Catherine Van Tassel: And that's, that's the thing I want people to know. I'm not special. There's nothing

Dr. Laurie Marbas: About me. Oh, you are special <laugh>,

Catherine Van Tassel: <Laugh>. I mean, if I can do it, other people won't do that. And I hear people say that all the time and I'm like, Yeah, yeah, whatever. No really like, no, really it's just, and that's the only reason why I like, I'm always running my mouth. That has never been a problem that I've had to not have something to say. And I, I, I mean I probably drive a lot of people crazy, but I just kept thinking, I want you to have this too. I want you to have this too.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Oh my goodness, that's fantastic. So you went from pain for decades to not exercising except around the mall

Catherine Van Tassel: <Laugh>

Dr. Laurie Marbas: And then now running run a hundred mile and a few, just a few ultra-marathon like irony and anyway, so there's all of that. That's Catherine. So what would you say, So someone sitting here going, Yeah, it's good for her. Yeah, you could see that. What would be the first thing you'd like to share with someone who's maybe on the fence or struggling to just get going? Like, what, what would you encourage someone to say? Like, what have you heard that helps?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah. Well, I mean, I guess I would then turn into an infomercial and be like, I have a money back guarantee. <Laugh>, just gimme 30 days. And, and I'll change your life. <Laugh>.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Oh, we need to make a a, a plant piece infomercial. Oh my goodness, that's gonna be fabulous. Hmm. <Laugh>.

Catherine Van Tassel: I would really, I I would say that I would say challenged to prove me wrong. Prove me wrong and not in a, like, oh, I know all the right answers. I've just, I have seen it in my own life, but I've seen it in so many other people's lives and it's story after story after story and, and people that feel the same way as me. Why didn't I know this? Why did nobody tell me this? So honestly, I would take, you know, I always say I would pick nutrition or exercise. If you can do a little of both, that would be great. And, and just try it. And, and it can be, again, it doesn't have to be, you don't have to be a hundred percent bought in. You can be that's great, but okay, what if it was just me? You know, that's just what you were gonna give up or just dairy.

Catherine Van Tassel: Just try that and, and make one step at a time. And if you can find somebody to do it with you, you know, like support and community and accountability, that's always much more fun to make change that way. Pick a date that means something to you. So maybe it's your birthday, like it was my birthday, or maybe it's spring or fall or, you know, Christmas. What New Year's is the biggest one? Pick this date that means something to you of I'm gonna make a change and, and why am I gonna make that change? So I love lists of writing things down. What do I wanna gain? What would this potentially help me do? And then I would probably say, I have lots of things to say this, but I would probably say the last thing would be, if you're investigating something like this, it's because something's not working for you.

Catherine Van Tassel: So what do you have to lose? What you're doing already is not working and if you keep doing that, it's probably just gonna get worse. So what if you tried something else and then just gather the evidence? What did I find out about this? You know, how do I feel? How's my mood? How's my sleep? I mean, we haven't even tapped into how sleep's affected by this and just be super curious about it. No judgment around it. You can always go back always if you wanted to. It will still be there, I promise. But just be super curious about making changes and how it affects your body.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm. Yeah, I would say curiosity should be your superpower. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> and excuse me, Jed Brewer. And I've had lots of conversations about, you know, curiosity is a superpower and it really holds true because that's what little kids do, right? They get theirselves into trouble all the time. So let's get ourselves into a little good trouble <laugh> and go searching this out. It's, it's, it really is remarkable the stories, right? There's no negative side effects.

Catherine Van Tassel: No

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Other than, oh shucks, we're gonna lose some weight. Oh, shes, we're gonna feel better. Oh, shes, I gotta stop some medications and cut off some chronic disease from my life. Which kind of gives a great segue. So Catherine and I work at Mora and you guys check it out moura.com. We have, you know, and Catherine was very, very instrumental in helping us get started and is still part of our team and helping us grow in all sorts of ways. And this is a place you can find physicians and physician assistance and peers support through physician led groups. We call 'em circles and you know, check us out, check it us out mara.com. Right now we're working in the state of Florida soon to launch in Texas, in California. There'll be other states added. So definitely check us out. And what would you say about Mora Catherine that you'd like anything there to share?

Catherine Van Tassel: Yeah, I mean, when, when you talk to me about being involved in this, I just thought, oh my gosh, this, see, it just keeps crossing, it keeps wronging. I feel like

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Back until we got back. We go back two years, right? You email me about plant-based cell health. I was like, we're not there yet. But then I just went digging through the emails and there your name was and who knew <laugh>.

Catherine Van Tassel: I know. This is why you just have to put your intentions out there into the universe and it will come back to you. I think there's so many reasons why I like Mora, but it, it goes across so many things that I was talking about, right? You get community by being with other people there, you don't feel so alone, which I think is so important. I felt so alone for so many years. Like, I was the only only person with this. Nobody, nobody else in my school was in the bathroom. All of Lagoon day, you know? Everybody's out having fun. Everyone else can take bubble bass. I always wanted like remember that? Like peace, think it's like a guy or something. Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: It have that it was the bubble face. Yep. Mm-Hmm.

Catherine Van Tassel: <Affirmative>. Yeah. Like everybody else gets this and I, and I don't so, and I think it's so nice to me in a community where other people can say, Yeah, I feel this too. This is hard. And so you get that. And then also you don't know what you don't know. So how do, how do okay. Exercise? What does that actually mean? Eat better. Sure. Okay. What does that mean? You know? Right? We have so many ways of eating better in this, in this world. Now is that ketogenic? Is that carnivore? Is that plant-based? Is that, you know, there's even plant-based keto. I mean if you look at all the diet books that are out there, there's everything from the maker's diet, which is based on, I guess what Jesus ate, <laugh> mm-hmm. <Affirmative> to the cookie diet, to the be and now diet. I mean, no wonder if people don't know how to nourish themselves. So the fact that you get to go in this group, be with other people, and then actually be provided with, here's how to do it. And we're gonna provide education on nutrition and exercise, stress management, mindfulness community. And you get this for 12 weeks so you can move through it together and have time to implement those things in your life. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, it's kind of like everything packaged up into one. I, I wish I would've had that.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Yeah, absolutely. And we accept Medicare. We're working on the other insurances. We're super close to several there in Florida. And if not, there's also a cash pay option. It's very, actually very minimal. And so, you know, we're doing our best to make this available to as many people as possible. So if this doesn't work for you, maybe share this with someone else, but check it out@moira.com. But yeah, it, there's just, there's so much to that. And Catherine, I, I can't say thanks enough for sharing your story. You're always such a delight to talk to you. So I was really looking forward to today. I was like, Oh, get to talk to Catherine. I'm like, for 45 minutes or more. This would be great. I think I've already gone over 45 minutes. But yeah, this has been fantastic and I really appreciate your time and your transparency and sharing your story.

Catherine Van Tassel: Thank you so much for having me. I just, I'm so happy to be in this community.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: One more question just on, Yes. I forgot to ask you what you eat day, cuz if I don't ask, I get comments to self, I cannot have angry listeners. So please tell me what you eat day.

Catherine Van Tassel: Okay. Every morning I have a smoothie. So I always exercise in the morning cause I feel like it sets my day up good and I feel better. So after I exercise, I have smoothie. It always has two vegetables and a fruit in it. And then usually some plaques and I sometimes I put o fiber in it, Chia seeds, all the, basically the formula that I always tell people when they're building a plate is a veggie. Fruits are decorations. So it's always in my smoothie in the morning that you don't have to put that on every plate. So a veggie and some sort of good healthy, slow processing carb and some sort of protein and fiber. If you can add all of those together, that's a great combination. So that's what goes in my smoothie. I always have a salad for lunch.

Catherine Van Tassel: I prep them out on Sunday so I don't even have to think about it. It goes with me to work. And then for snacks, usually like hummus and carrots maybe piece of fruit. And then occasionally nuts. I try to steer away from those cuz I can eat too many of them and they're really historically dense. And then dinner, gosh, that's everything from like doing zoo. It's zucchini season. If you have a zucchini plant, you're basically being overgrown by them. So spiralizing, zucchini and mixing that with a whole wheat pasta. I have celiac disease, so I have to do a gluten-free, like a chick p poss or something like that. But there's pos that have made with beans now, and so you get some protein in that, a veggie. So doing like a, a pasta that way. Doing stir fries, I really like stir fries at night. Or if I just want to be super easy baked sweet potato roasted broccoli and then like either a bean or some tofu.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Nice. Very solid yumminess going on there. <Laugh> for sure. Hmm. I got a bunch of broccoli and CalFire there. I gotta figure out what to do with. But I was watching earlier the whole food plant based kitchen YouTube channel. Her name's still haven't interviewed her, which I might reach out to, but she had some cheesy broccoli soup. I was like, Hmm, that sounded delicious. So anyway. Oh, I

Catherine Van Tassel: Know there's so many Instagrams. Oh my gosh. Blogs, cookbooks, and you can make it as simple as easy or as easy as you want.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Amazing. Yeah. Oh my goodness. Yeah. <Laugh>.

Catherine Van Tassel: Oh my goodness.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Anyway, all right. I, I did my duty guys. I, I asked her what she ate in a day, cuz I was like, ah, I knew, I knew there was something. But again, thanks again Catherine, for your time and we really appreciate all that you've done and do for people.

Catherine Van Tassel: Thank you. It was so good to be here.

Laurie Marbas
Laurie is our Chief Medical Officer, double board certified family and lifestyle medicine physician, licensed in all 50 states and DC.

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