Giving Ourselves the Gift of Health with Kassi and Derick Harrington: PYP 252

Kassi and Derick Harrington grew up in Thibodaux, Louisiana, where they grew obese and ill and miserable on the Standard Cajun Diet.

Derick's life revolved around food: hunting and fishing and then frying whatever he caught. Kassi was overweight her whole life, as was her entire family.

Derick suffered from hypertension, high cholesterol, an auto-immune disease, and was on the fast track to type 2 diabetes. He had no energy, no passion for life outside of the gustatory, and in his own words, was “just existing.”

Kassi remembers trying to lose weight her entire life. From trying to lift weights when she was eight years old, to making New Years Resolutions, to subsisting on microwaved Lean Cuisine, to every yo-yo diet, to dangerous weight loss pills like Xenadrine and Metabolife. She wanted to lose weight so badly, she was willing to sacrifice her health.

Derick had more or less given up on health and happiness. Kassi was chasing every promise, every fad, every restrictive and self-punishing regime that popped into her consciousness, with only temporary results.

Then, on a vacation in Disney World, Kassi tried a new strategy: seeking health rather than weight loss. And that's when everything started changing.

Her pragmatic, self-loving approach became self-correcting, as she tried things and saw how they made her feel and adjusted accordingly. And then, her brother Dustin made an off-hand comment that rocked her world: “You know, giving up animal products has been the easiest way for me to lose weight.”

Dustin had dropped about a hundred pounds at that point, inspired by his older brother, Josh LaJaunie. Kassi adopted the plant-based diet through baby steps, and soon found her own success, for the first time in her life.

Derick didn't like the changes at first. Not eating meat was blasphemy to any self-respecting male Coonass, and he would have none of it.

But slowly, he came around. To healthier eating. To running. To the inexorable pull of wellness and joy that was emanating out of the LaJaunie household and transforming its members.

Now Kassi and Derick are full-on plant-based runners, and the parents of a beautiful, chunky, healthy, plant-based two and a half year old boy. And what they've given up is nothing compared to what they've gained.

In our conversation, we talked about their transformation, the bumps in the road, and how their lives have changed since pursuing health as a priority. We covered:

  • “I was always losing weight for a thing – to fit into my jeans, to go on vacation, to meet a guy”
  • having all the “things” and still not being happy
  • “I had to learn to love myself enough to fix myself”
  • the LaJaunie family growing closer together after getting healthy – “it's hard to love other people when you can't love yourself”
  • the struggle and shame of one partner changing while the other resisted
  • Derick's big shift: running the Crescent City Classic 10k race in 2014
  • the “baby steps” approach to lifestyle change
  • Derick's nickname at work: “Lettuce”
  • Kassi's workplace nickname: “On the side” (based on her restaurant ordering strategy)
  • deeper changes – becoming more compassionate
  • your mind isn't as clear when you're consuming all these animal products
  • “Meathead” – someone who still has an ugly attitude
  • educating themselves and feeling confident to question what they've been taught their whole lives
  • Derick's extreme approach to running and racing (marathons, 50ks, and speed work)
  • excuse busting: having a toddler, both working fulltime, commuting, and still getting up at 4am to exercise and prep food for the day
  • feeding a toddler on a plant-based diet
  • making healthy food that mimics the toxic diet in day care
  • the sacrifice: television
  • the gain: life itself
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.


Planted Parenting: Kassi and Derick's Facebook page

The China Study Cookbook

Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

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