This week’s Health Leadership Award winner, 2006 graduate Jill Eckart, has turned her personal vegan transformation into a passionate career in food politics. Working for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, led by visiting teacher Dr. Neal Barnard, Jill has shared her knowledge of plant-based nutrition with more than 200,000 people – talk about a “ripple effect!” I could not be happier to present Jill with this award, to recognize not only her accomplishments, but also her can-do attitude, which has inspired and helped countless Americans.
Eight years ago, I made the switch to a vegan diet. Soon after, I began to see the world through a whole new lens - who knew that you could actually use food as medicine, as prevention, as an energy booster, as a way to reverse disease? I found myself falling asleep with books like Diet for a New America and vegan cookbooks!
It was actually at the bookstore where I bought my first vegan cookbook (on the bottom shelf) that I discovered a shiny red catalogue with the word “nutrition” on it. When uncovered, it read “The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.” For the next three days, the catalogue and I were inseparable – at least until Monday at 9am when I was able to call and speak to someone at IIN. The rest is history!
Big Dreams Are Fair Game
There are so many wonderful Health Coaches out there and to stand among those honored with this special award is very humbling. As a student at IIN, it was so empowering to be in a room filled with thousands of other people committed to standing for the health of others. The support received during the program is like no other, and there was so much joy in the room, a force for good.
I’ll never forget one particular goal-setting exercise during the training. Although the goals I set seemed so lofty at the time, in that room, in that time and space, there weren’t any limits. Everything you wanted for yourself and your life was possible. That’s what I took away from IIN, a gift to give my clients – anything they want for themselves and their life is fair game!
Sharing Her Strength
Professionally, my work at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has been really exciting and rewarding. In particular, I am very proud of two initiatives: getting published after coordinating a plant-based dietary intervention in Florida schools, and creating a free, online, vegan nutrition program that has had over 200,000 participants in just under three years. Personally, one of the goals I set five years ago at IIN was to complete a triathlon, and now I can say that I have competed in six triathlons and two half marathons!
Advice for Future Health Leaders
Three words – get a coach! It’s been really important for me to continue to be coached, either by fellow Health Coaches, Life Coaches, or swim coaches. During times when these services have not been available, I’ve recruited my friends to hold me accountable and it’s made all the difference. Not only has life become way more fun, but I’ve been able to accomplish far more than I ever thought would be possible. Being coached allows people a way to be involved in your life - and you in theirs - in such a unique and meaningful way. So, as you coach others, consider getting a coach for yourself too!
Connect with Jill
Her work at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:
21-Day Vegan Kickstart
Healthy School Lunches
Her Washington, DC Vegan Farmers Market Stand:
V Picnic Club