Four years ago, 37-year-old, Gaby van Bienen, was unable to stand and suffered from constant extreme pain. A diagnosis of endometriosis, followed by a severe burn-out had left the Dutch native feeling exhausted and unhappy with life. Desperate to get her life back, Gaby decided to take her health into her own hands, and examine the effects that diet and lifestyle could have.

For Gaby, following a wholefood and plant-based diet helped to ease her symptoms, and she began to regain her health. She then took part in our April Happy Heart course, and says that her health has continued to improve – she has lost weight, boosted her energy levels, improved her digestion, and says that she now has a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing. This is a super-inspirational interview and we hope you enjoy it!

What made you sign up to the Happy Heart course?

Actually, I was very lucky to win a spot for me and a friend! I was already eating plant-based and mostly wholefoods, but I believe that there is always room for improvement. I also really needed some food inspiration! I did learn new things, so it just goes to show that this course really is for everyone.

What was your health like before you began the course?

My health has been really bad for the last couple of years. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness (endometriosis) almost four years ago. To top that off, I ended up experiencing a severe burn-out. At some point it had gotten so bad that I literally couldn’t stand on my own legs anymore and I was in pain almost every day. I had zero energy and I was really unhappy. Doctors weren’t able to help me, but I knew I did not want to live the rest of my life this way, so I took matters into my own hands.

What was your experience of the course like? What were your favourite parts?

The course is amazing! It has so much information but it’s presented in a way that is easy to process. The combination of course notes, videos, Q&As, and the Facebook community, makes it very easy to stay on track and motivated. My favorite parts were the Q&As and the Facebook community. Dave and Steve’s energy is so positive and their enthusiasm is contagious. I always felt extra motivated after watching the Q&A videos (especially when watching live and interacting). The Facebook community is lovely; everybody is helping each other by answering questions, giving pep talks, and sharing recipes.

Did you enjoy the cooking aspect of the course? What were some of your favourite recipes?

Yes! I’ve always loved cooking but, lately, I was so uninspired. I was eating the same things over and over. This course really gave me a boost of inspiration and made me want to try new things again. The recipes are very easy and most are pretty quick too, which is always nice. While I love cooking, I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen every day. My favorite recipe is definitely the 5-minute chickpea curry – easy, so quick, and very tasty!

Did you discover any new foods or ways of cooking?

I’ve been eating mostly wholefood and plant-based for about a year now, so there weren’t really any surprises for me there. However, I think people who are new to this way of eating will discover many things. Oil-free cooking was a huge discovery for me. I wasn’t sure it was possible but I learned that it is actually very easy. I feel so much better without oil and bonus – cleaning the kitchen has become a lot easier!

Were there ever times that you struggled on the course? How did you stay motivated?

Yes, definitely, I think we all struggle with that at times. I live alone, so I have to do everything by myself, and combined with my recent health issues, it was sometimes very difficult to get up and cook. I definitely slipped up a few times over the past year, but then I would immediately feel the effect and remember why I was doing this. That was enough to get me back on track. My advice for others would be to not be too hard on yourself. If you do slip up, accept it and move on. One bad meal does not undo all the good you’ve been doing! Your next meal is another opportunity to eat better.

How did you feel while doing the course?

I felt amazing! I already experienced the benefits of a wholefood and plant-based diet, but during the course I realised that diet is only part of it. For true happiness and health we need a holistic approach – mind, body, and soul. I really enjoyed the last week of the course, which focused more on lifestyle and it gave me new motivation to improve mine. 

What have been the main benefits that you have experienced from taking part in the course?

Adopting a wholefood, plant-based diet has been such a game-changer for me. It played a huge part in getting my chronic illness under control and it has so many other benefits. I lost about 8kg in a few months, my energy levels went up, my digestion improved, I never have colds anymore, and I am now mostly pain-free. 
It didn’t just affect me physically, it also had a huge impact mentally and emotionally. I feel so much lighter and happier. While that has various reasons, changing my diet was definitely a big factor. Another huge benefit of eating this way for me is that I am able to eat as much as I want! Before, I was a little bit overweight but didn’t know how to lose it. Eating less was never an option for me, I have to eat when I’m hungry or I will feel really bad. Now I have to be careful that I eat enough!

What are the top three things you learnt from having taken part in the course?

I guess the most important one is to be prepared! This way of eating requires a lot of cooking, which can seem a bit daunting when you first start out. It really helps to plan your meals and to do some batch cooking, especially when you’re busy. It takes some extra time and effort but it is so worth it! The tools in the course are really helpful.
The second one is, do not be afraid to tweak the recipes. I use recipes as a guideline and inspiration. I’ll often swap or add vegetables to suit my needs or change the spice mix a bit. Lastly, use the Facebook community! It has a wonderful group of people helping each other out. It can really make a difference when you have an urgent question or just need some motivation.

Has your life and diet changed much since completing the course?

My diet is always plant-based as I am vegan for many reasons, not just health. This course really helped me remember why it’s so important to eat wholefoods and what the benefits are. The course gave me a new boost of motivation to try and eat wholefood and plant-based as much as possible (while still enjoying the occasional treat!). What changed most for me, is the lifestyle around it. Over the past few months, I’ve come to realise that a more simple lifestyle with lots of movement, play, and nature really makes me happy. The Happy Pear has been a huge inspiration. Thanks lads!

Lastly, Gaby, can you finish these sentences for us?

Happiness is…

Being able to be and express your authentic self.

Health is…

Being balanced in mind, body, and soul.

Community is…

A place to connect with like-minded souls and lift each other up.

If you have been inspired by Gaby’s story, then why not give yourself the gift of health this summer by signing up to our four-week, online Happy Heart course which kicks off on 5th June! To celebrate UK Vegetarian Week, from 14th – 20th May, we are offering 10{0fe481e5d5419c51b4aab10bdf48162bddb47a23ae853c043333d0d149f928c3} off our June course when you use the coupon code VEGGIE10 when signing up here!
Packed with delicious, wholefood and plant-based recipes that are quick and easy to make, our course is guaranteed to boost your health and leave you ready to take on the year ahead – all in just four weeks! With tips on how to eat healthily on the go, meal plans, shopping lists, as well as motivational videos and live Facebook Q&A sessions with Dave and Steve, the course is the perfect opportunity to reboot your health in time for spring.
Just like Gaby, we have had thousands of participants improve their health, lower their cholesterol and blood pressure, and increase their energy levels! So what are you waiting for? Eat your way to a healthier and happier you this summer and sign up today!

For more information on our Happy Heart courses, please visit thehappypearacademy.com

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