JP Amelia LottaVeg Co-Founders

Meet Amelia & JP

Hi. I’m JP…the writer. I’m the one who photographs the recipes and writes the blog posts. It was my idea to start LottaVeg so we could document our vegan journey and share the delicious recipes we make.

Amelia is the head chef and meal planner. A few of the recipes are mine, but the vast majority are hers. She’s a lifelong studier of nutrition and fitness, and a darn good veggie cook.

She also obtained her Plant-Based Nutrition Certification from eCornell and T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. That means she knows a lot more than just how to make delicious Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) recipes. She also knows what makes them healthy or not, and the supporting science behind it. Learn more about her certification here…

Amelia LottaVeg Co-Founder

Amelia looking great at 50!

Why We Started LottaVeg

Amelia just turned 50 years old. I swear she looks younger today than when I met her over 6 years ago. After more than 2 years of eating a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet we have lost a combined weight of more than 50 pounds, and I’ve slashed my cholesterol nearly in half.

Plus, we have more energy, skin issues have cleared up, we’re happier, we’re healthier and we look younger. This way of eating (WOE) truly works for weight loss, reducing cholesterol and improving quality of life!

Our extremely positive experience eating WFPB is one reason we launched LottaVeg and continue doing the hard and time-consuming work to keep it going. However, the main reasons we launched it were a) to keep track of our recipes and b) to share them with other people who are transitioning to a plant-based diet.

When we first cut out all the animal products from our diet, we didn’t know what to replace them with. As Amelia likes to say, we ate a lot of pita chips & hummus and chips & salsa. That wasn’t a healthy WFPB diet! As we learned more and started cooking more recipes, we thought our experience would benefit others, and hopefully it has.

For the reasoning and science behind WFPB, please check out our Recommended Books…

JP’s shattered disc and lumbar fusion.

The Defining Moment

Going vegan, selling nearly everything we owned and minimizing our lifestyle didn’t happen on a whim. When people make drastic life changes, there’s usually something major that happens that makes them take stock of their life and question the choices they’ve been making.

For us, that moment came after I had two surgeries in the span of four months in late 2015. Having lost a considerable amount of feeling in my hands, legs and feet, I went for an MRI and was diagnosed with a shattered disc in my neck and three pancaked ruptured discs in my lower back.

As you can see in the picture, my spinal cord was nearly pinched off. My neurosurgeon told me it was 1 mm from causing permanent paralysis or death. This required emergency surgery in August 2015 and now I have a nice new artificial disc in my neck.

In December 2015, I had a 5-level lumbar fusion surgery and spent 8 days in the hospital, and several months on debilitating medication. Recovery from these operations and the nerve damage has been a long road, and one that I will probably travel for the rest of my life.

But at least I can walk!

Recommended Documentaries

Loads of mind altering documentaries on Netflix.

The Awakening

Coming down off the medication from my back surgery and looking for something to watch (having finished the entire series of NCIS), Netflix was kind enough to recommend a few documentaries.

I started with Fed Up, which opened my eyes to the corruption in the food industry, which heavily influences government regulations and dietary recommendations. The film got some of the dietary science wrong (I later learned), but it did a thorough job of opening my eyes to the overly friendly relationship between corporations and government.

Having the false perception shattered that our government monitors important things like our food supply and protects us from evil-doers, I wondered what else Netflix had in store with their mind altering documentaries. So I watched about 20 more films covering everything from food and diet to corporate and government corruption.

I went vegan the day after watching Cowspiracy and Amelia joined me over the next two weeks. Once I realized I would be healthier eating a plant-based diet, my environmental footprint would be much smaller, and I would stop contributing to the needless slaughter and cruel treatment of sentient animals, I had no excuses left. It was the trifecta that convinced me to go vegan. My only regret now is that I didn’t listen to my conscious and go vegan long ago.

I’ve shared the documentaries I watched on a separate page so you can easily share them with your friends:

It took me several months to watch all of these (plus a few others), and collectively they had a huge impact on my worldview and Amelia’s, by proxy.

Before, I thought our country was the greatest nation on earth. I thought our government was basically good. I thought it was protecting us from harm. I thought it was keeping an eye on corporations to make sure they don’t get too far out of control. I thought the war on terror and the war on drugs were legitimate causes worth fighting.

Now I realize that our government has been complicit in the rape and pillage of not only the American citizens, but even more-so, the citizens of other nations. Our government has worked hand-in-hand with large corporations to pass laws and commit horrific atrocities at home and around the world to benefit their bottom lines while padding the pockets of corrupt politicians…at the expense of the people’s and the planet’s wellbeing.

This is now the world we live in. A world ruled by greed and corruption, fueled by fear and ignorance. This is not a world Amelia nor I wish to embrace, so we’re doing our part to protest it by limiting our contribution to it.

Our empty house before we moved.

View from our Denver apartment.

The Road Less Travelled

Even though I was covered by Obamacare, my surgeries still wracked up a lot of debt. Being self-employed as a web designer and writer, I was out of work for over six months with virtually no income.

Add to that, Amelia had to give up her high-paying regional sales job and take a much lower paying local job so she could stay close to home and take care of me during my surgeries and recovery.

With the hit to our income and increased medical expenses, making a $3,000 mortgage payment became a monthly ritual of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I’ve never been in that position before, and I hope I never will be again.

Our awakening combined with our debt meant we had to make a change. Selling the house became a foregone conclusion, but what to do next was not so clear.

I’m not gonna lie…it’s scary as hell to cast off the shackles I’ve always known in favor of a freedom lifestyle I’ve never lived, but I put my faith in the journey…the adventure ahead.

To quote Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Here’s to Frost and his wisdom. The road we took has made a HUGE difference in our lives.

After we sold our house, we moved into a tiny postage stamp apartment in downtown Denver. We wanted to see if we liked city life before making the next big leap in our freedom lifestyle.

When our lease was up a year later, we moved across the country to Atlanta to help out Amelia’s parents for awhile. Amelia’s dad is suffering from poor health due mainly to a lifelong poor diet and high stress job. We cooked healthy plant-based food for him, which seemed to help, but we couldn’t live in Amelia’s parent’s basement forever.

View of Cuenca from Turi.

Medical Refugees in Cuenca, Ecuador

Eventually, we decided to embark on a journey that many dream of, but most never do: we moved to another country. Our city of choice was Cuenca, Ecuador, a modern South American city with old-world charm nestled high in the Andes.

Ecuador is on the dollar, so that makes it easier for us financially. We don’t have to convert things in our heads and our US-earned dollars go a lot further here.

Ecuador also grows the vast majority of its own food so our environmental footprint is much smaller, and they don’t allow GMO’s so there’s no Roundup floating on the breeze or coating our foods.

They also have a top-notch universal healthcare system, something the high and mighty United States hasn’t been able to figure out. My spine requires ongoing maintenance and we simply couldn’t afford the cost of it back in the states, effectively making us medical refugees.

Here in Cuenca, I have a team of doctors and a physical therapist who all work together to make sure I stay healthy. They actually TALK to each other on the phone about my status and progress! I know it sounds crazy that doctors would work together to help a patient, but they do!

My healthcare costs, including doctors visits, physical therapy and prescription drugs, are about 1/10th of the cost they were in the states. And I’m receiving a higher quality of care. All of my doctors speak fluent english and most studied either in the states or in Europe. They have the same tools as doctors in the states, and more options for drugs.

There is an over-the-counter medication here (Núcleo) that helps stimulate nerve growth and repairs the protective sheath around nerves. It’s available in most countries, but not the US. And it actually works! I’ve regained much of the lost feeling in my lower extremities, and the neuropathy in my hands and feet caused by nerve damage in my neck has significantly diminished.

We love our life here in Cuenca. It’s far more “tranquilo” than it was back in the states. That’s a common word used in the Spanish language here: tranquilo. We hear it often and we see it in the slower pace of life.

We’ve made some great gringo and Cuencano friends, and many are vegan. We’ve even been participating in the local Anonymous for the Voiceless Cubes of Truth street activism. Yet another thing Amelia and I never thought we would be doing.

Cuenca has several vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants. We share lots of photos of our cooking and dining experiences on our LottaVeg Instagram profile if you’d like to follow our daily lives to learn more about Cuenca and other parts of Ecuador.

If you’re thinking about an exodus from the crazy, expensive, thankless, high-stress, superficial life that’s not normal and downright unhealthy, Ecuador might be a good alternative for you. If you have any questions about moving here or life here, please let us know. We’ll be happy to help answer your questions.