Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge Participant Michelle Cortez Discusses Her Journey
MISSION, TX - There’s no better example of the old adage “change starts with you” than the fresh produce industry. How else are we produce purveyors going to expand the reach of fresh fruits and vegetables than by leading the charge ourselves both on a professional and personal front? As one of this year’s Texas International Produce Association’s (TIPA) Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge (CEC) participants, Michelle Cortez is not only embodying this unique industry quality but also reminding all of us to buy into produce’s biggest mission if we haven’t already.
“I agreed to this challenge because TIPA was looking for a millennial to participate and because I thought it would help encourage our industry to put our money where our mouth is,” began Michelle, Sales Manager for Empacadora GAB. “I think the Clean Eating Challenge speaks to those individuals in the produce industry that are stuck in a rut. Even though we’re a health-focused industry, a lot of us don’t eat that way since it's easier to eat what’s convenient. But as produce representatives, we can do more to be a part of our industry’s mission.”
Michelle’s decision to participate in the Clean Eating Challenge was also rooted in her own personal health journey.
“Two years ago, I was at my heaviest, which was 250 pounds. At the time, I was a size 18. When I had to buy bigger pants, I realized it was getting out of control,” Michelle shared. “I started slowly by not eating out as much and cutting back on soda and sweet tea—which for us Southerners is like water. Just by doing that, I lost 60 pounds in a year and a half. I wanted to lose another 40 pounds, so I joined the Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge.”
Once she officially joined the challenge, Michelle then doubled down on clean eating, a practice that led to some truly extraordinary results.
“Now, on top of those 60 pounds, I’ve lost 41 more pounds for a total of 105 pounds. I’ve lost six pant sizes, and now I’m no longer actively diabetic,” Michelle celebrated. “I feel like a completely different person. Clean eating has changed my life.”
When I asked Michelle if there were any secret produce items that helped her as she embarked on this journey, without hesitation, she revealed, “Blueberries! They’re my thing now. Because blueberries have a different glycol reading, they release sugar at a different rate than other fruits. They’re also rich in antioxidants, so you can eat a fair amount and still be healthy.”
While there are many challenges that arise when changing bad habits into good ones, Michelle’s participation in the Viva Fresh Clean Eating Challenge is inspiring for those of us feeling overwhelmed.
“It’s easy to feel discouraged when you aren’t meeting the same goals as quickly as people you see on the internet. But with clean eating, it’s not about counting calories. Clean eating is a way to stop eating processed foods and start eating more fresh produce,” Michelle encouraged. “But don’t beat yourself up if it’s a hard process. The goal is to make healthy decisions each and every day so that you’ll have greater success in building a healthier you. Each of us participating in the Clean Eating Challenge is in it for different reasons, but we’re all meeting our goals, and you can, too.”
While the Clean Eating Challenge is already underway, there’s no reason for us fellow produce advocates to not join Michelle, Tommy Wilkins, Ed Bertaud, and Jed Murray on our own clean eating journeys. And the fact that TIPA and Viva Fresh are encouraging this mass participation only goes to show how truly one-of-a-kind the upcoming event is.
“Viva Fresh is unlike any other event in produce right now. The show focuses on quality, not quantity, when it comes to bringing together foodservice operators, retailers, and suppliers of Mexican and Texas produce. It’s insightful, educational, and it’s one of the shows I get the most out of because the opportunities to build new business and attend educational seminars are at a different level. And, Viva Fresh is only a regional show, which says a lot,” Michelle mic dropped.
As we as an industry continue to expand the reach of fresh produce, AndNowUKnow will continue to bring you the stories from those on the front lines.