May 16, 2023
309: National Health Association: The Inside Scoop from NHA's Executive Director, Wanda Huberman

In this episode of the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast, I spoke with Wanda Huberman, the National Health Association Executive Director (NHA), about the organization's mission and the benefits of a plant-exclusive diet an...

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In this episode of the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast, I spoke with Wanda Huberman, the National Health Association Executive Director (NHA), about the organization's mission and the benefits of a plant-exclusive diet and lifestyle. We discussed the history of NHA, its educational resources, and the unique offerings such as the weekly podcast show, bi-weekly newsletter, and quarterly magazine titled "Health Science." Wanda also shared her insights on the latest health science research and tips on incorporating plant-exclusive living into your daily life. Overall, the conversation provided a comprehensive overview of NHA's work and the benefits of a plant-exclusive lifestyle for optimal health and wellness.


In this episode, you will learn the following:

  • The importance of community and connection in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and how the National Health Association's annual conference provides a space for people to learn from leading educators and connect with others who share their values.
  • The difficulties of funding a non-profit group that doesn't sell products and how the National Health Association depends on membership fees and donations to keep doing their work.
  • The energizing and intimate experience of the NHA conference and the importance of maintaining that closeness even as the conference grows.

Meet Wanda Huberman:
Wanda Huberman is the Executive Director of the National Health Association (NHA). I oversee operations for the longest-running nonprofit whole-food, plant-exclusive organization in the United States. Founded in 1948, the NHA promotes the benefits of a plant-exclusive diet and lifestyle. The Association provides educational materials and educational events, as well as a weekly podcast show, a bi-weekly newsletter, a quarterly magazine titled "Health Science" that is mailed to our members and. Plant Based cruising with small cruise lines that have active sustainability programs and provide active excursions while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


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00:00:00 Wanda: It was my experience being on the outside looking in that there were still silos. You hear the word, what's the difference between vegan and whole food plant-based and vegetarian? And  it's all a journey. And words are words and we can define 'em. But I just found there needed to be an acceptance for all. And so many people would get all tied up in, well, this doctor says no nuts. And this doctor says, eat a handful of nuts. And I'm like, let's focus on what we all agree on. And then you're so well educated when you get to that top 5%, you're educated enough to figure out what works for you and your family.

00:00:36 Maya: This is a Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast, and I'm your host Maya Acosta, if you're willing to go with me. Together we can discover how simple lifestyle choices can help improve our quality of life.

00:00:49 Maya: Let's get started. So welcome back to another episode of the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast. I'm your host, Maya Acosta. I have a nice surprise for you. You've been listening to me talk about the National Health Association's Annual Conference that's coming up in June. And you know, there's a virtual component, so we're gonna talk to Wanda Huberman. She is the Executive Director of National Health Association. She oversees the operations for the longest running nonprofit, whole food plan, exclusive organization in the United States. It was actually founded in 1948, and we're gonna talk a lot more because Mark was here last year and it's fascinating to know that Mark Huberman was on the board of this organization when he was still in high school, if I'm correct. So we're gonna talk about the benefits of a plant, exclusive diet and lifestyle. We'll talk about the conference itself and so many other things that Wanda has been working on incr.. including the cruises that she helps organize. So welcome Wanda.

00:01:56 Wanda: Thank you Maya. It's so great to be here.

00:02:00 It's a pleasure to have you,  to know that you're part of this organization, that you are really, you know, your experience, who you are. And I know that I've asked you before if you had a background in marketing, but it's amazing to meet what you've done. You, the organization has just launched a podcast which is doing very well on Apple. I've been looking at the numbers and you have several cruises lined up for the next couple of years. I can't wait to hear more about that. Please tell my listeners a little bit about you.  I did say that I've heard you,  talk about your story of how when you met Mark, you were not on a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. So what was it like meeting someone who grew up eating raw foods?

00:02:48 Wanda: Well, it took me a while of dating him before I got the full story. So Mark and I were both working in the legal community. He had a private practice as a lawyer. I worked on the other side doing defense work for an insurance company. And so we met in business when we met, he was raising a three-year-old by himself, little girl. And I was raising a five-year-old by myself, little girl. And so we had our career and we had our children in common, took a while before we ever got to our lifestyles. So like you said, he grew up from birth as a raw food, eating only raw food. Mark is very politically, community activist in our.. where we live. And it's a relatively small area. So I knew he was vegetarian. Didn't really know the difference between vegetarian, vegan. This was all completely new.

00:03:44 Wanda: I always grew up on farms in different parts of the country. And so when I asked mutual friends, “I'm going out with Attorney Huberman, you know him?” “Yeah.” I prepared at, when he picked me up, I had a wine, a bottle of wine, a cheese and cracker tray. I'm thinking it's vegetarian, and he's such a great conversationalist. We just talked, I don't even love cheese and crackers. And so we really didn't even touch the tray. I didn't think much about it. We went to see a musical and didn't go out to dinner, came back home and that was our first date. And he comes over the very next morning with his daughter to go sled riding. I didn't even answer the door. It's like I lived in a townhouse at the time and I'm like, my daughter was staying the night with my parents. And so I'm like, I'm not getting up. So he takes her slide writing, he comes back again..

00:04:40 Maya:  Wow.

00:04:41 Wanda: So this time, I'm dressed appropriately. I answer the door and I have the little play kitchen set for my daughter. And of course his daughter loved it. And we just kept talking. We couldn't really go out in the evenings, we're both single parents. So we talk when the children were in bed and then you find when you're not going out to eat on dates 'cuz he didn't really do that. We always did more active things. You really communicate more, you get to know each other. So his parents owned a health food and barbell center, which was really unique where we live. His mom did all the nutrition side of the store and his father did all the weightlifting training side of the store and it was near my office and they would sell neat little things to pick up and eat on the go.

00:05:28 Wanda: And so I stopped in and would say hi to them. They actually started telling me more than Mark did. My five year old, she was six by this time she was a month away from her birthday or just a few weeks when I met Mark. So I mentioned to them that she was scheduled to have her tonsils and adenoids out. I'm like, that's normal. Don't all kids have that? I have that. And they're like, oh, what a shame. You know, she probably doesn't have to have that. I'm like, “What do you mean?” And they gave me a book called Sugar Blues and I took her off sugar, made just subtle changes, started, really didn't think of eliminating anything. And this is one of my key tips, by the way, for somebody new. I don't think of what I'm eliminating. I think of what I'm adding.

0:06:16 Wanda: And so I'm not eliminating chicken, fish,  beef, whatever I was eating at the time. I'm just adding more fruits and vegetables, which leaves less and less room for the other stuff as I was, didn't even know I was in transition at the time. Take her for her presurgical op like three months later. You go back for the one week before your surgery. And the doctor, the ENT was just adamant that he had the wrong child's records and wasn't even very nice. And how come this child didn't need surgery? What'd I do? And I didn't even know what I did. I just said, well, I don't know. I've made some subtle changes. Come to think about it, she hasn't had any ear infections lately. And he said, take her home. You don't need surgery. And so she grew up and she had gotten rid of all of her allergies and she wasn't with ear infections and she just never had those problems again growing up.

00:07:13 Wanda: So that was an initial aha moment, but it still didn't totally convince me. Then my.. Mark's house is be where he lived at the time was between my office and very close to the primary, the elementary school where both girls went. They both went to the same school and well, Lisa wasn't in school at the time, but Heather was. And he'd say, why don't you stop over? I have dinner made. Well, I was working two jobs going to college and a single mom and somebody's making me dinner. I'm all over that. And the girls played together. So I do that for a little bit. I was a little more scheduled and she's gotta go home. She's gotta be in bed at seven, so eat, run. He was always so gracious that that's how our life went for a couple of years. And I just watched what he ate.

00:08:03 Wanda: He had the best tasting vegetables. the salads just tasted so great and the best tasting soups. So then after, I mean we did this for a couple of years before we decided to get married. So the girls were six and eight by the time we got married. And we were married in early June. And I went to my first health conference in late June at National Health Association. Like you mentioned, been around for 75 years now. And I just.. there wasn't anywhere to get the information. I heard it from him, I heard it from his parents or I went to conferences. Once I went to conferences, I met other people. I made connections. I needed to hear it more than just him. He's not a doctor. I was like, “Okay, this worked well for you. You're one person.” I was pretty like, “It didn't make sense.”

00:08:56 Wanda: And there weren't so many books back then to even read. And so when I went to the conference, I was really lucky that probably the earliest friend I made was Lisa Furman. They had children, daughters around the age of our daughters. They were all playing together. Mark was on stage. Dr. Joel Furman was on stage. And so I just started learning and we'd go on, you know, short little vacation things that the conferences were in Orlando for a long time. So we'd take the Furmans and the Huberman would go to Disney World. And I just really gradually kept picking it up and picking it up until I was doing more and more.

00:09:37 Maya: Have you ever heard of that expression? And I don't know who said it, but you can't be a hero in your own home. Right?

00:09:44 Wanda: Exactly.

00:09:46 Maya: So, you know, just thinking about how you, while Mark was heavily involved and had been eating this way for many, many years, it helped to hear it from someone else. I too,  when I met my husband, I was no longer eating red meat or pork. And yet it, and when I started learning about this way of living, it didn't really, he didn't really take it seriously until he heard it from someone else. But it's good. It doesn't matter because somehow I guided him that way. Anyway, that did.  so this is wonderful to hear that you got very involved in this way of living and the Furmans, so many people have also learned from them. I think what I found fascinating, Wanda, is when you and I connected last year to try to schedule Mark on the podcast, I was surprised to hear while I knew some of the names, some of the original, original pioneers in this way of living. I actually didn't know about National Health Association until you and I connected and I know that they were once they were under another name, what was it was the..

00:10:55 Wanda: American Natural Hygiene Society with hygiene, meaning the Science of Health.

00:11:00 That's right. Well, fast forward all these years and in June the organization will be celebrating 75 years. I know.

00:11:00 Maya: That's right. Well, fast forward all these years and in June the organization will be celebrating 75 years.

00:11:10 Wanda: I know. Unbelievable.

00:11:11 Maya:  It's incredible, right?

00:11:13 Wanda: The fact that Mark was sick as a baby and his parents, the place where his dad worked was a retail store. And the gentleman just said, well, you need to go here, Dr. Gerald Benesh in Cleveland, Ohio, an hour and a half from where we lived. They said, yeah, we'll do anything. Our baby's always sick. And Dr. Gerald Benesh was one of the founders. He was born in 51, the organization was founded in 48, and his parents went and heard it. And this doctor said to them, he was like six months old, not thriving, said either do what I tell you or give him to me to raise because he needs to thrive. And so his father's really well read and he just got every book and every piece of information Dr. Benesh would give him and said, okay, this is what Mark.. they didn't necessarily start doing it right away, but this is what Mark's gonna do right away and a pretty quick tournament.

00:12:11 Maya: It's incredible that you came upon this information very early in your life as a result of meeting Mark. And now you're part of such a significant organization that does so much for the community. I wanna first start with talking about how you moved into this role as executive director. And then I'd love to hear how you've been able to really bring it into such a level of awareness, like really putting NHA out there for the world to learn about the organization. I know that.. I think you said last year was the first time you had the virtual component, the virtual conference. And this year you'll do it again. You'll do the in-person and virtual. So tell us about what did you see a need in terms of marketing, advertising, collaborating in order to take NHA to the next level?

00:13:06 Wanda: So what happened? I don't know if I believe in setting forth good intentions, but I just wanted to help other ladies, mostly in my community. People knew how Mark and I lived and when there were health issues, I got my phone would ring from people maybe I hadn't heard from. And we would talk about it. And so there was a local attorney actually that did divorce work and wrote a book about Divorce with Dignity. But she lived this lifestyle and she would host retreat weekends to help the women in her practice that she was an attorney for. And she wanted to introduce them to the compassion and the health of this lifestyle. She said, Wanda, would you do all the food for a weekend at the lake? And there were gonna be maybe 20 women, I guess. And I was actually in a trial that weekend and I said, well, if you can meet me at the grocery store, I'll have all the menus.

00:14:01 Wanda: I'm not cooking for 20 women all weekend, but I'll divide them in groups and if you wanna make that part of the weekend program, I'll have a menu. I'll buy all the groceries and we'll just do this at the lake. And so we rented two houses that gave us two kitchens and we just divided. Every meal was an appetizer, a salad, an entreé and a dessert. Seems like there was one other thing, I don't know if it was a beverage, but we divided them up into groups of four or five. And I'd give them the recipes, there'd be five women in four different groups or five different groups. And I'd say, this is what you're gonna do. Just follow this recipe and I'll keep coming around between the houses, between the groups, realizing people don't know how to cut avocados, they don't know how to cut mangoes.

00:14:49 Wanda: There was such basic food prep that when you're doing it for a while you lose track. So we did that. It was a great weekend. And I just remember on the drive up with Melissa who was putting this on, I said, you know, one day, one day, instead of my career in the legal field and the casualty insurance company and everything's always controversial, one day I'm gonna do more in this whole food movement. No idea what I'm gonna do. They had an executive director, there was no need for that. That wasn't even on my radar. Just one day I'll do something. So that happened. I kept doing little Park retreats in the neighborhood. And then in 2020, late 2019, Mark went down to talk to the executive director who was operating in Florida about how the membership rates had been dropping and the funding of this nonprofit had been dropping.

00:15:48 Wanda: We don't sell any products, so it's really a challenge to fund the organization so that we can do all that we do. And when he got down and he was gonna ask her to go part-time, and when he got down there, she mentioned that it was time for her to retire. And he called me and said, what do you think if we move the operations to our house and just figure this out? And that was in 2017. I didn't expect a semi to pull into my driveway with stuff, but we did that, we paired it down. Mark did everything from creating the magazine to being a volunteer executive director. And he just did it all on his own. And I've continued to work for another few years. He was working, he didn't retire till shortly after that. And then in 2020 they had started to grow again and the board said, we probably need to look at paying and getting an executive director on board.

00:16:47 Wanda: And they said, Wanda, would you be interested? My prior career had nothing to do with marketing. It had everything to do with organizational skills though. And so I think that's a huge benefit. That's what's helped me get through all of this, is just being organized and methodical about it. Spreadsheets out the [inaudible] everywhere. And so I had 30 years in the insurance industry and I was old enough to take a retirement. So I retired from that career and I said, okay, let's try this new venture. And for the first time in our career, instead of Mark and I being on opposite sides of the courtroom, we were on the same side of health and doing this as a, as our giving back, as following our passion. So 2000.. 2020 I started as executive director.

00:17:39 Maya: So.. and you came on board, very familiar with the organization. You basically have seen what people need, how to support them. And you were familiar probably with many of the pioneers, many of the speakers that you've had in the past. Have you always had a conference as well? Or is that something new?

00:18:00 Wanda:They've been hosting conferences since nine. They were founded in 1948. The first conference was 1949. And there were a couple of years that maybe they didn't like COVID year, but for the most part they had been hosting annual conferences. They used to be five days and there'd be 500 people. There was nowhere else to get the information. People waited all year for this. I went to every one of 'em, got to learn from all the leading educators. There was nowhere else they were teaching. And then I get to know 'em on a personal basis. So I just think just taking time to learn and connecting with others, doing it, finding that community and reconnecting and relearning. So even once I felt like I got this, it's working for me. I create the community and the connection and so we look forward to it. Our family vacations were always built around, what can we do after the conference, wherever it's being held. And we took his parents with us every year. So whether we'd fly or drive there would be our daughters, his parents, and us and off we would go.

00:19:15 Maya: So you just mentioned community and I don't know if you saw the recent report by the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek, I think it's his last name is pronounced Murthy. He recently did released a report about the prevalence of isolation and loneliness in Americans,  saying that this is not just a result of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, people were really experiencing this sense of isolation and being isolated, feeling lonely can be so detrimental to our health that it could be almost as equivalent as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

00:19:57 Wanda: Wow.

00:19:58 Maya: And that had me.. this report recently came out this past week. And I was thinking about that sense of community and what we've been deprived of. And I was also thinking about the conference, the NHA conference that's coming up and this deep desire that we all have to connect to me, like-minded individuals who have similar values because we as the way we eat whole food, plant-based, we're typically the only ones in our own families that are living this way. So we don't really feel supported. We also, in many ways with our loved ones, may sometimes feel awkward when we're choosing to eat something different. Although I've found a way to make things a little bit easier and not make it about the food, but to make it about connecting. This sense of community that you are working on through NHA is going to be so gratifying.

00:20:51 Maya: I wanna mention also to my listeners that you've created an opportunity for leaders like myself to also come together to connect, to tell other attendees about the work that we do. And really that's what part leaders are the individuals that, and you don't have to be under planned peer communities. You can just be an individual sort of like what you were already doing Wanda in your own community. You were supporting people, you were teaching people how to eat healthy foods. Tell us more about how that came about. An opportunity for other leaders to come together to get to know each other in person, because many of us only know each other this way virtually.

00:21:32 Wanda: So it was my experience being on the outside looking in that there were still silos. You hear the word, what's the difference between vegan and whole food plant-based and vegetarian? And it's all a journey and words are words and we can define 'em, but I just found there needed to be an acceptance for all. And so many people would get all tied up in, well this doctor says no nuts. And this doctor says eat a handful of nuts. And I'm like, let's focus on what we all agree on. And then you're so well educated when you get to that top 5%, you're educated enough to figure out what works for you and your family. So for me it was wanting to build that sense of community. And I also took, like I mentioned earlier, I took my children, I took my in-laws. We went as a three generational family.

00:22:21 Wanda: So I've started a children's program. It's not big, it's this year. I think I have seven children coming between the ages of four and 13. I find five to 12 are the ideal ages. Once they become teenagers, they don't really wanna sit in a children's program and much under five. I worry that we're not a babysitting service. I'm not staffed for that. So the four-year-old has a sibling. We'll see how that goes. The 13, it's small enough area in this conference center that the parents can be nearby, but my kids still are in touch with children. They went to conferences with, you know, thank goodness for social media that that can happen, but they need it maybe more than we need it. So when I came on board, I had the complete opportunity to think about what I felt was missing and community was not missing.

00:23:16 Wanda: They did a great job, especially when it was five days. You'd have a dance afterwards and you just get to know each other. But even adding the podcast, so we could stay in touch more often, we've added a bi-weekly newsletter. So if you don't have $35, which is the cost of our membership, and with that membership, you get this magazine or sent to your house four times a year, it's advertisement free. Just interesting, valid current evidence-based information. So I'm finding multiple ways. So you could see our podcast, you can read our newsletter, you can see our magazine, you can interact with us on Facebook. We're on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. And we're just.. and I'm open to suggestions. So for example, when I learned the pod leaders are looking, what makes the NHA different than some other organizations? Many of these organizations are built around the doctor, right?

00:24:19 Wanda: That runs the organization. And we're not built around a doctor, we're built around the members, our people. So I have the flexibility of what do they want and who can I support. So I support all of the doctors. They have a chance to write for our magazine. We can introduce people to them and, you know, learning about you and the work Dr. Riz were doing. I think I reached out pretty quickly after I heard about your work. So because our conferences have become so successful over the last couple of years, I have the benefit of taking over the entire hotel. They don't make any other food that weekend because if they have a loyalty partner that maybe snagged a room, they're gonna have to go somewhere else. They're not gonna cook standard American food for 10 people. When they've got 350 of us, that chef is busy enough. And so I have extra rooms in the hotel, so why not open it up? You know, we need to be more inclusive, less feeling like, oh, if I do that, you know, some people have told me, well, you're doing that. There's only so many places an audience can go. What if you lose somebody? Like I want the person to go where they resonate, where they can succeed. If that's not with me, then find the place it does, just succeed at making your life and our world a better place.

00:25:48 Maya: Yeah, I thought that was brilliant of you to create that opportunity for us to have a booth to showcase what leaders do and then to possibly have a panel discussion after showing Nelson's second film from Food to Freedom. Many of us feel again, it could be that we're the only individuals in our family that live this way, but also as leaders we feel many times that there's so much responsibility and that we're always doing for others. And when we can come together, it's like we revive one another. We have things that we can talk about, similar experiences, values and just feed off each other. Especially when many of us have never met. And I haven't been to.. I've only been to one conference last year since this whole pandemic experience. So I'm very excited about the conference.. the NHA conference this year. So..

00:26:46 Wanda: You hit on one of the words, it is energizing. So our conference is full. We start with exercise opportunities at 7:00 AM and we don't stop till 10:00 PM We feed you breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We have some breaks, we have fun, we have great education, but it's so energizing. I'm not tired during the conference. I'm on an adrenaline high. And to see so many people, we have people, we have three generational families that have been coming for 30, 40 years and they come every year because it's where the family reunites. And the best after conference letter I ever received was when somebody wrote to me and said, I felt like I was in your living room. So we could grow at 350. We've been sold out for quite some time now. I don't know that I ever wanna get bigger than 350 or 400 for the in-person conference. I walk that intimacy. We crave it, I need it. So I assume others might need it. And then we can spread the word on a much broader message by doing it virtually.

00:27:51 Maya: Yeah, I actually agree with you. When I was at another conference while the ACLM conference last year, while I was very excited to meet people again that I've only met virtually, I felt like I was being pulled everywhere. Like, Hi Maya, Hi Maya. Not enough time to sit with just a small group. So I will be honest, I'm looking forward to the fact that this is a smaller group because it means that there's gonna be so much more value and intimate sort of a gathering. And very excited about that. Also, I wanna kind of touch a little bit, just if we can rewind a little bit. When you talked about the podcast, I'd love to know your members, the membership that you've had for quite a while, how have they responded to this podcast? And then are you attracting new listeners, people that have never heard this message?

00:28:42 Wanda: I think the fun thing about this podcast and the blessing I have that Dr. Frank Sabatino is the National Health Association Education Director. He's been around, you know, he was at the conferences the first one I went. So he's known my children since they were little. I've known him since his boys were born. And we've watched our children grow up together. We're both grandparents now. Frank is a well-read, very broad gentleman that is able to fluently talk about health for sure and the science, but his compassion for animals, just talk to him for 10 minutes, you won't miss it. And then of course his concern about the health of our climate. So it's the podcast that we have really been able to bring on new speakers to our audience that cover all three of these. So it's a way for us to reach out to other audiences and then hopefully other audiences will get to know about us and we're learning from each other. So I'm loving that Frank is doing that so well.

00:29:48 Maya: It's like I said, it's doing very well. I was already familiar with Dr. Sabatino's kind of going on, you know, live and doing videos on YouTube, but to see how he hosts, how he interviews, how he interacts with his guests has been really nice and it's been doing so well. You, I have clearly seen a difference in the work that NHA is doing from last year when I met… I was in communications with you, but then we hosted Dr. Nada, I always wanna call him Dr. Mark Human.. Huberman was here on the podcast last year and ever since then I've been subscribed to your newsletter. I'm a member now and I'm paying attention and I've seen just everything. You've hired the right team to do. The branding, the marketing, it's just excellent work all that the team has been doing.  I wondered about the 2020 and 2021. Did you have virtual conference at that time or what was happening?

00:30:52 Wanda: 2020, We didn't do anything. 2021. We did do a hybrid and it was really.. I did a virtual in 2021. So we were doing it live. I still had about maybe 200 people scheduled to come live. June 2021, we didn't know if there was gonna be masking required, social distancing required and how they were even gonna serve the food because there were no buffet lines. And we just kept going through and said, we're gonna figure it out. Whatever the government guidelines are, we're going to follow them. Our audience will, and we'll see how it goes. Well, unbelievable. Two weeks prior to the conference in Ohio, they lifted all mandates. And so we encouraged masking when we were in large groups, but nothing was mandated. And so we went back to buffets. And when you live this lifestyle, immunity is built, not bought, just like health.

00:31:57 Wanda: So members that I know that have contracted COVID for the most part have not had any complications. I only know of one person that was hospitalized. Not sure the membership is broader than the knowledge I have, but we were, it felt like there was no pandemic. And I was worried, I'm like, is this unhealthy? Is this foolish? Were we being responsible? And we came out of it with not one post-conference incident, 2022. We did have maybe three people that ended up with COVID during the conference.  but we've been going strong ever since and just kept.. I moved the hotel knowing we could hold more people after 2021. And then again, I moved it this year because the chef that I had in 2021 was extraordinary, and he was not available in 2022. And I did not know that until two weeks prior to our conference.

00:33:02 Wanda: I've been working with him for years or for two years and he left that facility. And so now I've followed him to the Holiday Inn Conference Center and I have a lot more confidence that the chef that did such a great job for us is doing it again. And the other item that we're doing this year, and you hit it on the nail. I am so fortunate with our team, one of our board members is from Florida Chef John Nowakowski and he used to be Dr. Sabatino's chef when Dr. Sabatino ran the Regency, now he runs his own retreats in Florida and sells his own food. Nowakowski Beach Resort where you can just go online and get his food delivered to your house. And so I built into my contract that Chef Nowakowski can be in the kitchen and make sure everything's going the way I expect it to be going instead of me being in the kitchen.

00:33:58 Maya: Yep.. Gosh, this is incredible. [overlapping]

00:34:01 Wanda: And you're right, it is a team that I didn't have when I started. We have a production team that works with Dr. Sabatino. We have a graphics team that's amazing. We have a copyright editor that makes our magazine look as good as it does. So very, very fortunate.

00:34:20 Maya: So the in-person conference is sold out. But I would still love for you to talk about some of the highlights so that my listeners can prepare for next year since this is [overlapping]

00:34:31 Wanda: And I'm gonna tell you, you can still go online and buy a ticket, although we can the virtual hold 300..

00:34:35: Maya: The Virtual.. okay

00:34:37 Wanda: for the in-person, although it holds 350 and I have 360 registrations, history has taught me that at the last minute things come up and I always have at least 10 cancellations. And then unbelievably, I always have 5 to 10 people that just don't show up. I guess they figure they paid for it, they don't show up. We have some people that come in for a day even though they've paid for the whole weekend. So I am selling about 10 more tickets and then I will have to mark them as sold out. And I would say even then you could get on a wait list in case we get cancellation. Okay, so the in-person conference, this is another funny thing I started, but just kind of wanting to be the right hostess, right?

00:35:26 Wanda: If you've hosted stuff in your home, you know what makes people feel comfortable? We had so many people traveling internationally and from the west coast. They would come in Wednesday and Thursday. Our conference didn't start till Friday evening, it was starting Friday at dinnertime. I said, we gotta make life fun for them. And so we started creating bonus sessions and if I had a doctor or two coming in early, I said, you're gonna speak early, is that good? And they're like, of course it is. And so now on Thursday, Vitamix is located about 25 minutes from the conference center. Vitamix for those that don't know, has been around for over a hundred years. And their foundation is on health through Whole Food. They have a whole marketing program on Whole Food. So they are incredibly supportive of what we do. So they come in on Thursday and you'll come in Thursday ideally, and you'll register.

00:36:26 Wanda: We start registration around two o'clock on Thursday. You'll come up to our desk, you'll get your name badge, you'll get your swag bag, there'll be lots of goodies in the swag bag and you'll have your questions answered. There'll already be lots of people mailing about. And then you're gonna see the Vitamix table and they're going to treat you like you just came into a Caribbean resort and they're making your mocktail and they're gonna welcome you with a refreshing drink 'cuz most people have just gotten off the airplane. And then you can go to the hotel desk and you get your room, everything's right there. You can take an Uber or a lift from the airport 20 minutes later, 15 minutes later, very inexpensive. You'll be at the holiday in conference center and you won't need transportation after that until you take the Uber back to the hotel.

00:37:20 Wanda: The kitchen I said these people need to eat. We don't start our meals till Friday at dinner. So they're creating buffets based on recipes I give 'em and they understand the Whole Food Plant exclusive SOS-free and plenty of Gluten-free options and it's still a work in progress. But this year I'm trying to up a few of our raw food options 'cuz we have some guests coming that are raw, totally raw. There'll always be enough fruit and salad. If you're wrong, I do nothing else, you'll be fine. But I'm trying to find ways to add to that. So you'll come, so that'll go on Thursday. You'll be meeting people, you'll be registering, you'll get settled in your room. And then around six o'clock, I don't have the schedule opened in front of me, but early evening Vitamix is going to do the head chef at the Vitamix World headquarters.

00:38:13 Wanda: We'll be there with his team and he's gonna show you crazy simple ways to use your Vitamix and make great hors d'oeuvres and appetizers. And they're gonna bring enough to serve everybody. So you'll get a little appetizer reception on Thursday evening. You'll have been able to buy a salad bar buffet before that. And then after the Vitamix reception is done, we're gonna show from Food to Freedom. These are all bonus things. Just come on Thursday so you don't miss it. And as you mentioned, I'm thrilled that some of the pod leaders, you'll have the stage to use as you want. It'll be getting late.  but people will be energized. They won't wanna go to bed and you can talk about how they can find you and answer a few questions that I'm sure they're going to have. And I love the beauty of the NHA partnering up is how I look at it with the podcast because we're kind of the international large scale, sense of connection organization and you are right there in the community so we can feed off of each other and support people. Both of those ways are so needed.

00:39:26 Maya: Some of the people that will be speaking, by the way, I've already invited Brittany Jaroudi to come on the podcast.

00:39:34 Wanda: She's a [inaudible] girl and she's a National Health Association board member that has helped me know why, what works with social media.

00:39:43 Maya: Yeah, well, you know, I emailed her and I said, you 'gotta come on the podcast a week and promote what you'll be doing at NHA. But I also added a little message. By the way, I've been known to watch your videos and I've been watching her videos, her YouTube channel for a long time and I think she's, you're right, she's the right person to ask about what works in terms of social media and connecting with audiences that sometimes are virtual. Like you just sometimes don't know who you're reaching. So you'll have Dr. Kim Williams on there who's a cardiologist at the conference speaking, right. And then Dr. Joel Fuhrman and what else can we expect?

00:40:26 Wanda: So Dr. T. Colin Campbell, his wife will be there. That's right. So I'll talk about a few more of the doctors. But the very cool thing is most of these doctors are coming in on Friday and they're leaving on Sunday or Monday. So when you go sit down to have dinner, if Dr. Campbell or Dr. Fuhrman or Dr. Williams is having dinner and there's a seat, they're expecting you to sit down and they are as just, they're having such a good time too. Because when you think of these doctors travel and they work so hard getting this message out. Dr. Campbell 89 years old and he's still traveling the world because this message is that important to him. So they welcome you to sit, they love that they get to connect as professionals that have been doing this at NHA. Some of these doctors, I'll tell you, there's a core group that come every year.

00:41:20 Wanda: And that would be Dr. Alan Goldhamer, who runs TrueNorth Health Center, Dr. Frank Sabatino, who previously ran the Regency. And now he is doing programs in Deerfield Beach called Balance for Life. Dr. Stephan Esser, if you haven't Googled or YouTube Dr. Esser, do it before you come. He is the most charismatic, handsome, 40 something year old orthopedic surgeon or orthopedic doctor. He's non-surgical, but he's an ortho orthopedist and he's fourth generation. His grandfather was one of the founders of our organization. And so his grandfather.. his great-grandfather, his grandfather, his mother, him, and now his children are fifth generation. He's there every year. Did I say Fuhrman, Sabatino, Goldhamer and Stephan. Cause they all have a long history of one thing that the NHA does that I don't think any other conference virtual or live does. And they have that 40, 50 year plus history of the benefits of medically supervised water fasting.

00:42:33 Wanda: That's a whole big topic. Dr. Goldhamer is gonna be speaking about 40 years of research and evidence-based and where it's come, it's now not under the radar. It's been proven how effective it can be. I worry about people that don't take it seriously, how important medically supervised water fasting is.  but they'll talk about intermittent fasting and juice fasting and other things. So Sunday, Dr. Goldhamer will be talking about that and we'll have a Q&A panel. So if you're in person, you're gonna be able to ask a question. But the fun thing is if you're virtual, you're gonna be able to ask a live question. So make sure you look at the schedule when you purchase your virtual ticket because it's gonna tell you when we have our two Q&As, and I have our team monitoring the Q&As on the laptop, and myself or somebody else will come back to that team with a microphone and they'll say, oh, you know, Jean is in the audience and she's from Australia and she would like to know this. And so you're gonna get your questions answered by the doctor Live Streamed. And you still can be asking questions on the, on the side of the screen. And maybe when we break for dinner, if you had a question for Dr. Esser, we may grab 'em. And while we're eating, Dr. Esser may say 10 minutes to talk to the virtual group.

00:44:01 Maya: I love that. I love that virtual people can be involved. I did, in the fall of last year, a very, very small event , where I was the mc and I was the technical person behind the, you know, working the computer. So I was live streaming, seeing the virtual audience and taking questions from them while at the same time managing the camera to make sure I followed the speaker. 

00:44:26 Wanda:  Yes.

00:44:27 Maya: And doing audio check. So I was like, I'll never do that again. I need to train some people to help me. But I will tell you, Wanda, it was so gratifying to seen and to hear from the virtual audience because many people can't travel or for whatever reason they can't attend in person, but they feel connected to the experience of gathering together.

00:44:50 Wanda: And this virtual audience has, they can, we're gonna have a virtual exhibitor booth. So you're going to see probably the live exhibitor booth. We'll walk around in show you what's going on at the conference but you'll have access to your own exhibitor booth, we'll be giving you your own virtual swag bag.

00:45:09 Wanda: There's gonna be network rooms. If you end up having a network room, Maya, and you know, you decide at whatever day, at whatever time, you're gonna take 30 minutes and maybe eat at a desk in your room and you're gonna invite ever how many people can come into the room and you can talk about the water fasting Q&A or whatever it was that seems to be generating the buzz. You can be fluid with it and that's gonna be so fun.

00:45:37 Maya: Yeah, that would be a blast. You know also because many of us don't necessarily go live with our followers on a regular basis, so this will be an experience of connecting with whoever wants to connect with us. That is really cool. 

00:45:53 Wanda: And when the virtual audience fills out their profile, they'll have that, like a speed dating a one-on-one, there's networking one-on-one. So you fill out your profile and you say, I'm in this sandwich generation and I'm trying to take care of elderly parents and teenage children and nobody in my family wants to hear about how beneficial this is. Is there anybody else? And you might wanna just jump in and make a new friend that's in a similar situation. Or maybe you've just been diagnosed with autoimmune disease and I'm sure somebody else will be. So our experiences when we think we're all alone, you come somewhere like this either in live or virtually, and you are so not alone.

00:46:35 Maya: Yeah. That's the important part of our community is that we can support one another. All of us, even myself, I may be fully on board with this lifestyle, but I actually still need a sense of community. I'm not doing this by myself. I, and again, coming together and feeling re-energized,  so that we can continue to support each other here locally in our city,  by coming together at the conference, you know, meeting everybody else that I've never met in person. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Goldhamer. I had a curiosity of going to TrueNorth and I know that I need a plan for it. The idea of fasting, Dr. Sabatino, I mean, just everyone you've named, that's one reason to be part of this conference to attend, whether it's in person or virtually.

00:47:23: Wanda: Right. And we will show our exercise classes. Have you ever watched John Pierre?

00:47:28 Maya: Yes, I am familiar with him.

00:47:31 Wanda: So JP is kind of unofficially or maybe officially known as the exercise to the stars. And if you google John Pierre and Ellen DeGeneres, you'll see him years ago on his sh.. her show. He's full of energy. We'll have that opportunity in the morning. He'll give a little bit of a class and exercise and or maybe yoga's your thing in the morning, so you'll do yoga, or maybe you just like to connect with nature and there's this small little hiking path right next door to the hotel and you can just get out and get a nice walk before you start your day.

00:48:03 Maya: That's right. Yep. I'd like to talk about, if there's anything else you'd wanna mention about the conference. I'd love to talk about the cruises because my husband's been, you know, en.. trying entice some of our friends to join us. Before the pandemic, we attended a larger cruise and it was not fully vegan. And so you can explain to us the details of your cruises, but it was very large. And one side of the ship had the buffet style vegan, plant-based foods and the other side had the regular meals for all the other cruisers. And so, you know, we're standing in line, I'm grabbing my items and I decide, oh, this vegan looking chicken soup looks great. I'm gonna serve myself. So I sit with my husband and I take a sip, like just a spoonful of it.

00:48:55 Maya: And I say to Riz, Wow, this really tastes like chicken. Like, wow, how can they replicate this? I'm an ethical vegan, I do not eat animal products. I was shocked to learn that they made a mistake and put chicken soup on the side where it's supposed to be all exclusively vegan, plant-based whole food. I was mortified and so they were embarrassed. I'm sorry, I don't know how that happened. Again, that's sort of a consequence of being in a larger platform. So I'm, I wanna say there might have been over 2000, 3000 people on this ship. I don't remember. Maybe four. I have no idea. Your cruises are smaller, more intimate, and you also provide the meals in terms of teaching the chef what meals to prepare for your guests?

00:49:48 Wanda: So I'm currently working with two cruise lines, but primarily one, and that's Windstar Cruise Lines. They have six ships, three of 'em only hold 148. They are a wind sale motor yacht. And then they have three that are motor yachts and they hold 312. So you couldn't be too critical of this staff that made a mistake because how many levels of management does it get to before it's being served? It's just they're taking care of a city on water. And that's just what these large cruises are. I focus on three things with our cruises. One is I want it to be a fun experience and I want it to be active. We, most of our people, I don't care if they're 30 years old and we have 80 year olds coming, they don't wanna get off the ship, get on a bus and ride around some foreign town.

00:50:45 Wanda: They wanna be hiking, kayaking, moving and learning. So that's what we focus on is that type of opportunity. And I've been working along with Lisa McCarroll, who is the NHA, she's an NHA life member and she's also a registered nurse and worked in the cardiac unit at her hospital before transitioning into being a travel agent. So she has a lot of that knowledge that helps us explain to the chefs. So she and I have been meeting with these chefs for years and I give them recipes and guidelines. I go in the kitchen, I've worked with them, they've real, and nothing less than 110% is acceptable. It's a small cruise line. So I meet with the president of the cruise line, they bring extra staff, they want to wow us and they do, I call it the kind of Disney effect where you're always happy by the second day they know your name and you'll have.. so there's a couple of different experiences.

00:51:52 Wanda: If we're on the smaller yacht, which is what we're taking to Costa Rica and Panama Canal, they're only allowing me to bring 20 people on board because they wanna provide us private dining. So there are no mistakes. There is one of the wherever that they have various kitchens on these ships. So our kitchen is just preparing the whole food plant-based and it's right there in the room. So they can do that for 20. We have so many and they bring extra chefs on board to do all the prep. It's not any more difficult like cutting all the fresh vegetables and they know that processed stuff out of a box is just not acceptable. And they know I'm gonna be in the kitchen and I have been on my balcony and watched the zodiac boats coming back with crates and crates. They're farm to table. They believe in giving back to the area. So they're buying from local farmers where possible they replenish the boat typically for a cruise once for us three times because they only have the fresh and best produce for us.

00:52:56 Maya: So you kind of just answered the question a little bit. Well I was wondering, have you yourself, as being the executive director, been able to kind of browse or tour the kitchen just to see how they're yeah.. you have.

00:53:10 Wanda: Absolutely, the same thing with the hotels. I'm.. they know I'm coming in the kitchen and if I question something, they're showing me if it came out of a box, they have to show me the box. So we do the best we can do. Are there ever some mistakes on the word salt or an ingredient? There are, but as I repeat and Windstar has gotten it down so far. So what they did for Costa Rica, 'cuz they're bringing specialty trained shop, they've gone through a whole program of creating healthy culinary food and they understand the value of salt oil, sugar free and unprocessed and primarily gluten-free. They're doing back-to-back cruises. So I have 80 of our members getting to experience Costa Rica and Panama on three different cruises. Some of them are going 14 days, some are going seven. And so that's how they have worked that.

00:54:04 Wanda: But we.. and we plan two years out because then they dedicate the extra chefs that are trained now they're cross-training. All of their chefs are going to be learning this. Two years out gives us a chance to block in today's rate and guarantee you get it. And they

even give us a price rate guarantee. So if something happens with the economy and you paid X for this cruise and the price goes down, you're gonna get a refund. We know about it and we tell 'em we get that back. So you'll never, you know, the price is fabulous and we're booking.. we're sold out for Greece and Israel in October. We're sold out for Costa Rica and Panama Canal in February, 2024. August of 2024, we might have three state rooms left for Iceland. And then February of 2025 we're planning Tahiti and I.. Windstar just every time I think they've done everything they could to make the NHA happy. They do something more. They had a Zoom meeting with myself and Lisa Mccarroll this week, and they are giving us three months and they are going to market a plant-based theme, ship to Tahiti where all passengers will be eating whole food plant-based. If we sell two thirds of the ship and it's not, and that's the best we can get, then they're gonna market it to standard American dieters. The flip is gonna be, we're gonna have the majority of the ship and those dieters will have their special private dining room.

00:55:41 Wanda: I don't think it's gonna be an issue. I'm pretty optimistic that I have a doctor from Australia that has already booked and he's gonna be telling his patients and followers. And I don't mind saying Dr. Joel and Lisa Fuhrman are already booked and they're gonna tell theirs. So if Tahiti in 2025 interest you in three months, I expect to be sold out with 300 whole food, plant-based sos-free passengers.

00:56:06 Maya: Yes. I like what you just said too, the about the physician who you've invited who will then turn around and sort of market this to patients. What a wonderful way to con not only support your patients but connect with them in a more lifestyle healthy living approach.  I love that idea. That's something that, you know, I'm risk might be interested in inviting some of his patients or his patients are a little bit more advanced. But, you know, people that..

00:56:37 Wanda: Maybe there are family members that wanna make changes cuz they've seen what their loved ones have gone through.

00:56:41: Maya: Absolutely.

00:56:42 Wanda: But Galapagos, we did the Galapagos cruise this past year with National Geographic expedition experts on board. That ship held about 95 people. We filled it, the whole ship was whole food plant-based sos-free, beautiful state rooms in the Galapagos with National Geographic experts teaching us about the whales and the 400 pound tortoises. Got to.. they actually took us, they.. so now they've made better connections with farmers. They needed more organic farmers than they had in the past. They took us to the organic farm. We got to walk through the farm pick. We did some planting while we were there. It's just incredible.

00:57:23 Maya: Yeah, absolutely incredible. 

00:57:25 Wanda: So you can find out more about our cruises by just going to our website, which is And then at the top of the website you will see various, I'm going to buttons. It'll start with home about conference, click on conference, and that's where you'll see more virtual information. But I'm gonna encourage you not to buy from my website, Maya has graciously agreed to be an affiliate. So she will have that on her show notes. I really want you to buy from Maya because we share in that on price point and that's a way that she can support what she's doing for you.. for her audience. Yeah. So that's valuable to me.

00:58:09 Maya: Thank you. Yes, I will definitely have the link in the show notes. I've been promoting it on the podcast, my social media newsletter, you name it. Because you just never know where people will get their information.  I was wondering, is there anything else that you'd like to share? And as we're sort of wrapping up, you know, Wanda, many of my listeners are women, right? Mainly over age 40. And I feel that.. you know, I always wanna make sure that I take them into consideration, although this message is for anybody who wants to improve their health. But do you have a message specifically for my female listeners?

00:58:46 Wanda: I do. Before I do that, I just wanna finish up. So as you follow along across there will be one that says events. And when you click on that, there's a dropdown for plant-based travel and that's how you can get the information for all of our cruises. We've got every, we've got four of them listed, some are sold out Tahiti, and by the end of the month I'll probably be announcing Ireland and Scotland in 25.

00:59:12 Maya: My God. Too exciting. That reminds me, before we talk about a final message,  you have a membership program. I'd love for you to tell my listeners what does that consist of? What does it mean to be a member of NHA?

00:59:27 Wanda: So that's a great question. It's a question the board discussed. We have been charging $35 a year for annual membership since 1978. If you just do the math, it should be well over a hundred dollars. But we want, we're a nonprofit. We don't sell any products. We rely on our members for support and we want the education. So $35 a year, you will get this advertisement free. We don't take money from advertisers because our.. we don't want our integrity to be questioned. You'll get that mailed to your home. We've digitized over 40 years of this. So this article is Dr. Campbell raising Children in a Sick World, Aging Without Decline. I think your members will love that and help benefits of growing your own food. Jean Bauer about compassion. So you'll get great information and you can just go to our digital library.

01:00:24 Wanda: And on that webpage, there's one called Health Science. You can just pull up our testimonials, you can pull up our interviews. You'll have access to 40 some years of this. I call it our library. We digitized eBooks on water fasting that if you could buy it, they'd be over a hundred dollars. Now, most of them you can't even buy, but you can get 'em for free digitally on our web.. on our webpage. And if the cruises interest you, this has been a big seller. They sell out so quickly. So we offer them to our life members first. A benefit of being a life member… Life membership is a thousand dollars. So I know not everybody's gonna do that. Century Club membership is a hundred dollars. They get offered second. And if you buy a Century Club membership after 10 years, you become a life member and you never have to pay.

01:01:16 Wanda: You get this benefit the rest of your life. It's $55 if you're outside the US because of course the cost of shipping is significantly more. We absorb that cost if you become a century or life. So the price difference is only on basic. So I think I can go to your question, which is a great one because my oldest daughter is 40, so now I'm seeing it as a mother of a 40 year old. And you know, somebody's still taking care of my father who is in his mid eighties. The message I would give to you is what was given to me. And it was twofold. And I learned it in about 2018 or 2019 from Dr. Greg Fitzgerald, who's been one of our speakers for many years from Australia. And it's don't soldier on. And he just says, we as women and I'm still learning it.

01:02:13 Wanda: I do good at times and then I don't practice it. You know, we just wanna be everything to everyone. I just said, I've got adult children, I have grandchildren, I have parents, and I'm running this organization and I wanna be everywhere, but don't soldier on because then you won't be there for anyone. And my other one is, what I learned when I went to that women's retreat and taught the food is just be kind to yourself. You know, I had all of these amazing resources at my fingertips because of who I married. And it still wasn't an easy journey. You know, it's we're, we all have different life circumstances, so do the best you can. This is a Dr. Michael Klaper quote that I love. "Do the best you can with what you have when you have it." And somebody told my husband, who's been raised this way since birth, so you would think, ah, "what's he got to learn?"

01:03:07 Wanda: You know, you're always on a journey and never stop learning. And so follow Maya, wherever you get your resource, become a member. Just don't stop learning. It supports you. And just your lifestyle example, my family still doesn't eat this way. You know, my siblings, my cousins, they see the help. They saw what happened with my daughter, and you just never know when that phone's gonna ring. And somebody's gonna say, that happened to me. One of my members called me about four years ago. He's a yoga teacher. He's incredibly healthy. You'll find in his, in the testimonials, if you look on the website, a lot of the info on my website, my recipe section all free. You don't need to be a member. Jay Cowen calls me and says, I can't believe it. I just came from my doctor and I have heart disease. I am overwhelmed. I can't figure it out. You give me one book to read. Make it good. That's what I'm gonna do. So I said, without a question, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, end of heart disease. He read, he bought it that day. He read it, he started applying it 100%. Went back to his doctor. Two months later, she'd never seen anybody reverse the numbers the way he has. And he's still living this way. So you just don't know when one phone call enough, I've changed one person's life. Find ever do anything else.

01:04:29 Maya: Yeah, [crosstalk] Absolutely. That.. Thank you for that beautiful message. I do believe that we need to be reminded as women to have compassion for ourselves because we can be a little bit hard on ourselves for now being perfect, especially if we're not fully, fully on board with this lifestyle. But, you know, becoming a member of NHA listening to the podcast and just being exposed to this information will help to wake you up to know, at least start adding a little bit more of these fruits and vegetables into your diet.

01:05:02 Wanda: Look at it as what you can have, not what you can't have. Right.

01:05:06 Maya: That's right.

01:05:07 Wanda: And I tell you, many people won't come to the conference because they're following old habits all of a sudden and they've gained weight. [inaudible] we have got to quit being so judgmental and we've got to welcome everybody. Nobody's perfect and nobody's journey is a straight arrow one way or the other.

01:05:28 Maya: That's right. Absolutely. Well, Wanda, it's been a pleasure speaking with you. I can't wait to meet you in person in June, so thank you for being here.

01:05:36 Wanda: Thank you, Maya. I appreciate the opportunity to meet your audience. Yeah, thanks. Bye-bye.

01:05:42 Maya: I've been listening to the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions podcast with your host, Maya Acosta. If you've enjoyed this podcast, do us a favor and share with one friend who can benefit from this episode. Feel free to leave an honest review as well This helps us to spread our message and as always, thank you for being a listener.

Wanda HubermanProfile Photo

Wanda Huberman

Executive Director

I am the Executive Director of the National Health Association (NHA). I oversee operations for the longest-running nonprofit whole-food, plant-exclusive organization in the United States. Founded in 1948, the NHA promotes the benefits of a plant-exclusive diet and lifestyle. The Association provides educational materials, educational events, as well as a weekly podcast show, a bi-weekly newsletter, a quarterly magazine titled "Health Science" that is mailed to our members and Plant Based cruising with small cruise lines that have active sustainability programs and provide active excursions while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.