SparkleSister Nanette Proves Age Can Be “Just a Number” with a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet and Routine Exercise


Senior is not the first word that comes to mind when you meet SparkleSister Dr. Nanette Rodgers (pictured on left in PurplePlaid). Vibrant, active, healthy are much more fitting for the 80-year-old who placed first in the women’s 80 and up age group at the Watermelon 5k in Lakeland, Florida. That race is just one of 11 she will complete before November 26, then it’s on to a half marathon in January! Despite her lifelong interest in nutrition and wellness, she didn’t start running 5k races until she was 65 years old.

“The emphasis on exercise and physical fitness has become a daily part of my life and I work out every day in some form of physical exercise,” said Nanette. Her weekly exercise routine includes laps in the pool, Zumba, Bicycle Spin Class, TaBaTa, Yoga Flow, Stott Pilates, and TRX Training, which covers Battle ropes, Rip training, strength training, and balance training to name a few. Whew! “Active” might just be an understatement for Nanette.

“I feel great and I always have a lot of energy. All this exercise training prepares me to run 5K races often and I usually place 1st in my age group,” she exclaimed. Speaking of running, in January of 2016 Nanette found two new resources that have helped her running journey: Jeff Galloway Training and SparkleSkirts.

“Every time we ran races, we saw Jeff Galloway Lakeland Training Group members in SparkleSkirts. They showed us the pockets under the skirts for holding snacks, water bottles, and other necessary items. The zippered front and back pockets were roomy and convenient for keys and snacks!” Nanette now owns four SparkleSkirts and a pair of MuddBusters capris.

Now armed with her SparkleSkirts and Galloway Training method, Nanette says at 80 she’s moving past disease prevention and fueling a brand new chapter in her life.

“Everyone should know about this prescription!”

Whole Food Plant Strong Lifestyle

So what is her prescription? A whole food plant-strong lifestyle. Known to her friends as “the Quinoa Woman,” she starts every day with a Vitamin b12 and a bowl of ancient grains. Outside of quinoa bowls with fresh berries, cinnamon, flax flakes, and almond milk, Nanette’s favorite meals are steamed kale with raspberry balsamic vinegar, black bean and brown rice bowls, and any entrée that includes her favorite vegetables: squash, beets, potatoes, green beans, bok choy, mushrooms, and cilantro. For dessert, she swaps angel food cake for fresh fruit like watermelon, bananas, peaches, mango, or pineapple. She patterns her lifestyle on Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book Eat To Live, which focuses on nutrient-dense, plant-rich eating style, centered on scientific-based knowledge.

A Lifetime of Wellness and Nutrition

“Stressing nutrition and physical exercise, along with the importance of social, spiritual and emotional development have been my lifetime goals since early childhood,” remarked Nanette. 

“I look back on those early formative years and realize how they influenced me to continue learning, teaching and following a whole food plant-based life style.” That passion led her to a teaching position in the Polk State College Early Childhood Education program. She also served as the program’s coordinator for Student and Staff Support; in that role, she encouraged her students to set wellness goals. She also served as the Florida State Director of Home Economics Education.

“We have learned so much more about proper nutrition and fitness since I began my career. We have to be vigilant and protect the environment, the animals and promote a plant-strong life, not only to reverse and prevent many medical issues for our citizens but also to save our planet.” 

That enthusiasm has carried into retirement, and sharing nutrition information is still important to Nanette. She discovered more compelling nutrition research through her long-time friend Dr. Cathy Thornhill, who introduced her to plant-based food leaders such as Neal Barnard, M.D. and T. Colin Campbell, M.D.  These experts’ research covers everything from brain health to cancer prevention.

“We can recite almost all of Dr. Barnard’s Food for Life lectures and PBS specials,” said Nanette. She said the best part is putting it into practice and sharing her knowledge with others.

Nanette joins other volunteers with the Health Study Group, Chat and Chew started by Dr. Thornhill in 2012. That means, despite her busy training and exercise schedule, Nanette gathers regularly with her friends for nutrient-dense, vegan brunches where they have lively conversations about healthy eating, share healthy recipes and learn from one another.

So how do you get your own “prescription”? Nanette encourages others to identify their wellness goals, and then research what is needed to meet those goals according to their individual lifestyle and health situation. One good place to find out more information is at a Chat and Chew Meeting. To stay abreast of the activities, check out the Chat and Chew Polk County Facebook page or ask to join their email list, 54321health@gmail.com.

Below are some resources she finds most helpful, her most referenced being Dr. Michael Greger's, How Not To Die. If you’re interested in more, you email us for a copy of the Chat and Chew resources.

Suggested Resources:

Dr. Neal Barnard’s YouTube video on The Brain and Alzheimer's Disease.

Preventing and Reversing Disease, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

Multiple Titles, Dr. John McDougall

How Not To Die, Dr. Michael Greger

Preventing And Reversing Heart Disease, Ann and Jane Esselstyn

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