May marks the sixth year since the Eat Smart Live Longer Club was founded in Sun City by three sisters: Karen Heitman, Leslie Haas and Mary Lou Beavers. It’s important to me because it was six years ago that through ESLL, I learned to eat whole food, plant-based.

For those readers who don’t know, that change resulted in my losing 150 pounds and now, at over 70 years of age, I’m no longer on any prescription medications. ESLL has made that kind of significant impact on the lives of so many people in both Sun City and in the surrounding area.

The club started in May 2013 with 60 members; as of the end of this past year, the club had 620 members, over a tenfold increase from its beginnings.

Through a series of events, including monthly meetings, a lending library, grocery store tours, a buddy system, bringing in major headline speakers, doing potlucks, picnics, game nights, having affiliations with local restaurants and more, ESLL teaches its members to eat a whole food, plant-based diet that reduces their chances of chronic diseases, helps them to lose weight, and reduces their need for prescription medications.

But ESLL’s impact is not restricted within Sun City. Current president Ross Glatzer has worked with local businesses and restaurants to develop more whole food, plant-based options in their products. This action benefits everyone in the area when dining out.

By looking for the ESLL logo on the windows of food establishments, local residents can find good plant-based options to choose while out in the commercial world.

Ross has set a goal of finishing 2019 with 700 members. He is enthusiastic about seeing the benefits of ESLL extend to as many people as possible. He believes that by doing so, not only will people’s health be improved, but ESLL can become a destination for major headline speakers in the whole food, plant-based world.

In addition, he would like to see universities and research organizations, perhaps even local ones like USCB and TCL, use ESLL to do research studies on the impact of eating whole food, plant-based.

While ESLL is a Sun City organization, any of the other communities in the Lowcountry could create a club like this too. It just takes someone to start it, and a good way to get it started is to gather a group of residents who might be interested to come together for an evening to watch “Forks Over Knives,” and then to discuss it afterwards.

It doesn’t take a degree in nutrition, it just takes desire and action.

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on healthy lifestyles.