Karen Asp is a leading national journalist who covers fitness, health, nutrition, pets and travel. A former contributing editor for Woman’s Day, she writes regularly for numerous publications, including Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light, Cosmo, Delta Sky, Eating Well, Family Circle, Forks Over Knives, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Martha Stewart Living, O, Organic Life, Prevention, Real Simple, Runner’s World, SELF, Shape, USA Today, WebMD, Weight Watchers and Women’s Health. She’s the co-author of Understanding Your Food Allergies and Intolerances and a two-time recipient of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeon’s MORE Awards for journalistic integrity. Karen is also a certified personal trainer, eco-minded health advocate who’s certified in plant-based nutrition, and a plant-powered athlete who holds several world records in Nordic walking.
What do I do best?
I’ve often been told that I’m a good conversationalist, and I have to agree. I credit my mom who always put my sister and me through 21 questions, as we called it, growing up. My mom wanted to know every detail about everything, and that – plus my journalism training – has turned me into a strong conversationalist. That means I actively listen and always ask questions about the person I’m chatting with. Sadly, I’ve found the opposite to be true about most people: Most people don’t listen well in conversations and rarely ask questions about the person they’re chatting with.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Discipline. When I say I’m going to do something, whether in my personal or professional life, I do it, and then I make it my mission to do whatever it takes to get that something done. That’s why I create daily to-do lists and don’t allow distractions at home where I work to pull me off course.
What are my aspirations?
This one’s tough as I have so many goals, and they’re always changing. Some of the current ones on my list include continuing to expand my writing portfolio (with a bigger focus on the travel and environmental side of things), finding new ways to inspire people to adopt plant-exclusive diets and show more compassion for animals, writing another book (at least!), pursuing more education and reaching new fitness goals (which I’m still setting).
My Biggest Success?
Going vegan (which started when I made a pact with a cow while hiking in Austria in 2004). Among all of my accomplishments to date, I’m most proud of this one and have no doubt that I’ll continue to point to this as my biggest success, no matter what other accomplishments lie ahead.
My Most Challenging Moment?
Choosing not to have children was perhaps the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. It meant bucking the societal norm – I’m married and live in a very conservative part of the country – and dealing with all of the fears and what-ifs that come with it. But while I do love kids, I can say it was the right decision. I say that because I would never have been able to do the volunteer work that I’ve done throughout the years (which includes working for eight years with my golden retriever whom I had trained as a therapy dog, volunteering at the local animal shelter every week as I do now, and being on the organizing committee for the first VegFest where I live, which will take place in October 2018) or even gone as far in my career as I have.
This quote is written on a chalkboard in my office: “It’s better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.” I love this Chinese proverb and believe in the power of one in helping make the world a better place.
I also live by this mantra: Make a difference. In fact, if I were to have a gravestone after I die (I don’t think I want one, though), I would want only four words on it: “She made a difference.”
My Favorite People/Role Models?
Favorite people and role models include:
1) Moby (I’m in awe of his animal rights advocacy)
2) Plant-based docs and researchers Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Colin Campbell
3) Esther the Wonder Pig (she’s my favorite social media star with a fabulous story; if you haven’t read her first book – she does have another one coming out soon – it’s a must)
4) Jodi Picoult and Chris Bohjalian (I wish I had their talent for writing fiction)
5) Victoria Moran (she embodies the vegan lifestyle and I love listening to her musings on her podcast)
6) Nathan Runkle (he’s the founder of Mercy for Animals, and his story is simply downright inspiring, as is the work he’s done on behalf of animals)
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I’m a huge snow fan so any winter destination with snow is my favorite. But among the numerous places I’ve traveled in the world, some of the destinations I’ve loved most are Barcelona, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Telluride (CO), Bend (OR), San Luis Obispo (CA) and Steamboat Springs (CO).
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I have so many favorite products, but anything that’s cruelty-free or eco-friendly (or both!) gets my vote. Mainstays in my life include:
1) Camelbak Forge (reusable coffee mug that I take everywhere with me),
2) Earnest Eats oatmeal (my breakfast at least 5-6 days a week)
3) Jambu’s vegan shoe line
4) iPod shuffle (I listen to music all the time, especially when exercising)
5) my Yogamatic yoga mat (with a picture of my two golden retrievers, one of whom has since passed away)
6) Endangered Species Chocolate (I eat two squares of its vegan dark chocolate bars daily and love that it gives back to wildlife conservation)
7) Zojirushi water boiler (I drink numerous cups of green tea and coffee daily and having hot water on demand is a game changer)
8) Miyoko’s nut-based cheeses and Heidi Ho chia cheeses (so much easier being vegan these days, and these two products are always in my fridge, as I use them frequently in my cooking)
9) Exel Nordic walking poles (these have led me to numerous Nordic walking victories; at one time, I held six world records in the sport and still have a few of them)
10) Fitbit Ionic (I’ve used Fitbit ever since the company started and am addicted to tracking my daily step count/activity level; I just started using the Ionic and love it)
11) Arc’teryx Blade backpack (this is my travel must, as it makes a great carry-on, and I go everywhere with this)
My Current Passions?
I have so many passions – helping shelter animals, cooking, sipping craft beer, doing yoga, engaging in aerobic exercise (cross country skiing, Nordic walking and cycling are favorites), birding, playing piano, reading fiction, listening to music, traveling -- but the one that’s really driving me right now is raising awareness about the numerous benefits of a plant-based diet/vegan lifestyle. It’s a win-win-win for your health, the animals and the environment. Of all three of those, though, I’m most interested in making people realize how much animals suffer in our food system and why they have a right to live. They are truly friends, not food, and I pray for the day when factory farms cease to exist.