Jason Antony's Story
When we heard that May is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month, we knew exactly who we needed to talk to. Jason Antony is the ‘Antony’ in Antony and Sons, and a Food With Thought partner whose Crohn’s diagnosis and subsequent health journey has inspired him to help others be healthy.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. At the height of Jason Antony’s Crohn’s, he was in so much pain that he couldn’t sleep. Jason sees the health problems we’re given as gifts – warning signs that tell us when we need to make changes. Whether it’s Crohn’s, arthritis, lower back pain, anxiety, mental illness, or weight gain… His personal belief is that while these may be our genetic predisposition, they don’t have to be our future. Since Jason made some serious lifestyle changes, he’s been symptom-free. Part of his journey included taking a detour from the restaurant business and opening up Antony and Sons in 2011.
Is it a health food store? That label just doesn’t seem to do it justice. Antony and Sons sells organic produce, organic whole foods, and appliances like dehydrators, alkaline water jugs, and juicers. It’s also where you’ll find all the items that complement specific dietary paths, such as raw, gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free.
What won’t you find there? The usual plethora of tempting distractions. You know the snacks that sneer at you as you wait in line with your basket of healthy groceries? They’re hard to resist when they’re staring you in the face, but at Antony and Sons… well, they’re not. That’s not to say Jason Antony and company are anti-treats! In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that the goodies you’ll find at Antony and Sons are chosen mindfully and are of the utmost quality. Take Coconut Bliss, for instance, an organic gluten-free, dairy-free coconut milk based ice cream, or Zimt brand raw organic double chocolate macaroons… But we digress.
What we really wanted to find out was how a little boy from Toronto who grew up as part of the ‘McDonald’s Generation’, became a man passionate about sharing healthy food with the people of Surrey.
Food With Thought: Jason, tell us a little bit about how your health journey started.
Jason Antony: In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel terrible, but I felt bad enough that I wanted to feel better. There were warning signs that said, “You’re not well and you’ve gotta do something about it.”
I started to explore what that could be. I had some success with restricting my diet, but it felt just like that – a restriction. With dietary restriction you feel a sense of compromise, so it didn’t last. My willpower at the time wasn’t strong enough. I had medical professionals say to me, “You’ll have this forever. Don’t worry about diet.” There are so many interesting treatments that combat the inflammation, but they all have side effects. They deal with the symptoms, but not the root cause of the disease, and that’s problematic.
FWT: What has living with Crohn’s taught you about food and diet?
JA: I believe that we all have a personal food puzzle that we need to discover. It’s not just food – it’s food, lifestyle, emotional makeup, and even spirituality for some people. There’s a different mix for each individual. The food piece is so important because we as individuals need to figure out what we need. When I was first diagnosed in 1994, I wanted the equivalent of a magic pill, so I tried a diet that made me feel better. And just like a magic pill, the diet had side effects: I always felt deprived. It wasn’t sustainable. The big key for me specifically, is making a lifestyle change as opposed to going down a dietary path.
FWT: How did you change your lifestyle?
JA: I was vegetarian for a while, but I was a junk food vegetarian. Then, years later, I decided to try to go vegan too. I started to look deeply into how I ate and the food choices I was making. I realised that what I put in my mouth matters, and that’s what re-framed things for me. I drank the Veganism Kool-Aid. I went from a dietary vegetarian to a holistic vegan and now there’s no going back! That’s when I began to have a totally different view of food.
FWT: Was it difficult to find vegan food options back then?
JA: The difference today is that there are so many junk food vegan options now! I’m still susceptible to a weakness for sugar, and I have to be more disciplined, because my cravings can get the best of me. The thing is, you can be a junk food version of any diet!
FWT: What advice would you give to someone who wants to improve their health and diet?
JA: There’s a lot of temptation, but there’s also a lot of information. Spend ten hours of your life watching the food documentaries available to us today. People need to be eating mindfully from an educated perspective. After watching these documentaries, the choices you make will then be more informed than they’ve ever been. They need to be watched periodically, so we are reminded to eat mindfully on a regular basis or risk falling into patterns. Next, solve your food puzzle – that magic mix of things you should do to make your body well. If you follow your personal food and lifestyle puzzle, you will be well.
FWT: Well It sounds like a good step in solving our food puzzles would be to visit Antony and Sons! Can you explain what makes your shop unique from other grocery stores?
JA: One of the big things the store has that’s different from most stores is that it’s small and intimate. It’s not the things we have that make it so special, it’s the things we don’t have. The distractions we have are few, and the ones we do have are chosen with thought (like our ethically-sourced organic fair trade chocolate). If people were to do their day to day shopping in our store, they’d be healthy by virtue of what we don’t have!
Do you have a dietary restriction that makes it difficult to find a good selection of the food you can eat? Are you inspired to put together the pieces of your personal food puzzle? Or maybe you’re just after some of that fair trade chocolate.
Either way, when you visit Antony and Sons, make sure to introduce yourself to Jason. He’s not just inspiring and extremely well-informed, he’s also a super nice guy. He’ll be there, ready to show you around, answer your questions and share with you his passion for being healthy.
Visit Antony and Sons, located at:
202-14016 32nd Ave
South Surrey, British Columbia, Canada