After watching Forks Over Knives the other day, something I have watched several times, I once again questioned why more refuse to simply try to give a plant based diet a chance.
I am also re-reading the China Study, a book I have read 2 times before. The China Study examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products and chronic illnesses including coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It concludes that people who eat a plant based diet avoiding all animal products and processed/refined carbohydrates will escape, reduce, or reverse the development of disease. There is a lot of debate over this study but the book remains one of the best selling and most well read books on nutrition.
I am NOT one to tell anyone else how or what to eat, I will help guide them in making better decisions for the goals they have whether it be better health, to lose weight, increased energy, and so on when asked. I am NOT a doctor and I do NOT have a degree in nutrition or dietetics. What I do have is practical knowledge and a lot of experience. I have tried several approaches to nutrition. I have had others TELL me what to eat and what not to eat. I have attempted to listen and have given them a fair shot and have come to find what works best for myself.
What I have also done throughout this long process of years of trial and error is a lot of research. I have talked to doctors, dietitians, authors, activists, professional athletes, coaches of professional athletes, and just about everyone in between. What have I learned???
I have learned a lot of science and much of it at times was way over my head. But at the core of what I learned was that it comes down to what works for one individual is not going to work for another. We have to find what works for us. So why am I writing this blog???
I am writing this because I am sick and tired of the stigma of vegans and vegetarians being thought of skinny weak plant huggers that will never be able to hang with the new found paleo crowd whether out on the race course or in the executive boardroom making the next big business deal. ….. Guess what? Get your heads out of your butts.
This hits home and you ask why? Because in 2011, I was told by 2 doctors I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I was in a state od Adrenal Failure after tests had come back that my cortisol levels were not even reading. When you are stressed your cortisol levels increase. When you are chronically stressed and can’t fight the stress anymore, they drop and there is simply no fight left. I was left without a fight. I was tired, I wasn’t hungry, I was always cold (even when it was hot out), I was easily frustrated, and was living off of coffee just to get through the long days as a personal trainer and athlete. Little did I know my lifestyle was slowly taking me down.
I met with doctors and a registered dietician. Doctors prescribed some thyroid meds and told me that I really needed to just stop training, take some time off, cut down the coffee, and eat more protein and calories. The dietician recommended a drill sergeant type diet plan and about $200 of supplements to be taken. She also told me that I should probably stop exercising completely. She was stick thin (almost anorexic looking, hardly looked like she exercised or even could). I left feeling frustrated and defeated. I went home and started to study.
I knew I loved fruit and vegetables. I knew I really did not like eating meat, and only did on occasion to get the naysayers off my back when the protein topic came up. I have always hated swallowing pills and had no means of purchasing $200 of supplements. It was time to take charge. I have always had a love hate relationship with food and nutrition. Being a competitive athlete on the equestrian circuit growing up there were pressures to be thin and stay fit. But this was much different I was now looking at food as a replacement for medicine, food was now going to provide the energy to fuel my runs, power my bike rides. I was in NO WAY going to get some little gland in my neck dictate my ability to live my life by MY terms.
So that is when I made the change. I turned to a primarily plant based diet. I started with green smoothies, juices (where I would make my own), pureed vegetable soups, tons of salads, homemade vegetable stir-frys. I tried (this was HARD) to cut down the coffee and replace it with green and herbal teas. I eliminated processed and packaged goods with hydrogenated oils. I am NOT perfect by any means. I am not 100% vegan .. I would say I am about 90% plant based and I do eat some fish on occasion maybe 1-2 x week. I don’t eat wheat, gluten, dairy. I try to limit sugar (need to try even harder) more because of it’s inflammatory response in the body and inflammation is the precursor to disease. What I discovered was that in 6 months from that time where I was having a hard time getting through the day and was collapsing during workouts, I had turned my life around, trained for and ran a 3:16 marathon, plant fueled without supplements. I fight auto-immune disorders that I have fought since 2010 that are irreversible, however by eating a plant based diet which has been shown to decrease inflammation, increase energy, enhance athletic performance, and help strengthen ones immune system I feel pretty confident I am doing what I can and know that when I am eating plant fueled I feel my best.
There have been a number of very successful vegan plant fueled athletes. Rich Roll for those that are interested has been instrumental at sharing a wealth of knowledge for those wanting to fuel themselves with a plant based diet. Rich has competed in Ultraman an ultra-distance event held in Hawaii consisting of a 6.2 mile open ocean swim, a 261.4 mile bike ride, and a 52.4 mile. I highly recommend his web site, podcasts, and articles on fueling on a plant based diet. His book Finding Ultra tells a story of transforming his life in a way most would simply not believe would be possible. Insanely inspiring!!!!
Again, I am not saying eating a plant based diet is best for every single one of you, only saying that it has some merit and is worth looking into. Maybe give it a try. Maybe try a couple days a week where you experiment with plant based meals, get creative, have fun with it, try new recipes and vegetables, go to the farmer’s market, keep that mind open; we never stop learning from those around us.
Live. Love. Life. … now go eat some plants 😉