Plant-based one year, origin and thoughts
The Origin Story
It was a warm summer afternoon. I was sitting on a lawn chair in my backyard and reading Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. Roll, like myself was preparing for a gruelling multi-sport event. Roll was describing how awesome he felt on a plant-based diet, and how quickly his recovery time was in-between workouts. He just made eating plants sound so fun and so powerful. I have to try this. I thought. I got up and made beans and quinoa with a salad for dinner.
My plan was to try eating plant-based for a week. I was less than one month away from Ironman Canada and I was weary of the possible harm of a dietary shift. The week went by smoothly and I felt really good. I decided to continue eating plant-based until after Ironman.
Over the subsequent weeks I started to notice a shift. I no longer felt tired or lethargic after meals. Instead of wanting to go sit on the couch after dinner I wanted to go for a walk, shoot pucks, or jump on my trampoline. Simply put, I felt more alive, and I loved the feeling.
I successfully completed my first Ironman in eleven and half hours—thirties minutes under my goal time. I had always envisioned myself gorging on all the foods I was not eating while training after the race was done. However, after Ironman, I declined the pizza at the racers meal, instead going for pasta salad and veggies. At a restaurant the next day I ordered a veggie burger and asked for the cheese to be removed. When I returned home and finally had the opportunity for my victory meal—a large homemade pizza with tomato sauce, tons of vegetables, sausage, and a mound of mozzarella—I declined, instead making a delicious plant-based pesto. An invisible, yet very important line had been drawn.
I will admit when I first started that I was somewhat skeptical. But starting with a one week—followed by a one month—trial, allowed me to adapt slowly to the idea of indefinitely eating plant-based. During that first month I found that the more plants I ate, the more I wanted them. I was re-training my body to enjoy different foods. I really thought I would be sitting down with a cheese and meat pizza after Ironman, but I like I said, I just felt so good while eating plant-based. I felt strong and engaged in life. I felt vibrant and alive. I did not want this feeling to end, and I decided that it didn't have to. I made a commitment to myself.
This is one the best decisions I have ever made.
So how do I feel and what are my thoughts after being plant-based for a year?
Quantity and quality of life
My dad died of atherosclerosis when he was fifty. My grandma died from cancer at age sixty-three. Both of them were too young. I believe it was Dr. Michael Gregor who said, “Genetics load the gun, decisions pull the trigger.” I can not change my genetics, however I can control my decisions. I am so happy that I have drastically reduced my chances of dying from cancer, heart disease, stroke, or Alzheimer’s. I love knowing that its very unlikely that I will ever need to be on prescription medications. I love knowing that barring an accident that I will be vibrant and strong well into my nineties and possibly my hundreds. I want quality and quantity of life, and plants give me both.
I used to think I ate healthy. But knowing what I know now and knowing how I use to eat, I would have suffered from the same fate as my dad.
But don’t I miss_________?
No. All of my favourite meals—pizza, sushi, pasta, pancakes, burgers, stir fries, soups—I have been able to make plant-based, and I have been able to make them better than their animal product counter parts. Plus I feel better after eating the plant version. I did not lose meat and diary, I gained plants. Plant-based eating is not a deprivation diet, it is a celebration diet. I am celebrating nature and life every time I eat.
Emotional connection and tradition
I certainly did form emotional attachments to food, often when thinking of the meals I’d share with friends. However, the more I thought about it, the more I understood that I wanted the emotional connection with the person, not the food. I still sit down and enjoy my family's company at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The act of quality family time is the tradition, not the food.
What did my family say?
Not much. But, I started to educate myself. I read books, watched documentaries, and listened to podcasts. I started to share what I learned and how I felt with my family. After watching Forks Over Knives my mom was convinced. It was not long before the rest of my family followed. I simply lead by example and shared my knowledge and experience in an open way. Gandhi put it well when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I love knowing that from an environmental standpoint, that I am doing the planet a service by eating plants. I thought that someone would solve the planet's environmental issues. Big mistake! The environment is a collective issue and we must solve it as a unit. Eating plant-based is one the easiest and most impactful ways to make a positive environmental difference.
Food digestion, and the brain require a significant amount of energy. Since plants digest easily I have noticed that I have more brain energy. It’s great! My mind feels sharp, smooth, and engaged. My creativity has flourished in the last year, and thinking is enjoyable, not draining.
I am flying. I feel so good. My recovery time is fast and my energy levels, not just in training, are high. Plants are easily digestible, nutrient rich, and alkaline forming, thus resulting in speedy recovery. I honestly feel that I have yet to reach my true athletic best, as I feel that I am still improving.
Since I stopped eating animal products I have become more compassionate towards all living creatures. A weight I did not know I carried was lifted off my spirit. I feel free, and happy knowing no animal has to die or suffer to give me life. I feel more connected to my higher self and I want to continue to evolve and grow as a person. It was if a layer of gunk had been removed from my self, and suddenly—for the first time—my true self started to flourish, like never before. For me this was the most surprising, and rewarding change I have noticed over the past year.
When I changed how I ate I unknowingly changed a single, simple, yet monumental aspect of my life. It was as if all the areas of my life—health, fitness, family, social, vocation—were grey and cloudy. This was all I knew. But when one area became a rainbow I suddenly took notice of all the other clouds in my life. For the first time in my life I started to give my body, mind and soul the proper tools to thrive and flourish. Over the past year I have really started become the best version of myself, and it feels so good. I changed how I ate and my life was forever changed, for that I am forever grateful for plants.