Going Vegan

Going Vegan

In my mid 50s, after decades of boxing, lifting weights and running, I was dealing with inflammation more often, injured more often but not willing to succumb to the mantra “you are just old”, various types of tendonitis were constant companions. My elbows, knees, shoulders and hips reminded me on a regular basis I’d been moving.

Something was always being iced, compressed or elevated. I realized that being a fitness guy has no exit strategy, my studio of personal training and rock and roll boxing classes had no retirement plan. My job, my very existence is dependent on being fit enough to keep clients my age and slightly younger capable of great feats of fitness. Or at least able to tie their shoes and lift their wallets to pay me. These are the men and women I must stay fitter than and I recognized that without the sound nutritional plan in my corner I’ll be client-less and skipping rope on a corner for nickels before I’m 65 years old.

That is the reason that in my fifties I began to follow a Vegan diet, for purely selfish reasons. Professionally my job depended on a healthy active body and personally I wanted better trail running performance. I was training for a 50km race aptly called Iron-legs and had happened upon a book called Eat & Run by Scott Jureck, (trail running rock star). In this book, he attributed his lack of injury to his plant-based diet. Sore and six weeks away from race day I committed to his program until race day. I ran my fastest and hardest 50km ever, my recovery was spectacular and my desire for more was unstoppable. 

After that run, my vegan transition was more explosion than evolution. Once convinced by the evidence I decided one night and began a plant-forward life the next day. The physical shift was easy for me, I had not only relied merely on the prose and wisdom of Scott Jurek. I read studies, checked and double-checked the research. I read and listened to the findings of Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Michael Greger. I watched Ted talks and threw in a couple of documentaries for good measure. I was convinced and committed, within weeks was noticing positive changes in performance in all the ways that I measured performance. What was good got better what was great began to blow my mind.

The philosophical shift to veganism was far more difficult. I felt a little guilty. For years personally and professionally I had been advocating the prototypical Hunter Gatherer diet I followed. This nutritional methodology features complex carbohydrates in the way of fruit and vegetables, protein from lean animal products and essential fats from fish oils, nuts and seeds. The idea is to forgo grains, whole or processed and dairy. On a regular basis, I would admonish people for eating whole grains, pester people about pasta cereals and bread. It has been hard to backtrack on proselytizing particularly when I’d been such a fervent believer. I kind of felt like Aristotle may have after he figured out the earth was round and had been for years selling flat Earth cruises.

Eating plant-based is not just eating vegan, yes, it is that in the sense of consuming and using no animal products but it is also in my opinion more predicated on knowing the breadth and depth of what is required to nourish our bodies. Take some time to figure it out for yourself and thank me later.

Oddly, a personal choice like changing the way with which you eat can raise the ire of family and friends. I was surprised at the anger, defensiveness and scorn I ran into depending on with whom I shared my dietary preferences. It is strange to be at a dinner or barbeque and have someone waving a spatula at you yelling, take a bite, just take a bite, what’s wrong with you, just take a bite. Weird, I’m often curious as to whether those were the same guys at the keg parties of my youth waving a bottle of tequila yelling takes a shot, just take a shot, what’s wrong with you, just take a shot. As if my biting into a steak or banging back a shot of tequila will somehow justify their choices, their perspective.

I don’t presume to your make your food choices for you nor do take others’ opinions on my food choices any more than I would accept their opinion on my choice of sexual partners or positions. I feel the same way about both and that is unless you are directly involved with what goes on in my kitchen or bedroom what happens there is really none of your business and vice versa.

Unfortunately to the detriment of many, I have had to add my nutritional habits to the list of things not to speak of at family dinners or casual cocktail parties. That list includes sex, religion and politics. If you ask my opinion, ask what my personal experiences have been I’ll be wicked happy to share, like that fact my aforementioned lack of inflammation is a godsend in the gym. My ability to lift weights has diminished not an iota, I am never at a loss for energy and my mental acuity is no less no more than it ever has been. My sleep is awesome, my libido is that of a 14-year-old boy stumbling into his first Playboy magazine.

Eating as I do, a plant-based vegan practice there are two things that have taken getting used to. First Vegan does not mean healthy. Donuts, French fries, processed bread and pasta, potato chips are all vegan and none will play a role in creating the diet that will make you stronger, last longer, run faster or build muscle.

Vegan’s tough. You have to educate yourself on what nutrition is, not merely on a macroscopic level of how does food interacts with the human condition but taking into account the microscopic interpretation, how do foods interact with each other and with you as an individual.

I regard food as fuel and medicine. Yes of course food is to be enjoyed but the taste is not the only qualifier. Is my food providing the energy I need to work and train? Is it helping me maintain the muscle mass I need to be strong and injury-free? Are my blood markers appropriate? Am I at my best athletically? Sexually? Emotionally? Affirmative answers to these questions make my food choices easy.

Are you thinking, where do you get your protein? Yes, you are and yes, I understand and we’ll touch on that next time.

The Talk Vegan To Me Difference

The Talk Vegan To Me Difference

We can all do our part to create a clean, healthy planet. From buying locally made apparel that is eco-friendly, vegan, ethical, and sustainable to sharing information through conversation that contributes to increased awareness and knowledge about vegan culture. 

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