Three years ago I decided to give plant-based lifestyle a trial. My primal incentive was to improve my athletic performance in long-running races like 10k and above. I read so many books and articles on the internet that a plant-based diet did, in fact, enhanced the running performance of so many people, so I decided to give the plants a chance to prove to me how terrible they are.
It was, and I am sure it will be a road not covered with rose petals and a way not many will choose. Adopting a plant-based diet for any reason is not easy. You need to forget and de-program yourself from the nasty habits of flesh cooking and meat eating. Something that for me did not happen overnight, and it was not a goal I set on to accomplish like many people try to do these days.
Deciding to adopt the plant-based lifestyle except for the motive I mentioned above it happened gradually and forceless. I realized at some point that I did not crave meat as I used to, and most important I wasn’t consuming it as often as in the past. I ended up eating meat maybe 3 to 4 times a month, and that was mostly pork.
So on May of 2013 –as I describe in my book “Thirsty for Health” I decided to transition myself to vegetarianism without really having in mind any plan on how to or what to expect. I didn’t have a goal or little steps towards that goal to achieve, so I am sure I would be successful.
Some people are lucky, maybe because they had parents that taught them how to be goal oriented or were even more fortunate to have the innate charisma of goal orienting. Me I was unlucky on both counts, my parents were and still are good parents but they never taught me how to be a goal-oriented person, and sadly I was never a gifted or special person.
Advantages and Disadvantages…
I do have an advantage though and it always right to recognize both your weaknesses and your strong points. Once something sinks in that’s it, it might take a bit longer than other people to understand something but once I got it, it’s for life. A beautiful example was me being a heavy smoker of cigarettes for 16 years as I describe in my first book “Thirsty for Health.” I tried a lot of times to stop smoking, but the adverse effects of smoking never had a real impact on my being. Once though I got into my thick skull what smoking does to a person I stop cold turkey.
Conclusions and Life Lessons…
Anyway back on track about the plant-based diet. One of the many things I learned about being a vegetarian and a strict one (Veganism although I only adopted the nutrition aspect of the lifestyle) is that a lot of nutrients need some extra special attention when you stop eating the dead flesh of other sentient animals of this planet.
Those nutrients are B12, Zinc, Iodine, Vitamin D, Selenium, Iron and Omega 3 fatty acids to name the most critical ones.
At the beginning it was difficult, I would always feel hungry and weak, and also I would sleep more than usual.
At the same time, I was training for a marathon, and I noticed that when I was a meat eater, my recovery times were faster and that almost made me quit with the plant-based diet because I couldn’t see any improvement on my performance.
On the contrary, I noticed decline and slower rates of being able to go out and train appropriately again.
Somehow I did not quit. Having Stopped smoking four years ago instilled in me a winner attitude. I am glad that I did not stop because I managed indeed to see the advantages of a whole plant based diet both in my performance as an amateur runner and also on my general health.
My first mistake was that I did not cover the calories I was getting from meat with plant-based alternatives.
That’s when I started using a food diary, cataloging everything I ate. It turns out that I needed in the range of 2500 to 3000 calories when I was training for running races and about 2000 to 2200 calories when I was not. So I made sure I provide to myself the necessary calories according to the info adapted my daily intake accordingly.
That solved the weakness and of course the hunger. After increasing the volume of food, I realized the beauty and the richness of a plant-based diet.
I could eat as much as I wanted without even worrying about weight gain, and I still do it until today. As long, of course, you calculate the calories that you eat and the calories that you burn.
Also, another thing I found out the hard way is to go easy with the nuts and avocados and also eliminate as much as possible from your diet oils. They are 100% fat and do not offer any nutritional value.(3) I noticed that if I over consume too many nuts, I get pimples on my face, back, and chest.
That solved the solid phase of my transition which in short was keeping a food diary, calculating calories in and out, and eat enough food to achieve the daily calories required.
An excellent online food diary is www.cronometer.com
In the beginning, I was cataloging everything down to the last calorie, down to the last percent of vitamins, minerals, protein and carbs and even percentage of good or evil fats. In time though I stopped doing that because I knew that for example eating three medium-sized bananas I would get about 180 calories, or eating a medium size apple I would get about 75 calories but do not abandon this useful habit stick with it, and you will thank me later.
Don’t go crazy cataloging everything; it’s good to do it at first as a learning technique, but later on, you will see that as you learn more your need to write down everything diminishes.
Another thing I do is weigh myself when I wake up in the morning and preferably after using the toilet and also weigh myself before I go to bed. This tactic had a dual purpose. First, it keeps you alert about what you’re putting in your mouth nutritionally wise and second it gives you the motive to lose or gain weight depending on what you desire from a plant-based diet.
For example, when I am training for a half-marathon I always try to lose a few pounds because those 4 to 5 pounds may not seem much during your ordinary daily tasks but running and carrying an extra 5 lbs for 21km trust me it does play a significant role.
I applied this simple habit since I decided it was time to get my life back and discover myself again. To do that, though – like I beautifully describe in my book “ Thirsty for Health” I had to shed off about 44 pounds, literally digging back to surface myself from all those layers of fat.
Weighing myself in the morning and before going to bed helped me stay on the course and lose all those pounds.
Wisdom I accumulated transitioning to a plant-based diet is a lot. I got into it for athletic performance; then I saw the health advantages, and then I saw the big picture which is not eating animals is ethically correct and in practical terms, it helps to save our planet. Our meat-eating habits are destroying this beautiful blue/green world ours to dust and are taking down the drain us as a species too.
I hope through this web page/blog I will help people choose a plant-based diet which will enable us to reach the absolute living harmony and synergy that the ancient Greek Philosophers described thousands of years ago.