I am constantly, shamelessly battling growing older, perhaps more than most people. I still would like to find that elusive “Fountain of Youth”. I found something that helps and I’d like to share it with everyone in hopes of helping people at least think about trying it.
I had been considering going back to my plant based diet for months and needed a tipping point to get me there. For me, the tipping point was simply not feeling great. I’m a fairly healthy person but I was feeling more fatigue, gaining some weight and feeling sluggish.
I needed to change something and I started cleaning up my diet. I was currently a self proclaimed pescatarian. This means the only “meat” I ate was seafood. I was consuming too much dairy, however. I was addicted to cheese. One day I woke up and decided to get rid of all the dairy in my house and try to go to an all plant based diet again.
As I write this I am sipping my superfood greens blended with coconut milk and coffee. This is how I start my days now and I LOVE it.
I’m only 15 days in but I’m not looking back. I already feel better. I have started to research why this is a good choice so I can fend off the naysayers!
I’ll start with a backstory about my first time giving up meat and dairy when I was 25.
It was the mid 90’s I was living by the beach in San Diego. I was a fitness fanatic so I fit right in. The beach and boardwalk that ran from Mission Beach to Pacific Beach were always cluttered with fit people running, roller blading, power walking, biking, etc. I used to call it the “land of beautiful people”. It was definitely motivating if fitness is your thing!
I wound up getting certified to teach group exercise and I was soon teaching at a few local gyms. I taught step aerobics, spinning and basic strength training during those early years of my fitness training journey. I was in the best shape I’d ever been in and I tirelessly taught 3 classes a day most days. The energy, endurance and resilience of being 20-something allowed me to eat and drink pretty much whatever I wanted and stay lean. My body performed fairly well even with a not-so-great diet.
Eventually I began to want more muscle definition out of what I’m now sure was pure vanity. Once I realized that nutrition was 80% of this equation I decided I need to clean up my eating habits.
I had never been a big meat eater and even as a child I went through phases where I wouldn’t eat meat. Giving up meat wasn’t that difficult for me. I still ate dairy and eggs for a while. This is probably because they were still appealing to me in texture and taste and I didn’t understand the impact they were having on my body.
It wasn’t until I read a book called “Diet For A New America” that I opened my eyes to the basics of the importance of proper nutrition. The book, written by John Robbins, came out in 1987. His words spoke to me and I became Vegan.
What is “Vegan”? In short it means consuming only plant based products.
He addresses the issue in a trifold process that spoke to me. The effect of consuming animal products on your body, the animals and the environment. My eyes were now open to all of it. My focus was still mainly on my own health but the reality of the treatment of animals as well as the effect on our planet were horrifying.
I’ll admit I have gone through phases (some long) of eating dairy and fish since then. I’m not proud of that but more importantly: now, almost 30 years later I have decided to go back to my plant based ways. Two weeks into my vegan venture I was feeling great about it and then I found the last motivator I needed to ensure I would stick with this decision. The final eye opening jolt was the movie: “Game Changers”. It is a documentary on Netflix. Everyone should watch this.
“Game Changers” focuses on plant based elite athletes which appealed to me immediately. Keeping up a lean physique and teaching fitness everyday is a lot harder at 51 than it was in my 20’s!
The performance of vegan athletes over the years is astounding. That alone was enough to get me back in the plant based game. They trace it back to analyzing the bones of ancient gladiators only to discover that these powerhouses had plant based diets!
The scientific evidence is there. We do not need animal products to get the protein we need. The protein our body needs is coming from plants. When you eat a piece of steak or chicken the protein intake is actually coming from the grains and plants the animal consumed before they became your meal. That is a basic explanation but the film explains it well.
The documentary also addresses the same concerns as the 1987 book I read. Our planet is in severe jeopardy as we all know but the impact of the meat and dairy industries alone are our biggest problem. The best way to reduce your carbon footprint on earth is to reduce your meat and dairy consumption.
I’m not going to throw all the stats at you but look them up if you aren’t convinced. It will likely blow your mind. And watch “Game Changers”…it truly is fascinating and they deliver the content perfectly.
Giving up meat and dairy is daunting to most people, I totally understand that. I know that being vegan isn’t always easy but it is becoming more mainstream than ever as awareness grows.
The social impact of being vegan back in 1995 was a little different than it is today, needless to say. I was “one of those health nuts” back then. Living in a San Diego beach community helped. I found like minded people and Southern California typically stays current with healthy trends. Even in the 90’s I could find plant based restaurants and my local food co-op had wheat grass shots readily available.
At first, friends and family back in my New Hampshire hometown didn’t know how to deal with my new dietary restrictions when I came to visit. Little roadblocks like that could easily have deterred me from sticking to my standards. Today those same roadblocks are there but are much easier to get around. Vegan products are readily available and just being able to research recipes and products on the internet facilitates the whole process. It is doable and the benefits are worth it.
Growing older to me has always meant less energy, slower metabolism, slower healing time from injuries, etc. For example: an ankle injury sidelined me last summer and I am still healing. Some days I can barely put weight on that foot and it’s been a year and half since the injury. It’s ridiculous. But guess what? Yet another benefit of my plant based diet is reduced inflammation! I knew all this deep down but I was too set in my way to make the switch until now.
Going back to a plant based diet just gave me some leverage to achieve feeling, looking and performing at my best despite my age. If overall health and reducing your carbon footprint is of importance to you, this is a great place to start. Maybe this is my “Fountain of Youth”.
One last point and I’ll get off my soapbox for the day. If you think you need your meat and potatoes to be strong, think again and ditch the meat, keep the potatoes.
In the words of World Record Holding Strongman Patrik Baboumian :“ I was asked: How could you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat? And my answer was “Have you ever seen an ox eating meat?”
No. Both the strongman and the ox are Vegan.