Plant Based For A Year... Here Are Some Things I've Learned
It's exactly one year since I went completely plant based (well to be precise, September 6th). After losing 150 pounds almost 5 years ago, I didn't need to lose more weight. I had what many considered to be a healthy diet. I was eating poultry, eggs and dairy a few times a week and did get my blood pressure down and avoid medication. But I had other goals...
It's always been about health, back when I first lost weight. I ate lots of fruits and vegetables based on different articles I've read and from reading books by Dr. Fuhrman and others. I was getting more information on how animal products were not healthy. But this wasn't enough to convert me to a plant based diet. I tried vegan diets a week or two on and off for a couple years but always went back to animal products.
I also had another issue... loose skin from my weight loss. I'm stubborn and refuse to accept that I need a tummy tuck. So my mission has been to tighten my loose skin with muscle. Only trouble was, I wasn't building much muscle when eating occasional turkey or dairy. I researched on muscle building and stumbled upon vegan bodybuilders, especially Robert Cheese, author of "Shred It!"
Robert published a companion workout journal with his book. The journal lasted for 13 weeks, so I thought this would make a good challenge for me... 13 weeks without animal products, the longest I've ever been without it.
So as I was going along with the challenge, I realized I was feeling great and building muscle better than before I went plant based. By the time the challenge ended, I had no interest going back to my old way of eating.
I've learned so much throughout the process, I thought I would blog about the top things I've learned.
- I'm not protein deprived. The most common myth that plant based eaters will hear is that there's not enough protein in plants. Nothing can be further from the truth. If someone is eating enough calories and a variety of plant foods, it's impossible to not get enough protein. The fact is, most Americans are consuming too much protein.
- Not only plant based people are Vitamin B12 deficient. Animal products may only have trace amounts of B12, some animals are supplemented with B12. And some meat eaters may not be absorbing enough B12. So Vitamin B12 deficiency is not just a problem for vegans. I take a supplement just to play it safe.
- My compassion increased since going plant based. I always loved animals but would ignore where the meat came from. Ever since I stopped eating it, I realize where the food comes from and I don't want to eat it. I do consider myself to be vegan now.
- There are big differences between plant based and vegan. Before going plant based, I thought there was no difference. Vegan was just a diet, I thought. But veganism is way more than just a dietary choice. Vegans will not use products that abuse animals beyond food, such as for clothing, medication, etc. Someone can be plant based and not be vegan.
- Coconut oil may not be good for you. Before going on my plant based journey, I heard so much about the health benefits of coconut oil. But so much research has come out, and listening to feedback from Dr. Greger and Rip Esselstyn, I now realize it's just a processed food that can raise your LDL cholesterol.
- My cholesterol is the best it's ever been. I had my lab work last January, 4 months into my plant based diet, and the total cholesterol was 136. Dr. Greger says the ultimate protection against heart disease is less than 140. My doctor said it was the best he's ever seen in someone my age group!
- My blood pressure is normal. My blood pressure has been good since losing weight, and the plant based diet kept it healthy. My most recent numbers were 110/74.
- Any colds I have don't seem to last as long as they used to. In the past, colds would last weeks. I would cough so much that I couldn't sleep. The last cold I had lasted like three days, and it wasn't even that severe.
- My energy level is up. I work out 5 days a week, I think that shows the proof!
- Trying new foods. I never tried fennel until going plant based. Japanese Sweet Potatoes are another favorite food and I also started eating lentils.
- Muscle growth. This was important to me. I wanted to prove that plant based eaters don't just waste away. I hope I proved my point!
- Plant based friends online. I have such amazing friends through social media who offer recipes and exercise advice. There are a lot of vegan bodybuilding groups along with plant based groups that offer tons of support.
- Help other change into plant based diets. Without even trying, I have helped influence a handful of people to go plant based. I try to lead by example and usually wear my vegan bodybuilding shirts to the gym. A lot of people inquire about what I eat and some are interested in trying it after they hear about it.
- No heartburn. Ever since going plant based, I don't think I've had any heartburn. This is coming from someone who used to suffer from it often, especially when I was obese.
- Restaurant choices. I often worried at the beginning of this journey, where could I go to eat when going out. It turns out most restaurants have vegan friendly options, although admittedly some have fewer choices than others. But still, I can always order a salad or baked potato at places that aren't too vegan friendly.
- I don't crave meat. This one surprised me. I think it's because I discovered lentils, which makes an awesome meat substitute. Also, I noticed that the spices help a lot... often flavoring the veggies the same way they flavored the meat in the past.
- It's not that expensive. A common misconception is that eating plant based is expensive. To me, I find it cheaper... I'm not buying the meat, which is a huge cost saving. Beans are incredibly cheap, oatmeal is cheap. The more expensive items like chia seeds last for weeks.
- Hair and nails grow faster. When I got my haircut this past weekend, the woman who cut my hair asked what I've been eating that my hair grows so fast? I also notice my nails grow fast too.
- Skin glows. I hear it often... what a great tan I have, what good coloring I have, I'm glowing, etc. I never heard comments like these when I ate the Standard American Diet!
- I saved some animals. According to one website, I saved over 200 animals. Like I said earlier, I never thought about the animals when I ate them. After going plant based, it's awesome to think of how many are saved.
I plan to continue eating this way as it was a lifestyle change. And after watching documentaries like "What the Health" and others, I could never imagine eating animal products. Plus, health is always a priority, and since I feel great, I plan to keep eating the way I am and continue to build muscle, hopefully tightening my belly further in the process.