Around the beginning of the year I noticed that my stomach always seemed full, even if I had not eaten in a while. I felt lethargic and had a hard time getting motivated. It seemed like the problem stemmed from what was going on in my stomach, so I began reevaluating my diet. I thought that I was eating a clean diet, but maybe there was a better way. If my metabolism was not moving as it should, then something was wrong. I began studying different types of diets to see if I could find one that would work for me.
My Diet Before
My diet at the time was pretty typical for a “weekend warrior.” I would drink a shake for breakfast with frozen fruit and whey protein along with a multivitamin. I would eat a protein bar (Cliff Builder's Bars) with some almonds and raisins as a mid-morning snack. For lunch I would typically eat a chicken breast (the pre-cooked, single-packaged kind) with some veggies or brown rice. I would eat another protein bar and almonds in the afternoon before my workout. For dinner I would eat another chicken breast or piece of salmon with some veggies. I would even stick (mostly) to this diet on the weekends, with the exception of one or two big desserts as I do have a huge sweet tooth. Water and green tea are the only drinks I would take in as well.
Learning about Veganism
As I start reading up on this subject, I recognized two things: one was that the veggies and chicken breasts I was eating were almost all of the pre-packaged variety that includes some type of flavoring, like butter on the veggies and sauces on the chicken. The second thing I recognized was that every time I did not eat meat for a day or two, I felt much better. That led me to make the decision to watch “Vegucated,” which is a documentary that follows three people as they try to make the switch to a vegan diet.
Most interesting to me about the movie was the perspective of a doctor, who specifically addressed gut health in relation to diet and how a vegan diet provides the most benefit in this area. I read more on this subject and made the decision that I would give a vegan diet a try. The next weekend, I ate a pizza and some ice cream while watching the Super Bowl as a little blow out and got started being a vegan the next day.
Making the Change
I immediately started implementing more fresh foods into my diet. I mixed fresh kale and spinach into my breakfast shakes and substituted hemp protein for the whey protein I had been using. I ate raw broccoli and carrots, which I would dip in hummus (for protein), for lunches. I also began making a vegetarian chili, with lots of kidney and black beans and other fresh vegetables that I would eat for lunches and dinners. The only "processed" food of any type that I ate were the protein bars that I used for snacks.
The first week I lost five pounds and felt more energetic than I had in years. The issues with my gut disappeared almost immediately. I messed up on my diet a few times by eating foods that had eggs mixed in (a couple of slices of cornbread), but I got that sorted out pretty quickly. The big thing for me has been to stick to real foods, like raw vegetables and fruits, rather than anything processed that emulates “normal” food. For example, I tried a “vegan” pizza with some type of “cheese” that almost made me puke. I will not be trying that again. My grocery shopping strategy now is simple: if it comes in a box, I am not eating it. Raw foods (beans, vegetables, fruits and nuts) along with some Cliff Builder Bars and hemp protein will continue to make up the bulk of my diet and I am fine with that.
I realize that the way that I eat is pretty extreme by most people’s standards. I am not advocating the way that I eat for anyone else. I am simply saying that I have adapted what works for me from the vegan diet and rejected the rest. I will be more than happy to discuss my diet choices with anyone who is open-minded. If you are looking to make a similar change and would like some input, feel free to contact me on twitter @jay_donelson.