In a separate post I'll go into the full details of how I got to this point but here I'll just discuss what I currently eat and why.
My current diet is plant based. Which is to say that I eat very little that isn't plants but I don't completely ban myself from eating meat or other animal products. To give that context. In the last two weeks I haven't actually eaten any meat but I have made some dinners that had chicken broth, I have had some cheese, I have had some things made with eggs and I regularly put a splash of milk in my tea.
Why am I eating like this? The short answer is my wife made me to try it and how I feel makes me to keep doing it.
My personal journey with food over the last 15 years or so has been in the general direction of eating less and less processed foods and more and more "real" foods. I grew up eating very healthy but during college sort of jumped off that path and since than have slowly found my way back. I have fully plant based for the last 3 months or a bit more. In that time I have made a solid jump in fitness and increased the quantity and quality of my workouts. I have also lost around 15 pounds without trying. I have done so without feeling weak or that I'm on the verge of getting sick which was common for me in the past when I dipped much under 160lbs in the past.
We went plant based because my wife was reading the China Study which is a fairly well known study that spawned a bunch of books and a movie or two. Summing up something that has been described in multiple books in one sentence, basically these researchers found that if you eat less than 5% animal protein in your diet cancer can't grow. People who then followed this diet found they had more energy and better health all around.
We were already eating pretty healthy, basically no processed foods. I haven't had something you would call fast food in literally years. In short we ate real food. The stuff from the outside of the grocery store instead of the aisles. This was working ok. Though I did notice if I was eating yogurt instead of salad for lunch I would be much more likely to get sick. I was running a lot but I would not describe myself as having much energy.
Since going plant based I have not had some amazing awakening of feeling like a million dollars all the time experience. I have made big jumps in fitness and you may have noticed I'm posting 5 or 6 blogs a week and still training and working like I was before so I certainly have more energy and I have returned to going hard or moderately hard every other day so 7 times every two weeks. For the last few years I have only been going hard twice or sometimes 3 times a week so about 4 to 5 times every two weeks. All of this adds up to a pretty darn good step in the right direction.
The number one question I have been getting is what about protein for recovery. I totally understand this question. It was my number one concern heading into eating like this. I have long taken either protein powder, kefir, or chocolate milk after all hard workouts and the vast majority of runs. I have not replaced this with anything. I generally eat something right after a run but nothing specific. Often it is just some fruit or toast. I have tried energy bits which are spirulina for post run recovery and like them so that may become my regular routine but currently I'm not doing anything. I do eat a decent amount of protein but not nearly as much as I was eating before switching to plant based.
Here is the funny thing. I'm recovering better. I'm not sore. I'm bouncing back for another hard run or workout quicker. I feel pretty darn good.
I have told you what I'm not eating. Which leaves what I am eating.
For breakfast I have either steel cut oats that I cook in the slow cooker over night with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. I eat it with some fruit, whatever is around, and almond milk. If I don't have the oatmeal I have ezekiel toast with cashew butter or peanut butter, the kind that is just ground nuts, no oil, no salt. I also have a large cup of water and a large cup of tea, 24 ozs each.
For lunch I have make a peanut butter jelly smoothie. Which tastes totally like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but with a smoothie texture, which is a bit of mind screw at first but you get over that. I think melissa found the recipe on 100 days of real food or kris karr's website. Basically it is peanut butter, almond milk, apple juice, two bananas, some baby spinach, and a bunch of frozen berries. I make it in the morning and stick it in the fridge at work.
Dinner is different every night. I make a lot of soups, I always use low sodium organic broth. I generally use veggie broth but sometimes chicken broth. A real quick meal is a BIG salad and veggie burgers. Other than that we have been just trying out a ton of things. We had a CSA in the fall and I would just google recipes based on what we got in that each week. Now in the dead of winter no CSA so we google recipes and then buy the stuff for them. We eat pasta dishes pretty regularly with a lot of veggies mixed in.
For snacks I eat mostly fruit, toast, and whole wheat cookies when Melissa makes them, I don't do much baking.
The biggest positives have been the loss of weight and being less hungry. I have heard the term 'toxic hunger' used to describe the cravings for fatty, sugary, salty foods we eat. The first few weeks you don't eat this food you crave them like mad. Basically more like an addiction than a real hunger response. Now as I said I gave up most of that stuff years ago but I did have that reaction for sure.
The other type of hunger when you don't need calories is hunger from a need for nutrients. The concept is simple enough your body needs some vitamin and even though you have eaten enough or more than enough calories to satisfy your needs your body tells you to keep eating until you get enough of whatever else you need. If you read the nutrition labels on most of the processed foods we eat or the nutrition info on meat you will notice that there are calories but very little else. What this means is that you can eat and eat and as soon as your stomach empties out you will be hungry again because you are desperately short of nutrients. Even when I was eating very well by american standards before going plant based I was hungry quite often. After a few weeks of the veggie based diet I noticed I was not nearly as hungry. A quick glance the nutrition info on my meals told the story why. Instead of a small amount of a handful of nutrients you have dozens of nutrients represented and many in very high quantities.
Problems. The biggest problem is fiber. Too damn much fiber. Ok really it is probably the right amount of fiber but it is more than I am used to. This has lead to a lot of unplanned bathroom stops on runs. For a few weeks this was pretty out of control. However I started drinking a lot more water and that pretty much got me back to normal.
Weak points. Ok don't tell Melissa, she pretty much just glances at the blog so I'm not too worried, but I sneak at least on soda a week. Usually a virgil's root beer. I swear that stuff really tastes like it was made in heaven. It also has two days worth of sugar and zero nutritional value.
Yup that covers it. After the first couple of weeks I really stopped wanting any other junk food or meat. I don't want it. When I'm hungry I want fruit. I want a salad. I want a nice colorful dinner. To be clear this took a few weeks. The first couple weeks all I wanted was a damn hamburger covered in cheese and bacon. Now that kinda grosses me out.
Now I do eat some meat. If I get a salad from a restaurant it generally has some chicken or cheese or whatever on it. I eat that. I did get a 'super salad' recently that was a little too super for me and I ended up leaving a lot of cheese and meat behind but generally speaking I will eat a bit of meat once every week or two.
If you want greater detail or real info on the hows and whys of all this post a comment asking Melissa to do a guest blog because she is the brains behind this part of the operation.