An Experiment: Plant-Based Eating

Lincoln modeling some plant foods.

Lincoln modeling some plant foods.

I remember a few month ago, sitting at our campground with our friends Mandy and Dallas in Hueco Tanks, Texas. Somehow we got to talking about being Raw Vegan. I remember being like, "Ew, no, I don't think I could go that extreme... I mean, i like cooked foods, and meat from time to time.." And I pretty much dismissed the idea, except for my slight curiosity in the fact that you could make "cheese" out of cashews.

Fast forward to me randomly binge watching some various Food documentaries (Forks over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Supersize Me, Food Matters...), curiosity peaked, then buying some books on the topic of plant-based eating and vegan athletes, and you've got me where I'm at today. Now that I've read all these books I find it hard not to at least give plant based eating a chance. There seems to be so many positives to eating plant-based that outweigh any of the positives there are to eating meat and animal products.

Why do I want to adopt a plant based diet?

In short, to give my body the nutrients it needs and wants, to prevent cancers and other diseases and prolong my life and enhance my quality of life, to become a stronger athlete, to reduce my impact on the environment, to acknowledge and make my own impact on worldwide hunger, to minimize my impact of using water resources, and yes, of course, I don't wish that animals are suffering in order to mass produce and feed Americans. Its really easy to ignore all those things because you can't see your impact directly, but every bit helps.

I don't want to go into too many details on those topics when the books do such a better job at that (Whole, The China Study, Thrive to name a few)... but below are a few of the big hitters that impacted, supported and enlightened my decision :

  1. "Those [Whole food plant based] food choices can prevent cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, macular degeneration, migraines, and arthritis--and that's only the short list"
  2. "Researches exposed laboratory animals (Rats) to a powerful carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), then fed one group a diet of 20% animal protein and the other a diet of 5% animal protein. Every single animal in the 20% group developed cancer or cancer precursor lesions, while not one of the 5 percenters did. One hundred percent to zero percent."
    1. " Equally amazing, when cancer was switched off for a relatively long time by feeding a low-protein diet, it could be turned on again by switching to a high-protein diet. Major changes in cancer development both positive and negative, were triggered by only modest changes in [animal] protein intake."

  3. "The subjects had forty-nine cardiovascular events in the ninety-six months prior to the [whole food] interventions, and zero cardiovascular events in the roughly 312 months since the whole foods plant based diet intervention began."

  4. "Choosing plant-based foods over animal based foods reduces pain in so many ways.  It alleviates our bodily pain. It minimizes the pain animals experience by reducing CAFO farming. It also reduces human suffering associated with global poverty and hunger."

    1. "Every kilogram of beef requires 100,000 liters of water to produce. By comparison, a kilogram of wheat requires just 900 liters and a kilogram of potatoes just 500 liters."

    2.  "In a world where millions of people die of starvation and starvation related diseases every year, we still inexplicably insist on the gross inefficiency of cycling our plant production through animals before considering it "food". Feeding meat producing animals rather than feeding humans directly means we lose upward of 90% of the calories otherwise available for our consumption."

These quotes are all from the book "Whole", which is really interesting and pushes you to think a lot about this topic in so many different aspects, including the influence Big Pharma and Big Medicine and Big Insurance have on politics in shaping the American Diet. I'm not usually one to put so much weight in an idea after only reading a couple books, but the arguments are compelling... and the consequences can't be bad... so why not?

    What do I expect/hope to get out of a plant based diet?

    Near Term:

    1. I hope to have a better relationship with food. I've always been in this back and forth with food and diet and health and then binge eating horribly when I'm stressed or give up. However, I've never had any hard boundaries on what I eat, just "Calories". I hope that eating plant based will get rid of these bad food cravings and cause me to crave just the good foods. I mean in the past I've loaded myself with processed foods full of added sugars, and we all know how addictive sugars can be. Also, having these boundaries will be good for me... its not like, don't eat food because you already met your calories, its like just don't eat crap, have some watermelon or grapes, or carrots... the options are limitless
    2. I hope to find myself a stronger athlete than I have ever been before because I will no longer be filling my body with junk
    3. I hope to find my skin clear
    4. I hope to be energized

    Long Term:

    1. I hope to find myself at old age, full of energy and health and free of added medications, still rock climbing or hiking, and being independent and fully capable of caring for myself. 
    2. I hope to find myself cancer free and cardiovascular disease free, as animal products have both been linked to these ailments and plant-based diets have been shown to stop and even regress some of these diseases.. not to mention help people get off of their medications and live free of their meds and their meds side-effects! How amazing!

    Will I be 100% plant based? 

    Of course not. At least not yet. I've been eating milk and meat products my whole life, so there will be times I may have something with those products in it. I may allow myself to have fresh fish from time to time, because we enjoy a good poke bowl down in Los Angeles, and if I catch my own fish off a sailboat, I'm inclined to enjoy it! However, for the most part I'll be finding new and interesting ways to munch on fruits and veggies, raw and cooked.

    I anticipate this way of eating will be more time-consuming... that's ok, I think this is one of those things that's worth the extra time. It might cost me a little more money in groceries.... sure, but if I stay healthier because of it, it will cost me less in the long run. 

    To keep things simple as I start out, I decided to adopt a few routines to my daily diet:

    1. Have a healthy smoothie every morning
    2. Eat a salad every day
    3. Snack on raw fruits and veggies
    4. Eat one homemade energy bar a day
    Some of the books and cookbooks on the topic of plant based eating! :)

    Some of the books and cookbooks on the topic of plant based eating! :)

    Those things take up the majority of my day of eating, and are for the most part all raw foods eating. I've adapted that method from the book Thrive (a book on a vegan professional Ironman triathlete). That leaves me to my own cooking devices in the evening, and I've found a fantastic array of Vegan and Plant Based Cookbooks along with Pinterest to start experimenting with. I mean, there's really never been a better time to be plant based... there are so many good resources out there now a days. A lot of you know that I love to cook, so you know that good tasting food is important to me. To be honest, I've loved most everything I've made so far being plant based.

    Anyways. Don't hate, but I'm at least trying this out for a little while, and I don't look down on other peoples choices either. I just thought I'd write a post on why I feel compelled to change my eating habits, after 26 years of eating meat and animal products.