I genuinely try to never tell people what to do or how to live their lives. First, most people will go into a defensive mode and shut down. Second, most of the time it is none of my business how they live. And third, I realize that if I want to become a “change agent” (for anything, not just food and fitness) the most effective way is to lead by example. When people see something good and genuine in the way you live they will want what you have, it’s that simple, all you have to do is toss it out there and be real. If they are not willing to hop on your bus then they are just not ready for change or they are not looking. Hang in there because if you stay genuine and transparent they will come around someday.
I think my plant-based lifestyle is a little different than most because I really never set out to become a vegetarian, vegan, whole food plant based diet, nutritarian, fruitarian, or whatever other label you want to give me. All I wanted to do was shed a few pounds and try to lessen some of my medical problems. Even four years ago my idea of getting healthy was replacing cheddar with mozzarella and ground beef with ground turkey. I never went out searching for the plant based lifestyle, nor did I know it even existed. Meat cheese, and oil were my main food groups and to this day I have meat tattooed on my arm (literally). So how does a guy that used to buy cows and pigs by the halves swap that for a greenhouse and giant garden? How does a big “tough” guy go from processing and smoking meat in his backyard to passing out kale to his neighbors? How does a fat guy go from being the number one customer at the local pizza place with visits in the range of 10 times per week to having over 2500 plants growing in his backyard? Since I never sought out the plant based lifestyle how did it find me? The answer is one simple word…………..CONSEQUENCES. The rules were very simple for me when I found out that certain foods made me feel like crap and certain food made me feel amazing. All I did was eat food that made me feel better. Coincidentally, that food ended up turning into a whole foods plant based diet with no oils.
Here is a list of consequences that followed my food choices. It is incomplete at best and there are hundreds more, some I’m probably not even aware of.
- A good night’s sleep- this was one of the first changes that happened to me. If you have trouble sleeping you can relate to the idea that going a few nights without sleeping is a sort of hell you don’t want to be in. By the same token waking up after an uninterrupted night of rest was perhaps the most invigorating thing I had felt in years.
- No more sleep apnea (or snoring)- my entire life I have snored like a freight train. We always joked about it. The reality is snoring is actually troubled breathing and that disappeared literally in a month or two.
- Energy- At 43 years old I swear I have more energy than I did at 18. I am up before 6 most mornings with no alarm and I challenge anyone to follow me around for the day. I feel like the energizer bunny.
- No more being sick – working in a school I am exposed to every virus and bug that’s going around. I used to be sick for almost half of the year. If I do catch something like a cold, it’s not even once a year and it lasts for 2 or 3 days.
- SINUSES- this one is HUGE! I struggled with sinus infections my entire life. They were debilitating at times, I was actually hospitalized once for them. I have not had any trouble with sinuses since shortly after I went “all in” on the veggies.
- Allergies – gone, no more crusty eye boogers in the morning.
- Eczema- My skin used to get so raw I would get infections. My eczema is gone but I still have dry skin which is manageable with moisturizer.
- Inflammation and edema- I could write a book on this one. (and I am) My entire body was filled with inflammation. From my face down to my feet, everything had so much fluid I could hardly wear socks on my feet. I got to the point where my shoes could not be laced up or my feet would be “welded” to them when I took them off. Now even if I roll an ankle there is a slight amount of swelling which subsides in a day or two just like it should.
- Atrophy – The worse I felt, the less I moved. The less I moved, the less I was able to move. I had reached a point where I couldn’t get up a small flight of stairs without taking a break. Now, I climb mountains.
- Heart issues – My blood pressure was measured at 255 / 115 at the doctor’s office. It was so high sometimes I use to lay the remote on my chest in bed and it would literally jump of my chest and catch air. My resting pulse was 105. Now, it’s 105….. on the treadmill at a slow jog. My BP 120 / 65.
- Triglycerides – 259 to 85
- Sugar – 116 to 84
- Cholesterol-175 to 120
- All other blood markers – Better
- Doctor visits – On average I saw either a specialist or my primary 4 times a month. Now, one time a year. BUT I do have contact with his office regularly to give advice to his some of his patients.
- Prescriptions – you have no idea. Mine were well over 2000 dollars a month. The list was HUGE! Now, a B12 supplement
- Constipation – (sorry) If you have every been constipated for a couple days you will understand why this made the list. I can tell you this, with the amount of fiber in my diet now I move more freely than a river after a heavy rain. 😉
- There are many more physical changes but my entire physical make up has changed from a crippled, sickly fat guy into a healthy sort of athlete / adventurer.
Okay, cool, there are a few physical things, but what about emotional changes? Some of the emotional changes are a result of the prescriptions I was taking. Without the change in the diet I would still be on them so, in my book, they count.
- Anxiety – Many of my anxieties came from the bad habits I had used to escape my reality. No need for details but when you are trying to escape it becomes a full time job to stay “escaped”. There’s way more on this (book maybe?) but……… Now, the absolute last thing I want to do is escape life. I LOVE LIFE and I don’t want to miss a second of it. As a result, anxiety – gone!
- Depression – I have always had the attitude of “suck it up buttercup” but month after month and year after year of being in survival mode can wear on your emotions. Of course I was depressed, I would eat myself into a coma and rot in front of a TV. Who wouldn’t be depressed? My depression disappeared with accomplishments. The more I accomplished the better I felt about myself. If you lose some weight and cross the finish line of your first 5K I find its almost impossible to be depressed.
- Self-esteem – Not only did the depression subside but it completely shifted the other direction. It is one thing to help yourself but if you spread the word and help other people it is a level of feeling good about yourself that is like no other.
- Relationships – My life was in survival mode and so was my marriage. Marriages can’t be built in front of a TV screen, trust me, tried. Now, our marriage is one adventure after another, one accomplishment after another, and new things are added to the list weekly. We encourage each other and have become accustomed to giving it our “all” in EVERY aspect of our lives.
- Responsibility – my focus was on surviving and I had no room to do extra. Day after day of doing just enough to get by meant keeping my responsibilities to the minimum making excuses for everything along the way. Now, if you want something done give it to me and I figure out how to do it. Everything that I am responsible for in life is taken care of in a far better way than before.
How about spiritually? (Yep, I’m going there)
- Relationship – just as my marriage was in survival mode so was every relationship. You cannot deepen or strengthen ANY relationship in front of a TV or stuffing your face with food.
- Creation – the best way to experience our Creator is to get your butt outside and enjoy nature. I can’t believe what I had missed out on while I sat in the house. I learned that you don’t have to go far to see some amazing things around us. The day I stood still and quiet on top of a mountain with a heart full of gratitude was one of the coolest spiritual connections I have ever experienced.
- Gratitude – My life was so full of bitterness and resent about what I didn’t have I never had time to focus on what I did have. Did a plant – based diet really change that? You bet it did, I don’t know how and it’s definitely not a placebo effect but the better I eat the more gratitude I have.
- Service- My selfish life consisted of me. I didn’t have time for anyone because I was too consumed with all that was wrong with me. My heart is devoted to helping others, now. You don’t believe me? I’m writing this blog at this very minute in the hopes of helping just one person. I could be doing many other things. Things that I really need to get done, but helping other people has become a new way of life for me.
So there ya go, this is not a complete list just a few of the things that have changed. I am not telling anyone to wake up tomorrow and switch to a WFPB diet but……. It may not be a bad idea to try it for even 2 weeks to prove me wrong. If you’re not willing to do that just start swapping foods out like I wrote about in this blog post. (click here) The very fact that you read this to the end show that you are looking so give it a whirl if you’re curious. What’s the worst thing that can happen?
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If you haven’t seen my story, check this out.
My Plant Based Journey.
My Plant Based Journey.
“Eat plants, move your body. All ya got to do is a little more than ya did yesterday😉 ”
Until next time,