21 Day Vegan Challenge
Yes, you read that title correctly. The guy who routinely eats salami, cheese and mayo sandwiches before long runs completed a 21 day full Vegan challenge.
Couple of reasons – I have a long time client and friend who has been a Vegan for 2 years (he likes to call it a “whole food plant based diet”). He had a heart attack and decided to change his life and diet completely to attempt to clean up his arteries (it worked, by the way — but he also lost a lot of weight which I think had a lot to do with his results — we argue about this all the time). He has been preaching (and, trust me, “preaching” is a very accurate description of how he talks about it – no judgement here, I am sure that the way people perceive I talk about exercise) this diet to me and the guys he trains with forever.
Just to be transparent from the get go, I am not now, and have never been, an advocate of a diet completely void of animal products – but talking to him made me decide to do this challenge for two main reasons: 1. It is the the only diet I have not personally tried and I like to teach my weight loss class with at least a small amount of personal experience with every diet we talk about. 2. I knew it would be very tough for me to complete and, well, as you know by now, I kind of like challenges.
The word that pops out to me more than anything else is “surprising”.
Not in the way you might think – I was not surprised because I felt so completely different and amazing when I eliminated all animal products (which is what my client predicted).
In fact I felt worse. Gassy, lack of energy, lack of motivation to exercise, slower recovery from hard workouts and total and complete bonking after only 2 hours running in training.
Also, did I mention gassy? Yuk, not fun.
Not for me, or my friends and family 🙂 No, my surprise was how much I missed dairy. I really thought I would miss, and crave, meat of all types (and I did) but what I really missed was dairy. Cream in my coffee, wonderful cheese, whip cream, ice cream, amazing cheese, etc. The other surprise is how much dairy really is in my “normal” diet. Because I never drink milk (like, a glass of milk) I don’t think of myself as a “dairy lover”. The other thing I learned was a complete and total appreciation for those who do this diet full time. Again, I don’t think it is healthy or the way humans were built to eat – but that being said I believe in personal choice and respect and honor those that choose this way to eat. It is certainly better than the “average” American Diet. Man, our society does not make this way of eating easy. You can do it, and you can eat just about everywhere – but you really, really have to plan ahead and be creative. It is so hard to get the quality protein you need to survive, and more importantly, thrive, when you eat a plant based diet. Another great benefit is that it really increased my empathy for the clients I have in my weight loss classes. For the first time in my memory, I really had to think, read labels and plan “outside my box” and it was a big change. It really makes me more understanding when I have a new client who has never really thought about the food they put in their bodies and I am asking them to read labels, log their food, watch portions, etc. Even though I love meat, in a strange way I really wish I felt this amazing change in my body (like I started running like Scott Jurek) – perhaps when I go back to my normal diet (which, by the way, will include more vegetables – another benefit of the 21 days) I will notice some negative changes associated with certain foods – especially dairy.
I think the spiritual lesson was the one of putting yourself in another’s shoes to feel their challenges.
I have more empathy for those looking to change their diets.
I have more respect for those who choose to eat like this full time. Especially ultra runners — you can’t even eat brownies after a 30 mile run, ouch!!!
I have complete empathy for those who have a very powerful reason (“why factor”) to do this and how hard it is to follow it in our current society.
That all being said, anyone up for a bacon cheeseburger tonight?