Toward the end of 2016 I was dealing with chronic GI-related issues, like upset stomach, constipation, insomnia, headaches, nausea, dehydration, and diarrhea. It seemed the foodie practices I’d adopted over the years were no longer any fun for my stomach. And I can’t blame it: I would consistently indulge in an unlimited variety of high-fat, carb-intense, dairy-filled meals. I’m talking about having Thai for lunch and Indian for dinner and then Italian the next day. You won’t find that on Whole30.
Before my GI issues, I was running a lot and training for my second marathon. Unfortunately, my whole exercise regimen was completely shot when I started exhibiting these symptoms, and by mid-October, I’d stopped running completely. Within four months I gained close to 25 pounds.
Then, in January 2017, I found out that I had non-malignant colonic polyps growing in my large intestinal tract. I learned that the polyps produce mucous secretions, which decrease the body’s ability to absorb nutrients or allow the formation of healthy stool. So, to put it nicely, this led to a backup in the plumbing. I needed to have resection surgery (the removal of a part of the bowel).
Afterward, my doctor advised that I ease my way into a healthy diet. I tried eating dairy, poultry, and meat, but my body was just not having it.
The whole experience really put the way I treated my body into perspective. I thought back to how I would cater to my appetite’s desires without regard to how it might impact my life and health.
Luckily, I found a new way of eating a few weeks post-op, almost by accident.
Transitioning To A Plant-Based Diet
One night I happened upon this quaint little vegan café on the banks of the Hudson. There, I had the most delicious lasagna I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting—and the ingredients were vegetable-based, to my surprise. I’d entered a state of foodie euphoria unlike anything I had experienced in a quite a long time.
Needless to say, I went back for more of that amazing food, until I realized that it had a bit of an effect on my wallet. Eating vegan food on a consistent basis is pretty expensive if you’re not also preparing meals at home. I decided to start cooking and cut out red meats, poultry, and dairy.
I’ll be honest: It was one of the hardest things I could have done. Still, I knew it was right for me. With vegan food, I could have a full meal and feel sated—without feeling full to the point where I wanted to nap.
If you asked me a year ago if I’d be eating vegan, I would have laughed hysterically. I was the guy who ordered filet mignon (medium rare), reveling in the taste of the bloody juices. I ordered extra parmesan topping on my pasta. But this is now my reality. I eat plenty of lean pastas, fruits, and veggies—and I love it.
How Plant-Based Eating Transformed Me
The changes were almost immediate.
Without eating meat and dairy, my body just felt better. The level of consistent energy that I felt (and now feel) throughout the day was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. It’s as if I’m always running on 100 percent battery life.
Plant-based meals have very little amounts of fat (and any fat it does have is unsaturated fat and mainly poly-chained). Also, plant-based foods are way lower in sodium (loads of sodium affects our bodies by increasing heart rate and blood pressure, and retaining extra water weight).
Within two weeks of clean eating, I lost eight pounds of weight and dropped a pant size. My skin looked brighter more alive. By mid-March I cut out eggs and replaced them with tofu. After a week I lost an additional three pounds. By May, I lost nine more pounds.
Sure, I gave up some of my favorite foods, but I discovered new ones. I now make an easy recipe for cashew cheese, which I then use to make the most delicious vegan mac n’ cheese ever. I learned a fun recipe for chocolate chia pudding (a great dessert). I’ve adopted a chick pea pasta and zucchini noodle pasta to fulfill my complex carbohydrate dreams. I’m always discovering new foods.
A week ago, a colleague asked me if I was worried about getting enough protein. I explained that I’m ingesting anywhere between 100–130 grams of protein on a daily basis on my vegan diet (most people are surprised you can get protein from sources other than meat!). I’m a huge fan of the plnt hemp protein, as well as the Garden of Life plant-based protein in vanilla.
At the beginning of February, I also decided to lace up again and start running. It took a while, but I am now at a 8:28 minute mile and I can go as far as seven miles in one run.
On top of it all, my finances have thanked me. I went from spending an average of $100 per week on meals and snacks to $30 a week having three meals and three snacks a day. What?!
To date, I haven’t experienced any digestive health complications, and I’ve lost a total of 18 pounds. I went from feeling tired, fatigued, sleepy, and overweight to a completely new me.