Someone I know has recently sought my counsel on nutrition and the process of adopting a Whole Foods, Plant Based diet (WFPB). They were interested in understanding my 5 month journey from the SAD (Standard American Diet) to WFPB when I became serious about nutrition after our honeymoon between August 2014 thru December 2014.
Our honeymoon was 6 weeks long which circumnavigated the globe; a wedding in Stawell, VIC, AUS, another wedding on July 4th in NYC Harbour, an ironman, and a 2 week cruise through the Mediterranean. I came back fat and feeling awful. I decided I would finally read The China Study which completely opened my eyes.
Below is an extract of my blog entry “2015 GEELONG 70.3”:
Nutrition wise, I read multiple books starting with one book that my friend Trevor recommended to me back in 2009 and sat on my bookshelf for at least 4 years. The well cited book includes data and analysis from T Colin Campbell PhD about the link and trigger that animal protein has on cancerous cells. As a result, I went on an amazon shopping spree and read at least 10 other books. The next notable was Thrive by a vegan professional triathlete where he discusses reducing stress in the body due to nutrition. The end result was a meat/fish free lifestyle progression over August – December because my belief that animal protein leads to stroke, cancer, heart disease, and chronic diseases of the western diet. Fiona joined me in this venture and we also removed all regular milk to soy and primarily almond milk, butter is now vegetable butter, and eggs are only consumed except for a few dishes that require it. We will continue to ease into this vegan lifestyle and make it more a habit to really take this on. So from Jan 1st till the race we were vegetarian athletes. Race Day weight was about 183 pounds, having lost about 20 pounds since August 2014. We did this primarily through nutrition. 4-6 pieces of fruit per day, salads throughout the week, vegetable stirfrys, brown rice, whole grain pastas, oats in the AM, etc. Like many others, I had more energy and was able to wake up earlier to train on a Whole Foods-Plant Based diet.
I set a personal best in that race with a 4:33:07 taking 15minutes off my prior time.
In August 2015 after competing in Ironman Australia and narrowly missing a spot in Kona (by less than 5 minutes), I wrote another blog entry “WEIGHT LOSS FOR ANYONE”:
Listen, I could say so many things right now about diet/nutrition/Paleo/Vegetarian etc. But I’ll keep it short. Firstly, I read the China Study and believe T Colin Campbell’s research that animal protein causes cancer. I read Brendan Braziers book Thrive and believe the western diet causes high acidity in the body which doesn’t support recovery. I continued to read many other books as well and know of Vegan Ultra Marathoners such as Rich Roll and Scott Jurek and the success they have had on vegan diets being some of the fittest people in the world. I have read the above noted Paleo book and call it unrealistic and a temporary fad. My proof is in my graphs. What I have done, how I feel, and the blood analysis to prove it.
In June 2016 after following a WFPB diet 95% of the year for 1 ½ years, I qualified for the 2016 Ironman World Championship at Ironman Cairns. I wrote a blog entry entitled “IRONMAN NUTRITION: STATUS OF MY HEALTH” and mentioned T. Colin Campbell PhD once again:
Six weeks later, in August 2014, after our world-wide honeymoon we landed back in Alice Springs ready to pursue Geelong 70.3 and Ironman Australia, over the next 9 months. I started reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell PhD, a book that I had been sitting on for several years. As I read the controversial book the message was clear: animal based proteins were proven to on and turn off cancer and that the SAD diet leads to nearly all of the chronic diseases coming out of Western Society. Campbell advocates a whole-food plant based diet with minimal oils and added salt; it’s basically vegan.
It’s now March 2017. I can say that after 2 years and 3 months both Fiona I still stick to a WFPB diet (no fish/meat/eggs/cows milk) more than 95% of the year (4 weeks Triathlon transition / 52weeks + WFPB on some of those days = 95%). I typically describe us being “on a mostly vegan diet”.
Two weeks ago after competing in Ironman New Zealand, we were on an 11 day Princess Cruise in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I had the ultimate drink package drinking wine, beer, and whisky throughout the day and stuffing my face full of food from 6AM till 11:30PM. I did actually go to the gym and exercised on the Precor Elliptical machine all but one day and walked nearly 15,000 steps around the ship everyday but liquor, fried food, lack of sleep, and doing all of this 4 days after an Ironman set me up for an awful first week back in Alice Springs. I had gone from 183 pounds to 197 pounds over 3 weeks and felt like complete shit. I was tired and my body was highly acidic. But we started back towards a WFPB diet by having the vegetarian option on the flight back home (a hot bean sandwich) and have been feeling better every day since. Over the first week and a half I had 2 eggs, chicken/prawn dumplings, 1 piece of chocolate, salmon one night with prawns, and 1 steak sandwich. That is all the non-vegan food I ate over the first 12 days so it’s not a surprise that with training more than 25 hours per week, I’d already lose enough weight to be back to 187 pounds.
There is a time to party which should really be done 5% of the time (4 weeks = 2×2 week transition phases). But the other 95% of the time should be focused on consuming arguably, irrefutably, and scientifically proven the best food one could consume: Whole Foods Plant Based.
Back to the question that started this blog “tell me about that journey”. The journey from SAD to WFPB is one that starts with research, not from magazines or blog articles but from real books, written by PhD’s that have a bibliography of real scientific journals quoted as reference. Other books will then fill you with other ideas as to why we should consume plants: the pain animals go through and the fact that eating the way we do is highly unsustainable. Step 2 is buying WFPB cookbooks that are very quick and easy to use like “Eat, Tasty, Good” or “The China Study Cookbook” or “The Engine 2 Diet”. Step 3 would then be identifying the practical ways to remove meat, fish, and dairy such simply not buying meat and realize that there are incredible foods you can eat that don’t contain meat like pastas, stirfrys, and rice dishes while also replacing cows milk with almond or soy milk and substituting yogurt for fruit. Step 4 would be to go to your favourite restaurants but look for dishes without meat; the dishes you never actually chose before because they Didn’t contain meat. Step 5 don’t listen to anyone else as they probably have no idea what the hell they are talking about such as where do you get protein and iron from; ask them the last time they ate spinach.
From my own proven results, when I consumed a WFPB diet, I qualified for the Boston Marathon, set a 70.3 PB, set my marathon PB, and qualified for Kona. When I wasn’t eating WFPB, I felt like shit, put on weight, and didn’t perform. But most importantly, health is a long term vision of yourself. What you do today matters for 10, 20, 30 years from now. I have this lifestyle because I want to take in all this amazing world as to offer for as long as I possibly can.
The last piece of advice I would offer would be this. Don’t make absolutes or promises. Make the change over time. This isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle. Ease into it.