If It Feels Good, Do It - How a one week plant-based fast changed the way I look at food and life

I have struggled with body image issues for most of my life.  For a dude, that's a hard thing to discuss... we aren't supposed to give a crap about that sort of thing once we hit our thirties and start having kids.  "Dad-body," right?  Well I did/do/always have.  As a kid, I was portly to say the least.  In high school, I leaned out a bit playing a lot of sports and being a pretty active guy.  But I secretly obsessed about how I looked and envied those guys who could put on muscle fast, and who were born with a six-pack... damn them!!  My love affair with food was also very real.  I love to cook, and I love to eat.  Always experimenting in the kitchen... cooking has been my creative outlet for as long as I can remember.  And, as much as I enjoy eating all the good food myself, I love cooking for other people and seeing them enjoy my food just as much.  Part of that is probably a little ego, but I generally like to feed people.     

The best way to describe how I used to approach cooking and the food I would eat and serve was carnivorous.  Heavy on the meat, lots of butter/oil, and maybe even a spicy little sauce.  None of these things are in and of themselves bad, but I had no idea about the impact this way of eating was having on how I felt.  As I got older, I generally ate better quality food (which I could now afford), limited my carbs - because "carbs are the enemy" :), and loaded up on the veggies, which I always loved and craved.  But meat was still the centerpiece... I loved a big fat steak. For me, every meal (3-4 times a day) centered around a big piece of meat... every meal!  

Working out is also a big part of my life, partly because if I don't workout I am a complete mental maniac - which is sometimes the case even with a 5-miler under my belt - and partly because I could never get "that look" I wanted... lean and muscular.  I could always pack on the muscle and crush some weight in the gym, but lean was not how one might describe me.  In college, I ballooned up to 225lbs on a 5'10" frame - lots of heavy lifting, but also a ton of heavy drinking and eating (more on the drinking perhaps later - another journey for another day).  I was in the gym every day, religiously - I would skip class just to work out or when I hit the working world I would show up late or leave early just to get some extra time in the gym.  Working out was, and still very much is, another centerpiece of my life.  Although today that obsession has changed pretty dramatically, I LOVE the endorphin rush and the clarity of mind that a good workout provides.  But working out didn't change everything - I still felt bloated and tired.  Something was still missing.  

As I got older and continued to experiment with food choices and diets, I couldn't escape the feeling of being bloated and sluggish.  I leveled out at about 190lbs with better overall food choices, but getting leaner and feeling more energetic eluded me... I couldn't crack the code.  I tried high fat, I tried low carb, I even restricted my delicious love affair with meat.  But none of that worked.  Then the day came where Kristen and I said we were going to do a 1-week entirely plant-based "fast."  At first I felt nothing different other than friggin hungry all the time.  The first 3 days were a little rough.  I felt like I was going through withdrawals - a feeling I know intimately.  But then, something started to happen.  For this first time in as long as I can remember, that feeling started to go away.  I felt tighter.  What the heck was happening.  

That 1-week plant-based "challenge" quickly turned into 2-weeks and the results in how I felt were, for me, amazing.  After years of feeling bloated and tired, something finally clicked.  My bloating started to go away and I felt better, and with more energized.  Then Thanksgiving that year rolled around and the Christmas holiday right afterwards... the wheels on that party bus fell right off.  I was eating meat again, though much less often than before.  The bloating came right back, and the sluggishness came right along with it.  Time for another change.  I went to eating meat only at dinner, and this helped.  Restricting my animal protein helped a lot.  But true to my nature, I wanted more.  I wanted to feel MORE better :).  I went back to a 1-week plant-based diet and BAM!  Instant gratification.  Felt better - less bloated and more energy.  That's it, I was hooked.  

Today, I am about 95% plant-based.  I eat fish about once a week and the occasional piece of steak or chicken if I am feeling it. I do this because of the way it makes me feel.  It feels good for my body and so that keeps me coming back for more.  There are lots of added benefits to a plant-based diet that I enjoy as well.  There is the ecological impact - meat production is a pretty nasty and pollutant industry.  There is also the economic impact - my grocery bill is a lot less now that I am not spending $200+/week on meat products.  But those are side-benefits, I eat this way because it makes me feel better.  My journey has taken me to this point where I want to figure out why it makes me feel better.  And, just like my cooking, I want to share that will other people and watch them feel better too.  That's what this is all about.  Its a journey we take together - one cucumber (or pickle in my case) at a time!  


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