By: Kris Berry
For a while I’ve been considering making a switch to a plant-based diet, or at least trying to reduce the amount of meat I’ve been eating. I couldn’t identify the exact reasoning behind my desire to switch, other than veggies and fruits just seemed more appealing to me. I would be drawn to pictures of vegetables-all the vibrant colors and how fresh and healthy everything looked. Also, the pictures would plant a feeling in my mind of how much healthier I feel when I eat vegetables and fruit. However, taking that initial step to eliminate meat was scary to me. I gave it up one time while I was in graduate school and I was pretty ill that year. But, when reflecting back on that, I realized I did not do a good job giving my body what it needs to be healthy. I wasn’t eating meat, but I was eating a ton of refined carbs, dairy and processed foods with very little whole grains and raw vegetables and fruit. So this time, before I took the leap, I did some research.
Initially, I began thinking more about my running. I had the desire to get faster and feel more successful with my runs. I started doing some research on the diets of some professional athletes and long distance runners. I found a lot of them ate a vegetarian or even a vegan diet. Seems counter-intuitive right? But it’s true. There are so many amazing athletes who do not eat meat including football players (example: Joe Namath), tennis stars (ex: Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King), basketball players (ex: Robert Parish), body builders, baseball players, runners, and the list goes on.
Most people ask me questions about protein. I have learned that if you eat a whole food diet consisting of varied plant sources you will get the amount of protein necessary for your body. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t want to offer any medical advice. A quick Google search will lead you to plenty of online resources you can check out to learn about the medical implications of switching to this diet, including protein sources.
So, I started learning about athletes eating vegetarian diets, but I was still a bit leery of actually making the commitment to switching. Then I saw Food, Inc. If you need any motivation to make the switch, this movie has lots of it to offer. It really gets you thinking about what we, as a society, put into our bodies on a daily basis. After that movie, I watched Forks Over Knives which basically cemented it for me. I also read Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Renee Raudman and The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. Much of the information I gleaned from all of these sources was repetitive, but repetition is very helpful in making a life-changing switch.
Since February I have not eaten any meat. Initially I was still eating fish quite frequently, but as of late, I rarely eat fish (although I admit I do on occasion). I have also eliminated pretty much all dairy from my diet. Prior to my eating switch I didn’t drink milk, I just never cared for it and it didn’t sit well in my stomach. However, I did eat a lot of cheese and yogurt. I have cut all of that out as well as butter and other dairy. Just like the fish, I have had a cheese slip-up on occasion, but for the most part, I am dairy free.
I can honestly tell you – physically I feel better than I ever have. I have noticed drastic changes in my body, I am able to comfortably maintain a body weight which prior was a struggle to even reach. I no longer drink coffee or caffeine, not because I don’t want it, but because I don’t need it. I wake up naturally between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. in the morning with tons of energy. My running has improved as well. Since my eating changes, I have noticed that I have gotten faster when I run. I have gotten faster without working on my speed, it has just developed naturally. I credit it to the over-all lighter feeling I have since eliminating meat and dairy from my diet.
I know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Plenty of people have said to me that they understand it, but they “can’t stop eating meat.” That’s fine, you need to make your own choices regarding your diet. So far eating this way has been a positive change in my life and it has been a painless transition. I hope my story might motivate someone on the fence to attempt this lifestyle.