Author: Nicki Klein
On January 5, 2015, I decided to give up meat for a month. Yes, I know most “New Year’s Resolutions” begin on the first of January, but I’ve always been a procrastinator. I can’t say why I originally picked this goal for myself-mostly I suppose it was a challenge. I didn’t think I could do it, so I wanted to see if somehow I could.
The interesting thing-that very same day, mere minutes after my goal began, I sustained a (re)injury that would affect my fitness for months. Long story short, I hurt my back in 2007 during a car vs. 2 18-wheeler car accident. While driving to work on the 5th (I normally bike), I coughed, and threw out my back. This was my first flare up. I was confined to my couch for 2 weeks, and ran very little for the next three months. At a time when I normally would have been tempted by emotional eating, I had a goal to strive for. Because of that goal, I didn’t gain any weight during that first month of inactivity (I literally ran 1 mile in January). After I reached my month long goal, I figured I might as well keep with it and see how long I could go. In April, I finally started picking up my fitness again, and over the following months, I’ve been training for a 100 mile race (my second ultra-my first was a 50k training run for this race) taking place on December 5th. I’ve also taken up yoga recently, and I still try and fit in all my hobbies occasionally (climbing, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking). I know that my food lifestyle (it’s not a diet-diets are temporary, and generally bad for you) has definitely been a factor in my overall health improvements in the past 11 months.
Let me offer a disclaimer here: I am not vegan, nor am I a vegetarian, nor a pescetarian (a lesser known term that means the only meat source consumed is seafood). After my month long goal, I told people I was a mostly pescetarian. Now I say I’m a mostly vegetarian. I never buy meat products at the grocery store, and I rarely purchase them when dining out. I will occasionally consume meat, only so that my stomach can handle such foods when I’m really craving a juicy burger, some boneless wings, or something comparable. And, I live in Louisiana-I definitely enjoy raw oysters, shrimp po boys and crawfish boils occasionally. But those occurrences are rare. For the most part, I consume LOTS of produce (I’m a member of a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group). A hashtag I frequently use on Facebook is #poweredbyproduce. I also eat lentils, quinoa, cous cous, whole wheat pasta, rice (although there’s talk of too much rice being toxic, so I’m careful about how much rice I eat), beans, and chickpeas on a regular basis. And I haven’t given up all animal products. I LOVE eggs, and use them as a source of protein on a regular basis. Cheese is infrequent, more of a special treat. Fortunately, I never really liked cow’s milk, so substitutes like almond and rice milk work well for me.
In order to make sure I’m getting the all the nutrients I need, I take dietary supplements including: Calcium 600+D (1 tablet per day that provides 400 IU, or 100%, of my vitamin D needs, as well as 600mg, or 60% of my daily calcium); as well as 65mg of iron, or 361% of my daily needs. I also take a glucosamine/chondroitin capsule on a daily basis. Although research is back and forth about the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, I feel like it helps me, so I continue to take it.
Overall, I feel my nutritional changes have done nothing but good for me. I love knowing the fuel I feed my body is natural-if I don’t recognize an item on a nutritional label, it’s probably not for me. I haven’t noticed any negative changes in my energy levels, and I feel better both mentally and physically when I’m not eating all the processed foods that are so frequently shown to us in advertisements and below bright lights in our grocery stores. I haven’t eaten at a McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s etc. since that first day, January 5th, because what’s the point of going to a fast food place for a salad? Really. And I’ve lost weight (down from approximately 130 to 122-I’m 5’5”), but more importantly, I’ve lost fat. I can feel it, and I notice it in my clothes. I was a size 6-8 (ladies, we know how each brand is sized different), and now a size 2 feels a little roomie. That’s definitely a good feeling!
Although some people make more extreme nutritional changes than I have ie Scott Jurek (http://www.scottjurek.com/) or the No Meat Athlete Matt Frazier (http://www.nomeatathlete.com/), I’m proud of the changes I’ve made, and I feel my choices are sustainable, for me. Sure, I give in to a steak and potatoes dinner occasionally, and yes, some processed candy was proooobably consumed during the month of October (dangit, Halloween), but overall, I’m a much healthier individual than I was 11 months ago. Additionally, I know I’m causing less harm to the environment than my meat-eating peers. It takes “2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef (http://www.earthsave.org/environment.htm) -not to make you feel guilty or anything, my friendly carnivores. And finally, I don’t have to watch those videos of animal abuse at factories and feel like I’m contributing to their mistreatment. In the end, my story is proof that you can lead an active lifestyle, while eating healthy, natural, “mostly-vegetarian” meals.
* No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog, although the last piece of Halloween candy may or may not have been consumed during such.
A typical daily meal plan during training season
-Breakfast: sweet potatoes, green peppers, and onions steamed with water and coconut oil, topped with siracha; an orange
-Snack #1: red pepper strips and a hardboiled egg
-Lunch: mixed greens salad with grape tomatoes, avocado, sunflower seeds, red pepper strips, olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, black pepper (and any other toppings I have available at the time); sweet potato chipotle chili topped with Greek yogurt and avocado
-Snack # 2: grape tomatoes
-Post workout snack: roasted turnip wedges, almonds, and a banana
-Dinner: whole wheat pasta with roasted Brussel sprouts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil (will substitute pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles, quinoa, cous cous, lentils or rice; and will substitute veggies depending on what I get in my weekly CSA)
-per day, I usually drink 1 cup of black coffee, 1 cup of green tea, a good beer (or two), and lots of water
-not pictured: something sweet, such as a small piece of dark chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels
Guest post by Nickie Klein