Food has always been an exciting part of my life. I am constantly looking forward to my next meal and thinking about what savory taste will hit my taste buds next. Tasting new foods and discovering a new favorite is exhilarating for me. Growing up shrimp was always a favorite of mine. No matter if its grilled, fried, baked, or boiled you can never go wrong. I could eat my weight in shrimp or pretty much any other food that I liked. Luckily I am also pretty athletic and have played sports my whole life so I never had to think about what I was eating or worry about counting calories or anything like that.
Life As a Collegiate Athlete
Now I play Division 1 basketball in college and things are a little different in terms of nutrition. We do DEXA scans that measure our body fat a few times a year. My coaches want to make sure we are in the best shape possible, so they take our body fat percentages pretty seriously. My freshman year of college my body fat was as high as 18%. That may not seem crazy high, but considering the average division 1 male basketball player’s body fat is 6-12% (According to NCAA.ORG) I was pretty far off. This was a bit eye opening for me and I realized I need to start taking my nutrition more seriously. I looked up traditional diets and spoke to the licensed nutritionist on campus and made some good strides. By the end of my sophomore season, I was down to 10% body fat (around 175 lbs). Getting down to that weight was tough for me however, considering what I said earlier about how I love food. A lot of nights I went to bed hungry because I had reached my calorie intake limit for the day. Its not like I was starving myself or anything, but I was definitely not eating as much as I wanted to. This diet was hard for me to keep up and I let off it a little my junior year and at the end of the season I was back to 15% body fat. Not where I wanted to be.
Now it is the summer before my senior year. Man, college really does fly by. I haven’t gotten a DEXA scan since the end of my junior year season, but I now weigh about 170 lbs and feel like I am by far in the best shape of my life. I am also lifting the heaviest weight of my college career. Well, what changed? Like most college students, I watched Netflix. Obviously sitting on the couch binge watching House of Cards wasn’t the reason I am feeling and looking the way I am now. I watched the documentary What The Health. I’ve watched other documentaries that have talked about the mistreatment of animals by the food industry and it has affected me, but not enough to change my eating habits or lifestyle. However, this documentary had my jaw to the floor for a majority of the time. I had never known the relationship between diet and disease before watching this documentary. Eating meat and animal products makes me that more likely to get Cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other terrible health problems?? I was shocked, and a little worried (considering my favorite snack in the world are Cheez-its!). I didn’t stop there, I decided to read How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Greger to learn the science behind this information that was new to me and see if the documentary was actually accurate. It is a fantastic book and I recommend it to anyone considering a plant based diet or want to learn about the effects of eating the Standard American Diet. I also watched countless YouTube videos about the topic of diet. I was turned off of eating meat that night I watched the documentary, and haven’t touched it since (which is somewhat fitting considering the last meat I ate was fried shrimp from my school dining hall).
I honestly haven’t had much desire to eat any meat since that day and I have already noticed the positive changes to my body. Like I mentioned earlier, I am the lightest I have ever been ( I have lost about 9 pounds since I stopped eating meat) and I feel amazing. I have more energy during the day and get better rest at night. I usually have trouble switching off my brain at night and I think about the most random thoughts possible but for the past few weeks it doesn’t take me long after I lay down to fall asleep. I have also been hitting the weights pretty hard and I have noticed an increase in my strength. I honestly was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to put on muscle if I ate a plant based diet but I no longer worry about that at all. I have eliminated most animal products from my diet, but I still occasionally use some honey or salad dressing that has some milk in it. But that is the great part about changing over to a plant based diet, you can do it gradually or over night. Either way you’re still going to see positive results in a short amount of time. If you are worried about making the switch, do it slowly by avoiding meat for just two or three days a week, or maybe try to wait until dinner to eat meat or any animal products. I promise you’ll start to see positive results in no time.
What I Eat Now
So what do I eat? I am pretty much at the mercy of my college dining hall, but I do have to admit they have some good options. There is a salad bar at every meal so I make sure to load my plate up with spinach leaves, topped with cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, beans, and walnuts when they are available. There is usually fresh fruit as well, so I eat as much fruit as I want! Bananas, apples, watermelon, pineapple, whatever is available. Some meals I eat three or four bananas in one sitting. Usually fruit and salad is at every meal so I always eat those. Everything else is dependent upon what is being served that day. I usually aim for vegetables, rice, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pasta whenever it is available. Typically, at least one or two of those foods are available at a meal so that is what I eat!
My favorite part of the plant based diet is that I eat as much as I want. I don’t have to worry about counting calories or counting macros because I know that I am eating healthy food and getting all of the vitamins and macros I need. I love the choice I made to transition to a plant based diet. It has seriously changed my life. Maybe its just the power of the mind, but I feel like I am in the best shape of my life and based on the science and research I’ve done on the benefits of eating a plant based diet, this is probably the best decision I have ever made! I know this has been a long post and future posts probably wont be this long, but I wanted to give a background on myself and give my story on the switch to healthy eating! Whats your story about switching to a plant based diet? Let me know I would love to hear it!