Problems with Plant-Based
I chose the plant-based vegan diet by No Meat Athlete. I probably chose it because it was geared toward athletes. In addition, I never really ate a ton of meat, so it seemed like it wouldn’t be such a huge adjustment. I bought the book and cookbook, and joined the Facebook groups. I drastically changed what I ate. I ate fruit smoothies every morning, consumed huge quantities of beans (he would often suggest just opening and dumping a can of beans in salads, smoothies, brownies, etc.), huge quantities of lentils, and made cashew-based dressings, cashew-based sauces, and so forth. I ate chick peas so much my boyfriend complained about it, and he never complains about any of the food I cook. I also ate a lot of soy products – tofu, edamame, soy yogurt, soy cheese, Morningstar soy products, etc. Finally, I was plant-based so carbs were allowed. I ate my “healthy” Kashi cereals with cashew-almond milk every morning, bowl of corn grits, waffles, hashbrowns, and soy patties. And that was just for breakfast. I enjoyed brown rice, potato soups, tomatoes, and big bags of roasted peanuts from Trader Joe’s. It was great and filling, but I never noticed any improvement in my performance. I still stuck with it, but allowed some meat and dairy to creep in now and then.
After two months of this diet, I began experiencing extreme fatigue. I would wake up and feel so tired that I just wanted to go back to sleep. I remember sitting in my kitchen just exhausted, wondering what was wrong with me and wanting to cry. My family visited me for Thanksgiving and I literally had a meltdown in my kitchen, I was so tired. I felt fatigue driving them around and thought to myself how unsafe this is and how I shouldn’t even be driving. I saw my doctor and got blood work done. My ANA (Antinuclear Antibodies) test came out abnormal. Turns out I had a mystery autoimmune disease. What followed was weeks of appointments with rheumatologists, more blood work, and no answers! I decided perhaps it was my workout routine. I cut back on the exercising and began introducing more rest days. That seemed to help. I allowed more meat and dairy to creep in, “just in case”. I was feeling frustrated, as I had felt totally fine before this diet switch.
It all came crashing down on me 3 months later. I was invited to Easter dinner at my boyfriend’s relative’s house. I consumed all sorts of food – bagels, cheese, crackers, duck sausage, seltzer water, hummus, ham, pineapple relish, a giant chunk of potato casserole, and a huge slice of carrot cake with icing. I had severe stomach pain that entire night, and woke up multiple times to use the bathroom. The next day I went in to work after downing a bowl of peanut butter shreds and cashew milk. While there, the stomach pains worsened. Finally, I took a calcium carbonate pill and minutes later I fainted on my office floor. I was driven home shortly thereafter. Shaun came over to babysit me and I snacked on Pringles. I fainted 2 more times that evening and finally went to the ER. After 8 hours of waiting and never being seen, I went home in disgust and anger. I could write an entire rant on the Christiana Hospital. What ensued were weeks of doctor visits, tests, and now cardiologist appointments. I underwent 2 stress tests, an EKG, and even wore a heart monitor for 2 weeks. Everything came back normal. During this time period I was feeling extreme fatigue, dizziness, and lightheadedness. It was a battle just to get through an important 3-day global meeting filled with working sessions and evenings of long business dinners struggling not to faint. I took off the entire month of April from working out.
Beginning Plant Paradox
While feeling lousy, my Mom sent me an article on April 21st that changed my life. That was my first introduction to the Plant Paradox. It was shocking to say the least. Whole grains are bad for you and white is better? Vegetables contain toxins known as lectins that are harmful to you? And finally, following the plan would cure almost all autoimmune disease? I was in! I was ready to try anything at this point. I bought the book and cookbook, and joined the Facebook groups. But this time, instead of being told what to do, Dr. Gundry explained the why behind it all. Why we are avoiding foods, and why we are eating others. I was educated on the science behind things and it just made sense to me. All those foods that I mentioned above are on the no list. Fruit contains sugar = bad, beans and lentils must be avoided (or pressure-cooked), cashews and peanuts are toxic legumes to be avoided, nightshades (squashes, tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melons) are from the Americas so the human body has had no time to adjust to it, so they are to be avoided (or prepared a certain way). Potato, soy, cereal, flour, crackers, cookies, pea protein, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, wheat, corn, and countless others are to be avoided due to the lectins. He even included a line item for my beloved Kashi products. I purged my entire house. I followed this diet for about a month and felt back to my normal self. No more fainting, no more fatigue. I was hooked now and wanted to learn more.
Purging my house of non-compliant foods
Dr. Gundry included a chapter for an “intensive” approach to plant paradox for those suffering from cancer and other life-threatening diseases. I was curious about it. It was the same as the regular plant paradox program, but introduced concepts of intermittent fasting and becoming fat-adapted. He calls it the Keto Plant Paradox Program and explains how your body prefers to burn fat instead of carbs. I wanted to learn more, however, so I bought a book Primal Endurance. It was all about the ketogenic diet for athletes. This was another eye-opening book with shocking statements. Fat is my friend! Eating fat will not make you fat! And to think of all those years avoiding bacon and diligently removing the skin off fried chicken…
I now count macros and try to stay under 50g of carbs per day. I try to fast 12-16 hours per day. As a result, I dropped 4 pounds without trying (nor was that my goal), and my hunger has been greatly reduced. I use MyFitnessPal to track macros and carbs. It’s amazing how carbs sneak into everything. Using it for the first week was immensely educational. I will increase carbs the night before or the day of a hard workout day. I believe there is benefit to a plant-based diet, but it just depends on the food you eat and how you execute the diet. Obviously my first approach did not work for me. Eventually, I will try to move toward a more plant-based diet, but for now I still feel I am in the transition to becoming fat-adapted. It’s a process that can take weeks to months after years of being carb-fueled. I keep a food diary and I track my weight, body fat, and water weight on a daily basis. I wear a Garmin Forerunner 935 to track my heart rate and stress level 24/7. I’m a data junkie and truly believe in the value of big data whether for food, business, sports, or life. The data always tells a story.
Here is what my daily diet looks like
I try to get everything organic, grass-fed/finished, pastured, or non-GMO. I often shop at Acme, ShopRite, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Newark Natural Food Co-Op, farmer’s markets, and online.
Breakfast (usually eaten around noon when I quite literally break fast):
- 5 oz So Delicious Unsweetened coconut yogurt with 1 tbsp ground flaxseed (I grind it myself with the Krups F203 which has a permanent spot on my kitchen counter). Sometimes I will sub in Lavva yogurt when on the go.
- 1 Green Egg Sausage Muffin
- 1 Avocado with lemon juice and “Everything but the bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s
- 8oz Osso bone broth (I tried the competing brand and it just wasn’t good due to the lack of collagen in the shelf stable box)
- Diced sweet potatoes in coconut oil (for intense workout days)
- Al Fresco chicken breakfast sausage
Big ass salad (organic mixed greens, goat cheese, 1 slice of prosciutto, 1 tbsp ground flaxseed) with a Primal Kitchen dressing (I love Green Goddess) or Almond Tumeric from Trader Joe’s, or just California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin olive oil and vinegar.
If I am not making a gourmet meal, then I will throw together whatever is in the fridge. One of my staples is making an egg scramble with onion, garlic, spinach, and mushrooms cooked in coconut oil.
- My all-time favorite nut mix! Quarter cup each of roasted/salted walnuts, macadamias, shelled pistachios, and pecans. I keep this on hand at all times, and often munch on it after workouts or to tide myself over.
- Compliant Quest bars
- Compliant Lara Bars
- Dark chocolate
Meals I have made from the cookbook