I started a Plant-Based Diet in my 40´s: This Is How I Feel One Year In
As a young kid, I remember that chicken, beef, pork, or fish were always the focus of lunch and dinner. I saw grains such as rice as okay and vegetables as an obligation. I HAD to eat those veggies, although it was a drag.
Cartoons, TV shows, and movies always showed meat as the centerpiece of meals. Today, a Viking cartoon is still in my head as it showed meaty served in a banquet. I guess meat was always portrayed as omnipresent in our everyday lives.
I´m not pushing veganism, vegetarianism, or anything of the sort. You see, life has shown me to stay away from “ism´s” I’ve learned to stay in the middle path and take and use whatever is helpful to me.
I eat meat today. Usually organic certified only and maybe about twice a week. I love cooking and eating, and I enjoy what it does for my body and mind. With that said, you are literally what you eat. Whatever you put in your mouth and swallow will turn into your body cells. This is a simple biological fact of life. What you choose to eat will affect how healthy your body will be. It is your option and responsibility to choose adequately.
Generally, it is usually healthy if you make food with a plant. If food is made IN a plant, it is probably not healthy. Even if it is labeled vegan, natural, or vegetarian, processed food will likely negatively affect your health. Ideally, it would help if you put some effort into avoiding factory-processed foods.
To be clear and as a disclaimer, I am not a medical doctor, nor am I in any shape or form trying to give medical advice. This is just about my personal experience, a story. Please speak with your doctor, as they are the best person to get medical advice.
So back to me, around the time I was in my late 30´s I started to grow a belly, and before I knew it, I was 40 years old and obese. I felt terrible, looked terrible, and my doctor was very concerned about my physical check-up and bloodwork results. She went on and on about how I needed to take cholesterol drugs for the rest of my life. She wouldn´t answer any of my questions about the side effects these drugs would have on my body and told me a heart attack or diabetes would do me more harm than the meds.
Every so often, I would notice how my self-confidence had been going down, and with it, my self-respect had gone down as well. Overeating, not exercising, and gaining more weight made me feel depressed. I was in trouble, and I knew it.
I remember my sister-in-law commenting: “Wow, you’re getting cellulitis on your belly. That´s nasty”. My pride or my -bad ego- decided to feel offended and to react like a victim. I chose to feel offended and hurt instead of taking in a constructive comment made with love and realizing that I had to change.
As I am writing this for you, I realized that it impacts me, particularly learning and observing myself.
By looking at nature, I infer that maybe the reason we are here (living beings) is to evolve by understanding and changing our self-destructive behavior.
It seems that we, the bald monkeys of the planet, have an overgrown sense of being superior to other living beings. It just turns out that we are the only species on this planet that is destroying itself, individually and collectively. So how exactly do we get around thinking that we are so superior when we are sabotaging our very existence? Anyway, sorry for the rant – I´m also human.
I watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix about how cow flatulence and burps (not the pollution generated by the Petrochemical cartels) are responsible for our genuine and severe climate change crisis. I was shocked to learn how we cause suffering in animals and harm the planet by putting meat on our plates. I felt disgusted by how living beings are treated and put through so much suffering. I also caught a glimpse at the idea that animal protein and fat should not necessarily be the main ingredient of our meals and nutrition.
Again, I have nothing against eating meat, nothing at all. I consumed too much meat personally, mainly because I got to know Brazilian “rodizios” (all-you-can-eat meat restaurants). At this point in my life, whenever I ate meat, I would have the taste and smell on my face like what you get by petting a farm animal, weird.
I watched another documentary called “Eat, Fast, Live Longer” from BBC Horizon. It is about intermittent fasting. The idea is to lower your caloric intake two times per week and basically relax the rest of the week and eat normally. How did that work! I recommend you watch the documentary and if after a chat with your medical doctor you think it is worth a try, go for it. Even though I started to lose weight, I still felt I needed to work harder. Flashbacks about those poor animals on the Netflix documentaries kept haunting me, and my body still didn’t feel right. I was about to start a journey into a vegetarian lifestyle that lasted for three years.
Fast forward to the future. I´m three years into vegetarianism, and let me tell you a secret – it did not work out for me at all. I had lost weight, and I wasn’t fat anymore; however, I lost all my muscle mass and was weak. I was skin and bones. I felt constant cravings for beef and chicken and decided to eat some meat. At first, when I started to eat meat again, my digestive system reacted, well let´s say my body wasn’t happy.
I gradually re-incorporated beef and chicken into my diet, once or twice a week and no more. I only eat organic certified meat and poultry, not because I´m rich – which I am not- nor fresh. You see, the chemicals they spray on the plants and grains the cattle eats will be present in their meat as well. I believe the hormones and chemicals animals produce due to suffering are also present in their hearts and harm us. Pretty simple right? Remember, you are what you eat because what you eat becomes you.
After eating meat again, the first change I noticed was that I gained in energy and cognitive function. It would seem funny to write this, but I felt my body was thankful for the animal protein and fat shortly after exercising by jogging and taking on Muay Thai as a martial art. Progressively and sustainably, I gained muscle mass, and my physical condition was on a roll. I felt better and stronger during every training session. My ability to focus during work increased significantly, and so did my problem-solving and general mental wellbeing.
I have had two or three meals as a guest at other people´s homes and ate non-organic beef and chicken. What I felt was very different digestion than organic meat, and the energy I got from conventional beef and chicken was far less than with organic. I have no scientific data to support these claims, but it’s what I felt – the overall quality and taste of organic meat are notorious. Go ahead and do a test, go out and buy organic certified beef or chicken and see for yourself if you notice any difference with non-organic.
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If you take oriental food as an example, you’ll notice that meat is used in minimal quantities compared to American food. I could almost state that with oriental cuisine, the root is used more as a seasoner and not so much as the main ingredient. Looking at oriental cultures seem much healthier than Americans, and cardiovascular illness is way worse in America than in Asia. Maybe there’s something to eating less meat and health?
I acknowledge the importance of including meat in my diet; however, I also recognize that consuming is equally essential. Whenever I have meat in a meal, it will make up about ten percent of the plate, and the rest are grains such as rice, beans, vegetables, and nuts. Two times a week is enough to get me through and keep me in shape while nourishing me.