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4 Month Update on a Plant Based Diet (Almost Vegan/ Vegetarian)

I never thought in a million years I would be where I am now with my current eating.  Being in the fitness industry for so long and surrounded by lean bodybuilders and athletes, I was convinced that we absolutely had to get our protein from meat or animal sources to sustain energy and physique.  I thought that if I were to ever give up animal protein I would not be able to have a lean body, would get weak, and become deficient.  Growing up, I always loved and cared for animals but chose to not think about the treatment of certain animals before I put them in my mouth.  I worked in a fine dining restaurant when I was 18 years old, where most of the dishes were rack of lamb, duck, pork chops, quail, steak and prime rib.  We were encouraged to try all the dishes so that we could properly describe the tastes to our guests and pair them with the appropriate wine.  I always felt so strange eating each bite but looking around me, no one else seemed to feel strange, so I did my best not to think about it.  I had other interests to think about that were right in front of me.  I felt like what I didn't see behind closed doors, didn't hurt me, so therefore it just wasn't a huge issue for me. 

Now here I am starting into my 5th month of not touching any meat and honestly I feel incredible.  If you read my previous posts and updates on how I began this journey, it had nothing to do with animal rights.  This journey honestly had to do with clearing out the junk from my system.  You can read how I got started here and my previous update here. It has now evolved into a new way of life for me.  I'm a researcher so both fortunately and unfortunately I've discovered and seen so many things regarding the meat industry that I can no longer get myself to even eat meat.  I'm not bashing meat by any means.  I support the local farmers that raise their meat humanely and feed them the food that they are designed to eat.  If I ever decided to go back to eating meat it would have to be from happy animals and eggs from chickens I know or own.  Before I get in to the details as to where I am regarding my journey, I would like to briefly share a typical day of eating and how my energy levels are.

I am a firm believer in a gentle rotation of foods.  I don't think it's wise for anyone to eat the same exact thing every single day.  Giving your body a chance to digest different types of food not only gives you a chance to intake a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, but it will decrease the chances of developing stomach allergies or any deficiencies.    The following day contains things that I will eat 2-3 times per week, but certainly not every day.

Morning -  Yerba Mate Tea with a splash of Coconut Creamer
Chia Seed Cereal (2 Tbs of Chia seeds mixed with 4oz of water)
Goji Berries, Raw Coconut Butter, Fresh Berries, and a splash of hemp milk

Mid Morning - Organic Apple with a small amount of Sunflower Seed Butter
 Yerba Mate or Green Tea depending on a workout day. I interchange this with my workout meal sometimes.

Afternoon - Collard Green Wraps - Filled with sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, dulse, tomatoes, avocado, and hummus Or very large salad with homemade dressing.

Late Afternoon or Workout Drink - Raw Sprouted Brown Rice Protein (not every day), Hemp seeds, Chia seeds, Water, Fruit, Maca Powder, Spirulina.

Evening - Raw Pad Thai - with Sea kelp noodles, cabbage, mint, raw spicy cashews, coconut yogurt, carrots, and green salad. 

Late Evening - If still hungry this might be the only time I have a cooked meal.  Whether it be a small bowl of warm oatmeal for extra relaxation.  Again it depends on the day.  Sometimes I enjoy vegetables and hummus or raw kale chips.  ;-)

Dessert - Not every day, but I do enjoy a piece or two of very very dark chocolate during the day or in the evening.

Many days I'm sipping on Green Smoothies for my snacks or drinking fresh juice that I make with my juicer, which satisfies me without even having to stop my day to "snack."

Getting back to my new way of looking at life.  First of all, I don't think that I could have done this without such an amazing support system.  People saw such a zest of life out of me after the first month and they started looking at the research as well.  Many of my close friends and students wanted to give it a try.  I am not alone in this journey.  It has been such a bonding experience and a fun one that we have all gone through together.  My husband watched some of the documentaries with me and is a full blown vegetarian, not quite vegan.  My closest meat eating friends are mostly vegan and vegetarian now.  They too have had incredible experiences.  One that sticks out is Katie Dawers, which you will be seeing much more of in the future.  She went from incredibly strong to ridiculously strong over her course of plant based eating.  Della went from a powerhouse who needed coffee on a regular basis for over 20 years to an energized super strong woman that now faces the day without an ounce of caffeine!  

I had an unfortunate incident, prior to my plant based eating, where I was developing carpel tunnel symptoms and major swelling in one of my hands.  To make a long story short, I didn't stop using it and even took the liberty of snatching a 24kg thinking it would just go away by itself.   Well I have to admit that I was being stupid for not resting it and continuing to push it.  I was forced to be in a cast for a few weeks, not because of the snatches, but because there was so much swelling I had to rest it.  Needless to say I was forced to not use my hand for over a month.  My kettlebell training, pull ups, push ups, and all the fun exercises had to come to a halt.  I wasn't allowed to run with a cast or do much because I couldn't get it sweaty!  My muscle was sure to dwindle and get weak right?  Below is a recent photo of plant based eaters that have had anywhere from 1-5 children.  I'm the one in the green top.  ;-)

Katie Dawers, Della Whelchel, Lauren Brooks, Sheryl Lambert - New Plant based Eater, kettlebell swinging mommy's.

LOOK at the definition in Della Whelchel's back.  This amazing mother of 5, does not step foot in a gym for any conventional bodybuilding routine.  Della has been on a strictly plant based eating program for 3 months.  Della comes to my classes and uses body weight exercises, kettlebells, ropes and suspension training to have the beautiful, real strong muscularity that she possesses.  This picture just doesn't do her justice.

I look forward to sharing more pictures of the inspiring new plant based eaters in the future.  This has been a complete life altering experience for me physically and emotionally.  Now that I am finally getting back in to the swing of things with my workouts, I can push it harder than ever.  My body seems to recover much more rapidly.  My digestion continues to be better than it ever has and I just feel happier.  If you are considering adding more plants in your life and maybe trying to eat a little less meat, I say go for it.  No need to go full throttle like we did.  It definitely is not an easy change when done quickly.  It does take work and extra preparation if you choose to be gluten free, soy free, meat free, and only focus on plants, fruits, nuts, and seeds.  It can be an extreme way of living so it's definitely not something I recommend for everyone.  I want to reiterate that I do not like labeling myself.  I do eat plant based vegan about 95% of the time.  This doesn't mean I will never have a piece of raw fish again or have an organic free range egg if traveling.  I notice if I become too fixated on
"vegan" or "raw vegan" it can push me the other direction.  The message is not to be an extremist, but to know that you can build a strong, lean, and fit body off of foods that are not animal based.  Even if you just lower your animal intake and incorporate many more fresh raw foods you will notice an improvement in your energy, workouts, skin and digestion.

There are so many inspiring vegan athletes and fitness enthusiasts out there that I wanted to mention so that way you too can do your own research.  Here are some super strong fitness plant based eaters that are role models I suggest you check out.  Mike Mahler, Jon Hinds, Sherif Kamal, Rich Roll, Female Vegetarian/Vegans.  Here is a list of some of the Top Vegan Athletes.  Here is an inspiring raw vegan woman that I had the honor to teach kettlebells to, Mimi Kirk, you can find her new book "Live Raw" here.

I will leave you with this.  What works for me or for them does not mean it will work for you. This is my journey and I appreciate you reading this.  I will continue to happily share with anyone that cares to ask.


Anonymous said…
This is a great post, Lauren! I am so happy to hear you are thriving on a plant-based diet. I have been vegetarian for over half my life - approximately 17 years. I have been vegan for 5 years. I cannot imagine living any other way. I am a huge animal lover but initially changed my eating habits for health reasons. I actually went vegan after reading Eat To Live. That book really was a turning point for me.

My eating habits are great, but I really need to work on my exercise habits. Up until three years ago, I worked out almost every day of my life. I finally got burnt out and have been in a slump since then. I loved running; I was constantly running. My husband and I completed two marathons and then I hurt my knee, which stopped my running immediately. I have used kettlebells on and off, and I love them. But I think my brain is just so worn out from the history of constant exercise, that it is now hard for me to get back in the mindset... but I am working on it.

Anyways, keep up the good work! I love seeing the progress photos, they are so inspiring.
Anonymous said…
Glad that you are loving your new lifestyle. I love following your blog.

Just a caution though from someone who did the exact same thing(vegan, raw vegan). Not eating meat made me feel better because my stomach acid was so low, I couldn't digest animal proteins. After the inflammation lifted from not burdening my system-- i felt great initially-- but my stomach acid-- the KEY to good digestion (and therefore health) continued to decline on a diet (because it often doesn't give you the nutrients to manufacture stomach acid (HCL).

Also-- often a vegan diet is full of inflammatory omega6 foods, since most omega3's come from animal fats.

Years later I am still rebuilding my system-- and consider my vegan days naive. I was avoiding foods that caused problems, rather than the root of the issue- needing to repair my own digestion.
HD said…
Great post! Congrats on 4 months :) I've been a pescatarian for about 15 yrs. Just this last month I started experimenting with going sugar free. It's honestly been life changing. I've pretty much gone dairy-free and gluten-free in this transition as well. After being a hardcore diet coke addict for years, I'm not only functioning but thriving without it. So I can fully attest to the changes that diet can make. Keep up the great work!!
Rachel said…
Hi Lauren, I am absolutely loving your blog and updates about your experiences with vegetarianism- I am a Mum of one living in Ireland, I run my own small kettlebell and bodyweight training company. I have been vegetarian and on/off vegan since age 9. Having been diagnosed as coeliac 4 years ago (allergic to gluten, found in all wheat and wheat products) I went back to some dairy from my vegan diet, and have been this way ever since. My 17 month old son has been raised as coeliac vegetarian also, almost unheard of over here! I get raised eyebrows and the rest every time I have to explain... I am sure you're familiar with this! I lift and strength train as a way of life and firmly believe vegetarianism has helped me not hindered in this process. The hardest thing is trying to find good quality non leather shoes and other non leather products etc, which I prefer to use. I am vegetarian for the simple reason that I have no proof that animals are ok about being killed for food/fuel/luxury goods etc. This is a simplistic view but nonetheless I stick by it, no-one can argue it. Just want to say good for you and I love to hear people blogging about their journey, I hope you manage to keep it up for as long as you want to, big respect, Rachel
Natasha Kay said…
Brendan Brazier (listed in the Top Vegan Athletes link you posted) definitely inspired me to go plant-based, especially as an athlete! You really hit the nail on the head when you said "My body seems to recover much more rapidly." -- that is so true! And it's something that has made him a phenomenal athlete. I also really love that he puts the recipes for most his products in his book -- so if you really want to make it yourself, you can. It's transparent and I like that.

From one plant-eater-kettlebell-swinging-gal to another, thanks for posting about this!
Natasha Kay said…
PS. I also think the Anonymous poster (above) has a point -- her vegan days were naive. Especially if she thought she could just omit meat while eating nothing but soy as a replacement (as most vegetarians seem to think). But you have clearly done your research (evident by your meal with dulse as an ingredient -- a seaweed that includes every trace element the human body needs).
SJ said…
Go Lauren! I certainly understand how important nutrition is after starting your wonderful eating plan. Having all this wonderful vege food to eat has meant I have knocked 4 mins from my 9k trail run (which had stayed static for almost a year previous), my skin looks amazing, my digestion is great and improving, and my sleep is getting better. And 6% or so fat loss!

So, go you vege chickas!

And if you do want to read more about the ethics of meat eating, read The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer. Changed my life.
Lauren Brooks said…
Scarlatina, I wish you luck trying to get your head back in to moving your body. Try to just focus on the small steps of just walking and moving around. Then the motivation for exercise will come before you know it!
Lauren Brooks said…
Haley, That's amazing for you as well! Congratulations! Diet is so huge and even small changes can make a big difference!
Gabby Eborall said…
You all look amazing and more importantly, healthy. I am glad you have found what works for you while remaining open to what your body may or may not need at any given time. I've been getting most of my protein from fish of late but every now and then mama needs a steak. Watching Food Inc. changed how this family eats as well, it is so relevant to anyone who... well, eats!
Lauren Brooks said…

Thanks for writing. I truly appreciate your kind words and completely relate with you on compassion with animals. Glad you stick to you what you believe in that is best for you and your family. Sometimes having an intolerance to food can open up a whole new door in a positive way. Hope to visit Ireland at some point. Take care, Lauren
Lauren Brooks said…

I couldn't agree with you more! It is much easier to be a healthy vegan eater now than it was many years ago. So many more options where soy and fake meat doesn't have to be staples. Thanks for posting, I really appreciate hearing your insights. Nice to have another plant based eater kettlebell swinger around. ;-)
Lauren Brooks said…

Your results and effort you put in with the nutrition program are absolutely incredible. What an amazing job you did and I'm so honored to be able to work with you from thousands of miles away.

I couldn't be more happy with all the positive change that have happened in your lifestyle. Way to go! Please keep me posted.

p.s. I will check out that book as well!
Lauren Brooks said…
Gabby, Thank you! Yes I feel super healthy and I will always remain open if I feel that all of a sudden my body needs an egg or a piece of fish. However, I don't feel the urge often. All in all I agree with you, Food Inc is a must see for everyone in addition to Forks Over Knives and Earthlings. After I saw Food Inc I was still able to eat chicken, but immediately cut out red meat if it was not 100% grass fed. Now look at me! The more you know the more the animals get harder to want to eat. ;-) I use to LOVE my meat, but now I rather hug a cow than eat it. I totally respect anyone's needs though. I'm so new to this so we will see what happens as time goes by.

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