It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time in my not-so-distant past when I really didn’t care if I lived or not.
For almost all of my life I ate the traditional western diet of meat and potatoes, drank my milk like a good boy, and steadily grew larger (read fatter) and unhealthier. Some years ago I had a couple of serious wake up calls that have forever changed my life.
The first was when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was terrified; I really thought my life was over. I endured two years of major surgeries (the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes) but in the end I survived. I decided at that time that I wanted to live. Not just exist, but really live life, and this meant adopting a healthier lifestyle. I started running, I began eating a mostly vegetarian diet, and things started to get better for me – at least physically.
My next wake up call would take a few years to come to fruition; I had to really reach my bottom first. I had been a serious drinker (read alcoholic) for about 25 years, and had recently discovered a penchant for prescription pain killers. You see, when you’re a cancer patient, you pretty much get whatever narcotics you need to make you feel better. And apparently, I needed a LOT of medication to feel better! Then there came a point where I could no longer drink, and I couldn’t stop drinking either. This is a miserable place to be, and unfortunately many alcoholics find themselves here they end up drinking themselves to death. But there are some of us who somehow find a solution and end up living life to its fullest. This is what happened for me and it was truly a miracle. I was given yet another chance to live and I made the choice to do it right this time.
I joined a running group and started training year-round for marathons and triathlons. I went completely vegetarian and started to see drastic changes in my body composition and in my performance. I was leaner and faster and I was feeling pretty good. But there was still something wrong, something about how I always felt that just didn’t seem normal. I felt sluggish and bloated, and would be physically sick to my stomach after long runs (over 20 miles). I kept reading about endurance athletes like Scott Jurek, Rich Roll, and Jason Lester who were doing amazing things (e.g. 150 mile runs, 5 Ironman distance triathlons in 5 days) on a plant-based diet. I was intrigued. I decided to cut all dairy from my diet. I went vegan and I have never looked back.
This was not a drastic change for me, I had already been a vegetarian for years, but it was enough of a change to make me stop and take notice. I wasn’t bloated, I felt great on my long runs, and I had more energy than ever. I now get all the nutrients I need as an endurance athlete from plants. I can also sleep better at night knowing no sentient beings are being abused or slaughtered just so I can eat dinner. Going vegan is also great for this planet we’re all walking around on together. I’ve greatly reduced my carbon footprint and am constantly employing new ways to live my life more sustainably.
My athletic performance is not necessarily better now just because I’ve adopted a plant-based diet, but I feel better all the time, and so my training has improved as a result. I won’t be running any 150-milers any time soon, but the two marathons and the handful of triathlons I do every year should continue to get easier and feel less painful.
I believe that eating a plant-based diet is best for me, it’s best for the planet, and it’s definitely best for the animals. In fact, I’m so excited about this way of life that I’ve created this website dedicated to vegan food and fitness.
My life has been a series of discoveries, some glaring and some pretty difficult to see, but what I take away from it all is that it’s never too late to start being the person you were always meant to be. There’s no doubt in my mind that right now I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
I’m vegan, I’m healthy, and I feel truly blessed to be living this amazing life.
How do you answer the question Why Vegan? I’d love to hear your story! Share it in the comment section below!