My Philosophy on 'Veganism' and eating plants as an athlete
Updated: Sep 25, 2019
If you're just beginning this lifestyle on what exactly this 'Whole Foods Plant-Based' (WFPB) Lifestyle is, I'm sure you've seen the word 'vegan' thrown around. An extremely provocative word, the first thing that you probably thought was "Do I have to go Vegan” to be healthy? Or perhaps you were even turned off by the word. I understand. Stay with me. I've been eating, living and learning about this lifestyle since 2012. I've also been studying the community as a. whole, and I want to give you my philosophy on veganism, on this lifestyle, how the two are related and how their not.
We think of animal rights as the main reason people go vegan, but there are other reasons too; personal health and environmental protection. First and foremost, I am in this for health reasons, but I certainly appreciate and speak highly of the benefits to the planet and to sentient animals. Put simply, if you eat more plant based, your carbon footprint will be smaller leading to less green house gasses, and you'll be contributing to the deaths of less animals.
In my opinion, it is not necessary to go vegan while embarking on the WFPB lifestyle. If you're wondering what a WFPB lifestyle is, here's an overview. I have lots of friends who are vegan and I have tons of respect for them. We’re all on the same team. But I focus on health, and for health, and to be healthy, claiming the title of vegan is not necessary. In fact, a vegan diet can be an unhealthy one if all you eat are oreos, olive oil and super sweetened almond milk. Additionally, no civilization including those of many longevity Blue Zones were vegan, albeit consuming very small quantities of animal foods.
When I was starting out, I was learning a lot and shaping my philosophies day by day, and I thought that calling yourself vegan was a right of passage, I thought it was a 'status' that you had to strive for. At some points in time, I was technically 'vegan'. But then, after a couple of months eating no animal products, I either caved or mistakenly ate something coming from an animal, which in my mind set me right back to square one. And after several attempts, after several yo-yo’s from strict veganism and back, I felt disingenuous calling myself vegan. I thought about this dilemma for some time and came to the conclusion that I didn't need to be in this 'club' to spread the message of health, animal rights and environmental preservation.
When you hear the word vegan or plant-based athlete, what comes to mind? You probably didn't think of strongman Patrik Baboumian, or MMA fighter Mac Danzig or Jiu-Jitsu World-Champion Jay Oliveira, or Ultra-Endurance Mountain Biker Sonya Looney did you? It's time we start thinking differently about plant-based athletes and how plants can power athletes to amazing heights.
Sonya Looney and Jay Oliveira
These men and woman are eating plants and competing at the highest level. More and more athletes are trending towards a more plant-centered diet, like Tom Brady, because they’ve realized that eating plants and all the nutrients that come with them are better for recovery and performance and makes them more competitive in the long and short term.
The mindset of ‘all or nothing’ is also something that I’ve struggled with. Can I be an animal rights advocate…Can I be knowledgable about and educate others on the impacts our food choices have on the planet…Can I be healthy...without being 100% vegan? My answer to you is a resounding YES. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Small steps in the right direction are better than no steps. Decreasing your meat or dairy consumption is making a positive impact on all 3 of the above areas, no doubt. But never remember the goal is always striving to take small steps in the right direction. The journey never stops, you just make a larger, more positive impact on yourself, the planet and sentient beings.
If you're vegan, and eat a healthy, whole foods diet, if you're compassionate to animals and to your fellow human being, if you can accept and respect others who have different view points, then I give you a thumbs up. If you eat an unhealthy vegan diet, if you disrespect fellow human beings while protecting farm animals, if you bash those around you who aren't as healthy as you, I ask that you re-evaluate who you are and what you stand for. Look at the bigger picture. If you think the term vegan automatically makes you special or places you higher in a social hierarchy without understanding what it really means, I urge you to do your homework. Be vegan if you are being true to yourself, but don’t think that it’s necessary to have a positive impact. Live by example, keep an open mind, never stop learning, be compassionate and be the change you want to see in this world.