Veggie Might! Part I

Despite the title this post is not about the disgusting Australian food spread. Nope. We’re talking about my journey into the vegetarian world. Some folks have asked me about my approach to vegetarianism and how it has affected my performance. I thought I would share with you why and how I got started on this path.

On 11/09/14 at approximately 4pm I drove myself to the hospital with what I thought was a killer migraine. I anticipated a shot of something to mellow it out, going home to have some alone time until it went away. Here is a link to a description of what happened to me; http://www.bafound.org/subarachnoid-hemorrhage  Needless to say, I was dealing with a little more than a migraine. After a staying in CCU for a few days I was finally allowed to go home. The docs agreed that being strong and healthy played a major role in my recovery. I left the hospital optimistic, thinking this was no big thing. I was still strong, and healthy so the attributes that saved me would continue to work on my behalf. I’ll knock out this recovery period without issue… little did I know I was about to be stuck in my house for almost four months as I had migraines almost 24/7. I went on a roller coaster ride of medications that screwed my system up seven ways from Sunday. I don’t want to go too far into that aspect but I’ll say the pharmaceutical nightmare is real, and motivated me to find a better way to deal with the issues. My diet prior to 11/09/14 consisted of almost 90% meat, and eggs. My diet mirrored my strongman training partners diets with a heavy emphasis on protein and fats. Eating a dozen eggs for breakfast was routine, followed by a pound or more of hamburger or steak 90 minutes later. I ate some form of protein every 90 minutes throughout the day. Bags of chicken breast, fish, and pounds of meat were consumed weekly. This was a great diet for strength, and someone training for and competing in strongman, highland games, or powerlifting. My bodyweight fluctuated between 270-290 pounds, at times going up to 305 pounds. I was still able to maintain an 8 minute mile pace during 5k’s and would run a competitive race on average once a month. I had blood-work done every 3-4 months and my numbers were always great. On the surface I was healthy, and had no reason for concern. My neurologists have said numerous times my diet, lifestyle and training  history were not a factor in my brain trying to kill me. To quote one neurologist, “This is a once in a lifetime event. No one could have predicted this. You survived. Don’t play the lottery ever again because you used up every bit of good luck you have with this event.”

With that in mind as soon as I could get back to eating my way I did however, on a much smaller scale. (Eating that much protein is something you have to build up to, John Parrillo recommends we approach eating the same way we approach conditioning, or mobility, in a progressive overload manner). This time around things were different, the headaches got worse. The side-effects of the meds got worse. Life started to suck in a major way. My neurologist had recommended a vegetarian diet every time he saw me, as in once every three weeks when I went in for a checkup. I refused to listen. I really believed my body would just snap back into the groove and everything would be okay. My blood pressure was out of control, I had a hard time breathing. In short, there was more going wrong than going right.

I finally gave in, and cut out red meat, and chicken. I didn’t eat pork products before so that was a non-issue. I increased the amount of vegetables, and fruits. Within a few weeks I noticed a difference. I stopped eating eggs every morning, and started eating more beans, legumes, nuts, and other plant based protein sources. Within a few more weeks I was feeling even better. I was starting to notice a trend. My neurologist noticed as well, and I was forced to admit he was right, a vegetarian eating plan was exactly what I needed.  Fast forward to 2017, and I’m no longer on any medications. I can’t remember the last time I had a migraine, and my blood pressure has stabilized. It was as easy and as hard as that, simple yet complicated, difficult yet not impossible. I simply stopped eating meat. I started eating veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, and beans. My health continues to improve.

In part II we’ll take a look at sources for recipes, how I view the protein issue, and recovery. I’ll also share some hacks I use when dining out, or on the road.

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