We are approaching week 6 of school here. A huge goal of mine this year is to focus my personal and professional life on the important stuff. The start to the year has been fantastic at school and I have been much more “present” at home. On top of that, I’m celebrating! When I ran across Abel James’ book, the Wild Diet, in June 2016, I weighed 267 pounds. My feet were almost stiff as boards in the morning and I was just starting my 34th year of life. I knew I was ready for a change during that season, but honestly, a part of me thought I was moving into a phase of managing my bad genes. This week I hit 236 on the scale, down 31 lbs. I lifted weights at the gym twice and ran 1.5 to 2 miles 3 mornings. I’m also walking 7-10 miles during most teaching days. My feet are a tad tired at the end of the day, but it is nothing like June 2016.
This week I need to brag a little bit. I haven’t been in the 230s since the early years of college. I need to buy new pants, but I’m deciding to wait a bit longer with the hope that I might hit size 32, which I haven’t worn since high school. I have a ways to go to get there, but it is within reach. My size 38 pants literally fall off if I try to walk in them without a belt.
It’s been awhile since I posted and last Spring I was a bit stuck in a weight loss rut. I kept getting down to 244 lbs and then would bounce up a few pounds. I was cooking as much food in bacon as I could without too much annoyance of my wife. As Spring warmed up that became easier as bacon on the grill is awesome! I was tracking my food intake paying special attention to protein and fat intake. I kept trying to hit the 180 protein mark. Even though I felt better, some nights I felt like I was choking on food. 180 grams of protein isn’t even that much for the paleo types out there, but it felt like I had went out hunting and dragged a feast home every night.
During a night home while my wife is a rock star with Faculty Lounge, after the kids were in bed, I stumbled across the documentary Forks Over Knives. The idea of a whole foods plant based diet seems too simple to be revolutionary, but something drew me further. I purchased the China Study. It took me all summer to read it but the data in the book moved me into another phase of thinking.
Summer was busy. I reworked and wrote a new curriculum for my Latin 2 class. I traveled to Greece with students. Interestingly, I ate everything in sight on that trip but still lost 7 lbs from start to finish. I still can hardly eat an American tomato on it’s own, even from my own garden, but in Greece I ate many. The fruit and vegetables have so much flavor! We also had much time as a family this summer and I found myself wondering why I was withdrawing from being present with my family to keep track of what I ate for the day.
This summer I also took our backyard garden up a notch. Unfortunately I learned some lessons about spacing and how important it is to plant certain things near each other, but we have had kale, swiss chard, spinach and some lettuce available all season. With lessons learned, I was able to plant a few fall crops and we should have leafy vegetables, purple beans, a few carrots, peppers, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes into November.
The China study made me realize I don’t need to focus on how much protein I’m consuming. If I’m mostly eating whole foods that are mostly plants, the nutrients will take care of themselves. As the flurry of the school year started, my family ended up with a stomach bug. It was awful for my middle child, Mae and I. But I powered through those first teaching days by choosing to only eat plants during that time. Those days strangely set up an eating pattern for me and took me from cooking everything in bacon to mostly plants throughout the day.
The wild diet idea took me from craving granola bars and fiber brownies to bacon wrapped (insert meat here). Although my blood numbers saw much improvement, I still didn’t quite feel right. The China Study data has led me to realize that counting nutrients and making sure I hit some amount of X to block consumption of Y is a waste of time. We are meant to be sustained by plants. And there are so many plants to experience. It really is that simple.
Abel James talks about fasting often. Fasting and feasting helped me move away from processed food, but my body needed more. Now I’m eating whole grains for breakfast most days. Buckwheat and millet are two grains I had no idea existed for human consumption. Added in a rotation with quinoa and oats and it is easy to eat plant based breakfasts that have variety. Fruit and/or maple syrup make a bowl of buckwheat porridge nice.
As my journey moves more toward plants, I’m amazed at how many people seem to clearly push back to me. But I can’t argue with the data in the China Study, nor the data in my own body. I’m not going vegan nor consuming zero animal products, but have you ever paid attention to how much animal product is in your diet? It amazed me how much was there that I didn’t realize. And so much of it is added milk and cheese.
Pick up a copy of the China Study to read. At the minimum it will make you think. Who writes the guidelines about needing so much protein? Where is the push for 3 servings of milk coming from? Who is behind the push for foods found in schools? I knew so little about the foods I was eating and even now there are many times it seems a sea of chaos. We can move toward food we know but we have to choose to do it. If you are in a spot like I was in June 2016, don’t wait. Healthy food tastes better than you think. And the better you feel, whole food plants seem to taste even better!