My 21 Day Vegan Journey

Before going veganI decided I was going to try going vegan to get my food intake back on track. Several things in my life combined to create The Perfect Storm where my health was concerned, and I decided to do something about it that would have an immediate impact on my body.

I consider myself to be a reasonably healthy eater — an occasional pizza or burger/fries, not much in the way of sugar, baked and grilled meats, fish, whole grains and the like. However, I must admit that I’d fallen off the wagon where intake of fresh fruits and vegetables come into play. Coupled with the extreme stress I’ve been under for the past two years, my lifestyle and habits were catching up to me. I could feel it too, and I didn’t like it. A recent medical exam showed an increase in fasting blood sugar levels, and elevated blood pressure.

My physician of 15 years strongly suggested I get my butt in gear and do something about it. I have to say, the lab results got my attention.

As we age some of these things become more common, and I’m no spring chicken. We must also consider national statistics which show African Americans to be amongst the hardest hit demographic where diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, strokes and certain types of cancers are concerned. Stress, lifestyle choices and food intake are strongly implicated in this epidemic of illness hitting black Americans.

I worked in the fitness field for more than 12 years as a certified trainer and specialist in fitness nutrition and special populations — half of it at a medically based fitness facility here in the Bay Area. I saw first hand how a poor diet and lack of exercise can decimate the human body, making folks look much older than they are, suffer unnecessarily from illness and disease, and increase risks of untimely death. The lack of information clients had about nutrition was shocking; dozens of mature men and women, many parents themselves, had no idea what a balanced diet was or even which foods besides meat contained protein.

Over and over again I found myself laying out the basic framework for a healthy diet, referencing the Oldways food pyramids depending up on the ancestry of my client. To me there is no reason for a person in their 40s or 50s to die of a heart attack or stroke, especially when something as simple as changing your diet and losing a few pounds in the process can cut risks of early death in half.

Right around 2003, I heard about a blood pressure study which was done by the National Institutes of Health. Out of that study came recommendations to reduce blood pressure drastically with The DASH Eating Plan, or The DASH Diet.  What I liked about this study was that for  the first time, a great number of the participants were black, and they were female! Yay! Finally, scientists with some sense.

Motivated, I sent off for a free copy of the booklet (now available online to print), and read it from cover to cover twice. Since I was working with dozens of clients who had high blood pressure, this book was golden! What shocked me though was how few doctors had heard of it… even internists that treat hypertensive patients. The recommendations of the DASH Eating Plan were simple: eat less sodium, eat less fatty food and sugary stuff, and eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Simple.

So then I ordered more booklets, paying for them out of my own pocket. I began handing them out to clients to read and follow. The results were amazing! Within two weeks, doing nothing differently but eating the DASH way, my clients’ systolic blood pressure dropped 20-30 points. Those with high cholesterol also saw improvements in blood fats over time.

Modifying your diet to one focusing on low fat plant based nutrition works and staves off at least a dozen different diseases of our modern lifestyle.

So, at this point I’m ready to go ALL IN like a poker player, because I want to see some fast and immediate changes in my health, energy levels and body. I’m going to start right now, then formally participate in the 21 day jump start vegan program which begins on February 7th, 2014. It takes the best components of The DASH Eating Plan and puts them on steroids. A 100% plant based diet for three weeks is what I’m going to do.

I invite you to participate with me, or you can just read along and be amused. I plan to blog about my adventures with veganism, share photos of the food I eat, tell you about the people I encounter, and share recipes and resources. This blog will be set up as a place where anyone interested in changing their health profile can learn first hand about how it feels to become a vegan, then take the journey themselves.

Remember, February  7th is the big day. This is the program that I’ll be loosely following – you can log on and sign up yourself. Be sure to register in advance so you can do your weight, blood pressure, and other baseline measurements before the start date. In the meantime, I’ll post some recipes and information before then so we can all hit the ground running!

Read my week by week log of my journey starting with Week 1.