Week 3 came and went without any great challenges. I continued buying veggie burgers and choosing blenders over bacon. The fourth and final week of my plant-based journey took place in none other than Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Needless to say, if my plant-based diet was going to be truly challenged, it would be on vacation.
Upon arriving in Mexico, we stopped at a local restaurant for dinner. Overwhelmed by a menu written in a language I couldn’t fully read, and not seeing anything vaguely resembling “vegetarian” on the menu, I caved. I broke down and ordered tacos de camarón. To save myself from only consuming beans and guacamole on our outings, I made the conscious decision to end my (strict) diet a week early, and allow myself to consume fish one meal per day – max.
My Lessons Learned
weigh my options
A big take home message for me on this trip was that excluding meat is not only inconvenient at times, but can also lead to choosing unhealthy foods. For instance, take my family gathering from week 2: instead of eating the turkey sandwiches or shrimp cocktails, I mainly consumed chips and bread; not the healthiest alternatives to meat. In these cases, it may have been better to just have a small sandwich rather than go hungry or force myself to go for less healthy options, even if they were technically “plant-based.” Similarly in Mexico, when going out to eat with the family, it was probably better I consumed a little meat rather than consume mostly carbs or go without eating.
add more of the good stuff
Another takeaway for me was that adding more fruits and veggies to my diet pays off. A study published by Redzo Mujcic and Andrew J.Oswald in May 3, 2016 took about 12 thousand Australians and analyzed their diets. They found that the addition of 8 servings of fruits and vegetables (to ANY diet with or without meat) was correlated with “increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being.” The psychological gain matches that of someone moving from unemployment to employment. Eat more fruits and vegetables people!
I feel good
I have to say, overall, I feel pretty awesome. I can state with confidence that switching to a plant-based diet has forced me to get my calories from foods that have more vitamins, minerals, and the stuff that keeps my body ticking. I’ve been cooking more and being more conscious about what I put in my body. I learned the power of discipline when it comes to choosing healthy food options.
I am choosing to go back to my omnivorous ways, but with some restrictions. I will stay vegetarian during the week and let myself loose on the weekends, eating meat when convenient or, frankly, when I crave something a little extra. I feel this is the most sustainable route for the time being. Maybe someday I’ll go full vegetarian, but for now this will do. Thanks for the support and for keeping up with my journey.
Final Health Measurements as of July 15, 2016
Body Fat %: 15.8
Resting Heart Rate: 50
Resting Blood Pressure: 116/78
Until next time,
Mujcic, R., & J. Oswald, A. (2016). Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. American Journal of Public Health, 106(8), 1504-1510.
Jake is a graduate of the Kinesiology Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and is currently pursuing his master’s within the same department. He coaches track and field at Old Mission Middle School and enjoys taking weekend hiking or backpacking trips to Montana de Oro or Big Sur. Running the San Luis Obispo Marathon, backpacking in Salt Lake City, Utah, and participating in the local Tri-Tip challenge are some of his most recent adventures. He has worked at GH Sports since June 2014 and most appreciates helping customers get fitted in the right running shoe.