I recently did a YouTube video discussing the amazing, and quite surprising, health benefits I experienced from being “meat free” for 30 days. What I learned was, when you use labels like vegetarian, vegan or carnivore, the message of health gets lost because people, by nature, want to debate the subject based on what they want—or in most cases, don’t want—to give up in their own life, and the health message gets lost! This is why I used the words “meat free” and consider myself an experiment.
After watching the documentary “The Game Changers” back in October, which features the athletic benefits of being a vegan, I was intrigued and decided to give vegan a try to see how it affected my body. As a Mindset Coach, NASM, CPT, and WNPF World Record Holder for powerlifting, I had made it my job over the past 10 years to eat chicken, ground turkey, or beef at almost every meal, with eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast almost every day. It was ingrained in my brain that in order to build muscle and strength, I had to have protein from meat.
For the first time ever, I was going to be eating meals without meat. The not eating meat part was easy, because you can eat everything but; however, the transition to a healthy, plant- based diet wasn’t so easy. I was now shopping differently and definitely feeling more scrambled (like the eggs I used to eat!). I needed new recipes, and found myself searching for items in the supermarket, making special trips to Whole Foods in fact, just for vegan cheese. It was more almond butter and Ezekiel bread than I was used to, just to not eat meat.
I attended my first vegan festival shortly after starting and it was as much an eye opener as it was confusing. Vegans are opposed to eating meat for a myriad of reasons (most you can read on their T-shirts), so many of the foods were promoted as meat items, like bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, pork, mac n cheese. It was not the health fair I thought it would be. It was more like a county fair and a cheat day for vegans! I asked my friend, “What in fact are you eating?” She replied, “I don’t know but it tastes like bacon, egg and cheese!”
That wasn’t enough for me as a coach, so I did the research and found out that many of these products are made with a protein called seitan. There are a whopping 75 grams of protein in 100 grams of seitan. I also learned seitan protein is a wheat gluten, which explains why my stomach blew up after eating the vegan cheese. I am sensitive to wheat, and I found out the hard way.
Here’s the health benefit I spoke about earlier: After approximately one month of not eating meat, but still having eggs/cheese on occasion, I was listening to a plant-based podcast, when a gentleman said he was grateful to be allergy free. That’s when it hit me! Ironically, over the past 11 years as a trainer, powerlifter and coach, I had increased lean meat in my diet significantly. I “cleaned” up my diet to walk the walk… and I developed adult onset allergies. I would wake up in the middle of the night in burning pain. My hands and feet were incessantly itching from the inside out and it would not stop until I took an allergy pill. I had been through years of allergy appointments and giving up gluten, wheat, grains, wine, flour, and more all in an attempt to find the culprit—and my allergies got progressively worse. I was on medicine daily and two nasal sprays, eventually having sinus surgery in 2017 to remove black mold from my nasal cavity…only to get stuffed back up again!
Then BAM, it hit me while listening to that podcast: I hadn’t had an allergy pill in days. I wasn’t using the sprays. What on earth? I was breathing like a champ through my nose!
Two months later, my father passed. When the trays of chicken showed up at my door, I ate (remember I am not a vegan, but an experiment). In a mourning state I ate without thinking, and I quickly became as stuffed up as my worst day! That was it, the light bulb was turned on, the meat left again and my sinuses cleared up.
I have since cleaned up the carb load that I had replaced the meat with, and am eating smarter. I am still experimenting with foods and still finding my way to what works best for my body. In a million years, I would not have connected chicken and turkey to years of pain and sinus infections, and yet now I know, I hope my story will help others as well, who may not know how meat is affecting them. There is more to learn here as we continue the journey.
Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine. Information in this article is intended for educational and scientific purposes only. It is not intended as medical or nutritional advice for the treatment or prevention of disease. For medical advice, consult a health care practitioner.