Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Whole Foods Plant Based Diet Experiment

Medium Athletic Fit Shirt, Size 30 30 Silver Tabs
If you look to your left, you'll see a pretty happy guy.  I am wearing my favorite jeans and shirt.  Might seam like a simple thing to make me so happy unless you consider that for the last eight years those two articles of clothing have been sitting on a shelf in my closet because I couldn't bring myself to throw them away, despite the fact that I couldn't pull those jeans much pass my knees or squeeze the shirt over my belly.  In fact, despite all the progress I've made over the past months, as of two weeks ago I couldn't wear the jeans and shirt comfortably.  I could put them on, but I certainly wouldn't be doing a whole lot of moving around.  I was weighing in at 168lbs and 10 percent body fat and had been that way for about a month.  I had decided to change my focus now completely to health and physical fitness.  I had reached a permanent plateau.  I was wrong.  Enter Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell and round two of plant based dieting.

For those of you who read my post about my failed vegan experiment, you'll recall that after a week of attempting an all vegan diet I abandoned the experiment because I felt lethargic, had difficulty recovering from workouts and decided that I wasn't getting and couldn't get enough protein.  Just not a feasible way of eating, I had decided.  The problem is, the science behind the benefits of a whole foods, plant based diet (I will explain diet in a bit) are tough to dispute.  This type of diet leads to such things as the elimination of the risk of heart disease (I have a history of heart disease in my family), elimination of the risk of developing type II diabetes, severe reduction in the risk of cancer (not a big one in my family, but a small history there has well), improved brain function and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease (big family history here and Alzheimer's took my grandmother), and the list goes on.  Not to mention near effortless maintenance of idea weight, general health and longevity.  With some gentle prodding from my wife, a read of The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: the revolutionary, scientifically proven, nutrition based cure, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, and Eat to Live, I decided to put a bit more effort behind a genuine attempt at a whole foods, plant based diet.  

Two weeks later: 164lbs, 9 percent body fat, no reduction in strength, endurance or recovery (in fact, there was notable improvement in all but strength), and I feel even better than I did before. 

So why was this time different?

Well...I'm going to give you a four fold answer: attitude, knowledge, creativity, and portion size.

Attitude: too many times over looked part of any endeavor, your attitude is often the key to whether or not you will succeed at anything, be it survival training in the wild or committing to a new way of eating.  The importance of keeping a positive attitude, at looking at something as an adventure rather than a chore, is a major factor.  This time, I looked at this diet as challenge rather than a chore.  I kept a positive attitude and reveled in sported debate with my fellow firefighters.

Knowledge: after all, knowing is half the battle.  This time I read everything I could find (within reason) on the subject of a whole food, plant based diet.  I was prepared with the science behind why I was trying the diet out and a host of tips and tricks to make the diet easier to follow. 

Creativity: cooking became quite the adventure, and although you don't have to get as involved as I did, it became almost a new hobby to develop new recipes, try out ones from the books I read and experience with some new and old favorites, cooked without the added oil and animal products.  Some of my creations were big hits, others a bit on the dud side, but fun non-the-less. 

Portion Size: the biggest set back in my first attempt was the lack of energy and recovery from exercise.  I wanted to feel, look and perform like at athlete, not a stick with feet.  The answer came from Dr. Furhman's book, Eat to Live.  Simply stated, athletes don't need to stack up on protein or eat animal products to be fit and strong, they just need to eat more.  I increased the physical amount of food I ate (my salads are huge, my servings hefty) and Bam!, success, no supplements or boiled chicken breast required.  As an added benefit, there is no going hungry or having to let your stomach growl with this type of diet.  If I feel hungry, I eat something.  I just make sure its a food that's unprocessed and plant based.

So, what do I eat?  On the Amateur Scientist Tab I'll try to break down a bit of the science behind all of the why, but as for the what, it's pretty simple:

Vegetables, Fruit, Beans, Nuts, Whole Grains.

What don't I eat:

Animal products, Added fats and oils, processed foods.

Might seem limiting and a bit daunting, but I will be posting a lot of recipes to show you just how easy and delicious this diet can be and I can attest that the results are rather astounding.  If you are overweight, have heart disease or a family history, or just want to become a healthier, disease and sickness resistant person, you owe it to yourself to do some reading and give the whole foods, plant based thing a whirl.  I doubt you will be disappointed you did.



  1. Thanks, Brandon! This is just what I needed to read. Was feeling down in the dumps about my new food plan. Doesn't seem like it's working as well as it did for Jonathan. I have a ways to go, having trouble losing this baby weight. Can't wait to try out some of your recipes. You look great!

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