From Tacos to Plants Overnight

Honestly, I never thought I’d be writing a post like this. I actually debated even writing this at all. It’s taken me at least 10 hours to get all of my thoughts down and edit it.

I’ve heard of other people doing this, and I just knew it wasn’t for me. I always told myself I could probably do it, just to prove a point. I just figured I would never stick with it long term.

But for whatever reason, something just clicked, and I decided to give it a try. So what am I even talking about? Well, just over 7 weeks ago, I decided to give up all meat and dairy products.

Wait what?!?!

I know, trust me, I’m just as surprised as you are. But it was way easier than I thought it would be. Here’s my 4,000 word journey…

So earlier this year, January 10th to be exact (I’m on day 50 right now), it was a typical day just like any other for me. Later that night, I stumbled across a documentary on Netflix called Food Choices. I’ve watched a ton of documentaries, and a lot of them based around food. So I hit play and let it run on one of my computer monitors while I worked on the other.

A few minutes in, I wasn’t getting any work done, I was glued to the movie. It was so intriguing. I had so many questions. By the end of it, I was like, “Wow.”

The film basically was saying how terrible meat and dairy are for you, and that humans were meant to be vegan. I started researching articles online and watching other videos on YouTube. I was actually considering this approach.

After considering all things, I woke up the next day and decided to go for it. I’ve tried various “diets” or “lifestyle changes” before, so this was just another experiment for me.

I never thought that almost 2 months later I’d be writing an article stating that I’m still doing it and that I have no desire to go back to my old ways (eating like 99% of the American population).

Some people ask me if I’m a hardcore vegan now. I guess the short answer is yes. I typically describe myself as plant-based, which is vegan, but the term vegan means so much more, and I don’t know if I’m fully ready to adopt that title.

I mean, I have a leather belt on. I just drove to Houston, Texas (meat country) for an event from Ohio. That was a 17 hour drive, and I sat on leather seats the whole time. Animals died for these things.

So I’m not necessarily hardcore when it comes to all things in the vegan community, and I’ve realized that a lot of people are doing it for various reasons. I’m primarily doing it for the personal health aspect, but the more I do it, the more aware I am of the animal side of things.

I’m essentially vegan, and I usually just say yes during small-talk with strangers, as I know these kind of conversations can get long and drawn out if I try to explain everything. Haha

Oh ya, I didn’t go to medical school.

And this is probably a good time to state the obvious: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. I build websites, sell tshirts, record myself talking to myself for my podcast, and read books in my car in grocery store parking lots. I’m not formally-educated to give you health advice, so take everything I say as my personal opinion.

I’d say ask your doctor before trying anything “drastic” like this, but I assume a lot of doctors would say not to do this. I would also assume that’s because most have zero education in nutrition and they maintain their lavish lifestyles by prescribing crazy medications and potentially dangerous surgeries.

I don’t know how the quote went that I’ve heard several times, but it goes something like: There’s no money in healthy or dead people, but there’s a ton of money in treating symptoms of sick people.

It’s still good to trust these doctors, for the most part. And some people might want to get blood work and other testing done, so they know where they stand before they start a new lifestyle change. That way you can really see your progress months or years later after adopting these changes.

That is, if you want to. I’m not forcing anyone to do what I do. I think this is the correct path for all humans, but I’m sure there are exceptions for pre-existing conditions, allergies, etc. There’s never a 100% one size fits all, but I think this is what the majority should be doing.

With that being said, take all of the information here and elsewhere and make the best decision for yourself. Ok, now it’s time for some popular questions and comments that I’ve already received a lot…

But what about tacos bro?!?!

Well, I will eat tortillas (always corn or whole grain over flour), and you can throw anything on a tortilla and call it a taco. But no, I’m skipping all of the chicken, steak, carnitas, al pastor, chorizo, and skipping the cheese.

Cheese is a funny thing. I thought for sure that would have been the hardest thing for me to give up. But it was just as simple as the meat, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure they add cocaine to cheese to make you addicted to it.

So what the hell do you eat?

I’m sure you’re reading this and think I’ve just been eating heads of lettuce every day. Nope, far from the truth.

Not long after I watched the Food Choices documentary, I read a book called The Starch Solution. It’s funny because for the past 2-3 years, I was all about the NSNG mindset (basically Paleo), and eating carbs with no meat or dairy is like the exact opposite.

While I actually loved eating steak, shrimp, chicken, pork, sausage, fish, eggs, and all of that, I’m glad that I’m “allowed” to eat rice and pasta and potatoes and bread and other grains, without feeling like I’m eating cheat meals.

But I’m glad I started with the NSNG (no sugars no grains) route first. It made me really aware of all the shit they throw into processed foods at the grocery, and I became a nutritional fact guru.

So now, I’m already used to reading food labels that it’s not something I mind. I actually like doing it, except for when I roll my eyes when I see almost every item at the store has a meat or dairy product in it, for no fucking reason.

Oreos are vegan, right?

Yes, most Oreos are technically ok for me to eat, but it’s processed garbage and I try to stay away from all the junk foods. Not to mention they clearly write “produced with genetic engineering” right on the package, which I try to always steer away from that GMO nonsense.

And when I said rice and pasta and bread above, I mean brown rice, rice pasta, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, sweet potatoes, etc. The healthier options, not the overly processed/refined carbs and white flour items that are at all the fast food places.

Sure, I try a bunch of new vegan things at the store, but just because I’m curious. I don’t want to always be eating a frozen dairy-free veggie pizza, or a frozen tofu breakfast burrito, or any of the other products like that.

It’s cool during my transition phase, but they are not needed, at least not for me. Some people have the hardest time giving up meat and cheese, so they have to eat all the fake meat and fake cheese products. I just don’t have the desire to be stuck on those foods.

You must be rich to afford veganism.

It’s probably cheaper actually. Of course you could go broke buying all the processed foods from Whole Foods every day, but I don’t do that.

My morning usually consists of oatmeal and fresh fruit. My lunch (or dinner) is mostly the meal preps that I make, which is brown rice, black beans, sweet potatoes, veggies, and spices, and maybe some hot sauce. I also make a smoothie for another meal, which is veggies and frozen berries and a few extra things I toss in my Vitamix. Sometimes I have a salad, but it’s not a 24/7 like some people would think.

And then I make pastas (my favorite) for lunch or dinner sometimes. And I snack a lot throughout the day on things like Larabars, handful of nuts sometimes, crackers, fruit, bean chips, applesauce, etc. Again, not rocket science here.

But do you actually feel better?

I really do feel better. I feel lighter (which I always thought was a weird way to describe how you feel). I have more energy and stamina. I can lift more weights at the gym. I don’t feel like I need naps all the time. I just feel better all around.

I’ve probably lost a few pounds, but I’m already a small human, and weight loss isn’t my goal. I just wanted to improve my health, even if it isn’t really noticeable to others. And I wanted to make these changes now before I’m 60 or 70 (or sooner) and a doctor tells me I have to do something like this, or be put on tons of meds, which is way more common.

And the more I get into it, I guess I’m naturally helping the animals and the environment. I know I totally sound like a crazy hippie, but I’m not. Unfortunately my long beard isn’t helping my case. Haha

Great, now you’re gonna judge me.

No way. I don’t try to force this on anyone, ever. Everyone can make their own choices for their own reasons. Hell, I ate “normal” for the first 34 years of my life, so I have no room to talk. I don’t expect anyone else to change how they eat and I’m totally fine with that.

Now if someone wants my opinion, I will gladly give it to them, but I’m not gonna be some over the top religious fanatic that is preaching to people about some Kool-Aid that I want them to drink.

Even though I think everyone should adopt some form of this, or go hardcore and give up meat and dairy cold turkey like I did, I realize it’s not for everyone. Most people will never want to attempt this, and even more would never want to stick it out for the long haul.

I have no idea how long I’m going to do this, I’m not a psychic. But I have no reason to go back at this point, so I will continue doing this for as long as I can, as long as I’m healthy and feel great.

How often do you have cheat meals?

A lot of people stick to a strict diet and then they usually have one day each week where they eat whatever the hell they want. While I understand the idea of moderation, that doesn’t work for me.

Everything I’m consuming is vegan. If I eat out, I make the best decisions I can with all the information I have. I’m sure once or twice I have accidentally ate something that had dairy in it, but I didn’t know. If I know about it, I’m not eating it. If they sneak it in, it’s impossible for me to now. That’s why I prefer to eat at home and cook my own food. But that’s not always practical when traveling.

The other day I ate at a taco place in Houston which I’ve had several times: Torchy’s Tacos. So good. I thought I was eating vegan. Later I realized the avocado on my tacos was fried and I think they used butter in that batter. Is it the end of the world? No. I’ll be ok. While it mildly pissed me off in the short term, I went back again the next night and got something totally different that was vegan, per their website FAQ page, which I should have looked at first.

I will still eat various things like cookies and ice cream and chips and processed crap like that from time to time, but they are all no meat/dairy options. Obviously this isn’t really healthy, but they are healthier options. I heard someone say this: there are no good or bad foods, there are better or worse foods. Makes sense. But I literally have zero desire to have a day where I go back to eating everything I used to. So weird to have this mindset, because I never thought this would be me.

Where do you get your protein and calcium?

The short answer, you don’t need a crazy amount of protein like everyone says you need. And you can get protein and calcium (as well as all your other vitamins and minerals) from plant-based foods. The only things you’ll need to get elsewhere are Vitamin D, which you get from the sun. And Vitamin B12, which you can get from a cheap supplement.

If you need more info, you can watch the documentary above (and several others), read the book above (and many others), and research everything on nutritionfacts.org.

There are thousands of places to find this info online, as well as thousands of sources with opposing viewpoints. I think the only thing everyone can 100% agree on is that we need clean oxygen to breathe. Besides that, there will always be two sides to every story and tons of groups in disagreement. The health world is the worst at this. You have to listen to both sides and make the correct decision for yourself.

So I guess I have to give up fast food now?

You already know fast food is bad for you, so I think you answered your own question. But that’s not to say I haven’t had a couple fast food meals over the past couple months, it’s just a lot harder to find vegan options.

Sure, you can eat a handful of items from Taco Bell, but use that as a last resort, not your go to meal. I had Skyline Chili once last month, and I ordered the black beans and rice with onions, hot sauce, and crackers. It tasted almost just like their chili.

Marion’s Pizza is one of my favorite pizza joints and I had it a couple weeks ago. I ordered a pizza with banana peppers, onion, green pepper, tomatoes, and no cheese. I called ahead to make sure the crust and pizza sauce were vegan. I felt awkward asking, as these items should be, but you’d be surprised.

But hey, this is my new life, the life I’m choosing. So I have to understand that this is going to be uncomfortable for a little while, and I’m going to be that annoying customer at restaurants probably forever. Just another reason to cook my own food and always be prepared.

And while I feel ok eating out occasionally, I don’t do this every day, or even every week or month. I try to make it a rare occasion, something you’ll easily remember. Funny example, I like remembering that the only time I’ve had black coffee was at McDonald’s in Nebraska with my friend Lesh back in August 2011. A ton of people think this fact is very bizarre for me.

Chipotle is my main exception. I’ve had it probably 10 times since I started all of this. Here’s what I get these days: bowl, brown rice, black beans, fajitas, no meat (but you can get the sofritas [tofu] if you want, it’s actually pretty good), tomatoes, corn, medium salsa, and guac. Sometimes lettuce, and sometimes I get a bag of chips with a side of their hot salsa. Always drinking water.

Pretty simple, and I love the taste every time. I could literally eat it every single day. And as weird as this sounds, the meat actually doesn’t look appetizing anymore when I see it there. And I get a little grossed out inside when I hear everyone else place their orders, but I’m not gonna judge them out loud. I’m not rude. Haha

There’s no way you can do this while traveling.

I was concerned about this since I love traveling and always want travel to be a big part of my life. Something that helped was not traveling anywhere for the first few weeks of doing this. I built the habit at home, then I was more prepared once I hit the road, or the sky.

I went to St. Louis to see Story of the Year, one of my favorite bands. I went by myself, which is also normal for me. It’s uncommon for people to travel with me. Mainly due to the fact that most people aren’t able to be flexible with their time. But I get it.

My car was stocked with all sorts of snacks and I brought one of my meal preps to eat on the way. It was only a 5 hour drive each way, and I came back the next day, so it wasn’t too much to deal with. And I found a taco shop in STL (Mission Taco, several locations there) that had tofu tacos. They were ok.

I ordered the chips/guac, and didn’t realize it had cheese crumbles on top. So I could have sent it back if I was more hardcore, but it was my fault, so I took a chip and scooped all the cheese off. And I ordered a side of black beans and a side of rice. Simple. And on the way home, I had Chipotle in Indianapolis. Again, simple.

When I was hungry in the airport in Montana a few weeks back, I found a place that had potatoes, black beans, rice, and hot sauce. I’m sure it wasn’t the best thing, but I did what I could with what I had to work with, and it tasted fine. And when I landed in DFW, I found a Mexican restaurant in that airport that had chips/guac, rice, and beans. I guess that’s my go to thing when I don’t know what else to eat. I’m sure there are plenty of places with salads that I could get, without dressing. But I usually just go for the quick meal approach, even though I end up sitting in a restaurant for hours on my phone or laptop or reading a book.

And when I’m road tripping, I usually bring snacks and eat at vegan restaurants (easy to find in huge cities), or stop at Chipotle (these are everywhere now), or stop at Whole Foods (bigger cities). If you are prepared, it’s easy. If you don’t prepare, you’ll end up stuck and hungry and left with no other options but garbage and meat/dairy products. Being prepared is the biggest thing for me. Saying it’s hard while traveling is just an excuse.

I guess you can’t be social or enjoy events.

I would compare this to drinking alcohol. Can you go to a bar or wedding reception or truck show or concert and not get drunk? Of course. But when everyone else is doing it, it just makes it a little harder.

This past weekend in Texas, everyone was drinking alcohol and eating everything they wanted. My willpower was pretty damn strong several times as I could have easily fell back into my old ways. Sure, I still drink alcohol sometimes. It’s been about once a month for the past several months. But I can still have fun with small quantities of it, or none at all.

Same with being vegan. Yes, it’s kind of dumb to be the only person doing it when you’re surrounded by tons of people who aren’t. But if you’re confident in yourself, and can take jokes (probably my strongest skill), and come prepared, and don’t try to jam your beliefs down everyone’s throats, you’ll have just as much fun, and most people who don’t know won’t even notice you’re being vegan.

I will say that I’m more aware how food/drink are the main focus of basically every social event. Every event is based around food: birthday parties, the Super Bowl, weddings, meetings, baby showers, celebrations at work, dating, graduation parties, conferences, I could go on all day.

Try removing food (and alcohol) from these scenarios and watch how people react. “There’s not gonna be an open bar at this wedding?” “You’re not catering your kid’s birthday party?” “So we are just supposed to come over and watch the football game and there won’t be snacks there?” I don’t expect this to ever change, but it’s way more obvious now. The same way you feel when you leave your phone at home and you go somewhere with a lot of people, and it’s more apparent that everyone is on their phone the whole time.

What are the benefits of doing this?

I feel better. I have more energy. I can lift more weights at the gym. I lost a little weight. I feel like I look better. I don’t need medications or a lot of supplements (which I never really needed, but probably would eventually if I continued eating like I used to). I get to try all sorts of new foods and it makes places I’ve already been more exciting. I’m not contributing to the killing of animals. I don’t feel like I wanna pass out right after eating a meal. I’m learning to cook more at home. I’m able to increase my knowledge about being plant-based, as well as help others that are curious and want to learn about it.

I really can’t think of any negatives with this path. I’m sure others could think of some, but I bet there’s a good rebuttal for each reason. It’s all positive to me, at least so far. I honestly see no point in eating animals or products created with anything that has came from an animal. It makes no sense anymore. There are tons of points out there, but I can’t think of a valid point to consuming meat or dairy in 2017 for a US citizen that has access to everything.

I still can’t believe I’m doing this.

Again, this doesn’t seem like something I would do. I might not fit the stereotype, but I’m not concerned about that. Many things I’ve done and still do come off as weird or unorthodox to a lot of people. Sometimes I like that. It sparks up conversations. It keeps me intrigued.

Maybe a year from now I’ll be writing a post called, “Yup, you were right, being vegan sucks.” Who knows. I think it’s ok to reinvent yourself often. Being adaptable is huge for me. When I find something that really makes sense to me, I become obsessed with it. I become a fanatic. But I’m not always set in my ways to the point where I can’t change or be flexible. I think that’s also important for health, business, and life.

So I should probably end this post soon or I’ll never hit the publish button. I’m happy this nutrition approach randomly showed up one day and hasn’t left yet. It was completely random. I was being lazy and couldn’t stop watching documentaries on Netflix one day. Luckily I started this one and couldn’t turn it off. It would be cool to look back on this 40 years from now and say, “That film literally changed my life.”

Whether that happens or not, I’m gonna continue to ride this out for as long as I can. I’ve stuck it out for almost 2 months and it’s been way easier than I ever imagined. If I felt sick or tired or depressed or hungry or like I was compromising too much, I’d definitely reconsider it. But I don’t. I feel better than ever.

So I’ll just keep on truckin and I’ll post updates here occasionally. I’m sure I’ll build a plant-based website/blog soon (once I decide on a name I love) and document everything there. Of course I’ll always be transparent with everything on my social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat). And if you have any questions or comments, reach me there, or leave a comment below, or send me an email. Time to go eat something vegan…

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