TUCSON PERSONAL TRAINING CENTER

My Vegetarian Experiment

Personal Training in Tucson - The Protocol Strength & Conditioning, Llc

Greetings!

Today’s post comes to us from my lovely wife, Marie. Marie runs all the nutrition programs at our facility and, for as long as I’ve known her, has always been willing to be an open-minded student in the world of nutrition.

She has an incredible personal weight loss story: After many years as a yo-yo dieter, in her late 40s she lost over 50 pounds and has kept it off for over a decade. Her own journey has fueled her passion for helping others (especially women), to find long-term solutions for weight loss instead of falling for the latest short-term fads.

Recently, she took on a little N=1 experiment on herself, so I asked her to share a little bit about what she learned during this time. Take it away Marie!

My Vegetarian Experiment

I swore I would never be a Vegetarian. What happened?

“I will never be a Vegetarian. Animal protein is king.”

Before we begin, to please the lawyers… 

1. This, in no way, is meant to be an "everyone needs to eat this way" blog. It is for informational, and perhaps thought-provoking, purposes… and maybe good for a chuckle or two. I have never, in all my years of working with people, recommended a vegetarian diet to any of my clients who I do nutrition coaching with.

2. Never make changes without input from your healthcare provider.

Last December, as a health experiment, I decided to change to a vegetarian diet. Me - a confirmed low carb, meat-eating, protein-a-holic.

(Side note: Jerry told me that he would end up being a full vegetarian someday. I said "NEVER." Famous last words.)

I made a commitment to be vegetarian for 3 months… ok, I cheated on occasion but more about that later.

I knew next to nothing about food combining to maximize protein intake from vegetable sources, other than the fact that it was important. Luckily, I have a friend who has been Vegetarian/near vegan for several years (our newest instructor April). With her guidance and wealth of knowledge, I learned the basics. She also sent me a boatload of killer recipes, sad to say I didn't try all of them.

SO, I began...buying way more vegetables than ever before, learning the best ways to cook beans (almost no gas, it was a near miracle!), and figuring out how much to eat so I wasn't hungry 2 hours later. Because let's face it, veggies take up a lot of space for few calories.

I have to say, I was not a "Political Vegetarian." Some might use the term "ethical vegetarian." My definition is those people who do not eat animal products due to ethical or moral reasons. I was doing this for health, not ethical reasons, so I chose to (cheat and) eat fish or eggs on occasion. I probably averaged eating one of them every other week. The rest of the time was veggies, fruit, beans, rice, quinoa, coconut milk, and protein powder. Lots and lots of veggies. Oh, and 90% of the veggies were cooked, very little raw food unless I had a salad. Very little bread, since that has not been a part of my diet for many years.

Some interesting things happened along the way. I realized I had no idea how much to eat to be satisfied, since I was used to more calorie dense foods, such as meat and fats. I had to eat a much higher carb diet to make up for that. It took more planning at first, but it wasn't all that bad. Learning new things is always fun!

After some tweaking, I settled on a breakfast smoothie along with nuts and seeds, veggie lunch, and dinner alternated between beans and vegetable based protein "burgers" (NO SOY). It wasn't home cooked, but it was still made from peas. I ate significantly more carbs than I was used to. Rice, sweet potatoes, and starchy vegetables were eaten daily, and the occasional veggie pizza was awesome.

Eating at home was easy, because I bought the food with a plan in mind. Going out to eat was very interesting. It forced me to look at the menu differently. Before, I would automatically look at what protein I wanted to eat, then decided if the sides were what I wanted (low carb of course.) During this experiment, I had to look for vegetable items instead. We don't go out too much, but I NEVER had a problem finding something to eat at a restaurant. And I only ate a salad if that was what I wanted. I never had to "settle" for a just a salad.

What did I learn? CARBS ARE NOT THE ENEMY (for me).

I have been lower carb for quite a while, buying into the thinking that carbs were bad. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed eating "all the carbs." I felt satiated. Incredibly, my almost daily sugar and chocolate craving stopped! I attribute this to the increased carbs. It is quite possible that I was craving sugar and chocolate because I had a deficiency in my diet.

Surprise - I found that I actually liked eating this way. There were days I would come home and just want a huge plate of veggies for dinner. I just went with it.

After the initial work, I enjoyed myself. Imagine that?

This was not meant to be a forever dietary plan, so after the 3 months, I spent about 8 weeks slowly reintroducing different foods. I added only one new thing a few times a week, and waited several days before introducing the next item. It was just a wait and see approach to see how my body reacted. I found out that there are certain things that don't really agree with me, but it took taking them out of my diet for a while to realize it.

Where do I go from here? I feel good, and my training performance has not been impaired from a lack of meat (gasp). I have continued to eat vegetarian meals about 50% of the time and plan to continue this. It's not difficult, I enjoy it, and actually find it easier. Except for buying enough vegetables every week. There never seems to be enough!

After being a yo-yo weight gainer and loser my entire adult life, I thought I had figured out all I needed to know about how to eat. I was able to maintain my weight within a small window for many years now, although I didn't like the 5-8 pound fluctuations that I kept having. Since December, I have dropped a few pounds and been able to maintain it within a 2-pound window. This is the most effortless weight maintenance I have ever experienced.

It doesn't really matter how someone eats, there is no one right plan. But I do believe that if someone is looking for a change, it is out there if they are willing to look, and try it.

Sometimes we make an easy decision to change, and sometimes we get dragged into it kicking and screaming. No matter which, it feels good when we learn something new about ourselves. Being open to change and new possibilities make life an endless adventure.

Thanks for reading,

Marie Trubman, PT, MS, FMS, SMK

Having over 30 years of experience as a licensed physical therapist, her passion for health and fitness has led her to become certified in the Functional Movement Screen and a Certified Kettlebell Instructor through Strength Matters. Although she works with all ages, her primary passion is working with the older adult to assist in regaining and maintaining lost mobility, strength, and function.




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