41 Years Old and Living My Best Life
41 years leading an active lifestyle. It’s crazy to think about, but I have never not been active.
I grew up playing sports. My dad enjoyed athletics growing up, and coached football, wrestling, track, and baseball. So naturally, my brothers and I grew up playing.
My parents never forced us to play or made us specialize in a particular sport. They simply provided us opportunities and exposed us to every sport possible. But the most important thing they did was play with us, support us, and attend every competition or game we were involved in.
When I was 12 I was old enough to go to the gym my dad worked out at. My dad and I went every pretty much every night. He taught me how to lift correctly. I remember he had me squat with a broom handle on my back and the toes of my shoes touching one of the many mirrored walls in the gym. This taught me to keep a straight bar path, to keep my knees from caving in, and to push my butt back. I have never had an injury when squatting. Thanks Dad!
During this time both of my brothers were playing soccer at a competitive level, and my parents were very involved in either coaching their teams or helping with travel. So gym time with my dad was special.
Since that time I have not taken any time off of working out. I was either involved in sports or was training at the gym. Not because I was an incredible athlete or crazy competitive, simply because I loved it. I have always enjoyed practice more than competing. I love training, pushing against my friends, and trying to be the best I can be that day. It’s fun!
I even met my wife through the gym.
After a few years of going to the Big Box gym in our area, my dad took me to a local gym called Giorgio’s. Giorgio was a champion powerlifter and my dad coached his son in football, wrestling, and track. I got to know “Big Georg”, eventually becoming friends with him and his son as I got older.
Then Giorgio’s daughter, Tiana, moved back home. She worked evenings at the gym and I would hang out for hours with her, staying until the gym closed. It took me a year to finally ask her out! The rest, as they say, is history.
13 years ago, shortly before we married, Tiana made the decision to follow a vegan lifestyle out of compassion for animals. She could no longer support industries that harmed animals, knowing that we had alternative foods to replace meat, dairy, and eggs.
This was back when being Vegan was tough! Boca burgers were the best thing available in our area, and they were terrible! Restaurants didn’t have vegan options and no one could understand her decision; even me.
I was supportive, however, and knew that raising kids following a vegan lifestyle was going to be important to her.
When we found out we were pregnant with our first child I began studying infant vegan nutrition. I studied Human Nutrition at Washington State University and had been taught the importance of animal products for growing children. I was shocked when I started following the research!
Current scientific, unbiased nutrition research is all pointing in the same direction; a whole-food plant-based, vegan diet is key to health and longevity.
I hadn’t conducted nutrition research since ending my pursuit to be a Registered Dietitian. Three years into a degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition I changed majors. I had become frustrated with the state of health and nutrition at the time and knew I didn’t want to spend my life working in hospitals. I changed my focus and went on to earn a Master’s in Teaching, becoming a math and science teacher.
I continued working as a personal trainer, enjoying helping others reach their fitness goals and lead healthier lives. But none of my advice or personal practice included following a vegan diet, until Troy, my first child, came along.
I started looking for Continuing Education Credits focused on plant-based nutrition. They weren’t hard to find as more and more doctors, dietitians, and health professionals are advocating for plant-based diets.
I made sure our first son was properly fed a diet consisting of whole plant foods and that he was eating the higher amounts of protein and healthy fats that growing children need. I also started making changes to my own diet.
At this time I was heavily involved in CrossFit. CrossFit fed my competitive side and gave me the feeling of being back on a team and practicing. I loved it!
I soon entered the competitive side of the CrossFit world. I enjoyed the structure and discipline of preparing for competitions and seeing what my body was capable of. Injuries started to pile up, including Achilles tendonosis in both of my legs, pain in my right knee, hip, and low back, and a small tear in my left shoulder.
I followed every piece of advice I could get to work through and correct my injuries, most of which I healed. My Achilles tendons continued to get worse, however, and the pain in my knee and hip were always there.
I read about inflammation and how eating animal products contributes to a chronically inflamed state, and started to wonder if cutting animal products out of my diet could help. Then I talked to a coach. His comment was that every vegan he had ever trained couldn’t handle the rigors of the sport. They always ended up with tendon, ligament, and joint injuries they couldn’t recover from. I should have asked how many vegans he’d coached! However, I wanted to heal so I followed his advice, even adding in Peptides to try and help.
Another year passed. I continued to improve. I got stronger. My times and performances got better. I kept racking up PRs. But no improvement in any of the chronic injuries I was dealing with.
I started cutting out more and more animal products. This began naturally due to the fact that I was the only one eating them in my house. Even with the subtraction of animal proteins, I continued to chase and rack up PRs.
Finally, I stopped eating fish and eggs, the last animal products I was still eating. Within a matter of weeks the tendonosis I had been dealing with disappeared! Just by pulling out 3-4 servings a week of salmon and a few eggs for breakfast?! And I continued to improve in the gym!
This was the beginning of a new journey for me. I knew the research, but years of powerlifting, bodybuilding, and CrossFit training had me so conditioned that meat was vital to muscle growth, performance, and fat loss that I was too afraid to follow through with what I was learning.
I spent almost 37 years eating animals. Eating a lot of animals! Milk and eggs were staples. Scrambled eggs or omelets for breakfast. Hard-boiled eggs for snacks. Chocolate milk post-workout (one of the most amazing marketing schemes I can think of!). Meat with every meal. I am over 4 years vegan and 41 years old. I don’t miss meat for a second.
I remember where I came from and what I was conditioned to eat, however. I don’t look down on anyone for their food choices! I simply want to show you how removing animal products from your diet will help you get out of a pattern of chronic illness and poor health. I want you to be as plant-based as possible.
I was an elementary and middle school math and science teacher for 13 years before I decided to stay home with my boys and focus on my career as a Holistic Nutritionist full time. I loved teaching, and now I use all I have learned through my undergraduate studies in Food Science and Human Nutrition, my master’s degree in teaching, and my experience in the classroom to help others on their plant-based journey to wellness!
After five years, why am I Vegan?
Because I’m a Daddy first. Because I don’t ever want to have a heart attack, stroke, or be plugged into a dialysis machine. I want to be able to do anything my kids want to do, for the rest of my life. Because I don’t ever want to look at my loved ones and have to pretend I know who they are. Because I want my kids to live in a better world than the direction we are heading. If I can be a voice for decreasing climate change by choosing a diet focused on eating plants, maybe I can make a difference for my kids’ future. Because we don’t have to eat animals, which makes killing them unnecessary. Because we produce far more food than necessary to end world hunger, completely end it, but much of that food is fed to livestock to harvest meat that won’t ever make it to those most in need of food.
These are my values. This is where I stand.
I am not here to judge. I hope to inspire you to lead the most vegan lifestyle you can.
Yours in Plant-Based Health and Fitness,
Certified Holistic Nutritionist
Plant-Based, Plant Built