This is not an attempt to jam a vegan bible down your throat. Instead, it's an attempt to reassure you — the person who has become increasingly interested in eating less meat — that you're not crazy for wanting to transition into a plant-based diet.
If you grew up following a traditional Western diet that built on animal product and dairy, the idea of eating less of those two items, or the crazy thought of eliminating them completely, may seem insane.
Your diet is such a personal concept that is deeply ingrained into your being, so fundamentally changing the way you eat may seem impossible to do.
But, something triggers your curiosity.
Maybe you're tired of feeling bloated. You start working out again and want to know how nutrition plays a role. You seem to slog through the days with crippling fatigue and want a practical solution.
The blood on your plate begins to gross you out. You have a friend who is plant-based and is in incredible shape and has beautiful skin. Or whatever. I don't know what it is for you, but something causes you to probe.
Along your secretive trek, you'll identify these five signs that you're on your way to a plant-based diet (without even realizing it):
1. You've become increasingly curious about food and diet.
Whether it's because you want to get ready for summer, handle the digestive issues you've been struggling with, recover faster from your workouts or have more energy throughout the day, you've found yourself spending more time learning about food and diet.
The more you start to learn about how your diet affects your health, the more you will want to know.
The fact not all food is the same and what you put into your body has a profound impact on how your body responds fascinates you.
You begin to take pride in your ability to decide what you put into your mouth.
An odd disposition begins to bubble up inside you and it loudly whispers, "I will not allow bourgeois society to determine what I eat any longer. I have the ability to choose."
2. You begin to ask thought-provoking questions.
Growing up as a meat-eater, I never asked myself, "Why am I eating meat?" I just did it because everyone else did, including my family. Nobody questioned the conventional wisdom.
This led me to believe animal product was essential to life. So, for 28 years, I ate meat.
Until I started asking thought-provoking questions, that is.
Your path will look similar as you mature along your food journey. As you learn more, you'll start asking more questions that would have never crossed your mind in the past.
As a warning, some of these questions will probably debunk some of your deeply-ingrained beliefs.
If you grew up in a household that frequently served steak for dinner, asking the question, "Why am I eating meat?" and digging for an answer may make you uncomfortable.
If you get curious and want to know where your bacon comes from and you ask yourself, "How is bacon made?" don't expect to find a cute story about a little pig named Wilbur.
If you suddenly want to know what's in your double Cheeseburger from McDonald's, and ask yourself, "What's in a hamburger?" you might be surprised by what you find.
3. You want to recover faster from your workouts.
You've managed to hit the gym consistently, but you aren't recovering as quickly as you used to. The next day's workout feels like an uphill battle from the get-go, but you manage to slog through and punch the clock.
Eventually, this cycle gets old and the habit of continued exercise becomes increasingly difficult to sustain. Odds are, you probably throw in the towel after a while.
Exercising is just a part of the puzzle. Recovering properly yields the results you're looking for and allows for better training sessions altogether.
Exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation are two markers that need to be managed well in order to bounce back from a tough workout.
Instead of relying of cheap, supplemental powders, or highly-processed foods, you begin to explore plant-based sources to aid in your recovery.
Athletes across broad mediums are now including more whole-food, plant-based sources into their diets to fight off the effects of oxidative damage and inflammation.
By transitioning from acid-forming foods, like animal protein, sugary drinks and poor fats, to plant-based food sources like spinach, kale, cucumbers, chia, berries, quinoa, hemp and pea proteins, you'll be providing the raw material for your body to reduce oxidative stress.
You'll also discover that consuming a high level of micronutrient-rich foods will help reduce localized inflammation, like muscle soreness.
Some plant-based foods have been shown to offer a natural anti-inflammatory effect, like ginger, tumeric and tart cherries.
4. You've become aware that you're eating animals.
Animal protein is a staple in the traditional Western diet. Most just see it as "food" without making any conscious connections to the animals and how the process of animal agriculture impacts the economy and environment.
A sign that you may be feeling uneasy about your meat-eating habits is experiencing the sobering thought that the food on your plate was once a living thing.
Prior to learning about where your food comes from and the process of how it gets to your plate, you never had any compassion for animals.
But, you've sinced watched a few films like, "Cowspiracy," "Forks over Knives," "Food Inc.," "Earthlings," "Hungry for Change" and "Vegucated."
Now, animal protein takes on a whole new perspective in your mind. This conviction is purely subjective for sure, but if it hits home for you, it's impossible to deny the feeling that eating meat isn't right.
California is in a drought. People are losing their minds because they can't water their lawns and the possibility of being fined for using water is the local headline news story.
State government officials are telling us to take shorter showers (whatever).
But, few are talking about how it takes about 600 gallons of water to make one hamburger, or how one pound of bacon requires 800 pounds of water, or how one dozen eggs gobbles up 636 gallons of water.
You begin to realize that the impact of animal protein consumption reaches far beyond your own little world. You begin to feel that you're contributing to something larger than yourself.
5. You realize plant-based food doesn't suck.
There are plenty of wonderful recipes and easy-to-follow cook books available that are completely plant-based.
But, my wife and are are more concerned with our options when we wanted to dine out. We cherish our date nights and love to go on culinary experiences.
When we decided to cut meat, we initially thought our foodie date nights were over.
We were wrong.
The plant-based culinary scene is thriving. Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles is our-hands down favorite spot. It's not because it's plant-based, either.
It's simply because the food is just better than any other restaurant, plant-based or not.
All across the US, plant-based restaurants that dish out delicious food are popping up.
You've got The Chicago Diner in Illinois; The Candle Cafe in New York; Elizabeth's Gone Raw in DC; Gracias Madre in San Francisco; Leaf in Boulder, Colorado; Natural Selection in Portland, Oregon and Plant in Asheville, North Carolina.
If you've read this far, you're probably on the fence. Perhaps you're even afraid to admit you want to eat less meat or cut it out completely. It's understandable; that's how I felt in the beginning.
And, the five points you just read my exact roadmap before I said, "Screw it, I'm giving up animal protein."
I realized I should have committed sooner. I was being unnecessarily secretive about being a plant-based lifter because you know, all the bros eat meat to get jacked and all.
Being indecisive sucks, particularly when you have enough information to make a decision.
If you resonated with most or all of the points I mentioned above, it's time for you to go all in with a plant-based diet.
And if you need support, holla at me.