An Accidental Vegetarian

This past Memorial Day Holiday weekend I spent the weekend with a group of my Triathlon teammates. For at least a couple reasons I volunteered to make dinner for everyone one night, I haven’t had a chance to cook for a lot of people in quite a while, and it’s something I do enjoy. I also selfishly didn’t want to end up going out for meals too much anyway. Because of work I arrived a day later than most. I was on my way maybe 40 minutes away when I freind sent me a text asking where I was and dinner was on the table. I arrived everyone had finished and slid most every dish my way. I don’t recall what there was but maybe half of it was off my plan. I went into my stash, and mixed up a few things for a complete meal. I had “announced” on Facebook I was weighing my high school/ college walking weight for the first time in years and had been hovering just above it for a while but finally cracked below 150. I had also had finally broke 5 hours in a Half Ironman in early May at St George. I’ve gone as slow as 7 hours.

Someone asked “D.J. are you a vegetarian?” someone else answered for me he’s been working with Lisa Sullivan and she has changed his diet. My answer at the time was I’m eating as vegetarian, it’s working, I’m racing well recovering well, sometimes you have to know the audience this particular crew is open minded and understands the challenges of training, recovering and racing. That said even though they are some of my dearest friends I did squirm inside I wasn’t and still may not be fully ready to label myself as a vegetarian. I have been eating as a vegetarian since at least Oct the week of Kona, except for a 3 occasions I can recall all put me in to a mild sickness.

As an avid Triathlete and a Thai Massage Therapist who works primarily with athletes, I spend a great deal of time thinking about recovery, fuel and how to get the most out of my body. I’m somewhere in the middle of the bell curve when it comes to race times, so I’m not seeking to win anything, but I do want to know how much I can do and I want to it right, while maintaining perspective on other aspects of life. I want my workouts to count, my calories to count, and my recovery to be the most optimal as possible.

Massage is part of recovery, strength training, stretching, warming up, cooling down, is part of recovery. I’ll address these aspects of life as an active person another time.

Eating is a big part of recovery, getting the most dense forms of nutrients per calories I feel is the key, along with timing. I’m not a Nutritionist, these are just my opinions based on my experiences.

I recover faster by eating better post workouts and post race. I don’t “treat” myself as often to high fats, high sugar, and processed foods, I have fewer “cheat” days. I eat more vegetables, I’m still not a big salad person I prefer simple cut up veggies raw, or cooked up. I’ve replaced at least 3 daily cups of rice, pasta, or potatoes, with yams, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, kale, broccoli, asparagus and other greens, usually what on sale, local and organic, my plates are just as full, the calories are probably about the same. I don’t measure out anything so I really don’t know. I do know handfuls of white rice has less fiber than handfuls of dark green veggies which have more nutrients , I can read labels.

I thought about getting into Grams and calories but this is more of a story.

It has been a long journey, several years. The path I took was adding more nutrients dense calories, as I learned to cook with vegetables They took more space on my plate. As I learned plant based proteins worked as well or better than cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and fish, in my recovery. It fed my instincts, to add more and more lentils, other beans, nuts into my diet. My recovery from workouts continued to get better and better. My thinking has becoming less cluttered, my problem solving has gotten better, many would dispute this but I am getting better. My race performances have gotten more consistent and better.

Everything has a back drop here are a few.

2014 was a big year! I raced the Boston Marathon, Boise Half Ironman, Ironman Canada, Lake Steven Half Ironman, Ironman Arizona. Every season I’ve made a goal not to gain “too” much weight in my mind 10 pounds is too much, I’ve had years where I’ve had 30 pounds swings. In September I reached out to Lisa, a Nurse who had become a health coach, through a program I’m interested in. I still had Ironman Arizona, I was back on a training plan with Ann Ciaverella. I wasn’t dealing with my life challenges very well, so we did take break from formal training for IMCA, not following the plan was stressing me out, leading me to a cycle of comfort calories/ poor food choices too much of the time. I was motivated to do well in Arizona and had to make some changes.

I’ve been a “good” by most American standards for a most of the past 8 years, I left the cubicle life in 2007, and started Massage school. I had slowly replaced spam, sausages, wings, and other high fat, high calories foods, low on nutrients with leaner meats, fish and more and more vegetables

I’ve gone down this road before, while in Peace Corps Sri Lanka, I rarely ate meat, once in a long while when in meetings and conferences I’d have some meat maybe even some cheese, but in my Village without electricity It was just easier to have rice and curried lentils, still one of my favorite meals.

I went in to Peace Corps very overweight or obese. I lost most of my partying weight in the first 4 months of Peace Corps while eating huge amounts of rice, lentils, fresh fruit and vegetables, I was nearly as strong, almost as fast, as I had ever been in my life, I also had a curious mind, and I was at my walking weight during wrestling season. I was learning new things including a language everyday. It was a big time of transition for me, Peace Corps for me opened my eyes to a lot of things outside my very secure Blue collar/ union/ middle class life I grew up in.