Before we begin, we should preface that this article is about our personal opinions and experiences, not the approach of the business.
Over the years we've worked successfully with people with all sorts of dietary and lifestyle preferences and also various health conditions.
Hope you enjoy reading!
As you might have seen, Ollie persuaded Aimee and I to eat a plant based diet for a day last Thursday on account of it being “World Plant Day”...
I eat quite a lot of plant based foods, but they are usually accompanied by a nice juicy steak or tender piece of fish!
There has been a lot of press over the last couple of years about people going vegan; it's become very popular - fashionable even
If you believe the stories you'll live to the age of 200, be your ideal weight and save the planet at the same time
I have to say I'm a big of a sceptic, but tried to put this aside for the day
So imagine my surprise when in the space of 24 hours of eating just plants I had put on 3lbs/1.5kg?!
A quick bit of maths in my head and I worked out that if I carried on that way I would be over 70 stone by the end of the year!
Here's how the day went for me and my thoughts...
As it's a bit different to my normal routine and go-to foods I spent an hour or so a couple of nights before researching recipes and then preparing some food: I made a vegetable and bean chilli, plus some chickpea and sweet potato burgers.
I thought I had better have it all ready to go so I didn't forget and accidentally break any vegan laws!
We went out in the evening and had a vegan green thai curry - and some hummus, which seems to be a compulsory part of a plant-based diet if you eat out around here
So did this result in a epiphany?
Am I signing up to the plant-based band-wagon?
No. It was OK - the food was tasty enough (except the curry - that was rubbish - lack of fish sauce perhaps?)
But my energy was lower than usual, I was quite hungry and mentally a bit “fuzzy”
Worst of all I weighed myself the following morning and I was up 3lbs/1.5kg on the day before!
I did a rough calculation in my head and worked out if I carried on that way I would put on about 70 stone by the end of the year!
This is somewhat contrary to the hype around plant-based nutrition claiming it to be the holy grail of health and weight-loss..?!
I know it wasn't “real” weight - probably water-retention from eating more carbohydrates than usual.
I also know this is not a scientific experiment in any way, but it did make me think about plant-based nutrition and also my nutrition generally.
There seem to be 3 reasons why people switch to a plant-based diet: health, animal welfare and sustainability/environmental.
Taking them each in turn, I've yet to see any convincing evidence that eating a plant-based diet is really better for you
I've also yet to see many vegans who's lifestyle, body and physicality I aspire to.
It's also interesting how some high profile people come out and say they've gone vegan then seem to go very quiet on it...
I'm sure many people have benefitted from turning vegan, but maybe they change and manage other aspects of their lifestyle at the same time? Maybe it's the elimination of processed foods and drinks that gives the benefit?
There is good evidence that restricting calories could have longevity benefits - and I can see how that would be easily to achieve by going plant-based.
Personally (and of course this is all hypothetical), I would take a 10 year reduction in lifespan and live with the extra focus, drive, vitality, physicality, enjoyment and appreciation of a good steak with friends and family - quality over quantity every time.
There is a general consensus in the nutrition world (one of the few things that there seems to be agreement on!) that most of us would do better by eating more vegetables
Going vegan seems an extreme response to this and wouldn't it be enhanced by some well-sourced high quality protein sources from meat, fish and eggs?
That way you get your B12, Carnosine, DHA and heme-iron etc. - all important stuff for optimal function.
Surely it's telling us something that you can't really get these by eating a plant-based diet?
I agree with many aspects of the animal welfare argument.
My response to this is to source our meat and fish well, from responsible, sustainable and organic producers wherever possible.
If I'm honest this is more from a health standpoint: if animals and fish have been looked after better, raised in a more pleasant and more natural environment and in turn had a more natural diet, we are getting healthier products at the end of it.
It's also my understanding that farming and rearing animals in this way is extremely important to the ecosystem as a whole.
Environmental / Sustainability
I really don't feel qualified to give an informed opinion on this, but last Thursday did inspire me to do a little reading
It seems like current methods of farming and mass food production are unsustainable and doing considerable damage to the environment, which is a terrible shame and I agree something needs to be done
Again, turning vegan as a response to this seems extreme to me and call me selfish, but I'm not compromising my health and quality of life to that extent for future generations!
As with many problems, the development of new technology often comes to our rescue and I believe that will be the case here too
In the meantime we can all make our contribution by being selective about the quality and quantity of meat that we consume.
Plant Power day for me wasn't much of a challenge. I'm probably 95% vegan now with the odd bit of cheese and diary here and there. This is mainly because eating out is difficult if I am solely vegan. In London it is less of an issue but in and around Stratford it feels like catering for plant based eaters is a chore. We usually get one (two if we're lucky!) choices on the menu which aren't always the most balanced nutritionally eg. lack protein/too many carbs. However, I do believe this is something that will become easier with the numbers of plant based eaters increasing dramatically by the day (and for good reason too).
Eating this way has assisted my own lifestyle transformation. I have put on muscle and run a marathon. Not only this but I feel more energised and happier in myself. I'll admit that many other factors have also contributed to this (graduating from University and being settled in Warwickshire) but I still believe my nutrient rich diet is one of the key reasons.
Like many of us, convenience is top of my priority list - all the meals I cooked on plant power day took me under 10 minutes. I have never been very creative or imaginative, but I find food is the time my brain gets to exercise these skills. I'll admit being vegetarian has its drawbacks in terms of lacking protein and some essential vitamins and minerals, but I believe if you're aware of these and compensate for this with plant derived sources or supplements there is no reason why being plant based is any less healthy.
Plant based food is usually much less calorie dense and my current goal is to gain some muscle which requires a LOT of food! I have 4 main meals accompanied by some snacks (recipes to come). For breakfast I ate my usual bowl of Huel Granola, fruit and Alpro yogurt accompanied by a smoothie. In the middle of the day I had a Cajun spiced Tofu stir fry (Tofu is a great source of protein and can taste great) and lentil ragu pasta. We then had dinner out where I admittedly I may have filled myself up on Flatbread and Hummus (easily done) and tempura broccoli. Most evenings I have a super chocolately - but not terrible for my nutrition - smoothie to curb my sweet craving.
My main driver behind eating plant based is that I genuinely believe it is the future due to its sustainability. By leading a mostly plant based diet I hope I can inspire and help educate people to help support our planet for generations to come. Plant based diets get a bad reputation due to miseducation and extremist vegans in the media, but I feel everyone should have the opportunity to build their own opinions once they themselves have read the facts.
I highly recommend trying one or two new plant-based meals per week. This isn't a Tesco's advert but every little really helps. Not only this but It's super-enjoyable experimenting with new food and I hope we've shown how amazing plants can taste. If you ever want to have a chat about eating more plant based, I'd be more than happy to chat to you.
For a lifestyle coach you'd probably be surprised to find that I'm not very experimental with my food and don't tend to enjoy vegetables a great deal, so I knew already that this day was going to be quite challenging. The main challenge for myself was breakfast as I realised I have a large reliance on eggs, having them pretty much everyday. So my alternative to this was just porridge made with water and topped with fruit - not my most adventurous meal. But I did make a Red Lentil Dhal for one of my meals, which is a recipe I'll definitely be making again.
I have to admit I did struggle, but I see this as a good thing as it has shown me some areas of my nutrition that I want to improve. I'm going to start with making vegetables more interesting and a main part of my meal rather than just an extra. Something I'm going to do is try a new recipe/meal each week, and slowly build my cooking skills. I can't say I'm going to turn vegan, but I definitely want to put a focus on eating vegetarian for more of my meals to help both my digestive system and the environment!
These are just my opinions and interpretation - each to their own.
You will have gathered I am not turning vegan any time soon - I don't believe it will help me improve my health or quality of life
But, I will continue to make more of an effort with vegetables - I may even occasionally eat a meal without meat, fish or eggs!
Above all for me it's about quality over quantity.