Guest Post from a weight-lifting vegetarian
I first met Edouard Sooh when he worked at the Natural Healthway Foods store in Belle Haven. Between waiting on customers, he seemed to always have one of the store’s fat textbooks about natural eating open across the counter, researching at great lengths the details of how our bodies function and which foods might help them function better.
I often used him as my own textbook, consulting with him about foods that ward off sickness or improve athletic performance — and he always had a great answer. So, when the Healthway Foods store went belly up last month (a sad, yet almost inevitable fate once the new Safeway opened), I was extra disappointed to lose my food consultant.
Thankfully, Edouard also works out at the Gold’s Gym in Alexandria where I teach a few classes. When we were talking about his latest eating regimen there last week — he’s now stronger and fitter than ever on an “ape-like” a vegetarian diet — I asked him if he’d write about it here.
Turns out, Edouard is an excellent writer, too (and is now looking for work in writing or related fields, if you’re interested). In this post, he tells us about his journey from meat-eater with vitamin deficiencies to striking the right balance for him on a mostly raw diet. As you know, my husband and I are certainly omnivores, but I’ve learned a lot recently about the benefits of raw or vegetable-based diets (much of it from Edouard, who inspired my fruit & veggie cleanse earlier this year). I hope you enjoy hearing his story as much as I have…
GUEST POST FROM EDOUARD SOOH
“Summer, 2012. After two months of nervous hesitation, followed by a deep breath — then jab of a needle full of syrup-colored b-12 into my glute — I concluded that this daily disservice to my derriere for the greater good of increasing energy must stop.
My mother’s worrisome insistence led me to undertake this Sisyphean task. She sat me down with her naturopath when I visited her in Eugene, OR. I don’t blame her for having me poked and prodded that day — my energy sucked, for lack of a better word. Furthermore, with all the studying and guinea-pigging I put myself through, I still couldn’t solve the issue.
Worse yet, like clockwork, something sucked all the energy out of me by midday, forcing my head down to a pillow; two hours, always. Granted, there’s a natural dip in one’s energy during high noon or shortly after. Mine, however, was crushing me into depression.
A brief rundown of my lifestyle: I’ve treated one gym or another as a playground for 16 years and counting; I started when I was 15. Prior to visiting Oregon at the aforementioned time, I ran my first marathon, the entire course in ankle deep mud!
The youngest of four, I was drawn to the kitchen at an early age. Standing on a stool under mother’s watchful eye, I flipped fried eggs to perfection, never breaking a yoke. From that day forward, I’ve held a steady hand and close eye to all meals prepared from scratch. Aside from a few mischievous moments of underage drinking accompanied by various cigarette brands, my health remained uncompromised by most standards.
Drawing blood, the naturopath informed me that my blood sugar levels were borderline diabetic and my liver enzymes were high. After mentioning one heart-thumping reason after another why my enzymes could’ve been out of whack, she instructed me to consume an Emergen-C packet in water every morning with a dash of natural salt. Her explanation: my body, based on metabolism and how much I sweat when sleeping, was being depleted of minerals, amongst other things.
Therefore, when having breakfast, even if it appeared healthy — like fresh fruit and water or organic eggs with buckwheat pancakes, grade-b syrup drizzled over them — my blood sugar levels spiked, increasing probability of a major afternoon slump.
Last, she prescribed self-administered b-12 injections. Many people, as you may know, have trouble absorbing it, leading to bouts of lifelong fatigue. My theory is that diet is always the culprit. Something was interfering with my absorption rates. Disciplined and diligent as I am, I followed her instructions to a T, along with “eating like a king” for breakfast — chicken sausage, three to four pieces of Ezekiel bread and eggs, along with a mound of oatmeal topped with ghee butter.
She chided me for having low body fat, suggesting if I “beef up” I’ll have more energy throughout the day. Also, my reason for being pre-diabetic could’ve been due to the fact that simple sugar is what your body will utilize first for energy if you lack sufficient carbohydrates, fats and proteins for fuel. Though I acknowledge and agree with that last reason for me to eat more, personally, I still view the rest of her “consumption” advice as an error. I’m an ectomorph. That fact plus my active lifestyle will always keep my build this way. A Michael Phelps diet of 15,000 calories a day won’t make a difference — I’ve tried.
Returning home, a few nuggets of information I obtained, along with a Vita-mix blender a best friend gave me, changed my life. I had read that meat, especially red meat and pork, takes your body, depending on the source, either three hours, six hours or days to process and digest it! All our bellies are different. Nevertheless, imagine how much energy one must sacrifice in order to break down beef at dinner — even if it’s grass-fed organic.
Fact: without the effect of muscle tone, a human digestive tract is 30 feet long. A carnivorous animal’s tract is one-third that length, accompanied by 1,000 times more digestive acids. The length of our system is designed to take in live fruits and vegetables and absorb every nutrient through tentacles known as villi and microvilli in 30 minutes or less, not fight to break down a hunk of meat that putrefies the second it’s slaughtered.
The word “live” as it relates to fruits and vegetables is overlooked, undervalued and cooked out of many of our diets. Hitting 106 degrees, fruits and vegetables lose their living digestive enzymes and various nutrients. Depending on the food’s preparation, all that’s left is often a weak amount of fiber. If we are alive, shouldn’t we be eating nature’s other living offerings instead of inundating ourselves with one steamy meal after another?
Armed with this information and frustration of receiving no benefits from eating gluten free for six months, piercing myself with useless vitamin injections, practicing elimination diets, etc., I decided everything I’d eat for the next seven days will be raw and live fruits and vegetables. I wouldn’t count calories, worry about natural sugars or fret over protein — despite my love for hitting iron at the gym.
Starting that Monday, I’d blend up a smoothie consisting of a half a beet, one banana, a handful of spinach and or kale and one zucchini. A cup of water and organic apple juice reduced thickness. This comprised three meals a day. There are endless variations, but this was my go-to. Because of the strength of my blender, only the banana skin was removed. A healthy, live and fibrous liquid meal held me over for two to three hours at a time. In between drinks, I’d eat as many avocados, oranges, bell pepper slices, additional bananas —you name it — as long as the fruit or vegetable was alive. Water, of course, blended into the diet as well.
I hit Gold’s Gym that morning weighing 207 lbs. Reminding myself how strong gorillas are as fruitarians, I instilled belief in myself that I’d perform a one repetition bench-press max, and by Sunday, perform it again with a gain in strength. 315 lbs was my achievement that morning. Come the end of the week, I was 200lbs and my one repetition max was 330lbs.
Protein is as sensationalized an organic compound as there ever will be. Plaque in arteries consists of four main components: calcium, protein, smooth muscle tissue (protein) and cholesterol. All four culprits are direct or indirectly related to protein. Plaque found in the blood brain barrier consists of similar ingredients, reducing oxygen, blood circulation and nutrient absorption, leading to dementia and Alzheimer’s. I no longer pay protein any mind despite my active lifestyle. I would rather take in 15 grams of plant based protein that I’m not allergic to, therefore, utilizing every last amino acid in it, than take in 30 grams of dairy/animal protein; causing inflammation and a compromised digestive tract.
Since my one week experiment ten months ago, I returned to my previous diet only for a moment before turning a new leaf. I’ve now been vegetarian for 8 months. I don’t eat seafood, eggs or consume dairy either. I do have moments of indulgence — pizza — but they’re few and far between. Contrary to popular belief, removing meat has been the easiest part.
Following my transition, blood sugar and pressure levels have reduced. Liver enzymes are normal and circulation has improved so I don’t experience head rushes like before. Best of all, my energy continues to increase. I still experience strength gains despite weighing 196 lbs at 6’6. The most interesting part: extra unnecessary bulk hasn’t accompanied this. Hence, body fat continues to drop as muscle takes place of it while becoming denser.
Anyone interested in transitioning to vegetarianism, I do not recommend switching overnight. It’s not impossible; however, most fail that way. Focus on changing one aspect of your diet at a time until it’s permanent, then move on to phase two. Aside from desperation for more energy, the catalyst of change, for me, were the smoothies — two a day, equaling two meals. All I had to do was cook another vegetarian meal and fill in the rest of my day with snacks. Within reason, cooking is fine. Yet I believe everyone should adhere to 50 percent of their diet being live and raw. Balance, however, is the key to life and the most important word in every language and culture.
Today, I’m still learning and refining my diet to achieve new benefits. No one, myself included, will ever know everything about nutrition. It is our job to be unbiased and utilize facts as we receive them, no matter the vessel of delivery.
A big Thank You to Edouard for this informative post!