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What The Health? The Adventures Of A Reluctant Vegetarian

A few months ago, a good friend of mine sent me a Bleacher Report article profiling Boston Celtics star point guard Kyrie Irving. It discussed Irving's decision--along with other NBA players--to adopt a plant-based diet and how his change in eating habits has positively impacted his performance on the court.

I had been flirting with the idea of going vegetarian for some time. A few of my friends had been telling me about their positive experiences of adhering to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, eventually encouraging me to look into doing so. The idea always intrigued me, but my response was always, "Nah bruh."

My thinking, like the thinking of so many others, was how could I maintain my physique or fully support my active lifestyle eating salads all day? (Which is a common misconception.) However, after reading that star professional athletes--even with their hectic schedules, rigorous training regimens, and fierce nightly competition--were able to maintain a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, I was convinced that I may actually be able to do this.

Throughout my life--except for a brief period in my early twenties when I was broke and basically lived off a diet of Poptarts, Steak-Umms, three wings and fries smothered in mumbo sauce from the local carryout, and Carlo Rossi wine (Judge not, lest ye be judged)--I've maintained a relatively healthy lifestyle. So, it wasn't as if I was trying to right a lifetime of eating wrongs.

And no, I wasn't scared straight after watching What The Health or any other one-sided propaganda docudrama. (To be honest, I haven't even seen WTH, nor do I have a desire to do so.) My decision was about being more cognizant of what I was putting into my body. About being more deliberate regarding my eating choices. About treating the only body that I get while on this earth, better.

We've all seen the influx of processed meats with "free range," "grass fed," "ethically raised," "no antibiotics," "no hormones" declarations stamped on the packages. Yet, processing meat is big business, and I find it hard to believe that it's ethical or healthy to consume animals that have been slaughtered assembly-line style, in unsanitary facility conditions.

Further, in recent years my own family members and loved ones had been been dealing with chronic health issues directly attributed to their eating habits. Lastly, I was encouraging youth in my nonprofit's mentoring program to adopt better eating habits but wasn't fully committed to doing so myself. So, after consulting with my vegan and vegetarian friends--receiving valuable guidance, support, and recommendations--and conducting my own research, my fiancèe and I started on the journey from carnivore to vegetarian. Well...more like "flexatarian."

I'm not going to lie, this lifestyle change has been a struggle and I've slipped up from time to time. Especially since her and I made the decision to start around the holiday season. (Say no to mama's cooking? Blasphemy! *Stephen A. Smith voice*) Additionally, because I can't sit still and pretty much am always on the road, finding healthy options while traveling often proves difficult. Shoot, to keep it real, just this past weekend while visiting a good friend of mine in New York, I surrendered to Popeyes' glorious 3-piece spicy chicken combo after a long night out. Unfortunately, after this consumption, my body basically said, "you know you wrong" and pretty much rejected it immediately.

On the upside, when I do remain on the straight and narrow path of my vegetarian lifestyle, I feel better. I have more energy. I've pretty much remained in the same weight range as before without losing much, if any, muscle mass. And, I feel good about generally demonstrating a better reverence for animals.

I've found protein-rich, plant-based products such as black bean spaghetti, lentil pasta, and soybeans that support my active lifestyle. Quinoa, sprouted Ezekiel bread, and sweet potatoes--which I regularly consumed prior to this lifestyle change--have also been super clutch. However, my hard line stops at vegetarian. I still consume eggs in abundance daily and, yes, I'll absolutely take cheese on my black bean burgers. I'm also sure I'll "flex" and give in to eating meat every once in a while. The main point is that it's all about balance, adhering to a generally healthier lifestyle, and only consuming certain things in moderation.

I'm not telling you this to convince you to give up meat. What's for you, is for you. Some of my closest friends are health and fitness freaks and still consume meat with almost every meal. Plus, don't get it confused, you can be an unhealthy vegetarian, too. Potato chips, certain brands of candy, Oreos and ice cream are considered vegetarian, but that doesn't mean you can live off of a diet of only those products.

By sharing my own journey, my hope is that someone reading this post will be inspired to adjust the eating habits--whether that means cutting down on meat intake, cutting meat out completely, or eliminating any other foods from their diets--that may potentially have an adverse effect on their health.

Ultimately, be more conscious and selective of what you put into your body. Find the balance that works for you. Be disciplined. Eat in moderation, only up until the point that you are content. Treat your body with respect and love. It's the only one you get.

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