As we at MamaSezz well know, changing to a plant-based diet can change your life in ways you never expected. For some, a healthy vegan diet can reverse heart disease. Then, for others, healthy vegan meals can lower cholesterol. In this series, we talk with some of the world’s most soulful, dedicated (and often funny) individuals. We get to hear their stories of suffering, transformation, and service — and we learn how healthy vegan meals are an essential part of their journey.
Today we talked with Men's Physique Athlete, Gabriel. Gabriel had always been interested in meditation practices, and his spirituality. He started going to a meditation center and was unknowingly eating vegan meals. When he made the connection between non-violence and veganism, he started to research the diet. With the help of his girlfriend (who was vegan herself), Gabriel was able to transition to a vegan diet so that his spiritual practices matched his eating habits. As an athlete, he was conscious of what he was eating, and transitioned from a vegan to whole food plant-based vegan diet. The results were astounding! Here's Gabriel's story:
Gabriel is a Men's Physique Athlete, health coach and personal trainer. He is 100% plant-based, and eats mostly whole foods. Gabriel hasn't always been plant based though. Here's how Gabriel discovered veganism, and a healthy vegan diet. His life has not been the same since.
What was life like before eating a healthy vegan diet?
Gabriel was born in Queens and then moved to the Poconos in PA, where he spent most of his childhood. He grew up on an omnivorous diet, and it wasn't until 1/2 a decade ago that Gabriel started to focus on the fuel he was putting into his body. At this point, he had never even heard the word "vegan".
First, Gabriel decided to go pescatarian, meaning the only meat he ate was fish. During that time, he started to learn more about animal products, and the impact that eating them has on our health. Gabriel was focused on his spiritual growth but hadn't taken his health and his body into the same level of consideration. Being a pescatarian had opened the door, but he still hadn't walked through the threshold.
Compassion in action
At the time, Gabriel was attending meditation sits at a zen center. After the sits, the group would get together for socialization and food upstairs. He didn't notice at first, but all the meals were 100% vegan. He questioned, as many omnivores do, "where is the protein?" because he still had the antiquated notion that our bodies need meat protein to survive and thrive.
The center started the plant the seed for Gabriel when they shared why their meals were vegan. They described it as "compassion in action," which essentially meant they were practicing what they preached. It clicked for Gabriel that they were acting on their practice and that the spiritual teachings that he'd been learning were directly related to the meals he was consuming.
How Gabriel's relationship affected his healthy vegan diet
When Gabriel met his wife, Anna, she had been vegan for 4 or 5 years. As a result, when Gabriel moved in with her, he was eating a primarily vegan diet. Compassion in action really started to click for him, when he learned more about Anna's diet, and he began to feel as though his actions were matching his meditation practice and teachings.
At that point, he started to recognize how eating animals impacted us as beings. Taking on all of the aggression and suffering from the animals we consume was having an impact on the way Gabriel viewed his food. Even though he had been vegan for almost a year at this point, things began to really click and make sense.
Protein: Health vs. Fitness
As an Athlete, Gabriel was worried that he wouldn't get enough protein to sustain muscle growth. Gabriel was not alone, as this is a concern for many plant based athletes! To ensure he was getting enough, he focused heavily on eating vegan proteins. As he began to learn more about nutrition, he realized how much misinformation was really out there about protein. Gabriel distinguishes working towards muscle building and physique refining and working towards health as two separate things. Often, they are recognized as being one goal, when in reality, there are healthy ways to reach physique goals, and unhealthy ways... although the result might look similar. Health and fitness are two different goals. Since then, Gabriel has learned to be more strategic so he can reach both goals.
A Piece of advice for someone who wants to be a plant-based athlete
Gabriel's biggest piece of advice is to focus on one habit at a time. Start with developing one habit, and wait for that to develop into a habit. Eventually, it will become your skillset. Focus on practice, skills, and daily actions. Get clear: What is one daily action that you can commit to?
Changes to Gabriel's body after going vegan
Like many new vegans, Gabriel was so excited about all the vegan products that lined the shelves of the grocery stores, and planned to try them all! What he later learned, is that just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy. Over the past few years, Gabriel refined what it meant for him to eat a healthy vegan diet. He focused less on processed vegan foods, and more on whole fruits and veggies.
Gabriel stresses that it's not an all-or-nothing game. He indicates that 80% of the time he focuses on whole plant foods, and 20% of the time he's casual. Doing anything 100% can make for a stressful existence, and puts a lot of pressure on yourself. Gabriel even saw better health results in the past year when he was focusing on whole foods than he has in the past 20 years.
"The foods that heal us the most are the ones that come from the planet"
Gabriel's practice: A healthy vegan diet is just the beginning
Gabriel and his wife run an online coaching company called Vegan Fitness Redefined. They focus on the individual and help them to regain their strength and become positive role models. He wants people to learn how to walk the walk, and to embody health.
Get started with MamaSezz
Healthy vegan meals are the best diet for longevity and overall health! Because anti-inflammatory foods (plant-based) reduce inflammation which causes disease, repair telomeres (which unravel with age), and slow cell aging, healthy vegan meals can slow this process.
If you're interested in eating a more plant-centric diet, try the MamaSezz Detox and Reboot program with MamaSezz. Healthy vegan meals delivered, fresh.