8 Reasons I Went Plant-Based & Am Never Going Back To Meat
I'm the first to admit that I changed my diet for selfish reasons. At 39, I was a fat, out-of-shape couch potato hurtling into middle age depressed and unenthusiastic about my life. It was only in the wake of a health scare on the eve of my 40th birthday that I realized not only that I needed to change but that I wanted to change.
That change ultimately took the form of adopting a plant-based diet—a decision that permanently altered the trajectory of life and helped me transform into a middle-aged ultra-endurance athlete, wellness advocate, and one of Men's Fitness' 25 Fittest Men in the World.
By eating nothing but plants close to their natural state, I lost weight quickly and responsibly. My vitality and enthusiasm for life restored, I went on to accomplish athletic feats I could have never previously dreamed possible: I was a top finisher at the Ultraman World Championships and the first person to complete EPIC5: five ironman-distance triathlons on five Hawaiian Islands in under a week.
The social & environmental benefits that help me stick to my plant-based diet.
Life isn't static. As my journey evolves, I have become increasingly more interested in issues beyond my waistline and the world of elite athletic performance—issues like environmental conservation and world hunger. Wellness begins with what we put on our plate. But that's just first base. True health is far more comprehensive—extending beyond our personal physical well-being to the collective, sustainable health of all living beings and the places they call home. Here are the top reasons I feel good about sticking with my plant-based diet:
1. It conserves water.
More than half of all water consumed in the U.S. is used for animal agriculture. According to a model by the Water Footprint Network, it takes about 460 gallons of water to produce one quarter-pound hamburger. And dairy isn't much better, requiring 1,000 gallons of water for 1 gallon of milk. This is not only wasteful and inefficient; it is emblematic of a broken system of food production.
2. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions.
When it comes to global climate change, we tend to focus on the impact of fossil fuel use and hot-button issues like fracking. But the elephant in the room is animal agriculture, which is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions—more than the exhaust from all transportation combined, according to a 2006 report by the United Nations.
3. It conserves land.
Livestock covers a significant portion of land on Earth. According to the documentary Cowspiracy, 1.5 acres of land can produce 375 pounds of meat or 37,000 pounds of plant food. In other words, a meat-eater requires 18 times the amount of land necessary to feed someone eating plant-based. You do the math.
4. It helps prevent species extinction.
Animal agriculture is also a leading cause of species extinction. In order to clear up land to grow livestock (in addition to non-animal crops like palm oil and coffee), farmers in South America and Southeast Asia are forced to clear-cut old-growth forests, which threatens native species of plants and animals.
5. It reduces animal gas and waste (which plays a significant role in global warming).
Fewer animals raised for meat means less gas in the atmosphere. Due to their unique digestive system, the average cow releases 30 to 50 gallons of methane (a greenhouse gas that traps more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide) through burps and farts. When you consider how many animals live on one farm, the greenhouse has production adds up pretty quickly.
6. It helps prevent marine life destruction.
As many as 10% of fish caught globally every year are thrown out, and some scientists say we could see fishless oceans as soon as 2048. Moreover, the waste runoff from animal agriculture can cause ocean dead zones that are so deprived of oxygen that no animal or plant life can survive there.
7. It helps alleviate world hunger.
The U.S. alone could feed 800 million people with the grain that livestock eat. Hunger isn't a scarcity issue; it's an allocation and distribution issue.
8. It prevents (and can reverse) chronic disease.
A whole-food, plant-based diet has been scientifically proven to prevent and even reverse a litany of food and lifestyle-borne illnesses, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes—modern plagues on the developed world.
I highly recommend adopting a mostly plant-based diet and would go so far as to say it's the most powerful and impactful choice you can make as a conscious consumer.