My Journey to Veganism – Steve Circeo

I think a lot. I analyze life, far beyond the extent that most people analyze life. In fact, I analyze everything about life, often to the irritation of those around me. The best way to load the dishwasher. The most efficient way to mow the lawn. The safest route to the grocery store. I don’t know why I do that, but I do it. So when I started getting fit, it was only right that I would analyze the hell out of that process, really study how my eating and exercise habits affected my body.
That is not to say I am fanatical about working out or eating properly. I’m not. I skip workouts. I overindulge in pizza, chips, and alcohol from time to time. I’m really just a regular guy who wants to live a regular life, but with modifications to help make it as healthy as possible.
I first got fat in the 1980s. I was not fat-fat, just overweight for what I was accustomed to — I had always been a thin kid — so I did the Atkins diet in 1983-84 and that worked to take off the excess baggage. I couldn’t sustain that way of eating forever, though, and my weight creeped higher, if slowly. After all, I was still young.
A few years later, I discovered the weight didn’t come off as easily as it used to, so I decided I needed to eat salads and quit fast food. That decision led me to become a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. I succeeded in breaking my fast-food habit during my 3 vegetarian years, but I didn’t lose a lot of weight, because I ate a lot of cheese, and, hey, desserts are usually vegetarian, right, so I loaded them up!
I woke up to the cheese folly, and moved to a more balanced diet, re-introducing meat, but trying to keep my fat (but not sugar) consumption lower. It was also during this time in my life that I started running.
I should say here that over the years I’d tried several activities to stay in shape. I’ve always walked a lot. People would make fun of me, because instead of waiting for a ride to the mall, I’d walk the 4 miles.
At one point in the late 70s, I bought a 12-speed bicycle, and rode that everywhere, including the 28-mile round trip to my job every day.
I’ve never been much of a gym guy, because I don’t like the inconvenience of traveling to and from the gym, not to mention the public nature of the workout. However, when I lived walking distance to a fitness club, I joined and went there to do cardio and lift weights. When I moved, that was over.
I found that I enjoyed resistance training, so I bought a decent weight set to use in my garage, but when I needed the garage for other things, well….
So, finally, in the late 80s, after giving up on vegetarianism, I got into distance running — 10k and half-marathons. I really enjoyed running, but at some point it was just taking up too much time, so I went back to a mostly sedentary lifestyle and watched the pounds pile on.
I tried Suzanne Somers’s diet, which worked really well, but, as with all those kinds of diets, it was hard to stay on. Even though I was overweight, if I could stay in the 190-pound range on a 5’10? frame, I thought I was okay.
In 2001 the weight gain accelerated. When I hit 215, I Somercized my way back to 190, but before long I had gained it back — and more.
To be honest, I looked around at other guys my age, and they were all overweight, too, so I didn’t think it was unusual, and I even half-figured being fat was unavoidable. Then in 2006, I attended a family reunion and realized that I was now the fattest person in my immediate family. This made me want to lose weight, but I really didn’t know how, because everything I had tried before was temporary, and running was no longer an option — it hurt my knees.
My health continued to head downhill. My doctor put me on two blood pressure medications, one cholesterol medication, and I had been diagnosed with fatty liver. One day I weighed in at 235 and I was having pain in my abdomen from what I perceived to be fat squishing my organs.
For some reason, at that point, something clicked.
I started restricting calories with Nutrisystem. I also bought a pedometer and tried for 10,000 steps, then 15,000 steps a day, often reaching 20,000 and more. I lost 50 pounds in 8 months, but then I plateaued, and that spoiled my motivation. I went back to my normal eating, but kept walking and doing minor resistance training. Of course, I regained 10 to 15 pounds over the next few years, but, fortunately, never got back up to my previous weight.
I was almost at the point where I was just resigned to the “fact” that I was too old to lose weight without severely restricting calories, which I knew was not workable for the long run. It looked to me as if my choice was between starving myself and being fat.
It was right around then, early 2010, that my brother got me to try P90X, a popular extreme workout program. I didn’t feel I was ready for the X. I mean, I had been walking a lot and doing pushups, crunches, and I owned a pullup bar that I often looked at, but nothing really intense. I weighed 195 and was pretty much out of shape.
As it turned out, though, P90X was just the thing I needed to get me going and really working toward my fitness goals. I was weak in the beginning, needing many extra breaks, not able to do all the moves. It was not until week 9 that I was able to do the workouts all the way through, although, even then, I was working through many of the moves with modifications.
After the first round of P90X I was down to 178 pounds. Under 180. I hadn’t been there since the early 90s! My waist shrank by 4.5 inches. I could wear t-shirts I hadn’t been able to wear in years.
I continued with P90X, Tony Horton’s One on One, Shaun T’s Insanity, The Asylum, and a variety of yoga workout DVDs, plus, most importantly for keeping the fat off, I ate what was for me at that time a proper diet — lower carb, higher protein, not calorie counting, primarily paleo, with a few grains every so often.
In early 2012, I was pleased that my weight was stable in the 170 range, but I got tired of that plateau. I’d been trying to get down to 160, but the gut fat was just not coming off.
So in June, 2012, I tried a program from Beachbody – the makers of P90X – called The Ultimate Reset. WOW! Those stubborn pounds melted off in that 21-day cleansing program, and I got down to 160, but, more importantly, the Reset is plant-based and that got me to research more about a vegan diet.
Of course, my research led me to The China Study, which convinced me that I needed to change from my carnivorous paleo diet to one that is mostly plant-based diet.
I say “mostly” plant-based, because I was going to allow myself to eat occasional eggs, whey protein, and fish. Just every so often, for convenience, if necessary.
Well, that flexibility went away as I completed my Plant-Based Nutrition certificate program via eCornell. The things I learned in those classes – especially how our reliance on animal protein is helping to destroy the natural order of things on our planet – convinced me that I should give complete veganism a try.
I will eat vegan through to October, 2013, and re-assess my body and situation. I have been around long enough that there is no one so ignorant as he who’s found the answer, so I remain skeptical and critical, and, of course, I’ll continue to analyze – and overanalyze – my life as a vegan.
If you have any questions or would like more information, you can contact me at http://www.fitnessfor.us

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