When I tell my friends that I follow a vegan diet, I get all the usual questions: “Where do you get your protein?”, “Where do you get your energy, if not from meat?” and others, never mind the fact that i’m in better shape than they are and obviously full of energy.
I live in London where being a vegan is generally pretty easy. Once a year thoughIi go on a cycle ride in Europe. This ride is usually 400 miles in 4 days, cycling anywhere from 70-110 miles a day. This year we set off from Split, Croatia and our destination was Tirana, Albania, taking in two other countries en route: Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro. Each year, despite having no cycle-specific training (in fact this year was the first time that i had gotten on a bike in over a year and the first time on that particular bike), the cycling never really worries me. My focus is usually on food!
On the trip that is always organized by one of the lads, we stay in hotels. His wife drives a support van (accompanied by their 4-year- old daughter). She stops at supermarkets to buy food for refueling for lunch. The thing is, both breakfasts and lunches tend to revolve around ham, cheese and bread and little else besides maybe a coffee or tea. As someone who not only doesn’t eat meat, fish or dairy products, but also steers clear of wheat/gluten and caffeine, it kind of limits my choices!
However, it’s all about how you choose to approach any particular situation that counts, as i keep telling my clients. I choose to approach these “challenges” (the challenges of what to eat for breakfast and lunch) with more intelligent questions. instead of thinking, “I won’t be able to eat anything,” I choose to ask ,“What would I need to do to ensure that I eat well and am fueled for 100 miles of cycling?”
And so, I take food with me from the UK to cater my own breakfast and lunch. On this trip, I brought enough cereal for 4 mornings as well as rice cakes and smoked tofu for lunch. Prior to leaving the UK, i also contacted the ho-tels to see if they could provide me with dairy- free milk, and if not, then when I got to the venues i would look for dairy-free milk. If none was available, I was prepared to eat my cereal with water, as I did the year before. You know what? It doesn’t really taste that different!
And yes, I did get stares and questions from the other cyclists each breakfast time, especially when I pulled out my secret weapon— Green Powder—which is a blend of wheatgrass, barley grass, alfalfa grass and tons of other good things, giving me up to nine servings of vegetables in its antioxidant rating with every serving.
Lunch was also a similar affair, in that it was almost comical (for my cycle buddies in any case) to see me slice up my tofu and put it onto rice cakes, when they were eating ham and cheese baguettes. My option was somewhat dry if the support driver wasn’t able to get me some avocado or cucumber to add to the open sandwich that i would make.
During the cycle I would also just use water (albeit with alkalising and ionising drops in it) and natural snacks. All the while, the others were loading up on synthetic supplements, energy gels and drinks. I prefer to put all-natural substances into my body, even on long cycles. These other products have their place, but I feel that many (of my fellow cyclists anyway) have an over-dependence on them and want to let the products make up for shortcomings in training or mental toughness.
And trust me, on a cycle ride like this, you do need mental toughness as well as physical toughness. Despite the amazing coastal scenery, in order to get up those hills, those seemingly never-ending hills, you have to learn to train your mind.
Everyone has their own approach to this and mine differs at different parts of the journey. Sometimes I visualize the finish; sometimes I feel and experience how the workout is affecting various muscles and body parts; sometimes I recite a mantra of some sort to the rhythm of my pedaling. Whatever you choose, it’s good to have the physical reserves that are only there when you choose to feed your cells what they really need.
Most of the other cyclists trained for this ride. The strange thing was that despite eating my rabbit food (as they liked to call it) and not getting nearly as many simple carbs as people thought that i should have, even having tried vegetables until i was 19 years old, that all I eat now is veg!
What changed? Well, I thought about how I felt on a different diet. I knew what it would cost me to continue on that path. You see, it’s how we think about situations and circumstances that determines how we feel and then what we do. Also, when considering the bike ride with my current eating habits, I could have chosen either to not go on the cycle trip, break my vegan lifestyle, moan about food all the time, or any other disappointing option. Instead, I finished the four day stronger than before. I know that had I eaten a diet of pizza, pasta, steak, and ham, cheese with a few beers, my body wouldn’t have coped with the journey nearly as well.
I’ve chosen to eat this way over the last two and a half years and have found that my energy levels and fitness levels have really increased. I also have fewer colds and other ailments. I never really thought about food before as being that much of a contributor to performance. I always used exercise as a way negate the extra calories in a poor diet, but now I know better. I know that what you eat affects not only your health, energy levels and focus (amongst many other things), but it also affects the environment, water levels, and most of all, the animals. My family thinks it’s pretty ironic (as do I, that for a straight down-the-line meat and potato eater, eating meat twice a day for over 32 years and never even having tried vegetables until i was 19 years old, that all I eat now is veg!
What changed? Well, I thought about how I felt on a different diet. I knew what it would cost me to continue on that path. You see, it’s how we think about situations and circumstances that determines how we feel and then what we do. Also, when considering the bike ride with my current eating habits, I could have chosen either to not go on the cycle trip, break my vegan lifestyle, moan about food all the time, or any other disappointing option. instead, I chose to find a solution, by changing what I was focusing on and the questions and words that I said. I chose to think about what would need to happen for me to successfully complete the cycle and live to my standards, not those of others.
In life, we all have choices to make, and the consequences of those choices determines our results, our character, what we believe in and value. What choices are you making, and are they the best ones for you?
Hari Kalymnios, is passionate about helping people achieve their health and fitness goals. Using his skills as an NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programmer) master practitioner together with his own health and fitness experience, Hari helps people move in the right direction. If you “train the mind...the body will follow.” He shares this message as a coach, speaker and author of the new book “The Thought Gym.” Hari can be reached via his website: www.thethoughtgym.com