Written by Vince Tucker, Health and Wellness Coach and Plant-Based Nutrition Educator
I graduated from college in 1991 with two communications degrees. I was eager to start my career in radio and TV broadcasting. I found out very quickly this type of work required a lot of hours and did not pay well in the early stages of this career. Two years later, I was married and a father of two.
Out of necessity, my career took a big shift. I found entry-level work with a major mutual fund company based out of Kansas City. I worked my way up to some pretty cozy jobs doing both internal and external written communications. In some ways I felt like I had arrived. However, many jobs in the investment industry, surprisingly, don't pay very well. I found an opportunity to make greater income with an entry-level position at a retail convenience store chain. I took the job, shifted positions a few times, and ended up in the distribution area. Eventually I worked my way up to a very cozy over-the-road trucking job that required very little movement and paid quite well. I felt like I could do this job forever.
An honest look at my health and diet
I quickly found out, however, that this sedentary lifestyle was not good for my health. Furthermore, I found myself consuming free donuts and soda from the break room and getting greasy snacks from the roller grill at my daily destination in Omaha. At the time my family and I were lacto-ovo vegetarians (which means that we ate eggs and dairy, but no meat). We attempted a compassionate style of eating, but we struggled to give up addictive cheese. We began this lifestyle in 2001.
During this phase of my life, I ate a lot of processed sugar and other refined carbohydrates, drank a lot of soda, and was very inactive. I stand 5'4. I had a 38-inch waist, weighed 170 pounds, and my LDL cholesterol was high. I had no energy. I was in my mid 30s and often expressed that I felt old. My attitude for life was to simply enjoy my job, embrace the steady income, and support my family. That was all I lived for. And do not misunderstand me; it was a great honor to support my family. But I had no vitality for life beyond that.
While I ate a lot of unhealthy food, I did try to mix in some healthy options. I ate some fresh vegetables, whole grains, a little bit of fruit, and I drank at least some water. By contrast, the mother of my children put very little healthy food in her body whatsoever. In 2008 she was diagnosed with cancer. We lost her in 2011. I recently lost both of my parents to health complications that I feel could have been avoided with different lifestyle choices.
While supporting beloved family members during their health struggles, I began to critically analyze the healthcare system. I felt like the doctors and nurses were doing the best that they could based on what they knew, but I felt like the real health solutions were beyond their scope. I have concluded that true health has very little to do with pharmacology and medical procedures; rather, it has more to do with a person’s lifestyle choices.
Taking the plunge into plant-based eating
In January of 2018 I took the plunge to eat completely plant based. While I was already not eating meat, I gave myself 30 days to transition away from eggs and dairy. Once I made this conviction, that transition was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. It may be different for others, depending on your modus operandi. For some, jumping all in is the only way to go. For others, it can take some time to transition. It took me 17 years to give up eggs and dairy. I started noticing a shift in both my physical and mental energy within a week, and my self-esteem boosted as well. You feel good about yourself just by making the commitment to change.
Know your "why"
The single most important key to success is to know your why. What are your motivating factors? I encourage you to spend time thinking about your life goals and how you will achieve them. Within that context, Gentlemen, ask yourself how you can accomplish these goals if you are not in good health. Prominently paste your values and goals somewhere that you will see them every morning. This can help keep you on track with improving your health habits, including your quest to live a plant-based lifestyle.
Understand the challenge that lies ahead. The world is set up against you. To use a Toltec reference, we humans have domesticated the planet. This domestication creates stress in our lives, breaks down our relationships, causes us to lose sleep, drives us to eat unhealthy food, keeps us from finding time to exercise, and pushes us toward alcohol and drugs to cope. This is the world we live in.
In order to be healthy, you must live in a way that is almost antithetical to this domesticated world that we have created—a society that is largely disconnected from the Natural World. In other words, you must be a health nut. Literally, you may feel insane because you will be living a lifestyle that is different from nearly everyone in your social circles. But believe me when I tell you that this lifestyle is possible for everyone. You deserve to be healthy. You deserve to feel great. Life is not about survival. It is about abundance.
Living on mission
At age 52 I am dedicated to not only living the plant-based lifestyle, but also promoting, teaching, and facilitating an environment for others to make healthy lifestyle changes as well. I am fully living my mission. I plan never to retire from this work. I strive to live a life of meaning and purpose well into my 90s. I wake up every day feeling like my best life is still ahead of me. And I would not have this zeal without switching to a plant-based lifestyle.
You are literally what you eat. Your body chemistry, and indeed your very cells, are constantly changing. Furthermore, your food choices affect how you think. Don't forget that your brain is a physical organ. And I propose that eating food from the ground with minimal processing promotes spiritual well-being as well.
You will struggle at times with this new lifestyle. That is okay. For some, you may have moments when you slip back into eating meat or cheese. For me – initially choosing the plant-based lifestyle for animal compassion—my personal weakness is to slip into eating processed vegan foods that may be high in added sugar, oil, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat. I notice a difference in how I look, think, and feel when I am eating predominantly whole plant foods instead of processed vegan options.
Elevating my new normal through a plant-based diet
When I eat predominantly whole plant foods, I feel better, I look better, and I have a better attitude toward life. My weight is consistently in the 120s or 130s, my waist size is consistently between 30 and 32 inches, and my LDL cholesterol levels are always in a healthy range. Sometimes I think I'm treating myself to something special by eating junkie vegan food for a day or two. And while it's fun at the time, I always feel sick and run down afterwards. I used to always feel this way after eating, and I thought it was normal. I called it “being full,” but it really meant that I felt sick and run down. Now immersed in the whole plant food style of eating, my new normal way of feeling is elevated. Therefore, when I eat junky, I just don’t feel good by comparison.
Gentlemen, I encourage you to raise the bar regarding your definition of feeling normal. If you get used to feeling healthy, vibrant, and full of life, then that sick, run down feeling from eating addictive processed and animal-based foods will lose its appeal. I can slip up for a meal or two—or even a day or two—but I just can’t stay there because I don’t like how it feels. If you give the whole food plant-based lifestyle a legitimate chance, then you may also find that eating healthy has less to do with your will, and more to do with your love of self. You won't want to feel that way again when you discover that you can actually feel youthful in your 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Ready-to-eat meals simplify plant-based eating
I love that I have discovered Whole Harvest. The Whole Harvest meal boxes are a great concept. Chef Richard does a masterful job of putting together whole plant food options that taste great, with light but skillful seasoning that allows the natural flavors of Mother Earth's life-giving food to come through. It is so important to train your palate to enjoy the natural goodness of whole plant foods. Not only does Whole Harvest provide great tasting plant-based meals, but eating whole plant food helps me lose my desire for processed vegan foods. It can help you lose your desire for meat, eggs, and dairy as well. Whole Harvest can be either a temporary tool or a permanent part of your dining routine. Their ready-to-eat meals include hot and cold main courses, soups, breakfast items, greens, desserts, and snacks. I encourage you to give them a try.
My brothers, we have been sold a false narrative that chronic disease and weight issues are just a normal part of aging. I'm here to tell you that is not true. There are absolutely times when reductionistic healthcare is needed in acute and emergency situations to save lives. But I contend that it is not necessary for most of us to be dependent upon these same systems in our daily lives. The whole food plant-based lifestyle is liberating. Once you experience the benefits, you won’t want to go back.
Within the context of healthcare, I challenge the social constructs surrounding masculinity and eating meat, manning the barbecue grill, hunting wild game, etc. By our nature, men are mission-oriented, strong leaders, and protectors who want to leave a legacy. As we gain wisdom with age, we lose our physical strength. But if we take care of our bodies, we will have the vitality to fulfill our life mission with honor and dignity, embracing the fullness of our Divine Masculine core.