Lewis on Being Vegan
from Carl Lewis’ introduction to Very Vegetarian,
by Jannequin Bennett
world-class athlete get enough protein from a vegetarian diet to compete?
I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful
athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year
I ate a vegan diet. Moreover, by continuing to eat a vegan diet, my weight
is under control, I like the way I look. (I know that sounds vain, but
all of us want to like the way we look.) I enjoy eating more, and I feel
great. Here’s my story.
I grew up in New Jersey, I always enjoyed eating vegetables and was influenced
by my mother, who believed in the importance of a healthy diet even though
we ate meat regularly because my father wanted it. At the University of
Houston I ate meat and tried to control my weight the wrong way–by skipping
meals. Frequently I would skip breakfast, eat a light lunch, and then
have my fill at dinner–just before I went to bed. Not only is skipping
meals the wrong way to diet, but the way I did it is the worst way because
your body needs four hours to digest its food before you go to sleep.
of 1990 I decided to change the way I ate when I realized that controlling
my weight by skipping meals was not good for me. Within the space of a
few weeks, I met two men who changed my way of thinking and eating. The
first was Jay Cordich, the Juice Man, whom I met at the Houston radio
station where I worked in the early morning. He was there to talk about
his juicer, which makes fresh juice from fruits and vegetables. He said
that drinking at least sixteen ounces of freshly squeezed juice each day
will increase a person’s energy, strengthen the immune system, and reduce
the risk of disease. A few weeks later while doing publicity for a meet
in Minneapolis, I met Dr. John McDougall, a medical doctor who teaches
about the link between good nutrition and good health and was promoting
his latest book. Dr. McDougall challenged me to make a commitment to eating
a vegetarian diet and then to just do it.
vividly making the decision in July of 1990 to become a vegan. I was competing
in Europe and ate a meal of Spanish sausage on a Saturday and on the following
Monday started eating vegan. The hardest thing for me was changing my
eating habits from skipping meals to eating throughout the day–which is
much healthier. I also missed salt and so substituted lemon juice for
spring of 1991 – eight months after beginning to eat vegan – I was feeling
listless and thought I might need to add protein from meat to my diet.
Dr. McDougall, however, explained that my listlessness was due to my needing
more calories because I was training so many hours each day, not because
I needed more animal-based protein. When I increased my calorie intake,
I regained my energy. I was drinking 24 to 32 ounces of juice a day. I
ate no dairy products. And I had my best year as an athlete ever!
total control over what you put in your body. No one can force you to
eat what you don’t want to eat. I know that many people think that eating
a vegetarian diet - and especially a vegan diet – will require sacrifice
and denial. Jannequin Bennett demonstrates in this book that eating vegan
does not have to be tasteless and boring. As she says, “vegan eating is
a truly indulgent way of life, as vegans regularly partake of the very
best foods that nature has to offer.” Here are recipes that will excite
your taste buds. By the way, a few of my own recipes are included.
in mind that eating vegan does require a commitment to being good to your
body and to acting responsibly toward the world around you. Most of us
are not aware of how much damage we do to our bodies and to our world
by the way we eat. I challenge you to write down everything you eat and
drink for one week. You will probably be amazed at the amount of snacks
you eat, the different ways in which milk and cheese are a part of your
diet, and–worst of all–how much fast food you consume.
snacks such as cookies, chips, candy, French fries, or soft drinks are
highly processed foods that have lost many of their useful nutrients.
Worse still, most of these foods are loaded with fat, salt, and chemicals.
For instance, a 1.5-ounce bag of barbecue potato chips has the same number
of calories as a medium baked potato, but 70 times the amount of fat and
20 times the amount of salt.
and other dairy products are loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat
and cholesterol. Most cheeses get 70 to 80 percent of their calories from
to be especially careful when you eat in fast food restaurants. As the
consumption of unhealthy fast food has increased, so has obesity, which
is now second only to smoking as a cause of death in the U.S. Eric Schlosser
reported in Fast Food Nation that the rate of obesity among American children
is twice as high today as it was twenty-five years ago. Moreover, it seems
that wherever people eat unhealthy fast food, waistlines start to expand.
Between 1984 and 1993, for instance, the number of fast food restaurants
in Great Britain roughly doubled. And so did the obesity rate among adults.
Overweight people were once a rarity in Japan. Fast food restaurants arrived
there thirty years ago, and today one-third of all Japanese men in their
thirties are overweight.
body is your temple. If you nourish it properly, it will be good to you
and you will increase its longevity.