By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
May 26, 2016
Over the course of the last three and a half years, I have had to change a lot about my life. You see, before I became plant based and adopted the ethical stance of veganism, I had a whole bunch of horrible habits in regards to the way I ate. Not even a normal person would believe some of the things I would eat…just for the sake of eating. There was always a time where people would go to a greasy restaurant and see if there was anything I could try to devour, a la “Man vs. Food.” It was always for the sake of the challenge, for competitive eating was kind of big before my change in 2012. There was one instance where I ate a giant hamburger at some sports grill, at the expense of my own pocket book, to win some gaming money for everyone in my group. You see, it was easy to goad me into silly challenges like eating a half pound burger…it kind of made me popular for a few moments. I always wondered what the ultimate reason was in regards to why people wanted me to take on these types of challenges. Sure, I could eat a lot of food and what not, but it was something that wasn’t really healthy for me. There was once a burger at Rusty’s Family Restaurant that must have weighed over a pound, and I easily ate it like it was nothing while also eating some fries and an appetizer. In fact, Rusty’s always brought out the worst in me, for I would frequently get a lot of food there. Maybe I should have been paying attention to the fact the original owner died of a heart attack in his mid forties rather than constantly indulge in the food. There was another place in downtown Tucson I would also frequent a lot called Lindy’s. When I went by myself, which I did frequently mind you, I used to eat something called the Hooligan just about every time I went. It was a six-patty burger with a ton of cheese and I would wolf down a basket of tater tots as well with it, typically the gravy tots that was like an americanized poutine. I never did try the OMFG Burger, which was a 12-patty burger that you had to wolf down with a pound of fries in order to avoid paying the $20 price tag. I got my head out of my rear end before I did something stupid like that. My biggest confession of course, was the secret fact I wish I could be a competitive eater….and to my friends that are reading this, yes, I wanted to take down Kobayashi. Took me years to finally admit it, but this has been a time of great reflection for me. I wanted to be that guy that competitively ate cheesecake and chicken wings for the heck of it. Of course, I was ultimately turned off by the training aspect. You see, I still loved to eat for the pure joy and the masking of my feelings….I didn’t look at it as a competitive endeavor but a relaxing one.
So why am I divulging all this disgusting ephemera about my past? Well, I kind of noticed something recently that kind of knocked me for a loop. You see, I haven’t had a pizza in maybe three months. The last time I went, the mercury on the thermometer was somewhere in the 70s, which means it may have been in February. I remember this because it had a been a few months before that moment when I had eaten my previous pizza. That particular one was a homemade pizza, because I remember sending pictures to my friend Stacey, who had just visited me the previous weekend…so that was all the way back in October. I had two pizzas that particular week because I had to get a two-crust pack for the pizzas as I sought to be a more thrifty. I also remember that had been my first pizza in well over a month, for in September I took a trip to Plaza Liquors here in Tucson and had my way with the pumpkin beers, getting Shipyard and Wasatch Pumpkin to my heart’s content. And after I did that, I went across the street to Pionic, which is the spot where I had my last pizza as well. I don’t know why I was thinking about it, but it must have been a conversation I was having with some vegan friends on the internet that made me reminisce about some of my old eating habits. People were posting their favorite foods they were addicted to, and pizza was kind of the problem child for a lot of people. I’m sure some were skeptical of my claims that I could eat four or five pizzas in a week, but I wasn’t trying to impress them or anything and “out horrify” their own poor eating habits before they went vegan. I was merely trying to speak of the horrors of my diet and how it resonated on paper, or in this case, the computer screen. And then the subject was touched upon again at my friend Tim’s birthday dinner. I was eating at a teppanyaki restaurant and was thinking about ordering the fried tofu, edamame and spring rolls, but opted merely for the tofu and edamame since a couple of my friends didn’t want their side salads. My friends mentioned once again about the pizza joint I had shut down, but in all reality it shut down because people viewed it as too pricey (I mean, there was a Little Caesars just down the street and their five dollar “pizzas” couldn’t be dented). So let me just put this on paper…in the last nine months or so, I have had only four pizzas. Neither of them were really big so to speak, for the pizzas at Pionic are more personalized than anything. I once joked I could probably eat two or three of them…and I still mean that. I am a little embarrassed that I ate the huge home pizza I made so many months ago, but hey, I was under the impression that I was carb loading for Ragnar Las Vegas. I mean, the amount of peppers and potatoes that I put on those pizzas were amazing. Plus, the ample seasoning of garlic I was putting on the darn things should have offset the lack of nutritional value!
Of all the things I have been having a conniption about, I completely forgot I have been doing relatively okay in to my eating. Yeah, the stomach is being stubborn, but I haven’t had a pizza in a few months. My weight has been yo-yoing despite no noticeable body change, but hey, I haven’t had a pizza in a few months. And my running has been sporadic, but like I have said already….I HAVE NOT EATEN A PIZZA SINCE FEBRUARY! Personally, I consider this a huge moment for me. Unlike in the early days of my plant based sojourn, I was replacing bad eating habits with bad “good” eating habits. For example, like instead of eating fast food all the time, I was eating too many burritos at home and going to Chipotle too often. Rather than eating sweets, I would eat a bunch of vegan scones from Whole Foods. Now I will admit, I do crave for the potato samosas that are typically sold in the open food bar at the various Whole Foods around town, but I rarely partake in the exercise since getting food at their bars can cost an arm and a leg. I mean, you have to make sure they are not trying to stiff you in the process! Plus, I really like the tofu they put out from time to time and the Beyond Meat products as well. But beyond those simple little things, I have managed to keep the diet in check and not replace certain foods with other ones. It wouldn’t be much in the name of good health if I was replacing pizzas and massive amounts of food from Taco Bell with oil drenched potatoes and Gardein Meatballs every night. There has been moments where I have suggested to people an interesting method to fight your addiction problems early is to replace that addiction with something more positive. Of course, the worst thing I could have done was replace those addictions with different foods that will make me heavy in different ways, so a psychologist I am not ready to be. I’m getting better at all these things…and hopefully I can start conquering some other addiction problems.
Now, I will not proclaim this as some kind of victory like I had over soda or energy drinks or for the most part, Chipotle. Far from it. No matter how much progress I have made in cutting back my pizza habit, it is still a pretty bad one to think about. While I rarely eat pasta anymore, any time I do eat pasta I start thinking about pizza. Anything with a profuse amount of marinara gets me thinking about pizza. It makes me wish for the savory taste of it. Fortunately, right now I have some good discipline on my side. That very same discipline continues to show up in the gym as well. Jon had me do something different this past Tuesday, which I usually start the day off with dead lifts and bench presses. He had an excellent idea for me to work with. Essentially, I would be doing some hang cleans and push presses, and a lot of them. I would do five consecutive hang cleans and then do five overhead presses, without stopping or putting the bar down. This would be considered one combo…and I would have to do this ten times. I started out with a good weight at 135, getting the first few sets done quite easily, mainly because I was trying to impress people both in the gym and on the internet (I’m in a challenge/accountability group…so far so good!) and was doing my best sets to get the job done. But I ultimately fell apart on the eighth set, where oddly enough, I could not even lift the 135 pounds. It was an unusual brain lock that I wasn’t prepared for, but I ultimately had to say to heck with it and go down to 115 pounds to get the last three sets in. I could have tried the 135 sets, but I had to save my energy for the bench press. I got to tell you, after all the work I had put in on the combos, doing a bench press at 135 pounds was simply awful. I struggled through the five sets of five, wondering why I had decided to do this as well. And then came the deadlifts. I was so freaking tired, so beat, that I could barely do the five sets of five at 225 pounds. Needless to say, I had exhausted my stores and I even had to call off the planks I was trying to do. I was so tired that I actually went to Chipotle for lunch. I had blown up so many glycogen stores that I really had no choice.
So where do I go from here? For me, getting to this point in the journey where I can actively control my worst habit is a good moment for me. Now comes a rather difficult stage for me…trying to apply it to other areas. Despite being in my accountability/challenge group, I am still not eating and exercising enough for my heart’s content. If anything, it is mainly because I want to spend some more time with a couple of friends that are leaving town today, for they do not visit Tucson very often. I need to go out and visit them in Austin some day, but that will be a pipe dream until I can get another job. But at least I have Denver to look forward to this upcoming month! Apparently, that city is becoming quite the mecca for vegan food, with even a vegan market to boot! Sure, I have plenty of options of work with around my own city, but a lot of the time they seem as distant as Austin and Denver. But I take heed in their existence, for I finally checked out the nice Natural Grocers on the northwest side of town. I found a whole bunch of bulk steel cut oats, which is starting become a replacement “addiction” for me in my food life. I managed to get four pounds of the stuff for a little less than six bucks. Being a savvy shopper is important, because it was much cheaper than my favorite brand Bob’s Red Mill. And of course, I have an addiction to feed. I mean, who doesn’t like steel cut oats. Way better than the regular rolled oats. Listen to me, it’s like I’m comparing New York Pizza with Chicago (New York was always better, by the way). I guess that is just a nice little illustration of how far I have come down this road. Maybe my dogs will go crazy when they hear the word “oats” much like they did back in the day with “pizza.” Okay, that one is a bit of a stretch!
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.