Plant-based diet has grown on me

In September 2019, I thought it would be wise to get my doc's clearance prior to running 26.2 miles on a Sunday the following month. In my check up, he asked something typically not asked by a doctor - "What do you eat?"

Although I ate relatively healthy at the time, he strongly encouraged focusing on a plant-based diet. He recommended some Netflix documentaries ("Forks Over Knives" and "The Game Changers"), a website (, and a book ("How Not To Die" by Dr. Michael Greger).

The documentaries were intriguing, so I ordered the book. The book was excellent and packed with compelling data supporting the health benefits of going plant-based.

I decided to give this nutrition plan a one-month trial. It resulted in dropping some extra weight prior to the marathon, and running lighter made running easier. My post-race recovery was smooth. When I ran it five years earlier (and younger) in 2014, I was extremely sore as my unsympathetic kids badgered me for being laid out in the back of the minivan the entire return ride from Grant Park. However, in 2019 I drove the family home post-race and made it to my son's afternoon hockey game. Even the next day soreness was minimal, and I returned to the office on Monday ailment free.

I decided to maintain the plan, and the more I stayed with it, the less I had a taste for meat. I've not had a steak, beef hamburger, or chicken since that appointment. I'll occasionally have fish, but I've continued a mainly plant-based diet for well over a year. Gregor recommends supplementing with a 2,500 mcg B12 chewable once a week to combat a potential deficiency (B12 is not produced by plants).

I'm sharing not to sound self-serving (well, bragging about the two marathons was self-serving), but to relay the absolute physical and health benefits that I personally received with the hope it can positively impact others. These days, it's smart to do all that is possible to minimize any "underlying conditions." Recent bloodwork indicated solid numbers, and my goal is to remain prescription medication-free for as long as possible.

There's still some stigma attached (plant-based sounds a tad less annoying than vegan). Ordering a cauliflower crust pizza loaded with veggies, but no cheese, does not go over well with my carnivore hockey dad mates. But these days, going plant-based is easier than ever.

Oat milk is as tasty as regular milk, and Impossible and Beyond burgers are an appetizing substitute for ground beef. Grocery stores and restaurants have plenty of vegan options.

Cutting out meat completely might not be practical for all, but being active in reducing your intake will have both a positive health and environmental impact (the additional side benefit of environmental sustainability could be a whole other column). Try implementing one Meatless Monday a week. It's less challenging than grinding through the early days of my "dry January," which ended as a "dry week." The sobering events that went down on Jan. 6 necessitated some unsobering of self, so a full month of teetotaling will wait until next year.

- Bret Conway of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected].