3 Valuable Lessons Learned from 4 Years with No Meat Athlete

3-LESSONS2

Criss-cross applesauce everyone, it’s story time!

It’s the summer of 2010, and I’m a new vegetarian training for my second marathon. Obsessed with protein and iron levels, I stumble upon a (then) small oasis in a sea of meat-eaters … a blog called No Meat Athlete.

Fast forward a few months and I’m walking through my first DC VegFest. After being physically pushed by my girlfriend (now wife), I awkwardly approach a guy in a running carrot shirt and ask if he’s Matt Frazier. Here, picture this:

Me: “Umm, hello. Are you, uhh, Matt Frazier?”

Matt: “Yeah!”

Me: “The Matt Frazier?!”

Erin (Matt’s wife): *eye-roll*

Matt’s confirmation and the conversation that follows is as awkward as my approach, making it clear he’s not quite used to the fanfare he’s known to receive today (picture Justin Beiber level attention, and divide that by roughly 1,000,000).

But it’s that clumsy encounter that leads me to help organize the first No Meat Athlete Marathon Training Group in 2011, and ultimately alter the direction my life takes. Since 2011, I’ve played varying roles in this company, growing right along with the brand.

I’ve learned a lot in those four years. Practical information like:

  • How to use Photoshop and edit a podcast,
  • The difference between vegan and plant-based,
  • Why I should never use phrases like “the meat of the story is…” in an email newsletter,
  • And that Matt is only human like the rest of us.

But beyond that, my work with No Meat Athlete and the people I’ve gotten to know through it, have taught me a lot about healthy living, acceptance, community, and fear.

Allow me to explain …

What I’ve Learned from No Meat Athlete

Over the past several years, I’ve worn many hats in this company. Hats that have required me to spend time in the NMA email inbox each morning, interact with readers and listeners of the podcast throughout the day, and assist in interviewing some of the biggest names in health and fitness. I’m not going to lie, it has been a lot of fun.

And starting this week I’ll have the privilege of writing more frequently on this blog, and working directly with readers to shape the content — but more on that later.

As I transition into a new role at No Meat Athlete, I find myself reflecting back on my time here, and focusing in on three major lessons which I’d like to share with you today.

Let’s start with the first:

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No Willpower, No Problem! 9 Ideas to Help You Beat Food Cravings

There’s no sadder form of failure, to me, than giving into food cravings.

Imagine you want to change your diet. Deep down, this feels right for you, right now.

You do your research, and decide that it’s not only healthy, but ideal, to eat this way.

You do the work to get your spouse on board. They’re a little hesitant, but supportive. Up for giving it a try, for you.

All the pieces are in place, and so you begin.

It all goes perfectly, until one day you hit a snag: you get out of work late, your car breaks down, you have an argument with a friend.

And visions of cheeseburgers start dancing in your head.

You’re not going to eat it, are you?

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Why I Pushed ‘Too Far’ (and Will Never Regret It)

No U-Turn traffic sign in Bangkok, Thailand

This post is written by Doug Hay of Rock Creek Runner.

Have you ever had one of those conversations that just sticks with you? Where someone makes a comment you can’t let go?

It happened to me last summer, the day after I ran a 50-mile ultramarathon. I was sitting in my 93-year-old grandmother’s house telling her about the race, and I’ll never forget her reaction.

It wasn’t one of joy or amazement.

It was sadness.

Not sadness about the race itself — I’m sure she was proud of my accomplishment — but sadness about what I was doing.

She looked right at me and said, “I’m just so worried you’re taking it too far and will regret this one day.”

That’s not something you want to hear from your grandmother after a big race. Especially when it was only a training race for the main event: a 100-miler just a month later.

But that’s the way most people look at ultrarunning, or endurance running in general. They respond to your long run miles with:

“Aren’t you taking this a little too far?”

“You know that’s bad for you, right?”

“What’s wrong with you, man?”

Beware the Status Quo

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7 Warning Signs Your Vegan Diet Won’t Last

You’re trying hard … but it’s getting harder.

Something compelled you to adopt a vegan diet — your health, the animals, the environment — and you dove in enthusiastically, sure that it would always feel this easy.

“This is the new me!” you thought to yourself, as you pictured health, energy, compassion, and a sense of oneness with the earth.

And for the first few days, maybe even a couple of weeks, it was interesting and new and fun.

But the novelty wore off — maybe it was a family gathering or an awkward conversation with friends — and now you’re wondering …

Is this really for me?

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The Secret to Fulfillment: Untangle Your Happiness from Your Results

By now you know I’m a big advocate of setting crazy, unreasonable goals.

Big goals are how you generate the energy and excitement to actually make things happen. And for this reason, I believe you’re way more likely to achieve the “unrealistic” goal (that inspires you to no end) than you are the one that’s more modest (and therefore, not that exciting).

But a lot of people get stressed out when I talk this way.

Unrealistic? That means I’ll be chasing this goal that I might never get. And even if I do one day make it happen, it’s going to take a really long time and a whole lot of work.

I’m not mocking. Even those who have created massive change in their lives, people I really respect, sometimes question whether goals are a good idea at all.

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Want to Go Vegan? A 30-Day Plan to Make the Transition (and Make It Last)

Young Woman Buying Vegetables at Grocery

Of all the changes I’ve made in my life over the past six years, none has had such a profoundly positive effect as the choice to become vegan.

This diet and lifestyle have changed me from the outside in: I expected the health benefits and to feel a boost in energy, and I got them. But I had no idea how the choice to put different foods into my body would improve my mindset, deepen my sense of compassion, and increase my willingness to take risks and march to the beat of my own drum. And if you’re vegan or even vegetarian, I bet you’ve experienced the same.

And if you’re not yet vegan? The very fact that you read a blog like this one makes it likely that you at least know where I’m coming from. Maybe you’d even like to become vegan, but have never quite been able to make it work.

In that case, let’s talk about what it takes to make the change — and just as importantly, to make it last.

The short version: I’m hosting a free live webinar this Wednesday night, August 19th, at 8pm EDT to answer that question in detail. In it, I’ll lay out a plan for you to make the transition to a vegan diet in the smartest way possible over the course of 30 days, and answer the most common questions about making it work. If you’re interested in going vegan, I hope you can make it.

So here are the three things I believe give you the biggest chance of succeeding in this diet change (assuming you’ve got your own compelling reasons for wanting to do so):

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Stop Waiting for a Guarantee

Every few weeks, I get a message on Twitter or other social media like this one:

@NoMeatAthlete Curious about a plant-based diet, but worried about how it will affect my recovery from long rides. Thoughts?

Yes, I have some thoughts. And they don’t fit into 140 characters. Here goes.

Sometimes, you just need to try things. Without a guarantee that they’ll work. 

I’d actually be more sympathetic if you were worried about dropping dead on the spot from a lack of protein. Sudden death isn’t reversible and isn’t gradual, so you’d be right to want to confirm that it’s not a risk before diving in.

But feeling a little sluggish when you get on the bike? Noticing, after a month maybe, that your times are dropping off? Unless you’re a pro athlete, none of this is cataclysmic.

I’m not saying that will or won’t happen. Nobody can say that for sure. A lot of athletes choose this diet precisely because of what it does for their recovery … but it’s totally possible that for whatever reason, it just won’t work out for you.

And what then?

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Is This What’s Missing from Your Healthy Lifestyle?

If you’re like me, you’re always looking to improve … and maybe a little too much.

Whether it’s your diet, your mindset, your fitness, or your work, you know you can do better. And even if “be better” is illusory as a goal, the growth that occurs as you chase it is what life is all about, isn’t it?

But I’ve come to realize that you reach a point where the harder you try to do better and be healthier, the more you sabotage your own efforts.

A lesson learned

I’ve been traveling this month, and it’ll still be a few more weeks before I get home. From the 4th of July at the beach, to a vegan Italy tour, to a friend’s wedding in Cape Cod, it’s been a whirlwind of a trip.

And in the process, my habits have gone to hell.

Running has been spotty at best. I’ve eaten far more white flour and oil than usual, and far fewer salads and smoothies. Not once have I found a quiet 30 minutes for meditation or reading. And the amount of wine I drank in Italy … well, you get the point.

And yet I feel healthier. Happier. More fulfilled than ever.

In a word, content.

So what gives?

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