My Story: Becoming Plant Powered

My Story

Work-life-health balance. Do I have it. No, and you'd think I would and you'd think I'd know better. I have a honours degree in nutrition and work as a successful personal trainer, but as many doctors smoke and lawyers don't make wills, I found myself following trend, working long hours and feasting on whatever I can get my hands on. Unknown to most, over the last 14 months this has led to a life living with chronic fatigue, anxiety, stress and depression - conditions I'm confident to call diseases of the developed world. To outsiders including most of my friends, I might look ship shape, but who isn't good at charades.  

Now this wasn't always the case. In a previous life, before building my business I worked as a professional surf coach, spending much of my time travelling the world and living on a beach in beautiful Costa Rica. There my work-life-health balance was that of a multimillionaires. I spent long hours surfing and eating plenty of local plant produce, particularly mangos - love them.  

So Where Did it all go Wrong?

Pressure to succeed. As a young adult returning to the UK after living life from a checked bag, my new goal was to have something I only dreamt off - a place to call home. Being 29 years old I wasn't a youngster anymore and with few savings the task ahead was daunting, even near impossible. Being a firm believer of making your dreams a reality and wanting to continue my passion in the fitness world I decided to become qualified as a personal trainer. This was so I could set up what was to be called Pura Vida Fitness.

Three months after setting up the business I had one client (bare in mind, I lived with my parents in a sleepy commuter village in West Berkshire) and could just about afford to run my car to get to clients. This is when I decided to take on my first 2nd job at a local pub 50m from my family home. Although having several more clients, after nearly a year I wasn't any closer to my my dream than I was at the beginning. I won't bore you with the details, but if I had a pound for every time my mind flickered to packing it all in and adopting a desk job, I could probably afford a Tesla by now. However, I refused to become a desk jockey but knew I needed to change my 2nd job to something salaried. Following my heart, I applied to a local corporate gym. My application was successful and I felt much closer to the prize, but "success" came with a big price. Running a now fairly successful business and working 40 hours a week at the gym, I was a freight train waiting to de-rail. I didn't see this at the time, I was too busy fighting for my dream to be fully aware of my destination. Of course, I knew something was wrong but I didn't want to admit I couldn't handle the workload. It was pride, stupidity and the drive to reach my goal.      

What Instigated Change

After nearly a year of living this caffeine feuled existence, I cashed. Physically I was depleted and emotionally I was numb. I can't describe the feeling, but it's not an experience I would wish for anyone. I was living on the edge and pushing away the people I loved and cared about. The real epiphany came when my doctor became keen to hand out drugs like smarties and "see what helped". I was about to become drug dependent. A place I didn't want to go. 

In the end I was forced to take all of my annual leave at once and take my foot off the gas. Not because I wanted to, but because there wasn't another option. After three weeks, much of that spent in bed and on the sofa I went to visit an old University rowing friend who lives in Warwickshire. He's been living as a vegetarian for nearly two years and suggested I give it a go as it's really helped him. Not preaching, he convinced me to give plant-based living a try. Not one to beat around the bush, his word went something like this "you're at rock bottom so you have nothing to lose" and I knew he was right and I knew this wouldn't be easy. Shamefully the fruit and veg aisle was a place supermarkets force me to go through to get the buffet of meat. I would have to change not only my habits and lifestyle, but my entire mindset.

On top of this, we convinced each other to accept a challenge that neither of us could realise at this present point in time - becoming a plant-based Iron Man.        

So there it was. My 2017 Resolutions was set, but unlike most January gym goers my goal wasn't to lose weight my resolution was to make a positive change and turn surviving into living. 

What Change Looks Like

From the 1st of January I will remove meat, eggs and dairy from my diet and technically be referred to as a vegan, but I must make this clear I'm no eco warrior or choosing not to eat meat as I'm worried about animal welfare. My reasons are, to be honest, completely selfish. 

Why Share my Story

My intentions for writing this blog are to share my challenges and tribulations of becoming a plant-based athlete and hopefully inspire other to search for a better way to exist.

If you have a similar story to mine or just want to throw around recipe ideas, I would love to hear from you. I will be posting details of my diet and training programme via this blog or on Instagram.

Oh, and one last thing. I haven't given up on my dream but I have put it on hold for now.

Healthy regards,

Graham Swingler