Muscles Are Sexy: Coach Mark’s Path To Veganism

I sat down  to interview coach Mark at Unite Fitness, which is a group training and personal training studio franchise based out of Philadelphia, PA.  His recent venture towards becoming a vegan intrigued me. Being a nutritionist I am always curious about peoples diets and what made then decide to go down a particular nutritional path. This interview is not to sway anyone into changing their eating, it is more of a curiosity piece. With any dietary change it is always important to seek professional support from a nutritionist.

How long have you been vegetarian?

4 months

What inspired you to go veg?

I didn’t just wake up one day and go today is the day! I was on the verge of making this decision over the last year. I have been slowly educating myself on nutrition and what my body needs and wants. Diet is a very personal thing.
The final decision happened after I watched this 3-minute clip, questioning some of the cultural beliefs we live by in America. It was focused on our food system and they showed a clip on a slaughterhouse. It was all stuff I had seen before, but this time it left me with a chilling feeling. I used to think ignorance is bliss and maybe if I didn’t think about what really goes on behind closed doors, then it doesn’t matter. It was a way to justify my choices.

We are so detached from the killing process. You go into a store and all you see is a perfectly prepared piece of meat in a package. We don’t even associate this with an animal. I don’t understand how we are able to give ourselves this power over other beings. I believe if people had to kill the meat they ate, they would eat a lot less of it or maybe none at all.

My friends, friend owns a ranch and he spent about 6 months learning how to use a bow and arrow to shoot two deer. He bridged that gap between the killing of animals and our consumption of it and this is how he feels confident in his decision of eating meat. 

Do you eat fish?

At first I was eating fish. I felt comfortable with this, because I have killed fish and it was very hard to go from being a daily meat eater to completely veg. I eventually transitioned off as I became more accustomed to a plant based diet.

Why do you think people can kill fish, but not animals?

I think it comes down to compassion. We don’t associate fish with humans. It doesn’t generate that same feeling.

Was it hard to make the change from meat eater to vegetarian?
No, it wasn’t. I feel way better about what I eat now and I feel very healthy. I also have met a lot of people throughout this journey that are vegan and vegetarian and have further inspired me. I cook a lot more now and am really into learning new recipes. It’s kind of interesting, but meat doesn’t taste the same to me anymore. I actually don’t like the taste of it.

What are the benefits you have experiences from going veg?

I have been inspired to eat way more fruits and vegetables. I started juicing and noticed that, that gives me an insane amount of energy and really fires me up. I have also been exposing myself to foods that I probably wouldn’t have included into my diet before. For example: Sea Moss is one of my favorite things now. It tastes way better than it sounds.

My inflammation has gone way down. I had chronic ankle pain from playing collegiate soccer and always had severe swelling. Doctors told me that I had two ankle spurs and calcium deposits and it was recommended that I have surgery on both feet. I started exploring alternative medicine and ended up finding that increasing my nutrients through a juice cleanse helped immensely. The correlation between diet and inflammation is incredible! 

Have your hunger levels changed?

No, my body adjusted and I feel like I get the right nutrients. I feel like before I was over eating and now I just eat what my body needs. I eat when I’m hungry notices I don’t eat, just to eat like I used to.

What’s your take on the whole protein thing?

I feel a lot more free with my food. I used to think I had to hit a certain amount of calories a day (3600 to be exact) and get enough protein. I was doing this through high calorie foods, like grains, meats and cheeses. I used to correlate being strong with being big and muscular. Don’t get me wrong muscles are sexy, but it’s not the only body that we can have and feel confident about. It was through calisthenics that I had a paradigm shift and realized I can have tons of strength with the body I have. There are a lot of vegan athletes that are extremely muscular and I look up to.

Any goals to become vegan?

Vegan is the goal eventually. But I will pace myself to get there

Marks Daily Diet: —–disclaimer from Mark—this might sound super bland, but it works for me and I feel great doing it.

Breakfast: Green juice first thing in the morning (celery, cucumber, lemon, yellow pepper, ginger, apples or pears to sweeten) with cashews or pumpkin seeds

Lunch: Salad with lots of veggies, avocado, hummus and a sweet potato burger

Snacks: Kale Chips, nuts, seeds, shakes with vegan protein powder, oatmeal, fruit and flax seeds

Dinner: Gazpacho with lots of veggies and avocado


-Interview by Coach Juliet Burgh