Contributing Monkie Brendan Brazier
Published on July 23, 2009
Photographer: G Monkie (CC)
There are several reasons people struggle with change. In fact, those who make positive changes are more likely to discontinue them than those who make negative ones because those who see themselves as making a sacrifice in exchange for a certain improvement want their investment to pay off quickly. If results aren’t instantaneous, interest quickly dwindles. In addition, negative initial results are almost certain to be a deterrent.
For example, many athletes I know have, at some point, tried a vegan diet, although usually not for more than two weeks at a time. Here’s the problem they encounter: when a new way of eating is adopted, the body must adapt. And with adaptation comes stress. Most commonly referred to as detoxification in this case, this is the body’s way of eliminating toxins accumulated over years of consuming sub-optimal food.
Our bodies are equipped with coping mechanisms that allow us to function optimally relative to the nourishment supplied. Seemingly counterintuitive, the first few days of an optimal diet will not be a pleasant experience. Often, years of less-than-ideal eating practices have rendered the body nutritionally stressed. The poorer the quality of the previous diet, the longer the detoxification process will last. Those converting from a Standard American Diet (SAD), for example, to an exclusively whole food plant-based diet will likely take in excess of four weeks to ‘cleanse’ the body of toxins. Usually detox symptoms include headache, blotting, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.
As you can imagine, an athlete who has made the transition to a vegan diet for the sake of improved performance is not going to be tolerant of these symptoms. Also, to make matters worse, most athletes are hyper sensitive to change. In effect, the detox symptoms are magnified in an athlete’s body due to the high level of “body consciousness” that most athletes have innately developed.