No meat, eggs, milk or butter, please! How a meat-loving German turned vegan

Always believing that you are what you eat, I had been interested in the vegan lifestyle for a while. Never had the protein lover in me embraced it. Never. Until now!

Vegetarian lifestyle. Veganism. It’s not that I had never been in touch with these ideas. Movies of maltreatment of animals in mass food production were shown to us as early as junior high. Two in my family are vegetarian and stick to it religiously, even though we celebrate almost every birthday at our favorite steakhouse. I’ve always believed that you are what you eat, and I have quite a history of experimenting with nutrition to optimize my health. But never have I ever seriously entertained the thought of becoming vegetarian, even vegan. Never.

That changed when I found myself jumping right in to take “The Vegan Challenge” of my health coach, co-traveler and dear friend Kara Mosesso. 4 weeks of plant-based whole grains lifestyle while traveling the world and being in different places almost every week! It seemed like a Mission Impossible at that point. Fast-forward to today, I’m finishing week 6 as I’m writing this. And surprise, I’m planning on keeping going. Here is why.

I’d like to be able to tell you that my love for animals was the main reason, but that would be a lie. Like everyone else, I had been very touched by seeing movies like “Earthlings” or the German documentary “Our Daily Bread”. The horror of how we treat other species in order to satisfy our never-ending appetite for meat is disgusting and has always felt like that for me. And yet, for most of my life I have been perfectly able to compartmentalize this sensation when smelling fresh bacon or biting into a juicy steak. Not sure if that’s the German in me, but I have to admit it: I love the taste of meat! Love it. So much that my disgust for animal maltreatment apparently wasn’t enough. The environmental effects of meat production were too much of a purely rational matter to trigger such a fundamental change in my lifestyle. So for the egotistically motivated person that I seem to be, it happened to be a different reason: Feel better and maintain perfect health!

I was convinced and constantly reassured by media (I even had scientific proof through genetic analysis) that I need a lot of protein to stay healthy, slim and optimally nourished. My diet in a nutshell was: No processed carbs, no gluten, no sugar, high protein. Before the challenge, my classic food day looked as follows: A 1-egg-2-egg-whites omelet with some veggies for breakfast, a whey protein shake after workout, tuna sashimi salad for lunch, chicken steak and veggies for dinner. I had cut out dairy anyways as I am lactose intolerant like the majority of Westerners. Sounds pretty healthy, right? So, the shift to vegan definitely concerned me at first, as none of these dishes were able to remain on the agenda, not one single one! Where would I get my protein?

Within only the first few days, I had two big realizations: Firstly, it is incredible how meat and animal products are literally in everything, everywhere! Looking at a standard restaurant menu, I kept asking myself how many animals are dying for a typical day in this place. Secondly, I could not believe how many plants, nuts and grains actually contain significant amounts of protein that are enough to keep your intake at very healthy levels.

Here are the three most fundamental changes I’m seeing after 6 weeks, and they go far beyond what I had expected:

I am more focused and aware! This came as a total surprise. I was convinced that the lack of protein would throw me off and I would feel weak at least for a couple of days. The exact opposite was the case. One big reason might be that my sleep improved, but more on that below. I also feel like my energy is more sustainable. When in the past I would have massive energy highs and lows, now I seem to be able to maintain a constant level throughout the day, which also massively reduces anxiety and stress. I remember that during all my meditation retreats, and especially my 10-days Vipassana retreat last year, the diet was fully vegan, and now I realize how much it has helped my practice, not only from a spiritual but simply from a physical and mental perspective.

Better sleep, better skin, and no chance for Asian germs! After only a few days, my previous problems of sleeping through the night started to disappear and, even better, I woke up well rested and ready to start the day! You know how you have this default of how you wake up? Either super positive and smiley, or rather anxious and worried? Well, for some reason I went from the ladder to the former in only a few days, and it kept going. I don’t want to blame everything on the diet, but it is a pretty impressive coincidence, don’t you think? Even better, my skin got much better, more elastic and feels more hydrated, and, other than most people in our travel group, I did not get sick once from any of the multiple germs flooding our privileged Western bodies here in Asia.

Me and my body became a team! As I have to think through my food choices more consciously anyways, it becomes almost natural to choose very healthy options that contain tons of veggies. It almost feels like my body woke up in that process and started giving me feedback about a lot more things. The feeling of your body embracing a fresh green smoothie with almond milk and the slight difference in energy levels and vibrancy was unnoticeable to me before, but now it is the most wonderful sensation. Also, I now get body cues far ahead. Slowly getting more tired, feeling slightly thirsty, being able to separate appetite from hunger – all of these were new to me. Before, my body would just go-go-go and then finally crash when it was exhausted and drained of energy.

One other thing I want to mention is a mind-shift that seems incredibly obvious but hadn’t been for me: Meat is a dead animal! Duh. Well seriously, my unconscious brain was very successful in suggesting that there was no such connection as soon as it was a steak on a plate. All I saw was deliciousness. Now I see deliciousness… and the pictures of chicken being killed on an assembly line. Maybe this happened in the process of me educating myself around veganism while reading up and watching a lot of documentaries about animal treatment in mass meat production facilities and the impact on our environment and global warming. Seeing those movies again I teared up multiple times and cannot believe that it had completely left my memory.

Will I be vegan forever? I have no clue! All I know is that it has improved my game enough to decide to stick with it, and knowing that you’re doing the planet and a lot of animals a big favor helps. A lot! And even if I should happen to go back to eating meat and dairy in the future, it would now happen in a very conscious way, accepting the fact that I might be eating things that mess with my body, and very well knowing what I’m causing on the front end of my splurge.

If you’re still reading, and any of this sounds interesting to you, you might want to consider a similar challenge. It’s worth it, at least for the experience of it. Make sure you check out my friend Kara Mosesso’s challenge website. It also contains an interview with me on the changes and challenges I had going through 4 weeks while transitioning from a meat-heavy diet – click on the image below to see it!

“Do you want to be a Big Mac?” A foolproof method for making the right food choices

Instead of obsessing about the perfect diet, try using this foolproof method of asking yourself one simple question when making food choices. It has changed my way of looking at food and gave me back a responsible approach to nutrition.

Sleep. Water. And food. The three most essential things the human species needs to survive, and along these lines, the biggest factors for health, happiness and living a rich life. Being quite far away from starvation in our privileged Western lifestyle, nutrition and diets have now become the number one topic around beauty. Perfect bodies and flawless skin are today’s new social currency in many developed societies, and nutrition, far ahead of beauty products, is the number one denominator. No surprise that the food industry with its constant inventions is one of the largest in the world.

I have been obsessed with finding the perfect diet ever since I had a serious health condition a few years ago that made me very aware of the choices I needed to make to keep my body healthy. It’s no secret that scientists around the world agree that nutrition in combination with exercise is the most successful cancer and disease prevention, so I started completely reinventing my diet. It has been a journey ever since. I consulted specialists to analyze my DNA, did Metabolic Typing, introduced cleanse weeks, fasted, lived off shakes, juiced, did gluten-free, lactose-free, no carbs, paleo, and now vegan… You name it! I am realizing there is no such thing as the perfect solution. If there was, I think I would have found it by now. What I did find though was one question that would make things a lot easier in regards to the food choices I need to make in any given situation. It’s a very easy question that, instead of a restrictive diet, your body will answer itself: “Do I want to be this?”

Let me explain and offer you my newly found perspective on food.

No matter if you’re a foodie or not, the main reason we eat is to live. A high percentage of our body’s energy consumption goes into metabolism and the process to turn the food we consume into energy and, here it comes, new body cells. The big mass of body cells that you are today will completely be replaced by new cells in only a few years, as the body keeps restoring and repairing the tear and wear that our environment and hectic lives force on us.

Once I understood this concept, things started becoming very clear to me. “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are” – what the famous French gastronome Brillat-Savarin concluded more than 200 years ago sums up this idea perfectly. So, ask yourself this question: What are the essential “products” you want your future body to be made of? The adrenaline that runs through and remains in an ox’s body just before he is slaughtered? The chemistry that makes coke be a perfect rust cleaning product for maintaining cars? The antibiotics that many animals are fed with in order to keep them healthy enough to turn them into a profitable steak? Or the additives that cause a Big Mac to decompose slower than your body itself?

It gets very real once you understand that these will turn into the future “you”. You could take this idea even further for the ones of you interested in energies and vibrations, because the ethical energy of food will remain in your system just as well as the physical. Either way, looking at food and asking my body this question before consuming it has completely changed the way I look at my options. “Do I want to BE this after my body is done processing it?” Do I want to BE the product of processed and beaten up, slow and lazy carbs, or a juicy and colorful apple? A pig scared to death as it sees another one be slaughtered in front of it, or a vibrant rich and sun-spoilt avocado?

I’m not a food saint by any means, and I splurge on bad things once in a while, just like everyone does. But answering this question every time before I make a choice, good or bad, has made me much more responsible and aware of the role that food should play in my life.

Try it out! What do you want to be made of in a few months? Certainly not Coke and Big Macs.

Thoughts on the New Wealthy – how the nomad lifestyle changes your perspective on materialistic values

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Stuff. It is everywhere! In the recent process of getting ready for living in different places around the world with no single home address, this has become very obvious to me again. Be it your attachment to certain possessions and a constantly growing expectation level of luxury and comfort, be it the sheer amount of hours you have to put in to manage all of it, either way: The more stuff you own, the slower you become. Period.

A lot has been published around the shift from materialistic to experiential values, and the world will continue to be changed massively by this throughout the next decades. The rise and incredible success of companies like Uber and AirBnB are evidence of this new set of values: Experiences vs. possession, sharing vs. owning. Lifestyle ambassadors like Tim Ferriss have created a whole new approach to living a successful and rich life, moving the role of money to a means instead of an ends goal – which is essentially one of the reasons I have decided to live the digital nomad life this year.

I had considered myself “light” before this journey. Having moved continents and coasts twice in the last three years, I have become used to wrapping up apartments, selling unnecessary equipment and not holding on to anything that I couldn’t fit in two bags. German citizenship with a US green card had me figure out early the weird, fun yet annoying administrative traps that the international lifestyle constantly surprises you with. My job had me travel almost 100% of the time, so I was very much used to living out of a suitcase and jumping on planes as if they were busses. But even I had emotional moments when the dealer drove my car off the yard and when I turned the keys in the lock of my beautiful loft in Miami for the last time. The clothes and shoes I left behind. My beloved bike. My piano…

The more I felt these separation pains, the more I realized how even I would need to adjust. Before becoming a nomad, I had lived quite a different lifestyle. Having had a very successful career that certainly paid off financially, I was able to treat myself to a level of luxury that most people at my age would not be able to afford. I learned a lot about running successful businesses, but I also learned a lot about myself – sometimes the hard way. And I believe that at some point, everyone ends up at the trade-off intersection of materialistic wealth and mental freedom and has to make a first choice. I am not implying that you can’t have both, but in order to build a sustainable combination of the two, you will likely have to realize that your current life will not be fulfilling enough. And jump!

Now in the midst of things, I feel how the lack of possession creates so much space for new experiences, thoughts, creativity and a new me. And I realize even more how the materialistic baggage you accumulate and carry through your life is probably the biggest barrier to freedom and flexibility, and most likely the number one thing that slows down your personal development.

The only finite resource we have is time, and there’s only so much room in that big jar that’s called your life to be filled with all the experiences, epiphanies, growth and beauty that the world is presenting to you on its beautiful silver tablet. So let’s go out and claim it!

Life Evolves In Waves – You Better Learn How to Read Them!

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My dear friends and followers, although this blog post breaks every good bloggers first amendment, I have to confess to you that I needed to write this not for yours, but for my very own sake. If I wanted to be more dramatic, I would even say for my mental sanity. Because it would still be an accurate description.

People say that life evolves in waves, and the fun about living it is learning how to ride them and to always understand where in the wave’s evolution you currently are. And every once in a while, you have these moments where you feel like some bigger force is turning a page to a new chapter for you. And I don’t only mean this metaphorically – you really physically feel it that day. It’s like you were just born again, and you look at yesterday and think it feels like it was ages ago! Sounds familiar?

Exciting times. This is the moment when one major wave in your life ends and another one starts. To be fair though, being born doesn’t always feel as fun as a pony ride through Disneyland, and those of you who go through change regularly will know what I’m talking about. The days and weeks before feel weary, you don’t quite know what’s going on, and you constantly feel out of place somehow.

I have been subject to these emotions for the last few weeks now, culminating in the last days, with a force that I’ve never felt before, and to an extent that made me wonder if I needed Xanax after all. Now slowly, I start realizing why the impact is so big this time: I am ending and starting multiple waves at the same time! So while usually we only have a professional, or a personal, or a geographical wave ending, for me all of them are crashing right now, at the very same moment: A 9 year corporate professional wave, a 3 year US national wave, a 1 year Florida wave, multiple personal relationship waves…

That’s the moment where many choose to jump off the board to not be washed ashore. Well, let me try to summarize how I’m clinging on to this board in a very accurate picture: I’m sitting here in my interim home in my dad’s backyard in Hamburg, surrounded by my belongings in 3 suitcases, without my Miami home that I gave up last month, without my car that I sold, without a job that I quit, without a partner that could follow, without a 401k that makes my security gut feel warm, heck, I don’t even have health insurance anymore!! Believe me, there’s moments where I’m not sure what on earth I was thinking…

I know I know, you don’t really feel bad for me, and you shouldn’t, I’m more than fine in every way, and all of these have been decisions of my own. And the more I understand the concept of waves by looking back on the old ones and understanding what I have learned through each of them, the more I am opening my arms and heart to the next waves to take me, build me and have me surf a full new learning experience.

And now, the most exciting part: Although it’s not an easy time to go through all of these waves crashing – the thought of all of them building up again at the very same time through the coming weeks and months is so uplifting and simply amazing!! So sitting here writing, I feel my heart pumping a little faster, my lips forming a smile and my eyes opening while thinking of the endless and incredible adventures I’m about to embark on on this once in a lifetime journey.

I will save you this for a later post, but believe me, the year is going to be wild. WILD!! And I’m sure that in three weeks’ time I will sit on a roof top in Kuala Lumpur, cheering with 74 new amazing friends from all around the world and being so glad that I had the courage to jump into this craziness. With no Xanax needed, only red wine, sunglasses and a tear of gratitude in my eyes. About what a dang lucky bird I am!!

2017 – here I come!

 

 

Willpower and Habits for the New Year – How to prepare yourself now!

It’s the evening of January 2. You come home from work. No reason to be exhausted, as you’ve been sitting on your butt doing administrative paper work all day. Last night’s mental hand shake with yourself to put your new year’s resolutions to work right away is still ringing in your head. But when you open the door to your home, your one hand magically finds the TV remote control, and the other hand grabs the bar of chocolate from the fridge. Two minutes later, the reliving sound of your latest Netflix addiction makes an intriguing background noise to the sound of Zin you’re pouring into a wine glass.

Sounds familiar? Here’s a fun stat that might make you feel less alone with this: Although 62% of Americans make some kind of New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in constantly achieving them! You might wonder why I’m talking about all of this more than a month in advance. Well, if you want to be amongst the 8% next year, you will need to start getting ready  now! There’s a fairly high chance that your current setup will not even allow for your resolutions to be successful from the start. Willpower has no chance without you being ready for it with the right shape and the right habits. And you will need every bit of the next six weeks to build these very rationally to be prepared.

Before I get into more detail, I will make a basic assumption that I hope most of you will agree with. Our body is a vessel for our soul. This vessel is regulated and managed by the most powerful thing in the human experience: our brain. Now here’s the dilemma. According to studies, only 5% of our brain is conscious thinking, while 95% are automated. That means that most of our brain’s activity is absolutely beyond our conscious control, and guided by its most important job: Protect the vessel, and ensure survival.

Much of what we think we are as a person is actually a protective shell of learned reactions. Our brain has subconsciously created powerful control mechanisms through fear, cravings and emotions to guide our behavior. But here’s the catch. This primeval part of our brain has not kept up with the recent changes in our environment. We’re still primed to run from the tiger! And without wanting to go into too much detail on this, one thing becomes absolutely clear. The subconscious “ego” that our brain has built with great effort and the best intentions over many years is actually working against us in today’s world.

Let’s tie it back to how we can consciously generate change and make our brain our friend again. You need to take conscious control of the top three most important things you can do to influence those 95%. And, you need to do it before you can actively initiate change.

(1) Shape up the vessel yourself! Lessen the brain’s burden to ensure survival by consciously caring for your body. That means firstly to follow a very thought-through diet to nurture your body and protect your brain. Avoid dairy and processed carbs, eat only few grains and sweet fruits, consume tons of veggies, protein and unsaturated fats. It’s tough to change, I know, but take it step by step, and as much as you can! And secondly, get that body moving! Aerobic exercise is the number one thing to ensure brain health and functioning! It doesn’t necessarily have to be boot camps or weight lifting. 30-60 minutes of simply fast-walking will already get you in the right spot.

If you do this consistently every day, two things will happen: You educate your body to crave the right diet and become very efficient with food and metabolism. You put an end to your body constantly being in survival mode, craving sugar and carbs. And finally, your body will feel strong and save, your mind calm, energized, and your brain is freed and healthy to concentrate on the right stuff.

(2) Create the right habits consciously to help your subconscious! It’s as simple as this: If you don’t create habits consciously, your subconscious will do it for you. Your choice! We are primed to automate as many of our decisions as possible to keep our brain and will power for the important things. Choose wisely what and how you automate!

The trick is to first realize the trigger-response mechanism* and everything that works in between. Let’s take the chocolate bar. What are the triggers that push your automated behavior? What happens in your subconscious mind when the automated response is generated? You probably want to make a certain feeling stop. The chocolate and wine is a fast and easy way to do that, but it’s not sustainable and it causes you harm. So how can you substitute the subconscious response with another? Take a walk around the block for example?

This approach can literally change your life, and the best thing about it is that you get better at it the more you practice. Start with small things, but remember, you need at least 21 days of constant follow-through to establish that practice.

(3) Expose your subconscious to the right influences! Avoid passive and shallow relaxation like public TV, it does you more harm than good. Build a meditation practice to be able to detect and be aware of your subconscious auto-pilot. Learn to love your monkey mind and come to peace with it! Use the right music to get your brain into the right mood and waves. Expose yourself to positive influences including the right environment, the right people, the right job. Do the right things, and feel good about them. And read, read, read!

Last but not least, allow enough time to dream and to be grateful. One of the most powerful brain hacks is that the subconscious can’t differentiate between reality and imagination. So make sure it’s constantly fed with the right input from both ends! Everything you can do to make the brain feel positive about your life and the world – do it! It’s not about being unrealistic or naive, but about managing the way your mind will deal with reality!

One more thing about willpower. It has long been treated as a finite resource, but a recent HBR article by Nir Eyal sums up ground-breaking new insights into the nature of it. If we think it’s finite, it is. But if we don’t, we immediately have more willpower at hand.

It’s all about if you can get your brain to work for instead of against you. If you keep to these three basic things, you will enable your mind and brain to create a fantastic life for you. Shape the vessel, build powerful habit, and feed your subconscious mind with the right information.

Best of luck, and see you on the other side on January 1!

Kathrin Peters

 

* For anyone that is struggling with building habits, I can highly recommend Charles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit’, or Jeremy Dean’s ‘Making Habits, Breaking Habits’