At the turn of the century, questions started arising within regarding the failing health of a growing number of people around me. I wanted to know why illnesses were on the rise, so I set out to find a clear answer to this very simple question. It took 10 years of weeding out information to realize the tremendous health benefits of a raw vegan diet.
Seeing how overweight people usually return to their naturally thin state of living with this diet, I wondered whether the same would happen to me, even though I did not want to lose weight. Unlike most people, I was trying to accomplish the opposite, or at the very least, maintain my 5-foot, 11-inch, 165-pound frame because I like how a sculpted body looks. The day I got on the scale and saw that the needle wouldn’t budge past 160, I halted all physical activity except rock climbing because I did not want to lose any more weight.
I come from a family where someone can tell if one gains or loses half a pound. If one is not eating enough or too much, they will know and will carry on about it. Imagine their horror when I finally dropped to 150. Regardless, I was still in the healthy weight range for my height, experienced improved athletic performance, felt awesome and had more muscular definition. People outside of family and close friends commended how great my body looked. Some even asked if I was a model. All that did not matter because, according to my family, I was too skinny and looked unhealthy. In a way, they were right. I was too skinny for my taste, but I knew that I was healthier than ever.
The folks at this special raw café knew about it, too, because I used to get on their scale and complain about how I was eating all their food, yet losing weight. As a matter of fact, I used to order a 24-ounce smoothie followed by two or sometimes three meals almost daily. They all thought I looked great but suggested that I eat more food if I wanted to gain weight. They recommended less of the gourmet food I had been eating there and more whole foods such as bananas and at least a pound of greens a day. After about the third or fourth time of listening to this advice, I finally got the drift and started consuming two cases of bananas a week along with seven bunches of either collards or kale while cutting back on the café’s fantastic gourmet foods.
A couple of weeks later, my weight stabilized at 160 while I continued to take it easy with my physical routine. Not only did I continue feeling awesome, my rock-climbing skills improved and my body was doing things I didn’t notice prior such as pulling toxins out in the form of warts that would disappear and excreting foods that it did not want. At the time, I was 90 percent raw, 95 percent vegan and 100 percent vegetarian, which meant two bowls of popcorn every other day or a large pizza every two weeks, which would eventually come out almost exactly as it went in. This was most likely due to my body, which was so nourished it did not need to waste time or energy trying to break down unessential ingredients for the little amounts of nutrition that remained in this food after processing and cooking.
In the meantime, I was eager to start weight training again and was looking into new workout programs when my next-door neighbor mentioned Herschel Walker, a retired NFL player, who I recalled had played for the Philadelphia Eagles. I looked him up and read that he was not only a College Hall of Fame inductee, three time All-American and winner of the 1982 Heisman Trophy but competed in the U.S. Olympics track and bobsledding teams. What caught my attention was how superdeveloped his physique was and that he was pushing 50 as a professional mixed martial artist. Adding to my fascination was that this 6-foot, 1-inch fighter attained his 220-pound mass through daily bodyweight exercises and one large vegetarian meal a day!
I just had to try this for myself, so over the next couple of weeks, I developed a toned-down version of the Herschel Walker workout utilizing only push-up and pull-up variations. Rather than spend four to five days at the gym for two hours, I did bodyweight exercises three times a week for an hour and abdominal workouts in between those days. This regimen started in the beginning of January 2011 and, exactly one month later, I gained 10 pounds. I did not even add more food or quantity to my diet—it remained exactly the same. This was a breakthrough for me because I had never experienced so much physical gain in so little time with so little work, and I didn’t have to force-feed myself like I used to do when I was a gym rat.
It was so clear at that point that animal products and performance supplements were not only unnecessary but actually contradictory to the needs of my body. Once I was eating mostly raw foods for a couple of weeks, my body started the detoxification process because it finally had the energy to clean itself. I may have been physically fit my whole life, but my body was basically in survival mode prior to going raw. It was simply using most of its energy to function normally, rather than thriving like it is now. Any toxins accumulated during that time were stored and eventually released when I finally changed my diet. I have since learned proper food combining to maximize digestion efficiency and fast for at least 16 hours daily to allow the digestive system to rest so that the body can focus on other areas such as healing.
I was awestruck by the body’s ability to maintain its weight no matter how much I ate. It appeared as if my body was expelling foods that it did not need until I put it to work, hence the weight gain. This led to the conclusion that it would be very difficult for anyone to gain weight on a 100 percent organic raw vegan diet consisting of whole foods, just as nature intended, unless force is applied to the body, such as weight training.
A good 10 years were spent researching health and fitness information not just because I wanted to live a healthy, disease-free life but because it took this long for my mind to open up and see what was offered. Like my body, my mind was filled with clutter, which made it difficult to see what was directly in front of me. Once I learned to empty my mind, I realized the answer had been given to me in the beginning of my quest, in the instant I asked for it, and that I had been blind all these years. Rather than drive through town in a hurry to get to my next location, all I had to do was slow down and have a good look in the town of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, home of the now-proclaimed Raw Food Capital of the World, well known as Arnold’s Way.
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All I did was bodyweight exercises. Because I had lost weight, I didn’t want to get into any cardio exercises at the time. I had read about Herschel Walker’s workouts after hearing about him and wanted to find out more about his workout routine. Although I was not able to find out specifics, I was able to learn that he did 1,000 to 1,500 push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups daily. At least that’s what the articles say.
I was doing 280 push-ups and pull-ups per workout then. Once a week, it was chest (push-ups) and biceps (chin-ups). Then two days, later it was shoulders (a push-up variation) and traps (upside-down pull-ups, which I call “I–Don’t–Knows” because I am basically doing shrugs on the bar). Then two days later, back (pull-ups) and triceps (a form of dips utilizing a table and chair). In between these days, I did abs. Workouts lasted an hour and half in the beginning until I was able to get them down to an hour. I did sets of 10–20–30–20–10, so, for example, I would do 10 push-ups followed by 10 chin-ups, then 20, 30 and so forth. I did three sets of these, taking five-minute breaks only between sets. I tried not to take breaks between the subsets, but it is hard not to sometimes because the workout was fairly intense.
As mentioned previously, I did no cardio of any kind at the time because it was not necessary. I clearly remember the significant physical change and seeing how my body really filled in the clothes I had. From that point on, I knew that raw food was the key to pretty much everything. It was an awesome awakening because my diet and workout routine was very minimal.
I now do sets of 5–10–20–10–5, focusing on form. I am up to 150 reps per workout, working my way up to 200 and perhaps 300, but right now, I like that it takes only 20 minutes. I am also rock climbing three times weekly and am starting to bike and will eventually start running, something that I like to do barefoot.