At Territory, a big part of our company culture is grounding ourselves with the why. When we hear anecdotes of how eating healthy food has changed someone’s life for the better, it really fills up our cups. Our why is our customer’s success, whether it’s helping someone lose weight, make it through their first Whole30, or nourishing a busy new mom.
As we celebrate plant based eating this month, we learned about a success story that truly knocked our socks off. Donnie Nusbaum is a contract specialist with the DHS and a fitness coach at Trident Athletics in Alexandria, VA. After years of eating paleo and low carb, he decided to challenge himself to eat 100% plant based for the month of January.
What happened surprised him, his doctor, and the whole team at Territory: he enjoyed plant based eating so much that he extended it for 3 months, saw his total cholesterol drop from 262 to 150, LDL cholesterol drop from 174 to 73 (wow!), and he lost a few pounds along the way.
I sat down with Donnie to learn more about the remarkable health improvements and other unexpected benefits he experienced from eating plants for three months.
Tell us about how you used to eat, prior to starting this plant based challenge.
I would say prior to this vegan challenge I was eating predominantly paleo with a large portion of the food consisting of fatty meats.
What inspired you to start a plant based challenge?
Last year I went to my doctors for my annual physical. I was told everything was fine except for my total cholesterol. With a standard range of 0-199 for total cholesterol I tested at 262.
My doctor informed me if my cholesterol goes up anymore he would highly recommend putting me on statins.
I always had a passion for living a healthy lifestyle and I’m also a part time fitness coach. So being told by my doctor that I may need to be put on medication because of my diet was a little bit of a gut punch. I’m preaching about living a healthy lifestyle and making good food choices at the gym, on the other hand, my doctor is telling me my food choices are possibly putting me at risk for heart disease.
I’ve heard vegan diets can help with lowering cholesterol so I thought why not give it a try.
What changes have you experienced since eating plant based?
I noticed about a month in my sleeping was improving.
Physically and mentally I felt great on a vegan diet. Sometimes after a big steak dinner or breakfast with bacon and eggs I would feel a little sluggish. I never once felt that way during my three months eating a vegan diet.
Socially had its ups and downs. If I was out and about on my own it wasn’t a problem. I noticed being around friends and family can sometimes be difficult. Especially at restaurants. Asking waiters what was vegan on the menu or choosing not to eat if I wasn’t 100% sure was the most challenging part of the three months.
However, I did visit some vegan restaurants for the first time and that was a lot of fun. Never in my life I thought I would go to a vegan restaurant and enjoy it as much as I did. I was pleasantly surprised how good the meals were.
Was there anything that surprised you about eating more plant based?
Taste. When I thought of vegan diets the first thing that came to my mind was rabbit food. This is where Territory really came through. I really can’t think of a bad meal through Territory. Initially I was only going to go vegan for a month. The month went by so fast, and Territory made it so easy, I thought why not three months.
Variety. I’ve done a few diets such as Keto, Whole30, Zone and Paleo type diets. Even though I cut meat products entirely out of my diet I was surprised at my options. Some foods I haven’t had in years because they weren’t “paleo”. Chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, rice, quinoa……the list goes on. I never felt like my options were limited or was missing out.
Satiated. You hear rumors on a vegan diet it’s tough to get enough calories. Especially if you’re physically active. I found that to be false. Especially with all the different fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, coconuts, etc.).
I didn’t miss meat as much as I thought I would. Prior to these 3 months I can’t recall a time in my life I didn’t have meat. I thought I would be craving meat all the time. I truly didn’t think about it much.
Not all vegan meals are high in carbs. With that said I’m not as afraid as carbs prior to eating plant based.
Have you noticed any differences in your energy and performance at the gym since switching to plant based?
No. That’s a good thing! When I talked with people about a plant based diet in the fitness community I heard a lot of the same things.
“You’re not going to get enough protein on a plant based diet.”
“Your strength is going to significantly reduce.”
“You will struggle completing workouts and your performance will negativity be impacted.”
Not only did none of the above happen I also got PRs in some of my workouts during these past three months on a vegan diet.
What advice would you give someone who wants to eat more plant based?
Don’t think about what you can’t have but look into what you can have! With the amount of plant based foods out there your imagination is your only limitation.
Definitely try Territory. Those meals definitely open my eyes that a plant based diet is not only far from restrictive but highly nutritious and satisfying.
What are your favorite Territory veggie meals and why?
Beet Medley Risotto with Broccoli Rabe by Chef Rachelle
Most of my life I hated beets and broccoli. Two foods I cringed at. I knew they were good for you but avoided them at all cost. This meal was such a surprise. Two foods I wouldn’t normally eat in one meal and it tastes so good. I always look forward to this meal.
Roasted Tofu with Persimmon Chutney, Brussels Sprouts, and Butternut Mash by Chef Rachelle
I love how the Brussels sprouts are cooked. This is a fun meal and extremely satisfying.
Vegan RightRice Spanish-Style Paella with Mushrooms by Chef Damian
Solid meal that tastes great and very filling. I would order this at a restaurant.
Ginger Peanut Chickpeas with Sesame Slaw and Sweet Potatoes by Chef Rachelle
My favorite!!! Love this meal! When I see this come up I usually order two. This is my favorite chickpea meal ever.
Seeing these results and the impact that eating more plants can have, where will go from here?
I am going to start reintroducing meat. However, with this experience I will continue to include some plant based/vegan meals through Territory. I’m also going to participate in Meatless Mondays moving forward.
Thank you so much! Territory made my vegan experience so enjoyable. I could hardly call the last three months a challenge.
Thank you Donnie, for being our why.