Eating a plant based diet is one of the common threads of the Blue Zones cultures and one of the Power Nine principles in Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones book. When people get to know me and find out I’m a vegetarian they usually ask why I am and how long I’ve eaten a plant based diet.

First off let me say that I am not trying to sway anyone to be a vegetarian, eating meat or not is a personal decision and what works for some doesn’t work for others. There are many reasons people are vegetarians – some are huge animal lovers and ‘won’t eat anything with a face’ others do it for religious motivations, etc. My inspiration came to me in a different way.

I was a steak loving, cheeseburger and chicken wing girl in 2001 when I attended a four day Tony Robbins motivational immersion program as part of a professional development track. I remember being a little skeptical as I traveled to the event with two colleagues – from what I knew of Tony Robbins he seemed a bit cheesy and the whole walking on hot coals part of his program was something I was afraid I couldn’t get in the mindset for.

I have to say after just the first few hours as I got to see him in action and hear his messaging and philosophies on goals and success I became a Tony Robbins fan! He is top of his game in the field of motivational speaking. I could see why corporate CEO’s, heads of state, top entertainers and athletes consult with him to stay on track.

After spending the first three days of the program focused on personal motivation and reaching your potential, he spent the last day talking about his philosophy on health, diet and staying balanced. Tony advocates a plant based diet of eating foods that are ‘alive’, and encourages protein coming in moderation from fish in addition to beans. The way he explained it is when we consume meat we are consuming something which is already in the process of decaying. We’re also absorbing another animals’ nervous system along with their hormones, pesticides from the grass or grain they ate and anything that was in their system when they died. In addition to being unhealthy, it can be very hard to digest animal protein and can leave a person feeling ‘heavy’ or weighted down.

At the end of the last day he wrapped up with challenging everyone in the audience to eat a living plant based diet for ten days and said if you feel better, lighter, more clear minded and energetic then stick with it. I took the challenge and have been eating this way ever since – almost 13 years!

I’m not a strict vegan or even a vegetarian by definition. Since I eat fish I call myself a ‘veg-aquarian’, and I do make an exception on a rare occasion for two things I love – pepperoni pizza and bacon (both of which are technically classified as fat, not animal protein like a steak or a hamburger – or so I justify it to myself!). But I do feel better eating this way. I have more consistent energy and focus, and I’ve noticed I most often don’t get sick when bugs are going around.

Again, this may not be for everyone, but those who live the longest most active healthy lives eat plant based diets and so far it’s been a good path for me!