A natural-born vegetarian is how I describe myself. On and off I would go years when I ate meat and then years when I would refrain. I avoided being vegan at all cost because my non-negotiable was dairy. I was categorically addicted to cheese, and thanks to research we now know that dairy is highly addictive. To sum up my cheese addiction you should know this: every meal included cheese, I snacked on cheese between meals and ate cheese every night as I prepared dinner often ruining my appetite.
I was 39 and training for my second Ironman. I saw “real deal” vegan athletes getting fitter, recovering faster and accomplishing great feats on plants. I was curious.
One night at my favorite restaurant I ordered a salad and I told the server to “hold the goat cheese.” This was a series of words that had never been spoken from my lips and it almost sent me into a panic attack. Using my yogi mind skills, I ate my goat- cheeseless salad and much to my surprise, I survived. The next morning I had another cheeseless meal and survived. And another and another and another for about 10 days until the morning I woke up feeling like I never had before.
I was phlegm free, itch free and allergy free. My energy levels were sustained throughout the day and I had lost weight. That weight loss totaled 10 pounds over the course of a just a few weeks through nothing other than the removal of dairy from my diet. I have never regained that weight. I have since completed three more Ironman triathlons, an ultra marathon and countless other marathons, half marathons and half Ironmans.
I became what I was so curious about, a fit athlete accomplishing great feats on plants.
Fitness was my entry to veganism but the animals and the environment are why I stay. I am outside the ring of blindness, I can see the devastation that eating animals is causing throughout the world. The earth is out of balance and this is in direct relationship to the imbalance of her inhabitants. Animal agriculture is the main contributor to her lack of health but Mother Earth knows that she has nothing to worry about because she will survive. She will do what it takes, even if that means shaking every single one of us off to regain her balance. So if not for your health, if not for the animals then do it for the earth that we all rely on for our lives.
Radical protests and shaming are not my game. I’ve been successful in eliciting change by fine-tuning my ability to move from love-backed knowledge: connecting clients back to their food, creating healthy relationships with what is on our plate and not blocking out the process in which it takes to get there.
I believe with my whole heart that no one aligned with their values and actions would ever hurt an animal in an unnecessary way. Along with that line of thinking, I believe we are all pre-vegan. People are waking up to their misalignment every day and there is no doubt in my mind that I am here to assist them along their journey.
Living vegan is not just mock meats and nut milk, it is the precursor to a better world.
Jess Gumkowski is co-founder of and Head Yogi at YogiTriathlete, Holistic Performance (YT). She is a vegan endurance athlete, mindfulness and meditation coach, Main Street Vegan Academy-certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, author of the YogiTriathlete Cookbook: High Vibe Recipes for the Athlete Appetite, and host of the popular YogiTriathlete podcast.
Jess took her first yoga class in 1993 while on spring break in Jamaica and started racing triathlon in 2005; eleven years later she ran her first ultramarathon. A natural-born vegetarian, Jess turned to a completely vegan diet in 2011. She is an an ambassador for animals, a risk-taker and a woman who prefers to live against the grain. Her deep internal drive to make a difference in the world is something she noticed at a very young age and she has lived a courageous and at times risky life that has led to who she is today.
Jess is living her purpose, serving an international audience through YT, in Carlsbad, CA, with her YogiTriathlete husband, BJ, and Clark, their joy-creating, vegan golden retriever. Join the YT community and be a part of their mission to create a better world on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.