Dateline: Vista, California (20180406)
In the title of this blog, the emphasis should be placed on the word ‘Towards’. I’ve always liked vegetables and fruits. So, it’s pretty easy for me to stear my diet that direction. However, I’m far from being a purest in this pursuit. Nonetheless, when reasonable options are available, I’m choosing to eat plants more than anything else these days.
Preparing to hike the PCT includes spending a lot of time looking at your diet. Burning 4000 to 6000 calories a day is common when on the trail. That’s a bunch, especially if you have to haul it on your back. Size and weight matter.
Many of the strongest animals in the world (and maybe more importantly for me, those animals that ‘pack it’) live on plant based diets: Gorillas, Elephants, Camels, Llamas, Horses, Donkey’s, Mules, and Burros. Since I’m going to be my own mule, it seems like a plant based diet is something worth exploring.
Concerning dairy products (e.g., milk, butter, and cheese), millions of years of evolution have gone into making milk perfect for growing healthy little calves into big livestock. So it seems logical that if you want to look like a cow, you should drink and eat more dairy. I’d be OK with looking like a big, healthy bull, but I don’t think my body would grow that way. So, I’m drastically reducing my dairy intake when off the trail.
If you’ve got time when planning, which I do, you start looking at detailed parameters like ‘weight per 1000 calories’ and ‘cost per 1000 calories’. Of course, that information only applies if it is for a food that you would be willing to eat.
Looking at that data, it’s easy to see why a lot of the world eats beans, oatmeal, rice, and potatoes. Oh, and CHOCOLATE! Ok, so maybe chocolate isn’t mentioned in the UN’s World Food Programme’s Food Policy and if eaten alone it may be missing a lot of the other nutrients you need. However, it can pack a lot of calories into a small package. And if you buy Trader Joe’s 4 pound chocolate bar on sale for $10-, it’s cheap too! ($0.92/1000 cal vs. packaged oatmeal at $1.32/1000 cal). So, I’m taking it only because of its attractive energy-to-cost ratio. (Yeah, right. Sure I am. I hope it doesn’t melt too badly in the desert.)
Many hikers carry beef jerky and packaged meats and fish that require no refrigeration. While I don’t expect to be carrying a lot of meat on the trail due to it’s weight, it’s likely I’ll breakdown in the towns to fulfill cravings. Or, maybe not! Apparently, gorillas are big fans of using ants and termites to augment their plant diet. I’m pretty sure there are ants and termites along the PCT free for the taking.
Since I started this plant based diet strategy late last September, I’ve dropped 18.2 lbs. That’s a few ounces over my backpack’s base-weight (Base-weight = the weight of items you carry not counting consumables (e.g., food and water) and the clothes you are actually wearing). So, I’m almost ‘even’ with my old weight when I put on my pack.
Note that it wasn’t just the change in diet-composition that caused the weight loss. I also stopped working at that time, resulting in many fewer business meals. Less eating out likely cause about half of the weight reduction.
They say the trail changes you. I’m not expecting a lot of change. Then again, maybe I’ll become a vegan by the time I leave the trail… unless the ants are exceptionally tasty.