Today, we want to introduce you to plant-strong firefighter, Joel. Joel took charge of his health and has started to change the way his department eats! We are going to ask Joel to guest blog from time to time, and hopefully share some of his tasty recipe creations!
My weight has always fluctuated as a child and well into my mid-twenties. I’m the youngest of four children and my mother was a single parent. I was fed a conventional diet with the traditional Sunday “brunch” special consisting of the oversized French bread stuffed with mayonnaise, ham, bacon, eggs, cheese and chocolate milk on the side. Growing up Hispanic, I was no stranger to fried foods, meat and dairy. After many attempts of failed diets and point counting I decided to watch “Forks Over Knives” and “Engine 2 Diet”. After watching the documentaries, it made complete health sense to transition to a Plant-Based Diet.
Within my department, I am viewed as physically fit and very active. I graduated from the Fire Academy at 175 pounds and managed to reach 214 pounds at my heaviest because I succumbed to traditional Firehouse meals and snacks. After transitioning to a Plant-Based diet, my dietary habits carried over into the firehouse. My shift mates progressively became interested in what I was eating. As I became much leaner, much more active and routinely cooked food for myself that would make anyone salivate, people began taking notice. This didn’t come without ridicule and aggression due to the automatic prejudice of the unknown. I had to educate myself on what a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet was because I was constantly being challenged. Tradition, like in most cultures stands strong within the Fire Department. Change is rarely accepted and most of anything a Firefighter does doesn’t come without humility. I enjoy constant challenge and welcomed all debates while continuously educating myself.
What initially won the stomachs of my shift mates, family and friends were my Plant-Based oil-free baked goods. Who doesn’t love sweets? The more I learned how to cook and prepare Plant-Based meals according to Engine 2 guidelines, the more accepting my dietary lifestyle became to those around me. I’ve found that the key to opening minds is good food. I learned to focus on what I can eat instead of focusing on what I can’t eat. Using that logic and the use of before and after photos of myself, I’ve manage to inspire many people who want to make a change but have never had insight on eating plants. My crew and many others crews within my department now have 2 menus to choose from, Plant-Based or conventional. In my Firehouse, the demand for me to prepare Plant-Based meals every shift is very high. Although some don’t share common interest in my dietary lifestyle, the change within my crew and other crews are clear. I feel it is my responsibility to spread the word of good health because I am not afraid to stand up for what is right. Due to the lifestyle change I’ve made, I am now healthier, leaner, stronger and faster than I’ve ever been.