So who the hell am I? Here’s a little background. I’m Brad. I grew up in Tampa, Florida after moving to the US from South Africa at the tender age of 4. I had a normal childhood for the most part, but as an only child of immigrant parents, I relied on my friends to teach me about the American culture. Turns out, much of the American culture revolved around food...and not fruits and veggies.
From as far back as I could remember, I would consume anything and everything that tasted great. Pop tarts for breakfast, mac n' cheese for lunch, Dr. Pepper to wash it down, and brownies for dessert. It's crazy looking back because I never even drank water until the age of 12-13. Why would you when you have Gatorade, Caprisun, chocolate milk, soda, and orange juice at your disposal? On top of all that, I had a growing monstrous appetite. Just so you have some context of my appetite, I remember devouring an entire Papa John's 16” XL “The Works” pizza in one sitting as a 14 year old! That is 10 slices and 2500+ calories.....and of coursethere was room for dessert!
I can also proudly say that I have cleared 2 double rice, double bean, and double meat (tofu) burrito bowls at Chipotle in a single sitting and am eager to tackle 3!
Needless to say, I was chubby. Fortunately, I was a tall kid so the weight distributed much better than if I were short. The insecurity still remained. Remember, I didn't have parents to look up to. They loved me but couldn't teach me how to fit in to American society. I didn't have brothers and sisters either to show me the ropes.
Whatever I saw on television, heard on the radio, or what my friends told me became my only form of education...on everything!
I give so much credit to my amazing group of loyal friends for helping me get through school. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't a nerd or “loser” in school; I just wasn't popular. I was shy, insecure, lacked style, lacked a physique to be proud of, and most importantly, lacked confidence. I wanted more. I wanted better. I knew it was attainable but just didn't know how to get there without a role model.
Enter the internet.
Thank God for Google...aka my 3rd parent. Long story short, Google gave me the knowledge I needed to start transforming my body and my life all throughout high school and college. I learned how to eat better, lift weights, dress, and develop people skills. Little did I know, my passion for personal development would be born from this time. I discovered that anyone has the accessibility to learn whatever it is they want to change their life.
I was even scouted by a fashion model agent while working at a nightclub in Downtown Tampa, which ended up launching my modeling career. That was the ultimate validation of my transformation. This led to modeling gigs all over Florida, the Bahamas, New York, Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala, South Africa, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and the list keeps growing with major agencies such as Wilhelmina, Ford, Next, and Elite. I have represented Fortune 100 companies, major fashion brands, walked on major runways, and met the most interesting and incredible people along the way.
I went from a chubby insecure foreign kid looking for validation from “the cool kids” in school to an internationally signed model. How sweet is that?
So where does the meat and animal products play in, you may be wondering? Well as I was learning about fitness and nutrition, a common theme that came up in the bodybuilding space was the use of lean meat, eggs, and dairy as the strongest protein sources to achieve muscle growth and fat loss. It's important to emulate those that are where you want to be, so of course I listened. I swapped out sour cream for fat free cottage cheese, fried chicken turned to grilled chicken, and lean cuts of steak replaced fatty sausage. I also supplemented with whey protein after working at Smoothie King and falling in love with smoothies at age 16. That's a whole other story and something I highly credit my transformation to as well. In fact, you can read that story and much more in my free book, The Ultimate Smoothie Guide: Blending a Better Body in 5 Minutes a Day.
As a model, I knew I had to keep my body in pretty good shape. Now, I wish I was one of these kid athletes or genetic freaks that formed abs simply by getting out of bed in the morning, but that wasn't the case and still isn't, partly due to my horrendous health during puberty which is why I had to pay special attention to my diet.
From 22-30 years old, my diet remained quite consistent. An omelet with 6-8 egg whites with 1-2 yolks and veggies would be one meal. Another meal would be a giant smoothie packed with whey protein and cottage cheese with an array of flavors from peanut butter and chocolate to strawberry and banana to pina colada would be another meal. Finally, I would have an 8-10oz chicken breast per day with rice and veggies. Damn how my taste buds love chicken! Of course this wouldn't be every day, but 9/10 days my meals would look very much like this with protein bars, beef jerky, and Greek yogurt as snacks in the middle. My goals was to hit at least 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day. Since I always weighed 185-200lbs, my protein goal would be 185g -250g per day. Gotta get that protein! (I touch more on this in my book which you can download here.)
So why change? Why experiment with a meat free diet?
I know you've seen how big the vegan movement has become. Documentaries like What the Health, Cowspiracy, Supersize Me, Earthings, etc have really opened the eyes to millions of Americans about the lies we've been told and truth that has been hidden for decades. Cameras on smartphones have revealed disturbing accounts of what goes on behind the scenes in factory farms and the truth is scary. But guess what? I wouldn't watch the documentaries. I wouldn't click on the Facebook link to see the gruesome video of animal abuse. I knew that I couldn't handle the truth. I knew that if I saw this truth, it would affect me. I would either continue my ways with internal conflict and guilt or I would have to start going down a much tougher road, living and eating in accordance with my beliefs.
So I took the cowardly route. I refused to fill my mind with images and testimonials of truth, validating my actions with the excuse of: “I wouldn't be able to get enough protein on a vegan diet thus getting out of shape and damaging my career.”
Looking back, I am ashamed of my mindset and actions. Remember when I said I have amazing friends? Enter my best friend, Stephen, (@meatfreemafia). Besides being one of those people with incredible standards and morals across the board, Stephen was the first vegan I knew. As of writing this in 2018, Stephen has been a full vegan for almost 4 years and a devout animal activist. He was also the influence I needed to start opening my mind and heart to a more compassionate way of living. A lot of vegans are assholes. It's true. Then again, a lot of people are assholes. Maybe the ratio is less, maybe the same, maybe more. I don't know. I just know there are nice people and mean people in every demographic in the world. To me, Stephen was a positive influence. The kind of influence that made me WANT to learn more.
Over a few years of conversations in my late 20's about veganism, health and fitness and following his Instagram account which displayed an array of charts, funny and serious memes, and heartwarming and heartbreaking stories, I knew I was getting pulled in that direction. Personal development was something dear to me and I started feeling more and more conflicted with what my heart and soul yearned for and the contradicting actions I would take on a daily basis.
So I started small. I decided in 2016 to substitute my whey and casein protein powders for plant based protein. If you don't know me, I'll tell you that's approximately 50lbs less dairy per year for me right there. It definitely took an adjustment period for my taste buds, but my body was much happier so it was easy to stick with.
In 2017, I decided I would take a giant leap forward. I would not eat red meat, chicken, dairy, or pork for the entire year; a super lofty goal for a meat loving carnivore like myself. Was it tough? Oh hell yeah...but I learned to be resourceful. I ate more fish and eggs and started implementing veggie patties to satisfy my taste buds. Much tougher transition. I also cheated 25-30 times throughout the year, mostly when traveling and around the holidays.
December 2017 came the final goal. Go vegan for 30 days straight. I wondered “How would I ever hit my protein goals?” “How can I ever do this on the road when in the Midwest where they don't even know what veganism is?” “Will all of my muscle disappear?” I approached this experiment with equal parts nervousness and excitement. “Will I see the light? Will my life be changed forever or not?”
My complete findings are outlined in my free book under the resources tab which I highly welcome you to request.
Regardless, today, I write this article being plant based for almost half a year and with no plans of looking back. My physical and mental health, fulfillment, and spirituality are at all time highs. My mission is to continue to push myself to evolve to my maximum potential in order to help others up while also helping save the lives of innocent animals and improve the sustainability of the planet.
Please join me. For your sake, for my sake, and for the future generation's sake.