Exploring the Decision to Live a Plant-Based Life
In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re all about living a plant-based life here at Coconut Bliss! We understand, however, that the switch from having some Coconut Bliss after dinner to going fully plant-based can feel like a big decision. Recently, Nick Yarger, Creative Director at Revolution Design Group (the design team that helped us create our beautiful new packaging) decided to make that switch to plant-based. He sat down with Darcey Howard, Global Marketing Director for Coconut Bliss, to talk about going plant-based.
Darcey Howard: Nick, you are starting this year off by creating a plant-based lifestyle. Was this just an excuse to eat more Coconut Bliss? [laughs]
No, seriously, this is kind of a big deal for you. Tell me about the significance of it.
Nick Yarger: I grew up in a very conservative family, which influenced my views at an early age, including my relationship to meat. Before, I would justify to myself why eating meat was okay for me, and though I’m not yet at the place where I would condemn eating meat, I have changed the way I think about it. I’ve become more of an advocate for a plant-based diet because of how eating a lot of meat affects the environment, your health, and the treatment of animals.
When I was a kid, I was very sensitive about animals; even when fishing I would think about how the fish had families like I did. My first experience hunting was when I was visiting a friend’s family in a rural village in Mexico – this was how they would feed themselves. We’d go down to the coast and hunt crabs or catch a rabbit for stew. I was a guest there and to be part of their family I understood the significance of it.
But the way I see our culture now, all I can see is how meat is processed.
Darcey: All you have to do is watch one documentary about the meat processing industry and you’ll start contemplating your choices. Speaking of choices, why plant-based instead of, say, flexitarian?
Nick: I began approaching it by doing the farm-to-table thing, which for a while felt like it was “good enough.” Now, I feel like we may not have a choice but do go plant-based in the future. The future for me is now.
Darcey: Do you feel like you are ahead of curve given what you believe our future may look like?
Nick: I think I might be behind the curve. Watching “PlantPure Nation” shows how the truth is a stubborn thing; It doesn’t go away. Then I watched Arnold’s “Game Changers”.
Darcey: I was totally surprised to learn about Arnold Schwarzenegger as a plant-based advocate. How did you feel about Arnold before watching “Game Changers” compared to after?
Nick: I mean, I like Terminator. [laughs]
Even if I don’t totally relate to him, I like that he speaks out. The athletes in “Game Changers” are at the top of their game, and Arnold demonstrates that they don’t need meat-based proteins to perform well.
Darcey: Let’s be honest, athletes that are doing plant-based are doing it from a sort of selfish perspective; it helps with recovery and inflammation. That’s all about them. But hey, necessity is the mother of all invention.
Nick: So, how do you message to both groups: those that are doing it for themselves and those that are doing it for the environment?
Darcey: We are a nation of “What’s in it for me?” Every politician, brand and advocate faces the question of how to message to both sides of an issue. In this case it’s about getting the performance athlete to believe that the environment is also for them.
But let’s get back to your decision to go plant-based. Was this a New Year’s resolution?
Nick: No, it was more about turning 45 than it was about the new year. My birthday is in February, so the beginning of the year felt like a good time to start. As you get older, recovery time for everything gets longer, but I’m still at a time where I can be at my peak. I just have to listen to my body more and not eat whatever is put in front of me, like I did when I was growing up. Like, my body has told me it does not like pork. That was the first elimination.
You have to understand, I LOVE food! Growing up in LA there has always been access to lots of really good vegan food, but it was to some degree in contrast to my lifestyle. But living in Eugene has made it even more accessible.
Darcey: Aside from plants and plant-based items, are there items that you are eating more of?
Nick: Tofu, tempeh, bread. As an artist, I’ve always liked to cook with color, but let’s face it, meat is not very colorful. [laughs]
I’m also learning which fats to use and being more conscious about changing the dynamic of food with oils and spices. Another thing I’m exploring is alternative meat, though I’m not too keen on it yet. I don’t like the idea of replacing meats, but I do like having something that gives me that savory satisfaction.
Darcey: I want to know more about how health has influenced your move toward a plant-based diet. Was it truly a proactive move or was there a specific moment that kicked the door open?
Nick: Last year, I had issues with sleeping and chest pains. I went the doctor, and he mentioned he was going more plant-based and that’s when the seed to started to germinate. Later, I did a BMI test at the CrossFit gym, and it was not great. In fact it was a bummer – it wasn’t a good result. I’m a really fit, bigger more muscular guy, but I’m fat, and that was a real ego blow. Around the same time, I had a knee injury that took a lot longer to recover because of all the weight on my frame.
Darcey: All of that combined feels like a real wake-up call. What about mental health? What role do you think it plays in that?
Nick: I’m a business owner, which demands a lot of my mental energy. If my body is battling inflammation, I can’t be at my best. I finally figured, why not just try plant-based? It’s really pretty easy.
Darcey: How are you making it easier to incorporate it into a lifestyle?
Nick: Using Purple Carrot, a food delivery service, which makes the experience more inclusive and attainable because it’s all laid out for you. Not to mention I’m cooking with vegetables that I never knew existed. I’m also recording all the food I eat using an app called Lose It, while also using a Whoop to track my heart rate, sleep, and strain level when I work out .
Darcey: Basically, you are setting yourself up for success. So far so good, but I know for a fact that you love decadent snacks. I can’t picture you sitting around snacking on carrot sticks.
Nick: I’ll be honest, I eat ice cream every single night and you know that Coconut Bliss Madagascan Vanilla Bean is my go-to. So that was easy. [laughs]
But can we talk about frozen mangoes?? Oh my god, I’ve been eating so many frozen cubed mangoes and making my own popcorn with truffle salt.
Darcey: It sounds like you are getting more in tune with your body in a different way. What does that look like for you at this time and where do you want to go with it?
Nick: It might sound ridiculously simple, but I’m getting more passionate about my health. You kind of have to want that. You can’t be forcing yourself to keep track of what you’re eating, and develop better eating habits – you have to understand what it does for you.
I exercise every day. Just walking through the door of the gym feels like I’m winning because I know for sure that it’s a positive thing that I’ve done for myself. I’ve started to think that way about food: “how can I make this a win?”
Darcey: I love that approach. You know I’m passionate about cooking and I love a challenge. I find plant-based cooking so exciting, but I’m also a germaphobe, so cooking meat is a chore. Besides, when I’m done cooking I want to dive in without thinking about the germs festering on the counter. What are some of the other ways you are making this a winning game?
Nick: Having food prepped is a big plus. This is for me, but I also see this kind of lifestyle as an eventual future for all people. As an artist, I’ve always been looking for the thing that I can be an advocate for. Between the environment, the direction that our food industry going, and the inclusivity of going plant-based, it’s hard not to want this for others.