The Unstoppable Vegetarian - Diogo Graça Moura

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Diogo Graça Moura is a 43 year old vegetarian Portuguese windsurf, motocross and enduro athlete. As the Vice President of BERD - One Bridge One Solution, Diogo travels from Portugal to South America almost every week and still manages to practice his favourite endurance sports intensively. He is highly energetic, feels “fitter than ever”, his blood tests are “worthy of a magazine cover” and he says he owes his health and strength to his switch to a healthy lifestyle and eating habits.

“Everything started with a few smoothies and ended up changing my life definitively. The sensation was that of pulling the end of a thread of a yarn of wool. After the smoothies came the salads, the amazing desserts, superfoods, breakfasts, health food shopping sessions and what not! Incredibly tasty recipes which are very easy to make and so healthy! I realized that there was no turning back…”

FC: How did it all start Diogo?

DGM: I was on a traditional Portuguese diet, but already somewhat careful. I ate very little red meat and drank fruit juices regularly. But then I found out about you and decided to book a workshop. I wrote down your number as ‘Filipa Smoothies’.

FC: You were already full on into extreme sports and you also had a super heavy work load. How did you feel?

DGM: Yes, it was already crazy then. I thought I felt good at that time, but I am only aware now of how that was actually not quite true. I can say in all certainty now that I only started feeling truly great after having changed my eating habits.

FC: That is an interesting aspect. Many people tell me that they feel good on a lifestyle that is little or not at all healthy: “my granny lived to be 95 years old and she ate meat, smoked, drank, etc.”. And it’s true. I already had phases where I felt good without being careful about my health. But then I go through a deeper cleanse and achieve a level of wellness and awareness that I could not imagine was possible.

DGM: People feel good within what they know about themselves, that is, relatively good. But the truth is, a vast majority of people do not know their potential, or how much better they could feel if they changed certain habits. If I say that my eating habits had an impact on my level of consciousness, people say I’m insane. But that is the reality. I feel much less stress, less aggressiveness, less bad temper and a much higher connection with everything around me.

FC: What exactly were you looking for when you heard of diospiro?

DGM: I wanted to be more healthy, have a better diet. I wanted to find out what I could introduce in my life that would have an outstanding impact. And this was only the door opener. After that came so much more. Suddenly you realize you have to reset your whole being. You have to question everything you learned. In fact, you have to re-learn and that’s not always easy. It’s not a static thing, it’s an evolutionary process... and it’s for the rest of your life. You won’t want to turn back. You have to research, find your own sources and, above all, increase your awareness of what´s going on inside of you, your awareness of who you are. There are no universal rules. What’s suitable for me might not be for you. An interesting exercise you taught me was to take notes about what I was doing and how it made me feel. That was amazing and helped me a lot. I took notes of smoothies I invented, whether they were good, bad, when I started being hungry again after eating, how I felt...

unstoppable vegetarian diogo graça moura healthy lifestyle vegan simple healthy diospiro

FC: The fact that it’s an evolutionary process is key. The idea of changing our lifestyle is not about jotting down a few recipes and thinking we’re good to go. What I love to share with people are the basic tools with which they can evolve on their own. The most important thing is that we become more and more conscious, more sensitive and more responsible for ourselves and for everything we touch, directly or indirectly.

DGM: Recipes help in the beginning. The diversity of ingredients you can use on a vegan or vegetarian diet is so much greater than that of the traditional, meat based Portuguese one. Most people are just not aware of that. “What do you eat? Salad?”. Not really, I eat a lot of different things. In fact, I eat everything but meat, fish, dairy and sugar. And the combinations are endless. There are so many things that were not part of my diet that I now love. But it’s important to mention that I changed my eating habits for health purposes and that that ended up impacting my consciousness. It was at that time that I started collaborating with Animais de Rua and Quinta das Águias (two Portuguese non-profit organizations). Then came the question of sustainability. And very quickly all the ethical and spiritual questions that seem to have little or nothing to do with eating habits, but to which they’re many times the door. And that was clearly my case. Whatever the path, you always end up there, whether you search for it consciously or not. And suddenly you’re thirsty for learning, for knowing, for reading. You get hooked on everything that has to do with discovering who you are, with self-knowledge.

FC: A subject for many lifetimes… :) You mentioned that your blood tests are worthy of a ‘magazine cover’ and your father is a doctor. Does he monitor your health?

DGM: I have my blood tested every year and I never had any abnormal figure, but I did have high cholesterol, as well as high blood sugar. Looking at my family pattern, the tendency is definitely one of high cholesterol. Three of my brothers are on medication and one other managed to avoid it by changing his diet. I was well aware I was bound to have the same fate, even practicing a lot of intense sports which they don’t.
I now have proof that a vegetarian diet is healthier than the traditional diet I used to have. I just have to compare my most recent blood tests with the previous ones or with those of my family. The differences are undeniable. Everything else, the fact that I feel a lot better, have more energy and feel much more conscious, is arguable for others.
There’s another important thing to mention. Like more than 50% of the Portuguese population, I had, or still have the helicobacter pylori bacteria. But since I stopped eating animal fat, I never had any symptoms again, none whatsoever.

FC: The question of blood tests is crucial. If on one hand a lot of people resist a paradigm shift, many others throw themselves into a new diet without knowing what they’re doing. A good example is the recent detox fashion. Some people even become anaemic. Changing to a more natural way of eating does not eliminate the necessity of monitoring one’s health carefully.

DGM: All that is due to misinformation. The detox fashion…everywhere you go now you see detox juices. As if people would drink a juice and detox after having eaten a burger for lunch. It simply does not happen that way.

FC: Did you feel a lot of social pressure due to your new veggie/vegan diet, specially within your family?

DGM: Jokes. It’s the usual thing, right?! I’m still ridiculed sometimes. But at the end of the day, even my family, who is on a standard Portuguese diet, is surrendering. I brought them here for dinner (Vegetarian Restaurant Em Carne Viva, Porto, Portugal) and they were amazed. All of them. The tabus slowly get broken. It’s the same with children. You can talk a lot, but your example is what counts over in the end. In fact, your example is the best thing you can give to anyone. People look at me, they see that I’m really well physically. I take part in 3 national championships and 21 weekend contests per year, besides the intense training sessions. I travel to the other side of the Atlantic every other week and I feel great. And I do not look 43. Social pressure has been lowered as a consequence. People might mock us at first, but many of them would love to learn more. At some point they also feel that they need to change something in their lives.

FC: There comes a time when even if we do not know why or where we’re going, we just know we’re no longer willing to stay where we are.
You travel a lot, how do you adapt your healthy eating habits to your trips?

DGM: In Brazil, I usually eat in ‘churrasqueiras’ (barbecue restaurants) and they always have huge veggie buffets with delicious things: quinoa salads, beans… You can be vegetarian and still eat delightfully at a ‘churrasqueira’, contrary to what you’d think. In airplanes I already have my vegan profile. TAP actually serves nice vegan meals and other airlines do too.

FC: What about other traditional restaurants, such as, the typical Portuguese?

DGM: Nowadays there’s almost always a vegetarian dish and people are actually friendly when I say that I do not eat meat or fish. I many times get to eat a delicious soupy tomato rice with beans. If there’s really no option, I sometimes order an omelette, though I really don’t like to do that. I only eat eggs very rarely and from organic free range chicken.

FC: Did you feel a big change in your performance in extreme sports?

DGM: I take part in national motocross championships which is considered the most demanding sport in the world. I practice formula windsurfing which is really tough in terms of strength and I also practice enduro which is super demanding as far as resistance is concerned. So, all of them are demanding in a different way and so I have to be a well-rounded sportsman. After changing my eating habits, I definitely started having a lot more energy and performing better. Undoubtedly.

unstoppable vegetarian diogo graça moura healthy lifestyle vegan simple healthy diospiro

FC: And the classic question every vegetarian is asked...what about protein?!

DGM: Myth n.1 and usually the very first question I get asked... Protein is everywhere and a protein deficiency is unheard of, except in case of starvation. Nevertheless, in a hypertrophic training it’s advisable to ingest 1.5 times your bodyweight in grams. I weigh 62kg, so I should eat 93 grs of protein when I’m training to increase muscle mass. I can easily do that with a little care and attention.

FC: What do you eat? Hemp seeds for example?

DGM: Hemp seeds, pea protein, bee pollen, lupin flower, peanuts, nuts, almonds, almond paste, legumes… The question is how to dose in order to get a specific result. You have to pay more attention to quantities and to the way in which you combine foods. But generally speaking, I don’t scratch my head over it.

FC: Do you sense that your diet helps you recover more quickly from sports injuries?

DGM: I am aware that a lot of the foods I eat have anti-inflammatory properties. But what I feel is that with age, the speed at which I heal injuries did not decrease and that itself is very positive. I recover very rapidly and would say that I owe that to my diet.

FC: You have a small son. Does he share your eating habits?

DGM: I always give him many vegetables and soups. He does not like sweets or chocolate. Does not eat candy or any of those things. But it’s his own option. And he has an iron health. In the first year of kindergarten which is always dramatic, he was the only child not to get sick. Not a single day. He is very joyous and lively and has a strong connection with animals. He’s four years old and we have the same eating habits, roughly. There’s no TV at home and he’s not hiperactive. He’s very energetic, but focused and calm at the same time. And not only does he not turn his nose up at broccoli and salad, he actually insists on eating them. But if at school he’s sometimes served meat for lunch, I don’t worry about it either.

FC: This touches on an important point which is the question of fundamentalism. In my case, since it was a personal need, because I had developed arthritis, I changed my eating habits quickly and radically and the truth is it became an obsession at that time. It is essential to maintain a balance and knowing how to allow space for a few indulgences from time to time is key.

DGM: I don’t even think about that. I know for a fact that in my daily life I eat healthy quality foods, so when I indulge in something unhealthy there’s zero guilt. But it’s crucial to remember that our choices have an impact that goes well beyond ourselves. Sustainability is still highly overlooked. It is necessary to understand that eating meat like ‘we’ do today is just not sustainable. In the US, for instance, half of the agricultural production is destined to feed livestock. That alone could well feed many more people if we’d adhere to a vegetarian diet globally. Besides, 50% of global pollution comes from the livestock industry. A global vegetarian diet could have a profound impact on the planet and might even be a necessary change at this day and age. Even the UN has alerted to that fact.

FC: “If slaughterhouses had windows…”
To finish on a positive note, you told me you’ve started to meditate. What differences have you noticed generally?

DGM: I started slowly and was only noticing the more basic effects of meditation. Less stress, higher concentration, more energy, better mood. But then I started feeling a much more profound impact. If you’re able to meditate in-between different areas of your life, you can make the most out of each one of them, be much more effective and also happier. For instance if you meditate even for a short period of time before you leave work, it works as a ‘reset’. By the time you get home and enter your personal life, you’re not carrying the typical energy of a workday. You learn to be here and now and live every moment to the fullest.

FC: Thank you Diogo. Many times, more than a scientific or theoretical article about a specific topic, it is someone’s story - the life experience of a specific person - that inspires us to change. Yours is partly told here and will hopefully inspire some of our readers.

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