Plant Chat: Keith Mitchell, Former Pro-Football Player Turned Plant-Based Yogi
I am so thrilled to have my friend and professional football player turned yogi Keith Mitchell on my Plant Chat today. I met Keith on the filming of an upcoming plant-based project. After being left partially paralyzed in an accident playing as a pro-football player, he utilized yoga and meditation to make a full recovery, and later decided to share his insights as a motivational speaker. Keith is also the founder of the Light It Up foundation, which seeks to introduce mindfulness and meditation practices to children, as he believes that the exposure of yoga and mindfulness practices to children can influence long-lasting, healthy behaviors. This foundation also educates first responders, police officers, veterans, and those with mental disorders about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation practices.
Sharon: What was your journey to a more healthful, plant-based lifestyle?
Keith: I grew up in Texas, dreaming of being an athlete. I took on the journey of football in high school and was later recruited by the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was with the Jaguars that I sustained a spinal cord injury that resulted in partial paralysis. I practiced conscious breathing in the hospital, and learned that talking about things can help conceptualize what we are doing. Understanding how to do this can display its purpose while also revealing how breathing affects us.
Sharon: How do you believe nutrition and meditative practices affect the body?
Keith: There have been studies conducted about the positive effects of nutrition on breathing and the respiratory system. In providing oxygen for the blood, the respiratory system plays an important part in circulating nutrients throughout the body. It is estimated that a person on average takes between 17,000 and 23,000 breaths per day. Stress and high cortisol levels prevent the body from achieving homeostasis by throwing off eating patterns. Mindful or meditative breathing takes about 60-70% of that stress away. My advice is to try to take about 10,000 breaths and mentally evaluate what in your body needs attention to achieve internal harmony throughout the day.
Sharon: How did you become involved with mindfulness and meditation practices?
Keith: In the hospital, time felt slower and I was impatient to heal. Through this I learned patience, compassion, and how to be gentle with myself after years of doing the opposite. There are some patterns that can contradict healthy relationships within ourselves and our lives; I believe that choosing meditation can contribute to growth and development. Cleansing is a perfect part of the healing process to “rewrite” the history of ourselves. You may be a vegan for 5-6 years, but what were you doing 40 years before that? We hold on to stressors and everything so tightly without realizing it. Cleansing allows for release of all this. I had no idea about nutrition before; I don’t eat meat for the sake of animals, and I eat plants for the proper nutrition it provides. A plant is essentially the manifestation of water in minerals that go into nurturing us. I studied directly with Dr. Sebi, who helped analyze how my body assimilated and kept cleansing itself after concussions.
Sharon: How would you describe your daily routine?
Keith: When I played sports, I weighed 260 pounds with 5% body fat. In the lifestyle I lead now, there is no need to weigh that much. I am currently around 220-225, and I eat for functionality through intermittent fasting. I typically don’t eat breakfast, but when I do it’s a smoothie that I make sure to have a lot of vitamins and minerals in. I work out, then eat my biggest meal of the day around noon. During this time of day, the sun is at its highest peak and encourages us to secrete more serotonin. Others usually eat every 3-4 hours, allowing us to process what we put in. I typically don’t eat later than 8 pm so that my body can relax and create melatonin. I still train, do yoga, and try to build muscle, but it is more structured. When I snack, it will be a proper snack food strategized at certain points throughout the day. I have recently gotten into dates and brazil nuts, but I always make sure that I have good food support in the midst of my day to day.
After my injury in Florida I flew home to Texas where I ended up doing a yoga retreat for my birthday. It helped me realize that I want to do yoga training. I met people who lived in Los Angeles, so I moved to learn yoga and eventually teach it. I didn’t originally intend to teach, I just wanted to learn and be on my own journey.
Sharon: How do you apply mindfulness to plant-based eating?
Keith: There are more repercussions in eating a steak, and it creates more damage to the environment. Whatever we are deciding to do, we adjust and have to do so in due diligence. The same that we inquire about and put inside of ourselves eventually transforms into patterns that we take on when we want or need to know how we function. All of the patterns in our lives are connected, no matter what we put inside of our bodies.
To learn more about Keith’s work, please visit his site here.
If you’re interested in following the relationship between meditative practices and food, check out some of my resources here.