I have always been interested preventative health care. As a PT I was drawn to ergonomics as I was seeing so many patients injured due to maintaining faulty postures slumping over the keyboard at work, sitting poorly in the car, or just maintaining poor posture generally. I could change a set up or educate them in body mechanics and poof, the pain went away. When I stopped working in physical therapy at UCLA and had my kids I went back to my roots and started teaching spin classes. I saw so many people busting their butts at the gym but hardly working on their nutrition. It is a bummer to see people working so hard and still struggling with their weight. I think that one of the reasons for this is people are confused about what to eat. They are confused.... (and too many of them drink too much alcohol, but we will touch on this later.
There are 100's of diet books all telling you to eat this, not that… one says "don't eat beans", or "don't eat oil', or "don't eat carbs." Dr. Oz says take a coffee bean pill. Our heads spin trying to keep up with all of the information that we are bombarded with. Unfortunately most of this information is promoted by companies or people that make money off of you if you eat the way they want you to eat. Buy the diet-du-jour book or "join my online diet world" and you will lose weight; have more dairy products because research by the dairy association says that you should; eat more lean grass fed beef because a trendy new diet book with no research backing it up says it will help you lose weight and "lots of people at the gym are doing it." Eat like a caveman! Well that makes sense if you want to make it to a ripe old age like they did… the average age of a cave dweller was 16 years old. Hard not to jump on the diet du jour band wagon when the masses are testing it and you see some of your friends losing weight on it.
Here is the deal, you will probably lose weight on a pretzel and peanut butter only diet, but the real question is can you maintain that diet forever and is it ultimately going to protect you from heart disease, strokes, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and the many inflammatory and rheumatoid illnesses that affect so many people?
Given that I did not have the time to review every research article on health and nutrition, I decided to instead trust the doctors who have devoted their lives to educating people and promoting nutrition. There are more than a handful of them and they live and breath preventing disease through diet. It is interesting that all of them were researching diet and how it effects our health separately, some looking at diabetes, some looking at cancer, some looking a heart disease and they all concluded that pretty much the same diet helps all of these diseases either not initiate, and/or reverse in some cases. Every doctor that I could find who had spent the last 25 to 45 years researching food and nutrition and how it affects health seem to agree on one thing, we should not eat animals or animal products and we should be eating way more plants than we already do (see reference page for these docs and their works.)
Convinced that I needed to know more about this way of eating and how it relates to health I entered T. Colin Campbell's Plant Based Nutrition Certificate course through the Department of Nutritional Studies at Cornell University. Every single doctor who I respected pointed me down the same path so when this course was made available to me I jumped right on it. The evidence of this powerful diet's ability to prevent and even reverse many disease processes can't be denied. There is more solid research to back this up than I could have ever imagined.
I learned over the course of taking this class that the reason it is not mainstream and not talked about more in medical circles is because drug companies, the dairy industry and the meat/poultry industries are worth billions of dollars and make sure that they are heard first. Plant-based nutrition does not stand to make people billions of dollars so we don't hear about it as much as milk (got milk) or meat (the Foster Farms chickens driving the cars). Crazy that this is the reason, but we watched Oprah try to tell people to stop eating so much meat and get sued in the process.
Now here is the tricky part, whole food plant based eating really goes against the grain of everything most of us 40 year olds grew up with. It is so ingrained in all of us that animal protein is king and the more we eat of it the healthier we all will be. So far from true and so disturbing to me now. People actually get very uncomfortable when I suggest that their meat centric diet probably isn't the best way to eat. Most dishes revolve around a meat dish. Chicken cacciatore, turkey sandwich, chicken chow mein, tuna salad… most meals are named for their animal protein component. We are so used to this! My cohorts grew up with a big hunk of meat on their plate and a glass of milk. Animal protein galore. No one drinks a smoothie anymore without a huge scoop of protein powder. I was included in this group a year ago. I felt that I needed way more protein than I did and most people are under the same impression. My kids were eating lots of protein at every meal and I thought I was doing them a favor. They would grow stronger and be faster with more, more, more protein. I was misinformed as most people are.
I decided that in order to make the switch, which I knew in my heart I wanted to do, I would need to learn as much about it as possible and make sure that it is indeed the best way to keep my family as healthy as they can be. The more I learn the more convinced I am that a whole foods plant based diet is far superior to any diet that includes animal protein and added oils. My blog is the process of me explaining why plants and why not meat. It is my family's journey embarking on a plant-based diet, and converting three mostly carnivorous boys into three primarily plant eaters. Think tyrannosaurus to long neck dinosaur.
Switching over has been challenging at times for all of us, but I want us all as healthy as we can be so I am doing my darndest to make it happen. I have had stellar results with my own switch which fully occurred in January. We have had some laughs over it and some crying over it, but I have to say that personally I have discovered that I can feel like I am 30 and on some days, even 20 on some of my better days by eating this way. I am back to my high school weight without even trying, I am exercising better, I feel awesome at 3-4pm, I no longer need coffee to wake up or get through my day (I still have decaf here and there because I LOVE coffee!!!). And oh, and my skin, it looks freaking great. Awesome unexpected benefit!!! Read on to learn about the whats, the whys, the hows, the victories and the epic fails of my veggie journey.