A few weeks ago I asked my brother, Matt, to do a guest post for me about his transformation into the life of a vegan. If you haven’t read his first post, it was great and you should do so here and then come back and read this one. He plans to do a few more guest posts for me, so enjoy the read, leave some comments and be sure to follow him and his smart comments on Twitter.
Forks Over Knives
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment when I decided to change my diet. I can remember feeling anger when the conversation first arose – I was angry that my fiancé was considering a vegan diet (mostly because I knew that she’d try to restrict my diet as well). This was before I listened to what anyone had to say about the relationship between diet and disease.
My initial reaction was anger.
I didn’t want to change anything because I knew that it would make my life miserable. I knew that it was going to cost me more money. I knew that people would make fun of me. I knew that it was going to make my day-to-day a lot more difficult.
So I got mad. Before I even watched the documentary. What a jerk I can be.
In order to make amends for my unfavorable reaction to the possibility of giving up red meat and chicken, I rented Forks Over Knives from the local video store, popped some popcorn and got ready to bite my tongue (I tend to have a negative and sarcastic attitude when I have to listen to something I don’t agree with). But here’s the thing – I actually agreed with most of the information being presented to me.
Without diving too far into the hard numbers of the film (it’s fairly statistic-based), Forks Over Knives centers primarily around the work of two American doctors who came together in the 1980s after drawing the same basic conclusion about the North American diet: it was killing us a greater rate than any other cause of death. One of these men had been studying the use of protein-based foods to counter malnutrition in the Philippines, while the other had been a respected surgeon before concluding that his efforts weren’t doing anything to prevent the diseases that he was dealing with.
In a nutshell, Dr. Campbell stumbled onto a previous medical study that implied that animal-based protein sped up cancerous tumor growth in rats. While trying to replicate this experiment, Campbell showed that the primary proteins in cow’s milk (casein) actually promote cancer cell growth in rats. When the proteins were added to their diet, cancer growth increased. When the proteins were minimized, cancer growth slowed or halted.
He then applied what he had learned in the lab to his human-based research, The China Study, and identified over 300 links between diet and disease throughout his ten-year, 6500-person study.
Dr. Esselstyn, on the other hand, focused primarily on the link between animal-based foods and heart disease – the number one killer of men and women in North America. His clinical practices, putting patients on a whole foods (plant based) diet after their suffered one or more heart attacks (and usually after at least one bypass surgery), showed that not only is heart disease preventable, in many cases it’s reversible.
The summary of the film and the scientific and nutritional hypotheses that it preaches are irrelevant. I could literally talk all day about the different statistics, studies, correlations and testimonies that are presented, rather dryly, throughout that ninety-minute documentary. And at the same time, you could read other studies or talk to doctors and nutritionists anywhere in the world who will tell you that the human body needs milk and protein to survive. There are two sides to every debate, and right now it’s obvious that my side is the great minority.
I could also give you a long list of reasons why I kicked meat and dairy. But here’s the truth: I just couldn’t come up with any more excuses why I shouldn’t make a change, without having them sound like excuses.
During that first argument before watching Forks Over Knives, I spit out every excuse in the book:
“I’m already starving all the time. How do you think I’ll react if I cut out the one food that actually fills me?”
“I lead a pretty physical/athletic lifestyle. I need a substantial portion of protein each day or I won’t be able to keep it up.”
“Do you know how expensive fruits and vegetables are? We can’t afford to eat like that.”
“I eat eggs every day. I can’t live off cereal in the morning. I’ll be starving by 9:30am.”
“I just don’t want to.”
“We don’t have time to cook that much. It’d be way too much effort.”
“I know my body, and I need meat. I can’t live off salad.”
“That’s pretty extreme…”
Oddly enough, these are the same excuses that other people have offered to me, as if they need to come up with a reason for not joining our adventure. People who take interest in our diet and our reasons for making the switch always end up sharing why they feel they couldn’t do the same. It’s like clockwork. And here’s why:
They know the information is true, just like I knew the truth before I did any real research. Every single person I’ve talked to about general nutrition – every single one – has had to, eventually, admit that fruits and vegetables and legumes and whole grains are healthier than meat, eggs and dairy. That burgers are horrible for you. That, despite the protein benefits in chicken and beef, cholesterol from animal-based products and oils are the single cause of heart disease. That drinking the milk of another species seems wrong and unnatural. They know that what they’re eating is hurting their health – they can’t deny it. Just like I couldn’t.
Matt is going to be writing a few more posts finishing up his story about his transformation, so be sure to check back for the next few weeks for his posts.