My husband and I enjoyed the movie “Supersize Me” when it came out, so when a food documentary called “Forks Over Knives” came up on our Netflix recommendations, we decided to watch it. The film really struck a chord with me. All the reasons I’d seen before to try a plant-based diet had focused on the treatment of animals and the environment. I confess that, while noble, those didn’t motivate me the way this film did. “Forks Over Knives” laid out why the standard American diet is, put bluntly, killing us. Dairy, eggs, meat–these common food items contribute to the growth of cancerous cells and the formation of plaque inside blood vessels. It used solid research to demonstrate the problems and the very basic solution–change what you eat. My husband’s family history puts him at an increased risk for heart disease and mine puts me at an increased risk for cancer. If we can reduce our risks for developing these diseases, wouldn’t we be INSANE not to try? We committed to a vegan diet–no meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods or refined flours and sugars–for two weeks.
Oct 9, 2011
At first, it was difficult. The first day, I just about cried at snack time because I had no idea what to eat. Everything in the pantry–cereal bars, Fig Newtons, pretzels, etc.–was highly processed. I made some air-popped popcorn and ate some sunflower seeds. I craved yogurt and cheese (which I later learned is due to the casomorphin in dairy). By the end of the week, though, I’d gotten a better handle on the foods allowed and my cravings disappeared. My husband and I made green smoothies for breakfast each morning that had kale, spinach, flax, wheat germ and three or four different fruits in them. Those smoothies are so filling I usually don’t need a mid-morning snack now. I experimented with recipes out of the Forks Over Knives companion book, Veganomicon and various internet sites. I used ingredients I never had before–tempeh, almond milk, dates, ground flax–and cooking was fun in a new way. We discovered some new favorite recipes, like this blondie bar from Chocolate-Covered Katie’s blog and this tasty vegan crockpot chili that my husband swore must have beef bouillon cubes in it, it was so flavorful.
I also continued to research. I read what seems to be the vegan’s “bible”–“The China Study.” I challenge naysayers to read this book. “The China Study” goes in-depth about specific experiments, research, published papers, surveys, etc. and how they have shown, again and again, the toxic effect of animal proteins on the human body. The casein in dairy milk, for example, promoted the growth of cancer cells in many experiments, but plant proteins did not. Grievously-ill heart patients that adopted a whole foods, plant-based diet got well. It seems that everything from mental capacity to blood pressure can benefit from this type of diet.
We certainly did. At the end of our two-week vegan experiment, I’d lost 4 lbs and my husband lost 10 lbs. We both had more energy and just felt better overall. We discussed our experience and decided to permanently eliminate dairy and red meat–we thought the evidence against them was extremely convincing–but retain chicken and egg whites in our diet. We would limit these food items to 1-2 times a week, however. We are also limiting refined and processed foods. So we aren’t exactly vegan right now–we are closer to nutritarian or flexitarian. But I am striving to further reduce our animal protein intake by learning more vegan recipes. I just got “The Happy Herbivore” cookbook today and am very excited by the recipes in it–can’t wait to try them out. Green smoothies still start our day each morning. I am continuing to lose weight–another 3 lbs the following week.
I am very excited about our new lifestyle and the positive results we’ve seen from it. Unfortunately, not everyone has been supportive. Sometimes people get hostile or defensive when I tell them about it–as though because I choose not to eat something, I am judging them negatively for doing so. That’s silly. People are responsible for their own lifestyle changes. If someone chooses to eat fast food and refuses to exercise, for example, I’m not going to think he or she is a bad person. I just want to share what I’ve learned about the power of food. If you drive a car that requires premium gas and you put regular unleaded in it, it’s not going to function as well as it should. That’s been a huge revelation for me–food is fuel for the body; your body is only going to work as well as the fuel you put in it allows.