At the recommendation of my lovely friend Dawn I streamed a documentary called Forks Over Knives through Netflix to learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet as opposed to the dangers of an animal-product driven diet. The facts I already mostly knew but were presented in such a way that it really opened my eyes to the fact the western diet that depends largely on meat and dairy contributes to us having such an alarming rate of overweight or obese citizens in our country. A 2007 Forbes report put us at #9 with a 74.1% rate of those over 15 coming in overweight. The #1 spot went to a Pacific island named Nauru, where a shocking 94.5% are overweight. Part of the problem? The island itself is not conducive to growing fresh produce.
It’s all connected. The stats don’t lie. We can blame portion control and more sedentary lifestyles, and that’s certainly part of it, but illnesses like heart disease are substantially lower in those countries where the diet consists mostly of plant-based foods (like Japan.)
So why does a country like America, that spends tens of BILLIONS (with a B) on diets and diet products, still tip the scales with almost 3/4th of the population overweight? We’re doing it wrong, folks. The proof is in the pudding – literally. We need to eat less animal products and cut out the processed crap full of hidden dangers like sugar and sodium.
The documentary talks a lot about the health aspect of whole, plant-based food and provides a lot of evidence to support their claims… including the testimonies of heart patients who lived decades past when their doctors told them they would primarily by changing their lifestyle. We as a culture take way too many shortcuts thanks to how cheap the bad, processed stuff is for us (and it goes into why that is, too) or buy into the marketing stuff that companies who want to sell you something use to their advantage, whether true or not.
When we start selling Apple Jacks as a “health food” – we’re in trouble.
They didn’t attack my self-esteem like “Skinny Bitch” (ugh) or scare me with shocking anti-animal cruelty campaigns… it pointed out the many benefits – even for the planet around me – that can be gained if I focus on a more plant-based diet. I don’t even have to cut the meat/dairy out completely… I just have to treat it as the random treat our ancestors did rather than a dietary staple.
It kept the focus on not just being healthy, but *thriving*.
I want to have the energy and the good health to not just live to an old age… but to enjoy it.
Let’s face it. You don’t see people my size in their 80s… or 70s… I know if I don’t make some changes I have maybe 10, 20 years left at the most.
And I’m not done yet. There’s too many things left to do, see, experience. I don’t give a shit anymore if I don’t “look” a certain way; I don’t want to have a heart attack or linger with cancer until I die, feeble and exhausted and ravaged by disease AND the extreme treatments that exist to fight it.
There were many reasons to ignore the truth until now. None of them were good, and few of them were valid. I didn’t want to give up cheese. Steven didn’t want to give up steak. It’s “too expensive” to eat healthy. It’s difficult to change the diet when you have extremely picky eaters who feel no real incentive to change.
But after my picky eater of a husband saw the documentary, I told him, “I showed you this because things need to change.” And he agreed. I told him that if we don’t make some changes, I’ll drop dead of a heart attack and he’ll die of complications of his diabetes (which, btw, CAN reverse with the proper diet.) I decided I wasn’t going to spend money to maintain two different diets anymore, especially when one is set up to kill the man I want next to me into our old age. I’m not going to spend the money to let my kids eat frozen pizza just because they don’t want to try the veggie dish I prepared for dinner. Jeremiah has already met his weight goal and ready to get even more healthy, and when Tim saw the tears in my eyes and the fear in my voice that I could die the same kind of premature death as his dad even HE decided to make some changes.
I offered my family a compromise. I explained we could still keep animal products in our diet but we would have to limit them to a couple of days a week. Everything else is vegetarian/vegan. Steven bravely agreed, and promised only that he would *try* the meals. His main “beef” is with texture, which turns him off of veggies and fruits that are mushy.
We have now entered into week 2 of this new eating plan and here’s the good news so far:
*I lost 3 pounds without counting a calorie one, and that’s with my monthly hormonal bloat working against me AND eating decadent “cheat” items like small servings of things like cheesecake
*Tim stopped eating fried foods at work and opts now for salads
*Steven decided even though he wasn’t up for my dinner tonight, he’d commit to Meatless Monday at HIS job
*Though a tiny more expensive per individual product, especially specialized stuff like seitan (a wheat meat replacement protein,) we’re all eating less because the food is MORE filling. That means we haven’t seen any real jump in cost despite us all being on this new plan.
*Steven has tried, and enjoyed, veggie options
*Now that I look at food as fuel rather than an indulgence, it has curbed my compulsive over-eating.
Best of all I’m excited about food again. I realized that with our old way of eating I prepared the same 10 dishes over and over again. By forcing myself to look at food differently, I find myself looking forward to going to the store (especially my organic Natural Grocers) and trying new things. It’s a challenge to keep the diet Steven-friendly, or even Tim-friendly, but that’s part of the fun! I’ve turned into a mad scientist in the kitchen who looks forward to buying neat little gadgets like juicers and steamers so I can keep it as natural as possible. Rather than buy those expensive Fusion veggie/fruit juices, I can make my own. I can also prepare veggies with more crunch so Steven will enjoy being more adventurous.
I’m happier because not only do I feel better it feels right. The other way I was playing Russian Roulette with my fork and I knew it. As heavy as I am I always had this idea that I was too far gone to ever find my way back. The damage was done.
But whatever damage was done can be undone – that’s the beauty of it. That’s what I took away from Forks Over Knives. The fate of my future is in my own hands. Knowing that is an empowering thing… and has begun the healing from the inside out.