What the Health?

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 | 0 comments

What the Health Miss-FitHave you ever been fish-slapped in the face? Me neither, but I just had an experience that I imagine would feel like that. It grabbed my attention. It kind of embarrassed me. It grossed me out. I won’t likely forget the encounter anytime soon. And though it was meant to perhaps teach me a valuable lesson, I wish I could have learned it without the stench and the sting.

“What the health” you ask?

Exactly.

As I’m writing this blog, I just finished watching the investigative documentary, “What the Health?”,(can also view on Netflix) which very convincingly illustrates the health and environmental demise of eating flesh-based species. The film exposes the collusion and corruption in government, big business, and even national health organizations like the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association. It gives very compelling arguments and testimonials of how a vegan, plant-based diet can not only restore one’s health ranging from conditions of diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and cancer, but the environmental consequences of the unsustainable and unsanitary practices of conventional livestock production as well.

Wait. Did she just say “vegan”?

I did, friend. This mid-western rancher’s daughter, former body builder/figure competitor just said the “v” word. But hang with me here.

What I love about films like this is that they make us more educated consumers. Having a better understanding of the “why” behind any recommendation is a powerful tool and motivator in actually making a better choice. For instance, I don’t drink soda. The very thought of it makes my head hurt from the sugar rush and my teeth start to ache as I imagine them rotting out of my mouth. See, this would be a time where ignorance would be bliss. You know, before the diabetes and tooth decay.

However, what I don’t like about films like this is they put people in a food panic, a food frenzy, if you will. You see, over here Shelley has already given up sugar, and now she’s like, “Oh, #$%^! Now, no meat either?!” Paleo Paula over there gets her world rocked because she just lost 20 pounds with a half-side of beef in her freezer. And Gluten-Free Gabby has corrected a whole host of health issues after two months of giving up gluten, and now she’s like, “What the health can I eat?!”

It is so easy to feel frustrated. I get it. I have a degree in nutrition, have taken classes in biochemistry, nutrient metabolism, and worked under the tutelage of some of the very best dietitians and doctors at the Mayo Clinic. It can be very confusing to know what the health you should eat. Part of that confusion stems from the fact that for almost every study you find supporting a particular view, you can find an equal number relaying contradictory conclusions. Research costs money, and so often there is a vested interest in the outcome, for one way or another.

When we do come across compelling information like the stories and findings presented in “What the Health?”, it’s great to keep an open mind. However, we don’t want to keep it so open that all gray matter escapes. I’m not sure if it is our culture or our humanity, but most people I know really want to put food in a black or white, “good” or “bad” category. However, when we hold fast to these “rules”, we lose all our power and hand it instead over to our food. And that is certainly not healthy.

There are some of you out there who haven’t watched this film, so you’ve probably stopped reading by now and have written me up as a tree-hugging, out of touch, health Nazi, and that’s okay. I still encourage you (if you’re still reading) to go ahead and give the film a look. You’ll at least be a more educated meat-eater who knows enough about “the other side” to have a more lively debate at the dinner table.

For those of you who watched the film and are intrigued by a vegan lifestyle, let’s chat. I have a couple notes of caution…and encouragement.

Be a detective, not a dieter. If a particular way of eating, any way of eating, is intriguing to you, embrace it as an “experiment”, rather than “diet”. For example, when offered an egg at breakfast rather than having the mindset of “I can’t. I’m on a diet,” instead choose to select a different menu item because you’re experimenting with how a plant-based diet makes you feel.

Know thyself. Here’s the other thing. With a black and white approach to eating, individuals can get very excited about how a totally different way of eating could get them totally different results. That’s true. But it could also and often does cause one to crash and burn. I believe in you. I do. However, I also know that your habits right now kind of stink. You want to move to a totally plant-based diet, but the only plants you currently eat come in the form of a carrot and kale colored straw in a plastic bag. Call me crazy, but maybe a first step is actually eating carrots and kale.

Start by eating better than you are now. If done right, a vegan diet can be a wonderful thing, and I am all for you improving your health habits. But that’s just it. I’m all for you improving your health habits. And many times, in my professional practice, I’ve seen vegan diets done poorly. Oftentimes, instead of meat, individuals start subbing in a bunch of nutrient poor starches that weigh heavy on them, unsettle their blood sugars, and in some cases actually increase their C-reactive protein and other inflammatory markers (contradictory to the film), and become nutrient deficient because of the vegan-free, but processed foods they are subbing in. I’m still of the mindset that an egg omelet loaded with fresh vegetables is still better for you than a bowl of Fruit Loops for breakfast.

Let’s be smart about this. It would behoove all of us to eat a more plant-based diet. Later this week I’ll be sharing with my Band of Miss-Fits in email some of my best tips for eating like an herbivore, even if you happen to still be a blood-thirsty, flesh-eating monster. 🙂

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XO,

Erin

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