About a month ago, Mike and I watched a documentary that I believe will change the way we eat for the rest of our lives. The movie is called “Forks Over Knives” and it is an extremely provocative argument against eating animal protein, including both meat and dairy. Although I have watched a few food documentaries in the past, including “Food Inc” and “Super Size Me,” they didn’t change much about my eating habits. I already completely avoid fast food (with the occasional In & Out) and in general ate a diet of fruits, veggies, nuts, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein, with the exception of when I attended BBQs, weddings or family parties or the occasional pizza or burger. I justified eating more of the later during Ironman training due to what seemed like a never-ending caloric deficit from up to 22 hours of training per week. However, we still ate spinach and other healthy foods in bulk.
My diet has truly evolved over the years, as I outlined in a post last year called The 5 Foods I Won’t Leave the Grocery Store Without. Two of those foods were eggs and turkey breast and now if I were to update that list, those would be replaced with black beans or lentils and oatmeal (although I always ate a lot of oatmeal now we eat it 6 days a week). In America we are constantly bombarded with nutritional information that contradicts each other – red meat is bad vs. women should eat red meat for iron, saturated fat is bad vs. saturated fat is ok depending on the source, olive oil is healthy vs. olive oil turns to saturated fat when cooked over a certain temperature. I could go on and on.
Fad diets proclaim health benefits of eating right for your blood type, cutting out carbohydrates, drinking shakes for two out of three meals, replacing meals with cereal, or eating like a caveman. I’ve fallen victim to many of these diets over the years as I’ve struggled with my weight and my acceptance of my body. However, in the most recent years, I’ve begun to eat food for reasons other than keeping my weight in mind. Whereas in the beginning of my life I ate just what tasted good, soon I ate what I thought would make me skinny (even if it was full of artificial ingredients), later I began to eat to fuel my body for workouts and now, I am eating food that will not only fuel my body better but also help me avoid disease and live a long, happy life.
Forks Over Knives does not promote a fad diet. Rather, it presents the results of years and years of research, including the most provocative led by Colin T Campbell called The China Study, that prove that eating animal protein is the cause of many of the most of common diseases that Americans suffer from. These diseases include cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, MS, diabetes (types 1 and 2), lupus and more. The good news is, that we can actually reverse these diseases with a healthy, plant-based diet.
Mike and I watched the movie prior to Ironman but decided to continue our normal diet leading up to the race and the few days after the race. Meanwhile, Mike read the book “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek, an elite Ultra-runner who is also vegan. Scott Jurek believes that a lot of his success is due to his vegan diet. Mike was especially motivated to make the change when he read that it could have a positive affect on his athleticism.
When we got back from CdA we went to Whole Foods that night and decided to only get vegan food from the hot-food bar. The mostly Indian-inspired food was delicious and flavorful and we were excited to start our journey toward a more plant-based diet. Once I researched recipes and went grocery shopping (and bought a lot of spices I didn’t have!), I started making us healthy, vegan meals that tasted surprisingly amazing. I found that I wasn’t missing meat at all but that I was still cravings eggs and dessert (duh). Although eating more veggies and grains takes a bit more work in the kitchen, it’s actually not all that much more time consuming than usual to cook. On the 4th of July I even made homemade mushroom-lentil burgers from a recipe I got from Scott Jurek’s book. They were amazing and super filling.
We both decided from the get-go that we wouldn’t label ourselves as vegan or even vegetarian. We plan to still eat dairy and meat on occasion, but in situations that we can control, we’ll opt for the meatless, dairy-free option. I enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner with all the fixings in Vegas while I was there for a bachelorette and I have had cake twice. I’m not going to get upset if the bun on my veggie burger at a restaurant has butter and I’m not going to scrutinize every little ingredient in everything. On occasion I plan to have pizza (my favorite!) and chocolate (couldn’t live without it), but all in all, meat and dairy won’t be a regular part of my diet. If, over time, we both decide that going completely vegan is in our best interest, we may make the switch, but for now, we aren’t going to that extreme. Although personally I believe that a plant-based diet is right for me, I’m doing my best not to make others uncomfortable when they offer me non-vegan food or are eating it in my presence.
If you want to see for yourself, I highly recommend watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives” and/or reading the books “The China Study” and “Eat and Run.”
Stay tuned for some yummy plant-based recipes!