Coming Out of the Plant Based Closet

If you follow my shiz at all whatsoever, you know I have been really pumping up the Netflix documentary “What the Health”.  I texted lots of my friends about it after I had finished it, plus have been mentioning it in my newsletter, blogs, and social media.  I am quite smitten by it.  Since gently and lovingly bashing people over the head with the suggestion to watch it, I have witnessed a few things- one cool and two that make me have to take 5 deep breaths and repeat calming mantras to myself.  i.e.  annoying things.  Allow me to expand on these.  Even if you didn’t allow me, I would do it anyway because it’s my blog, so there.

Let’s start with the cool thing first.  I had several friends who told me they were all for changing their dietary habits after watching the documentary.  Spoiler alert- the documentary advocates for a plant based diet.  Many were blown away by the things they learned and were eager to begin more healthful habits.  Hearing this is probably what it feels like to take ecstasy.  I don’t know, never tried it, but I got real jazzed up about it.  Unfortunately, there is a BUT attached to the cool thing that happened.  And here it is- my friends were excited and motivated to change their eating habits, BUT they didn’t want to tell their family and friends they decided to go plant based!  They wanted to do it in the secret of their own homes, and then eat “normally” if they were out and about in public.  Tragedy!!!

Tragic, but I get it.  98% of the people you know probably eat a certain way.  The Standard American Diet or a variation thereof- high consumption of animal sources like meat and dairy, and a big emphasis on protein.  It seems mind boggling that someone would decide not to eat a burger or want a bowl of mac & cheese.  I might be a few years removed now, but don’t forget I used to be a fiend for Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers, nuggets, and bacon wrapped filet mignons.  I was a carnivore to the max, even though you might see me now as a far out health nut.  Taking flak from your friends and family is not a fun option to think about constantly enduring.  To this day, literally every time I see my grandpa, he asks me if I want some bacon.  My brother still has not accepted that I don’t eat meat.  He mentions it constantly.  Insert eye roll emoji.  So I get it, it’s easier to hide your “weirdness” at your house and then just suck it up and eat things you might not really want to eat, just so you can have a peaceful meal and not explain 10,000 times why you eat the way you do and how you get your protein.  It is awkward when you go to dinner with people, have big family events, or are at work functions, and you have to give that weird, cringe-y, half smile face and say, “sorry, I don’t eat meat”.

(The face I make internally when I have to explain my food choices.  Not again!!!)

Since I have seen both sides of the fence, I really thought about the whole “giving vegetarians shit” thing. First obvious reason is that it’s different, and as a society we usually make fun of things that are different.  We like to be a homogenous group.  If you really think about it though, why are we giving a person a hard time for eating vegetables?  They are healthful foods that are grown from the earth.  Whereas a carnivore is eating flesh from an animal that was killed probably weeks before, endured a horrible, diseased life at a factory farm where they never saw the light of day, and then was killed inhumanely in a fearful state.  Did you know that the egg industry literally grinds up thousands of live baby, male chicks because they will never produce eggs?  Just sends ’em down a conveyor belt into a grinder.  I think that’s pretty weird and gross of us to do as a society.  It is also the biggest environmental hazard currently happening to the planet.  Bigger than the entire transportation sector.  I apologize for the graphic images, but this is the reality of our food system.  The agriculture business puts forth a really, really, really big effort so that we will never think about any of this stuff.  We just buy the meat at the grocery store and never connect it to the source.  The conventional way of eating wants us to just focus on the 10 seconds of bliss on our tastebuds, and not the long term health ramifications of consuming certain products.  Also, I would like to say I am not trying to make carnivores feel bad, I’m really not.  Most honestly just never think about it.  We don’t want to think about it because it is sad and disturbing.  Or maybe we have thought about it and have been too scared to make a change because we don’t want to be plant shamed.  Big bummer.

Annoying point number two.  Since I follow lots of health related experts, bloggers, doctors, lifestyle figures, etc. I have seen several “rebuttals” to those like me who are loving the documentary “What the Health”.  Their general pushback being that the documentary is a complete sham and based on terrible science, meat and eggs are the best foods on Earth, etc.  Why does this annoy me?  First of all, how can one get their panties in a wad about a documentary that promotes eating more vegetables?  No matter where you stand on the matter of animal products and health, there’s just no way to argue that more vegetables are a bad thing. From  “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, most American adults aren’t eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. The data was collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an ongoing survey sponsored by the CDC that tracks healthy and unhealthy actions in Americans. The survey found that only 13.1 percent of Americans are eating the recommended one to one-and-a-half cups of fruit every day, and just 8.9 percent are eating two to three cups of vegetables as recommended.”  That’s not that many people, and that is an absolutely dismal amount of fruits and vegetables.

Second of all, it was an hour and 30 minute documentary- obviously they can’t go super in depth with every point made in a short amount of time.  It’s like watching a movie that was adapted from a book- you are going to miss out on a lot of stuff that was in the book that couldn’t be included in the movie.  You get the important highlights.  If you want more, go read the damn book.  (Sorry, I get very cranky about the lack of reading in this country).

Lastly, Americans have been drinking the meat, dairy, and “more protein” kool aid for years, and look where it has gotten us.  We accept that we will likely be on lifetime medications, have heart surgery, or be overweight for our adult lives, but we consider eating only plant foods a “radical” life change.  Getting my body sliced open seems pretty radical to me.  I wish people would have an open mind and really do more research about this “crazy”, all vegetable diet.  The food industry is massive.  And they want to sell us their products.  Our chronic health issues are the result of decades long, successful advertising campaigns from the beef, chicken, egg and dairy industries!  We have been duped!

To those who are interested in this new way of eating but are scared to come out of the plant based closet, I urge you to stay strong!  Read as much as you can, and know that there is no downside to eating a whole foods, plant based diet.  Remind yourself of those “different” people throughout history who society thought were crazy in the beginning.  Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, the person that invented contact lenses.  Can you imagine what people thought when a guy said that we would be able to speak to each other across long distances through wires coming out of the ground?  What?  I still don’t understand how that whole business works.  I still struggle with not wanting to turn people off with my “vegetable evangelism”.  I don’t want to be like that guy on college campuses who is waving a bible around and yelling about sinners and fornicators while his wife knits in a chair next to him. (That was a real thing on Ohio State’s campus).  I want to toe the line between that guy and just letting people know what I believe to be an awesome, healthful, badass way to live.

So go on, come out of your hiding place and let that freak, veggie flag fly.

I’ll be right there with ya, answering the non stop inquiries about how we are getting enough protein.