A friend of mine asked me to read Eating Animals, which he had heard was a nexus of sorts to a commitment to vegetarianism (or at least a bit of a challenge for any reader). Believe me, as a lifetime carnivore, I read it with due skepticism, but I must say I was surprised to find myself in agreement with the author and lured in with his almost simple logic to stop eating meat. When I had finished it, I took to reading, The Great American Heart Hoax, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other books reviewed below, all involving what and how we eat. If you’ve read any similar books (or seen the documentaries, Earthlings, Food Inc., Our Daily Bread, Super Size Me, Forks Over Knives or Killer at Large ), you’ve realized something has gone awry with the North American food supply.
In, Eating Animals, the essential agrument is, ‘We could ethically still eat meat if our husbandry wasn’t completely immoral due to 'industrial farming’ (animals are treated inhumanely at the least). You have to find an alternative to this lamentable fact. Unfortunately, no realistic one is viable for people at large, especially urbanites. So you have to in good conscience stop eating meat. By ‘realistic’ the author includes organic farming. Some self-righteousness in the book comes down to ‘Do you want to hurt living things?’ and if you don’t, you’re ‘wink, wink’ a better person than your blood-thirsty carnivore cousins.
In, The Great American Heart Hoax, (see also Dr Dwight Lundell, MD) the claim is made that the best diet in the world, for longevity and heart health, is the Mediterranean one of our European ancestors [fruits, vegetables, nuts, olives, pastas, grain bread, real juices and a little meat and fish, i.e., nothing processed]. We can no longer eat processed food or meat; it has been poisoned by the current farming technologies. This in turn leads to heart disease caused by modern industrial agriculture. It inadvertently taints our meat with the inhumane treatment and mishandling of the animals. It processes our food to the point of it being under-nutrient then adds sugars, salt and oils to nearly everything we eat to get it to taste nutritious although it’s not. More of this recent farming phenomena is explained below. This book deals with lifestyle health and heart issues as well, especially, cessation of smoking, managing stress, and most importantly, exercising. Dr Ozner, the author, tells a little story where a patient says, ‘Being fat runs in my family.’ In which case he responds, ‘No. A lack of exercise runs in your family.’
In, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan takes that old quandary: “I could eat it – smells edible, looks edible – I’d love to eat it, but is it poison?” And turns our processed foods, and especially meat, against us. Incontrovertible evidence is in: industrialized processed food, especially meat, is completely dangerous for human consumption. North Americans now eat more corn – through its constituent processed parts – than Mexicans or Central Americans. In fact, more than anyone in the world, but unluckily, the world is catching up. They are now even feeding farmed-salmon corn. It’s directly linked to heart disease, cancer and obesity. Like in Eating Animals, the author for a time lives on a natural ecological holonic farm off the grid and shows that grass farming (the name for the cycle which can feed cattle, chickens, rabbits and pigs and mimics raising protein-food as we were evolved to eat it) carries none of the health risks of industrialized farming. Nonetheless, this alternative is inconvenient, expensive and time-consuming. It would be far better to learn how to cook quinoa and create a variety of bean and rice dishes than to drive 200 miles to meet the farmer and see his agrarian situation to ensure yourself that the animals he slaughters live a healthy life. We can’t all live on a farm, although if the world collapses, I guess a good many of us could find ourselves back there. [How I dread the thought.] Then every month or so you have to find a way to purchase what he had for sale (which would, unlike it is currently, be truly seasonal).
Apparently, the old saw that meat is meat and fish is fish, turns out to be completely wrong. Like us, animals are what they eat, and in turn, by eating industrialized farm meat, we are becoming what we now eat: the bovine, pigs and chickens are genetically altered, obese, inhumanely treated, artificially fattened with corn feed and grains, antibiotically medicated and hardly ever see the light of day. Sixty percent of the antibiotics used in the world today are given to farm animals, frequently in stock feed to encourage growth and as a preventative measure against disease; this is why bacteria resistance to its positive effects is diminishing so rapidly in humans. The evidence is becoming irrefutable, eating meat today is misguided, not because it’s cruel to the animals – which it is – but because it is poison for human consumption. Though this is a recent development, (three or four decades old or so) enough validation has been collected to make sound judgments on whether it is harmful or not. Sorry to say that organic food is not an alterative to industrialized farming, but instead has been co-opted and bought-out by the General Mills of the world. They use less pesticide in their grow-industries, which is good, but the carrots, lettuce, fruits and vegetables are fed artificial nitrates and are mass-produced with little attention to centuries old rules like crop rotation. The fruits and vegetables don’t have near the nutrients of produce you used to eat from your parents’ and grandparents’ gardens (or locally grown markets), and are shipped thousands of miles and refrigerated many days before you put them in your fridge.
The books and movies above should be read and seen for the sake of your own health. These recent changes may not effect the longevity of your mothers and fathers, but will definitely effect the life span of you and your children. Book after book, from the Fast Food Nation to the Vegetarian Myth, (both reviewed below) all agree in general terms that factory-farmed animals are given hormones to gain weight rapidly (chickens are kept alive only seven weeks) and they’re dosed on antibiotics to prevent the diseases which predominate in caged and closely-packed animals. They are never allowed to roam freely, and finally, they are fed altered corn and grain feed to unnaturally fatten them. Some are still fed animal by-products.
Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma is charming, funny, full of surprises and beautifully written. As in any good book, overcoming the subjective point of view is tantamount, especially in works that deal with eating, health and the good life. He doesn’t moralize much except in a self-depreciating way. Even the inconvenience caused to his friends by the thought of becoming a vegetarian is of utmost concern to him. I remembered when I started eating vegetarian, (which was provoked after I read Eating Animals) I thought of my friend and sister-in-law who had inconvenienced our whole extended family for 30 years with her vegetarianism; and hell, I didn’t think twice about my decision. She’d paved the way! Besides, the world wouldn’t even notice it. (Well, it did but that’s besides the point.) I also remembered my wife who had put out my extended family and friends for decades with her high protein carnivore diet, but for Pollan who is obviously such a fine and sensitive person, even simple things are complicated. If you’re trying to quit smoking, drinking or certain drugs, you don’t want to be with smokers, drinkers or users, it’s hard, damn hard, and quitting smoking is nearly impossible, but giving up meat was no sacrifice at all for me. It was easy as changing into new shoes. My body liked it. I craved no chicken, pork or bovine and consuming lots of fruits and vegetables has always been second nature to me. Sandwiches became a problem. What to put between two slices of your favorite whole grain, pumpernickel or french stick? I’m not eating much soy. I’ve never really liked it that much and it doesn’t sit well with my body. Protein became a concern. I like to cook and prepare food; that helped. (My father was a chef). Whole grain or spelt pasta? Quinoa and other grains? Nuts? Don’t forget peanut butter! Beans? Pure pomegranate and cranberry juice. Cabbage and sauerkraut? You bet! And much else too. When we go out, it also has been no trouble. Other vegetarians have lead the way; you just ask for and receive a varied menu. Becoming a vegetarian today is like saying that tree-hugging is not a dishonorable practice anymore, which makes it hard to understand Pollan’s defense of meat-eating: “I enjoy eating meat, meat is nutritious food, and I believe there are ways to eat meat that are in keeping with my environmental and ethical values.”
What ethical values?
His ultimate argument against vegetarianism seems to be,
‘Whatever gives you pleasure’.
I don’t think I can do vegan. I mean, I will try but isn’t eating plants hurting living creatures as well? (Actually, considering the ecosystems destroyed for the benefit of industrial agrofarms, there’s a literal truth to this). Firstly, veganism sounds like a religion; secondly, I think you should have sardines, shrimp and other fish (as well as yogurt) in your diet for it to be balanced, not a lot but some; I mean you’re already giving up so much by just saying no to meat that there’s always a problem that you’re going to become a pain in the ass to others or that your own life will get just too complicated. I’m assuming that you don’t have too much time on your hands. Thirdly, I met some vegans through Amnesty International and they struck me as hoity-toity–also they were Leftists (what a vicious combination.) Lastly, the reputation vegans have as militant isn’t wholly undeserved; some vegan websites are morally repugnant. I have nothing against it in principle, but remember that famous song from Joe Jackson, ‘Everything Gives You Cancer’? It’s a little bit true. Anyway, I’m trying to live as a vegetarian to eliminate any personal relationship I have to industrialized animal farming. No perfect solution to wellness through eating exists; and I have my doubts that it ever can. Knowledge and science can help, but think of the diet fads in our North American culture. They started long before factory farms and genetically altered animal-genes came into their heyday. I bet even if you constantly ate processed foods but were in training 24/7 – like say a long-distance runner – you will be healthier than if you ate all the right foods – the perfect diet – and didn’t do a lick of exercise. What if you did both adequately, but constantly couldn’t get enough sleep? Wouldn’t that lead to poor health? What if you ate, exercised and slept fine, but couldn’t manage money worth a damn and the result was continuous and tremendous stress in your life? Wouldn’t that lead to ill health? You get what I mean. Obesity currently is a major concern in our society, but some of getting fat, no matter what Taubes says (below) is mismanagement. If giving up meat caused me to get fat I’d certainly and quickly reconsider my decision.
In many ways a society practices the morality it can afford but I must say, a vegetarian way of life today seems a completely viable option; however, I think if I lived an autochthonous life and was hungry, then stumbled upon a deer, I would without thought (if I could) kill it for food, especially if I was hungry. I’d bring it home and the tribe would love me for it. We would enjoy cooking and eating it together; it would be a celebration of life. Maybe we would dance afterwards if we had any wine and music. The thought of going back to a pleistocene way of life makes me cringe. I don’t know if I could do it. I love modern life in the big city and my nuclear family that comes with it; my adorable meat-eating wife who would no more eat broccoli or cauliflower than practice cannibalism, my accomplished teenage daughter who would sit down to any great meal as long as she didn’t have to prepare any part of it and my little guy who is so far off the ground most days that taking time to learn his letters represents a real sacrifice like eating “good food” such as fresh grapes, apples, pears, berries instead of processed snack food. I have a large extended family and many good friends. We love to eat and drink. We enjoy each other’s company which often revolves around a center cut, a barbeque and a grill. At a get-together a while back the whole ‘eating part of the night’ went ‘veggie’ due to my recent decision to quit meat; it was all good. We barbequed peppers, yams, onions, zucchini, potatoes, beets, mushrooms and assorted other vegetables. We (stove-top) cooked grains and prepared salads. It was fun. There was even oven cooked veggie pizza. It was a grand night. But you can see that in a way I was a killjoy and we might not have gotten enough protein.
In, Fast Food Nation, Schlosser gives a step by step dissection of how, as consumers, we have made an eating choice for the quick McMeal and ended up with the factory farms to support it. – ‘About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is used to buy processed food.’ – A beef company in Colorado is typical. They run feedlots of 100,000 head of cattle or so each. During the months before slaughter the cows are fattened with grain and corn which comes to them on conveyor-like devices. They get anabolic steroids, are antibiotically medicated and gain 400 to 500 pounds. That’s a lot of live beef standing still but it’s way more shit that you can imagine, lagoons of it. Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC and all the others; what were we thinking? Factory farming is now the single largest contributor to green house gases in the world, jumping ahead of the combustible engine. Ironically, the fast food business chains are some of the worst employers. They literally live on teenage minimum wage help; high school kids who work too many hours to buy some wheels and a few logoed threads. They skip extracurricular sports to work their McJob, often eat the nasty processed food they serve to the unsuspecting public and drive around town all ‘carbed’ up. So the calamity which they don’t immediately see takes place for them on three fronts: fast food employment has meant they’re working for the biggest polluter in the world. As an employee, they’re probably eating more fast food than most kids (any amount is bad) and indirectly harming themselves by doing so. Moreover they’re participating in less sports at school because they’re working all the time (and even skipping classes to do it). They’re tired. They drive everywhere. Less exercise means their bodies have less defense from the damage process food has on them. Driving of course adds to the second largest world polluter. You can see at once the ramifications and the multiplier effects of ‘the fast food industry’ on the individual. One thing feeds into another. (I know!) and it all started with, ‘Who has time to cook a meal?’ Let’s reconsider that one.
Although Ori Hofmekler, (The Warrior Diet) doesn’t review Michael Ozner’s common sense, Mediterranean Diet, (from The Great American Heart Hoax) he does criticize Health Food diets, Zone diets (Barry Sears and all), Prititikin diets (Dean Ornish and all) Atkin type diets (Michel Montignac and all), Holistic diets, the Weil Diet (below) and the Diamond Diet. All of which is pretty cool; it’s as close as you’re going to get to diet wars in a book. Hofmekler’s diet comes with tremendous amount of info on foods, nutrition and eating. It’s a whole lifestyle change with a tough exercise regime (an easier regime is offered in his, ‘Maximum Muscle, Minimum Fat’) and a regimented under-eating/over-eating daily routine. It even has recipes. This diet recommends a lot of meat, (veal, fish and chicken.) He has apparently no problem with or doesn’t know about factory farming in North America.
The sustained attack against conventional wisdom in regards to eating in Mark Sisson’s, The Primal Blueprint is noteworthy. Notable not only for its audacity to challenge the skewed way authorized and state-licensed medicine looks at human health, but also for how it aligns itself in a general way with many experts whose books are reviewed in this article. I often refer to this kind of conventional wisdom talked about in the Primal Blueprint as the modern myths of The New Ancien Régime, an arrangement comprising a lose confederacy of the millionaires and billionaires of the military-industrial complex and the newsmen, intelligentsia and politicians who serve them. This oligarch can’t stop looking at us as anything but a machine for science to fix instead of an impossibly complex organism. In the Primal Blueprint we see, like in the Mediterranean Diet, the Warrior Diet and others, a persistent attempt to get our diet and lifestyle to coincide with the creatures we’ve evolved to be and not the one we’re quickly becoming due to collective choices in the last hundred years. Having said that, here is a practical example in everyday terms of what can be considered a metaphysical theory in action: the Theory of Evolution. It is the discreet backdrop to this work. What is the optimal manner we were evolved to become over the millions of years of our history? What balance of diet, exercise and stress is a winning one?
To many religious people whose sedentary, out-of-shape diet is based on the above mentioned myths and whose belief system has been compromised by faith and whose skepticism is being lowered by believing in things without proof, the disadvantages of a tenet in supernaturalism is at once readily apparent in everyday practical terms. That is, the belief in the Theory of Evolution has practical results in lifestyle choices. To maximize human health and wellness, it is extremely important to understand that we weren’t created 5000 years ago, but evolved in harsh conditions over millions of years. We evolved as hunter-gatherers; our genes blossom or wilt on how well we mirror the diet of our ancestors. Denying evolution – every single one of the 2012 GOP Candidates except John Huntsmen denies evolution – is indirectly a negative health factor in our physical well-being. Believing in a thing without proof – faith – can actually weaken our immune systems. By being on the wrong side of this philosophic dispute, you lower your chances of a successful well-managed life. Independent thinking is required for personal value judgements on questions like: ‘What should I eat?’ ‘Why do we get fat?’ and ‘Are regimens like the Warrior Diet and Primal Blueprint essential to our understanding of where we sit in our chronicle?' Without a magical explanation, your mind aligns itself with a certain lifestyle cache: superior reasoning, hardheaded skepticism and tentative knowledge instead of embracing an unseen dimension without evidence, wishful-thinking and absolute truth supplied by the earthly representatives of god.
The 10 Primal Blueprint laws are:, 1. Eat Lots of Plants and Animals; 2. Avoid Poisonous Things, (i.e., processed foods), 3. Move Frequently at a Slow Pace, 4. Lift Heavy Things, 5. Sprint Once in a While, 6. Get Adequate Sleep, 7. Play, 8. Get Adequate Sunlight, 9. Avoid Stupid Mistakes and 10. Use Your Brain.
In, Eating Well For Optimum Health, Dr. Andrew Weil takes you through the basics of nutrition and eating well. His ‘The Worst Diet in the World’ section mirrors what every expert is saying. Stay away from refined flour, starchy food, sweets, pop, margarine, vegetable oil, commercially raised chicken, beef, pork and lamb, processed snacks, cow’s milk, deep fried food, french fries, potato chips, pickles, ketchup and all drinks and condiments made with corn syrup. Doesn’t that sound like the Fast Food Nation diet? His recipes and ‘best foods’ mirror in a general way, both Dr Ozner and the Warrior Diet: fresh fruits and vegetables, high fiber cereal, tofu, real fruit juice, soy or almond milk, beans (with rice), nuts, fish, olive oil and whole grains. Where Hofmekler underscores eating healthy and exercise for the lean mean machine, Weil emphasizes food and wellness for happiness and health, allowing for a softer chunkier body. In regards to what to eat, (as far as I can tell) Ozner, Hofmekler and Weil are in near agreement (in a general sort of way).
In, How to Eat, Nigella Lawson’s food credo seems to be eat at home and cook for yourself. If we only practiced this as a society there would be few fast food outlets, no factory industrialized farming and no lack of imagination as to what you can do with something as simple as rhubarb. This book is about how we eat at home and how much time it takes. We should all have it in our kitchens. It’s organized by time and comfort and not by any level of nutrition yet the meals seem nutritious and delicious at once. I recommend it for its ambient life-style instruction explained through food. Food, like music, is a complex experience that can be looked at as art for art’s sake. The book is a guide to the culinary possibilities in your own home and the joy of living, eating well and celebrating life through food with – not chefs on the food channels – but by you being creative inside your own kitchen (with a huge number of delicious recipes included.)
In, The Vegetarian Myth, long-time vegan Lierre Keith preaches against what she considers the modern myth of vegetarianism. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike should read it. Like a defeated golfer who fires his caddy in anger, she rationalizes her decision with the metaphysical logic of the Bible or Das Capital – a wholesale platonic condemnation of life – but still, walking up the hill backwards makes a lot of sense to many people. This is the thing though, I think if the world had/or would chosen Libertarianism/Stoicism and silenced the Catholic voice inside of us which in union wants a kindly softer hugging-version of Jesus and Marx it would be considerably better for the Joel Salatin’s of the world (see, Polyface Farm) and other holonic eco-friendly farms to counter the New Ancien Régime (my name for the loosely-federated oligarchy which today is the new global economic order). That said, anybody who thinks life as hunter-gatherer would be preferable to our present civilization, is a million light-years away from where I stand. Sometimes, the Left or the left-leaning anarchists think the handmaiden state and socialism have nothing to do with what has happened in the last two hundred years. They think that lack of regulation has led to state-licensed union-embodied medicine (as against unregulated holistic medicine), factory farmed everything, (as opposed to the Salatins of the world), the bank system’s heart pumping with worthless fiat money, (as opposite to the gold standard) the oil industry owning the legislature, (as contrasting a lobby-free House) and the fast food monolith poisoning us, (as opposite to real food). In their view, this was done by laissez-faire capitalism and the pursuit of individual liberty (thank god for welfare government and Keynesian economics); after all, we’re naturally just greedy animals inadvertently destroying our planet. The whole contention, though, is like industrial farming versus holonic farming itself: there is a natural check and balance in life between my borders and other people’s borders which the toxic modern state has utterly destroyed to gain what, today, we have created. (Whether for good or bad is still being debated among the middleclass but I’ve made up my mind; the growth of the modern state may cost us our liberty, health and wealth). But I wouldn’t say for a moment that it was done on purpose, Socrates led to Plato, Christ, Augustine, Hegel, Marx and so forth; there’s nothing for it. The idiot will always dream of the perfect order and some fool with power will try to put it into effect.
“That’s the real reason I’ve written this book [Keith states on page 252] . . . [to start] . . . a serious political movement combining environmentalists, farm activists, animal rights groups, feminists, indigenous people, anti-globalization and re-localization efforts—all of us who are desperate for a new, and living, world. The earth, our only home, needs that movement, and she needs it now. The only just economy is a local economy; the only sustainable economy is a local economy. Come at it from whichever angle matches your passion, the answers nest around the same central theme: humans have to draw their sustenance from where they live, without destroying that place.”
Everything here is a soupy foggy haze of clutter between the market driven economy (the john), the handmaiden state (the whore), the military industrial complex, (the pimp) and Keith, the genius who is just the person to fix it all up. State-run capitalism is an affair hundreds of years old. Factory farmed flesh is 40 years old or so. There was a medical association (AMA) before this, cheating railway men, robber barons, bankers, oil men – need I go on? The state and the market have been fused in the last three centuries into a convoluted monstrosity. But of course this has nothing to do with veganism, or does it? I don’t know if the author is a Leftist, Platonist, Critical Marxist or all three. She holds that the rest of the world is ignorant but she and her ilk know the real truth. That’s almost always a good sign that you’re in the presence of ‘the Left’. Plus, she sounds like a bellyacher and I might be assuming things but my radar’s pretty good for these kinds of things. Her arguments against vegans seem not to ring true to my ear. The main argument I use from Eating Animals is that factory farming is horribly cruel to animals and is poisoning us, we (as a consumer), can’t or won’t purchase our meat from Polyface-like farms, (because it’s too expensive or inconvenient), so we have only one reasonable alternative in our day to day lives and that’s to try vegetarianism and see if we can do it without becoming miserable or fat. Her voice is extreme but she does make you think twice about eating too much soy. I thought her concern about feeding the world a bit cavalier. I also think that if we got rid of every edible domesticated animal in the world (without anybody being hurt or starving), humans and the planet might not suffer as much as she claims. However, don’t take my word for it. I’m no expert. This author seems also to be anti-modern-civilization, maybe even anti-human (the very worst in a platonic sentiment – and please forgive me if I’m wrong), she’s definitely gloom-and-doom. This book also appears to have a fair bit of stretching the facts to fit with a theory, after all, millions of people live without meat and don’t prematurely get sick (indeed, if the ‘stats’ are ‘fact’ vegetarians generally weigh less and live longer). Anyway, I included the book here due to the fact that it’s on the other side of my divide (and is also controversial). That divide is: she became a carnivore just when I'm becoming a herbivore. I thought it would be a nice contrast. [Are my hips any bigger?]
In, Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes makes the best argument I’ve ever read against vegetarianism. Indeed, after reading this exceedingly factual and well-researched work, you’ll become an outright carnivore (i.e., you’ll want to get all your essential nutrition through protein and animal fats and stay away from carbohydrates altogether). According to Taubes, the reason we get fat is counterintuitive: we don’t get fat because we overeat, we overeat because we’re acquiring fat. The point is that what insulin does to the body provokes an unfortunate sequence of events if there is a precondition toward adiposity, a hereditary predilection to it or if we have an uncritical attachment to a starchy and floury Western diet. The whole ‘calories in/calories out’ event currently embraced by the medical community, (that is, overeating as the cause of adiposity) explains nothing and is like describing alcoholism as caused by chronic over-drinking – it begs the question. Here is why things like hunger, self-control and eating less when it comes to weight control is contrary to common sense: extended energy (physical activity) increases appetite so we eat more when we exercise. Potentially, physical activity can cause us to get fat. Impecunious populations suffer more from adiposity than the opulent ones. The belief that our affluence and coddled way of life in the West is the root cause of obesity is not true. Only carbohydrates produce the necessary condition to create excess fat in the human body. The person who is overweight and is always hungry is not a paradox. He is likely this way not because of how much or little he’s eating, but because of what he is eating. Please note that I don't mean to suggest you shouldn't be exercising; whether you're a youth or a senior, you should have two thing going simultaneously: maintaining your optimal weight through diet and a rigorous daily excercise routine. (See also: Sugar, Fat and Salt, M Moss, Fat Chance, R Lustig and Pure, White and Deadly, Yudkin).
These are the No’s for our diet from Taubes and many other nutritionists: sugar, honey, syrup, jelly, candy, sweets, canned fruit and vegetables, flour-based anything, processed anything, (including things like breaded meats, cereals of any kind, refined snacks, potatoes, pickled things, canned meats, vegetable oil, pop, potato chips, rice, grains, STARCH, FOOD CONTAINING ANY TYPES OF processed SUGARS).
These are the Yes’s:
More lean meat
including (especially) wild fish
birds, wild game, and anything that moves
Plus all green vegetables
(If it’s a leaf you can eat it)
Eggs and all fresh fruit.
Taubes argues that the view that carbohydrates in the human diet are essential is a medical myth. Good carbohydrates or bad do make a difference (although ultimately, the only good carbohydrate is the one some other species has consumed, converted to protein and which you in turn have eaten.) Feeding on a bowl of ice cream, (in a way) is all the same to the body as eating a plate of cauliflower and broccoli, (i.e., they’re all ‘carbs’ to the body) but the ‘veggies’ (outside of having some vitamins and minerals) are fibrous, take much longer to digest and contain more water than ice cream does. (Are you following me so far?) (And does this sound vaguely familiar?) In fact, this is the diet that Dr. Atkins made famous. [Bacon anyone? Watch that icy step?] Taubes criticizes the Ozner Diet (a little bit) and Weight Watchers (even less) as diets with a poor track record (because of recidivism) or ones which don’t have as good a result in weight loss as the Atkin’s diet. Taubes did not bring up the moral problems of the inhumane treatment of animals by the factory farm process and either does Dr. Cordain, the author of The Paleo Diet, although he certainly promotes the nutritional value of wild game and free range meats.
I have a friend, a professor at U of T who has lost 200 pounds on Weight Watchers
It was over a two year period and with a radical lifestyle change
She is doing terrific; I truly admire her
That’s a loss of more than I weigh by 50 pounds
Wheat Belly, W Davis: modern genetically altered Triticum Aestivum wheat flour is on average 70 percent carbohydrate by weight, with protein and indigestible fiber each comprising 10 to 15 percent. The small remaining weight of Triticum wheat flour is fat, mostly phospholipids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Ancient wheat has higher protein content. Emmer wheat, for instance, contains 28 percent or more protein. Wheat products elevate blood sugar levels more than virtually any other carbohydrate from beans to candy bars. This has important implications for body weight since glucose is unavoidably accompanied by insulin, the hormone that allows entry of glucose into the cells of the body, converting the glucose to fat. The higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level, the more fat is deposited. This is why, say, eating a three-egg omelet that triggers no increase in glucose does not add to body fat, while two slices of whole wheat bread increases blood glucose to high levels, triggering insulin and growth of fat, particularly abdominal or deep visceral fat. Does this sound like, 'Why We Get Fat'? You bet it does! According to Williams, a combination of halting the glucose-insulin-fat-deposition cycle and the natural reduction in calorie intake that results by removing wheat from human diet is sometimes as rapid as starvation. Wheat consumption in all forms poses potentially serious threats to health. We did not evolve to deal effectively with it even in it’s 10,000 year old original form. A worthwhile important read, and though counterintuitive, it seems that whole grains lead to all sorts of trouble; and like in Why We Get Fat, it’s well researched, explained with superior logical form and is pretty damn convincing. (See also: Grain Brain, D Perimutter.)
If you want the more objective health-style advantages of going veggie dissected and parsed, Becoming Vegetarian, Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis, might be a worthwhile read for you. A comprehensive guide to nutrition and a living companion to have around the house whether you are a vegan or vegetarian and every diet in between. Here we see again a general agreement with the other books we’re reviewing in this article about the main culprits to chronic ill health and being overweight: stay away from processed food, get a lot of exercise, avoid vegetable oils, starches and sugars. The tome contains valuable information for a newbie like me; for instance, complex Vitamin B12 needs to be supplemented in veggie diets. Who would have known? In practical terms for issues like lessening heart disease, obesity, greater longevity and overall better health, their conclusions are drawn from numerous studies with large numbers over periods of some decades. In this regard, there seems to be a significant qualitative and quantitative advantage to becoming vegetarian even as measured against a super healthy lifestyle which includes eating meat.
Another work worth your every consideration, is, The Vitamin D Solution, M F Holick. It’s a three step strategy to cure our most common health problems. It is well thought-out and researched. This leading medical expert-advocate for increase levels of Vitamin D in our bodies and it’s importance to our health, makes a strong case for a controversial conclusion: ‘limited’ exposure to sunlight is healthy. Vitamin D is essential to our well being, and while supplements are “better than nothing”, only direct sunlight gives us what we have evolved to extract from it. Firstly, it isn’t a vitamin at all but a secosteroid hormone made by the skin which directly or indirectly targets 2000 genes and gets its best quality Vitamin D intake from direct sunlight. Both thought-provoking and potentially life-altering; again, here, in this book, there is an element of the theory which is counter-intuitive to our thinking. Why? Due to the constant fear of direct exposure to UV sunlight provoked by the dermatologists worldwide who have demonized exposure to any direct sunlight, we have been brought to the point where we are afraid of any unprotected time in the sun at all. The connection to a myriad of diseases which are the direct result of Vitamin D deficiency, or even insufficiency, is compelling. Add this to your list of health books to get around to reading. It could be a life-saver!
In, Nutrition and Your Mind, (a 1960’s classic) a simple, and I think, obvious point was made. Common sense dictates that garbage in and garbage out doesn’t only apply to computers; so, it’s surprising to learn that Dr. Watson was kicked out of the discussion and lost in space/time like so many intellectuals from the sixties who challenged the status quo, (what a unpleasant decade), which at the time of the book was that psychological disorders were a sociological deficiency rather than caused by metabolically irreconcilable nutrition intake. Chances are that both explanations are somewhat true: impecunious and resentful children suffer from poor nutrition and cultural impediments. To think there was controversy though that what we put into our bodies had no psycho-chemical effect on the brain seems not too much to ask for in a medical theory about mind and brain, i.e., that the food we consume makes a difference on how we function mentally. Here again ‘bad carbs’ must have a negative effect on the biology of our brains if it’s having one on our body, or let me regroup and restate, (because Watson doesn’t actually say that); however, if Taubes and all, are right, then certainly Watson must be on to something. Don’t live to eat. Eat to live! Malnutrition (or under nutrition) never helped thinking. How could it? But reasoning this through, a healthy body and brain has to be a platform for proper mental functions. Why didn’t anybody follow up on this insight? I hate to answer it and I won’t. The sixties. Ugh!
If you’ve seen the movie ‘Tapped’, you might like to find an alternative to drinking out of plastic bottles. With a handy thermal metal liquid-container you can fill it with filtered ice cubes and water and it lasts ice-cold for hours, even on the hottest days. Water ice-cold is quite delicious and can replace a lot of the processed juices/sweetened pop we drink, (most are made with corn syrup and their first ingredient is water anyway) (Plus the toxicity problem with plastic and heat is eliminated). My whole family uses them, even my seven year old son. It’s easy. I think, and again, I’m no authority on this, but if we had a list of five nutritional deficits that we had to give up for the sake of our physical health, they would be: sweetened pop, potato chips, vegetable oil, refined flour and starch. I think all the authors would agree as well to limit your restaurant visits, especially fast food outlets. [We used to bring our daughter when she was a toddler to McDonalds so she could spend time in their Play Land.] (How sad is that?) Fortunately our daughter has grown up healthy and strong. But what were we thinking?
I confess that when I was a teenager, I read Adelle Davis and was for a time enamored with her rage against the processed food industry, but popping all those supplements seemed not right to what little common sense I had back then and also it seemed like too much work. I was arrogant anti-everything in those days but this passed and the rage she had bequeathed me evaporated with my days in university. So revisiting all this stuff has shocked me as much as the decision to quit meat. (How is that going anyway?) I hate to answer it and I won't. Later, maybe. If I last a year meat free, then I'll do an update in 2012. If you don’t hear from me, send a gift certificate for the Healthy Butcher.
Despite the inconvenience of a veggie or vegan diet and missing the delicious taste of meat, there seems to be some incontrovertible but not overwhelming scientific evidence in the advantages of a vegetarian lifestyle – a super fit vegan as compared to a super fit omnivore – this is true especially in regards to longevity and quality of life (less heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems and better healthy-weight norms). Certainly there is significant individual moral value in not perpetrating harm to other living creatures by the cruel process of bringing about their dead flesh to your plate. The singular salient truth overall though must be that the experts above all seem to agree on this: eating processed foods, fast foods, starchy foods and so called junk food is directly irrefutably poisonous to human health. There also seems to be general agreement that there is value in exercise, especially daily steady-paced walks, bike rides or slow jogs in safe places, by which I mean, out of the flow of any through traffic. On how much rice, potato and other starchy food is good to human health is a little more controversial as is the elimination of gluten, wheat, corn starch, syrups and refined corn and wheat additives from your diet. Nonetheless, if you fill your fridge with a wide variety of fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables, it’s hard to believe you will ever go hungry. Yes, you may crave Wendy’s (Pizza Hut, Big Mac, Papa Johns, the Whopper, Boston Pizza, Harvey’s, Tim Hortons, Domino’s, Mary Browns, KFC, Swiss Chalet, Pizza Nova, Arby’s, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza-Pizza or Diary Queen – don’t think for a second I listed but a fraction of them), but how often can you eat this nasty food without direct health consequences? They’re of a common thread: much of what they offer is cooked in grease or leaden with refined wheat or corn thickeners and additives. They are massive empty carbohydrates filled with lots of sugar and salt; an almost addictive-like substance which gives you elevated levels of blood sugar while stripped of all worthwhile nutrients. Every expert agrees, stay away from fast foods! Eat as little processed food as possible. Do your own cooking. Exercise. Use moderation. Get enough Vitamin C, D and B12. Go gluten lite. Put some distance in between meals. Read health books. Keep alert.
I would like to end by stating that the authorities such as the FDA and the USDA are fed and suckled by the status quo. Licensed medicine is directly economically linked to the drug and food industry. Since nutritionists, holistic doctors, herbalists, acupuncturists and whatever expert in the health field, cannot hang up a shingle and practice medicine, society stagnates. If they could criticize and openly compete with state-protected, market-subsidized and government certified health givers (i.e., state licensed doctors), it would change everything for modern health and wellness. Read also, Big Fat Surpise, N Teicholz, Practical Paleo, D Sanfilippo; New Evolution Diet, A DE Vany; Death by Food Pyramid, D Minger; and Fat Chance, R Lustig to realize how the science of nutrition is decades ahead of the medical establishment. Given human nature, I suppose that it’s pointless to caution that there is no conclusive absolute proof that holistic or any particular type of medicine is preferable over any other; sometimes traditional medicine is life saving and I advise everyone to have a good doctor if you can find one, but if you go to an unlicensed healer with heart disease and he's a holistic physician and convinces you of a permanent lifestyle change through nutrition, supplements and an exercise regime, is he more or less effective than a surgeon? If he is, as I think he is, then his shingle (i.e. the market place) should set the perimeters not the state. This is what folks need to understand: a revolution-in-waiting in health care is prevented from occurring by government stagnation. The food industry is criticized by doctors of course, but not often by the AMA, CMA, etcetera, their collective unionized voices. State licensed medicine unions – called associations – are the strongest unions in the world! They do not seek renewal and change even in this time of obvious crisis. They would more likely ask, “What crisis?” They are beyond redemption. Nothing but a sweeping aside of the state-license programs for professionals will do. Their protection by the state has served them well even as it has poisoned health for the whole world. Don’t bother any longer with their self-serving platitudes about the standard of medicine, health-care and keeping quacks out of the market. In the big picture; they are the quacks: ready with the scalpel, dull on the healthy lifestyle. Decades ago they stopped looking at their patients as organic complicated beings and instead as broken bodies to slice and dice on an operating table in a state financed hospital even as the population grew sickly, obese and drugged because of their stagnant idiotic advice on what to eat. What is healthy to eat is now what the food and drug industry tells them to say not what might be actually healthy to eat. We are obese. If not quite there, steps away. Doctors, the FDA, the USDA and state agencies throughout the world deserve every calorie of the credit. Anyway, ignore their suggestions. Keep at it (it takes time) and eat well. (This piece was written two years ago; I was still meat free as of January 2014 but in June, after the untimely death of a close friend from heart disease, I started an even stricter routine of diet and excercise, following Dr. Cordain's Paleo system; I am gluten free and have how stopped eating any processed or fast food whatsoever, but I am eating lean-cuts of meat). See Licensed to Kill and Medical Mercantilism. (And I caution Dr. Robert Lustig and his allies that to the degree that they work to have the state intercede on behalf of nutritionists, they join ranks with the autocracy of state-bullying to make us better people despite ourselves, and that this was just such interference that got us into this horrible mess to begin with. This is a street battle—keep the government out of it!)
Books reviewed by E A St Amant for this article:
© 2017 - E. A. St. Amant