WFPB Dinner: Sunday 2/2/2020
WFPB(NO) = Whole Food Plant Based(No Oil). We've been eating this way for several months, and for us the difference is remarkable. First a disclaimer. We're not mounting a soapbox. There'll be no preaching, no proselytizing. We're not missionaries. But after preparing and eating nothing but plant based meals for the past few months, we're convinced of some things. Here are 8 of them:
1—We're not 'Vegans,' or 'Vegetarians,' or wackadoodle foodies. (Wackafoodies?) We can eat anything we want. We choose to eat only plants. These days we avoid eating meat of any kind, in other words, we avoid animal based protein. We eat no fish, nor do we eat dairy products, including cheese. Eggs likewise are no longer on the menu at our house, nor is cooking oil. Only plants. (Oil isn't food, it's fat. Would you drink a cup of cooking oil?)
2—After reading and researching this menu, and test driving it, we know we're on the right track—for us—toward improved health, weight loss, more energy, a better outlook, and yes, even better sex.
3—We understand that had we discovered this menu sooner we'd be a lot better off.
4—That all those weird, wacky, off the grid vegan types are on to something.
5—That we're not going to change the world, or even the neighborhood. We're doing this for ourselves and our health, and for no other reason. (See above note about preaching)
6—That starting down the WFPB(NO) path is tough, it's time consuming, and it can be more expensive. Startup costs were high, in such things as spices, seasonings, and equipment we didn't have. (However, it can end up being cheaper when externalities are factored in.)
7—That embarking on this path has unforeseen obstacles and speed bumps. For one, it means a lot more discernment in selecting restaurants to attend with friends.
8—That plant based eating is NOT boring, or tasteless, or dull, or non-nutritional. Quite the contrary.
Two books that launched our WFPB exploration
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell Esselstyn jr. MD, and The China Study, by T.Colin Campbell PhD, and Thomas M. Campbell II MD.
These two books ought to be required reading for everyone who eats, and they should be a mandatory part of every medical school curriculum. Something that jumped off the pages at us is the simple realization that the food we eat is a more powerful determinant of our health than any drugs we're given. Another revelation we'd long suspected is this: Modern medicine, not just in the U.S. but in many societies, isn't oriented toward prevention; it's centered around healing. In other words, physicians see diseases and cures, not patients wishing to avoid disease in the first place. At present there's no way to monetize prevention, only cure. This is one reason the pioneers of plant based dietary concerns have faced so much skepticism and ridicule from traditional, mainstream medicine. Some of that harassment is detailed in the books, and it's shocking.
In defense of modern docs and their efforts to help us, we do have a desire for quick fixes. When we acquire an illness, none of us want to alter our lifestyle and/or eating habits. We want to go to the doctor, have her diagnose what's wrong, then have her scribble a prescription that gets filled right away. We don't want to hear about eating our veggies. That's what our mothers used to tell us. Popeye the sailor man may have thrived on spinach, but we hated it. Give us an antibiotic, and we'll be fine.
Starting down the list, here's what we've found:
1—We don't call ourselves vegans. That label confines us to what we can't eat, so we avoid it. We can eat anything we want. We choose to eat only plant based foods. We don't use the word 'diet' either. That also sounds restrictive, and the menu we use is anything but. It's opened up a whole new world of food choices, things we never imagined fixing and enjoying. It's also changed our tastes. We get a lot more enjoyment out of the new aromas and tastes the various recipes provide.
We all make choices every day, and the choice we've made about what we eat seems right to us. It also feels empowering, for many reasons. For one thing, the reading we've done cites powerful, robust, peer-reviewed research indicating ways the Standard American Diet (SAD) is harmful to us. If we ever wonder why the health of the average (North) American is marginal, or declining, it's the food. Wander through an airport, a supermarket, a WalMart, and you'll see the evidence of a nation getting heavier and less healthy.
Here's a small takeaway from The China Study: The Campbells, father & son, conducted the study over many years in the U.S. and all over China, thus the name. They were unable to track the occurrence of certain cancers in parts of China, because there weren't enough cases to form a sample. Those same cancers are prevalent in the U.S. (No, it isn't heredity, or nationality, or genetics. Chinese people emigrating to places where the SAD is standard fare begin contracting those cancers within a generation. It's the food.) Also, the Campbells' research demonstrates that a mere 2% of risk factors can be linked to genetics. Just because Grandpa Jim had a heart attack at 54, and Uncle Bill at 57, and dad at 58 doesn't mean you're destined to have a heart attack at any age. It's the food.
Before & After: 182 to 145
2—In very little time we've noticed a remarkable difference. The pictures above tell the tale. On the beach in Hawaii with my wife, I was devoted to the Standard American Diet: I loved my morning bacon & eggs, or French toast smothered in butter and syrup. I loved my cheeseburger lunch, and my dinnertime cheesy Lasagna, or greasy fried chicken, or filet mignon, followed by killer (literally) chocolate cake, or in Hawaii a big slice of Hula Pie! YUM! And it shows in that picture. The second shot is recent. After just three months I've lost 37 pounds. My wife has trimmed down as well, despite not needing much trimming whatsoever. We're both lighter, and more energetic. Plus, we feel better knowing we've found a key to better health.
3—Here's the upshot of #2 for me: Had we discovered this meal plan years ago I'd likely not have had the heart attack that nearly killed me two years ago, put me in an ICU for three days, and gave me a shiny new cardiac stent. In Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Doctor Esselstyn, who was on staff at The Cleveland Clinic, took over medical care of several last-ditch cardiac patients, people who'd run out of options and were waiting to die. Esselstyn put the group on a plant based, whole food diet, and then monitored their progress for many years. Among Doctor Esselstyn's patients, all but one improved. All others left their cardiac history behind, and resumed their normal lives. The one non-compliant group member returned to the SAD diet, and died of a heart attack. It's the food.
Before and After
The two pill pictures above also speak for themselves. After two years I went from taking 7 drugs a day, to 2. I didn't just decide to stop taking my meds, or to be non-compliant. At a recent visit with my doc, he noticed the dramatic weight loss, studied my near normal lab values, did his routine checkup, and said he saw no need for me to continue with my heart meds. I take a baby aspirin every 3 days, and a Tamsulosin, which I'm determined to wean away from.
Speaking of which, we've become proactive in our health care. For example, with the assistance of a nutritional lifestyle physician, Doctor Malia Ray at Raydiant Wellness, I'm weaning away from the high dosage Nexium that I've taken for several years.
4—All those wackadoodles we snickered at between bites of T-bone steak, as they munched on lettuce and kale, were on to something. Without diving into the highly volatile climate change discussion, we'll say only this: Fully 50% of harmful greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. That is, all those beef and chicken and turkey and hog feedlots scattered around the globe produce more than meat. They produce gases that contribute a large percentage of the CO2 that's rising faster than we can control. Recent news about fires in the Amazon focused on the crux of the problem. Those fires were set to clear jungle acreage, to make way for more grazing land for cattle. The upshot of this is that the land in question would grow much more protein, much more efficiently, and without the environmental damage if it was used to grow greens instead. It's the food.
Did you know it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef? It takes 575 gallons for a pound of pork, and just 215 gallons to produce a pound of soybeans. With global fresh water resources declining, curtailing animal based protein production would go a long way in alleviating the pending crisis.
None of this addresses the animal cruelty issue. Watching the documentaries we've seen, with quick snapshots taken inside kill facilities should enrage any sensible person. Animal factories have successfully lobbied for laws that prevent filming in their facilities. There's a very good reason they've done this. The methods used to slaughter those animals are beyond cruel; they're inhumane, and senseless. Animal ag augmentation and slaughter methods are also unsanitary and dangerous. Their use of antibiotics to add bulk and increase profits is abetting the spread of drug resistant pathogens that may lead to epidemics of immeasurable proportions.
5—We're not into preaching, but that doesn't mean we remain silent if asked, either. It's been a tough, demanding change in lifestyle, and we've done it fully. In other words, we don't sneak Oreos and red velvet cake when no ones looking. We're never going to judge someone for their food choices, but we do recognize that the food we eat has been peddled to us as healthy, and wholesome, and invigorating, when a lot of it is not. Milk, for example, is an awful beverage choice. Humans are the only species that drink the milk of another species. Baby cows drink milk only till they're weaned, then they never drink it again. Humans drink milk all their lives, and hard evidence shows that it's responsible for several health problems including autoimmune diseases, some cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and atherosclerosis. Got Milk? Drink something else. (BTW, a sliver of good news: Our new dietary choice allows all the wine and beer we can imbibe. Hey, wine and beer are from plants!)
The other part of this is that we feel an obligation to share with friends and family the potential health benefits of a plant based menu. We know folks who've battled illness, discomfort, overweight conditions, and general poor health for years. We hesitate to approach them, even if the advice could help, but sometimes you have to raise the flag and see who salutes.
6—Our menu choice has placed us in the kitchen for a lot more time than we're used to. The preparation and substitution time comes from resisting the easy, traditional, fast and processed food options that line the shelves of every grocery store we enter. There's been some welcome change. Stores have started devoting more floor real estate to whole-food and veggie-based displays. And there's some progress in educating medical personnel in nutritional aspects of healthcare, and good on-line resources arriving. One resource we use is a wonderful site called Raydiant Wellness. Dr. Malia Ray has helped us navigate a few medical issues pertaining to nutrition and health. Her site is dedicated to lifestyle nutrition, and Dr. Ray is well versed in it.
Costs of this menu can be higher as well. Because of a lack of availability, and a limited market for certain products, stores tend to be specialized, thus more expensive. The upside is that we've learned a whole new, and much more interesting way to prepare food. We use no cooking oil of any kind, because oil isn't food. We've learned to substitute for it, using applesauce, for example, to fry things. We use an air fryer now. We acquired an Instant Pot. We've learned to attach date labels on food we've prepared, since it's is fresh and unprocessed, and therefore doesn't keep very long. Fortunately, we live in Colombia where fruits and veggies are grown without chemical additives. We have the benefit of ultra fresh produce, but it doesn't last long, and must be consumed in days, not weeks.
Externalities are another blog post entirely. The food giants that dictate our choices have, through lobbying, and installing big-ag friendly personnel in high places, successfully foisted many of their production costs onto consumers. The true cost of a hamburger, for example, includes such things as water consumption mentioned above, carbon footprint, obesity & other health related issues, agricultural chemicals in our water supply and its mitigation, and many more items linked to the production of animal protein. Price does not equal cost. We pay the price, but we absorb the hidden costs, and buy foods that cause many of our health problems, while enriching the companies that sell that food to us.
7—I mentioned the difficulty involved in this life change. Here are some of those problems: We like eating out with friends. But avoiding meat, fish, dairy, eggs, oil etc. limits our choices of restaurants. We've had to decline more than one invitation, and a few in-home celebrations. It's a bit of a strain, though good friends have acknowledged our choices, and have gone to great lengths to accommodate them. (Thanks to those reading this, you know who you are.) Here's the good news: We've discovered that great WFPB restaurants can be found, that on-line resources are plentiful, such as the Happy Cow app, and that other WFPB resources can be accessed easily. Some of those resources are listed at the end of this post. We've also learned to take snacks and meals with us.
8—Contrary to what's commonly believed, a plant based menu is not tasteless, or dull, or uninspiring. We've discovered many wonderful recipes on line and elsewhere that are delicious, fulfilling, healthful, beautifully presented, and highly nutritious. More than once we've heard the standard question: 'Where do you get your protein?' Well...we get our protein from the same place cows, and horses, and elephants do. From plants. Ever see an elephant eating meat? Me neither. The same goes for calcium. Despite the milk industry boilerplate that we must drink milk for calcium, for strong bones, and to avoid hip fractures in our elderly, this, too, is a canard. Here's an interesting fact: Countries where milk is a standard in the diet have a higher—not a lower—incidence of hip fractures in the elderly population.
Three recent meals. Delicious, healthful, and fully nutritional
Three more meals that meet the RDA
For us, the change to plant based eating has been difficult and challenging. It's also been worth everything required. In addition to the health benefits, and the amazing change in our taste discernment, we feel we've taken charge of our own health and nutrition. Plus, it's fun to learn new ways to cook and prepare meals.
One reason we've decided to stick with this menu is the empowerment we feel. Without delving into marketing issues too much, here's why we feel this way. The food industry has far too much power over what we eat. Plus, they're able to dictate to legislators the legal and proprietary rules that push their products onto store shelves, while denying entry to others. The food industry—big meat, milk, dairy, egg, and other large food conglomerates are firmly embedded within the US Department of Agriculture, and their efforts not only influence, but in some cases dictate, our food choices.
The truly maddening part of this issue for us is that big food producers spend lavishly to suppress and undermine objective research that shadows their products. One example: California recently ordered state medical schools to add seven hours of nutrition-based healthcare to curriculums. The food industry lobbied to have those 7 hours removed, and they were successful in doing so. At my recent doctor's visit I asked my physician how much time he'd been given in med school for nutritional aspects of health. He said, "zero." Here's another example: In the U.S. it's against the law to disparage certain food products. Ask Oprah Winfrey. She was sued by the meat lobby for a simple negative remark about hamburger. So much for free speech.
Next post: A few favorite recipes, 'beans, beans...' or how to deal with the, ahem, breezier aspect of going plant based, speaking of harmful gases. We'll include an easy to follow template for joining us on the WFPB(NO) journey, and we'll mention a 21 day challenge that's a great jumping off point.
Going plant based isn't simple, but it's worth it. For one thing, it's the easiest weight loss regimen we've ever discovered. We eat till we're full, and the pounds have melted away. We have more energy than ever. Plant based eating could add years to your life, and new excitement to it as well. Thanks for reading, and comments are welcome.
UC Davis Integrative Medicine
Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine
Forks Over Knives
The China Study
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
How Not to Die
Dr. Malia Ray: Raydiant Wellness
Forks over Knives
What The Health