Friday, June 28, 2013

Eating is terrible for your health.

Sometimes it seems like nothing is safe to eat anymore.  Fat makes you fat.  Carbs make you fat.  Fruits are sugary.  Vegetables may be contaminated with pesticides and/or bacteria.  And protein?  According to The China Study, the wrong kind of protein (i.e. from animals) can leave you wide open to all sorts of nasty illness.

I'm only halfway through the book (and skimming it, rather than reading every word), but the basic premise is simple enough: animal protein is bad.  The author and all of his supporting evidence implicate animal protein in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and auto-immune disease.  The longest, most accusatory finger points towards cow's milk, but every form of animal protein is guilty by association.

My vegan sister is probably pretty pleased about all of this.

Of course, there is controversy.  For every study that says X, someone else publishes a study that says Not X.  A cynical person would accuse the dairy and meat food industries of paying for the opposing studies.  I must say, I am finding The China Study pretty darn convincing.

When I was in my early 20's, I followed a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet for 2 years.  Then I started showing signs of (my own diagnosis, therefore potentially wrong) protein deficiency.  Around that same time, I was advised to give up milk.  I figured if I wasn't getting enough protein with milk, I wouldn't do very well as a vegetarian without it, so I went back to eating meat (and subsequently did feel noticeably more energetic).

I was an omnivore-hold-the-dairy for 17 years.  Then I added dairy products back into my diet, just in the past year.  Interestingly, it was when I started eating dairy again that I started gaining weight.  Coincidence?  I mean, I did turn 40 recently.  Could be just my metabolism naturally slowing down. Except that my father's metabolism didn't slow down until he hit 60.  My mother?  Well, it's hard to say; she's never eaten very much, but she's certainly never been remotely chubby.

Up to a point, I was happy to gain weight.  I've always been an ectomorph, with arms the circumference of chicken toes.  It's nice to have a little meat on my bones.  My clothes look better.  My face looks younger.  I had to go out and buy all new pants recently, but hey, I like my new pants!

Then I reached a point where the new pants started to get tight.  I was like woah, hold on here!  I have a very small frame.  A few pounds makes the difference between a healthy weight and a poochy tummy.  I started counting calories.  The extra pounds came back off pretty easily, thank goodness.  But this whole calorie-restricted diet thing is not so much fun.  At least now I have an appreciation of what people on weight-loss diets go through.  It sucks.

The China Study says that if you eat a plant-and-whole-grain diet you'll be able to eat as much as you want, even more calories than before, without gaining weight.  Hmm, that sounds good.  It also said that women who eat a vegan diet have lower hormone levels (that's good) than the rest of us.  I will spare you the details, but there are certain Lady Changes that also started around the time I re-introduced dairy into my diet which I would be pleased to reverse.

So am I going to go full vegan?  Nope.  Am I going to reduce the proportion of animal protein in my diet?  Yup.  Am I going to finish that carton of ice cream in my freezer?  You betcha!  Am I going to buy more when it's gone?  Probably I'll go back to the soy substitutes.

How much would you be willing to change your diet to improve your health?  Would you go vegan?


Warped Mind of Ron said...

I'm sticking to my Meatgan diet... I may not live long, but I may enjoy it more.

Jameil said...

I like the everything in moderation diet. Everything will apparently kill you so I'll just go with the diet that won't kill me super fast but still tastes good.

DarcKnyt said...

The China Study. Oh, my, Spark. I could carry on and on about it. We all have to make our own decisions, though, and it's not for me to try and persuade anyone to do something they want to do.

I would encourage you, however, before you let The China Study convince you, to please research paleolithic diets from folk like Robert Wolff and Mark Sisson. Just as a counter-balance. And to get some perspective from other insightful people, like Gary Taubes and Drs Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek.

And no, I've never go vegan. Have a GREAT weekend!

G. B. Miller said...

I would never go vegan. I have friends who are and more power to them.

For me, it's the matter of following a sensible diet/eating less, which is a necessity since I managed to drop one pants size and I would like to stay at that size for the next few decades.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: You will DEFINITELY enjoy it more. :-)

Jameil: That is unquestionably sensible.

DarcKnyt: Thanks for the tips! I've been dipping into research online, and it's super-confusing. There are so many different points of view. I think part of the difficulty is that everyone's body is different and there is no single correct diet that's going to work for everyone.

G.B.: Yeah, that's basically it for me too. I never had to worry about gaining weight until I added dairy back into my diet, and then suddenly *poof* I'm going up sizes? That carries more weight (pun intended) than theoretical online discussions about what is most healthy.

Lynn said...

I could probably go vegan - I had a vegan lunch. But it would be hard to give up yogurt and cheese.

Vanessa T said...

Goodness, I'd die if I had to go vegan. I eat some because I have to, but overall, not a fan. And I just read an article about how a vegan breastfeeding mother actually ended up killing her child because it couldn't get enough nutrients in the breast milk from the mother's vegan diet. Scary! Not that we're breastfeeding, but the notion that it doesn't provide enough nutrition is there.

I really liked the movie "Fathead." Lots of interesting info presented in a fun way. :) I'm so glad you're feeling healthier - I remember when you were feeling too thin. You will find what works best for you! :)

Jenski said...

I buy into moderation and limit my processed foods in general. My own take on paleo, maybe, plus some other meats here and there? I'm a sucker for cheese, but don't eat much ice cream. I have a hard time *actually* restricting my intake, but given I know people who have success on weight watchers and are mostly allowed any amount fruits/veggies they want, I try to fill up on those, and seem to stay around the same weight. Depending on someone's health, too much soy can be bad too (like for my sister's thyroid problems).

Sparkling Red said...

Lynn: Don't forget ice cream. ;-)

Vanessa: My vegan sister is the very picture of glowing health. Must be all that kale for breakfast. But vegans really need to be careful because you can get anemic and B12 deficient easily with no animal foods.

Jenski: I've read some interesting criticisms of the paleo diet, but overall it seems to be a fairly sensible, healthy approach. I think if I had to choose between giving up cheese forever or ice cream, I'd sacrifice cheese in order to be able to have ice cream. (You can have my cheese.)