The Drive to Plant Based Eating- Are You Joining Us for the Ride?

It was that time of year again: woman exam time. Generally not something that is awaited with bated breath; as I am sure all you fabulous women out there can agree with! During my visit, my doctor (I will call her Dr. Maye) asked the usual questions one would expect their physician to ask—but then caught me a bit off guard. She asked, “Are you eating fresh fruit and vegetables every day?” This seems like a question a doctor should be asking, but I am fairly certain this was the first time a physician had actually brought up diet. I was intrigued. If I had not been eating my veggies, I may have felt the urge to tell a little white lie… but alas, my response was a resounding, “Yeah, baby!”

Well, maybe that was not exactly what I said. “Actually, I have been eating an almost entirely plant- based diet,” I told her. “About 95 percent!”  I found myself waiting with anticipation for her response. Would she approve? Would she tell me I wasn’t getting enough nutrients? Not enough protein?  I was anxious to hear what her thoughts were.

Her answer was a pleasant surprise. “Oh, so am I!” she exclaimed. Immediate bonding. When plant- based eaters find one another, we love it! There’s a sense of familiarity. It’s an “I get you” moment. And it is especially heartwarming when it happens with a physician. Oh happy day—let’s discuss!

She went on to tell me she has been adhering to a fully plant based for the past year and she is loving it.  Her husband and teenage sons onboard as well, and are hovering at around 80 percent in their diets. I asked how she managed to convince teenage boys to get 80 percent of their calories from plants and she told me they sat down with her one day and watched the documentary Forks Over Knives. This film convinced them to make a major change in their eating habits. For those of you who have not heard of it, Forks Over Knives is a documentary outlining the immense health dangers associated with consumption of animal products and the benefits of dumping the Standard American Diet (SAD) in lieu of a diet based on plants, legumes, and whole grains. It’s a life-changing film, so definitely check it out if you haven’t! Visit:  http://www.forksoverknives.com.

I applauded her efforts and said, “Being a doctor, you have the ability to use your opinion to get the word out!” She sighed and told me that she has tried, but unfortunately people can be very defensive and closed-minded when it comes to their food.  Nevertheless, she is so passionate about getting the word out, Dr. Maye ordered twelve copies of Forks Over Knives and regularly lends them to her patients. She advised me that by replacing just two meals a week with legumes (that is doctor talk for beans) instead of meat, she was able to drop her cholesterol significantly. Although slim and outwardly healthy, she told me high cholesterol runs in her family. But that slight change in her diet sent the helpless attitude of the “but it runs in the family” excuse right out the window.  And I suspect this was her catalyst in making the change to her new diet.

Later that day, I attended a lecture with Rip Esselstyn at the new Whole Foods in central Phoenix. Rip is a former professional tri-athlete and firefighter who is behind the “Engine 2 Diet,” a plant-based eating plan that took over his fire station in Austin, Texas and now has spread nationwide.

 (See http://engine2diet.com). His book is a New York Times best seller and he now spends his days promoting this lifestyle and his plant-based product line with Whole Foods. It was at this lecture I learned some surprising news: Kaiser Permanente, a top provider of medical insurance in California, has instructed their physicians to recommend a plant-based diet to their patients. Why? It finally occurred to someone that prevention saves them a whole lotta money! You can read about this recommendation here:  http://www.care2.com/greenliving/uss-largest-hmo-endorses-a-plant-based-diet.html

Rip Esselstyn expressed the opinion that within the next twenty years, one in four people will be eating a plant-based diet. Not only is it better for us, it is better for the environment due to the large amount of greenhouse gas produced by the meat industry. In fact, this industry alone accounts for up to 25% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Program findings last year. (We will be discussing more on the environmental effects of the meat industry in future blogs.)

So, what exactly does a plant-based diet entail?  A plant-based diet is a nutritious eating regimen made up of fresh fruit and vegetables, cooked veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The goal is to eliminate processed foods, sugar, and white flour entirely. No animal products. This includes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy products of any kind. Is your head spinning? Good! It’s time to wake up, party people. Will you need help getting started? Probably. There is a mega selection of books out there, but for personal guidance, contact Veronica!   

We can bring the information to the table, but we can’t make you eat your veggies. Maybe it’s time to make some changes, small as they may be. Take the car for a test spin and see how you enjoy the ride.  Dr. Maye would be proud!   

Wishing radiance, health, and happiness!

Lynn