Since the beginning of 2012, when I watched the food documentary Forks Over Knives, my beliefs about food have changed. I have become almost as passionate about whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables as I am about romance novels. (I can’t believe it, either!) If you haven’t seen it yet, Forks Over Knives is a documentary based upon the science of why a whole foods, plant-based diet is best for you, and how the typical American diet is killing us (or, if you eat a diet similar to the typical American diet, which includes lots of meat and dairy and processed foods). (Note: Did you know that the acronym for the standard American diet is SAD?) Anyway, I digress.
I was born and raised in East Texas, where meat is the center of every meal, and a meal without meat just doesn’t seem right. It’s not normal. In fact, after watching Forks Over Knives in February, when I told my dad that I was becoming a vegan, he laughed. Not in a mean way, just in a that’s-such-a-ludicrous-idea-that-anyone-would-want-to-give-up-meat-and-dairy way. =) He also said something to the effect that “he meant to enjoy his life”; i.e. a life without meat and dairy would be no life at all.
I never met one vegan or vegetarian in East Texas. There may have been some out there, but if they were, it’s possible they were keeping it a secret from all the rest of us. Again, such a lifestyle just isn’t considered sane. It’s not about people wanting to hurt animals by eating them. It’s just an entirely different culture.
So as I sat down to watch Forks Over Knives with my husband in February, I never thought that I would come out on the other side with the intention of becoming a vegan. I’d already seen Food, Inc. (also recommended; a documentary about modern farming/food industry practices) when it came out, and although I hated what I saw, there didn’t seem to be enough of a personal application to make me motivated to do anything. I definitely can’t say the same thing about Forks Over Knives (henceforth FOK).
I’m not going to quote the documentary or book itself (I’m giving away a couple of copies of the book today so you can read it for yourself, or you can visit the website here), but some of the things that stuck out to me were:
1) The protein in cow’s milk promotes cancer cells (we’ve switched to Silk Soy Milk since April 1st and haven’t gone back)
2) The standard American consumes too much protein through a meat diet; the excess protein leaches calcium from our bones, which can cause osteoporosis (so much for milk’s preventative qualities)
3) Consuming dairy and meat products can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer (among other diseases), whereas eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can reverse these (yes, sometimes even cancer!)
These are just a few of the reasons why I decided to become a vegan after watching this film. Now for my journey.
For two months I ate no meat, although I did continue drinking milk. Then I went back to eating meat because, since my husband cooks most of the meals in our household (I know, how lucky am I??), I was basically eating “sides” the entire time. I felt a little discouraged, but I was on a schedule where it made more sense for him to cook at the time. (Note: Although my husband was affected by the film, it hasn’t meant as much to him as it did to me.) Then we cut out milk entirely for our household, and only drink soy milk now. I still believe in the reasons why I made this decision to begin with, though, so I’ve been collecting some amazing vegan cookbooks and recipes from the Internet. My husband has agreed to let me be the cook for an entire month (in September), and I’m excited to discover together how delicious vegan foods can be. (I plan on keeping a record of my recommendations.) In the meantime, I’ve been focusing on eating more plants, whole grains, and beans, and reducing my consumption of cheese (still haven’t given that up) and meats.
As you can see, my conversion from a meat-eater hasn’t happened overnight, and I’m okay with this. After all, I’ve been eating one way for all of my life, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure. My goal right now is to be completely vegan by the beginning of 2013. The most important thing to me–while I can appreciate the environmental impacts of certain lifestyles–is how eating this way vs. the Standard American Diet will affect my health, my daughters’ health, and hopefully my husband’s health. “Diet” has become synonymous in our culture with something you go on for a few days, weeks, or months in order to lose weight. While it would be nice to lose weight–I’m not going to lie–that’s not the purpose of this. Unlike my dad, I want to enjoy life AND be healthy. There are too many people in my family who “live to eat”; I want to be the first one who “eats to live.”
Here’s the thing, though. I know that what I say isn’t going to make one heck of a difference to you without you seeing the documentary or reading the book and coming to your own conclusions. I’m not trying to get on any pedestal, social or political, but I’m passionate enough about this to want to share it with you, just as I’d want to share any fantastic romance novel. Just as I know that not every reader will enjoy the same book, I know that not every viewer/reader of FOK will get the same from it (but I’m hoping you’ll at least find the knowledge useful). I’m giving away two copies of the FOK book today (winners to be announced on Sunday), either digital or paperback (winner’s choice), and the giveaway is open to international readers.
And if you have Netflix, FOK the documentary is streaming right now. Believe me, it’s worth the watch.
Have you seen the Forks Over Knives documentary or read the book? What did you think? If you haven’t seen or read FOK, does the culture where you’re from think that not eating meat or dairy is crazy, too?