I’m the genetic offspring of Canadian lumberjacks. I love drinking beer and watching football. I don’t have many vegetarian friends – yet alone vegan friends, so when people learn I went plant-based to lose more than 50 pounds, they are surprised. The tone of their surprise depends on their age. Millennials tend to lean into the conversion with curiosity. Boomers tend to do the opposite.
Some people are just fascinated I could go from loving New Orlean’s signature creamy and meaty dishes to craving vegetables on a daily basis. They are intrigued about my journey from point M to point V. They ask lots of questions. These are fun conversations.
But other folks will furrow their brow. They quickly point out all the nutrients available in meat. They question if it’s even possible to live a healthy life without these nutrients. One dude even cited the Bible as evidence of his dietary choices.
Meat lovers seem concerned that my choices could inherently criticize their choices. My method for losing weight somehow denigrates their 50 years of food choices. I’m attacking their parenting decisions for raising children on meats. I’m planting a garden over their Norman Rockwell memories of dinner.
These conversations can be tricky to navigate, but I’ve found three talking points for diffusing their concerns.
I always preface my points with a disclaimer. Every person is different. We all have different tastes, cultures, schedules and budgets. After extensive research, study and experimentation, I created the Plant First Diet® because it works best for me. But what worked for me, may not be a fit for you. If you feel your healthiest chowing down on hot dogs, I won’t try to convert you.
I’ll simply share the three reasons I made my choice.
1. The correlation here is dope.
The distinction between correlation and causation creates a lot of confusion. They are different concepts, but they are often incorrectly used when applying research results to real life.
When two things occur at the same time, this is a correlation. When one thing determines the outcome of a situation, this is a causation.
For instance, a research survey found people whom wear sunscreen happen to have higher rates of skin cancer. This study unleashed a social media fear of sunscreen. However, all this research shows is an observational correlation between sunscreen and skin cancer. This study does not prove that sunscreen causes skin cancer. People who often wear sunscreen tend to live closer to the equator and have more exposure to UV rays. Those variables could play just as much causation in skin cancer as wearing sunscreen. This is correlation being confused with causation.
The science of nutrition is tricky to research. There are so many dimensions to food and our health that it’s very hard to isolate what aspects of our diet shape our health. Nutritionists struggle to conclusively prove that one diet causes one set of outcomes. For every study that says meat is dangerous, you can find another study concluding meat is a healthy part of a balanced diet. In other words, causation is hard to prove with diets.
Correlation is not as hard to prove. When you look at studies of the longest living and healthiest people – like the China Study, BlueZones, Adventist Studies – the research shows that they all eat a lot of plants. A plant-based diet is one of the most common correlations. It doesn’t matter where in the world they live, how much money they have or what decade they lived in, they all eat lots of plants.
The strong correlation gives me enough confidence to believe in the potential of plants.
2. If you eat like a pig, don’t eat pigs.
Meat lovers – especially the dudes – love to jump straight to the nutritional value of meat. They nearly beat their chest as they proclaim meat is a dense source of protein and iron. I agree with that fact, but it’s not the exclusive source of any macro or micro nutrients. I can find plenty of protein and exceptional quality vitamins and minerals in plants and fungi.
Plants offer an important advantage over animal products: fiber. Fiber helps us feel full. This plant roughage is a critical part of our diets. Fiber supports a healthy digestive tract – where 80 percent of our immune system occurs – balances our sugar levels and regulates our cholesterol to support heart health.
Fiber helps you feel full, but as a big dude, fiber is rarely enough to slow me down. I tend to overeat. My biggest challenge is eating presently and slowly and recognizing satiation. My nature is to eat until the food is gone – which is often past when I’m no longer hungry. Vegetables, herbs and fungi are more calorically sparse and nutrient dense than animal products, so I’d rather overeat plants.
Bottom line, I do a better job controlling my caloric intake by making plants a priority.
3. Everyone agrees on one thing: processed foods are horrible.
Twitter is a battle ground for food nerds debating diets. Doctors and nutritionist weaponize research to support or contradict an infinite list of diets and food. They can disagree on almost everything, but they all seem to agree on one thing: whole foods are better than processed foods.
The foods developed in labs and manufactured on assembly lines attack our health. They share practically no resemblance to the whole foods produced by nature. Everyone agrees that the food coming out of packages is not going to support a healthy diet.
So the question is this: Is the meat and dairy available in our grocery stores a whole food? Or a processed food?
Animal nutrients are created through bioaccumulation of nutrients they consume in their diets and environments. This can be good in the form of some micronutrients like B12, but it can also create problems if these animals are fed unnatural diets or supplemented with hormones and antibiotics. Those toxins are bioaccumulating along with the nutrients, and when these toxins arrive in our bodies, they can disrupt our health.
A lot of industrial meat comes from animals confined to cages and raised in factories under ultraviolet lights. They are stuffed to produce more meat per animal. Their health is constantly challenged by these diets and lack of movement, so they are fed antibiotics and hormones. By the time this meat arrives in stores, is it really a whole food? Because to me, these conditions and inputs seem more like a processed version of what nature intended.
Now, you can’t hate me.
I conclude by showing them the stretch marks on my stomach from when I weighed 260 pounds. Then I tell them, “you’re welcome.”
“Welcome for what?”