I've been meaning to watch Forks Over Knives for a while now, but finally sat down yesterday to watch (free on Netflix!). The tagline reads: The feature film Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.
A still from the movie. Milk was once thought to be nature's perfect food
This is a profound claim indeed, and one I had not considered at all prior to my journey into healthy eating. Frankly I didn't even know to consider it, as my understanding of health was intimately wrapped up with conventional medicine. What do you mean traditional doctors don't always have the answers? What if I never had to take antibiotics again? I can feel my body healing - who am I to stop this healing process and once again increase my risk factors?
These questions have spiraled me further down this path towards plant-based eating, though my brain (deeply connected still to family / friend eating traditions which span my entire life) has thrown up road block after road block. Changing your traditions is hard and it's scary: avoiding birthday cake is one thing, but it's quite another to never have another BBQ as I've known it or to partake in lasagna and chicken parmesean. Avoiding processed foods and animal products means no hoagies, increased difficulty going out to dinner, and no more bacon / eggs. It also means huge lifestyle changes, learning to cook using different methods, and riding out wave after wave of (dwindling) food cravings. So, why am I here?
This documentary speaks to me as the findings just make so much sense. Following the stories of two pioneer researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic, the documentary outlines how the doctors are following similar paths in their research before they meet, leading them to a similar conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented – and in many cases reversed – by adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet. And what did their research show to consistently worsen these conditions? Processed foods and animal products.
These findings were put to the test by following a set of 'reality' patients as they embarked on nutrition treatment programs, hoping to stop taking multiple medications and lower risk factors for a variety of conditions. Did the nutrition treatment work? Of course - all patients not only lost tons of weight, but their numbers dramatically improved in a period of mere weeks. While I haven't tested my own numbers in the past few months to see what juicing veggies and eating better has done for my own risk factors, I can attest to how I feel and look: I've lost 20 lbs, my skin is improving, my circulation is better, I sleep better, and my energy has never been better. Plus, I've experienced minimal allergy symptoms this spring, I feel more clear headed, and I'm actually enjoying the taste of my food in a different way. While I state above that avoiding long-loved foods is scary, I should also mention that my cooking experiments have yielded some pretty delicious, healthy foods. For my birthday this year, I even want to experiment with making a raw, vegan dessert in lieu of cake.
All this is to say that you should watch Forks Over Knives and come to your own conclusion, but I can offer my own experience as another test case. I grew up loving dairy, but was lactose intolerant as a child and that was a warning that I ignored over time. I grew up loving meat, but am finding that I don't miss it as much as I thought I would when there are so many delicious vegetables and homemade sauces and grains and soups out there to discover. I also want to pull together lists of protein-rich plant foods and calcium-rich foods for all of you who hold on to the belief that meat / dairy are the answers to those needs. Believe me, that's what I thought too until I started researching and realized just how much sway the dairy / meat industries have in setting national regulations.
Watch, watch, watch! I was also excited to make the connection that Dr. Campbell, and his research "The China Study," lead the ecourse I'll be taking through Cornell later in the spring.