Forks Over Knives: A Conversation

Let's just get this out there right now.  I'm not a movie critic.  My brother's the movie critic.  No, for real, he's a movie critic.  In Los Angeles, like the one Hollywood's in. Yes, he's really a movie critic, and yes, he's really met famous people.  OK?  Great.  Moving on.

I heard about Forks Over Knives early in this food journey that we're walking.  I was not interested enough in watching it to have someone bring it to me.  Actually, the only reason I bought it was to hit the $25 needed for free shipping on Amazon.  I had purchased a vegan cookbook, and I thought that would be a good match in the cart.  (Yes, I like my cart items to coordinate.  Now that my girls refuse to wear "matches" I have to do something to fulfill the need.)  Our friends from Georgia brought the documentary in February, and I've watched it twice so far.

I think it would be wise to quickly define some terms so we're all on the same page. 

Diet- the food that you eat.  (i.e. Cosita's diet consists of dog food and hot dogs from her trainer.)
Vegan- This is an overall belief system.  It's not just about food preferences.  People who are vegan do not eat any animal products or by-products.  They do not buy/use leather goods or products tested on animals. 
100% plant-based-   a diet without animal products or by-products.  No implied ethical consideration.
*Be aware that most plant-based cookbooks and recipes are labelled as "vegan."*

OK.  Let's back up a year.

In May of last year, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I wasn't overweight, but I had weight I wanted gone.  I started by getting rid of all the processed foods in our life.  I lost 5 pounds in a week or so just from that choice.  Then, I decided I wanted us eating healthy foods, and that is where everything got interesting.

Did you know there isn't ONE answer for what constitutes healthy eating?  I had no idea how many opinions were out there.  Eat carbs.  Avoid carbs.  Lean meat.  No meat.  Yes fruit.  No fruit.  Fruit only 3 hours before a starch and 2 hours after a protein.  It's blood-type determined.  Nope, it's based on ethnic heritage.  No- we should all eat like the Italians do.  Or is the French?  Maybe it's the Chinese?  Who knows!?!

I turned to the Scriptures because at least I knew God knows what He's talking about.  We began studying the Old Testament to see what was there.  All those dietary laws- where they for a time, where they still law, are there medical reasons to follow them?  We made the decision, based on our research and comfort zones, to follow some of them.  (For NO reason other than health- it wasn't a religious decision)  We also cut all dairy out of our lives.

By now, it was late June, and I was hearing more about veganism.  I decided to start dabbling.  I did more research.  I ran across The China Study by Dr. T. Collin Campbell formerly of Cornell University.  I didn't read the book.  I read the reviews.  Interesting stuff, but I wasn't convinced.  I cut beef- in all forms- out of my diet.  More researching.  Here's the thing, when you research veganism, you can hit on some radical, nutty people. (I want to clarify that Dr. Campbell isn't nutty.  It was others I ran across who are.)  I wanted something more medical.

I finally googled "medical doctor vegan," and that's when I met Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.  He's trained in "normal" medicine, works at the Cleveland Clinic and promotes a plant-based diet.  This was my guy.  I read lots of his research, and I became convinced.  We started taking things more seriously, but still dabbling.  Series dabblers.  That's us.

(Sorry for the long backstory. It will hopefully make the rest make sense.) 

Cue February 2013.  We watched Forks Over Knives.    Then, last month, we watched it again, but this time my kids watched, too.

My thoughts:

I didn't learn "new" information.  Through my own research, I had stumbled on pretty much all of what was presented.  The documentary did a great job of concisely presenting what took me almost a year to gather on my own.  So, if you are contemplating a vegan or plant-based diet, start with the documentary and save yourself a lot of time.

As for the research presented, I find much of it very convincing.  Dr. Campbell's research concerning casein levels, rats, and cancer motivates change in me.  Dr. Esselstyn's work with patients suffering from serious heart disease makes me want to change.  (And, I know it's only 24 people.  That's a very small study from a scientific perspective.)  At one point in the documentary, they show a graphic of the stomach and feeling full.  (The point being that real food fills the stomach with fewer calories than rich, calorie-dense, nutrient-lacking food does.) Chloe continues to mention that graphic, and it has made changes in the way she eats.  I also find the research that rich, fatty foods create addicting responses in the brain very interesting.

I love animals, but I'm not ethically opposed to eating them.  I'm sorry, but I'm not.  I won't eat anything from a huge production farm, but when my friend's husband goes spear fishing, I don't have ethically issues with eating that fish.  (and, for the record, it was yummy.)  If you are looking for a documentary to convince you of the ethical side of veganism, Forks Over Knives isn't what you are looking for.

My Family's Takeaways:

-We've learned that I have a special love for distinguished-looking gentleman old enough to be my grandfather. (Dr. Esselstyn)  It all started with Jack McCoy on "Law and Order."  That tidbit was just a freebie I decided to throw in for fun.  :)

-We are convinced that a plant-based diet is the healthiest diet for our family.

-The meals *I* make are 100% plant based 100% of the time.

-100% plant-based food isn't expensive.  It truly isn't.  If you are buying nothing processed and nothing animal related, it's cheaper.  Milk, butter, chicken are very expensive in Panama.  1 bag of beans feeds my family of 6 for $2.45.  Add in $1.00 worth of rice, and I'm at less than $4 for a complete meal for the family.  If I buy the pricey container of fresh organic baby spinach, it's $9.  Half that container and a $.75 tomato, and we've got rice and beans with a side salad for 6 for under $10.

-Eating out is where we aren't at 100% plant based, and I'm not sure when or if we will be.  At this point, with the language barrier, I need to focus on no-cheese food when we eat out.  I don't ask about trace levels of dairy in bread or crust.  I'm not sure if there is egg in the falafel I love.  I let those things go.  At Subway, I get a veggie sub with honey mustard.  (Honey is a no-no for true vegans.) I will get a baked potato at Wendy's.  Or Veggie Fried Rice at Sushi Express.  Cheeseless veggie pizza has been a staple of mine for years.  We also eat fish and some chicken.  I want the chicken gone.  Now.  So, I'm making that decision for me.  No more chicken.  Keep me accountable, OK? 

I'm not looking for a debate.  I have dear friends that are farmers' wives.  I'm not looking to cause conflict, and I completely respect their families' values and hard work.  This isn't about judgement.  It's about making personal decisions.  And, as I said earlier, this is much competing thought on what is a "nutritious" diet.  This is where our family has settled.

So, how about you? Have you seen it? What did you think?


Karen said…
Awesome post! Your thoughts mirror alot of mine, though we are just barely starting to dabble. My husband decided to go vegetarian three months ago because when he's cut meat out before, he just "feels better". He was also looking for weight loss but overall "feeling" was his goal. His weight loss hasn't been what he hoped so he googled the issue and landed on info about the fats/nutritional issues in dairy...and that led him to info on being vegan and Forks Over Knives. The kids and I weren't participating much in his diet, though I am a pretty healthy mom and home cook (limited processed foods/sugar, lean meats, lots of fruits and veggies etc) but now after watching FOK, we are starting to rethink diet for our whole FAMILY. (Wasn't the China Study and the WW2 phenomenon mind blowing?!) Thank you for thinking out loud on your blog...I enjoy your writing and info!!!
panaMOM said…
Thanks for the encouraging words, Karen!!

The WW2 stat is one that I can't get my mind around because it is mind blowing! I'm looking to do a bit more research on that one.

Keep me updated on your family's path. I'd love to know where y'all end up in all of this!!
Amanda in NC said…
My dh and I just watched it last night - it's pretty convincing! I have been working towards removing processed foods from our diet, and adding LOTS more fruits, veggies, grains and legumes already, but this has influenced me to go further with that. Good stuff!

Popular Posts