Breathe Summer, breathe…..OK, I had to cool off a bit before I wrote this post on Oprah’s latest craze of encouraging people to go Vegan or Vegan-ish (that word is going to be so trendy now!!). First, I have NOTHING against vegetarians or vegans. In fact, a couple of my best friends are pro-veg and I can totally respect that. Second, I don’t think it is a productive use of my time to rip apart other diet philosophies – quite frankly I could spend my entire life doing that with all the garbage that gets promoted and printed these days. And I have to admit my initial thoughts after watching the episode were, “that vegan chick’s hair looked so dry and damaged….and she looked so frail she probably couldn’t lift 30 pounds over her head let alone use a shake weight for 30 seconds” and “i would like to slap her with my copy of the Vegetarian Myth wrapped in 2 pieces of naturally raised pork bacon from my farmer’s market.” Alas, I need to take a more mature approach to this and share my thoughts in a way that will hopefully be enlightening to my readers. I think it’s important to write about this because Oprah is God is many people’s worlds and I know all of her metabolically deranged servants are going to obey whatever she says….especially when it comes to nutrition…this is very scary.
If you didn’t watch the episode, here is a run-down. I was actually quite impressed with the first part of the episode and thought it was FANTASTIC that they showed the inside of a conventional slaughterhouse. I truly believe that if you eat food, you better be able to stomach where it comes from. The “know where your food comes from” message was loud and clear in the first part of the episode and I applaud that. I was also happy to see Michael Pollan on the panel talking about traditional farms that promote more humane animal conditions, feeding animals what they are supposed to eat (grass-fed beef!) and buying locally. If they had only spent more time on this critical aspect (and maybe shown Polyface farms), I think it could’ve been a decent episode. Unfortunately things went pear-shaped (just like Oprah…booyah!!) when they brought in Kathy Freston (Veganist chick):
1. Saturate fats are what make us sick – People continue to spew this statement as if it is the gospel saying, “studies continue to show….” REALLY? First off, every study I have seen on this lately is an epidemological study (thank you Matt Lalonde for teaching me the difference). Epidemological means there was NO cause and effect shown, rather a simple correlation…..similar to saying, incidences of ice cream consumption go up in the summertime and people who eat ice cream are obese…. therefore the summer season is linked to obesity. It’s very narrowly focused and does not prove any cause and effect. Saturated fat is a much more complicated matter and is not the demon that people make it out to be. We need saturated fats to thrive and this has been proven TIME and TIME and TIME (for visual people) again. And one more TIME (in case you want data!). Again, they missed the boat on talking about the fat profiles in naturally raised meats vs conventional.
2. Where is the REAL food?? In the words of my friend Amanda who also saw the episode, “Tofurkey, faux chik’n cutlets sauteed in some margarine with a side of tater tots, maybe dipped in vegenaise.” Yup, that’s what Kathy put into a woman’s cart to show her that you could still eat meat-ish foods that are made from faux ingredients. IF YOU THINK THAT FOOD WHICH COMES IN A PACKAGE IS BETTER THAN A WHOLE NATURAL FOOD, you are smoking something funny….or you’ve had too much Tofurkey and that Soy has seriously messed up your brain or you are too distracted by your man boobs (I realize this is not a proven fact, but funny none the less) from that Soy milk to even notice. I have no idea why Michael Pollan did not go mental on her when he saw this. Just for fun, let’s look at the ingredients in Tofurkey: Water, vital wheat gluten (????), organic tofu (water, organic soybeans, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride), expeller pressed non-hexane extracted isolated soy protein, expeller pressed canola oil, spices, sea salt, ontion powder, evaporated cane juice, pepper, natural vegetarian flavours, natural smoke flavour, granulated garlic, xanthum gum, konjac flour, carrageenan. Tell me how an egg from a happy chicken is not a better choice?
3. Simple economics: supply and demand – Rather than completely boycott the meat industry, why don’t we start demanding traditionally raised meats and boycott the conventional stuff?? During the show Kathy said that not everyone has access to these kinds of meat, hence it is best to blacklist them. While I agree that people who are just scraping by on minimum wage will likely have trouble affording quality meats (they will also likely have trouble affording TOFURKEY!), I think there are a vast majority of people who can afford it and can gain access to it. With resources like eatwild.com and farmer’s markets popping up everywhere, there is no reason why people cannot seek out grass-fed beef and naturally raised animal products. If we demand it, more farms will start producing it. This would have been a great opportunity to promote and educate people on this stuff and encourage them to ban factory farmed meat….but instead we just made the masses afraid of meat.
4. Let’s all hold hands and cheer, “Everyone can do this!!!” NOT TRUE! I have read countless stories about very sick vegans and vegetarians who are forced to re-evaluate their choices and go back to omnivorism (where they end up thriving). Sure people might feel better and lose weight in the initial stage because they are likely cutting out McDonalds and other processed crap. But over time, I have seen people come to the realization that they feel sick. I imagine it would be a difficult thing to grasp that your ethical choices might be making you sick. Sure, MANY people DO thrive on Vegan and Vegetarian diets and I think that’s good for them. But to say that it is for everyone is a blatant lie. Read some of these stories here and here and of course Robb Wolf’s story in his book.
There are 2 sides to every story and the point here is that YOU need to think for yourself and do your own research. Just because Oprah said it, does not make it a good idea. Remember Oprah’s book club fiasco when that dude who wrote the book about his meth addiction turned out to be a fake?!?! Maybe in a few months we’ll see Kathy taking the brunt of Oprah’s rage when she starts to actually check her facts.