Monday, May 7, 2012

#121 - Adventures in Eating

Let me just start by saying I like food. For years I've had almost a love affair with beef, pork, chicken, potatoes, pasta, just about any dessert you can name. And food loved me back, to the point where I was many pounds overweight with a cholesterol level well over 200.

That all started to change four weeks ago. That was when a couple of things converged to bring out a change.

I learned about a study of eating habits and diet in China and the apparent connections between levels of animal protein intake (meat and dairy) and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, even cancer.

While I was reading The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Teresa and I happened upon a documentary on Hulu dealing with the same subject. The film Forks Over Knives presented many of the same arguments of Campbell's book but in a slightly more accessible format.

After seeing that film and another called Chow Down, we decided it was time to make a change in the way we eat. We began to drastically cut the amount of meat and dairy in our diets as well as the amount of oils we use. (We have not yet completely eliminated meat and dairy because of food we had purchased prior to seeing these films.) At the same time, we began to eat more fruits and vegetables.

About ten days into this dietary change we also bought a Wii Fit and began to incorporate exercise into our daily routine. Now, let me say I hated exercise with a passion before the Wii Fit. Exercise was boring, and I seldom saw any meaningful results, even after months of effort. Then, I would give up.

Since getting the Wii Fit, exercise has actually become, dare I say it, fun. The Wii Fit provides numerous activities, from yoga stretches and balance activities to aerobic exercises and strength training.

Between the dietary changes and the exercise, I have so far lost nine pounds in four weeks, and I have done it without pills and without starving myself. I still have a long way to go, but I can honestly say I feel better, and I am beginning to see the change physically.

In the interest of fairness, there are those who question the link between intake of animal protein and disease. Those same people say the evidence that a diet eliminating animal protein can help prevent or even reverse those diseases is suspect. I don't know who is right, but it doesn't really matter to me.

Even if the skeptics are right, there is still much to be said in favor of the dietary changes we have made. Seeing those films and reading The China Study made up think, perhaps for the first time, about what we were eating. Even if we need not have given up meat and dairy, the change to eating mostly fruits and vegetable and grains also resulted in a move away from highly processed foods. We now eat almost nothing that comes out of a box except for hot cereal.

Science was never my strong suit, so I don't know which side of the argument carries the most scientific weight. What I do know is that I feel better, and I am losing weight without skipping meals, without taking diet pills, and without counting calories or feeling deprived.

Between the changes in the way I feel and my weight and the compelling argument made by some that the amount of grain used to feed livestock each year is more than enough to feed the world's population, I feel I've made the right choice and opened the door to a whole new love affair with food.

Additional resources:

Chow Down (the actual film on
Dr. McDougall's Health and Medical Center
The Engine 2 Diet
T. Colin Campbell Foundation