The wellness world has been abuzz with talk about What the Health, a documentary from the team behind Cowspiracy that has sparked extensive debate and discussion. If you haven’t seen it, What the Health delves into the adverse impact of highly processed industrial animal foods on health and communities, and shines a light on the participation of leading health organizations and pharmaceutical companies.
As a dietitian with experience and education in food politics and agriculture, I certainly had my thoughts. To be clear, I started out with two rough drafts of the article–one finally became what you are reading here, and another was basically a collection of the various ways you can say “Are you f***ing kidding me?!”
Many of my colleagues in the wellness world have spoken passionately and articulately about the documentary and the validity of its claims, but I really want to talk about what’s NOT in the movie. I was rooting for it to discuss a new perspective–or at least provide some new, approachable ways to help people feel empowered rather than fearful about their food options. But I realized by the end that they stuck with the same old fearmongering tactics, completely missing the opportunity to share accessible solutions for those who are attempting to eat in the vast grey area between the stereotypical American diet and strict veganism.
By perpetuating the misconception that meaningful changes have to be drastic and hard, What the Health missed an opportunity to effectively engage their audience and help them create sustainable lifestyle changes. Instead, the filmmakers freaked the hell out of them, dropped a lofty ideal in their lap, and wrapped the credits|rolled the credits, dropped a lofty ideal and freaked the hell out of them|dropped a lofty ideal in their lap, freaked the hell out of them, and rolled the credits|dropped a lofty ideal in their lap freaked the hell out of them, and rolled the credits. (Trust me, I know what it’s like to radically alter your diet for the wrong reasons, and it does not end well. Proof: Becoming a Vegetarian for My Boyfriend Was the Worst Decision Ever.)
My nutrition counseling experience has shown me that many people will tune out when presented with a recommendation that calls for them to overhaul their whole way of life and give up the foods they love and rely on. As opposed to start on a gradual|a path toward better health, they never begin. (And there are A LOT of foods vegans can’t eat.)
All that said, there’s plenty of research to support the noted benefits of a plant-based diet (which may or may not include tiny quantities of animal products). But, I worry about people who may adopt a vegan diet at a moment of panic without giving consideration to the balance of nutrients they need. This can set up themselves for deficiencies which could cause other difficulties. (Read about 4 four ways vegan diets are missing out on nutrition.) Protein gets the most airtime, but in addition, you need to pay attention to vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Instead of yet another army of vegan athletes showing off their muscles and intense stories of individuals who allegedly cured their serious illnesses by changing their diet for two weeks, I’d have loved to see some actionable tips for making slow, effective, and healthy changes that people can maintain.
Regardless of whether you watched the film or not, if you want to make changes to your own (*******************************************), here is one example of how you can make it happen without turning your eating habits entirely upside down:-LRB-****************)
Step 1: Describe what you want to change.
Perhaps you decide that you want to cut back on beef to help reduce the global impact of methane emissions or lower your cholesterol and lower your risk of colorectal cancer while you are at it. Wonderful! But, wait, what if hamburgers and steaks|steaks and hamburgers are your dinner mainstays? See step two.
Step 2: Create a realistic plan.
Start by letting yourself enjoy your favorite burger or a serving of grass-fed beef once a week and try some new recipes using organic poultry, wild fish, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, or other foods that you maybe have not tried all that frequently. By purchasing a high quality and smaller amount|amount|quantity of beef, you will still|you feel satisfied and might even|may|might save a few dollars as you work toward your objective|By purchasing a higher quality and smaller quantity|amount|quantity of beef, while you work toward your objective, you’ll still|you feel satisfied and may even|may|might save a few dollars|By buying a high quality and smaller amount|amount|quantity of beef, you may even|may|might save a few dollars as you work toward your objective and feel satisfied|By purchasing smaller quantity|amount|quantity of beef and a high quality, you’ll still|you feel fulfilled and might even|may|might save a few dollars while you work toward your objective. (If you’re embarking on a enormous dietary shift, it’s prudent to touch base with a doctor or registered dietitian to make sure you’re meeting all your nutrition needs.)
Step 3: Evaluate and adjust.
Check in with yourself after a few weeks to determine if you feel ready to measure your red meat intake down to once or twice a month. Perhaps you decide the experiment and diet changes aren’t for you. But perhaps|But you feel and finally,|and a pricey grass-fed|pricey|costly steak from a farm could become an indulgence a few times annually rather than something you crave each week|crave|each week you crave|each week, you crave. Or maybe you decide you need to cut beef out completely–do you.
Step 4: Decide what’s next.
Are there any more changes you want to make? Go for it! You’ve shown yourself that it is possible to make meaningful eating changes|eating changes that were meaningful in a manner that suits your lifestyle and can help you feel great|can help you feel great and fits your lifestyle.
There is no rule saying you have to go vegan or that you consume to eat meat or that you should tag yourself in any way when it comes to your own (*******************************************).
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