Every once in awhile, something catches my attention and I get sucked down a crazy rabbit hole, obsessing over it. My post on natural living was the last time this happened, and I’m honestly really impressed with how well we’ve stuck to those changes we made in our lives. I’ve always known the next step in natural living is food-based, but it seems like such a massively overwhelming life shift, so I keep putting it off.
This past weekend, we were flipping through Netflix looking for something to watch, and we landed on What The Health, a documentary on the health benefits of eliminating animal products from your diet. Cue the rabbit hole. We were equally interested in the science behind a plant based diet and disappointed in society for trivializing and hiding the effects that meat and dairy have on our bodies. Like most health documentaries, What The Health takes some liberties with the emotional and social reasoning, and there are always some claims that deserve a second look or deeper investigation. So there went our entire weekend.
What The Health was a great simple starting point for us to jump into this topic, since it touched on the health benefits related to diet and disease, the economic and political factor, and the animal activist side. For both of us, the political aspect was horrifying, but the health side is what made it impossible for us to ignore. An hour of basic research showed me the incredible connection between autoimmune diseases and an animal-based diet, and another hour looped in the importance of treating your gut first and foremost. Every time I made a new connection, my mind was running a million miles an hour, trying to think 5 steps ahead. If I cut this out, what are the pros and cons and how will it affect everything else? I know now that meat and dairy are bad, but what about gluten? What about sugar?! We can’t cut EVERYTHING out…
Thankfully, Brian is incredibly even-minded and I stopped to ask him if I was getting too carried away. Both of us definitely want to be more conscious of our food choices, but he agreed that maybe we don’t need to jump to the extremes right away. I’m ready to give up meat and dairy entirely, but we agreed to continue eating our normal diet while we finish up what’s already in the fridge and keep researching plant-based diets. (We did decide to change up our meal plan for this week though, and have veggie tacos instead of beef.)
The more I read, the more clear it becomes that cutting meat and dairy out of your diet isn’t just a black and white standalone decision. Our bodies aren’t designed for such blunt changes, and it’s important to keep in mind that everything we eat has a domino effect on the way our bodies react. Nutrients need other nutrients and the right environments to be properly utilized by our bodies, and the most important part of a diet is for it to be balanced. The ultimate goal is to provide our bodies with the best suited foods so they can run as efficiently as possible. A lot of nutritionists and doctors have published what they consider to be the best diet, but as long as there are discrepancies, I’m going to continue to do my own research.
Researching diets is terrifying. Every article declares that this diet is the best, but there’s no way of knowing if the author has provided the full spectrum of information including the pros and cons. I spent a good amount of time this weekend, walking up and down aisles of books about “diets.” Every time I picked up a book and read a few pages, I was cautious and skeptical that I was getting the full story. I tended to select books written by doctors and scientists, since I trust numbers and studies. We’re at an advantage in this research stage since we both feel very comfortable in the kitchen, and I was able to avoid the cookbooks and focus on research, knowing that our hurdle won’t be the actual cooking. I picked up a book about our gut, a book about eating vegan, a book about reducing meat and dairy intake, and a book on wheat to round out the spectrum. This week is going to be enlightening for me, and I hope it’s the start of a better way of eating for us.
My quick takeaway that has had the most impact for me so far is this:
Our bodies are not equipped to efficiently handle meat and dairy products. In response, our bodies produce antibodies which are most commonly known for fighting infections and viruses. In the case of animal products, our body produces a specific antibody to fight the harmful dairy and beef proteins that get into our blood stream. While the antibodies are looking, they find a similar amino acid on other tissues within our bodies, and begin to fight them, thinking they are the harmful proteins they were looking for. This is the basis of autoimmune diseases. Also, obviously, I am not a nutritionist, nor a doctor or a scientist, and I probably explained the details poorly, so do your own research.
Some of the questions I want to answer this week are:
Eggs? At all?
John McDougall MD on Autoimmune Disease and the Impact of Diet
Dr. Terry Wahls
What the Health
Eat Dirt by Dr. Josh Axe
The Cheese Trap by Dr. Neal D. Barnard
Oh She Glows – also ohsheglows.com (this has been one of my favorites for a long time!)
ps… you know what’s a scary word? VEGAN. I’m not a fan of the stigma or pressure that goes along with it, so I’m holding off for now. Plus, we’re going to continue eating fish so I guess technically we aren’t reallllllllllyyyyy vegan. Just vegan-ish.