May 11, 2011

Forks Over Knives

Last night I attended a dinner with the other Whole Foods Challenge bloggers, as well as a screening of the film "Forks Over Knives", which focused on medical research in favor of eating a plant-based diet.

The dinner was really great. I got to talk with a couple of the other bloggers, which was neat - it seems we all have a very different niche, but we can unify with this eating challenge. I got to meet Rip Esselstyn, a former professional triathlete whose book, The Engine 2 Diet, is full of information on going veggie, as well as lots of manly recipes - these were the recipes that helped him win the stomachs of his fire company in Austin, TX. And I got to eat some super delicious vegan food:

Dinner was Black Beans and Rice Extravaganza (from Rip's book) and a kale salad tossed with avocado and lemon dressing. For dessert, a chocolate mousse made with soft Silken tofu and raspberries on a thin crust made of dates and nuts (very closely resembling a Larabar). It was really delicious and very filling - the only unsettling part was when I was getting my plate together, and Rip commented that my plate wasn't very full, I'd have to get ready to eat more than that. The comment he made was before I introduced myself and talked a little about my blog - mentioning losing over 135 pounds in 9 months stunned him a little, and I'd like to think it put my portioning into perspective.

Per the recipe, a serving of the beans and rice is 550 calories - or roughly half my daily allowance. The dessert didn't list calories, but knowing how many are in an average Larabar, I can reasonably estimate. So, needless to say, I'm feeling a little anxious about the challenge. Reintroducing rice and pasta would be a bit tough for me - so I don't plan on doing very much of it. I'm fine with my pasta substitutes, and I'm looking into different things to try like quinoa and bulgur, which are still calorie-dense but at least are packed with protein and nutrients.

Rip isn't a doctor, but his father is - he's Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the doctors whose work is featured in the documentary.

(Unrelated to the film. I just loved it.)

The film was about what I expected: lots of statistics on cancer and food/weight-related illnesses in countries where the main staple of their diet is meat vs. those with more plant-based eating habits. They discussed the noteable increase of instances of cancer and cardiovascular disease that parallel the increase in popularity of fast food diets, citing that only "1-2% of cancers are actually gene related." They interviewed doctors, patients, and even a vegan athlete, all of whom swore by the plant-based way of eating.

I have a hard time with a lot of movies classified as "documentaries," as I feel that a true documentary is factual and unbiased (things like NOVA presentations on whales or indigenous peoples); the term "propaganda" seems a bit too harsh, but films like this tend to only document one side of an argument. (My cousin Sarah, who went with me and who has also agreed to try the challenge, calls them "advocacy films.") There were a lot of claims made in the film that I agreed with, and some of which I was not entirely convinced. With films like this, it's important not to necessarily take every word as fact but to still glean (!!!) information and help define your own opinion on the subject. I'm not a doctor so I can't really argue with the results they presented, but I also couldn't walk away from the screening feeling completely unaffected. One quote stood out to me above all others:
"The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition."
Thomas Edison
Dr. Esselstyn, along with Dr. T. Colin Campbell, talked about doing research in this field at a time when bypass surgeries were first being completed - it was a remarkable achievement, but the studies were focusing more on treatment for symptoms than prevention of causes. Will going vegan solve every health problem? Unlikely. But thinking about how, personally, my body feels much better (and cleaner) after eating a bucket salad than it does after eating a fast-food cheeseburger, I can't help but wonder if they're on to something.

What about you? Do you think that you incorporate more whole foods into your diet now than, say, six months or a year ago? What's your favorite whole/natural/unprocessed snack?


timothy said...

macadamia nuts are a great snack, i'm one of those carnivores! lolol i actually went vegetarian for a year and my body was NOT happy it was the only time i ever got so sick i had to be carried to the emergency room. my body had stopped taking in nutrients, the dr told me to start eating meat again and nary a problem since. i have friends who have been veggies for deacdes and are perfectly healthy. i think your own body chemistry mandates what is best for you. i'm glad you're an open-minded skecptic! lol

Scrumpy said...

It was great to meet you and Sarah last night! I look forward to checking out our journey in the archives in the next few days. I think your story is very inspirational. I lost 50 pounds a few years ago and constantly struggle with the last 10 to 15 that seem to come back. It always helps me to know that others are in the same fight.

Anonymous said...

Raw almonds are my favorite snack.

I agree with you about documentaries, that they are rarely unbiased. Like Food Inc. Many people around me watched that and went crazy with changes. Well, good for them, but I think it's best to get both sides of the story. I also think that you'll automatically gravitate towards the articles and films that support what you believe. If that's the bandwagon you're leaning towards, that's the one you'll climb on and fuel.

I have to disagree with Timothy that it's a matter of body chemistry that mandates what's best for you. I think it's a matter of providing the right nutrients and I do believe you can get everything you need from a plant based diet. Not everyone is willing to make those adjustments, though. I know I'm not willing to give up dairy, but meat-- I can take it or leave it.

Good luck with this challenge! I understand your concern about the number of calories. Hopefully things like a bowl of oatmeal will stick with you longer than a cup of yogurt so you'll want to wait longer to eat, or eat less when you do eat. IT will be trial and error, I'm sure. Stay focus, you've got this!

Sarah said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing that movie.

Wow, that food looks awesome! My body definitely feels better after eating more whole foods but I don't think that always directly translates to a lack of disease or total health for my whole life. I do it for now. For my energy, my current physical and mental health and because I love eating a plant and grain based diet.

LaraG said...

I'm excited to see that movie when it comes out.

I love whole foods and have been eating them for a while. Unfortunately I still manage to fall off the wagon. My favorite whole food snack right now would have to be an apple with raw almonds or home made almond butter. So tasty!

jayme @ Losing Half My Weight said...

i absolutely eat more wholegrains and "whole" foods now than i did back when. my favorite snack are a mix of almonds, dried apricots and dates. i usually keep a little container of them with me, in case i need a snack. cumulatively, they can be calorie-rich if i'm not careful, but i'd rather snack on that than junk!

timothy said...

grrrrrrr lololol the women food god post is showing but still mia, any chance of a repost sweetie, you mentioned it in another blog and i was interested. thanks! xoxoxoxoxoxo