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When did food and eating become a religion? A religion full of fanatics at that! Everybody has a theory about proper diet and what works. There are a million and one books on the subject and more coming out every day. It’s confusing enough to understand why my clients resist me in my quest to help them find their path to balanced health. It’s no wonder millions of people choose to eat garbage day in and day out because eating healthy doesn’t seem to be as simple as the McDonald’s drive-thru window.
I won’t name names and, frankly speaking, it isn’t the first time this debate has gotten my attention, but I was reading an article about a woman who struggled with cancerous tumors and went predominantly raw and vegan at the prompting of a friend’s advice. She tried it for 8 months, actually gained weight, and was so bloated and uncomfortable that she started introducing lean sustainably sourced grass-fed and free range meat and poultry back into her diet. Almost immediately her body normalized, she lost some of the weight quickly, and the bloating subsided. It was a brilliantly written very insightful article about HER experience with her own body. She used her intuition on how to nourish HER body. I couldn’t find fault with the article.
What was surprising-well, maybe not so much surprising as disheartening- were the comments that followed. Vegans came out of the woodwork to tell her everything from she didn’t wait long enough for the detox symptoms to go away because she struggled with tumors so she obviously dangerously acidic. (The acid is the point with which I agreed, the year long detox not so much) That same person told her she should have done more research on how to be a vegan the correct way. He all but called the author an idiot. Another one told her she obviously ate avocados and did too many simple carbohydrates and that’s why she gained weight and was bloated.. (She did admit to eating avocados but she emphatically stated in the article that she didn’t fall into the typical vegan traps.) There was one woman that responded I actually liked because she talked about Ayurveda and the fact that many people struggle in the winter with raw foods because of the body’s natural desire for grounding warming foods.(She still went on to imply that raw veganism was for everyone and that she should go back on the path.) It was shocking that this obviously brave lady who simply wanted to share her own voyage of discovery was vilified by what seemed to be the entire vegan community. Oh there were a few that acknowledged that it wasn’t the path for everyone. There were far more “haters” than supporters in those comments.
It got me to thinking.
When did eating become such an “ism”? I remember about six months ago getting into a heated discussion on LinkedIn with a woman who did not like the fact that I had the opinion that different types of people needed different diets. (We will be discussing metabolic typing over the next few weeks.) If she could have leapt through the computer,choked me to death and snacked on my bones (oh wait, she was a die hard vegan, she might have fed them to her dog) she probably would have done just that. She maintained that we all had the same intestinal tract, the same organs, the same blood cells, etc. etc.. I fired back with the fact that different people have different sensitivities to certain foods, different groups of people have more defined canine teeth (commonly used for tearing meat) in comparison to others with flat canines (used for grinding vegetables, soft foods including fish, and perhaps even wild grasses), and, in fact, different blood profiles and types. She brought up flaws in China Study research. I also hit back with how different cultures have flourished eating animal proteins and precious little else, including sub Saharan tribes like the Masai whose traditional diet is meat, milk, and blood. Eskimos existing eating primarily fish and whales and the Japanese who eat a tremendous amount of fish and have some of the lowest incidences of breast cancer in the world. And still, even gave her a few examples of some subcultures that thrive on a vegetarian diet., the “doctrine” by which vegans prove many of their theories. I cited countless
The argument went back and forth. I cited the differences in the way my husband eats in comparison to the way I eat. If he eats raw vegan every day he gets fatigued. His eyes get very dark and he gets anemic very quickly. (And I dare you to use the “detox”argument on me. I double dog dare you.) Give him a little meat and he perks right back up. He eats a lot of dairy. He doesn’t love a lot of vegetables and, aside from tomatoes and cucumber with everything, never craves them. Yes, I know, married to a holistic nutritionist, how does that work?
I, on the other hand, can go weeks without meat. I crave vegetables. I can eat a platter full of roasted cauliflower (and probably a whole head raw too!), pasta with roasted veggies, salads, you name it. My husband would prefer something much more substantial. We do both love our veggie juices. Neither of us do well with fruit juices. My husband will eat vegetarian with me but, every once in awhile, I recognize when he’s veggie weary and needs some animal protein. I have the most amazing husband. He hides it well for long periods of time because he loves me but I know it gets too much for him sometimes and when to toss him a steak.
Before all of you carnivores go all sanctimonious thinking I am singling out the vegans, you can be just as negative and fanatical. “I could never give up meat!” “Those tree huggers can’t be healthy!” “What’s left for them to eat if they give up meat?” Carnivores can be just as judgemental as vegans.
Vegans use the “meat is murder” argument along with citing the environmental issues as a reason everyone should be giving up meat. The environmental issue is a great argument considering the majority of our meat is produced by grain feeding (Over 80% of the grain grown in the US is fed to conventionally raised livestock) and takes a tremendous amount of energy to raise it and get it ready to end up on your supermarket shelves. It’s also full of antibiotics and hormones and raised in really inhumane conditions. You might not want to acknowledge it but conventionally raised livestock is a problem for the environment and the body.
Carnivores use the argument that animals were put on this earth to be eaten. Many even go so far as to cite the Bible in their logic and can recite verse after verse where God told them to eat the animals on the earth. Of course in biblical times animals were raised in the open, foraging on grass, living, for the most part, the way God intended them to live and therefore lived happy animal existences, or at least as happy as the animals not at the top of the food chain could live. They weren’t put in pens with little sunshine, no grass, where they could not even turn around, knee deep in their own excrement, impregnated time and time again to keep their milk flowing, or given food that their bodies could not digest just to “fatten” them up to slaughter.
Meat eaters think vegans are fanatic hippies and vegans think meat eaters are murderers. Vegans think meat eaters are earth destroying, blood thirsty idiots who can’t possibly be truly healthy and meat eaters think vegans are protein starved loonies that all belong to the same cult. While I have seen a few couples that coexist beautifully, one as a meat eater and one as a vegan, I have seen far more polarized arguments (and been involved in a few myself) where names are called, feelings are hurt, people are yelling and screaming, and there are crazy looks in everyone’s eyes.
Vegans and vegetarians will go to their often B-12 deficient graves citing health/ethical/environmental reasons their “religion” is the only way to go.
Meat eaters will go their Vitamin A deficient graves citing that they are superior because protein from animal sources is better absorbed by the body and is God’s plan.
Which side of the fence am I? Precisely in the middle. I am a careful omnivore. I don’t eat meat in the spring or summer, for the most part. I add a little meat and poultry into my diet every once in awhile if my body asks for it in the late fall and winter. I eat a lot of vegetable sources of protein and am a huge quinoa fan which is a better quality protein than most conventionally raised meat. I make sure my beef is grass-fed, my chicken is free-range and hopefully foraging, and my fish is wild. When I eat it, I enjoy it. Immensely in fact. Much of the time, I can take it or leave it. Some of the time it’s all I can think about. I have friends I adore that are die hard vegans and family I love deeply that are consumate meat eaters. I am a flexivore. I am not a flexitarian.
What’s the difference? I have come to the conclusion that if you can attach an “ism” or an”ian” onto anything that has to do with food, it becomes dogmatic, fanatical, and frankly, no fun.
Different people react to different types of eating paths. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
Wishing you peace and balance,