You may find yourself in beautiful house, with a beautiful Wife,
You may ask yourself “Well, how did I get here?”
These are the classic lyrics from the titled song by Talking Heads and have been recurring in my thoughts over the past few weeks.
So I wanted to put done how did I get here!
The story all began about 3 years ago around the time I married my wife Ana.
She had been watching the now classic vegan documentaries Cowspiracy, Forks over Knives and Earthlings which she urged me to watch. I have to confess I wasn’t keen and will also confess that I found earthlings too distressing to view the whole movie.
These documentaries are famed for turning omnivores in to vegans in less than 5 hours, well this didn’t quite happen for me, Ana jumped in but I had an addiction to dairy which was quite pronounced. Sitting watching television and carving my way thru a block of cheese was not an uncommon sight. I did however start to avoid meat so the documentaries had some affect on me.
Ana then became pregnant with our first daughter and with concerns over nutrition Ana reverted to eating meat and out of convenience I followed.
After the birth Ana eventually reverted back to a vegan diet, which I followed and I guess we managed about another year not eating meat but I was still on the cheese. At this time we started doing our research in vegan diets for pregnant women as well as post natal and found some very reassuring information, so Ana took the plunge again and has not looked back!
Also at this time we decided to bring our babies up as vegans, curiously a friend of mine challenged me on this as indeed did my parents, this is dangerous you should not put your food politics on your children. Well this allows me to state we are now not Vegans at least I am not, my wife still aligns herself. I am a whole food plant base consumer. Eating processed food and especially meat and dairy for me is akin to poisoning – so I tell my peers ‘why would I poison my children!’ I will not stop my daughters from making their own choices and indeed with a. 2.5 year old at play dates and parties the odd ice cream, sweet or pastry will break thru despite our avoidance – some battles are not worth the fight. When they are so young it is difficult for them to understand and this will take time especially with my eldest who had already tasted the flesh!! She will however grow up understanding nutrition and the choices we can make for our health. Of course from a ethical stand point we also help the suffering of animals which is a wonderful thing as well, of which I know when my daughters are old enough will be fully on board regardless of the tofu in the fridge!
As a result of these dietary choices and in particular for my deepest need to understand nutrition to ensure I fed my children a strong balanced diet. I therefore started studying nutrition, I enrolled in an excellent 101 course on nutrition via a MOOC with EdX , I never knew how interesting nutrition was! Learning all about micro and macro nutrients , the duodenum, the ileum and how we break down proteins into amino acids had me enthralled! Had I missed my vocation in life ?? (Let’s see what the future holds) but I am passionate about nutrition now – we are simply on the frontiers of understanding nutrition which makes it so much more fascinating!
Prior to this time I had foolishly managed to take a fall and break my foot, this coupled with eating a unhealthy vegan diet with large amounts of seitan (gluten) I managed to pile on the weight, I was also a pretty prolific drinker so the consumption of calories from alcohol was huge and I was huge as a result. At this time I was 177cm and around 95-100 kgs!!
I then started experiencing some aches in my body which prompted a hospital visit for some tests where I was diagnosed with fatty liver, very high cholesterol and acid reflux with some non malignant dysplasia in my esophagus. My medical advise was curb drinking, take statins and acid reducing pills – strangely enough no mention of diet or lifestyle was discussed! Of course I stopped drinking which was liberating but I will share about that in a later blog, statins I read up on and refused to take them and the acid reducing pills I also didn’t like the list of side effects. These pharmaceutical treatments just seemed wrong and looked to do more damage than good. In fact the more I look into modern medicine the more I realise how little we understand the human body and how to heal it. We seem to hit the mole on the head as its popping its head up to only have it reappear somewhere else down the garden.
During this time I was reading the The China Study which further opened my eyes to the world of nutrition epidemiology and science facts about the foods we are eating that are simply killing us, I was not only astonished by what I was reading I started to become angry and incredulous on how can this information be available in the mainstream for over 10 years and we simply not know about it! I also picked up the book by Dr Gregor How not to die – this guy might be described as eccentric but certainly his pragmatic approach to nutrition and dissecting the facts from epidemiological studies are genius. If your not familiar with these books I’d recommend a thorough reading. How when we have this huge burden of health care and chronic diseases becoming more and more prolific in the population to the extent children are developing type II diabetes! Where the cures to these diseases is quite simply in what we eat!
The long and short of these books for me is we evolved as homo sapien sapien wandering the savanna’s, the plains, the jungles and the forests of this world not cultivating grain and grinding into flour but gathering as we went foods on trees, bushes, roots, fungi, berries nuts – the energy cost of hunting would have been large and was possibly a weekly treat if not monthly. We were also of course very active – If we compare to native wandering human tribes now, they walk roughly 10 miles a day! Therefore physical fitness was a given.
So this was the mainstream of our evolutionary diet, we eat plants – LOTS of plants! A recent archeological dig in Israel due to a unique layer of silt from a nearby river covering it has helped to preserve the pantry of a paleo village. Paleo diet in the news This has shown a vast range of plants and seeds indicating such a rich and diverse plant diet as to put any vegan or vegetarian to shame. Clearly the bio diversity back them would have been far richer than today.
But today all these foods we like to gorge ourselves on, doughnuts, cakes, biscuits, sweets, bread are simply not natural for our bodies to consume , meat has been shown to instantly cause inflammation in the body, it is this inflammation that some Doctors are now blaming chronic heart disease on and you will see books around the myth of cholesterol being in the press now. Inflammation essentially the mother of most diseases to boot!
Anyway to my Doctors diagnosis, so after giving up alcohol I started on my whole food plant based diet, consuming lots of berries, nuts and copious amounts of vegetables. My next examination showed no sign of the dysplasia tho I still have reflux which still remains to be healed entirely but my cholesterol had dropped and my third visit saw it greatly reduced. I can tell you my doctor was amazed – most medical professional will tell you that diet cannot reduce high cholesterol- in terms of your diet cholesterol consumption only comes from meat but only accounts for 30% of our total – our bodies naturally produce cholesterol and so high cholesterol maybe in response to inflammation or can be due to other things wrong in your body. Seems like the mantra of where do you get your protein from? to where do you get your fibre from?! appears to have provided me a no drug cure for high cholesterol! I also lost a tonne of weight – now down to around 80 kgs and still expect to lose some more. Yes of course I have some weak moments and may stuff something unhealthy down my throat – but 99% of my food consumption is whole food plants! I’d strongly recommend it as a life changer, this coupled with the probiotics that I now take I can say I am on the road to being healthier than I was and hopefully regaining some of my youthfulness – sadly it will not turn back time but it can make the remaining time allot more pleasanter.
I am now studying to be a health coach with IIN which again is a fabulous institution, they are not peddling diets, neither are they saying go Vegan. They are talking about lifestyle and its content as well as nutrition. This blog entry has been long enough so I will expand on their practices and teaching in a later blog.