Put Down the Fork


People need to put down the fork and pay attention to what is happening to their health. Many won’t, continuing to eat an industrial, Western pattern or “standard American diet,” characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains. It also typically contains high-fat dairy products, high-sugar drinks, and higher intakes of processed meat (source).

Your worst enemy, the fork. This utensil has lead to one-third (34.9% or 76.4 million) of U.S. adults being obese. “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death” (source). Yet with obesity numbers continuing to rise and the top 11 pharmaceutical companies seeing profits of $85 billion (in 2012), the message continues to be largely ignored.

Just over 3 years ago I was the poster boy for these “sad” choices in my diet. I failed to heed warning signs as my body was continually poisoned. Sickness and maladies plagued me, headaches were becoming a constant in daily life and my weight continued to increase. I was misguided to believe my pants and shirts, now ill fitting were getting smaller, as there were always bigger, comfortable, better fitting clothes to buy. That lifestyle changed overnight thanks to Forks Over Knives when I took control of my health

As we approach Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for. I have a beautiful wife, wonderful son, a great job, good friends and most importantly, my health. That’s similar to what some of my co-workers would say, with the except of controlling their health. As traditionally happens at the workplace, a potluck takes place and each employees provides a dish to share. This year, many wanted to pass on the early helping of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and opted to do breakfast/brunch.

givethanksWhile sharing ideas I was taken back by the negativity, jokes and rude comments when offering plant based suggestions to share. The responses were not surprising, the entire office knows I follow a strict plant based lifestyle, which some believe is void of flavor and no fun. Through education, experience and challenging myself with plant based recipes nothing could be further from the truth. I use my wife is the measuring stick, if she eats the plant based recipes I cook and likes it others will too!

The reality of the situation, it no longer bothers me but one would think I was offering servings of poison by the reactions I receive every time we discuss food and toss out truly healthy alternatives. Why? Can’t people accept he fact they can be healthy AND happy? As Dr. John McDougall says, “People love to hear good news about their bad habits.” That is how many individuals have chosen to eat and many willingly accept the future consequences to their health. Give plants a chance and be thankful.

Kid Approved?

One of the more difficult tasks since changing my diet from the “standard American diet” or SAD (the one that leads to the much maligned obesity we see in America) to that of a plant-based, whole foods has been bring my wife and son on board with the idea. It’s understandable, but not inexcusable. There are two lines of thought that go into feeding my 6 year old son. The first comes from my wife who still holds ties to the SAD, while I have been on a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle for 7 months. One would think there would be a common ground shared and maybe there is. Quite possibly though I am trying to push a plant-based lifestyle too hard on my family.

While I still promote the plant-based lifestyle, my wife is old enough and wise enough to make her own decisions as it relates to food. Thankfully she has had success following Dr. John McDougall’s program and is probably healthier now than she was this time last year. Still she “treats” herself to foods that are not plant-base, but I won’t fault her for that. She has been supportive of my decision to try and feed our family healthier foods.

As for my son, who is finishing kindergarten his lunches were probably better than what some of the other kids brought from home and definitely better than what was served by the school. Unfortunately there are still processed items in his lunchbox we need to find an alternative for. The biggest culprit, Smucker’s Uncrustables. These come in at 210 calories, 80 of which are fat calories (9 grams) and are made using high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Instead of fruit juice, which is usually high in sugar he will get a water, along with fruit, usually bananas and strawberries, some Pretzel Crisps and Clif Kid ZFruit Rope.

While changes still need to happen, overall he goes to school with a better than average lunch. I do believe if I put more time into find alternatives that are healthy and tasty, we can completely cut out the Uncrustables before the start of school next year. Finding alternatives is where the challenge is. I recently ran across Veggin Around, a blog by Allyson that centers around feeding her kids on the Engine 2 Diet, The Daily Beet. After reading her post, I was also turned on to Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food. Both sites should provide me ideas when it comes to my wife and I feeding our son.

Lisa’s site is nice, as she puts together a set of “rules” in order to help cut out processed foods (some of which I am not on board with). While she includes whole foods, fruits and vegetables, she does support fish and locally raised meats “in moderation” or what she calls a “flexatarian.” This is probably where my wife falls, which is her happy medium. If I could get my son to this point and off the processed foods I believe this would be a sign of great progress! It would still allow them foods that I won’t eat, but I wouldn’t feel bad feeding it either of them.

Navigating both web sites I already have a few goods ideas for meals and snacks for the family. For example having my son create his own Summer Trail Mix (thanks to Allyson). This would allow him foods he already enjoys, like nuts, dried fruit, coconut and vegan chocolate chips. Since I cook do the majority of the cooking, I am always looking out for quality recipes to make.

There was a recommendation to read Joel Fuhrman’s book, Disease-Proof Your Child, but I am not a big fan of his. I have passed on reading any of his previous books. I think it’s approach and demeanor. I have seen him debate Dr. McDougall before and while they are fairly close when it comes to their beliefs, Fuhrman just comes across a bit brash. Reading the 1-star comments on his book as convinced me, it’s not a book I would be happy with. I feel I can do better with recipes I have collected from Dr. McDougall and many other web sites I have found while looking to put together a heart healthy menu for my family.

Truth in Starch

The more I read Dr. John McDougall’s The Starch Solution, the stronger my conviction is knowing I made the best decision for my healthy last October when I changed my diet. Some of the information and numbers contained within the book are staggering at times. Unfortunately, many people won’t consider this way of eating, opting to keep their Standard American Diet. It’s amazing to read the Star McDougaller stories through out the book, as many are rather inspiring. Then again anyone who changes their way of eating in the name of health is a star in my opinion.

Yet many people just see what they cannot eat, rather than what they can eat. It’s not an easy transition for most, to give up meat, dairy and oil in your diet. For me it took 3 months to make that transition, but I was successful. Not only did I look at food differently, but every day seemed to get easier. I still had some vices during that period, but numerous lipid panels and the weight loss doesn’t lie.

Some of the information contained in the book is downright scary. It’s unfortunate that big business (dairy and meat industry) continually drive policy that is made by the USDA. “The American cow-based dairy industries…together make up $100 billion-a-year” of which “approximately $202 million they have to spend on their own scientific research and other propaganda” (source). Because of this negligence from these industries and the government, “Millions of Americans are suffering from diet-related illnesses, including 18 million people with coronary heart disease, 25.8 million with type 2 diabetes, 400,000 with multiple sclerosis and millions with inflammatory arthritis” (source). The numbers are staggering!

While my decision to change this way of eating for purely for health benefits, it’s surprising to read about the environmental issues that surround this lifestyle. I am not trying to make a statement about livestock production effects the environment; land, water and species but at this rate world population won’t be able to survive on planet Earth at the rate we are destroying our ecosystem.


The Starch Solution (Video)

The Starch Solution from John McDougall on Vimeo.

It’s not for you to understand why I made a decision to change my lifestyle and move to a starch based diet. The results have been short of amazing in less than 5 months. I don’t push anything I want to eat on my friends or co-workers. Sure I share many recipes and relate my story and experiences as they happen, but wanting to change and changing your diet takes commitment and determination to change.

I hear it all to often at work, “I can’t give up my meat!” People ask me all the time, “If you don’t eat meat, what are you cooking?” There is more to life than eating meat and dairy. It has taken me 42 years to realize everything I thought I knew about nutrition was wrong and now I am experience good nutrition as my health continues to improve. Thankfully my son will be able to experience the benefits growing up and not have to wait as long as I did.

Still people I talk to don’t want to change. A comment I hear usually come from women, “I can’t lose weight.” I am sure many of us have said that same thing at some point in our life. Then I tell them I have lost 30+ pounds and they are shocked. This leads me to ask, “Well what do you eat?” Unfortunately, before they answer that question, I know what they are going to say. In some form it ends up being the standard American diet. While they might be able to control portion size they are still eating meat and dairy, while cooking with oil. Instead of feeling satiated, they are hungry because of portion control or calorie restriction.

On the other hand, I don’t count calories or worry about portion size. I eat whatever I want and stop when I am full. In the 5 months I have been following this “way of eating” (or WOE) I have continued to see weight loss, but am eating more than I was prior to changing to this lifestyle. I have replaced much of the animal protein with plant protein and decreased the amount of fat I was eating by cutting out oil. Yes, even olive oil. As Dr. McDougall says, “the fat you eat, is the fat you wear.”

This video is just a brief introduction to what Dr. McDougall calls The Starch Solution. I am sure there will be many who won’t agree with what he says or believe the results be mentions in some of his case studies. Many long standing societies were based around starch, corn, potatoes, squash and rice. Along with eating well, getting healthy I have learned a considerable amount about good nutrition. Your doctor is not out for your good health, that is something each of must take control of.

Food Success!

Since changing the way I eat from a standard American diet (SAD) to a plant-based, whole food diet I have experienced many positive changes in my life. Changing the way you eat is not easy, it takes willpower and determination. It’s interesting to hear many people echo similar comments about not being able to give up meat or dairy or oil, all of which would benefit their health, but for whatever reason they continue down a destructive path. Then again, who am I to judge, as I at poorly for nearly 41 years.

Today was a big success for me at work, as I continually talk about a plant-strong lifestyle, yet many mock my efforts and comment on how they could not give up meat. Most of those commenting negatively on my way of eating were men, but that doesn’t pressure me to give up all I have gained and go back to eating a SAD. Instead many of the women were open to the idea. Two of the women in my office didn’t eat meat and called themselves “vegan: yet they still ate cheese and used oils to cook. Good, but not great. Another woman was on Weight Watchers and was always counting her points. Finally another woman seemed to be working out all the time, but for her, weight loss was not coming very rapidly.

It seemed three of the women shared a commonality, they still ate dairy and oil. All three of them are active and do some form of exercise daily, yet for two of them it’s all about diet. So after some persuasion I decided to cook for a group of people in my office. I knew it wouldn’t be highly popular, but I knew the message would get through to a few people, but the last thing I was out to do was change anyone’s eating habits. I was looking to introduce good food that was healthy, in that regard I believe I succeeded.

It comes as no surprise that I cooked potato enchiladas as the main course. I also put together a tri-colored couscous salad and black bean brownies for dessert. Only the brownies caused me some concern, as I wasn’t completely sold on their taste when I sampled on last night. Still I cut them up into squares and brought some with me. I knew the enchiladas and salad would go over well, based on what my wife had said.

Overall, those who sampled my plant-based foods were impressed with the taste. The enchiladas were a big hit in the office, so much so I was printing out the recipe and handing it out. While the filling for the enchiladas can be modified to include more than just sauteed onion, potato and spinach, it was the sauce, which I got from Lindsey Nixon’s Everyday Herbivore that really made the enchilada dish.

As I said, I don’t expect to change the way anyone eats in the office, even those who are vegan or dieting. It was satisfying to know that someone other than my wife, her best friend and aunt liked the enchiladas, a dish that could be modified with more veggies and yes, even meat if you must.