Over the last couple of months I’ve been doing a lot of research into nutrition and healthy diets, and after all of that I can honestly say that I’m not sure what to eat. There are the basics, of course. Significantly reduce sugar and processed food. Eat more fruits and vegetables. When eating meat, make sure it’s certified organic. Okay, I can understand all of that. What’s really confusing me is whether or not I should be eating meat at all. And what about dairy? People are very passionate these days about about their dietary choices, and will defend them with religious fervor. Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat Eaters alike will argue their stances with facts and figures from the scientific and health communities. The problem is that all of these facts and figures contradict each other and seem to be scientifically backed up and debunked in equal measure. So how is someone who does not have a degree in nutrition supposed to figure out what to eat?
Let me back up a little and explain why I am even trying to figure this out to begin with. I’ve been heavy my entire life. Even when I was in school and playing sports, I was still overweight. I come from a fat family where everyone in it has weight issues. They also have health issues because of that weight. My father died of a heart attack (not his first) at the age of 49. He was also diabetic and gave himself insulin shots. My mother has faired a bit better, but at just shy of 65, she has high blood pressure, is also diabetic, and is now on insulin. My sister, who just turned 45, has Plantar Faciitis so badly that she can only walk a short distance before needing to get off her feet. She has to wear special shoes and inserts to help with the pain. This is just the stuff I know about. All of these health issues are completely preventable, and only get worse by remaining overweight. Now that I am getting older, I’m realizing that I need to really take my health seriously. I don’t want to be sick, and I don’t want to die of a completely preventable disease. Hence, all of the research and the attempt to figure out what I should be eating.
I’ve been shocked and disgusted by the conventional food industry practices. I am definitely convinced that I need to move to organic meats, and my current food challenge is teaching me that I can actually afford it (for the most part). Chicken is my main issue. I am really grossed out by what I’ve learned about conventional chicken, but we are big chicken eaters. I have a really hard time paying high prices for chicken, especially since we eat so much of it. But more on that later when I talk about the Real Food Meat Challenge and what I’ve learned.
I’ve been doing research into vegetarianism and veganism, strictly from a health perspective. I have no moral issue with eating meat, especially if it was humanely raised. But I’m starting to wonder if I should be eating meat and dairy. I’ve watched Forks Over Knives, I’ve heard a lot of the studies claiming that a healthy diet cuts out animal products all together. I have to say that it is a very enticing idea to think that heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and all sorts of things can be prevented and in some cases reversed by eating a plant based diet. I’ve heard all of the personal experiences through blogs and forums of how cutting out dairy cleared up acne, asthma, IBS, and a variety of other issues. I’ve read the articles on how casein is highly addictive and is sending me to an early grave. When I was in high school, my vegetarian friend would often say that meat is murder. Now it seems like meat is actually the murderer. Or is it?
My little cow cartoon (which if you can’t tell is carrying a scythe and says “I kill you now”) may seem a little ridiculous, but that’s how I feel meat and dairy is being portrayed today. It’s so all or nothing. Either meat is what we, as omnivores, were made to eat and not eating it will make you deficient in necessary vitamins and nutrients, or it’s going to kill you dead, and probably tomorrow. For all the happy vegans quoting the China Study, there are just as many happy meat eaters pointing you to the articles debunking the China Study and claiming that the science behind a plant-based diet is outdated and erroneous. And, then there is the fact that most “meat will kill you” studies are based on conventional meat that is pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and has other issues because of the feed lot environment.
Really, when it comes down to it, I am so sick of thinking about food. All I want is to lose some weight and not eat food that’s going to kill me. Is that too much to ask? I’ve discussed it at length with Tim, and we have decided to cut down on meat and dairy for now, but not cut it out completely. And to keep looking into the subject. Tim fully believes that humans are meant to eat meat, but he does admit that he kind of likes some of the science and logic behind going plant based. We both want to get healthy, but it seems more difficult than it should be to discover what healthy actually is.
What do you believe when it comes to meat and dairy? Are you possibly a vegan or a vegetarian? What has decided the issue for you? I’d love to hear other perspectives on the subject, both pro meat and pro plant, as I try to decide what is the best plan for me.