A Long, Long, Long Overdue Post: The Mother of All Tangents

4 of March

WARNING: Real-life friends of mine, don’t read this. I know you guys are all rolling your eyes. Let this not be a lecture, but a facet that allows you to branch off and become more knowledgeable about the things you are putting in your body.

By now it should be quite apparent to you that yes, I am a vegan. My whole family is, in fact- all eight of us, going on four years now. You may ask, what’s the point? Are you guys some crazy animal-rights activists or something? The truth is, although animal cruelty involved in the processing and upkeep of born and bred steaks, buffalo wings, and eggs, among a myriad of other animal products is atrocious, it wasn’t the driving force of our change in lifestyle. Our motivation really snowballed from one documentary my family watched over bowls of stovetop popcorn: Forks Over Knives. To summarize, this film essentially “examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.” Through this documentary, my parents and siblings pioneered a steady frenzy of research to delve into the possibilities of altering our organic lifestyle to an organic, plant-based (vegan) diet. Within the month we were experimenting with food and beginning the short transition into vegan-ness. Each one of our six kids made the decision to join the food revolution in our home on their own through careful diagnosis and conversation on the subject for many months of accumulating knowledge on what we put into our bodies. Now, four years later, I can honestly claim that the statement I made during the early stages of our change is still, and will always be, true: I am always going to be vegan. I will, undoubtably, go through periods where I am less stringent with my practice, but the strong scientific foundation of knowledge I have will always keep me vegan, as well as the fact that I have no desire to eat the foods that aren’t healthy.

Well, that last sentence brought me to a pause. “Healthy”? What exactly is “healthy”? My pal Webster will key you in with a choice phrase like: in good health. (Really, Webster? Is that the best you can come up with?) Through all the smoke and mirrors, this vague answer isn’t wrong, but it isn’t exactly correct either. For example, what is our measure of health? The modeling industry shakes their heroin-thin hips at us and smirks, skinny is healthy. McDonald’s restaurant shoves cheeseburgers down our throats at seven in the morning, crooning, healthy equals breakfast under 200 calories! The American government stands on its high horse and commands: if you follow our food pyramid/plate you won’t be obese. I stand here and tell you it’s all bullshit. Obviously each one of these opinions is biased hugely by factors of personal gain, money, and those green, mean dollar machines- aka, companies.

Take two major contributors to the meat industry: Tyson Chicken and Swift. Take a quick look at Tyson’s thirty second commercial advertising their motto: Bringing Families Together.  (http://www.tysonfoods.com/our-story/families.aspx) I have a couple things to say about the absurdity of Tyson’s company motto, starting with the fact that they are infamously known for their abusive animal processing strategies, hardly the scene for “families”, especially after you take a peek at these images, just a few of many: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2537393/WARNING-GRAPHIC-CONTENT. In addition, my mother home schools six kids of all different age ranges Monday through Friday, shops multiple times weekly to feed eight mouths, takes an interest in each of her kids’ extracurriculars- driving to and from- and is out and about during the day, on top of preparing all vegan, home cooked meals for the whole family for breakfast, lunch, and supper. “Bringing families together”? The cheap, flavorless, fatty frozen-food Tyson distributes to the world is definitely not bringing anything together, except maybe applications to Weight Watchers.

Swift is one of the largest packaging and processing companies on the American as well as international market, reaching Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Taiwan, among others. The company launched its most recent campaign in 2003 with the Swift Premium line at an expense of 10 million funneled into advertising.  In 2002, Swift’s sales totaled at USD 7.73 billion dollars, a figure that has since tripled. How do they do it? Quantity over quality, false advertising (think of the “healthy” definition from Webster- easy deceptions for an exceptionally lazy nation who will take Swift’s word for it), plus discrete advertising from the government. Children’s textbooks are filled with easy venues for the meat industry to wedge their foot into minds at an early age. Misinformation is abound, especially through the medical industry, flaunting doctors who may or may not be trained in nutrition, and if they are, it is usually via courses sponsored or funded by the “government”; but we know who controls the economy and has the upper hand: meat and diary industries. Swift swiftly works the system, as well as all its business rivals, so they can continue to watch their profits soar as people buy into their gimmicks, commercials, and lies, gorging themselves on in-consumable foods as obesity, hypertension, heart failure, high cholesterol, and many other dietary-based medical conditions skyrocket.

Oh, and that’s another branch of this whole food war: the medical monopoly.It is almost impossible to rant on food without getting a taste of the catastrophe of the MDs of the world.

There is, fundamentally, one central state of being in which everyone strives towards: healthiness. (We already discussed the invalidity of this word- it really means nothing- but still the masses are obsessed with a image of “health” that they desire. The public’s perception of healthiness truly is based on the media, and on what the packages advertise to be “all natural” in the supermarket. Don’t look for phrases like the one aforementioned on packages, or the word healthy either- look for organic if nothing else. The latter literally have no direct definition and in this way, package and processors are able to label their corn-syrup laden products with those words that commonly strike the favor of consumers.)

Many countries around the world have placed their well-being into the hands of pharmaceutical companies such as the Hartley Medical Center Pharmacy, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, even Rite Aid, and CVS. They are comfortable blindly entrusting strangers, even those who may have a different frame of reference, with their health. Should we continue to trust the validity of what doctors say is needed to be healthy? Their opinions biased by the prospect of money quite obviously- its the doe that makes this world turn round. The medical field is influenced by numerous business giants, namely the pharmaceutical industry, whose main objective is to keep the public consuming their products, achieved by weaving sickness and epidemics, instead of health and prosperity, into a world raged by the pursuit of “health”.

There is a link between over-the-counter medicine pharmacies provide and the eagerness and hastiness doctors display towards diagnosing a patient. The number of OTC (over-the-counter) drugs, antibiotics, and vitamins continues to grow as people succumb to the “fix-it with this new pill” attitude that many doctors install in their patients. Americans aren’t interested in exploring what their medications do exactly, in finding a medication that would work better than the one they are given, or even in researching a cheaper, more natural alternative. Similarly, doctors are very quick in diagnosing and then dishing out a medication for illnesses. People should seek out other opinions and views on their condition, without being so fast to accept one doctor’s diagnosis. Many chronic dietary based illnesses such as: diabetes type II, hypertension, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, and high cholesterol are treated with pills and vitamins that can all be avoided with a simple alteration in diet, which is a fact many doctors fail to mention or don’t know about, since they aren’t required to take a course in nutrition to get their degree. Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND, explains in her book, What’s Eating Your Child?, that doctors are sorely lacking in the physical exam skills. In other words, they have trouble identifying and assessing the “ten common conditions associated with any ailment”. Which means that many people are taking unnecessary medications because their doctor may not be able to correctly assess their condition and come up with a working solution to their problem. In Every Patient Tells A Story by Dr. Lisa Sanders, it is noted that graduating medical students correctly answered only about half of the questions on a test evaluating cardiac examination skills, and teacher-physicians and doctors answered about 60% correctly. This means that about half of the diagnosises a doctor makes are either incorrect or is their best guess based on their education. Another important survey to note: doctors and patients frequently disagreed about the reason for the patient’s visit, which means that your doctor only knows your main reason for going to see him/her 25-50% of the time, so the other half the time you visit them, they have no idea why you are there or what you need help with.

All this information suggests that doctors are only human and can’t store all the information available on each illness, which is why it is so important for people to research their condition on their own and find different sources that would assess their problem with more expertise in a certain area, mainly a nutritionist or even a chiropractor. Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND, concludes “in general, doctors tend to diagnose the most common conditions they were trained to find with clear, agreed-upon diagnostic criteria.”

As soon as flu season swings around again, pharmaceutical typhoons, doctors, physicians, et cetera, all know they’ll have some spare change in their pockets. Why is this? Vaccines are the biggest money generators for the pharmaceutical industry, and they are injected most frequently and liberally during those months where common colds and flues are most prevalent. Unfortunately, vaccines aren’t only administered during the annual flu season- they are available to people year-round. (The recommended immunization schedule for a lifetime, according to the CDC, is attached.) Why is the administration of those vaccines so bad? Aren’t pharmaceutical companies and the doctors that prescribe the vaccination just trying to keep America in a healthy state? That isn’t entirely true. The main objective of the medical field is to cure sick people, while in turn, making a profit. Vaccinations insinuate seeds of trust of modern medicine in people, because when administered, 56% of the population, according to CDC, becomes immune to the infection, which is a large enough percentage that people weigh the outcome of getting a vaccine and conclude that it is worth a trip to their local pharmacy. While this is a true, positive percentage, it doesn’t fully articulate the aftermath of vaccines. Common side effects that effect 80% of people immunized include: fatigue, fever, headaches, loss of appetite, dizziness, vomiting, and joint pain. More severe, yet not uncommon, reactions to vaccines are: seizures, dementia, skin lesions, chronic fatigue, chronic anemia, osteoporosis, epilepsy, neurological issues, severe joint pain, and cancer. In conclusion, vaccines are an important tool the pharmaceutical industry and medical field uses to generate money and insure a disposition of trust in the people towards modern medicine.

The main objective pharmaceutical industry makes a profit by inventing, developing, and marketing drugs that are designed to mask the symptoms of diseases. Pharmaceutical industries have no interest in finding cures for diseases because there would no longer be an ongoing need for their product. Americans need to pursue information on their condition by seeking out other opinions and views, exploring exactly what their current medications are doing, and by possibly finding natural alternatives that would work better for them. Vaccines, OTC drugs, vitamins, and antibiotics are largely unnecessary, or can be mainly avoided by alterations in diet, a subject doctors are not trained in. It is important for Americans to take control of their health and treat it like the important matter that it is. We can all benefit from learning how to listen to our body.

Be Vegan!

This is a life altering dietary adjustment that will enhance your mind and body. Let me stress the importance of correct motivation for continuing down this path to health, longevity, and prosperity: although you will drastically shed weight (My papa is a testament to that, loosing over thirty pounds in a month without any additional workouts) this should not be the paramount justification to change your diet.  Ask yourself, instead:

Am I willing and committed to learning the rationale behind the vegan lifestyle with an open mind and thought through analysis in order to understand the scientific reasons why you should eat vegan?

Do I want to be a better person internally, avoiding medical complications and preserving and respecting myself and body?

Make the following dietary changes in your life to lengthen your lifespan, look better, and feel better, inside and out, as corny as it sounds. So what are you getting into? What does it mean to be a traditional vegan? In its essence, the vegan diet includes: legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains, and carbohydrates, which encompasses a ton more variety than most close-minded people believe. Here’s short list of dishes you don’t expect us vegans to eat (yes, we eat more than shredded lettuce): pastas, stir fry, rice and beans, sushi, burritos, tacos, sandwiches, waffles, pizza, veggie burgers, soup, salads, the list could go on and on and on. Because honestly, I can go to a restaurant and order whatever I want, just taking off the excess ingredients (animal products). Pizza? No problem, I love to eat it without the cheese- a sizzling mix of roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic, and onions with spicy red pepper flakes and Tapatio (I’m a fan of spicy food, if you couldn’t tell.) Pasta? Why, the combinations are infinite: mushroom linguine and old-fashioned sautéed vegetable and red sauce to tomato-pesto penne and gnocchi; I’m just covering the Italian pasta entrees. My family occasionally eats out, and when we do, we have no worries about if the menu will cater to our diet, we just go! Any dish can be altered with slight adjustments to make it perfectly fit for a vegan.

Now, to the things you should avoid. Oh, yes, the dreaded list, I know you’re thinking it! But don’t be hasty, the list actually pales in comparison to the options you have to gorge yourself on, foods that you can eat as much and often of as you want without gaining an extra ounce. As a plant-based, organic vegan, the diet I follow is more stringent than the typical vegan diet. I avoid oils which are one-hundred percent fat and contain no nutritional value, substitutes, which commonly are packed with oils and undesirable ingredients, as well as the obvious elimination of soft drinks, candies, ect., although those were never acceptable in my diet.

The Sweet Stuff

1. Carbohydrates…

what is a carbohydrate? They are the starches of the world, and this major piece of a vegan diet is actually home to the sole food that encompasses each  nutritional necessity all in one: the potato. All the essential vitamins crucial to your health are contained in one little vegetable. The saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but it should read, “A potato a day keeps the homeopath away.” You will begin to feel more energized, but the best part is that you will feel full; no more grumbling tummies after only an hour since you stuffed yourself with that Big Mac at the drive thru. Your stomach wasn’t filled when you ate it, and you are forced to eat more to satisfy your stomach, when all it takes is a small potato- a morsel of quantity- to feel filled. Now back to carbohydrates- when cooking a meal or throwing something together for yourself, use carbs as the base of your meal for a full, appetizing selection. Carbohydrates should consist of around 25% to 50% of your plate. 

2. Legumes…

are almost the equally critical bean group. Legumes add bursts of flavor and filling delectability to your dishes, circumscribing any variation of bean: red beans, kidney beans, Peruvian beans, refried pinto beans, lentils, et cetera, as well as the nut family. Depending on whether you are combining carbohydrates into your meal along with the base of legumes, your plate should never be without upward of 25% of this category.

3. Vegetables…

are the heart, soul, and relish to any breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Substitute veggies for meat in tacos, burritos, and sandwiches; cheese on pizza or in pasta for vegetables, the list is endless. They alone provide proper levels of calcium, protein, and a myriad of other vitamins and minerals. It is a common misconception that eating vegan doesn’t allow you to get a sufficient amount of calcium or protein, but the truth is that Americans in particular are overeating protein, and suffering from calcium deficiency because of the cow milk they drink which is fortified with calcium and literally sucks bone marrow from your bones, creating the opposite effect of consuming more of the valuable mineral. Don’t over-idealize those two aspects of food, because you are getting exactly the amount you need of them from eating plants alone.

4. Fruits…

should only make up 10% of your daily diet. These are the simple sugars, containing only one amino strand amongst their close components, which are complex sugars and have more than one amino strand. Although fruits are important in your food choices, they provide quick bursts of energy and are a good snack. Nature’s natural energy drink, cheers!

To sum up the medical aspect of eating right: you will avoid cancer, diabetes, arthritis, hyperlipidemia, kidney disease, frail bones, chronic pains, heart failure, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, all conditions associated with dietary malfunctions. I hope that you are encouraged and opened up to a world of new possibility to change your lifestyle for one of those “healthy” ones, and not the kind the media advertises, but a true mental and physical wellness that will leave you glowing.

Please procure/consult:

– The Starch Solution by John McDougall MD

-The China Study and Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell

-Forks Over Knives

 

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