Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Changing My Diet To Plant-Based

I'm in the process of changing my diet from significantly animal-based to significantly plant-based.


The first inkling that I might need to change my diet came when I saw the Bodyworlds exhibition I mentioned in Welcome And Policies. In the section on centenarians, which is what inspired this whole venture, it mentioned that they ate primarily plant-based diets.

At the time, I was eating a modified keto diet, primarily animal-based foods with a significant plant-based component. Once I decided I wanted to become a centenarian, that information about plant-based diets concerned me.

My best chances for reaching my goal are to follow the examples of those who have already done it. My animal-based diet failed to do that. But the concept was still pretty abstract, so I didn't do anything about it.

Then I watched the Netflix documentary The Game Changers (which I'll refer to as TGC). This was consistent with information I had seen in other sources, and convinced me it was worth changing.
TGC discusses multiple factors that influenced my decision:
  • It presents multiple athletes who compete at world-class levels on plant-based diets.
  • It describes the negative effects of animal-based diets.
  • Dr. Ornish and others describe how plant-based diets can reverse those negative effects, and are typically the diets associated with long, healthy lives (Buettner's book The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People is prominently visible on Ornish's bookshelf).
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger and other athletes talk about how to go about changing from an animal-based diet to plant-based, and how it doesn't have to be all or nothing, it can be a step at a time.
  • Chef Charity Morgan cooks up some delicious-looking plant-based recipes for her husband, Derek Morgan, and his Tennessee Titans teammates.
  • It says meat production uses 83% of the world's farmland while providing only 18% of the calories we eat, and that animals consume 6 times more protein than they supply.
  • It says meat production results in overuse of fresh water, resulting in shortages for other uses, and that one hamburger has 2400 liters of embedded water in producing it.
  • It says that farm animals in the US produce 50 times more waste than the human population, and that the livestock sector is responsible for 15% of global manmade emissions, the same as all the forms of transport in all the world.
  • It says that agriculture can provide the solution, by shifting to plant-based food production, which globally would free up an area of land the size of Africa.
  • Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University of London, sums it up succinctly when he says, "The message is overwhelming both for public health and environmental reasons. The more plants you can eat, and the less meat and dairy you can consume, the better."
So it's good for me, and it's good for the planet. I have my personal reasons for changing my diet that affect me directly, and my altruistic reasons.

If that's too tree-hugger for you, consider this: It's not purely altruistic. There's also self-interest: to achieve my goal of a sustainable life, I need a sustainable planet. I'd like to live to my 100's in a world that's not wracked by climate change, resource exhaustion, and suffering populations. Read Harry Harrison's MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! for that vision.


For now, I'm trying to split up my meals and snacks as follows as I adjust my habits and work down the animal-based foods we have in the house (the meat, eggs, and cheese we have in the refrigerator):
  • 50% vegan (no animal-based foods at all)
  • 25% vegetarian, with a small amount of animal-based foods on the sides
  • 25% with animal-based main dish
I had been planning to work through the whey and casein protein powders I have in the pantry, but after finally watching the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives (which features several of the same people who appear in TGC, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his son Rip Esselstyn, and Dr. Terry Mason), I'll give them to someone at work.

I'll replace them with pea and soy protein powders. For those who are concerned that soy contains estrogen, TGC says it is phytoestrogen, not estrogen, and that it blocks estrogen reception. As bodybuilder Nimai Delgado points out in the film, he has no lack of testosterone.

Once I've completed the shift and tried it for a while, I'll decide how to proceed. On the one hand, while my wife enjoys the vegetarian dishes, she also likes to have animal-based foods at all meals, either as main dish or sides. That determines both what we eat at home, and what restaurants we go to.

On the other hand, the reported negative effects of even a single animal-based food serving make a pretty compelling argument for me to avoid them entirely.

Realistically, I think it's reasonable to expect that I'll have animal-based foods as main or side dish at 1 or 2 meals a week. That seems like a reasonable and doable compromise, where my body can tolerate any negative effects. That's pretty consistent with the Oldways Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American, and African Heritage diet pyramids.

Making The Change

While in the past my wife and I found the changes to a plant-based diet to be too much at once, over the years we've actually been eating more and more of these foods. We've already come to treat many of them as major components of our meals and snacks.

My modification to the typical keto diet (where I had already cut out highly refined carbs and replaced dairy milk with almond milk) was to add more vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.

So I was already pretty far along. Tipping over to replacing all the animal-based foods is proving to be easier than I expected. Meanwhile, TGC is very clear about taking it at whatever pace I'm comfortable with.

Knowing how to choose and prepare a variety of flavorful foods has been a big help. Part of the key is keeping it enjoyable, because eating is truly one of our sensuous pleasures. I don't want to feel deprived for the next five decades, I want to enjoy great food.

We've recently gotten some cookbooks that look very helpful:

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