Food: it’s a touchy issue for humans. Our bodies require nutrition, and food is where we get it. We know specifically what nutrients we need and how much of them because of science, and yet most people eschew that science and eat what tastes “good.” I put “good” in quotes because our choices have trained our palates to send dopamine (the “super-happy drug”) to our brain when we eat rich tasting food: we call it “good.” The problem is that food that tastes rich is often the least rich in nutrients.
Rich tasting foods are animal flesh, animal milk and cheese, white flour, whole eggs, pressed oils, fried food, and any salted and/or highly processed foods such as you would find in the refrigerated or frozen section of your grocery store. These kinds of foods taste so good that we end up consuming excess calories, and then our (potentially) overweight bodies lack proper nutrition. Science tells us that without proper nutrition, nutrient-deficient bodies both fat and thin become grounds for disease and degradation of muscle, bones, ligaments, neural tissue, skin, internal organs, and other physiological components, including the brain. (And just to be clear: I am not talking about the kind of “Science™” adopted by mainstream culture, in which food and drug companies hire “scientists” to do “studies” that just so happen to “find” the exact results sought by these companies, because this bought-and-paid-for program has nothing to do with the real scientific method of inquiry, using double-blind studies, and so forth, of which I speak.)
So when I read an article like this one on Medium.com, You are the problem with fat people, I feel the impulse to write and reply: No, I am not the problem. In fact, I will be so bold as to say that I offer the solution.
I am not the problem, because I am empathetic toward Ms. Toal, the author.
I am aware that many people have injuries or congenital conditions that keep them from exercising; some may never be able to walk or use their upper body for exercise. It is always heartbreaking to hear these folks’ stories. (As a matter of fact, as I edit this story, I am recovering from a bad fall that has left me unable to jog for nearly two months.) Furthermore, before I embraced a sound, scientific approach to nutrition, I was afraid to learn the hardest truths about what I was ingesting. I previously had made small dietary changes that, as it turns out, are relatively unimportant when it comes to nutrition. What I was afraid of was doing a major overhaul in my eating regime: giving up rich tasting food for the stuff my body really craves: nutrient-dense, plant-based whole food.
I am not the problem, because I acknowledge that Ms. Toal was able to recover to a point where she can exercise and is doing so.
Part of her challenge, as she writes about it, is the people who ridicule her for being fat — while she is working out in the gym. I find that this all-too-common practice of fat-shaming is immature and lacking in both human empathy and education, and thus is unacceptable. Instead of these shamers applauding her for her effort to make healthy change, they belittle her, and that’s just wrong. This is a problem with our divisive culture of trolling and rushing to judgment: “othering” is a facile cop-out in our society.
But here is where I must take another step regarding Ms. Toal’s experience: she didn’t even discuss her diet in the article I read.
Based on my experience and education, exercise alone is not always enough to shed excess weight. It all goes to the science of human nutrition, a formula that Dr. Joel Fuhrman reduced to H=N/C; that is, Health equals the ratio of food Nutrient density to Calories. So, if we eat the nutrient-rich foods that our bodies need rather than stuff that only tastes rich, we will achieve optimal health. AND we will receive the benefit of dropping extra pounds of fat. Yay!
Dr. Fuhrman’s plan is called Eat to Live, and it’s based on the most comprehensive, long-term study about food and nutrition. The China Study is so thorough, and Fuhrman’s vernacular translation so digestible (pun intended!), that meat-and-dairy proponents try to debunk it in a variety of ways. Yet the science is sound, as long as we take into account some minor achievements in scientific understanding of cholesterol, for example, that have occurred since the study was conducted, analyzed, and interpreted. One wonders, as I do, if the animal food industry and related corporate behemoths are behind people’s uninformed questioning of the study — and of the choice to be vegetarian or vegan. If you wonder, too, please keep reading.
I live the whole-food plant-based, vegan, nutrarian Eat to Live lifestyle about 90% of the time. While I would love to be a purist, I find it limiting to my social life, so I will eat a slice of homemade cherry pie (my favie!) that a friend baked just for me; dribble some store-bought ketchup on grilled potatoes; and eat processed foods like vegan “sausages” and “burgers.” I also think it is okay to indulge (again, about 10% of my entire diet) in my cravings for air-popped popcorn with vegan butter, and use processed vegan cheeses in classic dishes like my Whole Lotta Lasagna, Spinach Antipasto, and Grilled Sammies. But these examples are the exception, not the rule: I do not consume rich food every day. I do, however, drink wine every day, so I am no longer at my ideal weight of 102 lbs; I weigh closer to 110. Alcohol consumption is not recommended in Eat to Live, it’s just one of my pleasures that I choose to not feel guilty about. Even with the extra 8 pounds on my frame, my blood pressure today was 97 over 61 . . . at the dentist’s office! Also, I don’t work for Dr. Fuhrman or sponsor his ads, and I don’t make any money or receive any other benefits from talking about Eat to Live, except that I hope to inspire readers to buy his book and take the 6-week challenge.
My intention is not to shame Ms. Toal or anyone trying to lose weight.
I simply want to say that a lot of people have not been taught proper human nutrition, and therefore succumb to eating a nutrient-deficient diet of rich-tasting food as their mainstay. Why is that? I argue that in the US there is little profit in telling people that eating animal flesh, olive oil, pasta, and cheese is not required for superior health (nor is it recommended by scientists). Corporate America is all about profit over people, winner-takes-all competition, and even miseducation if necessary to achieve those two conditions.
(For some background, please read my paper “Is ChooseMyPlate a Good Choice? How Private Industry Drives the U.S. Government to Mediate a Nutritionally Poor Diet”. ChooseMyPlate is the updated version of the USDA Food Pyramid. In the paper, I argue that Big Ag, by way of the USDA, contributes to nutritional and health poverty in our nation. I cite numerous reputable sources.)
Another challenge is that people all over the world claim they know proper nutrition — information they have been taught by their government/school/parents — and they say, look, we aren’t fat or sick like Americans! But as other countries adopt the American Standard Diet (ASD) of fast food, processed food, salt, white flour, sugar, and meat/poultry/dairy, with too little of nutritionally excellent legumes, leafy greens, other vegetables, fresh fruits, and moderate amounts of whole grains, they, too, gain weight and decline in overall health.
Skinny-bitch-shaming vegans and vegetarians as “too thin.”
This “too thin” claim has nothing to do with the thin person’s health; in fact, a plant-based whole food diet of proper nutrition is what the body wants us to eat so that we maintain optimal health and do not carry around excess body fat. But this is a scary notion to ASD consumers, most of whom are addicted to salt, sugar, bread and pasta, processed meals, animal products, and other rich-tasting food. It is easier for people to point a finger at thin vegetarians than to give up eating “tasty” stuff even though that tasty stuff is bad stuff. ASD consumers wonder out loud that if I don’t eat animal flesh or dairy products, where I get my “protein” — but they probably don’t know that protein is a not a food group, as the USDA would have us believe. Protein is a micronutrient necessary for a healthy human diet; it can be found in in beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Even broccoli, pound for pound, has more protein than cow meat. Science AND grandma tell us pretty much the same thing: eat your vegetables!
In 2008, my husband and I began the Eat to Live lifestyle after reading Dr. Fuhrman’s book of the same name. We decided together that we did not want to die of cancer or heart disease if we could prevent that. We didn’t want the food we eat to increase the chance of contracting Type II Diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, or arteriosclerosis. We chose to eat food that optimizes our health. We had great success during the initial six-week period. My husband lost 42 pounds — it was totally dramatic! I shed 27 pounds off my 5’2″ body! Yet I have had people tell me that I am “too skinny” after losing all that weight, while I exude a healthy glow, and feel lighter and stronger than ever before in my life (even better than when I was jogging every day while continuing to eat animal products and processed, fatty, salty foods).
This kind of skinny-bitch-shaming is equally as disgracing as the gym folks fat-shaming Ms. Toal. Skinny-bitch-shaming overlooks all the health benefits of my eating lifestyle and implies the false claim that all thin people are malnourished and therefore “doing it wrong.” This is the complete opposite of my reality. After the six-week Eat to Live nutrarian diet challenge, my lab results came in and my doctor said I was in optimal health.
“But my 99-year-old grandmother ate eggs, meat, cheese, white bread, and butter at every meal for her entire life!”
Further energizing the argument against a nutrarian lifestyle, every person in the western world probably knows at least one other person who ate red meat, salt, fat, eggs, dairy, white bread, fried foods, and sugary desserts at every meal, drank coffee with cream and sugar, imbibed on hard liquor and soft drinks, and smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, yet lived to be 100 years old. To which I counter: There are four reasons such people live long lives:
1) they engage in physical activity for most of the day and/or
2) they really do just have exceptionally good DNA and/or
3) they eat tiny portions, keeping their caloric intake to around 1,200 calories or less per day, and/or
4) they are either not eating processed food or only in extremely small quantities.
These people are the exception, not the rule. Also, bear in mind that these folks may live long, but they may not be truly thriving. I think you know what I mean. Just look around at people in the grocery store, especially those in their 70s and older: How many of them look robust with health, exude joy and happiness, and look strong and agile enough to run around the yard with their grandchildren? We all know the answer: Few, if any. (Read Eat to Live!)
Besides the questions of protein and exceptional grandmothers, people wonder, as did I before learning about and choosing to Eat to Live, whether plants are enough to make me feel full for hours at a time. I mean, I don’t eat pasta or bread for carbs; I get most of my carbohydrates from beans. Yes, occasionally I have a whole wheat pita or lavash or a few baby potatoes. But the truth is that when I eat the proper amounts of fruits and vegetables, I get full — REALLY, REALLY FULL! Seriously, I can go 7-8 hours between lunch and dinner without feeling the need to snack, and I often did so on school days when I ate lunch at 10:30 AM before leaving for campus for the rest of the day. I would always carry a piece of fruit and/or raw nuts with me but I rarely felt the desire to eat them, because I was full-filled with the proper nutrition. It is comforting to know this.
“I’m fat and that’s just fine with me.”
If a person is fat, even if they exercise now and then, they may have convinced themselves and others that they accept being fat as their natural “body type,” and that self-love is important for well-being. Is this an excuse for continuing to eat rich-tasting food? Same goes for often damaging quick-fix rich-food diets like Paleo, Adkins, and Keto, among others. In my evaluation, none of these arguments are valid because they don’t follow actual science. Because there are universally accepted laws and principles comprising realities — like the life cycle of centipedes and why you don’t have to remember to breathe while you sleep (which is especially convenient and comforting). Accepting being fat isn’t adopting a healthy state of mind, it’s spiritual bypassing: It’s being willfully ignorant of the obvious fact that what we put into our bodies determines our overall health. I encourage you to do the psychological work necessary to mature, rather than remain stunted in child-like, magical thinking, expecting pills and surgeries to fix what wouldn’t be broken if a healthy lifestyle was your choice.
For Ms. Toal and everyone interested in enjoying optimal health, I highly recommend doing the 6-week nutrarian Eat to Live program and then sticking as close to it as possible afterward. First, a plant-based eating lifestyle going to assist you in rapidly achieving your ideal weight. Second, fruits, vegetables, beans, greens, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds are wicked good at flushing toxins out of the body, killing cancer, and obliterating artery plaque, not to mention numerous other conditions. Third, these foods actually help prevent nasty things like cancer cells from ever finding a home in your body! How crazy cool is that?!
Even cooler is that people who are unable to exercise for some medical reason will still lose excess weight and keep it off while doing the Eat to Live lifestyle. And continuing the nutrarian lifestyle is easy when you remember that you are preventing heart disease, cancer, obesity, and other life-threatening physical conditions from ruining what ought to be an amazing experience as a human being on planet Earth. To boot, you will help reduce the raising of animals for human consumption, which is extremely costly to the environment in numerous ways — water use, waste water, methane production, and so on — and far more costly than growing plants for food.
See? I am not the problem with fat people, I’m part of the solution: Eat to live in optimal health and disease prevention! If only I was perfect and dumped out the glass of red wine I am sipping 😉
(NOTE: I edited this article to include details about my current diet, which is 100% plant-based since January 1, 2020. I have also added a few more arguments to back up my claims.)