Have you ever had a conversation about whole food plant-based eating and the health benefits with someone who has a serious chronic health issue? By which I mean anyone in middle age or older, pretty much.
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They’ll usually start off with something like “Well, it’s obviously easy for you, but I could never do that”. They just don’t feel right if they don’t get enough protein. They could never give up cheese. Their spouse would never go for it. Carbs. Besides, they really only eat a bit of chicken and fish, so they’re practically doing it anyway. And their doctor told them their high blood pressure or cholesterol was genetic. They’ll continue to enjoy their food, thank you very much, even if it costs them a few years at the end.
Contrast this with the curiosity and open mindedness most people show towards weight loss programs. Even though we all know plenty of people who have attempted and failed to lose weight long term on popular diets it doesn’t seem to be a deterrence to trying them. More than once in many cases.
Talking about food is easy. Everyone does it and there are whole tv networks devoted to the subject. Talking about nutrition is hard. Once you get beyond eating more vegetables it seems there is disagreement on every aspect. Every sketchy tv doctor and internet wellness guru has a following. Science writers create controversy to sell books and myths abound. Official government agencies which publish nutrition guidelines turn out to be promoting certain agricultural industries and are lobbied by big processed food companies. The result is a lot of confusion and distrust.
The official guidelines emanating from medical sources are perhaps the least satisfying. They propose “moderate” diets that offer modest improvements in biomarker numbers. Feeling better is not on offer.
Probably because of all the confusion and low expectations of nutrition, I find that when I tell people about the miraculous improvement in my health due to eating a plant-based diet they will raise an eyebrow as if I am trying to recruit them into a multi level marketing scheme. Doctors are particularly skeptical.
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Luckily, I don’t just feel better on the inside. I’ve lost some weight and now that I can exercise again I’ve built some muscle so I look better too. Sometimes I feel like that is a distraction from the bigger issue of how much healthier I am, but at least it gives me the opportunity to share my experience. Even if the response is “well you look great, but I’m one of those people who needs meat”.