My Journey with Veganism + My Thoughts on the What The Health Documentary

My Journey with Veganism + My Thoughts on the What The Health Documentary

After sharing on Instagram that I was watching the What The Health documentary on Netflix, I was inundated with messages asking me a variety of questions, but mostly, “What did you think?”

Since it’s such a hot topic right now and one that I do have strong opinions on, I figured I’d write about my thoughts on this documentary and at the same time, share more about my experiences with veganism.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the What The Health documentary, it’s a documentary meant to “[expose] the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick.” How is the government and big business doing that? Through the promotion of animal products.

Thus, this documentary is pro-plant based and anti the consumption of animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, etc), due to the positive health benefits of plant-based eating and the supposed negative effects of consuming animal protein. There are many other documentaries like this one out there, such as Forks Over Knives.

My journey with veganism

Now, before I get into what I think about these claims, let me share my journey with a plant-based diet. Many of you already know that I eat 80% plant-based and 20% omnivorously (aka most of the time, I eat vegan/vegetarian and the other 20% of the time, I eat animal protein.)

Turn the clock back to the summer before my senior year of college, in 2008. I had just gotten back from studying abroad in Europe and I was pushing the scale at 190 (I remember hopping on a scale at my then-boyfriend’s house and weighing in at 189 and gasping.) What caused that weight gain? A lack of self control. I ate everything – in large portions. Sure, I ate vegetables, but I also ate pizza, pasta, ice cream, cookies, and lots of bread.

I spent that entire summer trying to lose weight. I was interning and living in New York City and found myself eating under 1,000 calories Monday through Thursday and then consuming 2,500+ calories on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was totally unhealthy and this was the first time in my life that I felt out of control of my health.

My friend Sarah shared a book with me on veganism (Skinny Bitch.) She had read it and said, “Read it and let’s go vegan together!” I spent one Saturday afternoon in the summer by my parents’ pool reading it from front to cover. I put the book down and remember thinking, “How did I NOT know about all of this?!” From that exact moment on, for the next 2 years, I ate a 100% vegan diet. I took it a step further and eliminated all processed sugar, foods, and caffeine.

What did I read that caused this decision?

  • Eating plant-based is epically better for the environment (no matter how organically you feed your cattle, their farts and burps release methane which is really damaging to the ozone layer)
  • Even if you’re eating organically and ethically raised animals, you’re still contributing to the grander ‘demand’ for animal protein and thus, continuing the vicious cycle of environmental damage
  • Plants don’t clog arteries or cause heart disease – they do the exact opposite, it’s possible to cure debilitating ailments through a plant-based diet.
  • The role of big corporations and the government in promoting the consumption of animal protein is terrifyingly corrupt

Since then, my body has never felt better than I did back then, when I first started eating vegan. I felt like I was always walking on clouds – so energized, so focused, and my digestive systems worked so well. I was tired when I was supposed to be tired and I had so much energy, I worked out 7 days a week, just because I needed a way to spend that energy. My skin was gorgeous and glowing and I went from weighing in the 170s to my lowest weight at 128 pounds.

Why did I stop eating vegan?

I graduated college and life changed. I moved into my first apartment and lived alone. I had my first job (a very time-consuming, taxing job working for the Trump organization) and no longer had the luxury of time on my hands, like I did in college. I worked weekends, long houred events, and lived in Hoboken, NJ, right near New York City, with all the great culinary experiences of that city at my fingertips. I was going out to bars with friends, and living the life of a woman in her early 20s.

My health took a backseat to my social life and I was finding that while, yes, I was eating vegan, I was no longer doing the diet in a healthful manner. Since I wanted to go to all these amazing restaurants in NYC with my friends, I would go and have to eat a side order of steamed broccoli and a baked potato for dinner – or, worse, if there was really nothing on the menu to eat, I’d just raid the bread basket to fill myself up and soak up the bottle of wine I was drinking with my friend at dinner.

Needless to say, I was no longer cooking for myself every night in my college apartment and since I was living near New York City and not a town in North Carolina, the temptation was just too great. I wanted to live my life, and although there were vegan restaurants available (and I went to ALL of them), NY wasn’t in a point at that time where there was an abundance of vegan options on the menus (this was back in 2009/10.)

I wasn’t doing veganism right and I found myself eating lots of sugar and processed foods and saying, “Well, they’re still vegan!” I found myself sticking to veganism just to be a vegan. I was being a vegan for the wrong reasons and at that point in my life, veganism wasn’t the right choice for my lifestyle. I needed something less restrictive. If only I knew that 80/20 was an option.

I moved on to a ‘pescatarian diet,’ where I ate fish and dairy, but no meat or poultry. This was my middle ground and I started to feel better. It felt more sustainable. I was a pescatarian from about 2010 to 2013, when I started Inspiralized. I wanted to create a blog that promoted a balanced way of eating and fueling yourself. I didn’t want someone who enjoyed meat to feel excluded. I wanted vegans and meat-eaters to be able to find something at Inspiralized. Basically, I didn’t want Inspiralized to have any labels but ‘healthy.’ I was sick of diet labels. So, I started experimenting with animal proteins, like ground turkey, chicken, and pork. I started teaching myself how to cook these meats, and I incorporated them back into my diet, slowly.

I think I’ve only had steak once or twice since going vegan (I’ll cook it for someone else and for this blog, but I can’t bring myself to eat it.) If there’s a beef meatball, I will enjoy it, but there’s something about a slab of steak that makes me nauseous, so I can’t get myself there.

I’ve just found what works best for me, in the sense of a balanced, sustainable lifestyle for this stage of my life. I’ll be honest, I’ve been getting random meat cravings in this pregnancy, so I’ve had lamb chops randomly and beef meatballs more in the past 5 months than I have in the past 5 years.

It’s all about listening to your body and figuring out what fuels you best for now. If it’s an indulgence, learning how to give into the indulgence without overdoing it is important (ie having one chocolate chip cookie instead of a full bag or going out for ice cream once a week instead of every night.) Nothing is forever! And one bite of cheesecake isn’t going to shave a year off your life.

For example, I know that veganism makes me feel the best, but only when I have the conviction to follow that ‘diet’ properly. Thus, I try to eat vegan as much as possible and, when I need a reset, I go 100% vegan for a few days or a week.

I know that eating dairy or any animal protein before 6pm does not sit well with me. Thus, I tend to eat vegan for breakfast, lunch and all snacks in between. Dinner is sometimes vegan, but this is when I’ll cook an animal protein like a salmon or make a lean turkey meat sauce. I’d say 2-3 weekly dinners are vegan and the rest are not. However, I don’t hold myself to any metrics (ie I must eat a certain number of vegan meals a week), I just do what works for my schedule/my cravings/my well-being.

I hate feeling bloated. I hate feeling tired. I hate it when my skin breaks out. And these symptoms are always caused (for me, at least) by animal protein, whether it’s a bowl of sugary ice cream or a lean, ‘healthy’ turkey burger. I just know that’s how my body reacts to it. So why do I eat foods that give me these symptoms? Because I’m human – and they taste good! And life is short and there are some seriously talented chefs out there and I love nothing more than a culinary experience!

And as I’ll discuss in a moment, even swapping out one meal a day for a vegan one can have profound effects on your health and the environment, so me eating an 80/20 vegan ‘diet’ makes me feel good about my decisions both personally and globally.

Finally, My Thoughts on the What The Health Documentary

Now that you know my back story on veganism and that I already lean towards the ideals that the What The Health (let’s call it WTH) doc was promoting, here are my thoughts.

If you know nothing about veganism or it’s purported health benefits, don’t let the What The Health documentary scare you into becoming a vegan

Right after I read Skinny Bitch, yes, I started eating vegan, but while I started, I began reading more into veganism. I wanted to really make sure what I had read was true. Sure enough, it was, but there were definitely some ‘scare tactics’ used in the Skinny Bitch book, just like there were in the WTH documentary.

The documentary definitely omits any information about eating ethically and responsibly grown animal proteins, so yes, there are ways to limit the nasty effects of consuming meat and dairy by consuming products that aren’t made in unethical slaughterhouses and full of disgusting (and scary!) diseases and bacteria.

This would be like the equivalent of an anti-vegan documentary saying, “Vegetables are full of GMOs, they are so bad for you and result in reproductive issues!” without mentioning that if you purchase non-GMO vegetables, all of those concerns go away.

What to do? If you think veganism is too strict for you, read more about the benefits of moving over to organic meat and dairy products.

Having said that, I think these documentaries are great as conversation starters

Health is like religion. More specifically, diet is like religion. Some people swear by Paleo diets, which, in general, are more dependent on animal proteins (since you eliminate many vegan proteins like lentils, tofu, and beans.) Some people swear by veganism. There are so many diets out there, because there are so many unique individuals – there’s not one diet that fits all.

I think it’s definitely an eye-opener about the government and the big businesses that are fueling the consumption of animal protein. The whole “Got Milk?” campaign is truly deceptive and if you don’t know that by now, perhaps you learned it in the documentary. Dairy milk is the last thing we need for healthy bones – it’s bad for our bones (did you know that Asian countries have the lowest rate of osteoporosis and consume the LEAST amount of dairy milk, while the US consumes the most dairy milk and has the highest rate of osteoporosis?)

At the end of the day, I think it’s great that these documentaries start the conversation, especially for people who had NO idea that animal protein can have negative effects on your body. People have no idea that medicinal properties of plants – there are people out there curing their ailments through vegan diets! Type 2 diabetes can literally be reversed on a plant-based diet – now that’s incredible. There’s something there.

The documentary made it seem like diabetes is caused solely by meat consumption

I think this was the biggest scare tactic of the film that was misleading. Personally, I know several diabetics that have diabetes, unrelated from diet. For example, my mother got diabetes while pregnant (called gestational diabetes.) This is something that develops in the placenta and is actually not diet related. If not treated, it can turn into full-blown Type 2 (or even Type 1) diabetes, but at first, it’s not related to diet at all.

If you get one thing from the documentary, stop eating processed foods (like sugar) and lower your intake of meat and dairy

First and foremost, eat real food. Cut out the processed foods (especially sugar) as best you can. Shop mostly from the produce section and eat mostly plants. Cut out as much dairy and meat as you can and see the effects it has on your body.

Here’s a personal example. In my second trimester, I was eating a lot more dairy and meat than I had ever before (thanks to crazy pregnancy cravings) and I was getting bad back pain. I blamed it on my growing belly, but as it worsened, I told myself to go back to basics and rely on my diet as the medicine. Sure enough, the lower back pain I was riddled with in my second trimester has nearly disappeared, despite an even BIGGER belly. I cut out the nightly frozen yogurt and Friday night sausage pizza, and sure enough, I felt a million times better.

I wholeheartedly believe that a plant-based diet is the best way to eat, if you can maintain it, but if not, just making small changes in your diet can be immensely helpful in your short and long term health.

How can you start?

  • If you have eggs for breakfast or yogurt, try swapping in with something vegan instead, like some avocado toast, a vegan protein smoothie, oatmeal and berries, or toast with nut butter and banana.
  • Replace one meal a day with something completely vegan. Try to increase that to two meals a day, a few days a week.
  • Always order the side salad (not fries) when you’re out to lunch – use every meal/moment as an opportunity to cram in veggies.
  • Cooking veggies with butter, processed oils or cheese doesn’t count – season your vegetables with spices, seasonings, and healthy fats (like olive oil) to give them flavor and eat them in their true state, not melted in cheese or doused in butter
  • If you’re busy and on-the-go, green juices can be an easy and quick way to guarantee you get a serving of veggies in your day.
  • Don’t look at processed foods differently just because they’re vegan – a bag of potato chips might be potatoes, but when they’re fried in GMO-ridden canola oil, the nutritional integrity of the potato is no longer there. Eat real, whole food.

For those of you who watched the documentary, what do you think?

Inspiralized

Comments

  1. good blog thanks
  2. This is an excellent post. I am trying to go plant based. I'd like to go 100%, but have difficulties sustaining it, too. It's nice o know it's not just me! I am occasionally pescatarian or flexitarian - I'll only eat meat if I'm craving or absolutely starving. The attitude of certain vegans is very militant and I detest it, personally.
  3. I stopped watching it because it made me mad it was one sided (no talks about ethically raised meats). But even from the one hour I did watch, and your posts, I have thought harder about my lifestyle. You have given me so much inspiration from your Instagram stories, I love seeing the food you eat. Especially inspiring for when I do become pregnant. I made a batch of black beans yesterday I am going to experiment with a vegan lunch today! Thanks for all you do Ali!
    • That's what's most important - being realistic with yourself and giving everything a try! Making small changes like a vegan lunch can be profoundly effective! Goodluck! Tag @inspiralized or #inspiralized if you share on Instagram so we can see!
  4. I am a HUGE fan of you, your cookbooks, Instagrams and blogs and wholeheartedly agree with your points. I am 25 and have been a vegetarian for almost the last 5years and think this documentary, while mildly scaring people into the main point of the film, certainly gets the point across and like you said gets the conversation started which is something I try to share, in the most "non-preechy" way possible. You want the people you love to stay happy and healthy for as long as possible especially if it's something they can very much control. Xoxoxo
    • Nicole, amen to that!
      • The China Study book by Esselstyn and Campbell is a worthwhile read to learn about the politics of the food industry and the science behind plant based. Fork over Knives gives a shortened version of their research. BTW- someone called me "cheegan" once which seemed to fit since I lean vegan but cheat! That was after my cholesterol went up after months of hard-core vegan.
  5. Ali I love this ! I've been so conflicted since watching this documentary. Over the last few years I've cut my meat consumption, but just can't seem to get to 100% and documentaries like this, forks over knives , and Food Inc all literally grossed me out into not wanting to eat for a few days . I would become so conflicted about my choices that everything would simply gross me out . I hate making declarations about food as in "this is bad" "that is good." Etc. I loved everything you said here and it made me feel better about cutting back on meat versus not eating it . Truly if we all said we'd eat less meat, cut out beef , or pork - or whatever we can handle personally, the world would be a cleaner place and we'd all be healthier for it weather Vegan or not. Thank u for this . We need more balanced perspectives.
    • Krysten, I love this note! I hate seeing people conflicted about the food they eat - it's mental stress and anguish that is unnecessary! Food should fuel, for sure, but it should also be a source of pleasure!
  6. Great article Ali! I had a similar journey to yours with veganism, was very strict about it for awhile but it was difficult to always have to cook separate meals for me and my husband, who is decidedly NOT vegan! I still try to eat vegan 80% of the time (and try to stay off dairy as I know it doesn't agree with me but man, I miss cheese!). It's nice to know that I'm not the only one like this...it seems most people who identify themselves as 'vegan' are very militant about it!
  7. I really enjoy your blog, and I have recently been trying to eat a more plant based diet after listening to a podcast Rich Roll did with John Mackey discussing the benefits of a 90% plant based and 10% animal protein diet. I appreciate your honest thoughts on the What The Health documentary, and I have been hesitant to watch it, fearing it will only present one side of the story. Thank you for sharing!
  8. I loved your blog & i know I already told you this but your my favorite box ? gift ? opener ? I enjoy you opening boxes on ur IG stories like it's no ones business lol. ??‍♀️ I've totally changed my eating habits from being 100% processed foods to going cold turkey paleo then now doing Whole30 for over 300+ days. My body & life have changed for the better and I've always been lactose intolerant so I don't do milk & slowly transitioning to pescatarian & partial vegan. I just always feel attacked by vegans on IG ??‍♀️ If I tag something vegan and there's an egg or piece of bacon? I'm not tagging it's all vegan ? it's mostly veggies at least through my eyes.. that's the only thing I don't like.. living with 6 autoimmune disorders really changes ur life.. & eating healthy is a must.. Doctors told me I wouldn't live to see a day over 35, I'm 38 now.. will be 39 this month ? And my health has took a turn for the best eliminating processed foods?slowly evolving at my pace for myself & my twin boys? One day at a time.
  9. Love this post! Unrelated...what kind of bread do you use for your veggie sandwiches picture above? I'm trying to recreate it! :)
  10. Melissa Collazo :
    Thank you so much for this article! I watched WTH and while I learned some things it was hard to "hear" their message thru all the scare tactics. It is very helpful to hear from someone who has lived a vegan lifestyle and can provide real advice on how to follow your own personal journey and not one dictated by a group of people...whomever they are. I love your approach of 80/20, I am trying to incorporate more vegan recipes into my diet and this approach seem like it may be what I've been looking for! Thank you!
  11. As a type O I always crave meat. But lately have not been eating as much and feel much better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Love the 80/20.
  12. I think 80% plant-based and 20% omnivore is a great balance—and if we ALL ate that way, then producing organically and ethically raised animals would be much more sustainable. I haven't yet and likely won't watch WTH because of its one-sidedness, but I do remember feeling the way you felt after watching Cowspiracy. Unfortunately, I think I managed to stick to veganism for only about a week or two before reverting back to my carnivorous ways. And my husband reported feeling much worse on a strictly plant-based diet. I love eating meat and my body gets along really well with it as far as I can tell, but I think the key is—like you—just eating less of it and filling my plate with more vegetables! Thanks for this post and for reminding me of this. :)
  13. I have watched so many plant based diet documentaries and I really do believe that in general, Americans need to eat MORE vegetables! We grow, buy, and eat tons of veggies and compared to our friends who are picky, refuse to learn how to prepare veggies. or simply do not want to eat them, we feel and look so much better! I am always happy to cater to my vegan friends (it gives me a chance to try out new recipes!) but a 100% plant based diet has never worked for me. Without enough animal protein I get extremely lethargic and I get horrible migraines! I stay away from dairy about 90% of the time, but for me, a healthy, balanced, and clean mix of whole grains, locally raised animal protein, and vegetables from my own garden works best!
  14. Thank you for writing this post! I have been vegan for the last 4 years and basically vegetarian my whole life but with each of my pregnancies, I definitely craved meat. So I ate it. I currently live in a town where vegan options are scarce and I don't want to give up being social (or eating just a basket of bread and a bottle of wine) when I go out with friends, so occasionally I will have a piece of fish and I don't beat myself up over it. But most of the time I can find something vegan and healthy on the menu (by omitting the animal protein) or talk with the wait staff to come up with healthy options from what is being offered. You can always ask the chef to make up something for you or order a bunch of yummy sides from existing meals. With that being said I do think we should not ignore the facts that animal products cause so much damage not only to our health but most importantly our environment regardless of how they are raised. It doesn't have to be so black and white but my opinion is the more meals you can make vegan for you and your family the better off it will be for them and the environment and if that just means Meatless Mondays that's still better than not at all. I love all of your vegan recipes and make them often! Please keep them coming!! I always like to hear other peoples experience with veganism.
  15. Bridget Scott :
    While the documentary was an eye opener (got my hot pocket loving husband thinking about eating veggies! YAY!), it was hard for me to watch because I felt as if I was watching propaganda! It was very one-sided but at the same time, gave me some really great ideas. Thank you for writing this blog & being honest - it made so much sense to me. My husband has never been a veggie eater, he often talks about how he grew up on processed foods, but after watching WTH, we took some time & scrolled through your instagram. I showed him different recipe videos of yours & he saw that eating more veggies can be a lot more exciting than he thought. I'm going to move towards eating 2 vegan meals a day, that is a bit much for my husband, so we've agreed to have "meatless mondays" as a start for him & we'll continue to progress. Thankfully we live on a farm in the Outer Banks of North Carolina - so I have access to organic beef (right from our farm) & lots of freshly caught seafood. It will be a struggle to incorporate healthier things in for my processed food loving husband, but I am up for the challenge & thankful for you & your social media/website - I can always use you as a reference for a fun, easy & unconventional way of healthy recipes. So thank you, thank ya very much!
  16. I try to practice moderation and would love to reach 80/20. When I indulge, I make a conscious decision to enjoy and not feel guilty....admittedly, this will be easier if your indulgences don't include entire box/bag/carton. I am so pleased to see how frequently you add "....this works for me" in your posts and recognize how individual diet/health can be. I am saddened when others feel their way is the only way.
  17. "This would be like the equivalent of an anti-vegan documentary saying, “Vegetables are full of GMOs, they are so bad for you and result in reproductive issues!” without mentioning that if you purchase non-GMO vegetables, all of those concerns go away." Yes! There is definitely some good information in this documentary, but when any diet is presented so black and white, especially without having people from the other side commenting, it's hard for me to stomach. Especially since the way that we prepare foods, such as grains and legumes, has changed so much in the last 50-100 years. Cut out sugar. Cut out processed stuff. Eat real food and not chemicals made in a lab. People tend to watch documentaries like this and just run with it because they are put together and seem convincing without doing any more research. I appreciate your perspective since you were 100% vegan and then realized you can actually still enjoy food and life with a little animal product here and there. Thank you!
  18. Hey Ali, Loved your article- I just recently watched What the Health the other day, as well. Great documentary! If you're interested in learning about how corrupt our nutritional advice is, you should (if you haven't already) read (or go on Audible) books by Marion Nestle. My favorites are Food Politics and What to Eat, also Why Calories Count. They are eye opening and have tons of sound research. She's a renowned Nutritionist/Public Health Official and has spent her life researching nutritional topics. She also includes all the resources, so you can read up on them for yourself. Wishing you health and happiness, Jess
  19. Thanks so much for this in depth post Ali. The thing I'm freaking out over is that you and I read the exact same book, immediately took the same journey (I told people I was a fishatarian) AT THE EXACT SAME TIME, ending up at healthy, organic omnivore today! I'm ultra sensitive to sugar so like you even stopped that and processed everything, no snacks etc until I bought the party/industry line that agave nectar isn't sugar. It screwed me up, I fell off the health wagon and have been climbing back up ever since, using you, your blog and the Inspiralizer to help me. You are much younger than I and figured it out early. I've had a life time of struggling with loving food, particularly what is bad for me. I feel so much better when eating vegan; even the whites of my eyes are whiter! Loose, adipose fat on hips and thighs literally sucks in and tightens up. My energy is MORE, too. But I like fish. I enjoy pork, too occasionally. So, they're part of the plan when my body asks for them. Funny, like you, I can't get a slap if beef to pass my lips! But I love the smell of meet BBQing. ? Great post but I'm seriously floored that our journeys were so exact! ?❤️
  20. I've loved your Inspiralized blog and recipes for over a year now and I love these types of posts where you share your journey! I'm on my own journey to figure out how to eat what's best for me and how my body reacts to certain foods. Throughout the past few months of reading your blog and Instagram posts, I've been trying to incorporate more "Meatless Mondays" and vegetarian meals in my life. I know you mentioned the "Skinny Bitch" book. Do you have any more book recommendations that discuss the pros of a plant based diet and avoiding processed foods and GMO's? Thanks, Ali!!
  21. WTH documentary left me freaked & confused ?‍♀️ I've been curious of what ur thoughts were on the subject ever since. This blog post has so many helpful bits of knowledge. Thank you!!
  22. I couldn't finish the documentary. I felt that it was ill-informed & pushing some information that could have very detrimental effects on people's health. For example, within the first 10 minutes of the film, they make the claim that 'sugar is not the problem, eating animal products is the problem'. That is just not true; certainly there are benefits to eating more plant-based, but scaring people into doing it will not yield sustainable results.
  23. What a wonderful post, Ali! Thank you so much for writing it. After watching the WTH documentary, I became concerned about the meat consumption in our home! We currently only eat meat once a day (for dinner) and stick to chicken, poultry, or fish nearly 99% of the time. I will say that I do not always buy ethically raised meats because $$$, but the documentary definitely made me reconsider this. Maybe if we can't afford the meat, then we should have more meatless nights as well! We have tried to go full vegan, but have found ourselves making poor food choices when presented in certain situations and that was something I did not like. You should not gain weight while eating a proper vegan diet! I think the best thing about this documentary is that is has definitely gotten people talking, which is really the whole point. I love the approach you have and think we will try to eat vegan a little more often in the evening now too.
  24. Great topic! How does Lu eat? Was he also a vegan when you two met or do you typically eat dinner separately?
    • Lu eats whatever I make him! He prefers veggie-based meals, but when he's craving meat, he definitely goes for it! I'd say he's 40% vegetarian, 60% meat-eater at this point! When I met him, he wasn't a vegan, no (he's never been a vegan!)
  25. Ali, I love the post. As an RD it's hard to find resources that are not too biased. I refer clients to your website all the time! I appreciate that you understand and acknowledge in many of your post that some people need to eat a certain way for their health (auto-immune, food sensitivities, etc). Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!! For expressing health as it should be, INDIVIDUALIZED! Love it :)
  26. I was so excited to turn WTH on when I saw it come up on my Netflix....and then as the commenter says up there when they start saying the "sugar doesn't cause diabetes, meat causes diabetes" I had to turn it off pretty quickly. I am a type 1 diabetic with great A1C's, perfect cholesterol, amazing blood pressure...etc....all from eating a very vegetable heavy diet that includes ethical and sustainable meat occasionally but does not rely on it. (Side note - one reason that I have been a long time follower is because I love being creative with vegetables and making them the center of the meal!) Cutting out the sugar and unnecessary carbs keeps me healthy! I did appreciate that they were challenging these organizations which in general have outdated nutritional advice and are funded by the government and big business, but I still had to turn it off. Anyone who tries to say sugar isn't a huge factor in the health of this nation loses me pretty quickly.
  27. It's funny how each of our bodies respond differently to the same food. For me, I try to eat Paleo as much as possible, because grains and legumes leave me bloated and full for hours... as in 10+ hours! I could subsist on a box of cereal for a week if I had to! Growing up, I always felt something was wrong with me, that I didn't get hungry regularly for meals like every one else, it was hard to say no to eating without having people think you have an eating disorder. Eating paleo, I get hungry 3x a day and feel great! If I had to give up meat, I truly think my body would suffer on grains and legumes. Glad you found what works for you!
  28. Really, really great read, Ali! Thank you.
  29. Could you provide some advice on good sources of protein when eating vegan? I know nuts, but they're high in fat, so more than a small handful is too much. And I don't want to rely on protein drinks.
    • There's plenty of information on the Internet on veganism! I like to get my protein from lentils, beans, peas/split peas, tofu, and the right combination of starches and veggies. Good luck!
  30. You my Dear have a perfect way of centering my universe! I wander away from a mostly Vegan diet but not to meats and eggs but to cheese and sugar (Clif bars are not my friend), then of course the marching Dis-Ease dives into my every day health! So now OUT come all your beautiful books and my little twirling machine Inspiralizer.... I have challenged a girlfriend to a healthier us by August 25th, if we can look in the mirror and smile then we head out to shop for a beautiful new outfit and make a date with our dream guys named Nick.... wish both of us luck!
  31. I have not watched the documentary, but plan too. In my case, I have gone vegan just recently after preparing vegan meals for my husband. 3 years ago, my husband had a heart attack. Now he is not your typical heart attach victim, not that there really is one. But me and my spouse do not smoke, drink alcohol and at least he was physically in shape (he was practices BJJ and continues to do so at least 5 times a week) So because of his heart attack, he realized he had to make a change and thus did his research and determined that the only thing he could change at that point was his diet. So he made the decision to eat only plant base and has thus continued to do so. Now my story, I had gone to the doctor and my cholesterol was high and so was my blood pressure. I've been on blood pressure medicine for about 4 years now. My spouse keeps telling me that if I went plant based, my blood pressure would lower and so would my cholesterol. When my spouse went plant based, I also stopped eating meat (pork, chicken, turkey, beef (although I was never really a beef eater) and only ate seafood, but I did not totally cut out the dairy (still had the cheese, pizza and yogurt). About 4 months ago, I went back to my doctor and had my cholesterol tested again. Not much change in the numbers. I decided I would listen to my spouse and just have a plant based diet (cut out the seafood and diary completely). Since that time, although I'm still on two blood pressure medicine (I was on three but now down to two), my blood pressure has really improved and next month after my doctor's visit, I expect I will be off another medicine. I had my cholesterol tested after being vegan for 2 months and the numbers are down (not where I want them to be) but definitely an improvement. I also feel really good and have even started exercising again. I know a vegan lifestyle is not for everyone, but I can honestly say that my decision to follow my husbands guidance in pursuing eating plant based has probably been the best decision I've made. It can be hard sometimes, but having inspiralized has help with plant based recipes. So Ali keep experimenting and posting those wonderful recipes.
  32. Thanks for your thoughts and perspective on veganism and the two documentaries. I think you are right about the scare tactics used. When it comes to dairy milk, I just want to add my two cents. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about whether milk is good for you or not...the jury is still out on that one. I hope I don't come across as a brat for saying this, but I think consumption of dairy milk should be left to each individual, and when you say that dairy milk is the last thing our bodies need, I'm not sure that's true for everyone. We still drink cow's milk in our household, and for us, this is a good fit. We adopted four kids who were small and hadn't always been fed properly. It took a couple of my kids almost a year to start growing after we started feeding and caring for them. Dairy milk was part of what we fed them, and we had two that we gave whole milk because they were under two and needed it for brain development (our doctor highly recommended we do so). Feeding them a balanced diet, including cow's milk helped them gain health and strength. We also use coconut almond milk for smoothies, oatmeal and other dishes here and there as well. I try hard to make sure our meals are healthy, taste good, and have variety to them, and dairy milk is part of that. I have an uncle who is lactose intolerant, and I understand his need to seek dairy alternatives. I get that some also choose not to eat animal products...so I understand why some choose to abstain. But I don't think that everyone needs to give up dairy products just yet, and will see what further info the scientific community finds for us in the future.
  33. I thought it was a great documentary. I was converted by the Forks Over Knives documentary and this is a great one as well. Have you seen Fed Up? I'll never look at sugar or government/food agencies again. Similar to what is revealed in WTH and Skinny Bitch. Thanks for a great post! Stephanie Memphis, TN
  34. I was wondering what you think about raw milk. I just moved to Georgia and tried it from a local certified farm for the first time. I loved the freshness and taste. I have read about so many health benefits from raw milk, even from the "health guru's" out there. I also get my beef from them (100% grass fed) and eggs. (However, I have been eating grass-fed/organic meat/chicken for many years now but never from a local farm). I am lucky that I don't have any food intolerances so I can't say I feel any better than I normally do drinking the raw milk and eating their beef and eggs. I do feel that I am getting more of a benefit to my body, drinking the raw milk instead of store bought organic milk. I use about 1/2 gallon a week. I use it mainly in coffee in the morning (1/2 cup and frothed with frother), and then I put some in my oatmeal in the morning. I will sometimes drink a glass at night when I am hungry because it is filling and doesn't affect my sleep. I usually stay away from meat/chicken for breakfast and lunch but usually will have it for dinner. I have to watch my protein intake due to having kidney stones. (Increased protein with known history of stones can cause more stones to develop). So curious to know what you think, Ali.
    • I can't stand the taste of dairy milk and knowing what it does to the body, it's an easy food not to consume for me - I rather have a delicious manchego cheese than milk in my coffee. Also, almond milk and cashew milks (my preferred 'milks') have higher calcium, lower sugars, lower carbs, and lower calories - so they are overall better for your health! I don't use them as a protein source, however, so if you're looking to replace dairy milk as a protein source, make sure you're doing it properly!
  35. Hey Ali, I've been following you since the beginning because I was getting married and excited to cook for my husband ( I still love doing that!) Love your blog and these types of articles a lot, as I've seen the blog grow and evolve. Here is a challenge I face and maybe you can even write more t on it, how do you get Lu to eat healthy with you? My husband basically thinks it's not dinner if there is no meat. He's not very picky but definitely likes heavier meaty food. To be fair I also like meat but I like veggies almost as much lol. Thanks!
  36. Elizabeth King :
    I enjoyed your post & it is very timely. I have heard that plant based is the best way to eat & the healthiest but I can't figure out how to start. I rarely eat beef ( it is expensive for pastured meat) but still eat chicken, some pork & fish. I like the 80/20 rule but have trouble knowing what to eat. A lot of recipes are for quesadias & similar type foods & I am not sure about those & if I would enjoy them. Your meals seem easier in that you use just veggies & spiralized noodles etc. I am a senior & have Celiac disease so I have issues with my choices. I have given up almost all processed food, soft drinks, & of course gluten & I have never drank milk. I don't like it. I have used it on cereal in years gone by & if a recipe calls for it but now I use nut milk. I think your post has helped clear up some things for me. Thanks for all you do.
  37. Documentaries like this just love to stir the pot - and I really appreciate your even-keeled response! Instead of picking it apart, you noted some of the things that were misleading and turned some of the points around into positive takeaways. And I love your suggestions at the end! Thanks for writing this.
  38. First of all, I am a vegan with the mindset of yes, ultimately I'd like to see the world to go vegan, but I'm also realistic and applaud any effort, no matter the size , that decreases the suffering and death of living beings. I am vegan for ethical reasons, so am unwavering in my dedication to not consuming animal products, but I also understand that others do not share my convictions. My partner eats plant based because it controls his blood sugar better than any other way of eating that he has tried. (He also refuses to say he's vegan, choosing the term plant-based eating instead, as he understand veganism to be a fully encompassing lifestyle choice, and he has no ethical issues with using animal products in general.) I know others who are eating this way for environmental reasons. There are many pathways, and many degrees of conviction to a plant-based way of life. And one life saved may not seem to mean much in the grand scheme of things, but means everything to the owner of that life. I applaud any and all efforts to save lives. I appreciate your honesty and the plant-based eating that you do, and for putting out delicious vegan recipes on your blog to encourage others to try and see how tasty it can be.
  39. Elizabeth Post Musgrove :
    Reading this post as I eat a farro and roasted veggie bowl with a yummy peach as a treat. While I can't go vegan 100% I go vegetarian often and we always have at least one meatless dinner a week at home. I'm currently suffering through what is hopefully the end of two years of braces (as an adult) so many veggies and healthy treats are difficult to eat so I have been trying my best to find good alternatives. I look forward to being able to chew like a normal person and fully getting into spiralizing! Thanks, Ali!!
  40. I haven't watched What the Health yet though I have watched the other mentioned documentaries about meat. These inspired me to get all of my meat from local farms and minimize overall meat consumption. We eat grass fed and finished beef, chicken, and pork that travels <30 miles from the farm to our house. I feel like this makes a huge difference on the impact to the environment. We are 60/40 with meat based VS vegetarian meals at our house. I just don't think we will truly ever be able to eliminate cheese! ? Will you feed your son cows milk? I've always wondered why people I work for (as a nanny) don't drink cows milk because they know it isn't that beneficial, but still load their kids up on whole milk.
  41. Havent watched it but am mostly vegetarian and love to have vegan meals as well and yes i have the odd meal with meat. We have as a society become so obsessed with seeing our diets as sources of stress and anxiety when all we really need to do is fuel, satiate and above all enjoy our daily plates - match that up with daily exercise and we have the balance. I probably won't watch it based on your review which was great. THANKS
  42. Hi Ali, A co-worker gave me one of your cookbooks almost two years ago and I've loved following you! Congrats on your pregnancy! I haven't seen the documentary so I can't comment on that, but I do have two questions for you. 1) Do you have any tips or hints for staying in budget? We try to buy organic and local when we can but it gets so expensive so quickly. I feel like our grocery budget is fairly large but I still end up over ??‍♀️ 2) Winter! We live in Wisconsin, so we have some great farmer's markers in the summer, but the winter is a different story. We don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in my city, and while our grocery stores do offer some organic meats and produce, it isn't everything. A little background - I've been gluten-free for six years and mostly dairy-free and sugar-free for over a year. I tent to eliminate, not substitute. My husband does eat a lot of meat, but mostly lean proteins (turkey, chicken, fish). We have made the commitment to eating well and fueling our bodies in a way that leads to long-term health (we haven't been to the doctor in over four years!). Any tips or suggestions you have would be great! Thanks so much! ~Elyse
  43. Maryweather :
    I'm so glad you posted about this - I was going to ask if you watched it. I watched it a few weeks ago, and the night I watched it was the last time I've eaten meat and most animal products. There have been a couple times (4th of July, mostly) that I wanted to and did indulge in treats, but I've been really good about it 95% of the time. It's surprisingly easier than I ever thought it could be since I loved meat and previously ate it every day. I haven't craved it at all since I gave it up, and it feels so good!
  44. I've made it through half of What the Health so far after my friend who recently got diagnosed with breast cancer told me to watch it. I really do feel like it is one sided. For me, personally, I used to eat a lot of beans and carbs growing up. I was bloated and constipated frequently. Towards the end of high school, I became lactose intolerant, which wasn't too hard to imagine considering my milk intake. It has taken me years of experimenting with different foods and cooking on my own, but I have found that eating pretty close to paleo makes me feel best. I should cut back on my meat consumption, but I do find I feel best with low carb, high fat diet which What the Health is obviously against. I love experimenting with vegan recipes though and don't consume much dairy or eggs. My mom is highly allergic to eggs and diary and since becoming lactose intolerant, it was just easier to cut those things out most of the time. If I am craving them, I will honor my craving. Thank you for starting this interesting conversation though. I am enjoying reading everyone's comments.
  45. Lisa Nicklow :
    This an excellent commentary on the vegan lifestyle. My son has recently joined his girlfriend in the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, which has pushed me in that direction in order to cook meals agreeable to all. It was a surprise to find out how many things I already cooked that way, and how many things I could adapt (soy/meatless crumbles...a Godsend). I already owned a spiralizer, and that has worked well in my efforts, and like you, I couldn't do "veg" 100%, so I am about 80/20. I can already tell the difference in my weight and energy just by making a few changes! Keep up the good work, and I look forward to more "inspirilization" from you!
  46. This an excellent commentary on the vegan lifestyle. My son has recently joined his girlfriend in the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, which has pushed me in that direction in order to cook meals agreeable to all. It was a surprise to find out how many things I already cooked that way, and how many things I could adapt (soy/meatless crumbles...a Godsend). I already owned a spiralizer, and that has worked well in my efforts, and like you, I couldn't do "veg" 100%, so I am about 80/20. I can already tell the difference in my weight and energy just by making a few changes! Keep up the good work, and I look forward to more "inspirilization" from you!
  47. Love this post. I've watched many of the popular documentaries about food and health but not this one yet - out of fear that it would indeed be pushing an agenda (and not being in the mindset to absorb that). I think anybody opportunity to talk about our health more and how food is tied to it is great though, so I will have to watch it soon! I've been vegetarian off and on for close to 20 years but only truly committed and more importantly, educated, for the last 7. Diet is so personal, and you have to figure out what's best for you. I realized that consuming meat made eating a burden for me and cut that out slowly. Several books I read about veganism didn't actually affect me like I thought they would (though I love Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals); I found greater insight in The Omnivore's Dilemma, perhaps because at the time it felt like a more balanced look at eating. Consuming a variety of whole, real foods and eating less meat (the most humane you can access) still makes a more positive impact than following the more traditional American diet.
  48. Christina George :
    So I just watched this film. Im a sucker for a Netflix documentary and when I saw you watched this recently, I made sure to put it on my list! I've been following you for a while, and even downloaded one of your cookbooks. I love seeing your story every day and it's mainly because I don't feel like you ever push people into thinking or feeling a certain way about a specific 'diet'. Recently I've been dealing with a lot of digestational issues including severe stomach pain, nausea, and even acid reflux or heart burn pretty much after every single meal?! Some kind of burning sensation in my chest. I was beginning to think I had a gluten problem, or a sensitivity to alcohol. I've gained a lot of weight in the last year and I've felt very unmotivated, which has been hard for me to mentally deal with as I was a competitor dancer for 20 years. I have hypothyroidism and asthma, both of which I have prescriptions for. Given my recent issues, I've started to question my medication and wonder if it's had anything to do with my recent health. This documentary and your post have completely opened my eyes to a new perspective. I know tomorrow I couldn't cold turkey go 100% plant based, but I am very interested in trying it for 2 weeks to flush my system, and then find a balance like your 80/20. I feel like I found this information at such a perfect time! Thanks for sharing!
  49. I continue to have stomach aches and feel a lack of energy, especially after eating. I wonder if this is my answer?! I'm going to work on incorporating more plant based meals into my diet. We have a giant summer garden right now which will make it much easier ? I'll definitely be watching that documentary too. Thanks for your perspective and advice!
  50. Thank you for your post. I thought "What The Health" was an eye-opener, but like so many things on the internet, we need to be aware of their agenda. This should prompt us to learn more and find what is actual truth. I failed miserably when I tried the Whole30 diet - it was too difficult to maintain as a pescatarian, but the book "It Starts With Food" contained very good info on how our bodies process food. I also lost the last 10 pounds I had struggled with for years, so that was good. I've finally settled with the decision to listen to my body and I'm now reading "The Yoga of Eating" which basically teaches what you mentioned in your blog. You have to know what's right for you. I'm tired of feeling like a failure - it's OK to splurge a little here and there, but just be aware of what my body is telling me. I'm 63 and want to be healthy and happy until I'm 100 so I can enjoy my grandchildren!
  51. What a great and enlightening article. I have not eaten meat in probably 10 years and truly never crave it. I am basically plant based and use some veggie burgers and Quorn meat substitute products occasionally. I do enjoy Greek yogurt and I use almond milk. I rely on the yogurt as protein source. My question is how to reduce dairy and which Vegan protein powder do you use? I have had breast cancer so I stay away from processed soy and just use tofu etc. I know the protein helps my hunger so need to get it from other sources. Thanks!
  52. I found it to be great and right down my first class for my masters degree in nutrition. But I, like you, caught the diabetes statement which was misleading. Now diabetes will be helped with more of a plant based diet for sure. I was actually ready in one day to begin the body redesigning - anti cancer diet / life style. This helped me get back on track and kick me down the motivation road
  53. Great post!! I'm trying VERY hard to follow an anti inflammatory diet, which is basically plant based, Whole Foods, no animal protein except high quality cheeses (in moderation), yogurt and seafood (for inflammation purposes).... I'm following this diet for RA, but also for weight loss. Did you have a lot of success with weight loss when you were Vegan?? I've seen so many you tube Vegans also restrict fat?? Even healthy fats....? This seems nuts... (they also cut out nuts!!). Just curious if you also restricted fat??
  54. Ali, I started following you right when you started your blog and have bought both your books and your Inspiralizer. I enjoy everything that you write and love your recipes. (I also lived in Jersey City for a year after college as I did a year of volunteer work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corp. so I love that connection) This article has touched me and I am going to be mindful of eating more vegan and your 80/20 rule sounds doable. I have also been a fan of the Peloton bike before I read that you incorporated it into your exercise routine, so that was another strong connection for me too! Well, today my Peloton bike is being delivered and I look forward to incorporating your food habits, insights, and exercise with my new Peloton in hopes to feel better and lose the weight that I need to lose! Thank you for all of your inspiration and for sharing from your heart.
  55. Fiona McGregor :
    Please stop calling yourself vegan, you are mostly plant based, as veganism isn't a diet, it is a belief. Vegans try to cause the least amount of harm to animals and the planet by not using any animal products, so is so much more than a diet, food is only a small part of it. You can't be a part time vegan. I enjoy some of your recipes, but would much prefer you to call them plant based meals please.
  56. I made your veggie sandwich last night and it was Ah-mazing! Who knew some veggies on wheat bread could be so good! I made another one for lunch today and a friend saw it and she is going to the store after work to get ingredients to make one too!
  57. I love this post... My husband works on programs that promote behavior change specifically related to climate change (and the environment) - and one program is incorporating more plant based meals into your diet (not necessarily going fully vegan or vegetarian because as you mention some people find that impossible). We've been eating plant based about 80% of the time - I just got your cook books and the inspiralizer and can't wait to incorporate them!
  58. Ashley Messer :
    This was so great and well written! I wish there were more articles like this about vegan/veg lifestyles. I read skinny bitch in college and went pescatarian for a year and so many people gave me SO much crap for it but after being fed information (like the "Got Milk" campaign) for so long, it's all they know and it's hard for them to accept anything else. More conversations like this about meat in moderation and the 80/20 rule are a great start and so awesome for moving away from the classic "meat with every meal" mindset that so many Americans live by. Thanks, Ali!
  59. I LOVE this post! my husband and I just watched this which I was grateful for since I already know all this (read the china study years ago)... he's finally starting to pay attention to why I'm a vegetarian :) that being said I need to cut down on cheese for real. thanks for sharing your story!
  60. I went vegan after reading Skinny Bitch too! I lasted about six months and weighed the lowest I have since fifth grade - around 108 lbs. My favorite cookbook was Veganomicon. For the most part, I ate health food, but the diet wreaked havoc on my digestive system. Several years later I went Primal/Paleo and felt a lot better. I think the balance you describe in your own diet is great. I would love to revisit some of my favorite vegan recipes but without the gluten. I'm not sure I will check out the documentary, but I really appreciate your analysis.
    • Hi Jillian, I have been vegan for almost 3 years and it seems my digestive system keeps going up and down. I saw you had issues when you were vegan, what was it do you think that was causing these issues?
  61. Bryan Clifford :
    I'm a type 2 diabetic ,I recently started a plant based whole food life style and I have cut my meds in half and I hopefully I will be off all meds in a few months !!! I love this life style it is working for me . Thank you for sharing your story !! I look forward to your blog thank you !!!
  62. Grace Merchlinski :
    Yes yes yes!!! Love this!
  63. The documentary left me feeling like I really did need to make a lifestyle change. I was only ever eating chicken & turkey, as beef and pork, seafood, other animal products, didn't appeal to my tastebuds, I never liked them, and spent my entire life only eating poultry. I am also lactose intolerant, but am able to eat cheese for some reason, without problems, except in large quantities. I was eating 2 eggs for breakfast every day also - and love eggs and cheese, love love them. After having watched this doc I decided, I will need to cut down on my eggs and dairy, but do not ever think I could eliminate them altogether, so in return - I will cut out meat entirely, since I was only ever eating poultry - this was not going to be hard to do - subtracting meats from my home meals would not be an issue for me. I am not naive enough to think that I have to go full vegan and all these terrible things will happen to me if I do not - but it definitely did leave me feeling like my overall health and footprint on the world would improve should I cut back on eggs and cheese, and eliminate meat altogether. I would say this documentary has changed my life - positively, and I hope it continues to make positive changes on others in the future.
  64. I needed to send you one tiny word to be able to give many thanks once again for the stunning pointers you have contributed in this article. It is quite surprisingly open-handed with people like you to deliver openly all that many of us could possibly have sold for an electronic book to help with making some profit for their own end, particularly considering that you could possibly have done it if you ever decided. Those tactics as well served as a good way to comprehend most people have a similar dreams like my own to know a good deal more on the subject of this condition. I am certain there are several more enjoyable sessions ahead for folks who browse through your site.
  65. Gen Edenfield :
    Hi Ali! I just watched WTH and would like to start eating more of a plant based diet. I have a 10 month old baby boy and he is exclusively breastfed. However I’m planning to introduce milk at 1 year. I’m curious about your thoughts and what you plan to give Luca after breastfeeding? Will you give cows milk? Or would you consider an alternative like almond milk? Thanks!!

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