Plant Based Diet

New Beginnings

For the past two weeks, (written in 2010) I have been learning about, and exploring plant based diets. At first I was in a state of information overload. It seemed like there was too much information and some of it conflicted others. I think each Doctor who promotes this lifestyle has his or her unique biases. Some of them are not clear about why they have the bias, others are. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn states clearly that his reason for omitting nuts and avocados is that he believes that if he said nuts were okay, that soon people would have a bowl of nuts in every room of the house and they would be soon consuming as much oil as a vegan who uses olive oil on everything. I am unconvinced this works from a weight loss perspective.

olive oilThe reason Dr. Esselstyn is so strict about olive oil, and nuts, is that it takes very little of these in the diet before the risk of heart attacks start to rise. There is an immense amount of information pointing to a low fat plant based diet being the answer to preventing, or even turning around, cancer and heart disease and others of the top 10 killers.

I think he is right. I first started trying the plant based diet three weeks ago and after being told I can eat as much as I want as long as I do not add oil, or refined sugar and that by doing so, I would lose weight. Well, no so. I have not lost a pound.

Then I listened to Chef A.J. speak about her experience with going plant based. She was not losing – until she removed nuts from her diet. Once she adopted a starch based vegan diet without added oil, she lost weight without even trying. In fact, she did it to prove that it wouldn’t work – but she had to eat her words when she lost more than 20 lbs in just six weeks.

Vegan Pros and Cons

Hearing this resonated with me. When I went vegan a few years ago, I didn’t lose weight unless I counted calories and looking back definitely it was olive oil, coconut oil and nuts that were the culprits.

As a nutritional coach, I believe eliminating specific foods or foods groups sets one up for failure. Eating all foods in moderation is the key to overcoming disordered eating. However, anyone who espouses to the theory that you can eat a plant based diet without paying any attention to caloric intake of calorie dense nuts and high fat foods like avocado is likely believing an illusion. Avocado is one of those foods I can scarf down with reckless abandon.

In my personal experience with going plant based, I kept track of the recipes that I cooked and the foods I consumed, so that I could speak from experience when others asked me about going plant based. I believe there are benefits to eating more days vegan or plant based than most of us do. I believe we have been socially conditioned to believe if we do not eat meat that we cannot live a healthy diet.

Some people who believe in a vegan diet, will tell you that humans were originally plant based and that humans were never intended to eat meat. I do not remember who said it, but I was listening to a Ted Talk video done by a doctor about health and nutrition and the doctor said, for him the proof that humans were not originally vegan is that “if you follow a vegan diet and do not take a Vitamin B supplement you will die. Seeing as we have only been able to isolate and manufacture Vitamin B supplements since 1910.