Most Vegetarians Become Ex-Vegetarians?

Well, this is a positive development:  a reader sent me a link to an article about people who originally became vegetarians for ethical reasons, but are now converting to being “ethical” meat-eaters:

A feisty vegetarian since age 12, Berlin Reed was a self-described “punk” who swore to abstain from supporting corporations that he believed profited from mistreating animals, abusing labor practices and “destroying” the environment.

“I have ‘vegan’ tattooed on my neck,” said Reed, 29. “You could say I was a little passionate about it.”

Today, however, he’s known as “the ethical butcher,” a title which might seem odd for someone whose friends once arranged a “bacon intervention” to sway him to omnivorism.

Must’ve been some party tray at that bacon intervention.  Apparently the intervention worked, but I can’t help but wonder if the ethical butcher’s customers ever spot that “vegan” tattoo on the back of his neck and suspect he may secretly be handing them tofu steaks.

The article goes on to explain that “ethical” meat-eating means different things to different people, but that’s not what caught my attention.  This did:

According to a recent study by Psychology Today, most vegetarians return to eating meat.

I didn’t know that.  I’m an ex-vegetarian, I know other ex-vegetarians, and of course many readers of this blog are ex-vegetarians, but this is first time I’d heard that vegetarianism is a temporary condition for most who try it.  Even before I checked the Psychology Today study, I could guess the reason.  This paragraph gives a pretty strong clue:

For those who are physically unable to keep up with the challenges of the vegetarian life, ethical omnivorism is a liberating conscience-saver. Nutritionist Julie Daniluk, 38, was plagued by guilt when she returned to eating meat, but 13 years of vegetarianism hadn’t suited her immune system.

Okay, I have to admit:  that first sentence rubs me the wrong way.  “Unable to keep up with the challenges of the vegetarian life” sounds a bit like “unable to keep up with the challenges of boot camp.”  The more appropriate description in my case would be “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.”  The nutritionist obviously found that going meatless wasn’t doing wonders for her health  — somebody call T. Colin Campbell! — so she quit.

That’s what the Psychology Today article named as the number one reason vegetarians go back to eating meat:  poor health.

Staci wasn’t always so fit. In her early 30’s, Staci’s health started going downhill. After twelve years of strict vegetarianism, she began to suffer from anemia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and she experienced stomach pains for two hours after every meal. “I was completely debilitated,” she tells me. “Then I changed the way I ate.”

“Tell me about your diet now. What did you have for breakfast today?” I ask.

“A half pint of raw beef liver,” she says.

Ok….Staci is a bit extreme in her carnivory — these days she prefers her meat raw, and she eats a lot of it. But the transformation from hard-core vegetarian to meat-eater that Staci illustrates is surprisingly common. Indeed, according to a 2005 survey by CBS News, three times as many American adults admit to being “ex-vegetarians” than describe themselves as current vegetarians.

This is a point I’ve tried to make to the vegetarians zealots who occasionally troll this blog and preach to me about how much healthier vegetarians are compared to population as a whole:  vegetarians are a self-selected group.  It’s a lifestyle that attracts health-conscious people to begin with — that’s why I tried it — but then the people who experience negative results usually give it up.  Those left standing are health-conscious people who didn’t experience health problems going meatless.  Of course they’re healthier on average than a population that consumes pizza, burritos, deli sandwiches, sodas, french fries, Little Debbie Snack Cakes and Chunky Monkey ice cream.  Compare the vegetarians to a bunch of people who consciously chose paleo diets, then we’ll see who’s healthier on average.

The authors of the Psychology Today article gathered their own data from an online survey, so it’s hardly a scientific study.  But the results are interesting:

Thirty-five percent of our participants indicated that declining health was the main reason they reverted back to eating flesh. For example, one wrote, “I was very weak and sickly. I felt horrible even though I ate a good variety of foods like PETA said to.” Another wrote, “My doctor recommended that I eat some form of meat as I was not getting any better. I thought it would be hypocritical of me to just eat chicken and fish as they are just as much and animal as a cow or pig. So I went from no meat to all meat.” The most succinct response was by a man who wrote, “I will take a dead cow over anemia any time.”

One-quarter of the ex-vegetarians said they grew tired of the hassle (whatever that means) of the lifestyle, and one-fifth said they developed an “irresistible urge” to eat meat again.  As far as I’m concerned, we can add that group to those who started eating meat again for their health.  Those irresistible urges were messages from their bodies … something along the lines of “Give me the nutrition I need, you dumb @#$%!”

Many of us (if not most) who try vegetarianism eventually end up feeling lousy for good reason:  we evolved as meat-eaters.  As it happens, another reader recently sent me a link to an article that provides yet another clue about what our ancestors ate:

Stone Age barbecue consumers first went for the bone marrow and then for the ribs, suggest the leftovers of an outdoor 7,700-year-old meaty feast described in the July issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The remains, found in the valley of the River Tjonger, Netherlands, provide direct evidence for a prehistoric hunting, butchering, cooking and feasting event. The meal occurred more than 1,000 years before the first farmers with domestic cattle arrived in the region.

Marrow and ribs … the good, fatty stuff.   Sounds yummy.

Although basic BBQ technology hasn’t changed much over the millennia, this prehistoric meal centered around the flesh of an aurochs, a wild Eurasian ox that was larger than today’s cows. It sported distinctive curved horns.

Whaddaya mean BBQ technology hasn’t changed?!  We have propane grills and aluminum tongs now.  Not to mention cool aprons.

According to the study, the individuals skinned the animal and butchered it, reserving the skin and large hunks of meat for carrying back to a nearby settlement. Chop marks left behind by the flint blade show how the meat was meticulously separated from the bones and removed.

Niekus told Discovery News, “The people who killed the animal lived during the Late Mesolithic (the latter part of the middle Stone Age). They were hunter-gatherers and hunting game was an important part of their subsistence activities.”

According to a nitwit I spent part of today debating online, this means the stone-age people had high rates of type 2 diabetes.  What happens, ya see, is that if more than 10% of your diet comes from animal fat, the fat stacks up against the walls of your cells and then the cells can’t absorb glucose –- which is the energy source for every cell in your body, ya see — so you become a diabetic.  Yup, that’s what happens.  Yes, it does.  Yes, it does!  It does too!  Well, you’d understand these things if you’d just read The China Study!

But back to our prehistoric ancestors:

Aurochs must have been good eats for Stone Age human meat lovers, since other prehistoric evidence also points to hunting, butchering and feasting on these animals. A few German sites have yielded aurochs bones next to flint tool artifacts.  The aurochs couldn’t escape extinction, though.

“It became extinct due to the destruction of the habitat of the aurochs since the arrival of the first farmers in Europe about 7500 years ago,” Prummel said. “These farmers used the area inhabited by aurochs for their dwellings, arable fields and meadows. The aurochs gradually lost suitable habitat.”

Figures … friggin’ grain farmers had to show up and ruin the natural-meat supply.  Perhaps if enough vegetarians convert to being ethical meat-eaters, we can do something about that.


123 thoughts on “Most Vegetarians Become Ex-Vegetarians?

  1. shutchings

    Regarding: “I haven’t seen statistics on how many people go low-carb and then quit. My guess is that those who give up a low-carb lifestyle do so because they miss their potatoes and pasta, not because they feel lousy and gain weight.”

    The last time I quit LC was because I wanted to be part of holiday meals and all the fun foods offered by friends and family. And I have to say since resuming LC, part of what I miss is wanting the food that I eat. Don’t get me wrong–the food I eat tastes good. I’ve been caught literally licking my platter clean. But I never really want anything I eat. (Okay, except this one pork tenderloin dish served with a little bit of unsweetened applesauce. It’s always lingering in the back of my mind. And don’t think I don’t know it’s because of the applesauce that I probably shouldn’t be having.) I miss really wanting food and then being satisfied. But I think I’m finally resigned to my fate. One other disappointment is that I don’t have any increase in energy like so many other LCers claim to have. Still, the benefits outweigh those two complaints.

    I hope that changes for you over time. I used to really miss the pasta dishes. Now I just don’t want them.

  2. Andrea

    If you miss pasta you have to try this:
    Grill sliced zucchini brushed with a little olive oil (and pesto if you’ve got it)
    put low carb marinara over the top, maybe some parm. Crazy good!
    Another one of my favorites: swiss chard leaves sauteeed with Italian sausage plus that same marinara. Takes a bit longer than the zukes, though because the chard needs time to cook down.
    And if you miss Alfredo sauce, try that on broccoli.

    Trust me, after a while, pasta just seems bland and boring. And I used to be a major noodle freak . There’s Shiritaki pasta, but it just seems kind of pointless now.

  3. Andrea

    oops forgot to add- maybe you don’t want the food that you have because you’re in a rut? I used to do that too-I got to a point where I just couldn’t take any more polish sausage. In hindsight that wasn’t the best for me anyway. I’m not sure what your budget is, but see if you can branch out into fish, or different kinds of fish than your’re eating.

    Maybe this will work for an applesauce sub?

    Low-carb doesn’t have to boring or repetitive by any means. There are great recipes all over the internet and in books.

  4. Anonymouse

    I must confess I’m a pescatarian, however I’m not here to troll. I believe we must all make food choices based both on our own bodies and consciences. It is unsurprising that many people cannot sustain a vegetarian or vegan diet – and if I didn’t adore legumes, tofu, fish and vegetables, I would probably be reverting back to omnivorism too. I certainly do not hold it against anyone who doesn’t find a meat-free (or meat-limited) diet right for them.

    Slightly off topic, but I do want to say that I’m DISGUSTED by mainstream nutrition (pseudo) science – especially this complete fear of “fat”. I see many overweight vegetarians because they substitute carbs for meat. It’s possibly the WORST thing someone can do, since it crowds out the protein one must be mindful of consuming if it isn’t being obtained from meat. Refined carbs are so easy and tempting, especially if one has any vitamin/mineral deficiencies in their diet. And the effect on blood sugar and resultant diabetes risk cannot be good.

    Also – somewhat off topic – I’d like to suggest you look into the skewing of statistics because of the problems associated with BMI calculations. You may already know, but the “squared” function associated with BMI means that the very short will have a lower BMI than a taller exact scaled version of themselves, while the tall will have a higher BMI than a shorter scaled version of themselves. (Yes, there’s some emilioration because of “physical build” differences between the short and tall – but not enough to compensate for the fact we’re 3-dimensional, not 2-dimensional).

    For this reason, unless you’re comparing samples of populations, where height is roughly averaged, the taller group will have higher average BMI’s even if all other things are equal. This is a huge problem when applying BMI calculations to individuals – which really should NEVER be done (many VERY TALL athletes are considered obese – not because of muscle mass, but simply because of the poor application of this formula). The fact health care professionals continue to apply this calculation to individuals is simply unbelievable. If they can make it through medical school, you’d think they could understand basic maths!

    Anyhow – because average height has increased as we’ve had better access to food, this particular measure of “obesity” will increase by definition. This would IN PART correlate to the obesity epidemic (and also to why being moderately “overweight” seems to correlate with better health outcomes – since good nutrition is associated with being taller).

    Anyhow. I hope you don’t assume I’m trolling. I may not eat red-meat or poultry, but none-the-less support the assertion that these foods are not the enemy. And I hope the issues of statistics give you some food-for-thought!

    Interesting insights into what’s wrong with the BMI scoring. In the film, I make it clear I’m no fan of labeling people as overweight or obese based on BMI.

  5. Anonymouse

    Thankyou for publishing my comment – and I must confess I have not yet seen your film (but hope to do so in the near future).

    I’m very glad you’re against the use of BMI for classifying individuals into “healthy”, or “unhealthy’ weight categories. My personal experience was at the other end, since I’m short and of slight build (I was never “underweight”, but have had a few health care professionals – although not all – fixate on my apparent “need” to put on weight). I’ve known much taller and obviously “skinnier” people to fall into a “healthy” weight category, leading me to look into what was going on with this calculation.

    Anyhow, I’m quite skeptical when it comes to health/nutrition recommendations, mostly because I believe that a “one size fits all” approach is deliterous. It seems only common sense that different people, with their different genetic lineages, would have different optimal eating habits. For this reason, I could not support “low carb” – or any particular diet – as a rule, but can see the potential it has, prima facie, for weight and particularly diabetes management (which I saw discussed in another post).

    I don’t think carbohydrates are bad per se, nor protein or fat, however I do see the refined, high-GI varieties as having strong addictive potential. I think also the pre-packaged, highly processed nature of many foods, of all types, mean that less caloric energy is needed to digest them, and more of their caloric content is available to the body quite redily – Certainly, this could only work against weight managment and weight-related health problems.

    If you haven’t seen it, there was quite an interesting documentary produced by the BBC’s Horizon program called “Did cooking make us human?” It looks at how cooking food may have provided our ancestors the available calories to fuel a more sophisticated brain (which for it’s relative weight is the most calorie-intensive organ in our bodies), and lead to a much smaller intestinal tract than our simian ancestors. With a more developed and adaptive brain, and less time spent seeking and eating food, the kind of social/cultural development associated with “being human” was able to evolve. Two animal studies were shown and discussed, lending credence to some of the basic propositions underlying this theory. It’s a really facinating film which I think you may enjoy.

    Anyhow, thankyou for your time. No doubt when I have the opportunity/funds to watch your film I’ll be back with more comments. I do enjoy healthy debate, especially when it comes to the interractions between science, social policies and popular understandings of science, etc. – And nutritional science sure sits in the middle of all that!

    You can watch it for free on Hulu. I don’t block comments unless the commenters stoop to insults or simply argue a point over and over without providing any evidence.

  6. LaurieLM

    The following is a quote from Amazon review of Ornish’s vegan diet restrictions.
    Ornish diet, eat….
    “Nothing that contains salt. Nothing made with fat. Nothing that contains meat. Nothing that contains oil. Nothing that contains seafood of any kind. Nothing with taste. The list of deadly, and forbidden foods is endless. No almonds, no avocadoes, no cabernet wine, no shrimp. Stay a way from walnuts, salmon, clams, coconut, flaxseed, pecans, and calamari. Eat no roquefort, no cashews, no sushi, no flounder, no cod, no olives, no california roll. You are not permitted olive oil or
    canola oil or sesame oil. (Sesame seeds are even frowned upon.) You are allowed no pecans, no mustard, no sunflower seeds, no pumpkin seeds, no Dover sole,
    no brook trout, no chocolate. . . You are left to a spartan regime of leaves and stems, sugary fruits, and piles and piles of sticky starches. Rice beans potatoes rice beans potatoes rice beans. . . You may dress it up with saffron and exotic spices. But it is still potatoes rice beans to me. ”

    What this reminds me though, is that what less restrictive vegetarian diets allow- sugar, bread, cereal, soy ‘fakin’ bacon’, soy ‘not dogs’, cheez-it’s, wheat thins, margarine, canola oil, corn oil, crisco, HFCS etc. are unfit for human consumption. All these, what I consider non-foods, are technically vegetarian. And the availability of sweet fruits year round can’t be good in the 21st century. Because our ancestors couldn’t get them except infrequently, or never, we seem to have no satiation point for them. If ancestor Groc from the stone age found some once or 2X during his foraging in a year, you can best believe that his body said GORGE on this stuff NOW.

    The rest of the Amazon critique of Ornish’s Frankenstein diet:

    “And. . .not to be indelicate, but when consuming all this organic mulch your intestines will ferment and bubble like a pot of stew. You will pass gas every few
    minutes, much like a cow does. At the office, I could not sit through a 30-minute meeting without slipping out to the men’s room once or twice to break wind in
    private. (Ornish recommends using Beano, some pill that supposedly helps this ‘side effect.’ Phooey.)
    I gave this up. I now eat low-carb. My weight is down.
    My cholesterol is down (and balanced) my BP is down. I am not hungry. My periodontal disease cleared up. And a no longer puff like a steam engine out the back.”

    That’s hilarious. The definition of the Ornish I heard was: if it tastes good, spit it out.

  7. Leta

    I was a vegetarian for 15 years. Over most of that time, I ate fish, and always ate tons of eggs.

    After having children, I became very concerned about the level of methyl mercury in fish, and dialed my consumption way, way back. And, then, of course, I had kids, so I wasn’t being as mindful as I should of been about my own eating patterns.

    It took about a year of not eating even close to enough protein for me to feel bad. Really bad. One day, my husband made burgers (he was professional meat cutter for years) from grass fed beef, with sauteed onions and mushrooms on top. I just stood there, looking at one, and, after feeling “meh” toward meat for years, I JUST WANTED THAT BURGER. I ate it. It was weird, but really good.

    I source local and ethical meats. I won’t compromise on that. But man, do I feel better. Less crabby, more patient, no more gastro intestinal distress (which I had for a decade) and I need much less sleep.

    And yes, ethical meat eating is much better environmentally than commodity consumption. I feel as much disgust about factory farming as ever. But, and I knew this the whole time I was a vegetarian, something has to die in order for me to eat. I don’t like it, but there it is. So I try to live the best life I can, and to feel grateful for all the creatures that allowed me to eat, to thrive, in order to show my appreciation.

  8. The Older Brother


    re your point: “It seems only common sense that different people, with their different genetic lineages, would have different optimal eating habits. For this reason, I could not support ‘low carb’ …”

    Keep in mind that per capita sugar (carb) consumption has gone from around 45 pounds a year in the late 1800’s (as colas began to be introduced to our diet); up to over 100 pounds the middle of the 1900’s; and exploded to the current 150+ pounds in the last few decades as HFCS and grains (especially refined) have been replacing real foods in the standard American diet.

    That’s not a time frame that lends itself to genetic adaptation unless maybe you’re a fruit fly(!).

    I think you’ll find Fat Head worth your time and will cover a lot of the areas you bring up (including the silly BMI). If you’ve read much of Tom’s blog, you’ve probably also noted that Gary Taube’s “Good Calories, Bad Calories” is pretty much required reading if you’re interested in a rigorous (but very readable) review of the real science.


  9. JJ in CVCA

    I watched Tom Noughton’s documentary “Fat Head” last night for the first time and I enjoyed the intent of the movie, namely to inform us all on the trouble with our carb/sugar consumption, and the physical root causes of heart disease. However, I think that Mr. Noughton could have made all of these sound, valid, scientifically backed claims/observations without resorting to so much of the anti-government/anti-government agency approach. Also, in the one hand, he seems intent on defending corporations like McDonalds from advocates like Morgan Spurlock and sue-happy lawyers, and in the other hand demonizes corporations like wheat, sugar, corn growers, and processed food manufactorers, who, aftar all, need to make money too.

    What you’re missing is that I’m in favor of individual freedom and against government interference. Wheat, sugar, and corn growers can grow all they want and sell all they want as far as I’m concerned. But I don’t want the government subsidizing them with my tax dollars, and I don’t want the USDA using more tax dollars to convince Americans those foods are the basis of a good diet. So in both cases — defending McDonald’s against sue-happy lawyers and criticizing government support of the grain industry — I’m advocating for the freedom of individuals to make their own choices and spend their own dollars where they see fit.

  10. Peggy Cihocki

    I don’t know if anyone has linked to this before, but here’s a great, detailed, scientific explanation of why vegetarianism is not natural (for humans) and why all vegans eventually have to suffer health consequences from their chosen life style: I’m glad I was never vegan and not a strict vegetarian for long. I went back to eating fish early on, though it took 10 or more years before I got around to adding other meats back into my diet. Wish I had known then what I know now!

    I just watched the documentary “Walking With Cavemen,” in which the narrator explained that early humans didn’t develop big brains until they started eating meat and animal fats.

  11. kortikosteroid

    i was a vegetarian for ten years, mostly for ethic reasons, but all the health claims made by the vegetarian movement also had quite an impact on my choice. meat and saturated fats were portrayed like the basic source of all evil, and raw veggies somehow contained everything needed by a human being, and so on. i continued eating egg and dairy, but felt a little bad for doing so.

    as my iron levels were low all the time, i usually felt really tired, but as all the books and magazines about “natural health” stated that vegetarian diets would make me feel great and energized, i thought that i was just imagining it. a vegetarian diet was superior to any other diet, right? and i constantly had to break wind from eating legumes and veggies. my stomach never got used to them, although all books about vegetarianism claimed that the intestinal discomfort would pass after your body had adapted to the diet. instead, i kind of got used to farting all the time… (i remembered wondering if i would ever be able to have a boy friend or co-habitate with someone).

    on the other hand, during my time as a vegetarian, i hardly ever fell ill. during my ten years of vegetarianism, i didn’t have to use antibiotics one single time, nor did i get the flu or any other infections except for an occasional cold.

    finally, my low iron levels made me have a craving that was more like an obsession for a food i didn’t even like during my carnivore days- a swedish speciality (with a very peculiar taste and smell) called blodpudding. it’s main ingredient is pig’s blood, and it is therefore very high in iron. for weeks and weeks, i couldn’t stop thinking about it until i finally caved in. it was sooo good. : )

    i decided to go on a lchf-diet based on meat, hoping it would rid me of my general tiredness and tendency to crave sweet and starchy food. again, promises of health and energy where made by the advocates of the particular regime. i stayed on it for a few months, but always felt physically tired when eating no carbs. exercise was dreadful, and i always felt cold, in spite of feeling no hunger and maintaining my weight.

    so neither the “healthy” vegetarian diet, nor the “natural” lchf-diet really cut it for me. i’m now back to being an omnivore. i sometimes miss the chick peas and lentils from my veggie days, but i’m so happy about not having to break gas all the time, so i stay away from legumes. also, eating meat again has made me gain some muscle mass, which was virtually impossible before. but the best part is not having to be “fuzzy” when visiting friends, or going to restaurants or cafés. i enjoy ordering and eating the same as everyone else so much! the only “natural” thing for a human being is to eat what happens to taste good and be awailable for consumption. homo sapiens is a true omnivore, and needs a large variety of foods to cover its dietary needs.

    I’m an omnivore too. I eat a lot of meat, but also a lot of vegetables and nuts. I just don’t eat refined carbs or starchy vegetables, except in very limited amounts. Bottom line is to find what works for you.

  12. kortikosteroid

    sorry for the long post above, this topic really speakes to me, as i have had a life time of struggle with what to eat and what not to. also, i wish to apologize for any mistakes and errors regarding spelling and grammar- english is not my first language. (actually, it’s my third…)

  13. Ryan

    “One-quarter of the ex-vegetarians said they grew tired of the hassle (whatever that means) of the lifestyle, and one-fifth said they developed an “irresistible urge” to eat meat again. As far as I’m concerned, we can add that group to those who started eating meat again for their health. Those irresistible urges were messages from their bodies … something along the lines of “Give me the nutrition I need, you dumb @#$%!””

    So when my body craves potato chips, soda, and candy bars, is that my body telling me that It needs nutrition, and that Im dumb for not eating more and more junk food? After all, my body wants it. When someone gets cravings for a cigaretet, does that mean its good for the body? After all, the body craves it.

    Actually, when you’re craving potato chips and soda, yes, you are probably experiencing a blood sugar drop and your body is screaming for glucose, thanks to a lousy diet taking you a blood-sugar roller-coaster ride. The difference is that when you stop eating the junk, your glucose level evens out and you stop having the cravings. If you give up cigarettes, you stop having the cravings.

    If you give up meat and years later you’re still craving it, that’s a different kind of message.

  14. Regina

    I’d like to say thank you for all the comments above about the health impact of vegetarianism. I myself am not a vegan, I eat meat and I love it. But since I’m a college student, meat had become something luxurious. I only eat meat for the less than half months.

    I feel weaker recently, followed by dizzines, dry mouth, low blood pressure, and one thing I hate the most is a gassy feeling on my stomach that make me feel sick, and like the gas press my stomach and I burp and fart more often than I used too.

    After reading the comments, I believe that meat is important and I found out why I feel all those things.

    One question, is there any substitute for meat which is cheaper?

    You can find cheap eggs, tuna, pork, hamburger etc. at a big-box store. Meat will never be as cheap as grain-based foods, but you can find less expensive sources.

  15. FarmerWoman

    On one of my rare sick days (a cold) I watched your documentary—funny enough, after watching “Forks Over Knives” (gotta love Netflix)—and quite frankly I haven’t been able to stop thinking about YOUR documentary…the information you presented, what you subjected yourself to and especially the results, just floored me. WOW. I’ve been mostly vegetarian for the last 12 years (eating eggs regularly, using butter and olive oil as my cooking oils, and about once or twice a month eating chicken, no beef, no pork, no fish, no dairy, except the occasional yogurt, and of course taking a slurry of vitamin supplements). This past Sunday, after a week of battling a cold with vitamins, cold meds, protein shakes, vegetable juices and rest, and after 12 years of no beef in my diet, I ate an 8 oz. juicy steak, medium rare and nothing else. I smiled the whole way through my steak and, come to think of it, I smiled pretty much the rest of the day. But eating meat isn’t just what I got from your documentary it’s this: read, read, read, and read some more and question what the “experts” tell you. I just checked out Taubes’ “Why we get fat” from the library. And I plan to read some more. “Know your fats” is my next one planned —what is this about coconut oil and Alzheimer’s? I’ve been blaming my forgetfulness on aging, menopause, stress (I have no stress, I live on a ranch surrounded by wildlife, chirping birds, nature, I garden all day long!!!).

    Your scrutiny of what we’ve been told about meat, fat, and grains for health reminded me of my grad school days and why it is so important to question “scientific studies,” their results, and what they claim to “prove.” To be honest I’ve quite forgotten everything in my statistics class (probably due to my consumption of whole wheat and grains over the past 12 years) , and I do consider myself an intelligent monkey to make my own decisions and to question things—but boy it’s so easy to get fooled, or more like, get scared. I mean when the evening news present the latest study and statistics (on obesity or diabetes or other disease “caused” by anything other than grains) preceded by words like “alarming”, “shocking”, etc. well damn, you just better check the sky and see if it’s not falling. I grew up a meat-eater. In grad school I decided to try a mostly vegetarian diet in response to feeling achy in the joints and gaining weight (of course, my “alarming” increase in beer, wine, and pizza had nothing to do with it). It was all good, right, because it was whole wheat, and whole grain, and we’re supposed to eat 8 or 12 servings, right?

    But it’s been the last three years that my “mostly vegetarian” lifestyle became “mostly” beneficial because vegetable intake has increased (I’m eating more veggies because I planted a large garden). My health has overall improved because I’m eating more REAL foods (perhaps those eggs, butter and occasional chicken were my saving graces these 12 years). My weight fluctuated but still I tipped the scale at 207, my heaviest in my 38 years on this planet. Did I mention that before I quite alcohol I had acid reflux, achy joints and my asthma and allergies had been the worst ever. I never really considered myself an over consumer of carbs as I don’t drink soda pop, I don’t like candy, I’ve worked hard at portion control, and I limit processed foods (especially those awful veggie patties, veggie crumbles, and veggie cheese peddled as vegan FOOD) and I question the nutrition of tofu; but I must have been doing something wrong even though I ate “good for you” whole wheat over white. While I was in grad school other compelling reasons to quit meat were that my palate was changing and that’s why I disliked the taste and texture of beef; the inhumane treatment of grain-fed, feed-lot cows and other livestock (not to mention the “shocking” revelation of added hormones and antibiotics), but I digress. I am one of those “vegetarians” that would go back to meat if I found humane, grass-fed, free-range source of meat—a statistic that I don’t mind being included.

    Bottom line, I just wanted to write you to say thank you for your fearless quest because you’ve inspired me to take FURTHER charge of my health and investigate and question (what we’ve been told) some more. It is “shocking” and “alarming” indeed that something so natural (meat, fat, and even cholesterol) has been vilified for so long!

    Keep investigating and keep questioning. If you haven’t already seen it, my Science For Smart People speech explains how I evaluate studies:

    It’s also got a few laughs in it.

  16. FarmerWoman

    I promise not to make this post so long. I watched Science for Smart People AND Crisis in Nutrition Vox Populi—both terrific (I’ve stayed up WAY past my bedtime) and again thank you! My sister thanks you (she watched Fat Head tonight and was amazed). We had a long talk about our childhood being told by our pediatrician when we were 8 years old that we were overweight and immediately put us on a low calorie diet where my favorite food at the time, whole milk, was changed to skim. Even though I’m pissed off as hell for having missed out on whole milk, bacon and eggs every morning, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, shrimp cocktails, chicken wings on super bowl Sunday and so on and so on, especially when my body craved it…I’m clear-headed enough to do something positive like trying something different and eating the real foods my body crave. I’m pissed off that kids of my generation are struggling with their kids’ health issues (obesity, diabetes, autism, ADD—how could these things not be linked to our diet when our brain needs fat?) and their own health issues because all our lives (if you grew up in the late 70s and all through the 80s) we were told low fat high (carb) fiber. But as you told another commenter it’s never too late (I wish I could quote you exactly) but basically, it’s never too late to start eating right. I’ll take my anger out shoveling compost or I’ll start that kickboxing DVD I’ve got stashed in my closet. I’m beginning a new journey and I’m bombarded with information online. I cannot thank you enough! I’m making an appointment with my doctor to get a baseline blood work done ASAP. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

    Welcome back to real food. It’s not too late, and you’ll probably end up feeling 10 years younger.

  17. Jenifer Belew

    I am a vegetarian and for me personally this made my health and fitness much better. I dont want to go back again eating those meat with lots of unsafe fats that clogs your arteries.

    Eating meat doesn’t clog your arteries. There have been plenty of hunting societies where people lived primarily on meat but had little or no heart disease. Heart disease didn’t show up in populations until those populations started consuming sugars and refined flours.

  18. Trevor Brotherton

    Most hunting societies (also mostly now archaic) may well have had low levels of heart disese they also enjoyed a relatively short life span comparitvely. Measuring mortality in these groups with simple analogy is almost meaningless especially when using this point to support an arguments for omnivorous diets.

    You’re talking about AVERAGE lifespan, which is the meaningless statistic when it comes to heart disease. The average lifespan in America during colonial times was only around 25 because so many children died of infections, but people who survived childhood had a good chance of living to an old age. If you look at the ages of the Founders (the men who signed the Declaration of Independence) when they died, you’ll see many of them lived into their 80s and 90s.

    Same thing with hunting tribes. Their average lifespan was brought down by infant mortality and violent deaths among young males, but those who lived into adulthood often lived to be very old. Red Cloud and Geronimo both lived to be 90, for example.

  19. Stephanie A. Cook

    You eat whatever the fuck you want and I’ll eat whatever the fuck I want and we’ll all shut up. How about that?

    I agree. Tell that to the vegan zealots who show up here trying to convert me. I never visit their sites, period.

  20. Maria

    Wow, okay. I know I’m way behind here, but I want to have my 2c (my first time doing so on a forum, in fact!)

    I just want to say, I’m one of those people who rolls their eyes when someone mentions a low fat diet. I know it’s bullsh!t. (I’m also a woman who lifts heavy weights in the gym – my point being, I understand there’s a lot of incorrect pseudo-science still prevailing in the world.) I don’t contest anything you say, healthwise. Sugar is bad. Fat is great. Vegetables are disgusting. (I may have imagined that last one.)

    My problem is ethics. Having seen the videos of what goes on inside slaughterhouses, I have a real issue eating meat. To me, it’s tortue and cruelty that I can’t support. I wish these were still the days where we threw a spear at an ox and poof! It’s dead and we can turn it on a spit. But the truth is, even with ‘grassfed’ meat, the conditions and the way these animals die is barbaric.

    I’m not preaching (well, I guess I kinda am, but I certainly don’t mean to sound like I’m ‘trolling’). It’s just a very tough dilemma I find myself in every single day. I know that minimising carbs and eating a high fat/protein diet is best for my weight and my physique, and probably my energy levels (though I can’t say, because I feel fine on either diet). But I can’t bring myself to eat a steak. So I’m really not sure what the solution is. I wonder if anyone else has the same dilemma.


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