I am so inspired and frustrated and excited and hungry right now. And fanatical. Yup, definitely fanatical.
I saw a screening of Forks Over Knives last night at Fifth Avenue Cinemas. The movie opens in Vancouver on Friday (May 20). I was super excited to score a couple of passes from Karmavore over the weekend because I have been dying to see this film since I first watched the trailer a few weeks ago.
Let me be clear...I was totally biased going into this screening. I'm on the seventeenth week of a kind, plant-based diet and loving it. This for me is no longer a vegan experiment, but my life. But this movie goes SO MUCH FURTHER than just validating some of my dietary changes (turns out I still have a ways to go...vegan isn't necessarily going to cut it). Its message is colossal in its implications. It's going to piss a lot of people off, but it's also going to save lives.
Everyone on the planet needs to see this movie.
Here's the bare bones summary for us mere non-science-y mortals:
Animal product intake goes up, cancer & heart disease go up.
How do we virtually eliminate heart disease and cancer? By eliminating meat and dairy and processed foods from our diets, and instead nourish and heal our bodies with nutrient rich, plant based whole foods.
That's it. No pills, no injections, no potions, no funky dances (although funky dancing certainly never hurt anybody).
As they say in the film, it's so simple it's criminal.
I'm totally reminded of that Mad TV sketch...Eat Less, Move More. While the message isn't presented in the most sensitive or politically correct way, it's funny because it's true when it comes to our general attitude towards fixing something that's wrong.
We want an easy fix. We want a pill. At least with surgery we'd be asleep.
That same attitude is evident in our reluctance to accept a plant-based diet and dump the meat and dairy.
We like meat. We like cheese and ice cream and eggs. The data show a considerable connection between these things and cancer and heart disease. I cannot fathom how a reasonable person can watch this movie, see the facts (some of which are presented in cartoon form, including a sex & food-obsessed animated shark...score), and still disregard the connection.
Roger Ebert gets it. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who don't.
I read an unfavourable review of Forks Over Knives from the New York Observer. Aside from completely misunderstanding the meaning of the title (which, incidentally, refers to eating food -forks- over surgery -knives- to prevent and treat our health problems), this critic goes on to spend about half of his review sarcastically regurgitating info from the movie (all of which is true, by the way), and offering no real counter-argument against this info.
Granted, his credibility comes into question when he insinuates that the movie suggests eating cottage cheese and tofu as part of the solution...apparantly he doesn't recognize cottage cheese as a dairy product.
Anyhoo, he also questions what the movie has to do with real life. Dude. Seriously? You are presented with clear info about HOW we are killing (yes, killing) ourselves and given a clear solution (yes, solution) to the problem...how much more relevant can something get?
An unfortunate reality is that even if the truth is right in front of us, we will do anything to get around it if we don't like it. Use sarcasm, shoot the messenger, convince ourselves the logic is flawed, try a distraction...like staring at Wentworth Miller...
...ok, enough distraction.
The two main doctors featured in this movie (Campbell and Esselstyn) both grew up on farms. Dr. Campbell grew up believing, as have most of us, that milk is good for, nay, essential to a healthy, balanced diet. After all, where else would we get our calcium?
100 grams whole milk = 118 mg calcium.
100 grams almonds = 234 mg calcium.
100 grams sesame seeds = 1,160 mg calcium.
- p. 39 of Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet.
The point is, like all of us, he grew up believing one thing. As life went on, he learned new stuff and now believes something else. Isn't this the way humans progress?
Oops...did I just compare meat and dairy to cigarettes? I wouldn't do something like that...Rob the Husband doesn't think I should (it might be going a bit too far, and some might call it a completely unsubstantiated comparison and get all huffy and want to slap me, because there is no way we would be looking back on our beloved Got Milk campaign 50 years from now and ridiculing it like we do cigarette ads from back in the day), so I totally won't. I'm a Virgo after all, and we're non-confrontational. Good thing the Forks Over Knives fb page did it first.
Yah, this movie makes some very bold claims. After the screening, we had the privilege of participating in a Q&A with Rip Esselstyn, one of the people featured in the movie and the son of Dr. Esselstyn. I noticed that the word "vegan" was rarely used in the movie, and he clarified that "Vegan" doesn't really encompass what the movie promotes. Technically, you can exist primarily on fries and coke and call yourself vegan. What we should aim for is a diet of "Plant-Based Nutrient-Rich Whole Foods".
That right there definitely gave me something to think about. This is definitely an ongoing journey. And it makes sense.
So what's stopping us? Why isn't every single one of us waking up to the shocking and rather unpleasent reality that we have created for ourselves, taking control of our health, and doing what we can to drastically reduce our risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes? If not for us, don't we owe it to our kids, who may be on their way to having the distinction of being the first generation that lives less than its parents?
Is our Western diet that sacred? Dr. Phil (who I still love and respect in spite of his milk mustache) always asks his guests, "How's that working for you?" When it comes to the Western diet, umm, yah...it's not working for us...so why are we so defensive of it? Is it for the same reason that a smoker won't give up the cigarettes? Is it because we genuinely have a legitimate reason to doubt the facts? Or is it just easier for us to shrug and say that it's too hard? I like meat too much. A plant based diet is too extreme.
(As Dr. Esselstyn would remind us, having our chest split open is pretty extreme too.)
I was there. I love (yes, present tense) ice cream and steak and brie cheese and Greek yogurt and mac n' cheese balls and Moxies banana-caramel xango and the chili chicken from my favourite Ethiopian restaurant. When I first cracked open The Kind Diet months ago, I was very doubtful that a plant-based diet was something I could do long term. My original motivation for going this route was ethical, and the health benefits were secondary. Until I saw Forks Over Knives, I didn't really appreciate how monumental diet is when it comes to whether we live or die.
This is hands-down the most important film I have ever seen. The claims are bold. But the evidence to back them up is solid, and while I'm sure it's not flawless, it cannot be ignored.
But we will try to ignore it, for the same reason we ignore the brutal reality that billions of animals must face annually because we like how they taste. We will ignore it because we'd rather not imagine a picnic without deviled eggs, or Thanksgiving without a turkey. We will ignore it because it's easier this way.
That's why I ignored it for so many years...it was easier this way. I was trying to stay content in my bubble of self-induced ignorance, because the reality of what I was supporting was ugly, but it was so normal to me that I really couldn't fathom challenging it. Habits are hard to break, and we are so used to expecting extreme remedies for our extreme problems that the healing power of a plant-based diet comes across as some sort of scam you do to an old person.
But there comes a point where we just have to stop deceiving ourselves and let the truth in.
Or not. Whatever.