The Case for Vegetables

Last year, my daughter and I made a pact to adopt a vegan diet in about July-ish. We did pretty well until Thanksgiving, and then caved in to gravy and ham, and turkey… and maybe pies.

Unbeknownst to me, darling daughter had strayed a bit from the plan, like to the cheeseburger restaurant where she’s attending grad school. Bless her heart.

I stayed the course though, and it wasn’t too bad. Well, the first week or two was bad. Coming down off the cheese took some doing — I didn’t think I was going to make it a couple of times. Not “make it” like stay on the vegan diet, “make it” like live. Cheese is a powerful master. They say there is vegan cheese… but yeah, there is bathtub caulking too. Neither is at the top of my list of things to melt on a burger — beef or otherwise.

Let it be known, I am by no means the type (or the hypocrite) to preach that everyone should be a vegan, save animals, the world, etc. I love a good grilled T-Bone, in fact I’m still waiting for science to admit there was a mistake and announce that smoking is good for you after all — like seven out of ten doctors in 1950 said it was. Liars.

But, as I get older, I’m starting to think maybe I’m not invincible? I think it was George Carlin who originally said: “They say one should treat their body like a temple. I treat mine mor like an amusement park.” I’m afraid I may be guilty of same.

The whole thing got started when I sat and watched a bunch of documentarites on Netflix: Forks Over Knives, What the Health, Cowspiracy — and there are a bunch more. I’m often not one to believe everything I hear, but after a while, there seems to be some good evidence that a diet high in plants — or only plants — is pretty beneficial. Caldwell Esselstyn, is a physician who has studied, and lived, a plant based diet for the past 20 years. He has studied the effects of diet on cardiovascular and coronary disease, and has developed a diet that is plants, only. No added oils, no added sugar. He also won a gold medal at the 1958 Summer Olympics in Melbourne – rowing. So, he’s obviously got some genetic advantages over the average slob in the Sonic Drive-In parking lot. But maybe his diet does play a part. The Esselstyn diet was adopted by Samuel L Jackson when he discovered he had a blockage in a leg. Which clearly negates the common misconception that only wimps eat a vegan diet. So that’s a relief.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the book “The Engine 2 Diet – the Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds” if you have, you have to admit, that’s a hard name to forget? The book came about after all the firefighters at a firehouse in Austin Texas got a cholesterol screening, and one of them came back at heart attack level (344) – any minute he was due to explode. So Rip, the author of the book, got all of the members of the Engine 2 Firehouse to adopt a “plant strong” diet immediately. The firefighter in danger? His cholesterol dropped immeidately to a normal level. Rip is a former Iron Man Triathlete, he won the Capital of Texas Triathlon – eight times, and he was first out of the frigid water of San Francisco Bay at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon – for six years – in a row. He says plants are the cleanest burning fuel for the human body, and I belive him. He seems to be in pretty good shape, to say the least. Rip’s last name? Esselstyn. He’s Dr Esselstyn’s son. They both appear in “Forks over Knives.”

When I did my vegan “experiment” last summer, I did notice I felt like my blood was flowing a little better, I felt “lighter” not weight-wise, although I did lose a few pounds, but lighter in the sense that I didn’t feel like my body was spending a lot of energy just digesting the food I was eating. It’s kind of like switching to premium gas — fewer deposits, cleaner burning, high octane.

I’ve been looking forward to this issue of Willamette Living for a while. Thinking about vegan living, and eating, and cooking. There are many reasons people decide to be vegan, love of animals is one, and you have to admit if you do a little research, the meat animal industry is kind of horrifying. But I’m interested in doing it for more selfish reasons, for now, self preservation. So, I’m starting again, and I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes.

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