Then he proceeds to tell us all the reasons he should be.
Confusing, to say the least. As a big fan of Mark Bittman, I continue to be mystified by his refusal to take a stand and tell us with abundant clarity exactly why we should be eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. He probably knows more about the consequences of our food choices than all the other prominent journalists combined—yet he still has a tendency to “beat around the bush.”
As for not using the “vegan” moniker to describe himself, I agree with him on that decision but for different reasons. Mark seems to think that we may actually “need” to eat some animal protein so he never really closes the deal with his readers. In an article that clearly describes a plethora of health, social and environmental issues of eating animal foods, Mark also throws in this confusing paragraph:
Animal products have a special place in this discussion, because unlike hyperprocessed foods they have been a part of the diet of most humans since humans existed, and because their concentration of nutrients makes consuming at least some of them convenient and perhaps even smart.
Mark goes on to say that he follows his own VB6 plan—vegan before 6 p.m. That probably means that he eats animal protein almost every night and he also admits to cheating. That probably means that he eats animal protein frequently before 6 p.m. I just did a search for “vb6.” Nothing else. The first thing I saw was an article in BEEF Magazine—saying that Mark Bittman wasn’t pleasing anyone with that formula for eating.
My problem with Mark’s latest article is that it does nothing to help the reader understand the extreme gravity of our current trend in feeding the human population. When we’re talking about the most destructive, harmful, inefficient and unsustainable diet-style imaginable (his words) — when are we going to get real serious about helping citizens everywhere understand exactly what is at stake?
In my opinion, what is at stake is the longterm sustainability of the human species. After studying this topic for ten years (and investing over 10,000 hours), I concluded in 2012 that it’s not about “saving the planet.” The planet is going to be just fine. She has seen mass extinctions before and will see them in the future. It’s our future as a species that’s in jeopardy.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell agrees. In his new book, Whole, he writes about the need to get serious about fixing our human feeding model:
“No less than our future as a species hangs in the balance.”
As for my reasons for not using the “vegan” moniker. Like Mark, I don’t describe myself as a vegan—although I am much closer to being one than he is. Since beginning my journey towards whole foods, plant-based eating in 2002, I have never liked the “V” words, vegan and vegetarian. Primarily for three reasons:
- They’re more focused on what you’re avoiding—not what you ARE eating.
- Vegan and vegetarian diets are not necessarily healthy—and can be very unhealthy.
- They both carry a negative stigma that means different things to different people.
When I speak to vegan or vegetarian groups, they often seemed surprised to hear me say that I am not a vegan. But I quickly add that I would wager that I eat more broccoli than any man in the state of Connecticut. I also mention that I never plan to have any animal products and I never buy any. I even opted for cloth seats in my new car. I like the way the recent Kaiser Permanente Plant-Based paper treated the terms:
Physicians should advocate that it is time to get away from terms like vegan and vegetarian and start talking about eating healthy, whole, plant-based foods (primarily fruits and vegetables) and minimizing consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products. Physicians should be informed about these concepts so they can teach them to staff and patients.
So, Mark Bittman, the authors of the Kaiser Permanente piece and J. Morris Hicks are all in agreement. We’re all saying that we should be eating more whole plants and less animal and processed foods.
In my case, our 4Leaf for Life concept was built on this oft-quoted statement by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, “The closer we get to eating a diet of whole, plant-based foods, the better off we will be.” So we set the top bar at 80%.
That means that the 4Leaf level is reached when you’re consuming at least 80% of your calories from whole plants. I’d be willing to bet that the average vegetarian (most of whom eat lots of dairy, eggs & fish and refined carbs) are getting less than 20% of their daily calories from whole plants.
Back to Mark’s article. As usual, he demonstrated his broad knowledge on the subject of food and the far-reaching consequences of the choices we make. And he acknowledges that most Americans are making the wrong choices most of the time. They’re eating way too much animal and refined carb calories and not nearly enough whole plants. He also touched on the many non-dietary reasons for choosing more whole plants:
[T]here are non-dietary reasons to eat fewer animal products. Even if their nutritional profile were unambivalently beneficial, they use too many resources: land, water, energy and — not the least important — food that could nourish people. (To the often-asked question, “How will we feed the 9 billion?” — used to defend a host of objectionable agricultural practices — many of us say, “Focus more on feeding people plants and less on feeding them animals.
I always enjoy reading Mark Bittman’s work in the New York Times and find that I am usually inspired to blog about what he says. He makes me think. Over the past two years, I have probably featured Mark in at least fifty of my nearly 800 blogposts.
I encourage you to read his latest article at the link provided below. For your convenience, I’ve also provided links to few of my other blogs that were inspired by Mr. Bittman.
- Source article. Why I’m Not a Vegan – NYTimes.com
- My recent blog about Kaiser Permanente. Plant-Based for ALL Patients! Says Kaiser Permanente.
- Earlier Bittman blog. Massive Food Problem. Mark Bittman recommends patience.
- And one on global warming. Mark Bittman on global warming—NY Times
- And another. NY Times Columnist Mark Bittman “gets it” about food.
- One more. Mark Bittman getting much tougher on the dairy industry.
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen. Got a question? Let me hear from you at email@example.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation