Originally posted 2010-10-07 10:11:52.
As I prepare to draw the Clean Eating Boot Camp to a close, I want to talk about the obvious… and that’s the choice to adopt an alternative eating lifestyle. What’s an “alternative eating lifestyle?” I’m talkin’ raw veganism, veganism, vegetarianism, pollotarianism, pescetarianism, flexitarianism… those. I’ve written about what each lifestyle stands for and what it provides before, but today I want to talk about what it does not guarantee you.
It guarantees you nothing more than, perhaps, a clearer conscience.
I made the decision to give up red meat and pork in high school. In a house where we were literally eating steak, ribs, pork chops, fried chicken, roast and goodness knows what else far too often… for me, it felt like the opportunity to try to lose a little weight. And while my Mom didn’t really like the idea of me willfully not eating what she was cooking… I’m pretty sure she secretly hoped I’d lose a few pounds. Let’s face it – all parents secretly hope the same for a teenager over 200lbs. Maybe even not-so-secretly.
It didn’t work. In fact, as soon as I left for college, I morphed into a pollotarian. Since I couldn’t really buy or cook chicken in my dorm, it was a rarity that I enjoyed it.. but I did enjoy it. Sure enough, I still managed to put on the weight. At a rate of 20lbs a year. I actually developed hypoglycemia, and was severely lethargic. It was the epitome of foolishness. I never went back to red meat or pork, but as I picked up a job at the end of my sophomore year of college at a well-known franchise restaurant.. I began eating their food instead of my own… so it was a slight upgrade. Emphasis on the “slight” part of that.
A while back, I spotted this post regarding Angelina Jolie [insert eyeroll]:
Angelina Jolie has thrown some negative light on the vegan scene with some comments she reportedly made during a press briefing for her new movie SALT.“I joke that a big juicy steak is my beauty secret,” she quipped. “But seriously, I love red meat. I was a vegan for a long time, and it nearly killed me. I found I was not getting enough nutrition.”
It’s like… I read that, and even though that echoes my experiences – because I wasn’t being properly fed, either (and more on that, later) – I still have to roll my eyes again… because now both her [assumed] mistake and mine seem to be the same.
Considering the premium I place on clean eating now, let me explain this further. No matter what alternative eating lifestyle you embrace… it is not synonymous with clean eating. Being a vegan doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be eating clean. Think about it – if you hit the “healthy” section (!) of the grocery store, what do you see? You certainly don’t see produce.You see boxes. Cans. Packages. You see “vegan cheese (and it melts!).” “Vegan chik’n.” “Vegan sausage.” Meatless versions of everything. All kinds of substitutions.
C’mon – processed, processed, processed and processed. If you’ve adopted your lifestyle based on the fact that you could “replace” cheese with something processed… you’re going to suffer the same fate. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow.. but it absolutely will come.
When you live your eating lifestyle based on processed food replacements and substitutes for what you used to eat… I can’t imagine what makes one think they’d be spared from the consequences of “un-clean eating” just because their eating habits become more restricted. It’s just… it doesn’t make sense to me.
As this blog post pointed out, it also doesn’t help that alternative eating lifestyles (AEL for short) are marketed as some kind of cure all for whatever ails mankind.
For example, a popular raw food website states:
There are numerous benefits to eating a raw and living food diet. Some of these benefits include people healing themselves of diabetes, fibromyalgia, acne, migraines, back pain, neck and joint pain, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypoglycemia, colitis, diverticulitis, Candida, arthritis, serious allergies, depression, anxiety, mood swings, heartburn, gas, bloating, skin diseases, obesity, chronic fatigue, cancers and many more. Excess weight seems to just melt off your body when you eat a raw and living food diet! The raw and living food diet has helped many people feel better when nothing else has worked.
By eating a raw and living food diet you will begin to turn back the hands of time. People who eat raw food have a glow to their skin, a shine to their hair, a sparkle in their eyes, a healthy, fit, body and look younger than their age. They have a youthful energy and they feel good about themselves and happy to be alive!
People have reported their hair turning back to its natural color, teeth getting tighter and gums stop bleeding, wrinkles, deep creases and age spots disappearing, dark circles, bags and eye puffiness vanishing, acne and blemishes fading, looking better without make-up and having a natural sunny blush.
If you are sick, tired, overweight or just want to feel better than you do right now, this way of eating could be the answer that you are looking for. The raw and living food diet has been one of the greatest miracles in many peoples lives.
With these kinds of benefits, who could lose?
Of course, the diet makes intuitive sense in some ways. There is, of course, the evolutionary perspective, that our digestive systems evolved under conditions of a [presumably] mostly raw diet. A oft cited example of the negative impacts of our novel culinary environment comes from Polynesians, who have experienced considerable problems with weight gain and obesity after the introduction of foods high in fat and sugar. Their pre-industrial diets, of course, didn’t include McDonald’s, so digestion of fatty foods has been detrimental in a number of ways.
(note: Polynesians do, however, eat cooked food, so this might be a better example of the argument against heavily processed, high fat content diets)
Unfortunately, evolutionary theory has been commandeered to support raw food fanatics and other “health proponents”, such as those of the paleolithic diet (oh dear). According to raw food enthusiasts, we are better suited to uncooked fruits and veggies, and unprocessed nuts and grains. Who are we to go against millions of years of evolution? Right?
The post continues on to do its best to debunk the philosophies behind why raw veganism is “so great,” but I’m wholly unfocused on that. There’s an underlying point here that needs to be addressed.
If you choose to adopt an AEL as your own, then do so consciously… not because of how it was marketed and packaged up for you. There’s no logical reason to assume that simply choosing to cut meat from your system… while still making use of highly processed replacements and substitutes just to make it “easier” on you. That’s just not going to cut it in regards to health.
Not every lifestyle is for every person – in fact, I alternate between three different lifestyles – and no lifestyle guarantees you anything especially if you aren’t eating clean. When you make the decision, do so because you have thoroughly researched how to do so in a clean and sustainable fashion… not because it’s a trend or because it’s wrapped in pretty and colorful promises. If marketing doesn’t work for a carnivore.. it certainly shouldn’t work for anyone else.
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