I’m not a small person, so I don’t look that heavy (I think so anyway), but I am overweight and have developed some health issues. My cholesterol is up, as is my blood sugar (there’s diabetes in my family), my back plays up occasionally and I’ve developed sleep apnoea. I have no intention of becoming a vegetarian, but I can see the writing on the wall: industrial meat production had gone beyond distasteful and alienating to become disgusting and dangerous (its link to global warming doesn’t help). Traditional, natural ingredients are becoming rare, and respectable scientific studies point towards the health benefits of eating more plant-based foods and fewer meat-based ones.
For me, the combination of cholesterol, blood sugar and apnoea was the real trigger. My problems are scary and, according to my doctor, easily remedied. For the cholesterol, I can take cholesterol-lowering drugs or eat less meat; for the blood sugar, I must eat fewer sweets; for the apnoea, I have to lose 15% of my body weight. Everything points to a simpler style of eating. So I’ve started following a diet that is nearly “vegan until six”.
Now, until dinner, I eat almost no animal products and no simple carbohydrates (no white-flour products, junk food, or sugar-heavy snacks). At dinner, I eat as I always have, sometimes a sizeable meal including animal products, bread, dessert, a glass of wine or a beer.., or sometimes just a salad and a bowl of soup. Late night snacking; I’ve switched from potato-crisps to maize-based crisps (love my Nik Naks). I’m also taking several long walks each week, going to attempt to be more active in my workplace and making better use of the gym membership.
Though few nutritionists would disapprove, this plan may seem counter-intuitive. The opposite schedule (eating the day’s heaviest meal for lunch or breakfast) may make more sense for many people, but it suits me. I detest overly prescriptive diets, and the point is to eat more vegetables, fruits, legumes and wholegrains, and less meat, sugar, junk food and over-refined carbohydrates, without giving up the foods I love.
I’ve just started applying this ‘diet’ to my lifestyle from the beginning of this year, 2012; so it's just been a few days and can’t speak to any personal results or benefits thereof yet. But I’m going to let you in on the expected results; as related by the author and protagonist of the program, MARK BITTMAN (aged 57, weak-kneed and weighing in at 97kg):
“My results were striking. I had little trouble eating this way, I began feeling and sleeping better, and I didn't think much about it for a month or two. It just made sense. A month later, I’d lost 7kg. A month after that, both my cholesterol and my blood sugar were down, well into the normal range (my cholesterol went from 240 to 180). My apnoea was gone, and I was sleeping through the night.
Within four months, I had lost 16kg and weighed less than I had in 30 years. In fact, of all my diet-related ailments, only my knees didn’t respond. (Oh well, one does age.) My weight has stabilised, and - perhaps more importantly - I’m at home with this way of eating. My doctor was very happy with my progress. (Check with yours first.)
Today I eat about a third as much meat, dairy and even fish as I did a few years ago. (Farmed fish has many of the same issues as farmed land animals, including antibiotic use and environmental damage.) I eat few refined carbohydrates. But if there’s good white bread at dinner, I attack it, and I still have pasta a couple of times a week. I eat almost no junk food. I eat about three or four times more plant foods (such as green leafy vegetables) than before; probably 50% of my kilojoules now come from non-animal sources.
For some people, a shift of 10% of kilojoules from animal to plant may feel significant, though I doubt it. It would be the equivalent of maybe not having chicken on a Caesar salad at lunch. A person making that kind of shift, along with cutting way back on junk food and carbohydrates, might still see positive health changes. But a shift of 50% - replacing half your animal kilojoules with plant ones - would be a significant change and need a conscious effort.
Let’s see how it goes – please say a little prayer for my future efforts folks! You’re welcome to join me. Thanks and God bless ~ SB