Everything’s Bad for You

Violet_Chrysler limited_2012-07-31

2012-12-03 – Yesterday I watched a video by animal-rights activist Gary Yourofsky. It makes a strong case in favor of veganism. A strong case. So, if I follow his lead, I will only eat food that comes from plants. But a lot of this food is also bad for me. Carbs come from plants. Refined  flour. Refined sugar. High fructose corn syrup.

What’s left to eat?

Yourofsky is aware of the problem. He cites habit as a big obstacle to veganism. Habit and taste (which is just a form of habit). He pits the ethical treatment of animals and healthful diets against habit and taste. Of course habit and taste win.

Over the last year I have been on a diet to lose weight. I lost 35 pounds. But I’ve lost steam and have gained five back. Still, I’m down 30 and struggling to get back on track. My “diet” consisted of the following. I aimed at a significant reduction in carbs, particularly pasta, white rice, white bread, and sugar. Especially sugar. I kept meticulous records online of my weight and my food. I tried to increase my consumption of fruit significantly. Whole grains were also important. It worked. For a while. Now I have to get it back on track.

The fruit and whole grain thing was important because different foods leave you satisfied for a different length of time. So if I was going to be eating fewer calories, it was important that I not get hungry right away. It all pretty much worked . . . until a couple of months ago when my life got a bit more demanding than usual. And I got away from the fruit. My office moved to a new location where getting fruit was a little harder than before.

It’s the little things. The habits and taste.

So I now need to get back to a plan that was working so well. And I have this new motivation to start removing animal-based food from my diet.

Yourofsky totally understands the habits and taste thing so he offers a bunch of ideas to make veganism palatable. But it takes more than ideas. You have to build these things into your life’s routines.

If you watch the video, you might find some things you disagree with. I was impressed with what he had to say about animal cruelty, but I don’t buy the idea that “speciesism” is the same as racism. I don’t have qualms about eating animals, but I do have qualms about the industrial-scale cruelty it entails.

I also don’t buy his claim that human anatomy is herbivorous. Yes, our anatomy is not similar to carnivores, but it is not similar to herbivores either. Humans are ominivores. We are not built to digest plants well, but we were never built to live long enough to suffer the downsides of meat eating either. Veganism is not our destiny. It is a choice.

But there is no doubt that animal foods create health problems – especially for middle-aged guys like me. And there is the ethical issue: not that I believe that eating other “beings” is theoretically wrong, but that the system fosters gratuitous cruelty.

So I’m looking thinking of at least moving in the direction of veganism. It will be hard. I’m definitely not going to go cold tofurkey. I’m not a big vegetable eater at all. So it’s going to be a trial and error process, trying to find enough recipes and restaurants so that I can gradually drop animal-based foods from my diet.

Everything is bad for you. There is no diet that will keep me from dying in the end. But I am now convinced that, with a little effort, I can eat healthily and make a little bit of an ethical statement in the process.

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