Diatribe the First: On the Merits of Perfect Nutrition; or: Diet-Tripe the First.
I'll introduce myself by splicing in some comments I wrote on Amazon dot com -- written as a response to a Hostile Reviewer. The books are on the benefits of responsible, plant-based diet, and the Hostile Reviewer thought some cutting remarks were in order. I'm afraid I might have been just a teeny little bit sarcastic, but there you have it. I'm very self-righteous. To demonstrate my point, I wax eloquent about my own considerable masculine beauty. So:
I've been effectively vegan since the Carter era (ah, youth!), with maybe some butter once in a while. Nothing dead since Iran was our friend (thanks, Carter). I'm not hoary with years, but no longer a mere slip of a boy, and my biometrics put me in my mid-twenties. When I'm trained (last year) my resting heartrate is 43 bpm, and I run a 5 minute mile and a 3:20 marathon; I can squat 600 pounds, dip twice my body weight (180) ten times (that's, um, like, uh, 360 pounds or something!), and I've nearly got my one-armed chinup. My body fat is somewhere under 10%, and I have that delightful and intriguing masculine shape, complete with abs, pecs, lats, and even [pause for dramatic effect] delts -- lean, not bulky. My son says I'm "ripped."Gee, I'm terrific! So am I saying this (if it's true) because I want vicarious admiration? Yes, I want vicarious admiration. But also because I think I pretty much demonstrate the fact that meat is in every sense optional.
The Hostile Reviewer asserts that meat is not "unhealthy" -- I'm sure he meant "unhealthful" ... I just cannot conceive how something that's dead might be "healthy" -- adducing carnivores as evidence. It's been years, decades, really, since I went through all this, but I still recall that the intestinal tract of carnivores is several times shorter than that of herbivores; since we are neither c. nor h., our i.t. is intermediate -- something like five times longer than comparable meat-eaters; the point being that meat doesn't sit and ferment ... rot ... in a cat's colon, the way it did in John Wayne's [yes, I know it's an urban legend]. Anyone can find this sort of info on the hippy-dippy veggie sites ... they're not wrong, just ... um ... artistic. It may or may not be true that "Humans have been eating meat since time immemorial" [Anno Domini 1199?], but given the differences in GI structure between carnivores and humans, the plaintive query "If meat was so unhealthy how could carnivores ever exist?" answers itself. In any case, horses outlive lions, 28 years to 16 -- that's like, uh, twice as long or something. Upshot is, Are we carnivores? No duh. Are we dedicated herbivores? Get along with you. We *can* eat just about anything -- but what is most healthful?
As for the inadequacy of a vegetarian diet, we need only consider the beasts of the field -- say, the bovine staple of the Troglodyte Diet, cows, which eat, um, grass. Maybe some grasshoppers and lady bugs that don't elude the heft of a slobbery tongue, but mostly grass, right? I don't know what the incidence of osteoporosis in wild buffalo is, but I don't think it's endemic. As for protein: "nutrients from animal-based foods increase tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decrease tumor development." The consistency of lab findings "was stunningly impressive..." [The China Study, p. 66.]
Regarding "unhealthy," as The China Study points out, a study funded by The Atkins Center revealed that subjects on that diet for half a year suffered constipation (68%), bad breath (63%), headaches (51%), hair loss (10%), and a 53% increase in calcium excreted in urine [cf. TCS, p. 96]. An Australian review of the data points out low-carb dangers of heart arrhythmias and contractile problems, impairment of physical activity, osteoporosis, lipid abnormalities, kidney damage, increased risk of cancer, and sudden death [TCS, p. 97]. Yikes. Atkins himself died weighing 258 lbs; even if this was fluid retention related to his coma, the 195 lbs claimed for him by a spokesman is considered overweight, a BMI score of 26.4. His heart disease and high blood pressure may have been from insalubrious diet, or, as claimed by his apologists, from a viral infection of the heart -- which hardly suggests a healthy immune system. All this cannot conceivably indicate a "health" diet -- at best, it could only be a weight-loss diet, apparently at the cost of being a health-loss diet.
The Hostile Reviewer asserts that "When people lose weight on high carbohydrate diets they always lose muscle and bone at the same time, sometimes as much as 40% ... from lean tissue..." Perhaps he's referring to the *Bonbons Seulement* Diet we've been hearing so much about? The Black Hole of Calcutta Diet? The Bataan Death March Diet? Just a hint: sensible diet and sensible exercise, together. Actually, for a sustainable diet, both animal and plant proteins are associated with greater weight, but "Greater plant protein intake [is] closely linked to greater *height* and body weight." [TCS, p. 103; emphasis added.] Third Worlders tend to be smaller not because plant protein is inferior, but because of insufficient dietary variety, quantity and quality, poor public hygiene, and prevalent childhood disease -- in other words, because of poverty.
I shall refrain from a descent into the minutiae of high-carb v high-protein. But honestly, does either extreme sound sensible? How about *adequate*, or *optimal* carbs, amino acids and EFAs? It's not a "boys are better than girls" argument, after all; both are sorta necessary.
If we make the issue one of definitions, we must consider what I call "muffin vegetarians", where the issue isn't about health at all, and those people may be dropping like bloated blow-flies. Pretty much like the meat-and-no-potatoes folks. If it's only about weight (and merciful heavens, I hope it isn't), then amputation is a quick solution. But if it's about health, well didn't your grandmother ever teach you? Finish your vegetables, and don't play with dead things. If you insist on eating meat, doesn't moderation sound like a noble virtue?
In any case, and kidding aside, there's scarcely anything more emotional than food. It's our first comfort, when we come out of the womb. It's the melancholy, nostalgic feasts of childhood. It's courtship and conviviality. Mercy, it gets a whole sense to itself! But when you consider the steep decadal rise in obesity and diabetes -- diabesity? -- and the failing fight against heart disease and cancer and the like, you know something is wrong. What's different? Is it oil prices? Is it ebola? Is it the Illuminati? Or is it what we're eating. The solution is certainly not fad diets, high-this and low-that. The word "diet" comes eventually from the Latin, meaning "a way of life," or "lifestyle." Hmm. Why, that's another hint! We should eat in a manner that we can sustain, and that can sustain us, for the rest of our lives.
The muffin vegetarians think their ethical purity will protect them. The cavemen think protein should be used as energy more than as building blocks. I suggest that we stop thinking of food in terms of a diet, and instead think of it as nutrition. It's not about how fat your hips or big your belly. It's about how healthy you can be. And like grandma used to say, "Moderation in most things."
So. Anytime, I'll put my three decades of plant-eating up against the Hostile Reviewer's 3 meat years (that's like, uh, twice as long or something). He sounds like he's quite a powerful man, so maybe he's stronger than me, but I bet I'm faster -- and I'm sure I look younger ... and that's what really matters. Um, right?
End quote. Yes, I was a bit snotty, and I wouldn't take that tone eye-to-eye -- wouldn't be nurturing to communication. But anonymity allows us to forget ourselves.
In any case, this is a slight introduction to the miracle of myself.
[Insert farewell catch-phrase here]