I originally shared this as an email to my She Thrives VIP Members, but the feedback was so overwhelming that I opted to make it public to be sure I got my message across, so here goes.
And if you're not a VIP yet, be sure to join to get stuff like this, advice, support, insight and all the gooness you love from She Thrives delivered into your inbox every Monday morning, for free.
I've also written about this before in this post, but decided to take it a step further today.
Over the last week or so, I've seen a few repeated messages about healthy living coming from professionals, industry leaders, high profile influencers, and more, and I just started to get fired up. I think the kicker was the episode of Top Chef where they brought on the US Surgeon General as a judge, and asked contestants to make "healthy' versions of comfort foods: low fat and vegetarian. (To which he was served gorgeous looking but 200g carb plates filled with breads, sugar, tofu, soy, and other imitation meat products. Super healthy, I wonder why the US has a weight problem?)
So I wanted to take a minute to set the record straight about something.
"Plant based is the healthiest way to eat."
Listen, if veganism, vegetarianism, or a similar structure makes you feel like a million bucks, to that I say: awesome! Do more of what makes you feel great, and don't let me stop you. Seriously.
I'm not trying to make you feel badly about your personal choices, and there is no one size fits all plan. And I GENUINELY believe some people in some circumstances CAN thrive on this nutrition. Because again: we're all different.
But. The amount of people I see trying to move more and more towards a plant based diet ONLY because they believe it is the path to their healthiest, happiest life, is staggering.
This is where I'm getting fired up. Though I can't say I'm totally surprised.
There is SO MUCH confusing, conflicting, and downright bad nutrition science out there so it can be so difficult to establish fact from fiction, and it's more confusing when some professionals, doctors, (tv shows) and governments alike are still recommending the same outdated advice.
But you need to hear me when I say this:
Animal protein (and products in general) ARE a part of a healthy diet. Period.
And yes, quality matters, not only from a nutritional standpoint, but an ethical and environmental one as well. So when you can, opt for organic, grass fed, pasture raised, hormone free, ethically raised and sustainably sourced meats.
Meat doesn't inherently add to inflammation or disease, but the food our food eats is what does. Which is why quality really matters.
The other important point to consider here is the vote you cast with your dollars, because I completely agree that the system is broken, governmental subsidies are fucked, and the whole thing needs a BIG overhaul.
Think of politics, if you will... even if your candidate options aren't *exactly* what you want, does sitting out and not voting at all EVER change the system? No. You cast your vote for the best option available because every vote matters and it's your right and privilege to get to have a say in the process at all-- and it's the same when it comes to the livestock and agricultural systems in our country.
Put your money where it counts and support the people who are doing it RIGHT so that we can keep moving the needle. Sitting out of it entirely and hoping it fixes itself isn't a solution.
And yes, vegan or vegetarian meals are and can be perfectly healthy on their own. Duh. Side note: you can be "plant based" and still eat meat. I'm not saying veggies aren't vital, I'm saying meat (usually, for most of us) is too.
But seriously, 1995 called and it wants it's diet back. The "whole grains, low fat, meat-free" approach is so over. So can we just move the f*ck on already?
Look. You KNOW I'm all about that "do you" life, and I mean it: do what makes you feel awesome. If you are choosing this nutrition based on your own personal preferences, tastes and proven track record of making you feel amazing, far be it from me to tell you to change anything.
(And this is a pretty big but)
If you're making your nutrition decisions based off of:
- The USDA food pyramid, cuz the government definitely knows what's best for us (did you hear my eyes roll?)
- A Netflix documentary (please oh please read this)
- An Instagram celebrity
- The claim that broccoli delivers as much protein as a chicken breast (um, no.)
- That you only need <40g of protein a day anyway or can't absorb more than 20g of protein at a time (don't even get me started)
- The notion that tofu is a better choice than a grass fed filet
- The claim that easing up on your meat intake is better for you in ANY way
..It's time to nip that shit in the bud.
Don't let any of those (ludicrous) things convince you into feeling like you aren't "supposed" to be eating meat.
Which brings me to my next point: shaming people for meat consumption is just as bad as shaming people for their bodies: there is NOTHING wrong with it, and it is perfectly healthy as it is. Take your judgement elsewhere, please and thank you.
I am so over it. And not just because shaming anyone about their food (or body) is completely uncool, but because in this circumstance, it's also actually wrong. It's just plain old, outdated, and straight up bad advice.
So I hope you hear me when I say:
"Plant based" is not the optimum (or only!) path to a strong, thriving, healthy, long-lived, happy body and life.
Because you know what the BIGGEST myth masquerading as fact is that I want to address here? That there's ANY perfect, ideal, holy grail, superior path to health. THAT idea is all dogma and zero fact.
(Read this Instagram post to learn more about this notion).
You do not have to force yourself into veganism or white knuckle your way through any plan or template to be a healthy, happy person, no matter how trendy it may seem right now. (There's a reason these trends come and then go, btw). So please don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
If you want to learn more about this myth and the myriad ways it's flawed, here's some of my recommended reading:
The Big Fat Surprise
It Starts With Food
Eat the Yolks
And if you're wondering about the ethical and environmental considerations of meat eating, please oh please go poke around this AMAZING website, Sustainable Dish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
If animal products just aren't your cup of tea, keep on doin' you, with NO apologies! Otherwise, enjoy your meat and dairy and rest easy knowing it's absolutely a part of a healthy diet, and don't let anyone shame you into feeling like you're doing it wrong.
(Don't forget to eat your greens too though, k?)
And if you haven't yet read this blog post of mine, you might like this one too:
The Four Biggest Health + Fitness Myths to Stop Believing Right Now