Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 May

My Escape from Vegan Island

Every once in a while, I am alternately stunned and amused by what I see being promoted in the name of good health. I had one of those “stunningly amusing” episodes when I took an eight-day vacation with my family to an all-vegetarian health and adventure retreat in Costa Rica several months ago. We had joined a group of 125 headed by Dr. John McDougall, an accomplished and well-respected physician who uses a strict vegetarian/vegan lifestyle to address disease states in his patients and (ostensibly) to promote better health among the general population. I wasn’t too keen on attending, strict carnivore that I am, but I’m always up for an experiment of one and, moreover, I was convinced by my mostly-vegetarian wife and her vegan parents that our extended family would enjoy a nice tropical vacation together. And the food promised to be so yummy… so I made the leap with my wife, two kids, the in-laws and some cousins.

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First off, I must say, I did have a very enjoyable time in Costa Rica with my family, rafting, diving, zip lining and hiking…but after what I witnessed during my stay, I can assure you that I have never been so certain that the Primal Blueprint way of eating – which I have embraced for over 30 years now – is the best way to achieve and maintain excellent health. Frankly, I was appalled at both the information being disseminated during this event and at what I saw being served at every meal in the name of “health food.”

I am an omnivore and always have been. Carrie, my wife, was a vegetarian for fifteen years until I convinced her about five years ago to starting adding fish to her diet to get more protein. She still considers herself, in the words of the Outback Steakhouse guy, a “semi-veg.” My wife’s parents have been strict vegans for nearly thirty years and are ardent followers of Dr. McDougall. McDougall’s own story involves having had a severe stroke at age 19 from which, at 59, he still limps. He became an MD and eventually realized that diet was an important part of the health equation. He’s a very likable and charming guy. I had a few superficial discussions with him, even attended a few of his nightly lectures. His heart is certainly in the right place, but I fear he is leading people down a wholly inappropriate dietary path. At the risk of oversimplifying, the basis of his program is that almost all starch is good, all fat is bad and meat of any kind is deadly. It is, in his words, a “starch-based” diet, high in grains and legumes.

The attendees were generally divided into two groups: those who were fairly new to the program – many of them had some serious weight to lose – and those who had been on the McDougall program for several years. Many of the latter group, I gathered, had come to McDougall originally with one or more chronic diseases and on multiple medications. Each evening, after the adventure activity of the day (all of which were pretty sedate), Dr. McDougall would deliver a lecture intended to inform the group of the evils of traditional medicine and big pharma – much of which I generally agree with – and to demonize beef, pork, chicken, fish, dairy of all kinds and most forms of soy. I got the general gist after the first evening. He’s not a fan of supplements either. But he does imply that when you eat vegetarian, you can have all you want…and therein lay the source of much amusement for me.

The lecture would adjourn and everyone would line up for the buffet line which would, at virtually every meal, include copious amounts of breads and rolls, rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, some anemic-looking steamed vegetables and a romaine-only lettuce salad. No dressings allowed. The only fat I could see was in the guacamole that served as a spread. The desert table had a variety of fruits and at least two choices of so-called “healthy” cakes. The drinks were generally overly sweetened fruit drinks.

Now I’m not one to judge. Okay, I am, but I usually keep my mouth shut – except herein. I watched at every meal as overweight, unhealthy people piled their plates with at least two pounds of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, desert cake, and a glass of fruit juice. Sometimes they went back for more. By my calculations these people were consuming 200 to 300 or more grams of (mostly simple) carbohydrates at each of three meals. There was no way these folks were going to lose fat on this trip. It was, in my view, a type 2 diabetes epidemic in-the-making.

In fending for myself, I focused mainly on the salads and the black beans mixed with a little rice. As you regular readers know, I don’t “do” breads, potatoes, pasta, desserts or fruit drinks. I think they are unhealthy. Go figure. I have to say, it sure got old after a day or two.

carbs

This is Kina’s Flickr Photo

Of those who had already been on the McDougall program for years, I had the following general observation: they don’t look too healthy. People who subsist on grains and simple carbs at the expense of quality protein for any length of time tend to lose muscle mass, regardless of their exercise regimen. They are what we call “skinny fat“. Essentially, they have no lean tissue and yet they have surprisingly high body fat levels, despite their loose “skin and bones” appearance. Lean body mass is a major defining criterion of good health; and these folks were sorely lacking. Excess carbohydrate turns to fat pretty easily, but you can neither build nor preserve muscle with it. Herein lies the confusion for many folks: while glucose serves as short-term fuel for muscles, it does not build nor maintain them. One woman, a 62-year old triathlete who trains hours a day and competes almost every weekend authoritatively suggested that I was a fool to eat meat and that I should embrace the McDougall program as she had for 15 years. Problem was, she looked like hell. No muscle tone at all and, I suspect, a fairly high body fat for someone who fancied herself an athlete. It took all I had to keep from saying something that might have spoiled her trip!

As with any diet regimen, Dr. McDougall backs his theories up with studies. But that’s the biggest problem with the “science” of nutrition: anyone can find a study here or there that supports almost any premise. To wit: Fish is great because it’s a source of important Omega 3 fats, but fish is bad because it’s a source of toxic heavy metals, but fish is great because the heavy metals are not actually present at realistically dangerous levels, but fish is bad because the fish lobby was the one funding the study on relative safety, and on ad infinitum.

If there were a right answer, everyone would be doing it. I guess the best any of us can do is to align the “receptivity filters” in our brains with our current belief systems and create habits that reinforce those beliefs – and that, hopefully, result in healthy bodies and minds. Ultimately, I have chosen to believe that we were programmed to eat primarily small portions of meat and vegetables, with a little fruit thrown in occasionally. It works for me (53 years old, 5’10” 165 lbs and 8% body fat).

frisbeemark 1

Problem is, if you have no understanding of biology or chemistry, you can easily fall for that old vegan argument that meat is bad (notwithstanding the fact that there has never, in the entire history of man, been a country, culture or race that subsisted entirely on vegetables without animal flesh of some kind). Many people do fall for it. They also fall for the old “protein leaches calcium” argument, completely ignoring the fact that bones require protein as well as weight bearing activity to promote bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Or that stress has a far greater impact on preventing absorption of calcium than excess protein in the diet. But here I am giving you my opinion again and it’s only based on studies that my filters have shown align with my own beliefs…

I was fascinated by what I saw to be the complete antithesis of a healthy diet being offered up as the healthiest way to eat. And by people willing to accept that they could eat all they want of this high-carb fare and regain their lost health in the process. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid losing a few pounds of hard-fought muscle myself over the week. Luckily, I was able to regain homeostasis shortly after returning home. And ultimately, I was left with a confidence that following Primal Blueprint path is exactly what humans were designed to do.

What are your thoughts on vegetarianism, carbohydrates, and protein?

Be sure to stick around for today’s Tuesday 10.

Best of MDA

(This piece was originally posted at my friend Art DeVany’s blog.)

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark, just be thankful you were only marooned for 7 days. I spent nearly 7 YEARS on such an island, albeit of my own volition.

    In my early 20’s I was a vegetarian for 5 years, then became a vegan for about two years after that. I was a “smart” vegetarian, i.e. combining grains and beans for optimal amino acids, plenty of veggies, supplementing, reading up on the latest research, etc. The first six months started out pretty good for me – increased energy, seemed to get sick less, etc.

    Around then I started noticing that a) I wasn’t actually losing any of the weight I was trying to, b) the energy was slumping more often, c) the sicks started coming back more often, d) the moods tanked more often, e) I started losing focus and I really just could go on and on. Of course there wasn’t any good information (i.e. this) available about diet and nutrition, and my friends seemed to be having similar problems. (In fact, from that period of my life I seem to remember a lot of my friends and my conversations revolved around some health malady or another, which was usually addressed by some form of “cleansing.” This was one of the ways I handled my steadily decreasing health.)

    This continued on for awhile until I finally decided it was time to try being a vegan, because I had slowly eliminated dairy and eggs. Looking back I’m amazed that not only was I a vegan but I was a vegan for so LONG. Eventually I went to a nutritionist to find out why I was in such poor health.

    I’ll never forget: the first thing she asked me when I walked into her office was, “so, how long have you been a vegan?” I was blown away, considering I hadn’t told her anything about myself at that point. To make a long story short, that very night my seven-year reign of dietary self-abuse ended with the best damn buffalo burger I have ever had before or since and I have never looked back. I just found MDA and PB about two weeks ago and I can tell you I have never felt this good. And I’m just getting started!

    Now I’m not suggesting there aren’t some long-term vegetarians/vegans out there who are healthy. I’ve read all about them on the internet! But I’ve never seen any with my own two eyes, and I used to work at a health food co-op, so I can tell you I’ve seen a gracious plenty.

    Julie wrote on March 27th, 2010
  2. Dear Mark, you’re takes are interesting but lack substance. Most homeopathic doctors, besides Dr. McDougal, do not have their patients eating no bread and/or pasta. Furthermore, the source of all protein is plants and the animals that eat other animals only eat animals that eat plants…Do elephants lose muscle mass? Do horses lose muscle mass? So as long as you get the right amount of amino acid that come from plants that could build just as much muscle mass as eating any degenerate source of protein such as an animal corpse, that even a jackal wouldn’t touch after 72 hours, only a maggot would. Best wishes to a healthy diet. Tony

    Tony Sandoval wrote on April 20th, 2010
    • “the source of all protein is plants and the animals that eat other animals only eat animals that eat plants…Do elephants lose muscle mass? Do horses lose muscle mass?”

      Elephants and horses maintain muscle mass on plant diets because they have the digestive faculties to extract nutrition from plants. The kind of plants that humans can naturally eat are few and far between, have very little protein value, and even still typically require processing and cooking to even get their meager macronutrients. Experiment on yourself by dropping into any random natural locale and see how long you can go before you decide it’s time to kill something.

      fireandstone wrote on April 20th, 2010
      • Seriously. That was even more absurd than when people say humans should eat like chimps. I would love to see this guy attempt to prove his hypothesis by eating the diet of a horse.

        Agent wrote on April 20th, 2010
        • The Chimp diet would actually be far superior with all the insects, grubs, bird eggs, seeds and small mammals.

          fireandstone wrote on April 20th, 2010
        • McDougall’s plan is to lose weight, not to gain muscle. He does state that to gain muscle, you do have to work hard at it. You are trying to fit your demands on a diet that does not claim to build muscle. Why not listen or read his books?

          Ted Moon wrote on December 18th, 2011
        • The best way to lose fat is to gain lean muscle mass.

          paleohuntress wrote on December 26th, 2012
        • Wouldn’t be good eating a horse diet, but it is good to add horse to your diet, it’s better for you than Beef or pork.

          Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • The digestive system of a elephant is not comparable to a human being. Much of a what an elephant eats is not digested and passes through it digestive tract. The same goes for horses. These animals eat food that their digestive tract can process. You or I could not eat the food that an elephant or horse eats and survive. Chimpanzees who are closest relative were found to eat meat only after close observation by Jane Goodall see http://www.janegoodall.org/blogs/janes-first-big-discovery-chimps-eat-meat . Even many human vegetarians eat “meat” in the form of insect pieces in their food or else they would be vitamin B12 deficient. The reason that humans have covered the planet is that they omnivores and can survive on such a varied diet.

      charles s wrote on June 4th, 2011
    • Herbivores digest plants by multi stage fermentation. Humans cannot do this our digestive systems are completely different

      Michael Cohen wrote on December 12th, 2011
      • While I support any diet that the individual truly enjoys, I must add that the anti-grainers are not necessarily correct. You may think that 10,000 years is nothing (the period of time we have been cultivating and consuming grain), but, like it or not, our bodies have indeed adapted to consumption of grain (except for aboriginals).

        Whether you are vegan or paleo or something inbetween, where did anyone get the strange idea that everything that is wrong with a person is caused by their diet? Or, even worse, that everything is curable by diet, ie, the low carb, meat-centered, natural food diet? We (unfortunately) are far more complicated than that.

        Just as vegans, esp. the raw food kind, get sick after years of their regimen, so do the high-meat, low-carbers. But everybody’s got orthorexia and hides their medical issues. They just point to their high level of activity and washboard abs and tell the world that that is what constitutes “health”.

        People, the microbes are going to get all of us sooner or later, when we are 6 feet under, so let’s enjoy our lives instead of bragging about how “healthy” we all are compliments of something we did. It’ll eventually turn around; just wait and see.

        Wyandotte wrote on December 16th, 2011
        • Try actually reading before you post such drivel.

          Tyler wrote on December 17th, 2011
        • Wyandotte You are so right. Couldn’t have said any better!

          catherine wrote on December 18th, 2011
        • Thanks, Catherine.

          Wyandotte wrote on December 18th, 2011
  3. @fireandstone
    Not to mention other chimps!

    David W wrote on April 26th, 2010
  4. Debating with vegans is like debating with liberals. Complete waste of time.

    Michael wrote on June 11th, 2010
    • Yes! I stopped debating with liberals. For some reason the one’s I’ve tried to talk to about just get all irrational or start talking in circles. I haven’t had to debate food with vegans but reading comments on here it seems like it would be similar.

      There is just so much evidence that eating meat is healthy from the research I have done.

      Danny wrote on July 9th, 2010
      • Then your first statement comparing the two is without merit or experience since you never have done it. I agree with the health benefits of eating meat but I’d love to hear about your research. There is always a clear winner in a debate but never in an argument. A debater with a clear understanding of both sides can un-twirl any irrational logic and win over that opponent.

        pjnoir wrote on July 9th, 2010
    • Yes, it would be a waste of time. You’re going to believe we’re all evil no matter what we tell you or what evidence you can provide.

      By the way, this is a liberal who eats meat. Liberally. :P

      Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
  5. Michael it seems you are dreadfully ill prepare to debate. I am a proud Liberal and find vegans and loud-mouth wingnuts to be closer cousins because both lack the ability to understand the other side’s argument which is essential in debating; not being a boorish Lout trying to get the last word in. Pity.

    pjnoir wrote on June 13th, 2010
    • I agree with this. What is wrong with being liberal? It is simply your opinion on how a government should run and various other social topics. Maybe it is wrong of me, but when I think of someone who thinks talking to liberals is a waste of time as someone who is stupidly stuck in their ways and refuses to change despite debate and information telling them to. I personally don’t want to be that type of individual. But thats just me.

      Sean wrote on August 24th, 2010
    • They both like to ignore science, too. I’m the weird liberal homeschooling her daughter because I’ve seen what happens when the wingnuts take over the schools and I don’t want my daughter anywhere near that mess.

      Mind you, a lot of this liberal versus conservative fight is statist liberals versus statist conservatives. The libertarians tend to not care as much about who’s right as long as they’re left alone, on both sides. (Liberal libertarians, I’ve noticed, are more likely to call themselves anarchists instead.)

      My take on it is “a pox on both your houses.” I don’t care what your flavor of statism is, your ideology still sucks. More so if you’re going to make me pray to your god at gunpoint.

      Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
  6. When I tried to follow Timothy Brantley’s The Cure, which is essentially Raw Veganism with some raw meats like sushi and lots of juicing, I lost a lot of weight initially and was very encouraged. Unlike Dr. McDougall, Brantley does not promote breads and starches. Then inflammation began to affect me; first in my right eye and then as rheumatoid arthritis in my right hand. The specialists were only treating my symptoms and I was facing my middle years on prescription drugs to keep the inflammation under control. I did my own research on diet and I found the paleo diet. I am now drug free and the pain in my hand is a barometer for the quality of the food I eat. I’ve now found Mark’s Primal Blueprint to help me to continue to explore and thrive in this primal lifestyle. I’m losing weight and losing pain. Life experience is better than any study to demonstrate which diet is best.

    Brian wrote on June 14th, 2010
  7. I believe that everyone digests proteins and carbs differently. Some of us lack the necessary enzymes to digest animal proteins properly, therefore we are left wondering why we’re constipated, bloated, etc. We are all different…what may work for one may not work for another. Listen to your body and incorporate foods that do make you feel good. I am vegan, once again and feel great. I do not suffer from bloatedness, fatigue, constipation. I certainly do not have the skinny fat syndrome. I’m 31 and look like I’m 21…so no complaints. The problem is that people need to exercise good judgement and common sense. To call yourself vegan/vegetarian and overload on bad carbs(refined flours, pastas, white breads) is ridiculous. Of course, you’re not going to feel healthy. I eat plenty of good carbs (brown rice, legumes, whole grain breads, yukon gold potatoes, etc). Sure simple carbs like cake, sodas, packaged cereal, white bread, etc., may be tastier but they’re not healthy and defeat the whole purpose of being vegan.

    Veronica wrote on June 17th, 2010
    • I totally agree. I have a friend who gets sick if she eats too much red meat! I, on the other hand, only thrive on a Paleo-like diet. Believe me, I tried going vegetarian; I’d eat like a vegetarian a couple of days etc but I would feel very tired after a tofu-heavy meal. That was a sign that my body wasn’t thriving on it much.

      Elizabeth wrote on August 7th, 2010
      • If she just eats one meal, gets sick and never goes back to it, she may be having an enzyme issue. We make the enzymes necessary to deal with meat (on the other hand, not all the enzymes necessary to deal with plants), but if we don’t use some of them for a while, their production tends to get dialed back.

        If she’s trying to overload on lean protein, that’s not going to help either.

        Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
  8. I have never been vegan/or full out veggie but I have played around with my diet for years. I have many digestive problems and auto-immune symptoms that bust out when I eat anything with refined sugar or preservatives. I started with Elaine Gottshalls ‘Breaking the Vicious Cycle’ and that book opened my eyes to how big a role food plays in our health.
    For years now I have eaten mostly natural, unprocessed foods including meat and cheese and still .. I have been sick with these auto-immune problems. I would catch every cold/flu that went around and had a horrible time of falling asleep and staying asleep everynight.
    About a month ago I travelled to a country and stayed with a family that ate only veggies/fresh tropical fruit, brown rice and beans, avocado and olive oil everyday. I ate no dairy to speak of and in 2 weeks only ate meat or fish about 2x. The meat and fish I did eat was fresh (I watched them catch and slaughter it to see how it was done). I felt AMAZING! I slept like a baby everynight, acne that I thought was a permanat fixture on my face started clearing and for the first time my period was not a week of pain and torture. And I was not constipated !!
    Since being home I’ve upped my greens and have only been eating organic eggs, nuts and olive oil and avocado and fruit and I still feel great. coincidence? I don’t think so. I do believe we need omega fats so I take krill oil caps and I do think we need some sort of animal fat for the B vitamins .. eggs are nature’s most perfect food and if you can find them free-run then eat up! I think there is something to this vegetarian thing…

    Heather wrote on July 14th, 2010
    • Heather, I’m glad to see you are doing better! I would like to know more about your experience abroad and the benefits of your new diet.

      Veronica wrote on July 14th, 2010
    • You ate fresh meat and fish and felt great, and yet you think you should be a vegetarian. What’s wrong with this picture?

      mikehell wrote on July 14th, 2010
  9. hiya,

    before you go too far down the vegetarian route – read the recommended book on this website -‘the vegetarian myth’…. will make you think twice – i just finished it and was one of the best reads and i was a vegetarian for 6 years and vegan for 6months until about 3 years ago – never again…..

    lisa wrote on July 14th, 2010
  10. I don’t understand why people get so angry about food. And so defensive. It’s pretty amusing. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost a year now. I cut meat out of my diet because I ate a bad piece of steak in a fajita (it was baaad, and tasted really bloody and fleshy). Since that bite I’ve never wanted meat again. The thought of eating an animal just grosses me out. Period. My weight hasn’t changed much, but I’ve always been “fit”. What I have noticed a difference in is an overall better sense of well-being. Maybe it’s unrealted to cutting meat out of my diet, but I think it has something to do with it. My husband cut meat out (he occasionally eats fish and eggs) 4 months ago and he has dropped 35 pounds. Like others have commented: I think it’s just important to eat what makes you feel the best. Both physically and spiritually. If you don’t have a problem eating the flesh of slaughtered animals, more power to ya. Bon apetit. I do. That doesn’t mean I’m a “liberal”. It has nothing to do with politics. I just think it’s wrong. FOR ME. I don’t care what you do. :) I do, however, find it interesting that MOST (not all) of the people I have met who are so vehemently opposed to vegetarian diets are… fat (but I live in Alabama, number 49 in health–lots of veg-opposers and lots of fatties).

    BHP446 wrote on July 15th, 2010
    • Owned, I’m against veg*nism and I’m fat–mostly because I went vegan six years ago and got fatter and crazier.

      If I go way low on the plant food and way high on the natural fats though (NOT plant oils, except olive and coconut, more the latter), I start losing weight. It’s the plants keeping it on. Grain is a plant, remember? But I’m having trouble dealing with starch generally now, no matter where it’s from.

      Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
  11. You can lose weight a lot of ways that are not healthy in the long run.

    A lot of meat is marinated, breaded, accompanied with a gravy or sauce and these additions usually have glutens, high sugar or starch content, preservatives or all of the above. Eliminating this kind of meat-based meal makes sense, but should not condemn meat in general.

    I share my experience as a cautionary tale to those who are vegans or vegetarians. While pursuing a mostly raw veganism as a result of reading Timothy Brantley’s “The Cure”, I inadvertently greatly increased my intake of lectins and saponins (from legumes, potatoes and nightshades) that have damaged my intestines, a condition called leaky gut (intestinal permeability) that permits intestinal toxins into my blood stream that in turn trigger an hyper immune response that attacks healthy tissue in my hand and eye.

    Before the pain, way before the leaky gut was diagnosed after nearly two years and several medical dead ends, I was feeling really good and had lost a notable amount of weight. But then the other shoe dropped.

    OK, I am particularly susceptible to this condition for genetic reasons, but it stands to reason that vegetables with high concentrations of lectins and saponins are best kept to a minimum or avoided all together even for highly resistant people. Unless you preemptively screen for the HLA B27 gene that is a marker for people like me with auto-immune sensitivity, you may be choosing a life style with some unexpected consequences that would be avoided by following a “primal” diet.

    Brian wrote on July 15th, 2010
  12. I always found it interesting that vegans try to argue their diet is the most natural, perfect diet. But without any animal sources, ancient humans would have died off without B-12. I guess B-12 pills grew on trees ages ago.

    Leo wrote on July 28th, 2010
    • B12 comes from bacteria. Meat contains B12 because it has bacteria.

      Ted Moon wrote on December 18th, 2011
      • Because it has bacteria?! LMAO Wow, Ted… you REALLY need to do some research on that one. B12 is produced by microorganisms, primarily in the guts of mammals. Human guts produce it too but have no way to absorb it once it’s made there. Ruminants on the other hand ARE able to absorb the B12 produced in their guts and then we get it by eating their meat and eggs. The only way for vegans to get B12 is by supplementation or by eating unwashed foods pooped on by mammals. There are NO reliable natural sources of vegan B12.

        paleohuntress wrote on December 26th, 2012
        • The microorganisms you are refering to are bacteria; our guts are full of them and they are essential to our health.

          catherine wrote on January 9th, 2013
  13. I don’t think its veganism thats the problem in this case- its the type of diet itself, if that makes sense.

    I am a teenage vegan, and I run XC and distance track at my school, am goalie for indoor soccer, and swim in the summer. I don’t have any problem building muscle or keeping my weight down, and have the lowest blood pressure of my (omnivorous) family.

    Veganism done right is perfectly healthy- veganism without healthy fats (like flaxseed and nuts), a variety of veggies, various protein sources, calcium, and B12 supplementation, is bad.

    I would also like to add that although to eat meat is natural- it is not necessary.

    abby wrote on August 1st, 2010
    • Not necessary for *some* people, perhaps. But I believe genetically, 80% of us need it to have a healthy life.

      People need to realise that everyone is biochemically different and stop arguing about what is right or wrong but instead focus on what is right for the individual.

      Elizabeth wrote on August 7th, 2010
      • I have been interested in the caveman, or what I now know as Mark’s primal diet for about a year and have recently gone very primal whenever I possibly can. I have a friend who has been a vegetarian his entire life (he has tried chicken and fish a few times), and has been a vegan for about a year and a half. I have not seen any noticeable change in his body type from vegetarian to vegan, but what I can say is that his bodyttype has always been somewhat “skinny fat”. Im assuming, the high amounts of simple carbs seem to keep him flabby no matter the amount of exercise, and he is relatively active (biking to work etc.) I have also observed others (and myself at times) who have eaten copious amounts of heavy carbs who are very out of shape. I know some people choose vegetarianism and vegism for more philosophical reasons concerning animal cruelty, and I respect their decision. However, w/o the option of meat in your diet, you’re inevitably drawn to all those other options: breads, cereals, and sugary stuff out there which contain no animal products. These foods seem to cause fat gain, and the people seem relatively untoned in body type. I am sure there are outliers, but it seems evident to me, at least that this is the case.

        Bill wrote on August 14th, 2010
    • Certain vitamins that you can’t get on a vegan diet happen to be stored in the human body to last you over periods of long-term deprivation. Vitamin A and vitamin B12 are examples of this. You can’t get either on a vegan diet. You are young, and if your parents fed you right, you have stores of both in your body that you’re living on right now. But you WILL run out of them eventually.

      Beta carotene is not vitamin A. You had better be very sure you can convert it before you rely on it as your sole source of the vitamin. There are healthy people who can’t convert it, so don’t think you’re off the hook just because you’re an athlete. And eating carb-heavy uses up the A even faster.

      Cyanocobalamin is the form of B12 typically available in supplement form. It will not meet your B12 needs in the long term, and will prevent you uptaking methylcobalamin, the proper form for human intake purposes.

      There are other vitamins you need to worry about also, especially vitamin D3 and vitamin K2. You can’t get either from a plant source. Mushrooms have D2, but you have to convert it, and humans are not good converters of D2. You may spend a lot of time outside, but that’s no guarantee of adequate D either. K2 is only found in fermented and animal-based foods. You can get it from natto, but then the problem of eating too much soy becomes an issue for you. Cheese is a better source… but you’re vegan.

      Saturated fat is also a healthy fat. I’d hit the coconut oil if I were you.

      Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
      • You’re right Dana, except D is not a vitamin, it’s a hormone….look it up, you’ll likely be surprised like I was.

        Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Most teens have low blood pressure… it’s most likely that you’re slim and able to build muscle because you’re in the phase of your life where you’re producing extra testosterone and you’re still quite insulin sensitive. Youth forgives many sins.

      paleohuntress wrote on December 26th, 2012
  14. This post mischaracterizes Dr. McDougall’s recommendations.

    The question for all of us is: How can we get what we need (carbohydrates, protein, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, etc.) with as few negative side-effects as possible? Various competing diet gurus point to the potential negative effects of eating just about anything one might eat.

    People bash fruit.
    People bash meat.
    People bash dairy.
    People bash fish.
    People bash grains.
    People bash potatoes.
    People bash agricultural products like grains and legumes.
    People bash high fat plant foods like nuts and seeds.
    People bash modern high tech processed foods.

    About the only thing that doesn’t routinely get bashed is vegetables. But vegetables have so few calories it’d be impossible to maintain body mass eating only vegetables.

    We need to get calories somewhere!

    The main difference between the McDougall Diet and Primal Balance is that Mark thinks it’s healthier to get the lion’s share of one’s calories from meat. Dr. McDougall thinks it’s healthier to get the lion’s share of one’s calories from starch (contained in traditional staple foods like potatoes, wheat, maize (corn), rice, and cassava).

    Both Mark and Dr. McDougall agree it’s best to eat foods as grown, without processing, refining, etc.

    Maxwell Murphy wrote on September 13th, 2010
  15. Interesting that this guy claims anyone with a basic knowledge of biology …. well these basic folks should know meat and fat creates the insulin resistance that makes it hard for th ebody to reduce blood sugars. So diabetes myust be caused by the thing that puts sugar in the blood. WRONG. It’s not the sugar in the blood, its the ability to get rid of it that’s the problem and meat and fat inhibit that ability. BASIC. Get it. Get off your addictions. Go veg.

    Siswrong wrote on September 17th, 2010
  16. Let’s look at the medical conditions caused by foods; the food allergies I’m familiar with are gluten based (celiac disease), legume based (leaky gut from lectins and saponins), nightshades cause inflammatory conditions [the last two are my banes]. Then there is lactose intolerance. Uncooked potatoes are poisonous. Peanut allergies. This is to name a few and in my estimation a vegetarian diet is much more vulnerable to them in contrast to a primal / paleo based diet.

    To be fair, there are fish and shellfish allergies too (both may be the result of heavy metal toxicity), but to my knowledge, grass fed and free range organic meats are not sources of allergies.

    Brian White wrote on September 17th, 2010
  17. A few years back I went vegan for about 8 months. I did my best to do it as healthily as possible (no refined food-products, etc) but it just really didn’t work for me. I lost a small amount of weight, but I looked sick to death all the time (pale, skin that was simultaneously flaky and oily, limp hair) and I always felt a little cracked out. Eventually I realized that I was not meant to be a vegan. I am so glad to be an omnivore. Life is simply better this way (at least it is for me).
    More power to the folks that can be vegan and maintain their health. I am not one of them.

    Molly B wrote on September 20th, 2010
    • If one eats more than 10% fat, irregardless of other dietary factors, their health will eventually suffer.
      Fat is the most important ingredient to limit, whatever diet you eat!
      Limiting fat, and even 0% overt fat, are the diets that have been healing cardiovascular disease for the past 25 years. (Drs. Caldwell Essylstine, John McDougall, Dean Ornish) Haven’t seen even one study eating meat, eggs, dairy where heart disease has been healed.
      Ex-President Clinton started eating a vegan diet several months ago, after having multi-bypass heart surgery from years of eating a heavily meat-based diet.
      Plants–fruits and vegetables–if eaten with no more than 10% overt fats in the diet, will NEVER kill anyone. This cannot be said about meat, dairy, egg diets.

      Susan wrote on November 13th, 2010
      • If I kept my fat intake to 10 percent, I would go bloody insane.

        If your brain is made up of Jello and starch, you don’t need to worry about your fat intake.

        Mine’s made of nerve cells, saturated fat, and cholesterol. It needs more of the latter two. I give it what it needs and we co-exist a lot better than we used to do.

        Clinton looks like a cadaver. I would never adopt a diet that made me look like the walking dead. No thank you.

        Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
      • How do you define fat? Read some more articles on this site. We’re not knawing it right off the bone! Hey, like Clinton is someone we should role model any type of lifestyle behavior after! Come on now, really?

        Annie wrote on April 8th, 2011
      • Yeah and your ex-president Clinton looks like crap.

        YumYum wrote on July 31st, 2011
  18. Wow…some pretty intense conversations going on here.

    When I came upon this post, I actually had typed in the words “vegan costa rica” into Google as I was looking for vegan options in Costa Rica in the coming months.

    What I found here seemed interesting. After reading the post, I was appalled to see that some doctor is promoting a vegan/vegetarian diet that is high in starches and legumes…and telling people they can eat as much as they want and supposedly lose weight? He sounds like a quack.

    And this marathon runner, “Skinny Fat” as you call her, probably was skinny fat not because of her diet, solely, but because she was a RUNNER. Because she was running and probably not weight training. I know a lot of runners with no muscle mass and no matter what they eat, they’re not going to have any muscle mass because they don’t incorporate weight-training into their workouts.

    I have been a vegetarian for 8 years. I’m 22 years old and I also take supplements (which I think people should take anyway whether they are vegetarian or not, seeing as how people don’t get enough nutrients from what they eat these days- nobody is perfect).

    My weight has fluctuated quite a bit and it’s not due to my vegetarianism – it’s due to my activity. I increased my activity and the quality of foods I was eating. Instead of eating carbs, I ate more vegetables and more protein. My protein comes from hummus, beans, broth-based soups, lentils, flavorful ethnic dishes that I can make at home and sometimes get at a restaurant if I have the money. I am so sick of people knocking the vegetarian diet. If people would just be RESPONSIBLE vegetarians and make sure they are getting the right nutrients, they wouldn’t be so unhealthy. Same with meat-eaters- if you wouldn’t eat so MUCH meat, maybe meat-eating wouldn’t get knocked so much.

    Think about it. Stop eating crappy meat and start eating quality, grass-fed, organic meat, and not factory meat where the chickens are being thrown against the walls several times and beaten to death with their beaks chopped off. Didn’t know about that? Get informed. That’s what you’ve been eating all your life.

    Julia wrote on November 7th, 2010
    • Dr. McDougall has actual clinical experience with his diet, much like Atkins. It’s nice that you have your opinion, but these doctors have the clinical proof that their diets works. Eating starches and vegetables is not bad. McDougall has been doing this for over 35 years and so before you comment, take the time to research him more, he is still alive (unlike other diet doctors) and can be reached as well as researched.

      Ted Moon wrote on December 18th, 2011
      • Appealing to authority is not a valid argument. Just because he has clinical experience and has been doing it for 35 years doesn’t make him right. The fact that Mark stated that the majority of people on his diet seemed unhealthy to him should be a cause of concern for the diet.

        Julia herself sounds like an intelligent person and the sort of vegetarian who I have no problem with. Her diet works for her but she is not pushing it on you or me. In fact she is giving a little sound advice to meat eaters to eat better quality produce, and to learn about their dietary habits.

        You, on the otherhand, have not rebutted anything she has said. All you have done is appeal to authority.

        Andy wrote on July 20th, 2012
      • Everyone dies, Ted… everyone. Including many vegetarian, vagan and fruitarian gurus- most of THEM from cancer (Ross Horne, author of Cancer-Proof Your Body was of particular irony) . Either way, pointing to who is still living without looking at how LONG they lived or how healthy they were when they lived is kinda silly.

        ~Huntress

        paleohuntress wrote on December 26th, 2012
  19. Hey Mark,
    Just so you know, it is possible to follow the McDougall Program long term and lose (and keep off) weight. I’ve been following Dr. McDougall’s high starch low-fat diet for 12 years. I lost 170 pounds in four years and have kept the weight off for 8 more. Along the way I rid myself of severe asthma and allergies. I’m 54 years old and my recent blood work was great. Low LDL, high HDL cholesterol, blood pressure 106/68, pulse rate in the 50s, low triglycerides, normal blood sugar, good levels of B12, iron and vitamin D. I think almost any diet that removes processed SAD food is going to improve health. This is what works for me. I don’t eat anything made with flour, white sugar, don’t use salt or oils. I get my carbs from tubers, hard squashes and whole gluten-free grains, my protein from beans and my fat from (small amounts of) nuts, seeds and avocados. And I eat tons of fresh greens and vegetables.
    Cathy

    Cathy wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Also, contrary to what one poster said, Dr. McDougall does NOT recommend “large amounts of soy.” Instead he expressly recommends that soy be extremely limited. Get your facts straight, for crying out loud. How many here who claim to have followed a McDougall-style diet without success were following it as actually advised–not their own version?

      She wrote on November 11th, 2010
  20. Wow, can’t we all just get along? The most sensible comments from this discussion are those that make the point that people are different. Is it so hard to believe that some humans have evolved the ability to digest grains? Grains didn’t enter the world 10,000 years ago. Granted the wild type were not easy to turn into food, but they did keep well. I’m quite certain that some of our ancestors kept baskets of grain in the back of the cave for those times when game was scarce. Wouldn’t you? Northern Europeans evolved the ability to digest milk as adults, so why is it hard to believe that some groups evolved more effective strategies for digesting grains? Those genes are probably floating in the population and those people may do very well on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

    That said, I don’t think it changes Mark’s primal premise very much. I agree that a meat and vegetable based diet is most healthy for most humans — it certainly is for me. But absolutes are very suspicious. You can have absolutes in physics, but biology seems to delight in throwing up exceptions every time you think you have found a rule.

    Fighting over vegan vs vegetarian vs primal is just stupid. Let’s respect the people who say that they have found something that works for them. I know it’s tempting to get feisty when someone attacks us, but the thing that brings me back to this site is that it is evidence-based. Emotional appeals about cuddly animals are not, but if you look at the studies we all love so much, they are all based on average responses. More people did better on this regimen than on that one — MORE, not all, never all. It’s the bell curve, nature’s favorite shape. I suspect that the right tail of that curve is full of people who, like the Inuit, thrive on fatty meat exclusively, while the left tail is home to fruititarians. The big hump in the middle are people adapted to the primal diet (but the hump is bigger than it should be because most of them are eating Twinkies. :)

    Ann

    Ann Coleman wrote on November 24th, 2010
    • Good post, probably the best one here. Agriculture started 10,000 years ago, so some people are the end product of 500 generations of selecting for successful grain/starch eaters. For other people, their hunter/gatherer ancestors may be a mere 20, 10 or even 5 generations back. And infinite variations in between, and infinite variables altering that selection process. My bet is that paleo is best for the majority of modern humans, but it’s just a guess; sophisticated population sampling and enzyme profiling would be needed to nail it down. Until then, eat unprocessed, and fearlessly explore various macronutrient proportions until you find the one that serves you best.

      Brad wrote on December 1st, 2010
    • Here’s some evidence for you then. Average human height has decreased since the advent of grain agriculture. No matter who’s doing the agriculture. Some ethnic groups still have not regained their pre-ag average height despite the advent of modern medicine.

      When Weston Price did his survey of isolated “primitive” cultures and their diets, guess who had the most dental caries? The bread-eating Swiss.

      That’s good enough for me. If people who “evolved to eat grain” are having that much trouble (and sorry, but evolution doesn’t happen that fast!), I don’t buy the notion that they’re good for anybody now.

      The benefits people see from veg*n diets are going to turn out to be from them dropping junk food. Wait and see.

      Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
      • Interesting, if people have gotten shorter, explain vintage clothes, antique chairs, and victorian shoes.

        Good luck.

        RD Liz wrote on December 14th, 2011
        • For real? lol Tiny Victorian chairs? Tiny Victorian shoes? Yes, people lost 1/3 of their life expectancy and several inches in height- they also had significantly higher infant mortality rates, tooth decay and protein deficiency diseases like porotic hyperostosis when they started farming. In the field of archeology, researchers can tell instantly whether the skeletal remains are from hunter-gatherers or farmers as the skeletons are far more robust from the former.

          paleohuntress wrote on December 26th, 2012
        • Don’t forget the smaller schools like in “Zoolander”…

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 26th, 2012
        • Elton John’s, “Tiny Dancer”…

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 26th, 2012
        • From my experience with vintage clothing and furniture, the smaller sized pieces tend to survive longer because they don’t get worn/used as much. Average people wear out average clothing at an average pace, and it’s simply not around 80 or 180 years later.

          Erok wrote on December 26th, 2012
        • You DO understand that this was 10 millennia ago, not 10 decades ago, right?

          From Anthropologist Jared Diamond- “One straight forward example of what paleopathologists have learned from skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of he ice ages was a generous 5’ 9″ for men, 5’5″ for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5’ 3″ for men, 5’ for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors.”

          paleohuntress wrote on December 28th, 2012
    • Right on Anne…..facts, evidence….then embrace with me the virtues of eating horse meat….at least over beef or pork!

      Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  21. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 20 years (not a vegan). The single biggest mistake people can make is to emphasize too many refined carbs such as white bread, white pasta, cake, cookies, bagels and the like. These days I consume a diet made of unrefined plant foods straight from nature. That includes some whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice and whole grain pasta but I eat LOTS of plain fruits, vegetables and beans. I feel great, I look great, I’m 42 years old and my energy levels are skyrocketing and I’m bouncing off the walls due to the high vitamin content of my food. Some people may need to eat a diet higher in fat than what Dr. McDougall recommends. You can always add more avocados, nuts and coconut if you feel like you’re lagging, or a protein drink made from hemp if you must go that route. Soy is definitely not required. Look to some athletes like Rip Esselstyn, Brendan Brazier and Rich Roll, they’ve done pretty well with the whole vegan thing but you must get rid of those pesky white carbs.

    I have quite a few friends around my age, Gawd they are doing awful on SAD, totally overweight, lethargic and dragging around. Paleo maybe a good solution for some people, I have a lot of respect for any diet which banishes junk food and sugar from people’s lives, but a lot of veg-heads are doing pretty well too. :)

    So, sorry you did not like the vegan island… personally I would love to go there and maybe someday I will. :)

    Amy wrote on November 24th, 2010
    • Clearly the vegan and even vegetarian diets make very little nutritional sense to me, but this whole Primal thing’s just a mixture of nutritional common sense with overly romanticized notions of well….”the good old days.” Mark, you tell a semi-interesting story of how our ancestors once lived, and maybe that’s all it’s meant to be, but if you’re serious then come on man, you have to admit you truly know next to nothing about how they lived. Take away all the assumptions, conclusions and suppositions and what scant facts you or even the scientific community is left with really amounts to very little. That’s the sad thing about academic and amateur archaeology and palaeontology, when you just look at the evidence gathered, the rest, almost all of it is interpretation of artifacts leading to speculation, followed in no time by people stating thier speculative assumptions in terms of absolutism as though they are facts. No doubt a lot of intelligent people might hit the nail right on the head or get very close in their deductions and conclusions with their extrapolations but nevertheless it still adds up to theory and hypothesis….only actual fact about our history, our ancestors should be talked about in absolutes, and if sadly and perhaps uninterestingly that means we’re left with next to nothing we can concretely say about our ancestors of 10,000 years ago then so be it. That is true science, unfortunately the scientific community grotesquely ignores true science. As far as facts go, scientific facts, why Mark do you speak of our brains evolving over the past 10,000 years? The actual scientific evidence shows no change whatsoever, from the first known homo-sapien remains to the latest, we have the same brain.

      Now, if I got you wrong, you’re not proposing that you really know what our ancestors lives were like ten thousand years ago or so, and this Primal thing is loosely based on what you might think had been a once healthier way of life then ok, I appologize for holding you to any standards. If we’re talkin’ a romanticized notion of how our ancestors lived a more wholesome lifestyle and trying to replicate that, ok then that could be fun, some good and likely healthy ideas could spring forth.

      Here’s where I think this Primal concept could spark some interesting discussions and exchanges. Otherwise, if you or supporters of this back to the past, as if you or they really know what the hell that is, lifestyle scenario pretend it’s more than that then you’ll just get buried in factual challenges, checks and debates, and deservedly so.

      If this is honest, if we’re a collective of people, many in that middle age of health scares and uncertainties, looking for answers, for good health, for security, and we think we can find it in the past, well then sure, let’s have fun with it. I don’t pretend to know, but let’s say the best place to start is to say we think a lot of the paleo kinda diet was probably more healthy, wouldn’t have been all the processed crap and GMOs and antibiotics, etc., etc., etc….there’s as good a start as any for a hopefully healthy diet basis. Don’t eat crap. Simple enough I suppose, we can comfort ourselves in thinking we’re eatin’ like our ancestors by eating grass fed beef and free range chicken…likely not a bad bet this might improve one’s health. But realistically, grass fed…in North America, from the northern U.S. through Canada, what…6-8 months a large herd will have access to grass? Look into federal, state, local laws defining terms such as orgnanic, grass fed, free range/run….find out what these things really mean. Where you live grass fed might mean all I gotta do is shove a handful of grass down each of my cattle’s throats and I’m good to label thier meat grass fed. All impressed with they’z grass fed, do you know what quality of grass, if it’s “safe”, and even if it’s raised under ideal conditions, whatever that is, what is the meat exposed to from the slaughterin’ to your mouth?

      As far as going “Primal” does modern pork, beef and poultry fit your idea of hunter-gatherer meat? Not mine. I had been thinking along these lines before I came upon this site, and for me my idea of eatin’ old school is venison, which depending on who you ask may include bison, boar, rabbit, camel, llama, ostrich, kangaroo in addition to numerous deer species, also horse, donkey, goat, crocodile, alligator, frog, turtle, all kinds of fish, duck, goose, game birds…leaving out cattle, domestic pigs and chickens altogether. For me, it’s my hope to do my homework, try best as I can to educate myself amidst a sea of often conflicting “facts” about what’s truly healthy, source out what I think is the best places to get these meats from, endeavour to handle and cook them properly and the rest I leave up to God to keep me safe and healthy according to his will. It’s also my wish to have fun with it too, stressing over your diet plan or lifestyle kinda defeats the purpose. I’m not gonna get hung up on trying to be 100% Paleo, aside from no one honestly knowing what that is, I want to enjoy my food, not speaking as an authority but from what I have learned them suckers 10,000 years ago didn’t exactly have a panoply of spices to add variety to thier meals.

      So please, everyone take the stick out….don’t pretend you know with any real certainty what is the ideal diet plan, don’t get belligerent with those who disagree with you, you can site all the stats from this University study, the figures from this government agency, but in the end you don’t really know and neither do they. Hey, I think we might all be able to agree mushrooms are good for ya! Anyways, just do the best for yourself as you can, enjoy whatever it is you feel is good for you and hope you don’t get run over by a bus on your way to the market tomorrow.

      Xfingxfing wrote on January 4th, 2013
  22. From my own experience with auto-immune problems and the research I’ve done to understand and address it without medication, its clear that grains are not meant for consumption because of the natural pesticides. Cite all the success of vegetarians and vegans you want and I’m not trying to tell anyone what to eat because I wouldn’t accept that either, but if you cannot concede that grains, nightshades and other staples of the vegan/vegetarian diet are not potentially harmful then you aren’t paying attention. By choosing to eat vegan’vegetarian, you are accepting an inherent risk that is not evident in a primal/paleo diet.

    Happy Thanksgiving all!

    Brian White wrote on November 24th, 2010
  23. Holy shitsucking Batman, this comment thread is the stupidest keyboard-vomit I’ve read in over a month.

    It defies words as much as it defies logic.

    Methylcobalamin. Now.

    Ginger wrote on November 28th, 2010
    • LOL that’s what I was thinking too!

      People are so defensive! Why can’t they just accept that what works for them doesn’t work for everyone else!

      It’s just food… Eat the things that make you feel good/healthy then GET A LIFE

      j-j wrote on December 31st, 2010
      • It’s not a simple matter (as you know) of vegetarian VS meateating, but rather of the things that tend to go along with the basic diet, esp. meateating. Meateaters tend to crave alcohol or sugar or too much fruit after awhile unless they are seriously, almost religiously, devoted to a delicately balanced, healthy diet that excludes those things, such as some versions of meat diets described here.

        However, things can happen to you (sudden challenges – financial, emotional, unexpected stress, etc. etc.) that can throw you off your nicely specialized and planned feed. Sure happened to me!

        In any case, underlying all these opinions and discussions is the idea that everything you are healthwise is brought about by your diet. Such blindness! We all have a sh*tload of physical and mental baggage by the time we become adults. Then some version of paleo or veg’n or vegan or something else balance this out for a time. Irrespective of healthful vegetarianism or paleo meateating – we all have the capacity to get infested with parasites, for one small example. So many health situations are not curable by diet alone in my opinion.

        Nice to live in a society where we can pick and choose what we eat, huh. I’m an older person and have been through the grinder, so that is why I am being a bit preachy. Sorry! (Sincerely.)

        Wyandotte wrote on December 26th, 2012
        • @Wyandotte

          “Meateaters tend to crave alcohol or sugar or too much fruit after awhile unless they are seriously, almost religiously, devoted to a delicately balanced, healthy diet that excludes those things.”

          I do not know where you’d get an idea like this, it sounds like religion- it certainly isn’t science. When I was vegan, I craved meat sometimes- but when I had meat, the craving vanished. I craved it because there was something in it that my body NEEDED. Before going Paleo, I went low carb- I ate ALL the meat I wanted- I was trying to keep carbs under 20 grams/day during the intro period, and it was the first time in my life I had no cravings for sugar. As for the alcohol piece, that is also connected to diets high in carbohydrate, through leptin signaling and the gut flora that thrives in a high-carb environment. There is absolutely no physiological mechanism to a meat-containing diet that would drive overconsumption of sugar or alcohol. It is a ridiculous claim.

          “things can happen to you (sudden challenges – financial, emotional, unexpected stress, etc. etc.) that can throw you off your nicely specialized and planned feed. Sure happened to me!”

          Without a doubt- but that doesn’t result in a glut of meat-eating, rather it generally results in the consumption of high-carbohydrate junk foods (the foods provided by a food bank are based on dried grains and legumes) as they are what’s most convenient and they provide the seratonin rush we seek when looking for comfort. Consider the typical fast-food burger meal- the patty has 90 calories (or 180 for 2), and yet the meal (double burger, medium fry and drink) contains 940 calories. That’s 81% of the meal from plant (mostly starch and sugar) sources. Myself, we just had a glorious Christmas feast including a pastured prime rib roast. Half the roast still sits in my fridge, what my FAMILY has been eating since Tuesday is the mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, pies and cookies. Your claim simply holds no water.

          “So many health situations are not curable by diet alone in my opinion.

          Agreed… but… so? Does that have something to do with Mark’s post or this discussion?
          So to go back to your first claim-

          “It’s not a simple matter (as you know) of vegetarian VS meateating, but rather of the things that tend to go along with the basic diet, esp. meateating.

          You really haven’t provided any argument at all to support it the “especially meateating” part of that- never mind a convincing argument. FWIW, you know that there is no such word as “meateating”, right? Irrespective of vegetarianism or healthful paleo eating of course.

          ~Huntress

          paleohuntress wrote on December 28th, 2012
      • Exactly..like Horse meat…it’s better for you than beef or pork!

        Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • Xfingxfing,

          “Exactly..like Horse meat…it’s better for you than beef or pork!”

          I have no compunctions about eating horse meat if it was raised humanely on it’s natural diet, but what do you think makes it better than beef and pork?

          ~Huntress

          paleohuntress wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • As to why I think Horse meat is better for you than Beef or Pork….

          2+ times more Iron and vitamin B12 than Beef, much higher Omega-3, higher in Linoleic and Palmitoleic acids, on par in protein levels and in addition I personally find it tastes better….and if that weren’t all, it’s very cheap. Oh yeah, and if you go to the inspection.gc.ca site you’ll see the horse in Canada seems like it’s pretty safe.

          Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • I hope this got quote of the week

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 23rd, 2012
  24. I can only speak from experience. Working in the health care industry for over 20 years, I can honestly say that the majority of the higher educated people I work with are vegetarians. Not just Physicians, but Scientists, Researchers, etc. When you are exposed to the countless amounts of people in the hospitals because of lifestyle choices, (mainly meat eaters) you really take a good look at nutrition. I have attended countless nutrition courses and lectures and realize there are some benefits to eating SOME animal products. (eggs for example) However, the majority of meat products that people consume now is extremely unhealthy. The antibiotics, pesticides and countless other chemicals these animals are exposed to, that ultimately end up in our gut, causes havoc on our bodies. Anything to extreme is not healthy. The problems with grains is not the grain itself, it is the process in which they are not being produced. Most things produced from the earth are beneficial; it is because of how they are being produced that has changed. To say fruit of any kind is bad is wrong. Understanding how the body works is more than just trying things out for years. People that have devoted their lives to education DO have the right to share their findings. (As do others) Do not discount the wisdom of years of education and study. Until you have worked with thousands of people with disease, it is best to keep an open mind. What you put in your body DOES matter and it is just as bad to eat a piece of mass produced meat as it is processed sugar beets. There are thousands of cultures that are healthy and have longevity and have never consumed meat. The problem I see is that people always take things to extreme. Cutting out something completely is not answer either. If you want to make a difference in the world, start demanding that our food supply is chemical and genetically altered free.

    Marsha wrote on December 1st, 2010
    • I do better on CAFO meat and a minimum of plant foods than I ever did on a vegan diet. It probably helps that the fatty acid profile of a ruminant (cow, goat, etc.) does not suffer as much as that of a pig or a chicken on a grain diet.

      Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
    • Living in the rural South, I need to insert that the “meat eaters” you refer to are swathing their meat in batter and frying it in corn or peanut oil. Now thats a problem.

      Kat wrote on June 6th, 2012
  25. Funny bumper sticker I saw

    Vegetarian: an Old Indian word for “Poor Hunter”

    Brian wrote on December 14th, 2010
  26. @Marsha’s post, here is a good article to rebut your statement about all the highly educated people choosing vegetarianism:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/06/meat-production-veganism-deforestation.

    My response to you is give it time. The primal diet is gaining advocates daily.

    Brian wrote on January 2nd, 2011
  27. “The primal diet is gaining advocates daily.” Damn right, Brian. I think the Primal advocates here are part of a movement that will eventually (but all too slowly) become the accepted mainstream understanding of correct nutrition. There are just too many problems that the Primal/Paleo lifestyle can fix for it not to be.

    Vegetarians and vegans have had their turn, (ask any average American if v-words are healthy and they’ll say, “yes”), but their solutions aren’t working. Adkins was close, but got unfairly pissed on, thanks in large part to the V-agenda.

    Hopefully in 30+ years, people will look at groups like the Physicians for Responsible Medicine and say, “shame on you!”

    Tolstoyan wrote on January 20th, 2011
    • just realized how similar “V-agenda” looks to another V-word. That wasn’t on purpose!

      Tolstoyan wrote on January 20th, 2011
  28. Based on personal experience, I’ve opted to not go with the McDougall and Primal eating lifestyles. Not to say that this type of eating doesn’t work for all. If it does, that’s great. We all know that everyone’s digestive systems function differently. We live in a society where food allergies are an ever-growing concern. I don’t think it’s about eating carbs, meat or dairy…it’s about how vegetables/fruits, etc., are grown, prepared, and how our animals are raised. Unfortunately, due to mass production, most of the food that we put into our mouths is PROCESSED!!!!!! Cattle feeds on corn, fish is farm raised, vegetables are doused with chemicals/pesticides. People are so being mislead thinking that they’ll live healthier lives since they’re vegan/vegetarian/primal. For those vegans/vegetarians that are disappointed because they are gaining weigh; if everything you’re putting into your mouth is processed/refined, of course you are! Yes, that vegan carrot cake will make you fat even though it doesn’t have any animal in it.
    Primal diet for me (not to all) is a joke. We really don’t know how the animal was raised or the how the meat is processed. Meat is dead. For me there is no nutritional value once you’ve cooked/baked it. I found an enlightening movie called “Gerson miracle” which really made an impression. It’s tough to follow the diet, sometimes I fail, but overall, there is countless number of benefits to following this diet. It’s based on live food. Live food for me, is the only type of nourishing food out there. I try and stay away from meat. And no, I’m not “skinny fat”. People think for some strange reason that they are skinny fat because they don’t eat meat. Get to the gym and tone up. Take a look and really educate yourselves on all the lies that mainstream media is feeding you.

    Veronica wrote on January 20th, 2011
  29. @Veronica, I wonder if you’ve really investigated the Primal diet. Some of your statements are not quite true. Primal “dieters” are more aware of their meats’ origins, more conscience of their meat choices, seeking grass fed, free range alternatives and even sorking directly with providers.

    But that is not all that I can argue with your points. Yes there is a great deal of difference in each of our responses to the food we consume, but there are facts that are not unique to each of us, such as the natural pesticidal nature of these foods.

    Raw foods are no cure all, in fact my seduction by the raw foods appeal resulted directly in my present struggle with auto-immune problems from leaky gut. Arguably, I was gaining weight on the SAD diet, but it hadn’t triggered an auto immune condition (yet!). Once I went raw and began consuming the raw lectins and saponins in far greater volumes, I did lose weight but I damaged my gut and began my battle with auto-immune pain.

    The only relief for me has been a strict primal diet.

    While some people handle the pesticidal attributes of grains, legumes and nightshades better than others, they are playing with a personal timebomb. The vegans and vegetarians whether they practice raw or not are not only not immune to this eventuality, their food choices are making them more susceptible to problems at some point.

    Best of luck to you, but I hope you keep the experience of so many of us in this discussion in mind as you will likely have your mind changed by your body at some point. I apologize for my apparent arrogance, but this is painful experience speaking and the fact of a near epidemic of inflammatory ailments due to diet in America that persuade me of this.

    Brian wrote on January 20th, 2011
    • Saponins are found to be anti-inflammatory; not the inverse. besides they lower blood cholesterol which you will certainly have in excess if you eat lots of meats and saturated facts (Peterson, 1950).
      Saponins are currently preferred as human-safe immunological adjuvants to elicit higher titres of antibodies (Wu et al., 1992; Sangeetaa , 1994; Kensil et al., 1995; Kameswara Rao and Sangeetaa, 1997)
      Foods with high concentrations of lectins, such as beans, cereal grains, seeds, and nuts, may be harmful if consumed in excess in UNCOOKED or IMPROPERLY COOKED form.
      A recent in vitro study has suggested that the mechanism of lectin damage may occur by interfering with the repair of ALREADY-DAMAGED epithelial cells (Miyake K, Tanaka T, McNeil PL, 2007).

      catherine wrote on June 13th, 2011
      • Saturated facts? LOL. I guess that’s what I think of all those high protein-fat; low carbs diets. They are all the same anyway.

        catherine wrote on June 13th, 2011
  30. HELP! I’ve really enjoyed all the various expereinces posted here. I am 49 and started Dr. Calwell’s vegan diet 14 days ago. I have a family history of CAD and my recent blood work was on the high side. To date I’ve dropped 5 pounds, but I am struggling with no fat and no meat. I haven’t fallen off the wagon, but I have days where the beans, whole grain rice, and veggies are so unappealing that I feel I may “lose my cookies” if I eat one more bite. Any thoughts/ideas?

    BK wrote on January 21st, 2011
  31. Oh my lord. I just lost half an hour of my life that I’ll never get back again.

    I see it’s time to dust off my neglected blog and do another post on this subject. Sigh. If I must. (muahahahaha!)

    Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
  32. Dana,

    I agree. Clinton looks horrible.

    i’d become too cold on < 50% fat diet, probably would get frost bites. (i have mild Raynauld syndrome)

    regards,

    PHK wrote on February 26th, 2011
  33. Becoming an ex-vegan is somewhat like becoming an ex-antiracist or an ex-antisexist — you have to wonder just how unprejudiced the person was to begin with. Humans are natually repulsed by the sight and smell of a dead animal with ripped guts and intestines sticking out, while any natural meat-eater would happily make lunch out of it. On the other hand, we love the smell and sight of fresh cut grass, fruits, and other vegetation. This says a lot. Veganism is a perfectly good diet for anyone and the only moral diet. Anyone who claims to be an ex-vegan must be made-up by the meat industry.

    TheTruth wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • “Humans are natually repulsed by the sight and smell of a dead animal with ripped guts and intestines sticking out, while any natural meat-eater would happily make lunch out of it.”

      Grok wouldn’t be repulsed by this – it would be a common sight for him. I would imagine most people who hunt aren’t repulsed by it either, nor are biologists and veterinarians who deal with that sort of thing all the time. The only reason humans these days are so repulsed by ‘blood ‘n’ guts’ is because we’re so far removed from the production of our food.

      The pure and simple truth of the matter is that a human on a vegan diet cannot take in all the nutrients he or she needs to survive without taking supplements. We did not evolve to survive on zero animal products.

      Allison wrote on February 28th, 2011
      • I’d like to also add that if one wants to minimize animal suffering, a vegan diet is not the way to do it. By refusing to purchase any animal products, you are electing to have no say whatsoever in the treatment of animals used by humans. However, if you choose to buy humanely raised and slaughtered meat, you are creating demand for that product. You are showing the food production industry that there exists a population that wants properly raised food and is willing to pay for it. If enough people demanded this, it would become standard, and factory farmed meat would no longer be the norm.

        Allison wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • @TheTruth – did you bother reading the contributions to this blog? Dozens of people relating their experiences and all you can do is rehash the “only moral diet” kindergarten level view. Most respectfully disagree with veganism based upon sound science and personal experience and you come in unprepared and share only disdain. You are not worthy of this group of moral individuals.

      Brian wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • pixel wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • Funny you should say. Nothing squicks me out faster than a soft, rotten piece of fruit.

      candy wrote on October 2nd, 2012
    • TheTruth….you make no valid point nor sway opinion by being insulting and ignorant, nor by being sanctimonious in claiming your way is the only moral way. It’s the all too common posts like yours, made by vegans, that is the primary reason this subject often strays into trading insults.

      Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  34. if i go to a he Vegan land, i probably would have to bring my own “survival kit” (butter, cheese, perhaps Primal Fuel, etc.).

    cause beans & salad disagree with my digestive system + i also avoid grains (except small amount of rice).
    i also don’t eat fruit alone.

    sounds like the only food i could eat is white rice. but then i probably have to add tons of butter/coconut oil to avoid glucose spike.

    cheers,

    PHK wrote on February 28th, 2011
  35. I was a fat vegan. My weight has fluctuated considerably over the years. I was 230lbs, then 160lbs after a meat-centric Atkins Diet. Then I read Gail Eisnitz’ Slaughterhouse, along with The China Study, Animal Liberation, Diet for a Small Planet, etc. I became vegan and my weight stayed the same for many years. I then slowly gained the weight back. 230lbs. I dropped all of the carb foods recently, and I am doing a low carb lacto ovo vegetarian diet. I am losing a pound a day and feel great. I now eat more green vegetables than I did on a vegan diet. I just use cage free eggs and butter to reduce hunger. Veganism will leave you hungry because the carbohydrate content is typically too high and causes ups and downs in blood sugar. It can be done low carb though, and I plan to replace eggs with tofu scramble, and butter with coconut oil. Another problem with my vegan lifestyle is that potato chips and french fries are vegan. No one should eat those like they’re a food group, and I did. Another point. I think the argument that plants are alive the same way cows are is coarse and ignorant. It is a matter of SENTIENCE and HARM REDUCTION. It is also much healthier for the environment and for starving peoples that industrialized countries find ways to reduce our impact on the Earth as stewards instead of strip miners. Anyone who isn’t a climate change denier can agree with this or a Cartesian dualist can agree with the aforementioned points. Plants cannot feel, and so ripping them violently from the ground does not make me cringe. Debeaking a broiler chicken, or “sticking” a cow does make my human brain react with intense disgust. I think humans evolved with so little meat in our diet that we don’t really need it. But I think based on archeological evidence that we ate coarse watery vegetables, fatty nuts and seeds, and lots of fiber. Along the lines of the paleo/primal argument that we were healthier before the agricultural revolution, I argue that we lived on things that we could find growing wild (which were far higher in fiber than any domesticated grains/legumes/starchy plants). Animals were largely domesticated around the same time we domesticated many plants. These foods were selected for their ability to make us fat, in times when being fat was unheard of in all but the wealthiest classes.

    Lorin wrote on March 7th, 2011
    • Lorin, your misconceptions regarding the ethics and efficacy of veganism are addressed in Leirre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth. I recommend that you pick up a copy.

      http://www.lierrekeith.com/vegmyth.htm

      mikehell wrote on March 7th, 2011
  36. I was vegetarian for a few years, but I eat meat regularly now. But I only buy sustainably raised or caught animals. I also eat other people’s leftover meat, regardless of how it was raised or caught.
    I still have a lot of respect for vegetarians and vegans, provided they are aware they’re not doing it for their health. I certainly wasn’t. I did it for the sake of the environment. And I still order vegetable plates when I eat out – I’d rather forgo a serving of protein than buy my vote for factory farming.

    Rachel wrote on March 16th, 2011
  37. I have been lacto-ovo-vegetarian and primal. while vegetarian, i ate only organic whole grains, eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, veggies, and small amounts of organic dairy. i felt great, didnt get sick, and was working out 5 times a week. now i am primal so its basically the same diet for me but i dont include whole grains. i havent really been able to tell much of a difference. i really think the key is to not eat processed foods or junk. just my take.

    carlos wrote on April 5th, 2011
  38. wow, I want the last 30 minutes of my life back. This place wreaks of “Weston Price”…..the bottom line is you should live and eat in the way that makes YOU feel better. I am vegan but I won’t preach because I could give a fu$% how anyone else lives…sorry. If you like to eat meat and feel better because of it, go for it.

    …and DANA honey, you make some good points and many not so good points. You need to brush up on B12 and where it originates from dear.

    Marthk wrote on April 19th, 2011
  39. I think the truest point here is that there is always a piece of ‘evidence’ somewhere to back any argument. I have been vegan for 14 years now, I made this decision on moral grounds rather than health grounds. In the UK we try to follow the eat well plate which is 2 thirds starchy foods and veg and fruit, the remaining third is protein and dairy or dairy alternatives. I think this is the best approach as it is simple and stops people obsessing about obscure minerals they night be missing. You can’t top a sensible diet with fresh ingredients. I’ve followed this since the age of 14. I have good health and I have a slim figure. If I wasn’t to hold my beliefs about animal rights I would still follow the eat well plate model and only eat good quality meat or fish maybe twice a week.

    rosie wrote on April 25th, 2011
  40. I agree with all you have written and I love the term skinny fat. Since adopting this way of eating and training I have often noticed that some people have a “carb body” i.e. they are skinny fat. Alot of celebs have this look and it is held up as the ideal. I do have a little look around at the gym and I feel sorry for the cardio bunnies; (claws out!) the poor things have to run for ages and ages and for what? To have NO BUM!! They “won’t touch weights” for “fear” of getting muscles. Fear? Man I want muscles and I want a chunky sticking out arse! Carbs shrink the chunk from parts where you want chunk and give you flab where you don’t want it.

    Polecatz wrote on April 28th, 2011

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