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.

Beautiful Costa Rica

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.


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).

Life's a beach!

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. We should take their word for it? Surely you jest?

    There are plenty of grains that MAN shouldn’t and Can’t eat that animals do well on.
    This is a sustainable part of the lifecycle…

    When we figure out the balance between too much and too little then we will find a happy medium.

    This hype about animal suffering is just plain silly. LIFE is suffering and more or less is just part of life.

    Zion and 10,000 feet and 195 miles wrote on June 30th, 2013
  2. I’ve eaten very little meat and fish for most of my life, and in my 20s got very sick so I started eating according to a paleo / primal diet because I didn’t know what else to do. It helped me to feel better because it eliminated the foods I now know I’m allergic or intolerant to (dairy, gluten, soy), but I never managed to feel well on that diet. I had digestive problems, low energy, and often hungry, although I ate plenty of animal protein, vegetables, and fats. In addition, I had immense inner struggles about what I was doing, as I considered the diet I was eating very problematic and unsustainable from an ethical, ecological, and humanitarian (world nutrition situation) perspective. I often started crying in the supermarket when buying meat or during eating. After about a year or so, I started adding carbohydrates back in – legumes and brown rice – and felt better, then tried to switch to a vegan diet but terribly failed because I rushed into it too quickly. It took me another year during which I gradually reduced animal products (only fish in the end) and increased legumes to which my digestive system needed to get used to. Eventually, I was down to eating a small (2 oz) serving of fish probably twice or three times a week, but I still used to wake up very early in the morning after too little sleep, feeling nauseous and irritated. Only when I eliminated all animal protein from my diet, this got better. Switching to a vegan diet was easy then, but I first made the mistake to focus on optimizing my nutrient intake and stuffed myself with salads, leafy greens, legumes, and fats from nuts and seeds. In consequence, I got extreme bloating and was hungry a lot again, while depriving myself of the foods I actually love and wanted to eat – brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes. It happily happened that I stumbled across Dr. McDougall’s dietary approach, and I ordered his book and also watched many of his lectures on YouTube. The science he refers to seems valid to me (I’m a scientist myself, so I’m used to reading scientific papers), and I realized I was focusing too much on protein and fats and that was misleading me. I decided to give his program a chance and try it out, but I was sceptical because I’ve eaten a high-carb diet for several years in the past and felt terrible with it. However, back then I’d eaten a lot of fruit (thus sugar) and still consumed gluten and dairy, and McDougall’s diet focuses on complex carbohydrates from whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes, which is a different story. In sum, I can just say I am endlessly happy I’ve given it a try, because I’ve never felt so good. I can eat foods I love as much as I like and as often as I want, I’m pleasantly satisfied without feeling stuffed, and I can finally let go of any control issues with food because my body tells me when it needs food and when it has had enough. I don’t have to think about my eating nor worry about my weight (I rather have to be careful to eat enough not to lose weight). This is so amazing that I almost can’t believe it! Suddenly there’s so much space in my mind for things that actually matter to me, and I’m experiencing inner peace because the diet is in congruence with my moral values. I can just thank Dr. McDougall for giving me my happiness back.

    Kath wrote on July 5th, 2013
  3. Your article is flawed in so many ways. Firstly of course you can eat just as badly as a vegan as you can with as a meat eater. Piling your plate high with endless pasta and potatoes is not good. The evidence of the health improvements of those who switch from meat eating to a properly balanced vegan diets is overwhelming. I am 60 years old and EVERYONE asks me how I do it, do I work out, what have I had done, why am I never sick etc. etc. I suggest a good book ‘People Who Never Get Sick’ ……… Of course if I ate some meat or fish it wouldn’t make much difference, but then I refuse to contribute to the horrific cruelty and pollution caused by those industries.

    Janet wrote on July 11th, 2013
  4. Listen, don’t let this experience make you think that veganism is unhealthy. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to be vegan, and I’ll admit that too many carbs is a bad thing. But as with carbs, everything needs balance. Now, I’m not sure why you seem to think that protein is hard to come by on a vegan diet. I didn’t think you’d be one to believe that myth. Most vegans don’t face a protein deficiency, and there are even vegan bodybuilders and athletes.

    Trajayjay wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  5. I read The China Study. At first I thought it was credible, but the lack of Any peer reviewed work put me off. I have had no mammals in 40 years. I do eat birds and sea life. Do supplements. In my late 60’s just retired from extremely stressful job. Just had an executive type physical.. I was totally clean, cholesterol , psa etc. body fat and bone density measure (not even close to osteo anything bad). But my glucose was a little high because of diet ice creams.
    I tried every aspect of vegetarianism, but could not sustain it due the inevitable lower gut problems. I have been on a mostly paleo diet and I have not felt this good in 40 years.

    If you want to read a real authoritative book try “Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes. None of this quasi-science stuff you see in the (shudder) China Study.

    Todd wrote on August 14th, 2013
  6. i am a strict vegetarian: but hear me out.

    the only animal foods i eat are organic/local eggs and grass-fed dairy products (lactose free since I am lactose intolerant). i agree with everything Mark said in this article, but many of the comments left by the community members made me sad.

    i would also like to state that i, like many other vegetarians, refuse to eat meat simply because i like animals. i despise the industrial food processes by which most Americans get their meat (factory farms and CAFOs), but i truly appreciate hunters and local farmers that raise food animals humanely. i understand that humans evolved to thrive on a meat-based diet. i look at it this way: i can eat a very healthy meal without harming another creature, and so i will.

    i never drink friut juices, grains, or proccessed garbage. as i primal vegetarian, i consume local homemade whey powder, cheese, nuts, seeds, butter, olive oil, raw coconut products, red palm oil, bee pollen, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, berries and citrus (in moderation), raw coco powder, nightshade veggies (also in moderation), and sea veggies on a DAILY basis. i practice “bulletproof intermittent fasting”, crossfit, and enjoy living primally. thank you Mark for this article. as for everyone else, go easy on the vegans. they aren’t trying to hurt anyone!

    Brianna wrote on August 18th, 2013
  7. Thinking of going vegan, I took my family to a vegan dinner meeting. I was astounded at how sickly, tired, and lackluster the attendees appeared; despite the fact that most were thin to super-thin. The dinner consisted of mainly cooked vegan/Indian food with lots of grain based platters of overcooked veggies, honey soaked desserts, and no fresh, raw fruit or veggies, To be honest, the food and the people, many with dark circles under their eyes, were glow-less and gray. About 20 minutes into their meeting, an older couple walked in who positively GLOWED with health. I told my husband I was going to find out THEIR vegan secret because, by the look of them, they were obviously doing something different from the others Turns out they were retired, visiting travelers who ate vegan when at home but ate meat while on the road every 2 months to various famous places around the United States. The wife said it proved difficult to maintain a totally vegan lifestyle when visiting say, “a Texas city known for it’s BBQ.” That got me thinking about all the committed vegans/vegetarians and a few fruitarians I knew who seem unusually lifeless and tired and sporting iron deficiency dark under-eye circles. Having been a vegetarian for about a year, until I too had that same mantle of spacey tiredness come over me, I decided to go with limited meat with lots of fresh fruit and veggies. I’ve never looked back because I’ve lost the bloated stomach, yeast and skin rashes; gained muscle, and lost 20lbs with very little exercise. Contrast that with losing NOTHING while excessively exercising when I was a vegetarian. I now KNOW and FEEL that meat is good for MY body but I also KNOW that moderation is the key. There is no all or nothing because if there was, more “ALL OR NOTHING” people (like vegans and fruitarians) would be the healthiest of older people and that is just not occurring. Look to the teeth, I say.

    Paia wrote on August 22nd, 2013
  8. My kids went to the same summer swimming classes as McDougall’s kids while I lived in Texas. Saw his wife there, still breast feeding a son of perhaps 3 AND a girl of about 5. Pallid Mrs. McDougall looked bone thin and as tired and run down as her extremely thin kids. The kids and their mom had dark circles under their eyes. I felt for her kids as they kept saying they were cold in what was a record Texas, end of July summer. One day, I overheard the swimming teachers say that Mrs. McDougall was a vegan (which I immediately thought accounted for the “anemic look” of her and the children) and the wife of a Dr. McDougall whom they all seemed to admire. I’d never heard of or seen him before. Then, later that morning, into the pool area walked the healthiest-looking man I’d ever seen. I soon learned it was Dr. McDougall and had to do a double-take. Health wise, he was the total opposite of his wife and kids. He literally glowed! And I thought when I saw them together, “That man is no vegan; he’s getting meat, maybe not at home, but from somewhere.” From my experience, looking at soft, whipped cream, blushed cheeks and an effervescent personality full of energy, he was just too darn healthy and robust for a vegan. He was tall, with sun-kissed blond/brown hair and skin that literally glowed with health, and, no dark-under eye-circles of the typical vegan. Over my years in my neighborhood, I’ve watch our aging Asians who live predominantly on cooked foods centered around the starchy grain, rice. Many have become near bald with very dry, papery skin and those whose families shunned a lot of milk and meat had short children. It is very hard to absorb and utilize nutrients eating a grain centered diet. It is primarily why Asian men living in industrialized countries where they get lots more of milk, eggs, fat and meat nutrients, trend toward taller than their Asian continental cousins.

    Paia wrote on August 22nd, 2013
  9. Excellent article, and I have had similar experiences with people who believe animal-less is THE one twue way for everyone.

    I personally believe (and have experienced firsthand as well as with clients when I was a personal trainer) that you have to pay attention to what makes you feel “right”. I for one, while grains here and there are outright rejuvenating, do best with mostly meats and veggies for my diet. I feel horrible if I eat too much fruit beyond a little melon or some berries here and there. Following the food pyramid does NOT work for me. Some people thrive on paleo, and I do believe some people are supposed to be all-veg. Why? I don’t know, other than we are NOT all built the same.

    Regarding how our “ancestors” ate…first of all, you don’t really know how much that affects you NOW, since that was so far away from you.. Second…well, what was regional to your ancestors? And did your ancestors stay there and continue to eat indiginously or did they relocate early on so the centuries that followed were spent adapting to other foods? What my ancestors thrived on and what your ancestors thrived on may have been completely different.

    Lisa wrote on August 29th, 2013
  10. I’ve tested my own body reactions several times over in just this year alone.

    I cannot live well on a straight vegetarian diet. My digestion goes haywire, it becomes unpleasant with constant noises and gut bubbles, and I really would rather not go into further detail as it gets kinda gruesome.

    My blood sugar goes haywire as well and I wake up very tired, irritable, slightly nauseous, and with headaches.

    Why I should require at least an hour’s worth of recovery in the mornings from merely getting a good night’s sleep is beyond me. It’s infuriating and I won’t put up with it.

    I am NOT saying that vegetarian diets are bad.

    They simply don’t work for me.

    When I consistently eat meat I feel better.

    I’m gonna go Paleo.

    Kittypie070 wrote on September 23rd, 2013
  11. Its incredible how much time “health conscious” people will spend sitting in front of thier computers trying to convince strangers what they believe is healthy. Go outside. Get some sun.

    James IV wrote on October 11th, 2013
  12. So true! When I was a vegan I was ALWAYS hungry even when I’d eaten enough calories and exercised. I was also constipated all of the time even when I’d tried laxatives and loads of coffee[the ONLY thing that helped me go]. I’d grown pale, weak, and anemic all because I was promised a low-fat, meatless diet would put me in perfect health.RUBBISH. Nowadays I eat MOSTLY vegetarian, but plenty of fats and meat to keep me from needing supplements. Last time the doctor checked, I was in perfect health, and as far as I know I still am. Everything in moderaion is all that counts and we should listen to our body and do what’s best for ourselves. We’re all wired differently. Thanks for sharing, Mr. Sisson!:) A very good read indeed.

    Anya wrote on October 18th, 2013
  13. Bought the book “The Reverse Diabetes Diet” by Dr. Neal Barnard 3 years ago as a friend’s (a vegetarian) father had followed Barnards advice and turned around his type 2 diabetes and shifted a bucket load of weight in the process.

    I wasn’t diabetic but was up for the weight loss and his advice seemed to make sense. I followed it to the letter for 5 months! The result? 10lbs weight gained and a whole lotta gas due to the replacement of meat by legumes and pulses. The advice by Dr. Barnard to cut out the animal fat and replace the protein intake with legumes because of and because they have a high protein content is a pile of brown steaming dark brown stuff in this individuals opinion.

    Started the Primal diet on the 80/20 rule in March/April this year… 32lbs lost so far!, joint pain gone!, lower back pain gone! (it all ceased by the fourth day in…no lie and no kidding). No Colds or bugs caught when all around me are dropping like flies.

    Obey your genetic and ancestral origins people and STOP FOLLOWING THE MARKETING HYPE. I get real sick of the vegans and vegetarians I know crapping on about red meat and cancer. I don’t ram the way I choose to eat and live down your throats so back the hell up and wind it in. Do yourselves a favour, eat meat along with your veg and walk a lot more…oh and cut out the grains!

    Gary wrote on October 31st, 2013
  14. You asked, so here it is – I’ve tried the paleo/primal diet with zero success. A diet high in animal protein and fat makes me lethargic, physically ill (I throw up because I can’t digest the fat) and I gain weight like no one’s business.
    I was fatter, sicker and looked worse than I ever have in my life after eating paleo/primal.
    I finally wised up and went back to my mostly vegan ways (I do eat egg whites from my own chickens)….low and behold, the weight dropped off, I look better, I feel more energetic and I’ve not had another cold since ditching the all the meat and grease.
    Just for the record, I rarely eat soy, I never eat wheat and dairy and only the odd corn tortilla ever passes my lips.
    Everyone’s body is different and my body simply doesn’t do a good job processing large amounts of protein and fat.

    Violet wrote on December 17th, 2013
  15. I tried tem all for decades. Meat in small ammounts is good however we eat too much.

    If you look and compare Lorain Cordain and John McDougall in the videos you can tell which diet si certainly more healthy.

    Geo wrote on December 28th, 2013
  16. So I don’t follow McDougalls diet, but I eat a vegan diet. I’ve been eating clean since 2011. So giving credit to not eating processed food doesn’t work in my case. My usual is not consuming processed foods and I eat a diet high in vegetables. While I tried the paleo diet (with meat and higher fat diet), I felt bogged down and I got heavier. I basically tried the vegan diet as an experiment to see if I could do it because I believe it’s better for the environment. But I thought I would never stick with it because eating meat is super natural, right? Well, on a vegan diet, I noticed that I could eat what I wanted still sticking with same amount of veggies I normally eat. My energy felt awesome and my body started to naturally detox. I didn’t necessarily lose a bunch of weight because I’m very athletic but I noticed being lean is effortless at this point. And yes, I work out just as much now as I did then while eating paleo. I’ve made some pretty amazing gains as a crossfitter and it just surprises people when they find out I’m a vegetarian. (Who doesn’t eat dairy or eggs.)

    Amber wrote on January 14th, 2014
  17. Interesting discussions here …

    I believe we are blessed to have the resources and the time to carefully look into this. Have done so myself for the recent past years and I am happy with the results.
    Has anyone here read the book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer ?
    I would have liked to hear your opinion on it.

    irina wrote on March 18th, 2014
  18. Interesting commentary on the Costa Rica experience you had with Dr. McDougall. Thanks for sharing. I am no longer eating a strictly plant-based only diet after many years of doing so because I just don’t feel that good anymore, and I had been a pretty big fan of Dr. McDougall over the years. My problem is that it was too easy for me to eat a lot of empty calories trying to get enough to eat, and I was getting fat and fatigued. I did feel great for a while, but it was not working for me anymore. I am feeling much better now and have lost some weight since transitioning back to a more balanced diet that includes high-quality meats, fish, and eggs along with organic dairy products and elimination of vegetable oils. I am 49 years old.

    Interestingly, my in-laws are strict vegetarians and follow McDougall almost religiously. They have been to Costa Rica as well. I think it might be starting to take a toll on them. At first, my mother-in-law lost weight and looked great. Now, several years later, my mother-in-law is as heavy as I have ever seen her, and my father-in-law looks horrible, almost malnourished. It could be age (he is 82), but he has really gone down hill. He has always been athletic and energetic, having been a triathlete and marathon runner. He is having problems staying awake during the day, and my mother-in-law is complaining of starting to lose her cognitive abilities. She is 73. They both go to the gym regularly and are life-long nonsmokers and nondrinkers and have always been health-conscious people. My mother-in-law takes no medications and my father-in-law has recently developed Parkinson’s, so some of his issues are probably related to that as well. I worry about him getting adequate B12 and vitamin D, especially since Dr. McDougall strongly recommends taking no supplements.

    McFeist wrote on March 23rd, 2014
  19. What are the health statuses of the wife’s parents (having been strict vegans for 30-odd years)?

    Tyler wrote on March 25th, 2014
  20. paleohuntress wrote: ‘Extra carbohydrate is stored as fat preferentially over fat and protein. We have proof in the form of what is known as ‘scientific data’.’

    Cool – where can I read about that? All my friends seem to be into ‘paleo’ (pfttt) now, so I thought I would blindly follow too! Forget common sense, show me some ‘research’!!

    Leon wrote on April 10th, 2014
  21. Hi Mark,

    I like the way you think. I enjoyed the article a lot. I was wondering if you could shed some light on some of the things that i feel when i eat meat – I had many health problems, and slowly cut out everything that i felt my body didn’t want, i ended up going vegan – I tried grass fed beef, all organic, and although the inflammation did not come back which i was very happy about i did notice that little sharp pains where back over the following week, and cramp. Do you have any ideas as to what this might be?

    I am still looking for the best diet to eat, and as a vegan find pasta to be a problem, as well as any grain products.

    Look forward to any light that you could shed on this, oh and i don’t do oils, my diet was exactly the same as it always is, just a bit of meat added in. Which made me so tired after eating it that i had to have a long lie down! Which i had forget ever happened.

    Best Regards


    Dylan wrote on May 16th, 2014
  22. I put on ten pounds in less than a week just by following a vegan diet. I was buying Ezekiel bread thinking that because it was sprouted grains it was better for me. At least that’s what my well meaning Aunt told me. She also told me about agave, another supposed “healthy alternative” to sugar. So, here I was eating sandwiches with coconut oil and strawberries on Ezekiel bread and I”m going, “Look! I’m eating raw AND vegetarian” I must be so healthy, only to look at the scale and go, WTF, how does a person gain that much weight in less than one week? Then I got smart and found Paleo and I’ve never looked back.

    Pepper Culpepper wrote on May 30th, 2014
  23. I couldn’t agree more when it comes to the McDougall diet… the buffet sounds terrible. However not all vegans eat that way… I follow the Eat To Live plan which is nutrient dense. Dark green veggies, beans, fruits, seeds etc. Fruit juices, pastries, breads and similar junk are off the menu. I feel great, better than when I was eating organic meat and eggs on a Paleo plan but perhaps we are all different. The important thing is that we cut out crap like grains, flours and refined sugars that are totally lacking in nutritional value and as you mentioned, diabetes waiting to happen. Just wanted to stand up for vegans, we don’t all buy into the grain thing.

    Natalie wrote on June 5th, 2014
  24. There is a misconception here. The author seems to think vegeterian/vegan diets have no fats or proteins and that one result is the inability to build body mass.

    First, the majority of vegans eat between 30-50% of their calorie intake in the form of FAT. That’s right, fat! From nuts, seeds, avocados, etc. These contain some proteins, that add themselves to those coming from beans, lentils and other legumes.

    Im not following this vegan diet, but one that is low in fat and protein. I have always had sizeable muscles naturally and want to reduce my muscle mass (and fat) and become lean. That’s why I’m trying to stay as close as possible to the 80/10/10 diet (max 10% fat and 10% protein). Despite all my efforts, I end up getting 20% calories from fat AT LEAST. This is eating mostly fruits, vegs, soy milk, fortified cereals, miso soups, grains and starches (no nuts and seeds, a little olive oil and eggs rarely).

    Hence, even eating mainly fruits and vegs, we STILL CONSUME FAT AND PROTEIN, at least 10% of each. And that’s enough to have plenty of energy (for my body).

    Second, how could there be low-fat vegan bodybuilders if protein was essential to build muscle mass? Protein ultimately gets converted to glucose to serve as energy for the body, just through a longer process that requires our bodies work more and thus some of us may feel more tired from this (I do).

    So even the most extreme vegans get their proteins and fat, but neither of these is required to build muscle mass. Exercise (not protein powder) increases body mass, but not all in the same way. Lifting weights and running have obviously different effects, but that’s regardless of where your energy comes from.

    Allrounder wrote on July 19th, 2014
    • Allrounder,

      “how could there be low-fat vegan bodybuilders if protein was essential to build muscle mass?

      Vegan protein powder and steroids.

      “Protein ultimately gets converted to glucose to serve as energy for the body, just through a longer process that requires our bodies work more and thus some of us may feel more tired from this (I do).

      First, that’s EXTRA protein. And second, that’s because your energy is glucose dependent. Most of the people in this forum are fat dependent and don’t get energy lows from low or slow blood glucose.

      I was vegan for two years. I ate mostly plants, not their storage organs. My diet was less than 10% fat. It almost killed me. Still, that was me. Please provide evidence for the claim that the “majority of vegans eat between 30-50% of their calorie intake in the form of FAT.” I’m sure you got that data from a study or a some other reputable source.

      The Tarhumara Indians eat a plant-based diet with grains and seeds and some eggs. Their fat intake is less than 12% even including the eggs.

      Paleo Huntress wrote on July 19th, 2014
  25. After years of self study and dietary experimentation, including being an omnivore for 24 years, vegetarian for 15 years and vegan for 4 years, I no longer believe it is a question of macro nutrients, but rather a matter of chemical balance (vitamins and minerals). And so, you can find healthy omnivores, healthy vegetarians and healthy vegans who are chemically balanced, and their unhealthy counterparts who are simply out of sync with their body’s biochemistry.

    Grains deplete mineral supplies, but raw fruits and vegetables can replenish the damage. Cooking food depletes mineral supplies, but adding some raw foods can counter the damage. Supplementation can also help. It’s all about balance.

    Jo wrote on August 15th, 2014
    • Jo,

      I think your perspective is a refreshing one, but I disagree with your claim that cooking depletes minerals. It definitely changes vitamins and phyto-nutrients, but cooking doesn’t destroy minerals, and in many cases, it may release them from chelation. Water carries minerals- and if you boil or steam a food, and the food releases water, minerals leach out with it. But if you consume the water too, you don’t lose anything. If you add veggies to a soup, stew or casserole, again, nothing is lost… and perhaps may even be gained.

      Paleo Huntress wrote on August 15th, 2014
  26. I have a friend who is vegetarian, but he also avoids all grains but rice. He eats plenty of fat and protein (eggs/nuts), some cheese, and a lot of vegetables. He seems pretty happy and healthy. This seems a better path than the anti-fat/pro-grain vegetarianism.

    Dan wrote on September 5th, 2014
  27. Every living thing on this planet, from microbes to humans must eat. And, when push comes to shove, during hard-to-find-food-times every living thing on this planet will eat WHATEVER to stay alive, whether it shortens life or ultimately kills. No human being will question: Is it grass-fed? vegan? vegetarian? whole food? low acid? anti-oxidant? My 94 year-old grandmother, having lived through the Great Depression, called her grandchildren spoiled because we wouldn’t eat chicken feet, something poor, but long-lived Asians love! I went vegetarian for 3 months and felt the happiest and healthiest I’d felt in years — for a while! Then, one day… I crashed into problems from low-iron anemia to low absorption of nutrients (particularly Bs and A) Go figure! Who would have thunk that all that rice and beans, soy/veggie/bean burgers and dogs, milk, butter and cheesy pasta dishes, loaded salads, whole wheat breads, grits and oatmeal would get me progressively worsening stomachaches, constipation, rashes, headaches, weight gain, bloating, lethargy, dizziness, brain fuzz, heart palpation… and the discovery that I am lactose intolerant, allergic to nuts, have celiac disease, and a diabetic. Finally, after another day of agonizing, I succumbed to what vegans would call the sin of “Father Abraham” — I ate a shank of lamb — whereupon, I felt like a million bucks within 30 minutes and still do when I eat meat! Turns out, exclusively eating grains, beans, and all carbs was impending my nutrient absorption, and the rest, was just plain bad for MY body. Now, I exclusively eat about 6 ounces of meat, lots of healthy fat, plus non-sweet raw fruits and vegetables and BEHOLD, all problems stay away. Plus, nails that wouldn’t grow are sticking way out from my fingers and need to be cut regularly, hair is growing fast and longer, eyesight is improving, skin is clearer, sleep is better….blah blah blah. My advice, eat raw fruits & veggies + YOUR meat protein requirement, drink only pure water, eat healthy fats, and do 15 minutes daily exercise to keep your body and mind running like a SANE machine. Chances are you could avoid brittle bones, Alzheimer and Parkinson shakes in old age.. But, as Jack LaLanne proved,we all die of SOMETHING; so, do it your way. It’s the journey counts!

    Charlie Mac wrote on September 16th, 2014
  28. Remember, you can be thin and still be unhealthy.

    Brenda wrote on September 19th, 2014
  29. The article and discussion are Ok.. interesting. I’m not sure about Mcdougall’s diet, some vegans do look skinny. It probably helps some people, though it’s pretty spartan, I doubt many could handle it long term. I mostly eat a vegan/vegetarian diet I suppose, it’s cheap and I like it. I’m fairly healthy, as I don’t eat processed food, we’ll see how it goes.

    I’m not opposed to eating meat now and again, though the ethics of some animal farming practices are dubious. I don’t think I would want to eat paleo personally, I really like beans and lentils, they’re some of my favourite foods. If i die in the future from beanosis or whatever then so be it.

    I’m quite partial to rice too and don’t really like many meat products so I’m probably not the ideal paleo candidate. Seems a bit expensive as well. That said though, lots of people seem to really like it, so whatever floats your boat.

    paolo wrote on October 2nd, 2014
  30. Can I just say that I am so happy I live on a planet with so many different kinds of people, bodies and cultures. I never truly understood what it meant when people said “you’ve got to do what works for you” until after I became a mother. Suddenly, there was no rule book- it was a huge mess of trial and error, joy and tears. Experience after experience and then POOF, it all changes again! I feel the same way about health/eating/exercise. What worked for my body when I was young completely changed as I got out of puberty, then again when I got into my mid-twenties, then again when I was diagnosed with PCOS, had weight loss surgery, reversed weight loss surgery and then AGAIN after I gave birth to my baby. I used to eat a strict vegetable based vegan diet for 6 years and then one day my body started wanting something else, I fought it and suffered. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while we all know certain things are absolutely bad for all human beings (GMO’s anyone?), everyone really is different and where we’re at on our journey exactly where we’re supposed to be.

    Right now, after a PCOS diagnosis, quitting sugar and a whole lot of trial and error, the primal blueprint is working for me. Eating meat (organic, grass-fed *ideally local) is working for me. My husband is also benefitting. Sometimes it’s just a question of WHAT KIND of meat you’re eating and then there’s the ethics discussion that everyone is entitled to have with themselves. If eating meat is causing you crisis and stress, that’s worth looking at. It’s not my job to tell someone else what they need or what works for them.

    Michelle Rivera wrote on November 2nd, 2014
  31. Dr. Mcdougal is cherry picking and using false misleading info to promote his diet,
    even if you presume he is partially right, our ancestors even 100 hundred years ago probably did more physical activity then we did rather than have computers,cars,etc

    Of course no study can account for complete variation of exercise, diet, genetics,etc BUT let’s debunk his study by using a large group of folks, south Asian Indians. Dr. Mcdougal and dr. barnard love to use misleading statistics of asians,chinese, and veggies without mentioning that many eat fish and dogs.

    South Indians have a high percentage of vegetarians, which means one of the lowest meat consumptions in the world in terms of the number of folks who are not eating meat. Furthermore those same South Indians are often “lactose intolerant”, meaning that dairy consumption is limited, cheese for instance is often limited to one type and not as common as say in europe with its multitude of cheeses and is by no means a main or staple part of cuisine.

    What do South Indians love to eat, aaaah, the classic mcdougal and barnard diets, startchy carbs, potatoes,lentils,rice,wheat,etc and they eat soy.

    Now of course south indians have different genes, but given their large population and having the HIGHEST rate of diabetes and high rates of heart disease in the world, I think the case is almost closed. Sure, they may not follow 100% of their diets, but its pretty close, and they sure aren’t eating meat and much lactose containing diary which is linked to diabetes more so than butter and cheese which again is not a main feature of indian cuisine like in the west.

    The japanese live a long time, barnard and mcdougal will say, yeah they eat white rice, but not yeah they eat a lot of fish. They won’t mention the dogs and other exotic animals and even rats that folks eat.

    I’m sure they are polite doctors although mcdougal was once acting out on a blogger named jimmy moore who said that while he follows low-carb he believes folks should pick the plan that works best for them, but it seems as if their cherry picking of data is unethical especially as they accuse others of being unethical for promoting alternative diets (look up the pcrm and history). Furthermore it could be philosophy, a muslim for instance would be more receptive to studies saying that pork is bad for you and kills you early even when evidence is misleading or non-existent.

    Folks also like to point the meat industry as the vilian and big corps, when in fact, big corps lobbied folks like senator mcgovern, and many big corps are starch producers, such as corn,wheat,soy,etc with farm subsidies. Furthermore ancel keyes ignored data from france and used data at the wrong time during lent to support his flawed studies.

    Again, I’m not here to lecture or judge one as to which diet to choose based on lifestyle, but just to point out the bias that many vegans try to lecture and promote which has been in the american system for the last 40 years.

    Alex wrote on February 19th, 2015
  32. OMG, pretty much the works of you are practically poster children for why normal people’s eyes glaze over when extremists, such as yourselves, start running their collective mouths about their collective hobby horses.

    Do any of you have any concept of what’s been genetically inflicted upon our wheat supply? The book, “Wheat Bellies,” by William Davis, supports every assertion by the writer with more than enough hard empirical evidence (and the touchy feely anecdotal sort) to satisfy pretty much everyone’s preference, methinks. If you’re interested, Google it — if you are not, then don’t. Absolutely no skin off of my arse either which way.

    Which brings me to why I’m bothering to submit a comment at all (which I will be astounded if it is even posted, but hey, nothing ventured, right?).
    Stop being so self righteously rude and contemptuous of one another. What any of you eat affects me not a bit, so why would I take viscous personal potshots at those whom I happen to think have their heads shoved so far up their rear ends that, well……..because, maybe my convictions are dead wrong. Who knows? I’m going to continue to do my very best to eat the way that works the best for me, walk places rather than bus or drive, do the weight bearing exercise that I can, and try my best to be kind and considerate of others, even those I don’t agree with, or particularly like, for that matter. I’m going to share what I have with those who have less than I do, and give thanks every chance that I get to be submitting this comment on my smartphone; not, say, watching my infant die starving and screaming in its own waste for the want of a buck’s worth of antibiotics.

    Best of luck to all. I hope that your own problems don’t blind you to the incredible jackpot that every one of us won to be born in the first world, thereby freeing up our time to be cruel to strangers rather than struggling to survive at all.

    Cathleen Bergen wrote on March 19th, 2015
  33. I find this fascinating because I have multiple auto immune disorders and I ate a ‘paleo’ diet with grass fed beef, free range chickens and eggs (they were my own chickens who laid the eggs) and veg from my own gardens for almost 16 years. I was also gluten intolerant so no wheat foods were in my diet. No other grains or potatoes were eaten, no sugars and rarely fruits. My overall chronic pain and fatigue were overwhelming. By 2014 I was also a diabetic. My mother is a diabetic. At the end of my rope I read about juice fasting and thought that might perhaps help.

    I switched to juicing veg and fruits and felt better. When it came time to add chewable foods back in, I thought I would do a ‘paleo-lite’ diet of nuts, seeds, healthy oils and plants. My blood sugar rose up again. I added fish, blood sugar stayed elevated. I stopped eating so many veg and quit fruits. Blood sugar stayed up. Then I read about Dr. McDougall and thought I have nothing to lose in 2 weeks.

    In 2 days my blood sugars dropped when I stopped eating fish and nuts. I tried eating cashews again 2 weeks later and my blood sugar spiked again. I eat a potato and it sails along like every thing is fine.

    I’ve lost 35 pounds in several months, am lifting weights and can run upstairs. My fatigue and pain are almost gone.

    Maybe I am an anomaly but eating potatoes is working for me and my diabetes is gone.

    Artist B wrote on March 30th, 2015
  34. Humans are Omnivores which means they can eat pretty much anything by design. But, eating animal products is not only killing us, but the environment and the animals. The idea that you need all that protein has been scientifically debunked. Also I am not sure body builders are the “vision” of health that most of us want to be since most do tend to use steroids. However, there ARE vegan body builders and they’re becoming more common.

    Stephanie wrote on April 13th, 2015

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