Freedom to Live

A lot of people resist eating the whole food, plant-based way because they want to be free to choose the foods they want. But really, they aren't free. Instead, they eat according to the craving that they get. I say that because that's how I used to eat. If I craved a steak or a whole broiler chicken, then it wouldn't be long after that craving occurred and I would be eating the same. Or they want to be free to try all the little hors d'oeuvres being served at a party. Or to have a doughnut with their coffee in the morning.

That's not really freedom though. That's more what I would call a dopamine rush. Like a drug or an addiction, those foods satisfy those cravings. Instead of being free, people are enslaved to the foods they are eating. But they believe they are free because they don't consciously put any limitations on what they eat. To them, freedom is about not restricting anything in their diets. Instead, they speak in terms of moderation. "Everything in moderation," they say. And of course, that makes everything okay. I've even heard some nutritionists say that there are no bad foods.

And in small, very infrequent servings, I would say that's true. Our bodies can probably handle a single, small bite of ice cream once every six months or so if we avoid all other fats and animal products in the meantime. But of course, that's not what's meant by moderation, is it?

I believe, though, that true freedom comes only once we have shaken ourselves off of all those foods that are in fact bad for us. Once, we've ridden ourselves of animal products, oils, dairy products and processed foods, then we become truly free. Why do I say that?

The first reason I can say that is we forget about the restrictions. We don't think about eating meat or dairy or oils, and so we don't miss them. It's like eating bugs. Most of us don't think about eating flies or cockroaches although we certainly could. You might say that we deprive ourselves of insects in our diets. But that doesn't cause us to miss them or to think we're any less free for not including them in our diet. It's the same with the WFPB diet. We don't feel deprived because we just don't get those cravings anymore.

Now, I know that's not always true. The other day, a friend of mine mentioned meatballs and spaghetti and even after more than a year and a half since eating my last meatball, I suddenly found myself wanting that. My dopamine receptors went into overdrive conjuring up an image of nice, juicy flavorful meatballs covered in tomato sauce over a plate of spaghetti. But that lasted about twenty minutes at most and then it was gone. And I was completely satisfied to let it go. It didn't stay with me like it might have in the olden days until I finally broke down and had a big order of meatballs and spaghetti.

But back to the question of freedom. On the WFPB diet, we're free to choose among the wide variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, starches, nuts and seeds and spices that nature makes available to us. And that's an amazingly large array of items and flavors. We have real freedom to explore.

But our freedoms go much further than that. Because our weight drops and our health improves, we become truly free to do the things in life that we want to do. And I think that's huge. It's hard to accomplish what we want in life when we're lethargic or tired all the time or have to stop and rest more than should be necessary. Whether we want to do physical activities or more cerebral activities, the increased flow of blood in our veins, the increased breathing capacity, the improved immune system and the many other improvements that occur all combine together to enhance our performance and to allow us to do the things we truly want to do.

We also have more freedom because we have more money. That's because we're no longer buying prescription medicines. I heard just this morning that something like 90% of Americans over the age of 60 are taking prescription medicines. It's actually a topic of conversation that people over the age of 60 can all warm up to and relate. Well, that is except for those of us in that 10% category.

There's also more money because there's fewer doctor visits and hospital visits. That means fewer copays and maybe even never getting to your full deductible on your insurance policy. I cut my own personal health insurance premiums by $150 a month ($1,800 a year) because of my following the WFPB diet. Since I no longer have all the medical expenses I once did, I switched to a high deductible policy and was able to save that much on premiums. I have the policy if I need it, but until that day, I'm saving a considerable amount of money. And that too increases my freedom.

Finally, I think that the whole food, plant-based diet gives us the freedom to die with dignity. Yes, we will die. I would not be so bold as to say that the WFPB diet will prevent that. But having been through end of life care for my wife and for my mother in the past two years, I can vouch for the fact that many people do not end their lives in the way they would truly have wanted to. I've seen the loneliness and the pain (both physical and emotional) and the lack of dignity that exists with extended hospital stays, nursing homes and even assisted living and independent living facilities. It's not nice.

While there's never any guarantees, I believe that the WFPB diet is the best option a person has for avoiding the painful and undignified ways that so many people do die. True freedom rests in being able to care for yourself so that you can continue to do the things you want to do. That doesn't happen when people reach a state of frailty as seen in our nursing homes and hospitals.

So, yes, everybody has the freedom to choose how they eat. And as advocates for our way of eating, we should recognize that when people resist us. What they are truly afraid of is giving up their freedom to eat as they want. We can empathize with them. But we should never recognize that what they advocate is really freedom. True freedom comes not from eating a steak when the urge hits, but rather from reaping the benefits received from eating a whole food, plant-based diet.