Getting Back to WFPB Basics

Over the last couple of days, I have noticed a few things that have led me to believe that sometimes we get too much in the weeds and we overthink things relative to eating whole food, plant-based. I have witnessed disagreements over whether or not we should eat coconut-containing products, whether or not a starch-based approach is the best approach, whether or not we should eat fake mayo and on and on.

In addition, I have even read where there have been disagreements between the doctors. Someone recently pointed me to this "discussion" between Dr. Campbell, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall. And there is this video from a CNN clip where Wolf Blitzer attempts to exploit the differences in opinion between Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish.

But getting caught up in these arguments and disagreements only works against the basic message for eating whole food, plant-based. I'm going to state what that basic message is here and then I'll discuss further below:

A whole food, plant-based way of eating is one in which a person eats mostly whole fruits, whole vegetables, legumes, in-tact whole grains and nuts and seeds while limiting or eliminating consumption of animal products, oils and processed foods that contain excessive fat, sugar, salt and chemicals.

You can choose to follow the program of one the WFPB doctors or leaders if you wish or you can choose to forge your own path with simply that definition as your guidance. But just because one person chooses to follow the starch-based approach of Dr. McDougall while another person chooses to follow the salad as the centerpiece of the meal approach of Dr. Fuhrman, it doesn't make one person right and the other person wrong. Both approaches are totally within the confines of what a whole food, plant-based diet is.

And that's important because it's in following that definition of what a whole food, plant-based diet is that is important for our health. And I believe we're all doing this for our health. You might be vegan for the animals and/or for the environment, but the only reason to be whole food, plant-based is for your health and maybe the health of others. So, whether you are a whole food, plant-based vegan or simply whole food, plant-based, you are in it for better health. And we each have to do what we believe to be right for us when it comes to our health. The great thing about this way of eating is that it gives us responsibility for our own health as opposed to delegating that to the medical system, the insurance industry and our family members.

Along those lines though, another misconception to clear up is the idea that we will never get sick. We can get sick and we will die. I think Benjamin Franklin warned us about that when he said there is nothing for certain in life except death and taxes. In all of the studies that are done, the probability of having a chronic disease never goes to zero regardless of how many whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds we eat. None of the Blue Zones citizens have lived forever. None of the rice-eating populations of The China Study escaped death.

What eating a whole food, plant-based diet does for us is it increases the probability that we will stay healthy longer, enjoy life more and possibly extend our lives a few years. But it does not guarantee that. I bring that up because I know people who eat whole food, plant-based and yet they struggle to lose more weight or they still have some medications they take. They stay with it though because they know that they feel healthier and are happier, but some people will sometimes judge them and say they must be doing something wrong. While sometimes that is the case, it is not always the case. We should be careful about blaming others for what we might regard as their lack of success. They may be doing the best they know how to do. The body is a complex system of organs and hormones and bacteria and we have much less control over those interrelated systems than we like to think we do.  We can create optimal conditions for our bodies to live within, but the actual biological outcomes are not as controllable as we oftentimes want them to be.

So, my thoughts this morning are that we should not get hung up on what this doctor says or that doctor says. If we want to pick a doctor and follow that doctor, fine. But let's always remember that the true criteria for a whole food, plant-based way of eating is in the bolded definition that I've provided above. What each doctor provides, whether it's the Daily Dozen or the G-Bombs or the Starch Solution or The China Study is their specific way for approaching that definition. One way is not better than the other way. For some people, focusing on starch might work best. But there are people who biologically that does not work for. For them, focusing on salads and veggies might work best. It doesn't matter. Whichever way you do it, it's about eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds while minimizing or eliminating animal products, oils and processed foods. Period!

And when we do eat this way, we should realize that we cannot control our biologies, but we can improve the odds for a healthy outcome. And that's all we can really ask for.

J Lanning Smith
April 17, 2018