Yesterday, I was in a Facebook group devoted to whole food, plant-based eating talking to a woman who mentioned that she worked at Whole Foods. She remarked that it always amazes her to see how many unhealthy foods people come into the store to buy. During our discussion, I mentioned that a couple of the things that I buy at Whole Foods are Rip Esselstyn's Engine2 products and sea vegetables like wakame.
Now, you wouldn't think that mentioning either one of those products in a group devoted to a whole food, plant-based way of eating would be controversial, would you? I certainly didn't think so.
But surprisingly, the moderator of that group jumped in and told me that it was unacceptable to talk about Engine2 products in that group. She said Dr. Greger (the group in theory follows Dr. Greger) doesn't allow for eating products with any salt in the ingredients. She went on to lecture me about how evil salt is.
I was astounded that anybody in the whole food, plant-based movement would find fault with Engine2 products. And I was astounded to learn that Dr. Greger doesn't allow any product with salt in the ingredients list. Actually, I didn't learn that because it's not true, but she apparently thought it was true.
The discussion ended with her accusing me of promoting high salt products in her group. I found that laughable because I probably eat less salt than anybody I know. I use no table salt. I cook my own beans as opposed to using canned beans, which do have salt. And about the most extreme I get in using processed foods, which is where the real concern with sodium should be, is when I open up a container of Engine2 product, which by the way is very low in sodium (at least the products I have).
I decided to leave that group. I had only recently joined it, and since I've gotten along for over five years in the whole food, plant-based movement without that group, I decided I didn't need that kind of hassle in my retirement. I also blocked that moderator on Facebook, as I'm prone to do when I run across people with very extreme positions that they try to push on me.
But it brings up a real concern I have because I see this more often than I should. And that is the aggressiveness that I see people go to in policing what other people eat. I've been criticized for including nuts in my recipes (even though Dr. Greger and Dr. T Colin Campbell and Dr. Ornish and other wfpb doctors say you'll live longer and healthier if you include nuts in your diet), for referencing Michael Pollan (because he himself eats meat), for eating sauerkraut and miso (more apparently high salt foods) and more. And the people who criticize me don't care about the incredible results that I've had eating the way I do. All they care about is I crossed some theoretical line that they've established in their own mind for what whole food, plant-based is. As someone once remarked, "The only thing vegans hate worse than carnivores is other vegans." I see the same thing among many eating whole food, plant-based, and it concerns me because it's both cultish and it turns people off to adapting healthier lifestyles.
Because of this, I'm thinking about breaking away from calling myself whole food, plant-based and instead just being focused on healthier eating and healthier lifestyles. When we put labels on things or give things names, then they take on a life of their own. We start to define more and more confining criteria that separates us from those who aren't in the pack. But I didn't start eating this way to join a pack. I started eating this way because I wanted to get healthy and to be healthy. And I started writing this blog because I wanted to pass on what I learned to others.
But I probably went too far in labelling myself The Whole Food Plant-Based Guy. Because now I just want to talk about healthier eating and healthier living and not to somebody else's artificial guidelines. The moderator of that group said they were 100% evidence-based, but she was wrong. There is no science behind the philosophy of rejecting a product containing 35 mg of sodium in a serving (the amount in my Engine2 broth), and I have the blood pressure results (110/70 on average without meds) to prove it. It's all her opinion.
When I started eating whole food, plant-based, it wasn't this way. There were people who used olive oil, for example, and there were people who didn't. The people who didn't use olive oil identified themselves as wfpbno, with the "no" standing for no oil. The first time I went on the vegan cruise, the dining rooms were divided into oil and no oil, and there was a very small number of people who went to the no oil side.
But as time went on, no oil became the mantra of the whole food, plant-based movement. And now that that's become well established, there are some who are taking things further and creating the no-SOS faction. That may well become the standard over time as well. I don't personally put salt or sugar into any of my foods, and I don't generally eat processed foods, so I could fall into line with that faction. But I'm not going to. This is not about being absolute and saying never to certain foods, even foods containing salt, oil and sugar. It's about making choices and living for what gives you your best health.
I live by Michael Pollan's words, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I think those seven words are brilliant and that's what guides my choices at each meal. Healthy eating is about choosing the best and healthiest choices out of what we have to choose from. If we look at it that way, then I think we will be more successful than we will if we look at food as our enemy and say "Oh, I can't eat that because it has 35 mg of sodium in it."
I make choices every day in how I eat. Michael Pollan's words help me to make those choices and those words are easy ways to remember all that I've learned from reading and watching videos of the masters like Dr. T Colin Campbell, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Dean Ornish and others. But I refuse to be part of a rigid cult. I've been there done that once before, and it's not a good thing. I know to watch out for the Kool Aide. I eat this way because I want to be and stay healthy (and I have all the numbers to prove that I'm achieving it). And I write about this in order to pass my knowledge and what I've learned on to others. You're free to accept or reject what I write. But you don't get to tell me I'm doing it wrong.