Here is something I wrote to Jim Hicks. Jim is the developer of the 4Leaf Program, which is a brilliantly simple way of teaching the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle, including the 4Leaf Survey, which is a helpful self-assessment for learning the #WFPB diet. Jim is also active as a futurist making the case for drastic ways of coping with climate change and developing alternatives. I see a need to separate those two, so I wrote to Jim about the dangers of mixing in climate change or animal welfare with the #WFPB conversation:
Personally, I believe you should completely separate the two, #WFPB and Climate Change.My comment in private correspondence with Jim Hicks.
#WFPB works, at least once people commit, because they get pretty much immediate results, and they simply feel better. No side effects, or at least only pleasant ones. Motivation by attraction and with empowerment.
The climate debate tends to motivate by fear and create panic, chaos, and confusion, and a feeling of powerlessness.
From a #WFPB standpoint, I can REINFORCE the sense of empowerment by pointing out that it is also the single biggest thing anybody can do for the well being of the planet. That avoids the powerless that comes from feeling you need to change everybody else’s mind. The reality is, you only need to change your own mind.
I think this is also the reason why people hate vegans. They proselytize. I only inform those who want what I’ve got and I see the climate stuff as a distraction if it takes center stage. Same for animal welfare, leave it to the vegans – it is an incidental benefit of #WFPB, but health is the focus.
Fear Tactics Generate Panic
The point here is something which Dean Ornish touches on in his book Undo It! , namely that even fear of disastrous health outcomes in patients is often not enough to assure compliance with prescriptions, particularly if the patients do not clearly feel better and have any kind of side effects, then the long term fear subsides and the short term annoyance grows in importance. Fear is not a good motivator because it tends to produce panic and disorientation and disempowerment. Compliance after six months is often below 50%. Compliance with Dean Ornish’s lifestyle medicine program tends to be around 90-95% even after twelve month, because… people feel so much better and notice the improvement right away. Attraction and positive reinforcement is the motivation here.
It is a happy circumstance that the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet is the best thing we can do for our bodies, and also for the planet. Eating animals is highly inefficient, because the animals first eat plants, because plants make the amino acids that are the building blocks for all proteins. Putting the cart before the horse, and using climate change as a fear tactic to convince people to adopt a plant-based diet makes no sense. On the other hand, once you enjoy the empowerment of knowing you can actually improve your health with every bite you eat, it is a happy reinforcement that conveniently it is also the single best thing you can do for the planet, not to mention for animal welfare.
To focus on the obvious, there is a stage where switching to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet seems difficult, because it is not what you were used to, however, once you realize how much better you feel with it, and at your next physical you see how much your numbers are improved, including the fact of how easy it was to achieve Dr. Esselstyn’s “heart-attack-proof” status with total cholesterol below 150, then you would never want to go back. Because going back would mean you would dread that next physical again, and feeling powerless to do anything about it. You have now taken control of your own health and that is it’s own reward.
I think the critical point is some time in the first few weeks and months, when you realize your palate has changed, even the most simple plant-based foods are heaven. A potato. And I was never a potato person. As simple salad. And so on. I’ve settled on steelcut oats for breakfast, but the variations are endless with fruit of the season, and I’ve become a connoisseur of balsamic vinegar in the process. I can go on and on, since I went plant-based, my kitchen is a happier place. I always loved cooking, but nothing can beat this.
Veganism and Animal Welfare
The same issue that applies to the climate change debate, also applies to the Animal Welfare debate. It is very simple, #WFPB is the optimal human nutrition, and that point was recently underscored dramatically by the movie The Game Changers. We cannot get around it any more. However, people fail with plant-based diets if they focus on the vegan message, for avoiding some foods (animal products) does not a diet make. At the extreme, beer and potato chips are vegan, but not healthy. I see a contradiction in the vegan position, because it makes no sense to me to propose veganism on the basis of animal welfare and/or saving the planet, but ignore healthy nutrition. It makes more sense to me that “healthy vegan” nutrition, or the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet simply solves the other two as another beneficial side effect.
In short, I am sure progress will continue to come through positive reinforcement by each new success story of people regaining their health with a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet. I am really at the point with this that the food prep and cooking are a personal meditation every day. I am fully convinced they are part of the healing process. I stick to my knitting, #WFPB is about healthy living, and it has beneficial side effects for the planet and animal welfare. It is empowering and motivating. Activism about the environment or about animal welfare leads to frustration and dis-empowerment, for you place yourself in a position of having to change other people’s minds, and that tends to be somewhere between hard and impossible and a recipe for depression. If you simply do your piece, and practice your #WFPB lifestyle, at some point, others will want what you’ve got.