A significant amount of people have changed their diet based on my advice, so I feel an obligation to provide updates when I make changes. The debate over the past two weeks, along with additional reading sparked by it, has caused me to change my diet radically.
Before I get into that, I want to explain why I eat what I eat, so that people considering changes based on my opinion can make sure that my goals align with theirs. I choose what I eat for long term health and longevity. That's it. I love animals and think they should be treated kindly, but if factory farmed meat would make me healthier, I would eat it. Taste is important within the range of healthy foods, but if styrofoam packing peanuts were the secret to health, I'd be pounding them down. I don't eat to gain association with any group or subculture. Whether I'm considered vegan, vegetarian, paleo, carnivore, or anything else doesn't matter to me.
I'm not trying to be right yesterday, I'm trying to be right today. Sometimes that means admitting that I was wrong and making the best change I can. I base my identity around adapting quickly to the best information I can find, not clinging to the previous best information.
Also, I don't care how much money I spend on healthy food. If $5 buys me a meal that's somewhat healthy and $10 buys me a meal that is completely healthy, I will pay the $10. The act of eating is amongst the most intimate processes we undergo. The food we choose alters our bodies, minds, and futures. That makes it a top priority financially and otherwise. I once read an exchange where someone asked someone else why healthy food was so expensive. Because it's more valuable, he replied.
So that's my criteria. If your goals are the same, the research I do might be of value to you.
With that out of the way, I have started to eat meat again.
Specifically, I am eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish which are raised in a natural way. That means wild caught fish as well as meat which is fed its natural diet. Almost all cattle in this country is fed corn, which is not what cows are supposed to eat. They have ruminant stomachs specifically designed to eat grass. The properties of the resulting meat are wildly different: the Omega 3 to 6 ratio, for example, is about 1:3 or better in grass fed beef, but is more like 1:20 in corn fed beef. Grass fed cows actually roam in fields, which keeps them healthy. Confined corn fed cows don't exercise and are pumped full of antibiotics to stay "healthy" (a.k.a. not dead).
The main reason I made the switch is this: there are too many people an each side of the fence. Half of nutritional scientists say that meat is the best thing ever for you. The other half say that it will kill you. On the other hand, EVERY nutritional scientist says that refined carbohydrates will kill you.
How is it that EVERYONE knows how bad refined carbs are, but there are so many varying opinions on meat? My own deduction is that meat is an insignificant factor in longevity. If it was a major factor, like refined carbs, it seems as though it would be very easy to prove. But it isn't. Part of why it isn't easy to prove is because longevity and health are interrelated with a huge number of other factors. I've read about dozens of studies where it was later proven that other factors (usually disease or refined carbs) have interfered with the results. Refined carbs push through the complexity because they are so bad, but meat doesn't.
A pattern I saw as I read more about diet is that while scientists know exactly why refined carbs are bad for you, they can't explain why meat is bad for you. Some studies show correlations, but I haven't found any information on the step by step molecular processes that explain how animal products could cause harm. On the contrary, I read one fascinating and detailed account of how meat affects cholesterol (HDL, LDL, VLDL, and apo B particles). It explained how animal fat is processed by your body, why meat is actually healthy for you, and how it appears not to be healthy if you only watch HDL and LDL.
I've been making other smaller changes to my diet since I last addressed the issue. I don't drink smoothies, because the fiber is destroyed in the blending process, thus converting the fruit into a simple carb. I don't eat any sweetener, including agave nectar, because even these "healthy" sweeteners turn out not to be healthy by any standard other than the glycemic index, which is just one factor. The simple rule I keep coming up against is this: "don't mess with the food". Eat things as whole and as close to their natural state as possible. Everything I've been reading about meat falls neatly into the same pattern. It's healthy for you as long as you don't mess with it by raising the animals in unnatural and unhealthy conditions, turning it into chicken nuggets, etc.
I still think that an unprocessed vegan diet is a very healthy diet. I've come to really enjoy it and I expect that a large portion of my meals will conform to it. It's far healthier to eat no meat and no refined grains/sugar than it is to eat both. But I now believe that the diet I was eating can be improved by eating meat, so I will do so.
Be Open Minded
I hope to maybe prevent it by writing this, but I anticipate radical comments from both sides. Vegans will feel betrayed and meat eaters will feel vindicated. Instead, I hope that you'll consider using this debate as I used the original debate between T Colin Campbell and Denise Minger: as a spark to examine the choices you make and make sure that you're doing what's best for yourself.
Since I haven't been eating meat since having a camera, I couldn't find any pictures of meat. So instead there's a picture of me sitting on the head of a water buffalo in Panama. Todd took the picture, which makes me feel slightly guilty about the TYNAN watermark on it.
E-Glide has made electric skateboards about four times better than they used to be. New batteries shave off 20 pounds, more than double the range, and make them faster. I travel with mine now. Contact them at http://www.e-glide.com and tell them you want the same board I have.
Upcoming travel plans: in Austin now, heading back to LA on Monday for the X Games, back to SF early August, then Boston, NY, and Burning Man.
I occasionally mention my diet, which has spawned some questions in a recent thread as well as in my survey results.
So this week I'm going to explain my diet in detail, focusing on what I eat, why I eat it, and the facts behind the food.
The ideas aren't mine originally, and I'm certainly not the only person to eat this way, but I call it the MaxDiet because there is no formal name for it, and from the research I've done it appears to be the best possible diet.
First off, I want to say that I hate how people use the word “diet”. My blood boils when I hear someone say something like ,”I gained a few pounds, looks like I need to go on a diet.” Such a statement implies that a diet is a temporary way of eating healthier until you lose a few pounds, then you can go back to eating whatever you want.
The way I see things, your diet is how you always eat. It is long-term, which means that you need a diet you can live with. Temporarily eating in a very restrictive manner only makes you crave unhealthier foods even more, and promotes “ballooning” or constantly going up and down in weight. Ballooning is an unhealthy, stressful way to live. A healthy diet is one that you can live with for your whole life. This means that restriction and bland health food products are not an option, as it would require tremendous willpower to stick to. Conversely, the other end of the spectrum, with cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and the like, is also unsustainable because of the associated health risks.
What does all of this mean? The optimal diet is one that is healthy for you and that you enjoy eating. That almost sounds too easy. The reality is that it is slightly less easy than it sounds. The hard part is wading through all of the conflicting dietary advice and figuring out what is actually healthy for you. Then, you can prepare meals that you enjoy while incorporating these dietary ideals. This is exactly what I did to create my diet, which I have named The Healthier Diet, in the spirit of this blog.
The Healthier Diet combines elements of traditional dietary advice with some more unconventional ideas. I would say if anything, it is closest to the Paleo Diet, but still very different. The Paleo Diet gets a lot of things wrong, especially when it comes to fitness, but it also gets some things right. My Healthier Diet is based on a few core ideas. Mainly, that the prevalence of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and cancer present in modern society is not a product of a high-cholesterol diet, but a result of eating too many refined sugars. I’m too lazy to find a citation on this but feel free to do more research if you would like. I won’t go into the science here, but there are three main takeaways:
1. Dietary cholesterol alone has little effect on blood serum cholesterol. Only when large amounts of cholesterol are consumed along with saturated fats will your blood cholesterol levels rise. One of the main places the Paleo Diet fails is that it doesn’t restrict saturated fat intake.