April 6, 2016

Reasons not to change

Reasons/Excuses For not going Plant-Based

(and some suggestions for why you might want to after all)

I like meat.

And so? The hidden assumption is that liking something automatically means that is what you will go for. This is way too simple. Everywhere else in life you balance one thing you like against competing other things you like. I like to sleep late, but since I also like to keep my job I guess I’ll get up. Perhaps this is nowhere better illustrated than in the example of the Amanita mushroom. Apparently, cooked in butter, one type of Amanita tastes particularly fabulous. Unfortunately, then you immediately die an excruciating death, which is why we try not to eat it despite its likeability. Howsoever you now eat reflects a balance of many considerations: cost, ease, familiarity, and other things as well as what you like. Bringing up the huge benefits of plant-eating probably threatens the balance you have come to, and so the natural reaction may be to recoil from the idea. But it is worth considering anew the true costs and benefits.

With meat (and dairy, and processed foods) what you like is out of alignment with your health. These things are imperceptibly killing you as your body loses the battle to repair the damage you keep inflicting on it. Your taste system is also out of alignment with the ecosystem. Meat and dairy cultivation is incredibly harmful to the environment in all sorts of documented ways. So there is a hard choice to be made: go along with what you like or insure the health of your body and the planet.

Happily, if you increase plants in your diet, you will come to like them too and to like them more than you do now, and you will get more pleasure from eating than you do even now. Also there are a lot of ways to have plant foods give you the pleasures of meat eating. Things like seitan can provide the look, texture, and taste of meat, and so too portabella mushrooms can do it too. There are many good recipes for plant based burgers and “meatballs”.  My experience is that most people just lose the desire for meat after being plant-based for a while.

But you will be giving up something you like. Perhaps that feels particularly unfair? Perhaps some part of you expects that nature should be more cooperative with what you want.


apple pie (with no butter, no oil, no egg, no dairy) plant-based

apple pie (with no butter, no oil, no egg, no dairy)


I like cheese.

This brings up the same issues as with not wanting to give up meat. There are a couple of cashew-based cheese-like foods being made (by Heidy-Ho and Kite Hill and there are probably others) which are rather like a goat cheese. Several versions have no added oil and I find that they very much satisfy the wish for cheese on a cracker. Because they are so caloric, they should be eaten sparingly as a treat, but they do exist, and one can make cheese oneself. It is also very easy to make plant-milk based yogurts to take the place of yogurt and sour cream. Still the dazzling array of dairy-based cheeses, in all their different, intense flavors and “terroirs” is, so far, irreplaceable. For me, I’ll seek other dazzling plant-based foods, and enjoy their flavors while foregoing dairy and avoiding its harm.

heidiho plant-based

I can’t give up meat.

Why not? Is it a comfort food? Unfortunately this comfort food, after initial pleasure, tends to make you feel poorly so you just need more comfort food, and so on and on. How about a switch to something that makes you feel better so you are not so in need of comfort? Or is it that you really need to address what things in life are causing discomfort so they can be changed?

Or is it you just don’t want to. Maybe one of the reasons below is why you don’t want to.

Giving up meat, dairy, oil, and processed foods is just unthinkable, it’s too crazy. Life is too hard already. I’m not going to give up everything I know and do all that work. Leave me alone.

The familiar has a lot of inertia to it. We resist any change. The familiar feels safe, friendly, “right”, and comfortable. A change appears huge, daunting, unpleasant, wrong-headed, and unnecessary. Recognize that there will be an almost automatic emotional rejection, even disgust, initially. And, yes, new ways of eating will take effort to create new habits that themselves then become the new familiar which resists change. Again, you don’t have to do everything at once. But are you really ready to accept the health consequences of the familiar diet?

It’s too hard.

quick pasta and vegetables plant-based

quick pasta and vegetables

Learning new recipes takes some time at first. But with repetition they become as easy as what you are used to.

Cooking food instead of heating prepared things does also take more time. But there are ways to limit that time, like making one of the many 15-20 minute recipes, or being sure to make enough for leftovers that can just be reheated. And when you are not using meats and oils, clean-up after food preparation is a lot easier.

kiwi fruit plant-based

But maybe your time is so limited you need to buy prepared food. You can buy great WFPB food, all prepared. Seek out the websites for Forks Over Knives or Plant Pure Nation or Meal Mentor (from the Happy Herbivore).

I’m just not going to do it.

You may not, and it’s a free country and you can do whatever you like. But this answer should make you consider the question of why. There are emotional factors at play here, ones worth reflecting upon. Where is this strong resistance coming from? Maybe you feel like you are already being told too much what to do. Maybe you don’t believe that the evidence for health is genuine. Maybe you think—mistakenly–that the plant-based alternative is puritanical or designed to reduce pleasure. Or maybe you feel uncomfortable  thinking about illness and mortality, so you don’t give yourself a chance to think about ways to live longer and healthier.

I’d rather live a shorter, happy life that has pleasure from what I’m eating rather than a longer, dull one where I would get BORED eating only lettuce every day.

You don’t just eat lettuce or even just salads, as good as they can be. Plant-based eating is, happily, inventive, loaded with lots of flavors and lots of different flavors, textures, colors, and food combinations. It’s probably a lot less boring than what you’ve become accustomed to eating.

The one element of truth in this is that a switch to plant-based eating involves a switch in the taste system to respond to water soluble flavors rather than oil soluble ones. It can take a couple weeks for this to take place. During the transition, unless one makes the effort to add herbs, spices, and other sorts of flavors, the food might taste less intense than what you are used to. But after the switch, familiar foods produce a “wow” reaction as you obtain more flavor from them.

In addition, there is not a whole lot of pleasure in getting one’s chest cracked open for heart surgery, or having crippling pain in the joints from rheumatoid arthritis, or suffering other ailments brought on by the standard western diet. The idea that your familiar way of eating has more pleasure associated with it may not be true.

green beans and mushroom (no Amanitas) plant-based

green beans and mushroom (no Amanitas)


There is a “we” and a “they” in everything. “We” are meat eaters and dairy eaters. “You” are a weirdo, and your kind can do whatever you want, I am not changing.

Nobody is being ordered to change their lifestyle. This is not about some competition for who is best. While a community of like-minded plant based eaters is growing, for many reasons, in the end food choice is personal. Just do know the facts, and make the choice right for you.

I am not going to eat some “Tofurkey” for Thanksgiving.

Food has emotional significance. Traditional meals celebrate and reaffirm important days. They are a family and cultural bond with shared memories. And so one is reluctant to abandon tradition. If the idea of a turkey for Thanksgiving is mandatory, then have some turkey for Thanksgiving. Eat mostly all the other plant based harvest foods, but enjoy the turkey. It is, however, also possible to shift to only plant-based celebratory meals. This choice brings up the general question of how “plant-pure” one needs to be. This question is a common one and it has no clear answer. What evidence there is suggests (1) meat always contains products that the body has to work to get rid of, such as endotoxins, cholesterol, and various contaminants, (2) the body can probably manage a little meat and does so more successfully when one eats mostly plant-based, and (3) in general, the more thoroughly one eats plant-based the healthier one is likely to be.

Yam plant-based

Living longer does not matter much to me, keeping what I like now does matter to me.

“De gustibus non disputandum est”, a 2000 year old Latin maxim meaning, in this case, “different strokes for different folks”, or “you pays your money, you takes your chances”. So, there is nothing to argue, as long as what you assert of yourself is true and not rationalization.

Whole Food Plant Based eating is just another fad. Meat and dairy and eggs and olive oil are perfectly fine for anyone. They provide necessary nutrition. It is unhealthy not to eat these things, in moderation of course.

That is not the conclusion from the Kaiser Permanente Journal, the country’s largest health insurer. It said, “Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…” It is also not the conclusion supported by most evidence as described in Dr. Greger’s book, How Not To Die, or in Dr. Campbell’s book, Whole. It is true that in science, and in profit-making, many sides are argued and refer to various findings to support differing conclusions. It can be hard for the lay-person to evaluate the evidence. But there really is a growing consensus as to the soundness of the plant-based lifestyle.

plant-based mushrooms

I don’t like to cook, so I can’t eat this way.

You don’t have to cook. You can order plant based meals from Forks Over Knives and from Plant Pure Nation or Meal Mentor. Also there are other resources for we who live in or close to Malvern, and I can tell you about them.

Maybe you should address why you do not like to cook. Is this a case where you need to learn to take time to take care of yourself? Is it that you live alone and that discourages you from cooking? Or do you feel uncomfortable because you never learned the techniques of cooking? Are you a man and the kitchen feels like a place only for women? Or are you a woman who does not want to be defined as being the cook? Consider these in turn:

I can’t cook just for myself.

It may be that learning to take care of yourself and taking time to nourish yourself is a new idea, but doesn’t it seem worth it to learn this?

Sharing a meal is part of the pleasure of eating and cooking but living alone reduces that possibility. For many people living alone it feels harder to cook for “just” themselves. While the enjoyment of sharing may not be very available, one can emphasize the enjoyment of taste and eating itself. One can make a mindful approach both to the cooking and the eating of the food and thereby obtain a great deal of pleasure in the efforts of cooking and the tasting of the food. One can also bring samples of what you have made to other people and get some of the shared feelings that way. Or maybe it is time to figure out how to bring more people into your life to make meals a more social occasion.

If in the end cooking for yourself remains out of the question, then do consider the options of buying ready made WFPB meals.

kale plant-based

I never learned how to cook.

If you haven’t learned to cook, either find some instruction on the internet—and there is a lot of it—or attend one of many cooking classes that exist, or let me teach you the things you need to feel comfortable in the kitchen.

group demonstration with peter druian plant-based

I’m a guy, the kitchen is for women. Or I’m a woman, I’m not going to define myself as a cook.

Please, it is the 21st century, you get to be a complete person however you need to be, with no straight-jacket of old sexual stereotypes.

sweet potato fries plant-based


I won’t be able to eat out!

It is true that most restaurant cuisines are built around fat, salt, sugar, meats and cheeses. There are ways to minimize this problem, but the problem is quite real. To eat truly healthy is to avoid most restaurant food. How to address the problem? You can eat out rarely. You can emphasize the vegetable and fruit aspects of restaurant menus. You can request eliminating certain items and replacing with other (e.g. leave off the cheese but add olives or roasted peppers). You can choose your cuisines: Asian, Mexican, Italian, African, middle Eastern, Indian, and vegan restaurants are likely to offer acceptable or mostly acceptable plant-based fare, especially if they are pre-consulted. Still, the problem of eating out can force the choice: how important is it to you to be eating good tasting things that are healthy but are eaten at home versus how important is it to be going out and having good tasting things, but they are hurting you?

Let me add that truly healthy restaurants do exist (like Vgё in Bryn Mawr). And more appear to be coming.