Can you remember when smoking was recommended by doctors? Smoking was allowed in hospitals, airplanes and grocery stores! I am sure if we travelled back in time to tell those people; one day smoking will be prohibited almost everywhere, they would say “dream on”!
Last week, a study was published that found eating meat and dairy may be as detrimental to your health as smoking cigarettes. What was really exciting, though, was how much media attention the story received. The study’s findings were published on a number of major news sources such as CBS and Fox News, as well as many other media outlets.
For those of us who are already familiar with the science backing a whole food, plant-based diet, this is old news. For far too much of the population, however, this was completely new information. And not only that, but also information that contradicts many of the nutrition teachings they have been exposed to over the years. I mean, sure, a bacon cheeseburger is unhealthy, but lean meats and low-fat dairy products are good for us, right? Don’t we need fish for omega-3s? And without dairy, how will we get our calcium? …No, no, and hakuna matata, you’ll get plenty.
Here’s the thing: the science is there. And it’s growing. More and more, we are seeing studies like this published, and the evidence just keeps mounting. At this point, the science supporting that eating animals and their by-products promotes disease, whereas eating a plant-based diet promotes health, is basically indisputable. The studies and experience of far too many doctors, patients, and populations have proven this to be true.
More and more progress towards making this knowledge widespread, and making a plant-based lifestyle more mainstream, is happening all the time. It seems that so wonderfully often I’m learning about new doctors who are incorporating dietary interventions into their practice or new people who have adopted a plant-based diet. But despite this, the fact that a whole food, plant-based diet is not only healthy, but also optimal, continues to go unknown or disputed.
The problem is not that the information isn’t available. It is. The problem is that somehow people just aren’t receiving the message. I think there are two main reasons for this. The first is that it’s not given the attention that it should. Medical institutions, cancer and disease organizations, and nutrition societies still (for the most part) promote the standard American diet with an emphasis on “moderation.” Often, they do not even acknowledge the powerful influence that diet can have on one’s health—sometimes due to their own unawareness, and other times perhaps due to a conflict of interest, but either way denying the reach and access of this important information. When they do acknowledge diet, it is typically not given the emphasis that it deserves (and, as I mentioned earlier, the dietary recommendations often aren’t up to par with what the science proves to be optimal).
The second reason is that there is so much conflicting information. With books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain, or diet crazes such as Paleo or Low-Carb, getting just as much (and usually more) media attention than plant-based nutrition, it can be difficult for people to know what to believe. Plus, the meat and dairy industries are full of money and connections that enable them to promote their products and fool us into thinking that they are healthy (for a little more info on this, see our post on the dairy industry), and that doesn’t help either.
A lot of this is stuff that we have no control over. What I want to focus on is what we CAN do. How can we get the word out? How can we help others to find this information and become educated, enabling them to take control of their health? I have a few ideas, but I also want to know what you think. For starters, though, here are my thoughts.
First of all, being a living example is the easiest, best thing you can do. Without even doing anything other than your typical routine, just living life plant-strong exposes those around you to the ease and awesomeness of eating this way. Some people have pre-conceived, negative notions of vegans and a plant-based diet, and we can help them to gain a more positive view of this lifestyle. Eating delicious meals, exuding health, and enjoying this way of life shows others the positivity involved with being plant-strong. (And sharing a yummy meal or two never hurts either).
Another way to spread the word is to actively share and promote it. When you see an article (such as the one mentioned at the beginning of this post) or a blog post that you think is important for people to know about, share it on facebook or email it to friends. If you’re on twitter, retweet things from resources like Engine 2, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Barnard, Rich Roll, Jeff Novick, Dr. Esselstyn, etc. Give books, documentaries, and retreat/study weekend sign-ups (both Engine 2 and Dr. McDougall have fantastic ones) to family and friends as presents. Sign up with a friend for a 21-day Vegan Kickstart or do a 28-Day Engine 2 Challenge (providing support is so important!). Organize events in your community such as documentary viewings or bringing in plant-based nutrition speakers. You can also volunteer with local organizations or write to public officials. I’m sure that there are lots of other things that you can do to share this information and help the plant-based movement gain momentum, but this is just a list to get you started and give you some ideas 🙂
They say that someone needs to see something about seven times before it sinks in and sticks with them. So the more we can get the word out and expose people to this information, the better a chance we have of making a lasting influence. This is a message worth sharing, so let’s get to it! 🙂