Meat or Veggies, or Can I Just Choose Both?

This year, I spent my July 4th afternoon at the movie theater watching a double feature of Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris and the documentary Forks Over Knives. My friend and I chose to see the latter on a whim, hoping for something intellectually stimulating and different.

The film examines issues that have always been difficult for me to swallow, literally. I’m talking about dieting, or rather changing the way I eat. I am in my twenties and have been blessed to not experience any health issues based on overeating or significant weight gain. I still have a fast metabolism and if I chose to exercise I’d bounce back from a hard workout very quickly. The errors of my youth have yet to catch up with me because I am still young. Yet, I am anxious that my health choices will be detrimental in the future. I do not work out because it bores me and I enjoy my occasional McDonald’s medium fry and six piece chicken nuggets. Are these problems that will soon catch up with me?

As I look around me and I see how my parents live and how my grandparents died, I am torn with the idea that maybe I need to reestablish my eating habits. Does this mean that I need to eliminate all meat products from my diet and adopt a whole foods plant-based diet? Perhaps.

But what cost would a decision like this entail? I would definitely experience ridicule from my family, boyfriend and friends. Is it really worth explaining my stance and receiving the label as “vegetarian hippie girl?” I don’t know. But I do know that America is one of the largest nations that consumes exponential amounts of dairy products because our nation is convinced that we need the calcium. Yet we are also a nation with a significant number of cases of osteoporosis, according to the film. Is there a connection here? I’ll say!

As I watched Forks Over Knives, the discussion on the harms of meat consumption and the benefits of whole food diets introduced an internal conviction that has caused me to step back and look at my lifestyle. The film examines the research of Colin Campbell, PhD and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn regarding how degenerative diseases can be reversed or prevented by adopting whole foods plant-based diets.

In the film, stories of men and women suffering from illnesses such as diabetes and cancer, or people who have experienced extensive surgeries as a result of frequent heart attacks and/or people who were on their deathbed were healed of their ailments after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet.

I am now realizing that as I age and enter further into adulthood, my body needs me to be more aware and careful of what I chose to feed it. But the film asks questions about the value of life and how it’s more than just altering food habits. This is about transforming an individual’s way of life and changing his or her mindset about food. Americans tend to indulge in the idea of living to eat where the motivation should be to eat to live– the reverse. Look around and count the number of fast food restaurants in one suburban neighborhood. The number is astounding, simply confirming that we rely on fast and unhealthy foods to provide sustenance for our bodies.

I know we should all focus on living in the moment and not worry about the future. While I do struggle with remaining content in the moment, I want to be 100% sure that I am preparing my body for a healthy future. I do not want to be preparing myself for a painful fight because I chose to eat doughnuts instead of apples.

So I am truly torn about what to do. I know everyone has heard the warnings about having a protein heavy diet in comparison to a vegan or vegetarian diet. But I enjoy meat. I like eating a hamburger or a steak every now and then. Is the message we all need to remember is to eat everything in moderation? Or should we completely abandon all forms of processed and animal based foods. I just don’t know.

All I know is diabetes, high blood pressure and indifference toward exercise. One day my idleness will catch up to me, I just hope my motivation towards eating changes so that my fate will not be based on poor genes and eating habits. Watch the film and let me know your thoughts, perhaps the information is nothing new but the data is rather chilling. Needless to say, my July 4th barbecue that followed this screening was difficult to enjoy.

Find a screening near you or more information regarding Forks Over Knives at:

By Noëlle

I'm a senior at Miami University studying Journalism and English Literature. I am a huge fan of black-and-white movies, especially ones starring Clark Gable.

9 replies on “Meat or Veggies, or Can I Just Choose Both?”

I think any kind of strict unwavering diet is very difficult in the long term, and while I struggle more with the environmental impact of lots of meat production more than the possible health problems (which are yet to be proven, apart from “lots of vegetables, not too much cured/smoked meats”) I get where you’re coming from. My solution is mostly-vegetarianism: I make an effort to eat vegetarian, to make sure half my plate is veggies, but if I want meat and I’m reasonably confident about the source, I eat it. It turns out red meat tastes rank to me now anyway, so possibly I have that on my side:)

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

I’m not a complete Michael Pollan acolyte, but there is something for a perspective on eating that doesn’t pathologize any type of food too intensely. My position is that cooking your own food (when possible) is awesome, and tends to be healthy for you. I was a vegetarian for six years, am now eating meat/dairy/eggs, and still have loads of veggie and vegan friends for whom who I can cook delicious things. The fact that I enjoy animal products doesn’t mean I have to live on McDonalds, or that I can’t also rhapsodize over snow peas and zucchini.

Coming back to the movie – I’m certainly not going to argue with anyone saying that eating more plants than animals and getting exercise is a healthy way to live – but vegan as a cancer cure? Seriously?? Despite various recommendations, I’m avoiding this because it sounds fairly absurd.

I agree with the other commenters who suggest a gradual approach. I stopped eating meat three years ago, and dairy/eggs six months ago. When I transitioned to vegan, I let myself take a break one day a week for a couple of months, then I scaled back to once a month. That made it a lot easier to get to 100% vegan. And I still lapse (it took me a year to get to a consistently 100%-meat free diet), and I try not to beat myself up too much. You have to go at your own pace.

Maybe try doing a day (or a couple) without meat or without any animal-derived foods every week, and see how that goes. I found that it was easy to stop eating meat, even if the taste is enjoyable – the trick is to make sure that you eat other tasty things instead (i.e. eat good food that you are familiar with, like soups or stir-fries – don’t jump straight into trying to make tofu or whatever).

You could also set smaller goals, e.g. to not eat any fast food for a time, or to cut out processed snacks and replace them with fruit/veg. If you’re worried about meeting requirements for a certain number of servings of fruit/veg per day, make a point of having a daily smoothie or salad. Best of luck, anyways!

If i could go back in time I’d tell my 20yo self to put down the fast food and pick up some weights. And I’d also learn to cook healthy meals Yes, it can catch up with you, faster than you realize. But awareness seems to be the key, and it sounds like you are on the right path.

It doesn’t really sound like you are torn about what to do. It sounds like you are convinced that a whole foods diet is the surest way to long-term health, but maybe you just don’t really want to change (maybe not yet anyway). What I often see with people considering going vegetarian is an attitude that you have to jump right into the deep end of full-on veganism or zero meat. Maybe try and make small changes. Less meat. Less dairy. Learn how to cook alternative meals so that the changes you do make can be sustainable and without tons of self-doubt or self-sabotage.

You don’t need to worry about the future to focus on the moment, but it doesn’t hurt to plan for the future. Living in the now, particularly in Western culture, gets sold as doing whatever you want, whenever you want, which ultimately can lead to all sorts of self-destructive behaviours. The way I see it, life’s too short for fast-food.

Nice article :) I definitely want to watch that documentary now.

You write, “I would definitely experience ridicule from my family, boyfriend and friends. Is it really worth explaining my stance and receiving the label as “vegetarian hippie girl?” I don’t know.”

I’ve been a vegetarian for awhile, and I thought that my family/friends/boyfriend would react this way (my family ate meat at almost every meal, my dad and brother hunt, I didn’t have any vegetarian friends, my boyfriend had a Maddox t-shirt that said “for every animal you eat, I’ll eat three!”) However, it turned out to be a non-issue. My friends and boyfriend didn’t care. My family didn’t care. Since I started cooking a few years later, my family is now happy to eat whatever I make for dinner several nights per week, even though there’s no meat. So, it’s possible to change your diet without much drama.

My only problem with this article is a few of the false dichotomies, like “I do not want to be preparing myself for a painful fight because I chose to eat doughnuts instead of apples” and “I know everyone has heard the warnings about having a protein heavy diet in comparison to a vegan or vegetarian diet.” I eat way more vegan doughnuts than I do apples, and there are sooooo many vegan sources of protein that are readily available at grocery stores, tasty, and much cheaper than meat. I realize that I’m putting on my lentil pants here, because obviously not everyone has access to vegan doughnuts and Safeways, or has the time to cook up a bunch of legumes, but I still think it’s worth pointing out.

I agree and have also been a vegetarian for a while. I grew up thinking a potato was the only healthy vegetable in existence and beef or some type of meat was served at every dinner.Your family and friends will get over it eventually. Aside from some light teasing it’s a non-issue for me now and if you are seriously interested in becoming a vegetarian that will probably be the easiest part.

It’s very easy to socialize and eat with conservative family members if you learn to judge your audience and decide when it’s worth it to talk about vegetarianism or veganism. I love meat, but I don’t like Thanksgiving turkey. No one hassles me when I say, “I don’t like turkey” or “I don’t feel like having meat today.”

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