Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To Eat Meat, or Not To Eat Meat, That is the Question

I received a great comment from Danielle yesterday and I thought I would address her question in a blog posting, so here goes!

"Hi Wendy, I agree with you regarding the excess oil that seems to be in all recipes. I have an unrelated question for you though that has been on my mind and I would love to hear your thoughts. I've read Eat to Live, Eat for Health, and the China Study. I've also been a vegetarian for 9 years (and vegan for almost a year). I recently began working with a nutritionist who strongly encourages consuming meat, and not the factory farmed hormone laden kind but high quality organic, free range and grass fed. Her suggestion is that these high quality meats are lower in fat/cholesterol, are full of vitamins and minerals and will sustain you between meals much longer. I have been willing to give her suggestion a try and found that it is much easier to stick to 3 meals without snacks and well, I feel really satisfied. If I continue to eat high volume of fruits and veggies, it seems that I can still stick to nutritarian principles. What do you think about meat consumption? Honestly, I found the conclusions from the China Study to involve some sweeping generalizations about animal products, for example casein causing cancer to spread is generalized to all animal products causing cancer (eventhough casein is only in cheese & milk products). Also, I think the author was comparing the SAD diet to diets in China and of course there are going to be huge differences. I don't eat a SAD so don't think I have the same risk. What do you think? I really enjoy reading your blog and know you have thought about these things. Thanks!"

First, I want to say that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, so my opinions come from personal experience and not from professional study. That said, you are totally right, I have thought about these things and I do have personal opinions on them. I am going to break down your question of should you eat meat into two questions. First, should you eat meat to attain longer satiety? And second, should you eat meat to attain greater health?

Should you eat meat for satiety?  I am assuming that your potential meat eating stems from a desire to not eat between meals thus consuming fewer total calories for the day.  Otherwise, why would you want to eat less or less often? But please correct me if I am wrong.  Again, it has been my personal experience that whether or not I eat animal protein at breakfast or lunch, I am really, really hungry about and hour or two before I want to eat my next meal. Every day starting at 4 pm I am noticeably hungry and by 5 pm I am ravenous. But I really would like to eat dinner at 7 pm or later when my husband gets home from work! Does that imply that I didn't eat enough of the "right" ie "satisfying" foods at lunch?

I'm going to say, "No, it doesn't." It is perfectly normal to be hungry before meal time. In fact, it is our intense fear of hunger (which probably is a survival of the fittest remnant from a time before food was plentiful and cheap) which drives us to consume so many excess calories and is one of the reasons that so many humans are overweight.  Ask a naturally thin person if they are hungry during the day and what they do about it. You are likely to find that the answer will be "yes" and "I wait until mealtime to eat."

For me personally, the idea that I didn't have to eat as soon as I felt hungry was a real wake up call on my journey to a healthy weight. I didn't magically discover this by myself.  It was brought to my attention in a book called The Beck Diet Solution by Dr. Judith Beck. The book is not a food plan, it is a series of exercises to retrain your brain to think like a thin person, and without that knowledge I would never have come this far.  Dr. Beck has an exercise called "Practice Hunger Tolerance" that specifically addresses our fear of being hungry. I highly recommend Beck's system. I am even going to remind myself here that going to bed a little hungry every day is a big determiner for me of whether or not I will maintain my weight. If I go to sleep full, I gain weight. It's pretty simple actually.

I also have to note that feeling satisfied after eating is a basic human want that we should not be beating ourselves up about. In my life, I have been both an omnivore and a vegetarian and now, almost a vegan.  My stint as a vegetarian lasted a really long time--over a decade. One of my sister-in-laws would ask me all of the time how I felt full after a meal if it didn't contain animal flesh (I was eating milk and eggs).  I was always befuddled by the question and didn't have a way of answering her at the time.

It is only recently that I could give her an answer that makes any sense, and my answer comes from my experiences after reading both Volumetreics and Eat to Live and practicing the Nutritarian way of eating. My sense of fullness comes from the volume of food that I eat, not which macronutrient(s) that food contains.  So the more low calorie food (which can really only come from vegetables and fruits) that I consume, the more full I am. I can literally stuff myself and not be worried that I have overconsumed calories. If I stuffed myself on steak or chicken, that wouldn't be the case. There would be a whole lotta calories there.

Now I know what you are thinking . . . "I'm not planning to eat only steak and chicken, I'm just going to eat mostly fruit and vegetable with a little bit of animal flesh and maybe then I won't get hungry before dinner." To that I am going to say, "Give it a try, see if it works, and please, report back the results!" I'm going to put my money on you are still going to be hungry before dinner!


I'm going to address whether or not I think we need to eat meat for health reasons tomorrow. Thanks for reading!


Jessica said...

I have gone to a close to vegan diet - but on occasion will have meat. I will eat out and there might be eggs or milk in things that I order. I have decided to just "do my best" and really make very conscious decisions. Last night we had company and my husband grilled fish. I made a ton of side dishes (quinoa with mangoes, sauteed cabbage, melon and berries, refreshing salad (beets/carrots/apples) on spinach. I was totally satisfied without eating the fish, and everyone else had enough to eat, too. My problem is that I bought a chocolate mousse pie for desert - and really, I just could not pass that up! So - this is where I come from when I say I do my best. Today has been good so far (fruit, left over veggies/salads for lunch, and cherries for a snack)...but that leftover pie is screaming pretty loudly from the fridge.

Danielle said...

Wendy, thanks for the response. The argument made to me by my nutritionist is that animal protein is more complex and takes longer for our bodies to break down, thus leaving us fuller longer. Veggies/fruits digest quickly. Some meals where I eat beans, vegetables, greens and fruit, I do sometimes get hungry a mere 2 hours later. However, there is something about eating in a volumetrics way. Doing that consistently leaves me very satisfied since I am getting all the micronutrients my body needs. I agree with you on that and am still curious about the meat, so I will let you know the result of my experiments. The other tricky thing that happened with my nutritionist is that she handed me old school information about balanced plates and "complete" vegetarian protein combinations. I know Dr. Fuhrman throws these concepts on their head with salad as the basis for meals and naming "complete" protein as a myth. Just out of curiosity sake, I tried some of these "balanced" meals with meat. An example would be a plate 1/2 veggies, 1/4 meat, 1/4 grain and some fruit if needed. Maybe it was just psychological but there was something about eating that old school style that was really was satisfying. Maybe it just reminded me of being a kid. I don't know. I will keep you updated on what I'm noticing works for me. Thanks for the great conversation and inspiration!

April said...

I am not completely vegan, but choose to not cook or fry meat at home (unless it's game from my freezer I have been working on for over a year now). When eating out I try to 'do my best', but reassure myself at home things will be better.

I have to consciously remind myself this is lifestyle change and if my children get a hotdog at a party, it's not the end of their lives (hopefully). And in due time my goal is for them to make healthy choices on their own. I can control what I bring into my home and how I educate my children on nutrition, and do the best in front of them.

I am currently reading Disease Proof your child by Dr. Fuhrman and am encouraged by the first few pages of it.

Like you, Jessica, I do occasionally give into temptation and bring in that item that's a 'treat' only (I tell my children), but as long as it is not permanent on my shelf, I guess that counts for something...right? It's a lifestyle change and over time the good will win victory over the bad...:) Right!?

Wendy, love your posts and your blog.

Healthy Girl said...

Thanks for all of your great comments guys. I want to tell you that I am definately not completely a vegan either!

For example, on the Fourth of July we had a Dairy Queen ice cream cake and I ate more than was good for me. Was it the best choice? Certainly not. But not because my goal is to be a perfect vegan (if I was mainly concerned with animal welfare/rights, then I probably wouldn't have eaten the ice cream cake).

My aim in this is to feel great and find a way to (relatively) easily maintian a healthy weight. So, if once and a great while I have something with egg, milk or cheese in it, and it does not affect my efforts, I'm perfectly okay with that.

But, it seems that in order to maintain this weight, I have to be 100% vegan on most days (like 5 out of 7). Does that mean that one day a week I am eating a steak? No. I'm just not interested. But if I taste a recipe that someone made and there is a little sour cream in it, I'm not going to get worked up about it, because again, I am not a vegan. I am just trying to eat vegan as much as I possibly can. And do you know what? It appears to be working!

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