For the first time this year, going home for the holidays meant two 5 1/2 hour plane rides instead of a 20 minute car trip. Along with in-flight VirginAmerica tv on demand, this meant I finally had enough down time to read The China Study, a book cited by many vegetarian/vegans as their reason for giving up meat products.
Refreshingly, the author makes virtually no mention of the humanitarian reasons to give up meat, and doesn’t speak at all to slaughterhouse practices, sanitary concerns, etc. Not that those things aren’t important or moving, it’s just that I’ve already heard all that before and it obviously hasn’t made a significant impact on my diet.
Instead, the premise is much more scientific (as you’ve probably grasped by the title). It details the author’s extensive research into how diet affects disease in the human body, specifically focusing on cancer. Along the way, you get a peak into the sometimes scary inner workings of the nutrition industry in the United States. Food pyramid anyone?
Dr. Campbell himself grew up on a farm with the traditional meat and dairy-centric diet, and used to be a big proponent of the Standard American Diet (SAD). What he discovered after administering questionnaires and blood tests on 6,500 adults in sixty-five counties across China changed his career and his life. He found more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet and disease, which are detailed in the book, along with research from other studies he and his colleagues conducted.
Sounds like pretty dry stuff, but I was fascinated. I wouldn’t call it an easy read by any means, but you can easily concentrate on the areas you’re most interested in, and skim through the parts not as related. If you or a family member suffers from cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or heart disease (and unfortunately, chances are you do) I would call The China Study an absolutely mandatory read. In any event, it’s already changed my life.
For the month of January, I’m going 100% vegan. In Dr. Campbell’s book, he asks just one month of following these restrictions from his readers. “You’ve been eating cheeseburgers your whole life; a month without them won’t kill you.” Well I haven’t been eating cheeseburgers, but I have been enjoying Shrimpies Casserole, Tilapia Piccata, and homemade gravy made from turkey giblets. Just last night, I happily scarfed down some fantastic sushi and had to declare the veganism adventure officially delayed by one day.
But now it’s begun. And there’s no turning back. I have some new cookbooks to help me and already planned out some exciting meals for the next week. Rest assured, there will still be plenty of good food ahead. To some extent, I’m planning to follow Dr. Campbell’s advice and “not obsess over it.” If something has non-vegan worchestire sauce in it, I’m not going crazy and demanding something else. That being said, this morning I discovered my favorite potato salad from the cafe down the street has mayo in it, and I passed. I already feel good about it.