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I watched the Netflix documentary “ What the Health”.  My friend A. who is a naturopathic doctor asked me to watch it and give him my thoughts.

I have a feeling he thought it would make me decide to stop eating meat on the spot. He mentioned that many of his clients are going Vegan as a result of watching it.

I want to state that my opinions about this documentary are just that: my opinions. I have not studied nutrition, I have not read any of the studies, I have not spoken to any professionals about it.  My opinions are based in what I have read, experienced and noticed in all my years in this planet. So please take it for what it is: the ramblings of an unapologetic occasional meat eater.

I didn’t like it! I felt Veganism was being forced down my throat.  It tried to scare people into stopping eating all animal products. I believe in a more sensitive approach.  I appreciate some of the message but I don’t like how it was done.  Here are some of the problems I had with it:

  • I don’t feel it was a documentary.  To me documentaries are not this one-sided.  This felt more like propaganda.  It had an agenda: to turn the entire population Vegan.  It chose studies that were intended to prove their point and not to educate the viewer.  We can find studies to support any type of statement we are trying to make.  It doesn’t mean it is the absolute truth.
  • I don’t like scare tactics. It was too much in your face.  It drove-in the message that if you are eating animal products you are killing yourself.  It was meant to scare and not to educate.  Scaring people into a healthier diet is not the answer.
  • Throughout the documentary it would show people with different illness such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, etc.  They would talk about their confusion and frustration with their their situation and having to take countless medication and still not feeling any better. Towards the end of the film it showed the same people after no eating animal product for 2 weeks.  They miraculously were cured.   It seemed too far fetched to me to think that the answer to all medical problems would get resolved in 2 weeks. That claim to me is just not credible. Also it didn’t provide any information on what the people were doing before.  What was their diet before?  Did they exercise?  Smoke, etc?
  • It showed a comedian from the show Jackass talking about walking out a charity diabetes benefit luncheon because there was chicken served and he equated that with serving alcohol at an AA meeting. That was a bit too silly and dramatic for my taste.
  • It showed body builders and athletes that achieved great results without eating meat.  Some people will achieve whatever they set their minds to no matter the circumstance so I really didn’t see the point of showing those people.
  • They made some statements that seemed just too wild and even irresponsible such as:
    • The cause of diabetes is not sugar but meat
    • Eating eggs is as bad to our health as smoking
    • Milk and cheese causes cancer
    • Institutionalized Racism -the government promotes milk to African Americans knowing that they are lactose intolerant and will get sick

The documentary had some valid points and it highlighted for me some real problems that needs to be addressed.  Unfortunately some of the message got lost in the fear-mongering. It talked about the unfair treatment of animals, toxins in our food, environmental concerns in the raising of the animals for our food, the role of government and corporations and charities accepting money from big corporations.  I think it could have done a better job of presenting a more unbiased view, but those topics cannot be discounted and we need to be aware of them.

I believe the following:

  • There is a health crises in America.  As a nation we are getting sicker and sicker.  I believe more effort needs to be placed in Education.  We need to have better nutrition in schools and at home.  Parents need to stop thinking that McDonald is an acceptable dinner every day of the week.
  • The lives of kids are becoming as sedentary as workers in a office.  Kids sit in front of the computer the whole day. When not in front of a computer they are getting calluses on their fingers from playing on the cell phone.  Kids shouldn’t have calluses on their fingers, they should have scraped knees from running around in the park and from riding bikes.
  • There needs to be transparency in what organizations are receiving money from what companies. Are the information being divulged to the public being compromised?
  • We as nation need to have a more human and ethical approach to the way the animals raised for food are being treated.  The way they are treated, where they are kept, what they are fed, that all affects their well being and it will in turn be absorbed by us as we eat their meat. We need to respect, value and be grateful for the meat they give us and treat them with that in mind.
  • We must not forget how the environment is being affected by meat processing plants, etc. We need better regulation so that our waterways and air is not being polluted.  We need more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives. We need more assistance to small farmers and producers.
  • We all benefit from eating a more balanced diet with more plant and less meat.  We need more greens and less reds.  We need more natural and less artificial.
  • We need documentaries that empower people. That presents both sides of a point and let’s the viewer form his/her own opinion.  Don’t tell me what to do.  Give me education and empower me to do the right thing.

I think it is irresponsible to vilify an entire food group.  I think that wellness involves a more moderate, inclusive and overall approach.  I believe it should include body, mind and soul.  Food is extremely important, but one must not forget to include enough exercise, adequate sleep, stress control, etc.

The film does a disservice when it says that meat and not sugar is that problem when it comes to diabetes, and everything else for that matter.  If that was true I would be in heaven as I much rather eat sugar then meat.

People shouldn’t automatically remove from their diets all animal products (meats, cheese, milk, eggs), instead they should take a look at what they are not eating that they should be eating instead.  I struggle with carbs and sugar.  I know I should be eating less of them and more fruits and vegetables.  I have been trying to keep a food journal so that I can better see what I am really eating and the changes I need to make. Perhaps I can get to the bottom of the chronic hives I have.

My friend and I spoke about the film a couple of nights ago.  He sounded disappointed that I didn’t like it as much as he did.  I was disappointed that he gave it a free pass on the exaggerated nutritional statements and total biased approach.

I approached it from a nutritional point of view. He approached from an ethical, moral treatment of animals view.  I agree with him that the conditions that some animal are raised and farmed are appalling, but that was not news to me.  It is naive for anyone to think that every meat consumed comes from happy animals roaming free in a pasture listening to music and eating fresh grass.  I had watched different documentaries and have heard many stories since I was a child of how the animals are raised.

I think that if I was a person that ate meat on a daily basis perhaps this documentary would have a bigger affect on me.  Growing up in Brazil meat was expensive, so we never ate a lot of it. Now I rarely make meat at home, so sometimes when I go to restaurants I indulge and that is what my friend sees when we go out.  Perhaps that is why my friend thought I needed to watch it.

At the end of the day I am glad I watched it as it made me think more about what I am eating and not eating and about the animal industry.   Anything that makes us think and be more aware of the world around is a good thing.

As I like to say:  I believe in moderation and balance in all things, except love!

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ”  – Michael Pollan