I've worked in the restaurant industry my entire life. I love it, spending my days surrounded by people...and food. I met my husband when we worked at the same restaurant. Our shared love of zombie movies, hot wings and beer brought us together. John was a big guy when we met, over 6 feet tall and 280 pounds. We spent our courtship eating and drinking, and I quickly put on 20 pounds.
John grew up on convenience foods: Kraft Mac & Cheese, instant potatoes, hot dogs and fast food washed down with a pop or two. My mother-in-law's "go to" meal is meatloaf, instant mashed potatoes with butter, canned corn with butter, macaroni and cheese from that popular blue box, and biscuits with more butter Butter is so important to his family that it's treated like a side dish for family dinners ("I'll bring a couple sticks of butter!"). It shouldn't surprise you to learn his family is plaqued not only with weight issues, but more serious health problems like Type 2 diabetes.
My husband wasn't happy with his weight, but never really motivated to make a change. Five years into our marriage, he suffered from gout, arthritis, sleep apnea and plaque psoriasis. With two little boys counting on us to be with them for decades to come, we began dabbling with dieting. We never stuck to anything, and seemed content to continue as is,...that is, until we discovered Netflix with it's playmate of documentaries about the state of farming and health in our country. We worked our way through them all: Food Inc, Supersize Me, Fast Food Nation, Killer at Large, Corn King, Our Daily Bread...we watched them all in horror while snacking on chips and ice cream from the comfort of our couch.
Then, we watched "Forks Over Knives". I stumbled upon it really. Why would I want to watch a movie about veganism? I don't know what drew me in, but here's the synopsis (from the website forksoverknives.com):
FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
Dr. Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, was concerned in the late 1960′s with producing "high quality" animal protein to bring to the poor and malnourished areas of the third world. While in the Philippines, he made a life-changing discovery: the country’s wealthier children, who were consuming relatively high amounts of animal-based foods, were much more likely to get liver cancer. Dr. Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unknown in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed.
These discoveries inspired Campbell and Esselstyn, who didn’t know each other yet, to conduct several groundbreaking studies. One of them took place in China and is still among the most comprehensive health-related investigations ever undertaken. Their research led them to a startling conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented – and in many cases reversed – by adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet. Despite the profound implications of their findings, their work has remained relatively unknown to the public.
The filmmakers travel with Drs. Campbell and Esselstyn on their separate but similar paths, from their childhood farms where they both produced "nature’s perfect food," to China and Cleveland, where they explored ideas that challenged the established thinking and shook their own core beliefs.
The idea of food as medicine is put to the test. Throughout the film, cameras follow "reality patients" who have chronic conditions from heart disease to diabetes. Doctors teach these patients how to adopt a whole foods plant-based diet as the primary approach to treat their ailments – while the challenges and triumphs of their journeys are revealed.
As the credits rolled, my gun-toting, four-wheel drive driving, beef jerky loving husband looked at me and declared, with all seriousness, "We should do that." And so we did.