Pour On The Olive Oil?

The media this week have proven how culpable they are in exacerbating the health crisis in America. “Pour on the olive oil: Big study finds Mediterranean-style diet cuts heart attack, stroke risk.” shouted a headline on the Global TV News website. The article went on to say/lie, “Consuming more than four tablespoons a day can significantly lower your risk of having a heart attack…” “Stock up on olive oil and nuts!!” a CNN talking head squealed. What are we, squirrels?

In case you have been under a rock, an article was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that a Mediterranean diet is much more effective than a “low-fat diet” in preventing cardiovascular disease. No one in the media bothered to really dig deep into the study, everyone was too eager to tell everyone that they can feel good about pouring on the olive oil. The actual thing that makes the Mediterranean diet healthy, VEGETABLES, NOT being talked about.

Turns out the control group were not even on a low-fat diet. All the hype about olive oil being beneficial was bullshit. If you haven’t already you can read some wonderful responses by low-fat diet advocates; Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougal and Jeff Novick RD.

I know many important and intelligent people in the vegan movement tout the Mediterranean diet. They need for olive oil to be beneficial because olive oil makes a plant-based diet more palatable. I can understand that. But olive oil is not good for you and that’s the truth. These same people talk about how we need to be honest in our advocacy. So why aren’t they being honest about olive oil?

What a scary thought if we did what some in the media are suggesting and consume more than 1/4 cup of olive oil a day. How is adding 70 grams of fat and 600 calories to our diet going to be beneficial? If you want to see what olive oil can do to your health, check out my latest blog entry, my before pic, I poured on the olive oil. If olive oil were that beneficial don’t you think I should have looked like my after picture?

How I Became Vegan

WARNING: This post is about how awesome I am and how awesome the vegan lifestyle is. If this makes you sick, please get your puke bucket out. :D

What you are looking at are before and after pictures of me before and after switching to a plant-based diet. In the before picture I had just stepped out of the bathtub, that’s why I have a towel wrapped around my head. I also have my pajamas on. :D I had struggled with my weight for a few years before this picture. My weight would go down, then I’d struggle to keep it off and it would go back up.  I worked really hard and lost 20 pounds. So before this pic I was heavier. The night this picture was taken I was fed up. I had my twin brother take the pic. I told him that I wanted a before picture. That I wanted to change and that whatever I was doing wasn’t working for me anymore. If you can believe it I was exercising everyday during my before pic. I have exercised religiously since I was 19. I did it for my mental health. I actually enjoy exercise and find that it helps with the panic and anxiety that I have suffered from since I was a teenager. What got me to that point in the picture is eating a poor diet, nothing else.

In the after picture, it is the middle of 2008, a year and a half after going vegan and about 2 years after the before picture was taken. The difference is quite dramatic. I post these before and after pics reluctantly and have put it off since I started my blog. Part of the reason is I’m embarrassed about how I look in the before pic, it’s not the most flattering picture of me. But also because I’m worried that the pics could be snatched and used by unscrupulous businesses as before and after pics for their products. I’ve heard of it happening to people. Why did I decide to post them now? Is it weird that as a guy I was inspired by Lena Duhnam of HBO’s “Girls”? Let me start out by saying that in no way am I suggesting Lena Duhnam is fat. She’s normal looking. She has flaws like all of us do. She’s unashamed of her flaws and I find that incredibly inspiring. It made me realize that I was being incredibly vain and stupid by not posting my before pics. I could give a crap if someone wants to laugh at me. What I hope, is to inspire others to make changes in their diet. Not because they’ll look better but because they will be healthier.

My journey to becoming vegan started with me wanting to become a healthier person. And I didn’t start out looking to change my diet that dramatically. I wasn’t so much interested in losing weight either, although it was important to me. I had a small inkling that my diet was not the healthiest and I wanted to start eating for maximum nutrition. That was the goal when I started searching for a book that would help me achieve that.

I really mean it when I say I had an small inkling. I was so very dumb when it came to what was and wasn’t healthy. I actually believed that because there was “corn” in Doritos that it counted as a vegetable. I thought milk and cheese were good for my bones. I used margarine and olive oil liberally and didn’t even give it a second thought. My go-to meal was a greasy veggie burger on a white highly processed bun, slathered in high fructose corn syrup laden ketchup. And I falsely believed that because I didn’t eat meat (I was a vegetarian for a long time) that I was doing animals and my own health a real favor.

One of the first books I stumbled upon in my journey to get healthy, was The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. The cover and description was exactly what I was looking for and instantly appealed to my situation. The cover shouted, “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health.” I had no idea that the book was going to convince me that I should go “vegan” or to use the correct term, plant-based. I really had no expectations about what was in the book except that it was going to help me with nutrition. To say the book was eye opening is putting it mildly.

Besides changing my idea about what was and wasn’t healthy to eat, it changed my thinking about a lot of other things. In searching out more nutritional information about the vegan diet, I began stumbling upon websites about animal advocacy. This woke me up to the fact that my junk food vegetarian, egg, cheese and milk heavy diet was not only causing me great suffering but the animals too. I am embarrassed to say I never really thought about the suffering that the animals used for eggs and milk production were going through. I always thought they were frolicking freely in green pastures. I also had this untrue belief that a vegan diet was extreme, unhealthy and unrealistic. I imagined myself choking on dry salads. This book not only convinced me that the vegan diet was safe but optimal.  Reading that book was life changing for me in so many ways. By the time I finished the book I was enraged. Enraged that I had been lied to by the dairy industry. Enraged that the media had kept me in complete darkness about all of this. Enraged that I had convinced myself for so many years that my diet was healthy. Enraged that I had been so blind to the suffering of animals. It was as if my eyelids had been ripped off my face and I could no longer close my eyes to the truth. I began to ask myself, “What else have I been wrong about?” I literally began to question EVERYTHING.

2007 was an amazing and transformational year for me, both physically and mentally. When I look at the before picture now I don’t so much see a fat person. I see someone who was completely confused. I see someone who was headed towards heart disease like my Dad who died of a massive heart attack in his early 50s. My blood pressure was always around 130/80 and rising each year. I couldn’t comfortably bend over to tie my shoes without my belly crushing my lungs. I also suffered from severe depression because of my poor diet. My joints ached a lot from carrying all the extra weight. Now, I can get depressed but the episodes are much more manageable and less frequent. My blood pressure is on average 110 over 70. And yes a size 32 skinny jean fits loose on me. But most importantly I live a lifestyle now that minimizes animal suffering and my own suffering.

How My Sister Survived Lung Cancer

It was almost 2 years ago that my sister Pam was diagnosed with stage 3b lung cancer. You can read my first entry about this here. Today, as of this writing, she is completely free of any visible cancer. Of course, there is always the fear that it could return. I’m happy she’s cancer free but it’s something I celebrate with caution. How was my sister able to beat the odds? To not only survive 3b stage lung cancer but to be declared free of cancer 1 year after being diagnosed. I remember the first week she was diagnosed, I began to nervously research her condition on the internet. One night I read that only 30 percent survive the disease for 1 year and 10 percent live over 5 years. My heart sank.

Looking back, I wonder how I didn’t completely fall apart during this time. It was a scary time, full of uncertainty. There is something that comes over you, a protective shield. Mainly I let myself be angry with her for what she did to herself. And now the whole family was being punished by having to watch her suffer until she ultimately died. It helped me get through it.

So how did she survive her lung cancer? One of the things my sister did that many smokers who are diagnosed with lung cancer do not is quit smoking. This may sound obvious and a no brainer but I discovered that it’s estimated that almost 2/3 of smokers who are diagnosed with lung cancer continue to smoke.  That alone should tell you why lung cancer so often is a death sentence. That was so shocking to me. To continue to do the very thing that is killing you. How? Why? To give no thought to your loved ones and how they will be affected by your death. It’s unfathomable to me.

Besides the lung cancer, she was battling serious damage to the mucus barrier of her duodenum. This was caused by years and years of overdosing on aspirins and stand-backs. This may have been a god-send because she was unable to eat solid foods, meat was impossible. For her first year of her diagnosis her diet consisted mainly of blended cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, but for the most part asparagus. This may have been the single biggest thing in helping heal her cancer. There is plenty of research that suggest more and more that cancer’s growth can be effected by diet. And cruciferous vegetables are thought to be especially good at fighting cancer.

My sister did turn to religion. Many people were praying for her. She has always been easy to switch when it comes to her beliefs. Since I’ve known her she has jumped from a ultra-religious, Southern Baptist, judgmental church lady to not really believing anything at all. I remember once when I was a teenager, during a time when I was searching for deeper meaning in my life, asking her what she believed, and her answer was, “food, folks and fun!” Not very comforting to someone searching for real answers.

I’m not religious myself but I am hopelessly spiritual. I did what I could in my new age-y and woo-woo way. I meditated most nights with a special crystal sending rays of healing white light her way. Did any of this have any real effect, probably not. I am the first person to say that my beliefs are illusionary and entertain my imagination more than anything. I have no real convictions, just a strong sense (most days) that we are here for a reason and that creation was designed and not some random accident. I mean that in a scientific way and I do believe that is possible. I don’t feel like you have to be religious to believe that.

The first year was an emotional roller coaster. One week we’d get a call from her telling us that it was probably inoperable. Then the next month it was operable. One week you’d get good news, the next week bad.

After she had a round of radiation and chemo that was suppose to shrink the tumor in her right bronchial tube, her entire right lung was removed. The chemo was unsuccessful, as it usually is in cases of lung cancer. The whole family tried to convince her not to have chemotherapy and we all felt it was the wrong thing to do. But it was ultimately her decision, we had no real control over any of it. Which was frustrating and scary. A few months into her cancer I stopped myself from researching and trying to control what happened and just surrendered. The videos and articles I found that were suppose to help sway her in the right direction with her treatments that I posted on our families private blog were never commented on and mostly ignored anyway.

Now that she is cancer free, my sister is no longer on a plant-based diet. She eats the standard American diet. Ask her now and she will say that what saved her was surgery and radiation and the asparagus was insurance. And we will probably never know what was the real silver bullet that saved her life. But ask her if she would return to a plant-based diet if the cancer returns, and she will tell you in a heart beat. If you ask me, she’s taking a big risk not staying plant-based but unfortunately it’s not in my control.

Original Food Photography & Original Recipe Text Copyright 2007-2014 Josh Latham. All Rights Reserved. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited.