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It was recently brought to my attention that the veganish way of eating is ruining my life. Not ruining it in the sense that I could no longer use the toilet or remember where I live, but ruined in the same way a diabetic can’t have a Snickers bar. All the fun has been removed from my food.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion so I respect that. While the perception may be that my eating life is stuck in a quinoa quagmire, I have to respectfully disagree. In fact, I am trying to do the opposite of ruining my life. And the seed was planted years before the veganish way of eating took hold.

Sometime in the mid-2000’s, a co-worker’s husband (we’ll call him Bob) was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is very common for men but also very treatable. According to the American Cancer Institute, over two million men in the US alone are prostate cancer survivors.

Bob underwent several weeks of relatively unobtrusive treatment and became one of the prostate cancer survivors. But here’s the kicker: Bob’s oncologist believed strongly in a link between red meat and cancer. At his doctor’s advice, Bob made significant changes to his meat-and-potatoes diet.

I remember being dumbfounded by this. What kind of doctor makes such a life changing decision for his patient? I don’t remember hearing stories around the water cooler about poor Joe, he survived cancer, but no more cheeseburgers for him. Was this doctor a quack? Where was the data to support his beliefs?

It turns out there is some supporting data. A 2005 European study of almost a half million men and women concluded there was a direct link between red and processed meats with colorectal cancer. It was also in 2005 that T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study, was published, which explored the relationship between animal-based diets and diseases, including cancer. More recently, studies have discussed the perils associated with cooking meat at high temperatures. The American Cancer Society’s website indicates that a diet “high in red meats…and processed meats…can increase colorectal cancer risk.”

But, whenever a study is done, you will find no shortage of detractors ready to poke holes in the results. Men’s Health magazine, in April of this year, refuted five food myths, and concluded “no study has ever found a direct cause-and-effect relationship between red-meat consumption and cancer.” The same article did, however, advise eating around the burnt or overcooked parts of your steak.

But, enough with the data. Back to me and my ruination. When Bob was going through his treatments, my father was roughly halfway through his own ten year battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer that you can only beat back for so long. Growing up, when we didn’t have a roast on Sunday, we had steak on the grill. Red meat was not lacking from my diet.

Bob, my Dad, and Bob’s mostly meatless diet started to weigh on my mind. Gradually, I started passing up opportunities to eat meat. At the family barbecues. At the occasional restaurant trips. The rare, er, infrequent trips to McDonalds for lunch went away. When we had chili at home, I opted for ground chicken or turkey.

In recent months, I’ve added a few dairy products to the vegan hit list. If I can’t taste the cheese in a certain dish, why even have it in there? And, where our freezer used to have multiple kinds of ice cream novelties, we now have freeze pops.

But don’t worry about me totally abandoning the occasional processed treat. There was one thing I picked up from reading the cancer data, and it also happened to be one of my Dad’s favorite axioms. I think it would serve everyone well, whether they are veganish or not. Everything in moderation.

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