I have been excited about seeing Forks Over Knives since I first learned of it and watched the trailer way back in the fall. The movie opened here in Seattle last week, so the three of us ventured over to the University of Washington campus last night to finally see it for ourselves.
I have seen many of the mainstream movies about the American diet and the effect it is having on our world – Food, Inc., King Corn, No Impact Man, Super Size Me, etc. Most of the movies I have watched in the past have focused on food politics and battling big industry.
While Forks Over Knives touched briefly on some of that, this film for the most part took a different approach, focusing on scientific and medical evidence as a means to promote a whole foods, plant-based diet. Through a compilation of charts, research, personal stories, historical data, and more – Forks Over Knives is a (convincing) 90 minute look at how eating a plant-based diet can literally change the world as we know it.
I have always felt that dietary choices are just that – choices – individual to each person. While I make no secret of the choices that I make, I try to also make sure to keep an open mind and not judge or antagonize others who choose differently.
I have always hoped that my blog would provide an opportunity for me to lead by example – showing that healthy, vegetarian food can be delicious and full of flavor. Rather than relying on scare tactics and propaganda, I’d rather talk about whole grains and how to cook food straight from the market.
With all of that said, there were a few key parts of the movie that struck me to the point that I couldn’t help but share them with you. First was the case of Joey Acoin, the self-proclaimed “meat and potatoes man” from Tampa, who’s diet and lifestyle had led him to life threatening blood pressure levels and type 2 diabetes.
After months of daily pills and injections that did nothing to improve his quality of life or health, he sought help from the doctors featured in the movie. Their treatment was to use food rather than medicine to reverse what appeared to be his likely path to an early death. His attitude was refreshing, as he was honest and open admitting, “I know in reality many people eat to live, but I’m the kind of guy that lives to eat.”
Two months later, after no medical interventions other than a total diet overhaul, Acoin had lost nearly 30 pounds, and was completely off of all daily medications, including his insulin injections. The former “meat and potatoes man” was now advocating a plant-based diet to his whole family, and said he’d had never felt better or more alive.
The second example was actually the son of one of the primary scientists involved in The China Study (the book from which the film was based). Rip Esselstyn is a former professional triathlete turned firefighter who worked to defy the stereotype that “real men eat meat.”
After learning that one of his brothers in the firehouse had cholesterol levels over 350, he led his firefighting family to adopt a purely plant-based diet as a means to support their friend in need. These burly firefighters from Texas talked about how in their world, barbecue is a sport, and men who eat vegetables aren’t respected.
But Rip earned the respect of both his team and the audience, as he climbed the fire pole using only the strength of his arms, all along the way repeating “real men eat plants.”
I walked out of the theater feeling both inspired and frustrated. The movie reminded me of all the reasons why I love my vegetarian diet, and why healthy food has become such a passion for me. As a woman, I think it’s much easier for society to accept my vegetarian choices, and while as times I don’t necessarily feel supported, I rarely feel mocked.
I wish I could say the same for my husband. Male stereotypes are unavoidable in modern marketing, and every time I turn on the TV I feel like I hear something to the tune of “real men drink Miller” or “this plate of baby back ribs is a man’s meal.” When did we start proving ourselves through our plates, rather than our words or our actions?
My husband is a vegetarian. He’s also a seven-time marathoner, changes the oil in our car himself, and can cook as well (if not better) than I can. It infuriates me that he is constantly made to feel like an outsider, and forced to defend choices that are both improving his health and our planet.
I left Forks Over Knives feeling as committed as ever to my plant-based lifestyle, and immediately headed home to prepare a delicious vegetarian meal.
The movie came at a good time, as I am just finally over the pregnancy-sickness hurdle, and am enjoying creating food that makes me feel healthy and fabulous again. Like I said before, I hope that regardless of your food choices, you never feel judged or questioned here. Instead, I hope that both the committed vegetarians, and those who are just curious – can all find something to take away to both their kitchens, and to their lives.
Because if there is anything I have learned as a vegetarian, it is that through whole foods and healthy choices, you can most definitely eat to live, while still living to eat.