“Stop, Look and Listen!” That was what my grade school teacher used to say to get us kids from bouncing off the walls and into doing something more meaningful and constructive – like learning. Now, that is the phrase the comes to mind in response to the sudden swearing-off of animal products in reaction to the movie “What the Health”. There is something very important to learn here, but it’s not what everyone is focused on.
As a health care practitioner who considers all aspects of a patient’s health, I am not against any particular way of eating that truly works for someone. However, when it comes to making decisions regarding health, it is important to act out of balanced, well-informed action and not emotional re-action. One way you know you are in a “reaction” is that you feel a sudden urge to act – such as “I never want to eat meat again!”- from an emotional place such as outrage, anger, or fear. Decisions made from this place, whether personal, political, or nutritional are rarely sound or life-promoting. The content in the movies “What the Health” (and also “Cowspiracy”) is based mostly on misinformation that is manipulated for the purpose of evoking a reaction – which it does very well.
Health is not as simple as following the latest documentary of do this, not that. There is a bigger picture to be considered. Traditional Chinese Medicine provides a holistic view of diet and health decisions because it is less concerned with the “latest discovery or study” and instead focuses on the foundational understanding of universal elemental truth and eons of experience in cultivating vitality. So, when someone makes claims that the increasing amount of sugar we include in our current diets is not a major cause of many of the health problems with which we are increasingly plagued, and that eating meat is in fact the cause, or that eating eggs is equivalent to the effects of smoking, I hear a loud voice in my head say “Hold on there, Nelly! Stop, Look and Listen.”
Let’s take a moment to look at the information we have been provided in the film and where it is coming from. Notice that the film’s creator, Kip Anderson, begins the movie by disclosing that he has spent most of his life as a hypochondriac. A hypochondriac is a person who has an abnormal anxiety about the state of their own health even though all the evidence proves that they are healthy. In other words, he is narrating his story from a place of unhealthy fear.
Coupled with the reactive and biased perspective of the director, the information sited in this movie is highly unreliable. “In sum, 96% of the data does not support the claims made in this film. The film does not cite a single rigorous randomized controlled trial on humans supporting its arguments. Instead WTH presents a great deal of weak epidemiological data, case studies on one or two people, or other inconclusive evidence. Some of the studies cited actually conclude the opposite of what is claimed.” As quoted here: https://www.dietdoctor.com/health-review-health-claims-backed-no-solid-evidence
The misleading and largely unfounded information provided in the film is unfortunate because the topics Anderson discusses are vitally important and worth serious examination. We do need to examine the trends that are occurring in our health and that of our planet. We also do need to take a serious look at our apparent disregard for life that is evident in our current food systems. But, this movie is built on a foundation of fear and manipulation and is therefore not a reliable source of data from which to make a sound health oriented decision.
Instead of making choices regarding our health from a place of fear which films such as these can cause, what if we were to act from a place of what is right for the individual self? What if we were to stop looking for the magic bullet and instead, make changes that promote health from the inside out?
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a prospective to analyze the deeper issues mentioned in the film. It can help us recognize the state of imbalance that we are creating by ignoring the interconnected whole-ness of our planet and ourselves. Furthermore, it can help us focus on honoring life rather than attacking what we have identified as wrong.
One thing is clear: Globally, we are moving in a direction that is not life promoting. What we often disagree on is where to place the blame and so, there is a lot of finger pointing and demonizing of “this” or “that”. Here, I urge you to consider that solving any issue from a polarized perspective rarely produces a healthy outcome.
What I appreciate about ancient medicine is its foundational understanding of life as more than the sum of its parts. There is a direct mirrored relationship between how we treat and relate to the world around us, (our food, our families, our society) and our own state of wellbeing. We need to start honoring the life in the food we eat. From the holistic perspective, we simply cannot keep treating living beings (human, animal, or plant for that matter) like machines made up of functional parts for the taking and expect ourselves to thrive as a species or planet.
If we are reducing our food to this many amino acids, and that many vitamins and minerals then we are ignoring something very vital, and we are treating life and the human organism like a machine that can be reduced to the sum of its parts.
In Chinese medicine, the energetics of our food and environment matters and has a direct relationship with our health and vitality. How food is cultivated and treated affects the energetics in the food and therefore in the animals that eat it.
In simple terms, what we surround ourselves with is what we create.
If you eat food that is very cold, it creates cold in the body. If you eat food that is energetically hot, it creates heat in the body. If we treat our food with chemicals and feed it food that increases its heat, then when you ingest that food, you are creating toxicity and heat in your body. Toxicity and heat in Traditional Chinese medicine translate to health issues like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune conditions. Additionally, if you take a living thing – be it animal or plant – and you treat it as if the life within it is less important than the chemical components, then you are physically depleting the life-force within that living thing. If you then ingest that depleted source of life-force, you will have a depleted life-force. As you sow, so shall you reap.
It is important to know your own constitution, excesses and deficiencies so that you know how to eat in order to balance your unique constitution.
In the end, two foods can look a lot alike, (a factory steak, or a local, small farm grass fed steak) but they are very different energetically and consequently have different effects on our health. This is the case with our meat industry. But, it is also the case with much of our farming industry. The way we are currently farming, we are depleting the minerals and nutrients in the soil – the life force that feeds our plants. Even in the organic industry, we are treating our food as individual units whose connection to life-force matters less than their yield.
The bottom line is that it’s not really a question of whether to eat meat or not. It’s a question of recognizing that how we relate to our environment and our food is a mirror image of how we relate to ourselves. We each need to start being stewards of our own health, our experience and that of the Earth.
Here are two articles that I feel are helpful from a scientific point of view. The first one is an excellent and fair breakdown of the evidence presented in the movie, and includes references that you can follow up on to educate yourself. The second is a worthy discussion from Dr. Mark Hyman about whether meat is good for you or not. We each need to start being stewards of our own wellbeing and experience.