Look out America, the vegans are coming for you! Just when you think it’s safe to enter your local movie theater again, along comes a new film slated to hit theaters in 19 major markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Washington, DC, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and San Diego, beginning on Friday, May 6, 2011. It’s called Forks Over Knives and features many of the most famous names and faces of veganism in the world today–The China Study author T. Colin Campbell, PhD, vegan-promoting physician Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, PCRM President Neal Barnard, MD, USDA Human Nutrition director David Klurfeld, PhD, low-fat vegan diet author John McDougall, MD, among many others in the medical community, competitive athletes and average, everyday people. The film’s creator and executive producer Brian Wendel read The China Study in 2008 and decided that a vegan diet needed a lot more publicity than it was getting on a grander scale to get the message out to the public who needs to hear it. Thus was born the idea for Forks Over Knives culminating in the release of this film which I first heard about when I interviewed Denise Minger for my “Encore Week” podcast in January.
The self-described purpose of the movie is that it “examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called ‘diseases of affluence’ that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.” The film zeroes in on the work of Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn who are described on the Synopsis page as “under-appreciated researchers” for their examination of the vegan diet as a “single solution” to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. It examines how they both came to similar conclusions about the relationship of diet to health which they began investigating and researching for themselves. It’s their sincere belief that a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle change is all that is needed to prevent and reverse most chronic, degenerative diseases that plague the modern world. Even Oprah Winfrey has gotten in on the act promoting the idea of a vegan diet.
Of course, it’s very interesting that they’ve made sure to steer clear of using terms like “vegan” in the film deliberately so as not to incite any negative connotations in the minds of those who would hear it. In fact, there’s only ONE mention of “vegan” in Forks Over Knives when mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighting star Mac Danzig says it in one of the segments featuring his vegan eating plan. Dr. Esselstyn explains why in this CNN story about the documentary and he was quite candid in the reasons why the word “vegan” is not used more prominently.
If you start to use the v-word, people get nervous. Somehow, there’s a feeling from years ago that vegans are strange. There are so many negative connotations.
I suppose it’s difficult to shake negativity about a phrase that people have made up their minds about already based on their prior experiences with it. That’s what has happened to “low-carb” unfortunately which has been tarnished ironically by people like Dr. Campbell and other vegan activists as being an unhealthy way to eat. I find this vegan movie idea intriguing because we live in a culture that is so media-driven. Although it’s only going to be released in limited markets, the potential impact of a film like Forks Over Knives is tremendous, especially with the backing of a major corporate sponsor like Whole Foods (who now has a “Healthy Eating Specialist” in each of their stores promoting the vegan diet to customers). It makes me long for someone who can articulate the healthy low-carb message through the medium of filmmaking in an entertaining, yet informative and persuasive way. My buddy Tom Naughton did just that with his DVD-only release FAT HEAD. But it was never shown in theaters. And the long-awaited release of In Search Of The Perfect Human Diet from filmmaker CJ Hunt will not likely make it to movie theaters either despite having an amazing message to share with people who are looking for a way of eating that could quite possibly change their lives forever for the better.
The quality of Forks Over Knives seems to be pretty good too:
And here’s a video featuring the filmmakers talking about why they made this film:
While I may not agree at all with the propagandist message of a film like Forks Over Knives (and lest you think I’m overstating it, be sure to watch all of those YouTube video clips above again to see what I mean), I do think this is an idea that an aspiring or veteran filmmaker whose life has been radically changed by the work of someone like Gary Taubes, Dr. Robert C. Atkins, Robb Wolf, or any of the other low-carb/Paleo superstars should take and run with it. No more sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do it. That’s not my skill or I would be working on it myself. But I know there is someone reading this right now who has the talent for creating a full-length feature film that can be ready-made for movie theater audiences both to educate about how an animal-based low-carb lifestyle change could improve their weight and health as well as entertain them to remain focused on why low-carb living may be an option for them.
However, unlike Forks Over Knives which seems to put forth the mistaken notion that there is some mystical “single solution” to the problems of obesity and chronic disease, this film about healthy low-carb living would acknowledge quite clearly that there are different plans that work for different people. The fatal error we have made in nutritional education in America that has led to increased frustration and failure among the populace is we’ve put diet in a box and told people it has to look a certain way or it’s not a valid “healthy” diet. That’s precisely what the vegans have done with their heavy emphasis on the “plant-based diet” concept making people who choose to consume meat as part of their menus for the sake of improving their health seem inferior.
While I applaud anyone who can go on a vegan/vegetarian diet and be successful like my high school friend Evelyn Parham, the fact is you may not have to eat that way to attain the health improvements you are longing for. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, obesity and more can also be improved and prevented on a low-carb nutritional approach as well as I’ve highlighted in studies shared at my blog and in my latest book 21 Life Lessons From Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb. The idea that there is just one path to being optimally healthy nutritionally just comes across as so incredibly arrogant and condescending in light of what we know from science revealing the benefits that come from a variety of eating plans. Maybe it’s the elimination of sugary, processed foods that makes both vegan and low-carb diets work so well. Nevertheless, I do think going vegan is certainly a step in the right direction from the Standard American Diet, that’s for sure!
The bottom line is it’s time to end the nonsensical debate of which diet is better and instead focus in on which diet is best for the individual. Plant-based, animal-based, low-fat, high-fat, low-carb, high-carb…put all the information out there for people to see, ponder, consider which is right for them, and then implement into their lives. Demonizing a diet that you don’t agree with doesn’t convince anyone why your diet is any better. I implore supporters of both a plant-based diet and an animal-based diet to simply state your respective cases to the public with the positive benefits of what your preferred way of eating is all about citing scientific evidence to support your position without denigrating the discussion with innuendo and sensationalism about the other side’s position. Deep down inside, I think we all want the same thing–to help the average person realize that there is a way to naturally through nutrition improve the state of their health in a way that will keep them off of prescription medications, prevent the development of diseases of modern man, and help them achieve a healthy weight in the process. Whether it’s low-fat vegan or low-carb Paleo, let the people decide based on the preponderance of the evidence.
What do you think about this new film Forks Over Knives? Do you think people have become too apathetic about diet that they just don’t care anymore or will this film have the kind of impact the vegan supporters are hoping it will in changing public perception about consuming a “plant-based diet?” And what about my idea that we could use a pro-low-carb film from a professional filmmaker who read Good Calories Bad Calories, for example? Do you think these kind of efforts are worth the time and energy invested in them as a means for educating and inspiring the public to give them a go for themselves? Share what YOU think in the comments section below.
9-22-11 UPDATE: for a complete analysis and critique of the film Forks Over Knives, don’t you dare miss Denise Minger’s outstanding 15,000-word response.