Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why You Should Be More Like Me

Read an extremely annoying and illogical piece on vegetarianism. Vegetarianism, as if it were a philosophy. Vegetarianists. Meatism? Carnivoristas? That is the approach, in fact, of this Lazare character, in his review of a book entitled The Bloodless Revolution. If I were to review Lazare's review, I'd have to read it again, and I don't want to do that. The upshot is that he spends a few paragraphs on history, which was, um, old news but moderately interesting, and too many on sophomoric speculations about ethics and Hitler and speciesism -- what a word -- without ever coming round to a valid conclusion. It's all about theories and opinions. I prefer to deal with reality.

The degree of sentience in an animal is utterly unimportant, when it comes to whether or not eating its flesh is healthful to a human being. Questions as to whether or not we have the right to eat flesh because we breed animals for that purpose, which otherwise would never have been born -- or which if in the wild would be subject to a harsher life -- such questions are foolishness. Whether we hunt or whether we husband an animal is irrelevant to the question of whether or not it should be eaten.

The deciding factor, the only relevant factor, is whether or not devouring its flesh will sustain us in optimal health. If eating meat is good for us, then God or nature designed us that way, and to do otherwise would be unnatural. If eating meat is preponderantly unhealthful, then no other ethical question need be considered.

I've been vegetarian for coming on to 30 years. I have long since stopped expecting anyone to choose evidence over desire. Appetite decides behavior. Because there is nothing more emotional than food -- as I've been known to observe -- we cannot even expect rational judgments in this issue. You'd think we'd at least be able to agree on the facts. It's too much to expect.

So, Lazare concludes with several egregious misstatements. Health, he supposes, "no longer serves as an argument for vegetarianism ... since we know from studies of Okinawan centenarians and others that small amounts of meat and dark-fleshed fish are good for you; that moderate amounts of alcohol (which vegetarians for some reason appear to avoid) is good for you as well..."

Alas, Lazare comes forth but he does not rise. It is not the meat that promotes health, but the essential fatty acids within some few meats -- specifically game meat and cold water fish; these EFAs are amply available from plant sources, most notably flax seed oil. A quibble? In a sense, yes. If either is fine, then either is fine. But the Okinawan centenarians do not eat "small amounts" because of some great philosophical precept. They do it because of limited availability. Poverty enforces moderation. Given a more materially prosperous culture, the healthful diet not only disappears, but become a vice. How do we know? Because -- as I've just been reading, again -- when ethnic Japanese come to America and adopt its idiotic diet, they get exactly the same diseases, in exactly the same proportions, that fat stupid home-grown Americans get. There is no genetic component. It's diet. Diet is dictated by culture, and culture is shaped by resources.

As for alcohol, these always mis-stated studies do show a benefit to vascular health from one or two glasses of red wine sipped over the course of a day. They never mention that part, do they. It must have slipped their minds, somehow, for some reason. It couldn't be that they have an emotional vested interest in making their behavior seem intelligent. And they do not mention that there is an equal and oddly proportional increase in cerebral ischemia (stroke) with alcohol use. If your family is subject to heart attacks, drink a glass of wine. If it's subject to strokes, don't. And heaven forefend that you should exercise to achieve the same benefit. Just sit on your fat pimply ass with a beer and some pork rinds, mate. She'll be right. The beer will cancel out the fat. And ain't them GIRLS GONE WILD chicks hot? Full discloser: I've never taken a drink of alcohol in my life. And I ain't never seen them GIRLS neither.

Here's the point. Do what you want, and deal with the consequences. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. You don't have to believe in cause and effect. You don't have to breathe. Most people claim they want to be happy, and most people suppose they'd like to be healthy. But most people also seem to think that DingDongs and Zima and the charred flesh of dead animal bodies are necessary ingredients in their recipe of happiness. Maybe they're right. Maybe they're special. I am, so other people could be too. But I'm special not because I have a magical body that extracts health from slow poisons. I'm special because I eat a diet pretty close to what humans were designed to eat.

I'm stronger than people expect not because I'm genetically gifted. I'm pretty average genetically, except for my height. I'm stronger because I've used an intelligent strength training program. I'm healthier because I've taken care of myself since I was a teenager. I don't look my age because I've kept my body-fat low and haven't gone out of my way to toxify myself in any of the usual ways. Simple. You'd think people would see what someone is doing that works, and want to do it themselves.

But it's not about rationality. It's about emotion. I'm the same way. There are areas of my life that are controlled by emotion. They're not likely to shorten my life. They're not likely to make me sick. They just don't increase my happiness.

Who needs happiness. I'd rather look good.



Anonymous said...


I've never been a strict vegetarian, but I have always been at least vegecentric.

Recently, I have run across a lot of information about paleolithic diets, and evolutionary fitness. The advocates of these diets assert that man evolved on a diet of meat, fish, and vegetables. They point to the changeover to a grain-based diet as the cause of many of our chronic diseases, most notably diabetes. The grains themselves are claimed to be unhealthy, containing many "anti-nutirents" that promote everything from inflamation, arthitic, and obviously celiac disease.

With that said, I've been reading you for a few months now, and am aware that you exercise and are fit. And you are a vegetarian. Do you have any resources that you might point to that would provide a would be vegetarian an alternative argument to the paleolithic diet?

Jack H said...

Greetings, A. Good, aren't I. (Isn't it an obnoxious anomaly of idiomatic English, that "aren't I"? "Amn't" just don't cut it though, and "Am I not" lacks flow.)

I'll be posting something on that very subject Mon or Tues -- just trying to write less, here.

One of the freaky things about myself that I don't really talk about is the fact that I am not an Evolutionist. Just not my religion. I won't go into the details, but if we ignore the Evolutionary presumptions, and view the so-called Paleolithic diet as interchangeable with an "Edenic" diet -- or more aptly, a "Noahic" diet, we get some insights.

The "Protein Power" folks just love protein. Indeed, we learn our lessons where we find them, and if we can see beyond the prejudices, we find some good info. But there is not a whole lot wrong with grains. They just shouldn't be the greatest part of your diet. We need calories, and grains are a reasonable source. Far, far better than animal protein and fat. Most people act as if there were only three nutrients -- if they think about it at all. Carbs, protein and fats. These are the three macro nutrients. There are many thousands of nutrients -- micro nutrients. As I may have said, there are over 4000 identified phytochemicals, plant nutrients that have powerful anti-oxidant or reparative powers. Meat, on the other hand, has three or four nutrients: protein, iron, um, B12 -- uh, and some others.

Game meat, as I observe here, has Omega 3s -- hence its healthful aspects. We do not eat game meat, though. We eat factory meat, corn fed and pretty poisonous. The Paleolithic folks point this out, and recommend you buy free range meat. If you eat meat, do. But understand that you're only eating it for the Omega 3, which your own body makes from alpha-linolenic acid, if you give it a chance. Everything else about meat is downside.

Diabetes is all about insulin. Hardly anyone doesn't make enough. The problem is that cells become resistant to it, so the pancreas makes more and more and more, in a vicious cycle, and then it gives out. You can reset the whole system by fasting. Point is, big carb meals turn into big rushes of glucose into the blood -- causing a big insulin surge which takes out too much bloodsugar, which makes you hungry so you eat more big carb meals.

As for arthritis and all that, there is powerful evidence that the auto-immune diseases are highly correlated with leaky gut, where undigested particles seep into the bloodstream. Big deal? Well, they are antigens, which your body attacks with antibodies. If these antigens are like your own molecules, the immune system can get, as it were, confused. Obviously, animal proteins will be most like your own proteins, and plant proteins will be less similar -- upshot being that your body can learn to attack itself more often from animal peptides than from those of plants. Grains become a problem when there are just too much of them -- the chances of their undigested proteins leaking into the blood are far greater, when that's just about all you eat. Get it? Simple. In themselves, grains are fine. Too much, though, is too much. Meat, on the other hand, almost starts at too much. Go onto Amazon dot com and look up "The China Study" -- well written and flawless in its research.

And so on.

I'll be posting at least two more pieces on related subjects. I don't want to write, here, on technical subjects, because I feel like I have to use citations, and that's just a hassle. This is what I do when I want to be lazy.

Feel free...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for responding Jack. Between your comment and your recipes entry, you've given me pleny of food for thought (wow, I didn't even mean do do that!). Lots for me to start researching.

Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your writing.


Jack H said...

"...didn't even mean to do that." Ha! There are no accidents, dude.

I was talking to someone tonight, who was concerned about his mother's weight problem. "What should I do?" I, wise as I am beyond my years, have come to understand that preaching just makes people defensive. Silent example. Let them come to you. That was my style as a father. I think it was a good one. I taught in a prison, once upon a time, and there is no one who has the patter down better, than a dry methamphetamine addict. But words without music ain't a song. My point is, be patient with yourself. Everyone in the world has said at one time or another, "I'm gonna git in shape!!!" Hardly anyone is in shape. It's not about inspiration, it's about motivation. Sticking with it.

I trust my meaning shines through these many words.