The Daily Beet

20 Mar Planting the Message: Tara Kemp

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Last week, a study was published that found eating meat and dairy may be as detrimental to your health as smoking cigarettes. What was really exciting, though, was how much media attention the story received. The study’s findings were published on a number of major news sources such as CBS and Fox News, as well as many other media outlets. 

For those of us who are already familiar with the science backing a whole food, plant-based diet, this is old news. For far too much of the population, however, this was completely new information. And not only that, but also information that contradicts many of the nutrition teachings they have been exposed to over the years. I mean, sure, a bacon cheeseburger is unhealthy, but lean meats and low-fat dairy products are good for us, right? Don’t we need fish for omega-3s? And without dairy, how will we get our calcium? …No, no, and hakuna matata, you’ll get plenty.

Here’s the thing: the science is there. And it’s growing. More and more, we are seeing studies like this published, and the evidence just keeps mounting. At this point, the science supporting that eating animals and their by-products promotes disease, whereas eating a plant-based diet promotes health, is basically indisputable. The studies and experience of far too many doctors, patients, and populations have proven this to be true.

More and more progress towards making this knowledge widespread, and making a plant-based lifestyle more mainstream, is happening all the time. It seems that so wonderfully often I’m learning about new doctors who are incorporating dietary interventions into their practice or new people who have adopted a plant-based diet. But despite this, the fact that a whole food, plant-based diet is not only healthy, but also optimal, continues to go unknown or disputed.

The problem is not that the information isn’t available. It is. The problem is that somehow people just aren’t receiving the message. I think there are two main reasons for this. The first is that it’s not given the attention that it should. Medical institutions, cancer and disease organizations, and nutrition societies still (for the most part) promote the standard American diet with an emphasis on “moderation.” Often, they do not even acknowledge the powerful influence that diet can have on one’s health—sometimes due to their own unawareness, and other times perhaps due to a conflict of interest, but either way denying the reach and access of this important information. When they do acknowledge diet, it is typically not given the emphasis that it deserves (and, as I mentioned earlier, the dietary recommendations often aren’t up to par with what the science proves to be optimal).

The second reason is that there is so much conflicting information. With books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain, or diet crazes such as Paleo or Low-Carb, getting just as much (and usually more) media attention than plant-based nutrition, it can be difficult for people to know what to believe. Plus, the meat and dairy industries are full of money and connections that enable them to promote their products and fool us into thinking that they are healthy (for a little more info on this, see our post on the dairy industry), and that doesn’t help either.

A lot of this is stuff that we have no control over. What I want to focus on is what we CAN do. How can we get the word out? How can we help others to find this information and become educated, enabling them to take control of their health? I have a few ideas, but I also want to know what you think. For starters, though, here are my thoughts.

First of all, being a living example is the easiest, best thing you can do. Without even doing anything other than your typical routine, just living life plant-strong exposes those around you to the ease and awesomeness of eating this way. Some people have pre-conceived, negative notions of vegans and a plant-based diet, and we can help them to gain a more positive view of this lifestyle. Eating delicious meals, exuding health, and enjoying this way of life shows others the positivity involved with being plant-strong. (And sharing a yummy meal or two never hurts either).

Another way to spread the word is to actively share and promote it. When you see an article (such as the one mentioned at the beginning of this post) or a blog post that you think is important for people to know about, share it on facebook or email it to friends. If you’re on twitter, retweet things from resources like Engine 2, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Barnard, Rich Roll, Jeff Novick, Dr. Esselstyn, etc. Give books, documentaries, and retreat/study weekend sign-ups (both Engine 2 and Dr. McDougall have fantastic ones) to family and friends as presents. Sign up with a friend for a 21-day Vegan Kickstart or do a 28-Day Engine 2 Challenge (providing support is so important!). Organize events in your community such as documentary viewings or bringing in plant-based nutrition speakers. You can also volunteer with local organizations or write to public officials. I’m sure that there are lots of other things that you can do to share this information and help the plant-based movement gain momentum, but this is just a list to get you started and give you some ideas 🙂

They say that someone needs to see something about seven times before it sinks in and sticks with them. So the more we can get the word out and expose people to this information, the better a chance we have of making a lasting influence. This is a message worth sharing, so let’s get to it! 🙂

Now’s the part where I’d like to hear your feedback. I know that everyone is motivated or affected by different things, but what worked for you? What brought you to a plant-based diet? What caught your attention or motivated you? Have you done anything to spread the word or advocate for a plant-based diet that you’ve found to be especially effective?

The evidence is there, and it continues to grow. Now is the perfect time for us to do our part in spreading the message. Let’s rally together and help society move toward a plant-based future. We can do it!

Plants for the win!


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Tara Kemp
  • Kristin
    Posted at 14:55h, 20 March

    I have been living plant strong since August 2012. What caught my attention was my two breast cancer diagnoses, one at age 32 and one at 46. What motivated me were Dr. Greger’s “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death” video and Dr. Fuhrman’s Super Immunity PBS special. I was soon introduced to Forks Over Knives, I saw Rip speak and bought both his books, and loaded up on more books and cookbooks. My way to get the word out is to be a living example of health and share resources (books, videos, recipes, etc.) with others.

    • Leah
      Posted at 19:34h, 20 March

      Wow! Wishing you a healthy, happy future! Great story!

  • Corki
    Posted at 15:52h, 20 March

    We picked up a copy of the DVD Forks Over Knives at the local library where it was part of a be healthy and fit in the new year display in January, 2012. Watched it one evening, started eating that way the next day and never looked back. Besides being a living example we share with anyone who shows any interest. We were also part of starting and keeping going a once a month whole grain, plant based monthly potluck in our area. Fun activity with a great cross section of people.

    • Tara
      Posted at 11:03h, 21 March

      Hosting a plant-based potluck is a great way to promote the plant-strong lifestyle! 🙂 Congrats on being a positive promoter in your community!

  • Leah
    Posted at 19:33h, 20 March

    Thank you for highlighting this Tara. Great article, so glad that all of this is going mainstream!

  • Sunny
    Posted at 19:42h, 20 March

    I just started on Superbowl Sunday and still going strong! Got to wondering, how many people are vegans, anyway? Found this on One Green Planet:

    “According to a Harris Interactive study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, approximately five percent of the U.S. is vegetarian (close to 16 million people) and about half of these vegetarians are vegan. While this may sound like a small number, what’s amazing is that the number of vegans in the U.S. has doubled since 2009 from 2.5 percent of the population. This means that 7.5 million people in the U.S. now eat diets that do not include any animal products. The study also revealed that 33 percent of Americans are eating vegan/vegetarian meals more often, though they are not vegan or vegetarian. That is over 100 million people, or one third of the country consciously choosing more plant-based foods! With mounting evidence that abstaining from animal products may be a key ingredient to good health, this number can only be expected to grow.”

    • Tara
      Posted at 11:05h, 21 March

      I agree, Sunny. There is definitely progress. The number is bound to keep growing! 🙂

  • Sunny
    Posted at 19:48h, 20 March

    Tara, Forgot to answer your question – Forks Over Knives got me going – came across it on Netflix 2 months ago and have become obsessed about research in fact finding ever since. Dr McDougall (sp?) has a great video on Youtube about all the distractions our society has right now about diet- gluten free, low carb, paleo, yada yada – good stuff.

  • jessie
    Posted at 00:02h, 21 March

    I’ve always had a focus on nutrition and an awareness of healthy food – I found out I was lactose intolerant at age 7 and was diagnosed with celiac disease a couple of years ago – but it was a winding road to WFPB nutrition. I found the book Skinny Bitch back in 2008 which made me kick animal foods (Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s & Isa’s books helped with that transition hugely!), watched Food, Inc. and saw Dr. Fuhrman speak a few years later, and then found Forks Over Knives & E2 a year or so after that. I think it’s helpful having those gateway books/movies – even ones that don’t totally do whole foods plant-based diets and do include some processed vegan foods – because they help people ease into the lifestyle over time and trigger the desire to learn more about the food industry and study modern nutrition. I know that really sparked my interest in the research and optimal nutrition, and now WFPB living is a way of life (that rocks!).

  • Cindy Plachinski
    Posted at 07:56h, 21 March

    When a thinking human obtains an education about the facts of the meat and dairy industry, the ill health effects both to humans, the earth and animals, when this thinking human learns about the science behind the push to go vegan, this thinking human must be vegan or remain an idiot. This is why our family is vegan.

  • Jean Hayes
    Posted at 21:42h, 25 March

    I agree Tara! Keep spreading the message!

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