“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” ― Jim Barksdale
Every diet tribe has its share of amazing stories. 100's of pounds lost and reversal of conditions ranging from diabetes to gum disease. If you spend enough time in any diet tribe, you'll find the more than enough evidence to bolster your dogma.
The lesson I take from this is not that people are making stuff up, but rather, both that we fool ourselves easily and the human body is incredibly adaptive. The body takes the random smattering of foods you present it with every day and manages to keep the machinery running. It's magical.
With that backdrop of 'diet as variable', let's talk data. Of course, you can try to evaluate the success of any new dietary program by how you feel, but humans are terrible at being honest with themselves. Consider how powerful placebo (ie sugar pills) are for certain ailments.
The fact is that the more you can take your bias and judgement away and look at raw data, the better off you'll be. After all, you just want to know if this change is good for you or not, so don't hide from the evidence.
To that end, I made sure I had a baseline measurement of key labs before I started my plant based diet experiment. For me, the key items were cholesterol, testosterone, and general inflammation. You may have specific conditions that warrant observation, but these were mine.
As luck would have it, I had a physical in August 2017 where the basics were measured. At the time, I was following a fairly strict Paleo diet with a bit of starch, as advocated by Paul Jaminet in the Perfect Health Diet (highly recommended). I felt good, but wanted to see if I could lower my Total and LDL cholesterols, indicators of heart health that were borderline high.
At the same time, I was running across work by Caldwell Esselsyn and Dean Ornish, both of whom I had ignored in the past as being 'debunked' while I devoured the Paleo lifestyle - but something gnawed at me.
Here were medical doctors who, when lives were on the line, adopted a vegan lifestyle. It made me wonder, what if I was wrong? Was I willing to literally bet my life on my own arrogance? Why not find out for sure?
That moment of humility was the beginning of my plant based experiment. I started modestly - just 5 days. That was my commitment. No animal products for 5 days, but I found it so easy after the initial commitment was met, I said to myself, how about a month. And after a month, I decided I could do 2 months. And I did.
As it happened, I adopted the new diet the first week of October and "ended" the first week of December. The truth is I never ended and am vegan to this day, but I did take my second blood test in early December. This gave me approximately 60 days of eating animal products free to evaluate the protocol.
Here are some of the results:
As you can see from the tests above, by numbers are headed in the right direction. I'll continue to experiment, but clearly eating more fruits and veggies and less animal products agrees with me!
If you're interested in starting a plant based journey, start here.