Last night, I finally watched What The Health, a documentary focused mainly on the problems eating a vegan diet could solve from heart disease to global environmental issues.
It came highly recommended by many of my readers after I shared my thoughts on Fed Up, a documentary focusing on sugar in our packaged foods and the obesity epidemic in America. Both are currently on Netflix and I while I recommend Fed Up, I unfortunately do not recommend WTH if you are a current meat eater.
The short answer is that it was stressful to watch and made me feel like a bad mom unless I feed my child a vegan diet. Stress is one of the leading causes of death and if I have to pick one poison, it’s not going to be cortisol.
What was the documentary about?
In all honesty, the information was not that new to me. Since I began this blog, I’ve learned more than I could ever hope about the food, health and fitness industry. Fed Up was not new news for the most part but what was eye opening was how many people still weren’t aware of basic health principles that I consider basic knowledge at this point. For that reason, it was really informative for the average American and the lifestyle changes were fairly easy to implement in my opinion.
WTH focuses on eating a plant based diet. Based on my own knowledge prior to watching this movie, I’ve always said that if I ever were diagnosed with cancer, I would become a vegan. I do believe in the power of a plant based diet. However, there are plenty of meat eaters who live to be 100 years old and vegans who don’t.
Literally you only live once hence #YOLO so you need to find a balance between eating for survival and pleasure.
This documentary made it feel like everyone who eats meat or dairy would die of cancer, heart disease and diabetes and as a parent feeding my child, I am literally poisoning them every time I serve cheese.
Tommy is a picky eater. I do the best I can with what I believe is nutritious and what he will eat. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for people who work full time, don’t live in a major city with a Whole Foods in walking distance or have more than 1 child.
This documentary came across as too extreme in my opinion and propaganda like for it to be applicable for anyone that is not already a vegan. I have considered veganism and am their target audience but it was too one sided.
“Almost NO ONE featured in this film is not vegan. There is zero attempt to seek out contradictory views, this is a monochrome of political, nutritional and ecological ideology.” Robb Wolf
Honestly, I barely had enough time today to write this blog post let alone refute the science but there are a few blogs that have already done so at length like this one from Robb Wolf who is known for his Paleo blog. Another review from a dietician blog an Instagram friend shared.
Interesting take aways:
- Processed meats are listed as a Group 1 carcinogen according to the World Health Organization along with tobacco.
I looked on the WHO website and found the following which kind of refutes the exaggerated stance the documentary takes.
- 70% of deaths are the result of diet and lifestyle.
- 1 in 3 people will have diabetes in 25 years. WTH says it’s caused by fat cells building up in the blood, not sugar. It’s not sugar that causes diabetes, it’s fat.
- WTH suggested that the media’s focus on sugar has taken away our focus on processed meats and dairy and how they are contributing to diabetes and obesity.
I have to admit I was surprised to see that the doctors and nutritionists thought it wasn’t sugar but rather that meat leads to developing diabetes. The documentary then proceeds showing the American Diabetes Association website recommending recipes made with meat.
The World Health Organization lists processed meat, not chicken or fish but the documentary also talks about why those are bad as well as eggs.
Certain foods can’t be called “healthy” – like eggs according to the FDA. However, did you know that neither can a Kind bar due to the fat content? I feel confident that Kind bars are a healthy snack, especially the low sugar ones but legally they too cannot claim to be “healthy” like eggs.
One point that I do agree with the documentary is that we should be more focused on fiber, not protein. You can get plenty of protein from plant sources. This is true but I’m not opposed to getting protein from animal sources.
There was also this silly segment that tried to suggest our diets should be based on our teeth. Apparently chimps eat 97% plants, the other 3% from insects. Our teeth are similar in being flat. Bears eat animals and have teeth with sharp canines so they can kill and chew I guess… We don’t have teeth like that so we shouldn’t be meat eaters. Whatever. I hate playing the game of what are we supposed to eat based on how we are biologically engineered because I believe the evolution of our diet has enabled us to thrive as a species. Hence why I don’t follow a Paleo diet.
One point that I agree with suggested that you may be able to reverse some diseases with a plant based diet. I think this in part is largely due to the hefty dose of nutrients you consume from food as you eliminate all foods that lack any nutritional benefit when this typically happens by default.
However, they feature one lady who went off all her meds after going vegan for just 14 days which I think is a bit of an unrealistic example.
I did not include a bunch stuff mentioned in the documentary above because it was stressful to watch, one sided and did not allow anyone to counter their arguments.
The problem for me with this documentary is that there was no happy medium. To go from a meat eating cheese lover to a vegan is a drastic call to action. There are also plenty of studies to support the health benefits of certain fish and lean meat, none of which were reported in this documentary. If you want change, you need to appeal to the masses and this film fails to do so. It’s too biased.
Here is Robb Wolf’s (Paleo Guy) reaction to the doc one last time because it really is worth a read.
As a parent whose child loves chicken fingers and cheese, I felt hopeless and guilty. As a mom, I don’t need another reason to feel bad about my parenting skills and that’s exactly what this documentary did.
If you believed everything you saw in a documentary on Netflix you wouldn’t eat gluten, corn, anything with added sugar, and you’d be a vegan. It just feels like an unnecessary stressful way to live in my opinion and unrealistic to expect a parent to feed their a child a diet as such.
So for this reason, I wasn’t a huge fan of What The Health but I do plan to eat more plant based meals and do think I’ll eventually become a pescatarian or even vegetarian but I’ll never label myself as such so that if I decide to have a buffalo wing during the Super Bowl it won’t be the end of the world.
Edited to add: So why am I not feeding Tommy a vegan diet if I think it is the most healthy? I don’t think vegan diets are the right diet for everyone. I think when it comes to diet one size doesn’t fit all and there are serious nutrient deficiencies that come with eating a vegan diet as well as impractical in today’s society often. With a picky eating child, I’m concerned about him eating adequate calories and nutrients from quality sources, meat and cheese, fruits and vegetables and yes sometimes cookies and cake, too. I’m not going to be the parent that doesn’t let her child eat a cupcake at a birthday party because it’s not vegan. When he is older, I’ll educate him on his options and allow him to choose. In the mean time, he does love vegetarian food like falafel but he also enjoys organic chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.
I think Michael Pollan said it best, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
What were your thoughts on the show?