Change is Good . . . or at least inevitable (part 1 of 2)

So I’ve been thinking a lot about change.

I took up competitive tennis two years ago and it quickly became really meaningful in my life. I looked forward to workouts twice a week with my team and played three league seasons a year. It was something new and fun to think about and work on, in the hardest year of my life up to that point.

Then an injury came out of nowhere and stopped my running and tennis cold turkey. If I try to do either one, I can barely walk on my right foot all day.

I’ve had to switch sports for the foreseeable future. My tennis team went to districts and I was out. Now I’m sitting out an entire season. I can either whine about it or find something else I love. And I hate whining.

So I got a Cannondale, oh-so-light, carbon-frame road bike from an old college friend who owns bike shops around here. I go into the shop regularly and crow, “Do you guys know how much I love this bike?!” and they say, “Yeah yeah, we know! You want to marry it.”

I’m now decked out with all the accoutrements. Hand tire pump, Camelbak, hitch and bike rack on the car, odometer computer, clip-in cleats. (I haven’t yet succumbed to the cycling fashions–why do the clothes have to be so ugly?!)

I didn’t really WANT to be a biker, and I don’t have any friends who bike, but if I do something, I generally do it in a pretty big and committed way.

The first day I rode around for awhile and took my bike back in to the shop the next day. I asked Brian if I could have the clip-in pedals installed now, which he refused to do the day I left with the bike. NO, he said, you’re not ready. You want to wreck and die?

So I did another ride from my house in Lindon all the way to Vivian Park, up the canyon, where the Bonneville Trail ends. It’s so beautiful, animals and river and trees and breeze and mountains and so much green, and the smell of earth and trees.

Check out the photos of the terrible views I am forced to endure on my bike. Not to mention deer in the path, a flock of wild turkeys (I know where they live), and the extra protein I get from accidentally eating a lot of bugs.

At this point I’m starting to “get” the appeal of this sport. I go in and ask Brian again about the lock-in pedals, and he said “NO YOU CAN’T, give it three weeks!”

Next day, I get to Vivian Park and I call this guy I used to date who is a competitive cyclist about how the trail ends and I don’t know where to go. He said, “Turn right and go four miles up South Fork, great ride.” (See photo below of the turn to go up, with the twisty road sign.)

I said, “Isn’t it really steep? I’m not worried about getting up, but won’t coming down be scary?”

Silence for a minute. “Duh.” he said, “That’s the whole point, coming downhill!”

Great life lesson. Quit living in fear, just go for it. Don’t do all the work and be afraid to capitalize on the rewards. (Don’t think about the guy I met at the top of South Fork one day who had just spent two weeks in the hospital after a bike accident!)

So I did it. Downhill FAST. And O! M! G! I discovered my need for speed. I love it! Every day I don’t cycle now, I’m wishing I could. When you see my busted-up, bloody body on the side of the road when I hit a rock at 35 mph, don’t let your first thought be,

“Fat lot of good all those green smoothies did her.”

(Part 2, the whole point of this, tomorrow.)

Do the Opposite, Take 2

My girlfriends and I went to the Peter Cetera concert (musically bordering on awful, but good times nonetheless) this past weekend.

Apparently we were rather loud.

Do you remember my Do the Opposite story? I don’t know if I attract these people, or what.

Apparently a few of us, I won’t say which, were singing and laughing too much (like many others in the “lawn” crowd). A couple of women in front of us got up and moved. They never asked us to pipe down, or we would have.

A woman in their party, after they moved, came over and stood right in front of us. (See photo below.) Keep in mind we were on the lawn, and 100% of those attending the concert were sitting on the ground. She swayed to the music, blocking our view, and when we didn’t react angrily to her clear provocation, she moved backwards to stand on our blanket. She began to be rather obnoxious.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Tif was there, the only one my friends who was there in Long Beach for the first story. And Jennie reads my blog and knows the story well.

But my other friends Jamie and Lisa, and Jamie’s mom? They don’t know about Frowny and what went down in March in Long Beach.

So I turn to Jenni and Tif, and I say: “Do the opposite.” They totally get it. It’s where you don’t suck into an aggressive person’s negative emotional-energy vortex. You stay clear of it and choose a path far from what that person wants from you, which is to be reactionary and engage in their anger/hostility.

I offer Aggressive Lady some gum from somebody’s purse. She accepts. I ask her if she’d like to sit with us on our blanket. (If she had, I’d have put my arm around her and invited her to join in on the swaying sing-along.) She says no thanks, though she can’t help but respond to the hospitality. She seems to decide that she likes me, while my friends, not so much. She steps back further onto our blanket, onto some of our belongings. Jenni and I amiably move our stuff, scoot over to make room, and continue enjoying ourselves, laughing and joking and singing Chicago songs.

Jamie, Sue, and Lisa, though . . . they begin to confront and then argue with Aggressive Lady. One of them gets a security guard. A big scene ensues. I don’t really know anything about it because Jenni and Tif and I are continuing to have fun and blowing it off. (As you can see, photos below.)

Aggressive Lady succeeds in ruining three of my friends’ night. We explain Do the Opposite to them later. We tell them that by choosing the opposite of instinct, you don’t drain your battery being angry and miss the whole point of the concert–the R&R.

Anyway, this is my philosophy about the Mercola/Campbell debate. It’s an important issue. When I see irresponsible statements made in my field, I will address them and I will be plain. Some will get angry. A handful comments on my blog on both sides of the debate I didn’t accept because they weren’t constructive, just angry and misguided. I’ve often observed that people are more emotional about food than they are about religion or politics.

Now I’m done saying what I felt needed to be explained. I’m not going to give it excess energy. I want my energy for productive things. I believe Dr. Campbell feels the same. We’ve heard from Denise Minger here and I would imagine we’ll eventually hear from Dr. Mercola, and I welcome that. Thanks to everyone who has, and will, weigh in on this complicated but important debate.

If you have ever tried Doing The Opposite, let us know how it went here. I use it with my kids often, always with anywhere from good to great results. Once you start doing it, you never want to go back to allowing people to suck you into negative energy.

this is Dr. Campbell’s response

Tomorrow, on to other topics. Today, here is T. Colin Campbell’s response to Mercola’s missive:

Dr. Mercola raises so many questions that it would take me at least several weeks if not months to answer. He invents clever sayings and makes serious innuendos that are total nonsense–indeed slanderous. His questions are rhetorical, with meaning, and no matter what I say, the questions will always remain–without my answers.

But here are a few general comments that strike me as main points:

1. Dr. Mercola’s main mantra (business model) is Nutritional Typing. In some way (maybe with paid phone assistance from his staff), we are supposed to listen to our body to determine which of three dietary types best suit us. He then becomes more specific as to the importance of eating foods in the right order and of the right type. These recommendations, he claims, are science based.

This is a clever strategy for positioning his company in the marketplace. He casts a broad net to capture as many customers as possible for his many products that he sells. According to him, we fit within one of these three diet groups, ranging from 1) the high carb-low fat types vs. 2) the low carb-high fat types vs. (3) those in-between, thus capturing for his company a much larger customer base.

I deeply respect our personal freedoms to do as we wish (as long as it doesn’t harm others). But given the complex environment within which we choose foods, I cannot understand how we can reliably determine what dietary patterns and order of eating foods is best for our long-term health. I know that some people can recognize specific food allergies, but I also know that we tend to choose food for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is convenience, avoidance of pain and sense of ‘pleasure’ or gratification (read the little gem of a book, The Pleasure Trap, by Lisle and Goldhamer to see how so many of us continually choose foods not in our best interests). His method defies common sense. He says that this is based on science but, if so, I want to see the evidence. I see none. To say that we can determine, with any certainty, which nutritional type, based on our personal but very nebulous assessment of our metabolism is hocus pocus.

On his claims about science, Mercola is out of his element–way out. He excuses his failure to document his professional experiences in the scientific literature because he (and his compatriots like Dr. Eades) don’t have time in their busy practice of medicine, as if public documentation of evidence is a bit of a luxury that is not really that important. This is an extremely lame excuse, exposing his fundamental misunderstanding of what scientific validity really means. Scientific evidence, as accepted by virtually everyone, is that which represents proper scientific experimental design and subsequent publication in the peer-reviewed literature.

Doing and reporting on peer reviewed research may not be a perfect solution for establishing truths (nothing is) but it is far better than listening to someone only telling us what he/she does or believes while giving us no way to evaluate such claims. Peer-review, the main engine of scientific validity, means that our research findings are subjected to the critique of professional colleagues before it is published in the professional literature. Even more to the point, in order for us to get the funding to do the research, especially from institutions like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Science Foundation (NSF), we are required to undergo a most serious and somewhat protracted exercise of defending our hypotheses before committees of professional peers that may include as many as 15 members (I know this, having been on several of these panels). The chances of successfully obtaining funding is, on average, only one in six. In short, peer review is rigorous both in getting the funding and in publishing the results. Anyone, like Mercola, who claims scientific validity for his personal/professional observations is really at liberty to say whatever pleases them–and their wallets. This opens doors wide for snake oil ‘science’.

2. He relies on the bogus idea that it is our individual differences in “metabolism” that makes it possible for us to determine which foods please our metabolism and guard us against future ailments.  He has no idea what is metabolism. It changes and responds continuously and it is an enormously complex system of digestion, absorption, transport, enzymatic synthesis and breakdown of intermediates and distribution, excretion and storage of metabolites, all in an effort to maintain homeostasis. Reducing this concept to a simple phenomenon of energy use, which we can assess for ourselves is more superficial than adjectives can describe.

Read the rest of this report here.

my last post on the anti-China-Study Mercola newsletter

Related to questions received from yesterday’s post—

I don’t know if anyone has critiqued the China Study who isn’t associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation. All the criticism I have read has been. I’m not sure who financed Denise Minger, a 23-year old college student and “professional sock puppeteer” who is paid to write nutrition/health articles, according to her facebook profile.

Again, my friends, I trust Oxford and Cornell’s research (I grilled Campbell about his funding sources)   a bit more than a college student and will be interested to read the Johns Hopkins epidemiologists’ and Campbell’s rebuttals to her arguments.

What else might be to blame for a vegan diet making people feel unwell? There are many answers to that, but the problem is that over and over, comments reveal that

People think I am advocating for a vegan diet.

I’m not.

What I advocate for is eating far more plant food. Period. It’s up to you to decide where animal protein belongs in your life, if it does.

Can anyone really disagree with eating far more whole plant foods, in the face of America’s average of 1-2 servings daily, half of that being in the form of fried potatoes? In the face of now THOUSANDS of studies (even if you leave the China Study out of it?) telling us that myriad compounds in raw plant food heal us and prevent degenerative disease?

I believe when we’ve been eating a certain way (i.e., 20% animal protein, a U.S. average), we often experience a reaction that isn’t entirely pleasant when we shift that balance. Just like when you try to change patterns in a relationship, the other person often doesn’t like or understand it and chaos ensues until a new equilibrium is achieved. If you eat meat for dinner every night for 50 years, and one night you eat a vegetarian meal and you don’t feel the same afterward, does that mean that vegetables and brown rice aren’t good for you personally?

I purposefully leave you to your own personal experimentation to find what works for you. I don’t say there’s a “one size fits all” approach. I’m not into “typing,” until I see some major data backing it up. My interest is primarily in practical ways to actually DO what others’ research has already documented very well. I would like to see us return to eating whole foods. (However, my own research published in The Green Smoothies Diet is a slam-dunk that when we eat more green foods, we feel better–almost 96% of us do, anyway.)

If some want to ignore SEVERAL THOUSAND statistically significant pieces of data in the China Study, that is their prerogative. (Statistically significant means the findings fall outside the margin of error.)

I maintain my own prerogative to point out some problems underpinning Mercola’s wholesale rejection of those thousands of data points, as he sells his nutritional typing and related animal-protein products.

Mercola says he has THREE specific eating plans and about 33% of the Western population fits in each one. He says those ratios are different in other countries. I would like to see the data behind that, peer reviewed in a scientific journal. Because if there isn’t any, it’s a grand assertion with big, potentially dangerous, ramifications for people following those recommendations.

Dr. Mercola attacks the China Study: clash of the titans

When Joe Mercola contradicts the basics of nutrition taught on GreenSmoothieGirl.com and in my books, we get hundreds of emails.

Mercola’s newsletter yesterday supposedly exposes the “DARK SIDE” of the China Study. I’m not going to link to it and therefore give it a higher page rank. It doesn’t deserve it.

Before undertaking to explain what’s radically wrong with this article, let me say this: I agree with Mercola on some macro issues:

  1. That prevention and natural remedies are the best first-line treatments, rather than drug/surgery medical interventions.
  2. That far too much of our data comes from research that drug companies and agribusiness paid for.
  3. That sugar and processed foods are killing us. (Mercola implies, with the “false dilemma” logical fallacy, in yesterday’s newsletter that either animal proteins are killing us, or processed foods are, as if they are mutually exclusive.)

But we must use critical thinking skills to expose fatal flaws in his comments about Dr. T. Colin Campbell and the China Study.

(When you put yourself in the public domain, you invite dissent. Juxtaposition of ideas creates a climate for the truth to emerge.)

As I strongly disagree with Mercola here, I will invariably get some angry email. Most readers will appreciate that my only motive is to learn and then explain the truth (or as close as I can get to it) in this world of nutrition that has so many competing voices.

My own 12 Steps to Whole Foods is a compendium of the best nutrition practices. It advocates for eating much more plant food (especially raw food) than the average American gets and is a practical HOW-TO guide, more than a philosophical debate or meta-review of research. It purposefully doesn’t advocate for vegetarianism or veganism, although I am supportive of others who choose to wear those labels. My own family, except for two vegetarian daughters, eats a bit of homemade kefir, and occasional animal products when we are away from home.

Mercola attempts to discredit the joint effort of Oxford and Cornell Universities by calling theirs an “observational” study, which he infers is somehow inferior to having once had a medical practice.

The Oxford/Cornell China study is a very sound, huge, comprehensive study spanning over 25 years. My own advanced degree, background in research, and understanding of research principles, lead me to say this:

I am thankful, finally, for a vast piece of research in epidemiology that was not funded or influenced by the drug companies or agribusiness (which primarily hawks refined corn/wheat/soy products and processed and refined and GMO foods). I see no conflicts of interest in the Oxford/Cornell research. I see one of the purest voices in nutrition in Campbell and his team.

I interviewed him by phone as I wrote this, and he said, “I feel personally responsible to Americans to tell them what we did with their money,” because taxpayers funded the China study, not profit-motivated industries.

The research was the next natural step from methodical and rigorous animal studies. It’s   a remarkable piece of research examining 6,500 adults in 130 villages of rural China where some populations eat lots of animal protein, and others eat very little. The book The China Study represents the totality of Campbell’s experiences. Those include his many years of work in the Philippines studying malnourished children, to his experimental lab research funded by the National Institutes of Health, to the human studies project in China.

Mercola refers to Campbell “forcing” everyone into vegetarianism. This makes no sense on two levels beyond the unilateral emotionalism of the word.

First, the two diets Campbell studied were 20% animal protein (which correlates to the Standard American Diet) and 5% animal protein. Neither groups studied were vegetarian. The 5% group correlates to a low-animal-protein diet, similar to Daniel’s Biblical diet, as well as the scriptural “Word of Wisdom” counsel to eat meat “sparingly, only in times of winter/famine/cold.”

Second, Campbell takes the tone of scientist. He reports and interprets the data. He doesn’t “force” or even recommend any specific diet. He allows the reader to infer from the data whatever diet they choose to follow. He isn’t an internet maven selling a philosophy; he’s a researcher who found the opposite of what he expected to. He grew up on a dairy cattle farm and thought, well into adulthood, that a high-protein diet was ideal. Like John Robbins, son of the Baskin Robbins founder, only data convinced him otherwise. I personally am thankful for honest and pure truth seekers, willing to turn another way, when data challenges popular culture and custom.

Mercola attempts to downgrade the massive China project as “an observational study,” which he says does not “prove causation.” This is puzzling to me based on a three logic flaws.

First, Campbell is a scientist and would never say his study “proves causation.” No scientist would. I’m not a scientist but know enough about it to be aware you never achieve or claim “proof of causation.” Mercola gives a two-sentence primer on how the scientific process works: initial study, hypothesis, controlled trial. Which is precisely what Campbell and the research team did:

For the rest of this report, click here.

I just interviewed T. Colin Campbell

Normally I blog in the morning. Not this morning, because I got Mercola’s newsletter lambasting T. Colin Campbell, PhD, of Cornell University, and his massive study known as the Oxford/Cornell China Project.

I threw everything on my schedule to the wind today and have spent hours writing a response to the Mercola newsletter. We will invariably deal with hundreds of emails about it so I want to respond to it immediately. I hope to have that blog entry and newsletter ready to go out by morning.

In my research, I spoke at length with Dr. Campbell on the phone.   Apart from the details and questions we discussed, all of which will be reflected in my report tomorrow, I learned something interesting.

A venerable Hollywood group with very prestigious directors has produced a movie called Forks Over Knives, about the careers and research and lives of Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., and Colin Campbell, PhD. Both were raised with meat-intensive diets on farms, and their long and lettered careers intersected early on.

The pre-screenings have been sold out. I would fly to a screening if given a chance! It comes out in theaters next March. If we haven’t all been able to see it, maybe I can arrange a screening at the GreenSmoothieGirl retreat April 21-23.