This article is about a diet which is basically no diet at all. It is a kind of eat-whatever-you-like diet. What? Well basically yes. So if you are a strict follower of any specific diet, like vegan or vegetarian, then you have all the right to stop reading on, because we eat meat here! Also if you have been anyway eating all what you like up to now, you may think that there is nothing new in this, so you might as well stop reading on. But if you are curious to find out what makes this diet so special, then be my guest, you fulfill the first prerequisite, since curiosity is a state of mind which is a result of thinking and comparison. At the end, I hope I can convince you, that the diet of our thought experiment is a vegan-like diet with occasional diversities. Want to find out more?
This text is for informational purposes only. It is is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, nutritional and dietary or medical advice. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any dietary, nutritional, medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.
There are many diets fashions out there. You choose one as you wish or as you must. Low cholesterol, low fat, low carb, Atkins, halal, kosher, vegetarian and its variants like ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-lacto, vegan, gluten free and all sorts of other diets. If you are a long distance traveler you may have seen some of their names on your flight ticket, the so called airline meal codes.
This text is about another diet, something which I should have called “yet another diet” but for the fun of it, I call it the V++ diet. So what is exactly so different about this diet? Well for the starters, as the title suggests, is a kind of philosophical diet. The philosophical predicate makes the whole difference. So after the “legal” disclaimer above, here comes the philosophical “disclaimer” if you like.
If you have ever read into philosophical literature you know that how fascinating they might be and how deep you may dive into the topic, but somehow all takes place in a different world, a kind of non real abstract world. Just because the real world is so complex, in order to make some thought models, the philosopher seeks for some level of abstraction. As Thomas Nagel would would say, philosophy is all about asking questions, delivering arguments and probing different thoughts. Nevertheless at the end, you might have more questions than answers. This is the nature of philosophy, so be prepared.
Among the nutritional diets, a short look at their definitions reveals the fact that each are optimizing a certain aspect of our nutrition. This is of course understandable. Low fat minimizes the use of fat, low carb minimizes carbohydrate intake and so on. Also the non nutritional ones like the religious diets pose limitations on the consumption of food, halal, kosher, Hindu. People with certain nutritional health issues like diabetes are always advised to follow special diets to minimize sugar intake or keep it under control.
Still, given the above common points, if we would like to compare these diets, it would be possible to categorize them into two groups which I like to call them general and special diets. The vegetarian diet for example is a general diet, basically any one can go veggie. In the vegetarian diet sugar is used basically without any limitations, but of course someone with diabetes issues should take additional care by following her special dietary needs on top of that. So she would be following a subset of the vegetarian diet. I like to count religious diets also into the category of special diets. If in someone’s religion, eating beans is considered unacceptable (like apparently some Pythagoreans did in ancient Greece) due to spiritual reasons while other vegetables are allowed, then the devout might not be able to follow a general vegetarian diet either, that would be a special diet.
Here I like to focus on those non-medical, non-religious diets for the general public out there, that try to optimize a nutritional aspect but also allow for individual change upon medical need. These general diets do indeed achieved success in one or the other way, either health or environment. I go on to explore some of the aspects different general diets target:
- Health: For most people the number one issue, reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other food related
- Ethics: How do we ever know whether animals feel pain? What eligibility do we have to eat animals or even plants. This is not a religious issue, because neither in religion nor in science can this ethical issue be settled.
- Environment: There are countless studies showing the negative effect of livestock farming and large scale plantations on the environment.
- Big enterprise profit: large scale industrial plantation and livestock farming shovel billions of dollars in the pockets of ever richer, making the poor ever poorer
- Personal desire: What if you just can’t get rid of the memory of the nice taste and texture of a well done steak?
I was curious, whether it would be possible to find a diet that somehow optimizes on many aspects simultaneously? or even all aspects everyone of us can think of? And if yes, for whom is this diet? This would work only if everybody would have her own list, meaning that the diet we are looking for is a highly individual diet, i.e. topics that are important for you that might not be on my priority list.
Now the vegan diet seems to address many such issues sufficiently well. Meanwhile it is very well known, that all nutritive substances needed for human body can be easily obtained from pure plant based food in more than enough doses, if it were not the crucial Cobalt based mega-monster molecule Vitamin B12 which is produced by bacteria in human colon, oh yes, too late to be absorbed by our small intestine. B12 is generally created by bacteria. Animals themselves do not produce it, it is the bacteria inside their guts that produces B12. So, upon reflection, the need for B12 does not necessarily justify eating meat. It is true that the so called “bio-availability” of nutrients are different if taken from animal based or plant based sources, but meanwhile there are countless alternatives, which cover multiples of needed doses per day anyway. B12 can be obtained by other sources as well.
I don’t want this to become yet another text showing proofs upon proofs and leaks upon leaks of how scandalously damaging livestock farming (specially of cow for its meat and diary products) is for our planet. I neither want to go into the environmental nor into ethical aspects. This is not the point of this text. Find the numbers yourself on the internet. And I don’t want to write about that western European company that at the time of writing this text processes 6.8 million chicken per week (not naming names here —> search internet). That’s nearly a million chicken per day, only one company, serving only a small part of the world, not counting Asia, Americas and the rest of the world. Almost no major religions have restrictions on consumption of poultry. How much of this do we really need to eat? how much chicken do we eat, because it is just there on the salad, and we happen to just pick the bowl as a side dish. How much of these chicken finally end in the garbage as left-over food? And I don’t want to write about industrial fishing, with its effects on depletion and destruction of marine life and governments that give permission for mass electro-fishing, or illegal catching of thousands of sharks in marine sanctuaries (e.g. near Galapagos —> google yourself) for their fins. Oops, didn’t I say I don’t want to write about these?
By removing the need for livestock and diary production, vegan diet removes a heavy load from the environment as well. So except the ethical issues related to eating plants which some may consider (and some philosophies really do), vegan diet does a pretty good job in optimizing some of the aspects named above. No meat, no milk, no fish, problem solved. This sounds like the vegan is the way to go. But with all my support for vegan diet and attitude, I have the feeling that there are still some aspects left untouched. Like any kind of general recommendation, vegan diet may easily get the status of a religion.
For instance instead of cow milk, they process the lupin which is all tasty by itself, but with all fancy looking packages that cost several times the contents and an additional higher price tag, in the hope that the expected vegan stereotype is willing to pay. Who is expected to buy this? The average vegan is possibly educated having a decent income and is ready to pay for the cause. What about the memories of all these meat eating times, aah yes, the texture of finest smelling well done steak or chicken pieces in a curry sauce? Enter: TVP, fancy products, packaging and pricing for those shaky dollars in the wallet of the devout vegan. Don’t get me wrong, I actually quite like TVP and I admire the technological advancement that has made such diversities possible, the point here is that the mere fact that such meat-like products exist is a proof of an unfulfilled wish.
So what is in the V++ diet? Let’s get a bit further than vegan (hence the word play and V++, like the programming language C and C++) and try to add personalized components to the diet under one single condition that we think before we eat. But how annoying is the thought to have such a highly individual diet? Well this is nothing new, people allergic to peanut products always check the contents of the packaged food to rule out whether there is a risk of an allergic attack. So they just pause, read, think and then decide. Here we just like to expand this concept to everything we eat, with the sole exception that you and you only decide which aspects are being optimized and to what extent and at the cost of which other. You and only you make the plan and decision and follow it, but you stop and think before you do.
So if you like meat, have some. If you you think you need meat, or anything else, get some. But think before you do. Consider where it comes from. Think about sustainability, think about environment, about ethics. Who is getting the big money while another is earning only a couple of dollars a day on the other side of the planet, so that you can have a fancy packaged food? Think, think, think, I know thinking is hard, specially when you are hungry. But that’s what makes all the difference. This diet is dynamic too. Some issues may become more important for you later, take for example the plastic pollution caused by the packaging. You may ignore this at the beginning but later consider it into your planing. You can also make exceptions to your own rules, if you desire, or if you decide by your own reasoning.
This diet by nature is a very personal diet. Not only you decide what, when and how much you eat, it is also a diet tailored to you and your needs. In fact the way you plan your diet can hardly be useful to anyone else. Other people’s V++ diet might be similar but will never be the same. All humans are different and have therefore different needs and would adjust their ratios differently in their diet.
Our stores are full of products from industrialized mass production and processed food. So as a consequence of applying reason before choosing food, I think that this diet will be very much vegan-like but with occasional diversity and other animal products used from time to time. In the long term, if humanity adopts reasoning in a large scale, there is much hope for the Earth and for its inhabitants.
If you are now motivated to spread the word, well you are more than welcome, but it really hardly makes sense to expect that someday the world would follow this thinking-first diet. With that, also the hope of shutting down the global industrialization of food vanishes, since these nurture form the ignorance. The utopia remains a utopia, the reality, the reality. But one thing is clear, like you can always get off a train if it is traveling to a direction other than your choice while other passengers feel quite comfortable riding on it. It doesn’t really makes sense to try to convince all passengers. You don’t need to jump off the train either, no heroic actions needed either. Just wait for the next best possibility, i.e. next stop. The same is with this diet. Even the process of spreading the word is based on individual and based on reasoning.
I promised that this is a pure philosophical diet, so I was not planing to put a rules section here. Still I would like to conclude with a kind of take home message:
Eat whatever you like, but think before you do.