Oprah and 378 Staffers Go Vegan: The One-Week Challenge. The show featured Veganist author Kathy Freston and author Michael Pollan. I am a big fan of Michael Pollan. His books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food were two of the most fascinating I have ever read.
The episode began with a discussion with Mr. Pollan. He talked about the crisis of the American diet. Currently, 75% of our health care spending is on chronic disease linked to diet. These are problems caused by too many calories, too much processed food and too many refined carbohydrates. Our diet has changed more in the last 100 years than it has in the last 100,000 years, and not necessarily for the better. We need to be more mindful about where our food comes from and the food choices that we make.
Oprah then checked in with other staffers who had participated in the challenge. I was shocked that one woman said that she only pooped once per week before the challenge! I didn't even realize that was possible. But, now that she has started the vegan diet, it's a daily occurrence. As a recap of challenge results, there was a total of 444 pounds lost, 84 pounds gained, and 78 quitters, and a record amount of toilet paper used. One staffer even lost 11 pounds in one week and said that by the third day he felt better than the had in 10 years. However, he did say that before the challenge he ate horribly.
After hearing all the staffers talk about their experience and their future plans with the diet, Michael Pollan said "I hate to cast any kind of shadow over this dietary revival meeting" and said there is nothing evil about meat and having some meat in your diet is fine. Kathy Preston, however, said that after watching the meat-processing video it doesn't sit right with her soul and questioned whether she can she look into the eyes of an animal and say "your pain and suffering isn't as important as my appetite". There was further discussion about the humane and inhumane raising of animals for food. Pollan only lightly touched on the devastation meat has on our environment. I think that's a very important aspect of veganism and wish that it has been highlighted a bit more.
Overall I am happy that Oprah aired this show. It's a fascinating and important topic and really just too much for one hour. Although I may not completely abandon animal products, I will be more conscientious in my choices and further incorporate vegan choices into my diet.
If you want to learn more and try a vegan diet yourself, check out the Vegan Starter Kit on Oprah's web site with recipes, meal plans and advice.
All photos courtesy of Oprah.com.