Why “How not to die” made me furious — Get the audio book for free!

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“How not to die” by Dr. Michael Greger, advocates for a whole foods plant based diet. It’s veganism minus the ideology behind it.

The book does not discuss any positive impact on the planet resulting from a plant based diet. The book only tangentially discusses animal suffering. The focus is on human health and how meat and animal products wreak havoc on our bodies. The book stresses eating whole foods. No vegan junk food that’s highly processed and can be bought in bags and boxes. Eat as close to the dirt as possible.

I always thought the vegan thing wasn’t for me, because I don’t support PETA, or practice yoga, or live in a commune. Veganism made my eyes roll back involuntarily. I was ignorant and condescending. Plant based eating was much less intimidating and less crazy sounding.

After reading The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes and The Obesity Code by Dr. James Fung, How Not To Die was one of the recommended books on my Audible reading list. It was a total coincidence that I ever came across this book. This brings me to being pissed off. I’m 35 years old and I’ve been at least somewhat interested in diet for 20 years, since I’ve been losing and gaining the same 30 lbs for the majority of my life.

Exercise is the answer. Nope. You can’t outrun your mouth. Fat is the devil. Actually, only bad fat. Good fat is your savior. Processed foods are terrible and should be avoided at all costs. Oh come on, moderation is key, don’t deprive yourself. You’ll only end up giving into your cravings and binge eat. You have to deal with your underlying emotional problems with eating to make a lasting change. Stop analyzing it too much, it’s calories in vs calories out. A calorie is a calorie. Nope, the same calories from different foods will have a different effect on your weight. Take this magical powder, pill, shake, root, that will suppress your appetite and melt the fat off your body overnight. Your problem is hormonal, it’s insulin resistance. It’s stress, your cortisol levels are too high. You need to start meditating to lose weight. Why don’t you just ask the universe for your ideal body and use the law of attraction to manifest it? Sugar will kill you. Fake sugar is worse than real sugar and will kill you even faster. Actually, salt is the biggest problem. A low sodium diet is what you need. Eating clean is where it’s at. Join Weight Watchers and count points instead of calories. Eat for your blood type. Eat like a cave man. Eat intuitively. Eat a Mediterranean diet. Eat more fish. Are you crazy? Fish is polluted. Eat all natural and organic foods. Eat local. Even better, grow all your own food. Only drink juices and protein shakes. Don’t eat at all.

One of my main problems was always that each diet came with the before and afters, the experts, the free trials, the heartfelt testimonials of people who had finally lost the weight, gained their health, saved their own lives. I saw the results in other people, so obviously it must be my fault that I was still fat. Or if I had managed to lose weight, that I was still flabby, or had no energy, or had terrible cravings or was a mean bitch. all. the. time.

During regular medical check-ups, my doctors would sometimes tell me that I was overweight and needed to do something about it. Very rarely. Usually, they wouldn’t say anything at all. If they did, they never had any ideas other than: move more, eat less. Not a single medical professional ever told me about eating a plant based diet. I don’t get it. How do they not know? Why did nobody tell me? Nobody with a lab coat and degree I mean? I had no idea doctors get such little education in nutrition as part of their medical training. It’s not malice, it’s ignorance. I also had no idea that many “experts” don’t recommend a plant based diet, because they believe it’s too extreme and not sustainable for most people.

This patronizing attitude is partially to blame for so many people believing that moderation is key. To paraphrase Dr. Greger, who in their right mind would ever tell a smoker to just smoke in moderation instead of making every effort to quit completely?

My entire adult life I had pushed Veganism into this camp of cultish, extreme, proselytizing crazies. In my mind they were the Mormons of health nuts. I was turned off by the extreme environmentalism and the animal rights activism. Even though I can see the arguments for both, I saw veganism as more of an ideology and world view than just a way to eat for optimum health and longevity.

After I read “How not to die”, I started eating mostly vegan, with sometimes making exceptions for eating out vegetarian. It was a lot less complicated than it sounds. My family kept eating regular meals and I ate with them, minus the meat. I basically ate side dishes only. I started adding in more vegetables and fruit. Just raw, cut up, dried, or whole. This didn’t require any planning or cooking. Then my partner started eating a whole foods plant based diet with me and now we’re transitioning our entire family over. You may think your kids will stage a mutiny. We totally expected it, we were waiting for it, and then it just never came. Some of them are into it. Some not so much. But to think that I was really worried they’d all hate us forever and refuse to eat anything was just a story I made up in my head. It was a total non-issue after all.

Doing it doesn’t feel as extreme as I thought it would.

The thing that is the hardest, is wishing that I’d known this information 20 years ago. Too be honest, I’m pissed at myself for not seeking it out. I’m pissed at myself for discounting plant based diets as ridiculous. I’m pissed for myself, but not just myself. I have family and friends battling COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Dementia, Depression, Diabetes, Obesity, Asthma, Anxiety, Prostate Cancer, Heart Disease, Hypertension and Breast Cancer. This is just my own close circle of loved ones. Some of them will die from their diseases and all of them are experiencing a significant reduction in quality of life.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I have never felt better about my relationship with food. I took a chance and it turns out I love plants. I experience zero guilt around eating. Cravings are extremely rare. I have lost 33 lbs and my skin has cleared up for the first time in my decade long battle with adult hormonal acne. Food doesn’t take up obsessive mental or emotional space in my life anymore.

If you have even the tiniest spark of curiosity to see if this is something that may be helpful to you, message me and I will send you the audiobook for free. No strings attached. Just trying to pay it forward.



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Juliane Bergmann

Juliane Bergmann

I love words and people and “…conversations that it seemed a sin to break off: the ones that made the sacrifice of the following day a trivial one.” — Hitchens