Try it Again, Dr. Kim!
Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor who has a blog on personal and environmental wellness. In March of 2007, he wrote a piece called More Thoughts on Earthlings Documentary, Including Potential Problems with a Strict Vegan Diet. His article was just recently brought to my attention and I’d like to comment on it publicly because I think there are other ex-vegans out there who have had a similar experience to Dr. Kim.
In his article, Dr. Kim talks about the film Earthlings, which many of you will know is a film that documents the horrible ways that we humans treat animals. He talks about the importance of minimizing animal cruelty and was even vegan for four years. The first two of those years he felt well and the second two he failed to thrive.
Dr. Kim stuck with the diet through his two years of poor health because he trusted the books and “prominent physicians” who were advising him that a strict vegan diet was the best choice. He then found out that many of these people were not actually strictly vegan. He does know of some strict vegans who don’t cheat but they have health problems.
After eating what appears to be relatively small amounts of animal products for three months, Dr. Kim says, “My energy came back, my cravings disappeared, I stopped having skin breakouts, and most notably, I felt physically strong again. I vividly remember going from being able to do about 3 sets of 10 pull-ups before getting exhausted to being able to do 100 full body weight pull-ups within 20-30 minutes….”
Dr. Kim lists his strict vegan diet: “…plenty of fresh leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, sprouts, many varieties of steamed greens, steamed root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, hard squashes, carrots, and red beets, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, a wide variety of fruits (including avocados), legumes like chickpeas and red beans, and small amounts of raw nuts and seeds.”
He gives a quick review of some of the typical concerns with the vegan diet, including B12, but he doesn’t mention supplements or fortified foods as a source, suggesting that he probably wasn’t getting any B12.
Okay. So, I really dislike it when someone tries a certain diet for years, and then when it doesn’t work, the proponents of the diet say, “You just did it wrong.” However, there are some glaring reasons why Dr. Kim might have failed to thrive.
Obviously, if a vegan is not taking B12 supplements or eating fortified foods, for more than two years, chances are excellent they are going to get fatigued and have mental issues.
Secondly, if you read Dr. Kim’s description of his diet you have to get well into his list before you come across a plentiful source of protein (quinoa), and the most reliable sources that most vegans rely on, even raw foodists, are listed second to last and last!
When someone asks me what I eat as a vegan, the first thing I tell them are legume products – refried beans, soy foods, peanut butter, chili, bean burritos, lentil soup, etc. If these foods are only an afterthought, then there should be no surprise that someone trying to do 100 chin-ups in 30 minutes is going to have trouble retaining muscle mass.
Reading a few posts on Dr. Kim’s site, it is clear that he places a high value on eating unprocessed foods. So I’m guessing he is not going to be real open to eating a Tofurky or seitan sandwich for more protein. But what about tempeh, peanut butter, lentils, and peas?
Dr. Kim says, “Truly, if I could thrive on a 100 percent vegan diet, I would go back to it this instant. How could I not after having watched Earthlings?”
Indeed. I hope Dr. Kim will give it another try with plenty of high protein foods which are staples of most vegans I know who do not cheat on the diet and are thriving. And a vitamin B12 supplement would help quite a bit also. Is this such a high price to pay in order to end your support of animal agriculture?