04 – Change of diet and lifestyle

In my third blog I have written about my recent switch to another insulin therapy. The blog left me with the question why, after 35 years of being a reasonably successful diabetic, I all of a sudden was open to change.

In this post I will disclose another recent change concerning nutrition and diet to which, again all of a sudden, I seemed to be open. Arguments have been around for quite some time, but I was listening only now…

What the hell, what the health:

And this is how it went. My fiancé was away for a few days, to Munich. In the evening, I sat down on the couch with the other ‘men’, our Siamese tomcat and our dachshund he-man, watching an action-hero movie on Netflix. Beer at hand, a few actually, with cheese cubes from the Netherlands delivered by my parents who had come to visit some weeks earlier. Delicious!

I am sure it must have been entertaining, but not more than that, because I don’t seem to remember the name of the movie. I do remember deciding to stay up and watch something more peaceful before hitting the sack. In my Netflix list there still was a documentary I had saved about nutrition, “what the health”. My fiancé had stopped eating meat quite some time ago, and I started eating more fish and less meat, since we shared a house. That’s how things go, of course.

I was expecting that the documentary would recommend fish over meat or something like that. Maybe I did not think that much anymore, late in the evening and having drunk all those beers – beer in Germany is sold in half litre quantities.

After the first ten minutes I though about going to bed; initially, it seemed as if the documentary wanted to sell plant-based/vegan nutrition as medicine. In the early days of my career I have been involved in research into potential health effects of nutritious compounds (nutraceuticals), and I became convinced that they cannot replace drugs.

Still, I kept watching. Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn (with Leonardo Dicaprio, as the producer for Netflix) tried to sell us two old topics, and one – to me, that is – very new one.

  1. Animal agriculture has a disastrous impact on the environment – I am sure I had heard this before, but I obviously did not care enough;
  2. Animal agriculture, especially on a ‘mega-scale’ leads to animal cruelty – again, I had heard this before, but I must have looked away;
  3. Consumption of animal products is unnatural and harmful for one’s health, whereas a plant-based diet prevents heart disease and reduces the incidence of diabetes and cancer ….

Several Americans, with all kind of health issues, were interviewed and claimed to have gotten rid of or have reduced their medication after two weeks on a merely plant-based diet.

Still that same night I sent a text message to my girl friend to announce my two-week experiment….. She said to take part and she thought I was drunk.

I still wonder why I was open to this change, at this stage, why did I listen now to what I must have heard before.

On the internet, I discovered quite some feedback about the documentary. Positive comments, but definitely also negative ones. Kip Andersen was exaggerating, cherry-picking, providing a platform for prejudiced doctors, etc.

Personally, I consider presentation crucial when communicating a mind-blowing message to promote a change. Exaggeration is allowed, in my opinion, in order to bring the message home. I remember that I saw Jamie Oliver on TED-talks pushing a barrow filled with sugar and emptying it on the podium – this is the amount of sugar that children are consuming in England at elementary school; for the US he filled an entire school bus with sugar. Slam dunk! Message delivered! He followed-up with a plan how to change this.

Even if only half of what was presented would be true, then still this is worth considering. I realize only now that each of the three topics on its own suffices to, what I call, consume ‘less animal and more plant-based’ food products.

So why am I only listening now, this late??

It is a very interesting and important topic, but thinking about it makes me a bit sad at the same time. Because I, and with me most of us, daily demand animal meat or animal-based or -derived products for consumption – with the best taste, at low cost – more and more mega-stables have been built housing genetically identical livestock (all with the same father). The animals all deliver products of similar taste, but they are all equally susceptible to disease. And the diseases, subsequently, can be introduced into humans (AIDS, Q-fever and encephalitis are just a few examples).

In all honestly, I have never really listened to animal rights activists like Marianne Thieme. She is heading up a political party in the Netherlands called ‘Party for Animals’ (a quick surf on the internet taught me: UK: Animal Welfare Party; US: the Humane Party and the Animal Rights Party USA) . For the purpose of this post I took the opportunity to read the party’s program and it actually accurately describes the first two aforementioned topics. So why did I never listen to her. Perhaps that the name, ‘Party for animals’, does not appeal to me – foremost it is the environment (and health) for humans that will significantly improve upon reducing the number of livestock for consumption. Less deforestation (now: 80% deforestation amazon rainforest), less greenhouse gas/CO2 emission (now: 15% caused by livestock), less use of antibiotics, less resistant bacteria/viruses, less water consumption (now: a quarter of world water consumption is used for raising cattle), less pollution salt and sweet water, … all good for us, humans. So, let’s rename, ‘Party for People’, right Marianne Thieme?

It is interesting and peculiar, that I started thinking about this, only after my 50th birthday, and am willing to change my lifestyle. It must have been the third topic, animal products not being so healthy, that is close to me, is about my health, can potentially influence my diabetes, …. A very selfish motive actually! I know, of course, that to achieve changes, you should communicate tailor-made messages targeting a specific person or group. Apparently, listing numbers of CO2-emission and acres of cleared rainforests because of animal agriculture has not worked for me, initially. Kip Andersen’s documentary ‘what the health’ and its slightly exaggerated health effects did manage to let me think about a ‘more plant-based and less animal-based’ diet.

In my next post I will inform you about my lifestyle-change-experiment and share my experience after 2 weeks on an exclusively plant-based diet.




Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn directed two documentaries leading to my post above: Cowspiracy and What the health.


The movie WTH received quite some criticism about exaggeration and the use of numbers that fit the vegan picture. Like the reference to a single study that showed that animal agriculture is responsible for 51% of global CO2-emission. General consensus is that this industry is responsible for 15%: also quite a high number!! Disturbingly high, actually.

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