Forks Over Knives

Oh hey: We’re taking over/unders on how much Grady weighs before his vet visit tomorrow. Shaun took over 40 lbs. I took under 40 lbs. He was 21lbs at 8.5 weeks, and tomorrow he will officially be 12 weeks old. Any guesses?

In other Grady news, his second obedience class was today. We attempted to “cram” right before by taking him on a walk to practice loose-leash walking, but he had other plans. Mostly, not walking.

Sitting. I plan on not moving, and not being trained.

Cramming unsuccessful, we headed to class, and admitted to Jessica that he kind of still stinks at walking on a leash. She was sympathetic and encouraging, although we probably didn’t deserve her sentiments. Today we worked on “stay,” as well as ways to get puppies to stop chewing on socks/furniture/arms/etc. Jessica recommended saying “thank you” to the puppy when he drops the shoe rather than screaming “DROP IT” until they let go. It’s more soothing for the dog and they’re more likely to respond when you’re happy they put it down rather than angry they picked it up in the first place. Grady was mostly interested in chillin’ with the other dogs, though.

Hey, I did sit a few times...

Let’s just say Grady needs some work. After puppy obedience and finishing a paper, it was time to check something off the personal to-watch list.

Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives is a documentary that I’ve been meaning to watch since it premiered in theaters this summer. I was happy to learn [after missing it in every city] that it now streams on Netflix. Now, I’m generally skeptical of food-based books and films for a few reasons. They can often be a little dry. [For example, it took me almost nine months to finish Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I finally finished about a week ago, and it was well worth it, but not the smoothest ride.] I also often feel like they are propagandizing more than informing the viewers [I felt this way about the uber-dramatic Food, Inc., although I do still think it’s worth a watch]. Finally, I think the biggest problem with these types of books and films is their self-selectiveness: their audience isn’t necessarily those at the root of the problem or most in need of the message, it’s generally people like me who are already aware of the debates. As a class of media, they’re not really big promoters of change.

Forks took a slightly different approach to criticism of the food industry. Rather than questioning the industry and the process by which we create our food, it took a nutrition-based perspective. The film’s basic premise is that the “Western Diet” – highly processed, refined foods consisting mostly of meats, fats and dairy – is the root of most of the health issues in our country. It links cancers [breast, prostate, liver], heart diseases, diabetes, and even erectile dysfunction* – to our diet.

And it’s our eating that’s truly at issue, not just our sedentary lifestyles. Our stomachs respond to stretch. Processed foods are “unnaturally dense,” meaning even though a bag of potato chips contains loads more calories than a plain baked potato, our stomach feels less full from the chips because they take up less space in our stomach… so we eat more, leading to this result: 40% of Americans are obese.

Forks attempts to promote a plant-based, whole grain diet as an alternative to the W.D., as well as a lessened reliance on medication to solve issues that can easily be reversed by the way we eat rather than expensive pills or surgeries.

Even I was shocked by some of the research.

(1) Studies were conducted in two groups of rats. The first group was fed a diet with 20% casein (the protein found in dairy). The second group was fed a diet containing only 5% casein. In rats with diets consisting of 20% casein, cancer clusters were abundant. In the 5% casein group, no cancer clusters were found. When the rats on the 20% casein diets were reduced to 5%, their cancer clusters were nearly eliminated, as well.

(2) The doctors found a positive correlation between dairy consumption and osteoporosis, increasing with the amount of animal protein consumed by a population – exactly the opposite of what the dairy industry’s “Got Milk?” campaign would have us believe. The studies highlight how dairy actually creates acids in our stomachs [which I guess makes sense considering we weren’t designed with enzymes to break down foreign milks]. What is more, this isn’t limited to whole milk. In fact, the more fat you remove from milk (moving from 2% to skim, i.e.), the more animal protein is exposed, and the higher the cancer rate in that population becomes. Seems like a lose-lose, no?

(3) During the German occupation of Norway, when the German army took control of almost all of the meat and dairy farms in the country to feed their troops, Norwegians subsisted mostly on a plant-based diet as a result. But the occurrence of cardiovascular disease dropped so dramatically it was almost a vertical line downwards on the graph. It was a shocking picture! After the war ended and the farms were returned to their owners, the graph creeped back upwards.

Although I did sometimes find Forks as dry as many of the other books and films in this genre, I still recommend it highly, subject to my earlier skepticisms. It challenges our food system without being overly dramatic, hyperbolic, or rude. Plus, there are some wonderfully inspirational stories of individuals who changed their lives tucked inside! If you get a chance to watch, let me know what you think.

Stay tuned for:


* Apparently, E.D. can be a “warning sign” of things to come re: heart disease and coronary artery disease. When your blood vessels start to fill with plaque and cholesterol, they constrict everywhere, not just your heart. Hmm. [Update 9/13/11: the LA Times reports on a study linking healthy diet and exercise to reduced risks of E.D. (and more obviously, cardiovascular disease)]


Tags: , , ,

Categories: Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.


  1. Vegan Blind Spot: Pus? | Ryes and 'Shine - November 22, 2011

    […] known about the bacterias and nasty things that go along with industrial pasteurization. Forks over Knives also taught me how dairy calcium really isn’t good for you…but pus? I had to do some […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: