One of the things that immediately struck me in Mark Bittman's book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 was when he discusses the word "diet". To pretty much everyone, the word "diet" refers to a temporary meal plan meant for weight reduction. In actuality, the word "diet" just means "what a person or animal usually eats and drinks".
When you hear the word from your doctor, it's because he's telling you to change what you eat and drink for medical reasons. Even so far as to go vegan. That's what happened to Mark Bittman when he was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic with indications for heart disease as well. Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times, wasn't interested in taking drugs like Lipitor or eliminating the foods he loved. How would that work with his job? Besides, he loved food too much.
He decided to compromise and created a lifestyle plan that has worked for him for over six years. During the day he eats vegan, then after 6 p.m. he can eat whatever he wants. Vegan Before 6.
Like any diet book, VB6 discusses how the American diet has deteriorated over the last 50 years with the dependence on fast foods and highly processed foods. It goes over how we should all be eating more vegetables, whole grains, and stay away from processed foods that strip nutrients and are just wasted calories.
What makes VB6 interesting and doable is that it is forgiving. If you eat an animal product during the day, then don't after 6. Want to enjoy creamer in your coffee? OK. A little cheat like that is alright. Bittman isn't talking about becoming one of those strict vegans who reads every label looking for any type of animal byproduct. So the soup at lunch had a bit of butter in it to give that extra bit of richness. No big deal.
But if you can eat whatever you want after 6, doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of the diet for improving your health? The idea is that if you keep to the vegan plan during the day, your body will adjust to it so that you have less desire for meat, dairy, and sugar after 6.
That's what Bittman has found over the last six years. It was something I found out as well. For May I've been doing the VB6 plan myself.
The reason I decided to try it was because I have a problem with energy levels. I get tired in the middle of the day and take a 20 minute nap pretty much every day. Would eating vegan improve my energy levels? I had heard others eat this way and it seemed to help them.
The first few days were hard because I was getting REALLY hungry with a severely grumbling stomach in the afternoon. I found that I had to pretty much graze on veggies and nuts all day to try and stave off the grumbles. But I did also find it easy not to eat animal products after 6 because now I wasn't hungry in the evening and had no desire to.
Unfortunately, I haven't found it to make a difference on my energy levels. I still need my naps. So between this and a paleo diet for a lifestyle plan, I think I prefer paleo. At least I can still have meat then. But in reality, I've always eaten well. I don't care for fast or junk food. I like good food from whole ingredients. My downfall is a sweet tooth and love of dairy products. Give me melted cheese.
What matters for Bittman, myself, or anyone else out there is to find a "normal way of eating" that is healthy and works for your lifestyle. That's easy to maintain because you can still enjoy good food. Whether you choose to go paleo, VB6, or any other way, what matters is eating the best, freshest, vegetables and whole foods you can.