Starting and maintaining your motivation for a plant based lifestyle can be challenging. It’s important to stay energized and informed about the benefits of this lifestyle throughout your journey, not just at the beginning. One way to do this is by periodically watching plant based documentaries, which can provide inspiration, education, and reinforcement of the health benefits, environmental impacts, and ethical advantages of a vegan diet.
Before transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, I watched the “Big 3” documentaries on plant-based living, along with several online segments. Now, after nearly five years of following this lifestyle and starting my own website, OrganizingAPlantBasedLife.com, to help others make the transition, I recently re-watched those same documentaries. It was a great decision, as it reminded me of important details I had forgotten and reignited my passion above what it already it is for this way of life.
Let’s start with a quick summary of each of the “Big 3”:
“Forks Over Knives” (2011) explores the connection between a plant based diet and the prevention and reversal of chronic diseases. The film presents evidence from a variety of studies and anecdotes from individuals who have improved their health by adopting a plant based diet. It encourages viewers to adopt a whole food plant based diet (aka “WFPB” Diet – little to no prepackaged plant based foods from store shelves) and provides practical tips and advice for making the transition. The documentary focuses on the thread “Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food” the quote by the famous Greek physician Hippocrates from 440 BC. It features two prominent physicians, Dr. Colin Campbell from Cornell and Cardiologist Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who each ironically grew up on dairy farms but later found evidence through research of the benefits of whole food plant based living. You can find it free online via the FORKS OVER KNIVES website or on YouTube.
“What the Health” (2017) investigates the links between the consumption of animal products and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The film presents a critical examination of the food industry and the role of government agencies in promoting meat and dairy consumption. It points out that the USDA which sets our food nutrition standards does so with studies funded by the food industry councils themselves (like the National Dairy Council, American Egg Board, American Poultry Association, etc) which makes them more of a “Farmers Advocacy Group” rather than a group set on creating the healthy standards for living disease free. It shares, that these vast and rich corporate interests far exceed the plant based ones and thus can muddy the “factual” waters enough that people don’t know what to food and diets to choose so they just keep doing what they have always done. Additionally, advocacy organizations like The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation are also funded by the big food producers and big pharma and therefore refuse to talk about lifestyle dietary studies that promote plant based living. This is all not to say that these organizations are bad in any way, but rather the viewpoint to understand why they may or may not make certain claims. You can find “What the Health” streaming on Netflix and more on their website WHATTHEHEALTHFILM.COM.
“Game Changers” (2018) examines the benefits of a plant based diet for athletes and their performance. The film challenges the conventional wisdom that animal products are necessary for optimal health and performance. It features interviews with numerous athletes, scientists, and doctors who share their personal experiences and research findings on the topic. It highlights a handful of vegan athletes who are at the top of their game in strength and endurance, from weight lifting to football to cycling and beyond. There is a mainstream perception that in order to be an exceptional athlete you must eat animal based protein, but these individuals prove that this outdated thinking is simply not true. They cover a couple of very small batch studies on the effects of blood immediately following eating a meat meal vs a plant based meal, and natural male body functions while sleeping both after eating meat vs eating plant based. By their own admission these are in the early stage of the studies but showing promising outcomes. It is both engaging and interesting to watch, even for those just skimming the possibility of a plant based lifestyle. You can find “Game Changers” streaming on Netflix and more information on their website GAMECHANGERSMOVIE.COM.
What are some of the criticisms of these documentaries?
Of course, it’s always a good idea as a consumer to use your judgment and assess the motivation for the documentary in the first place. Obviously, these plant based documentaries were produced to promote plant based eating so there is a bias for that basis. Here are some of the criticisms you may hear:
- Oversimplifying the relationship between diet and health
- Cherry-picking data to support its claims
- Presenting a biased view of the scientific research on nutrition and ignoring the potential benefits of other dietary approaches, including a lifestyle of meat and dairy in moderation
- Relying on anecdotal evidence rather than rigorous scientific studies
As a side note, these documentaries have websites offering more information on plant based living. They also offers options to purchase memberships to “meal plan” type of information, so keep that in mind when you are viewing. We do not endorse any of these paid plans but they can be helpful for certain individuals.
Ultimately, use common sense to assess how you feel:
While it’s important to consider criticisms of these documentaries, we should always remember that we should approach any information with a critical eye, not just vegan eating. It’s crucial to think for ourselves and evaluate the evidence presented in these films, as well as consider opposing viewpoints and do our own research. While the criticisms may hold some merit, it’s also worth noting that none of these documentaries appear to present untruthful information for the sake of viewership. Rather, they provide valuable perspectives on the benefits of a plant based diet, and watching them can serve as a useful starting point or continuing motivation for individuals who are interested in a plant based lifestyle. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to evaluate the information presented and make informed decisions that align with their own values and beliefs.
Watching these plant based documentaries can help you stay motivated on a vegan lifestyle by reminding you of the health benefits and ethical considerations associated with plant based living. They can also provide practical tips for making the transition and staying on track. Keep these plant based documentaries and others on periodic rotation throughout your vegan journey.