No doubt you’ve heard the chatter about the controversial documentary movie on Netflix, The Game Changers. If not, welcome, and get ready to be informed.
Presented by some of the biggest names in the game: James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic and Chris Paul, the 85-minute film covers the benefits of plant-based eating and ‘the truth in nutrition’ by examining the stories of multiple athletes who live by the theory. In doing this, the film follows former UFC fighter, James Wilks as he travels the globe interviewing plant-based elite athletes, discovering how they unlocked their full potential by cutting out meat and dairy.
By cutting out these food groups and having a diet centered around plants, the doco claims significant performance improvements such as providing optimal fuel, increased blood flow, muscle efficiency and accelerated recovery.
The film has copped both resounding support and criticism from professionals alike leaving many confused on what is actually good for us. So, we decided to cut through it and go straight the expert. Enter, Simon Hill.
Simon is currently studying his Masters in Nutrition, is a qualified health professional, published author and founder of Plant Proof, a go-to source on how to live a plant-based lifestyle including blogs, podcasts and recipes.
Nothing spared and everything shared, here it is – our Q&A with an actual expert. Is The Game Changers legit, or just a game?
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Simon on the documentary:
Is the criticism against the documentary ‘Game Changers’ fair?
Not particularly. It's easy to 'debunk' a documentary that is made for the layperson and has 1 hour and 25 minutes to tell a story. We need to remember it's not a scientific literature review - if we wanted that it would be rather boring and I can tell you it would definitely take much longer than that to explain.
These facts severely contradict what we grew up thinking is best for our bodies. Why is it only coming out now? I think this is best explained by looking at our culture. When you hear of veganism, I'm sure you think "ah that ideology". But when it comes to the food we eat, veganism is not the only ideology that people follow. In fact, the deeply rooted culture that accepts some animals as food (e.g. cows) while others are pets (e.g. dogs) is the dominant ideology in our society: carnism. Whilst most of us recognise veganism as an ideology, carnism is far more widespread but at the same time is somewhat invisible. It is why we will wear a cows skin as a jacket or shoes, eat the flesh of a sheep but will put someone in prison for kicking a dog.
There is an incredible amount of money that is spent mainly by industries to ensure this ideology of carnism stays dominant. Think Free Dairy days at our schools, industry funded research, industry influenced dietary guidelines and pharmaceutical industry sponsored events targeting our doctors. All of this and many more strategies ensure the ongoing consumption of animal products and therefore an unhealthy population reliant on Western medicine's management of chronic disease. It's a cycle that lines the pockets of the food and pharmaceutical industries at the same time.
Because carnism is so abundant, naturally anything that challenges this way of doing life, is seen as inaccurate or wrong. This notion of looking at science and discrediting it to support one's pre-existing view of the world is called confirmation bias. Unfortunately, eating animal products is so ingrained in our culture that it's taking a long time to get people to see that such beliefs have been instilled in them by society.
What do you think made ‘Game Changers’ resonate with so many people?
It's powerful to see that you can perform at an elite level without consuming animal products. Most people deep down, in fact pretty much everyone, loves animals and loves our planet. We are compassionate beings. When we are not acting in a way that is in line with these deep beliefs, we are out of alignment. Over the years people are becoming more conscious of the effects that our food choices have on planetary health & animal welfare, and to now realise they can remove animal products and not only be healthy, but be strong and fit at the same time, is a pretty attractive idea.
Simon on going vegan:
Is cold turkey or the slow and steady approach the best way to go when going vegan?
I prefer slow and steady to let the gut microbiome (the bacteria that live within our gut, mainly our large intestine) turn over and become better equipped to digest plant foods.
Is this diet something that would work for everyone?
Yes, if planned well. I recommend everyone transitions slowly and takes the time to read books and listen to podcasts. One of my favourite books to take your nutrition information to the next level is Becoming Vegan. I am also writing a book that is going to walk people step by step through why we are confused, where the science lies and how to optimise a plant based diet for best results - all profits from the book are being donated to various charities that the Plant Proof community choose so I cannot wait to get it out there.
What negative/positive side effects should you expect?
If people up their fibre too quickly they may get a bit of gas or bloating. Just back off the fibre and ease into it over four to eight weeks slowly until you get to that 28-38g of fibre per day. Positive effects typically experienced quite quickly are likely to be improved energy (as long as you consume enough calories), better recovery, lighter feeling after eating and more regular bowel movements.
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What are the easiest alternatives to switch over to?
Swap your meats for beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, tempeh or seitan. Swap your eggs in recipes for a chia or flax egg. Swap your milk for a plant-based milk - ideally one from the supermarket that is fortified with calcium.
What nasties do we need to steer clear of when adopting the vegan diet?
Vegan junk food. Try to keep products that are loaded with added sugars or artificial ingredients to a minimum. If you are looking for healthy and convenient meals or snacks, try products like that developed by Eimele who use only whole food plant based ingredients.
What are the habits of an unhealthy vegan?
Too much vegan junk food and too much confrontational communication. The world needs more connection and healthy conversations and less division.
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