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Chow Down, Eat Like Your Life Depends On It

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A while back, I received an email from Julia Grayer telling me about her most recent documentary, Chow Down, which she co-wrote, directed and produced along with Gage Johnson.

Chow Down follows the journey of three individuals to eliminate their chronic diseases through a plant-based diet. They were tired of undergoing surgical procedures, taking medicines, and doctors telling them that their health issues won’t get any better. So, they looked for an alternative approach to care for their diseases. Instead of going through another surgery or adding a new pill to their medication regime, they are going to try to treat and possibly reverse their diseases by focusing their diet and lifestyle habits.

The movie features three people’s stories… three normal everyday people.

  • Charles, a devoted father, is stunned to learn that the blockages in his heart are so severe his surgeon refuses to operate. He’ll do whatever it takes to see his children grow up.
  • John fears having his chest cut open for a bypass he believes is a bandaid, not a cure. But his family thinks he’ll die without the surgery.
  • Garnet, a do-it-all working mom, lands in the hospital with type-2 diabetes. She fears her regimen of medications will lead her down a grim path to dialysis and early death.

There weren’t any local screenings in my area, so I watched the documentary on Hulu for free instead. The documentary is filled with interviews, testimonials, and catchy animations, but the underlying message is simply to promote a vegetarian/vegan diet. The underlying argument is that adopting a plant-based diet can reverse serious diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. There’s appearances by T. Colin Campbell, PhD (The China Study), Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., MD, and Neal Barnard, MD (who all appeared in Forks Over Knives too), and a number of other notable doctors and physicians.

Diet plays an important role in people’s health. Sure, some things are in genetics, but diet is found to be the major cause of things like high blood pressure, heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, and adult onset diabetes. The documentary reveals a (somewhat obvious) problem with people’s mentality on healthy choices – many times, instead of treating the causes of the diseases or preventing the diseases, society opts for the magical pill that will fix any problem that arises.

Chow Down points out that there’s not much support by food industry and health care community to promote a healthy diet. (Insert vegan propaganda.) The food industry makes lots of money off processed and unhealthy foods. Medicines and surgical procedures are expensive, so there’s lots of money to be made there. Government policies are influenced by corporate food giants’ interests which focuses more on making profits rather than overall health.

Many times, the blame is put on the food industry and large corporations. However, the individual themselves need to take control of their health in their own hands too. There’s one quote mentioned in the documentary that I found to be very relevant – “Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” Sometimes people blame their genetics or mistakenly believe that their illnesses and health issues are out of their control. Other times, people are simply unwilling to reduce or find it hard to give up the unhealthy, fatty, fried, or salty foods, either because of bad eating habits or social pressure from friends and family.

I enjoyed the documentary and watching the stories behind the three individuals trying to change their diets and lifestyle to improve their health. It wasn’t an easy journey for them and the documentary presents both the success and the challenges that they face. It also shared the reactions from the people around them and how that affects their journey. Sure, it’s another documentary to promote a vegetarian diet, reject animal-based foods, and blame the food industry and government lobbyists for big corporations, but the personal stories are interesting nonetheless. Hopefully this inspires people, with health concerns or not, to take a second look at their diet and lifestyle and put down that [insert guilty pleasure] and explore healthier tasty alternatives.

Check out the trailer here:

If this movie interests you, here’s how you can watch it:

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