Given the track record, Oprah’s “Farewell Season” was bound to include at least one episode featuring veganism. Ms. Winfrey didn’t disappoint – she and 378 staff members, under the direction of author Kathy Freston (Quantum Wellness), omitted meat, milk and eggs from their diet for an entire week. Oprah’s previous veganism run occurred several years ago; she went on a 21-day vegan fast initiated by her association Freston. At that time she noted, “The goal is to allow the body to rid itself of toxins, but Kathy’s thoughts on the ‘health, environmental and spiritual implications of the foods we choose to eat’ got my attention too.” The recent episode focused upon the respective experiences and observations by employees during the week.
The recent endeavor also featured Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma). Dialogue between Mr. Pollan and Ms. Winfrey was especially revealing. The conversation transpires as follows:
Oprah: “Isn’t it amazing how we have more access than ever before and yet we’re unhealthier than we’ve ever been?”
Pollan:” Yeah, we have access to lots of healthy food and yet the American diet is a catastrophe. When you hear the phrase ‘healthcare crisis’ or ‘healthcare cost crisis,’ that is a euphemism for the catastrophe that is the American diet. 75% of our healthcare spending is on chronic diseases linked to diet. That’s really what’s bankrupting us and that has to do with the way we’re eating: way too many calories, too much processed food, tons of refined carbohydrates.”
Oprah: “Define refined carbohydrates – by refined carbohydrates what do you mean?”
Pollan: “White flour, things with white flour in it and sugar…soda.”
Oprah: “It’s all those things that are packaged in the boxes and you just add water and…” [Ms. Winfrey snaps her fingers]
Pollan: “Exactly. It’s all that processed food.”
Fair enough: Mr. Pollan correctly asserts the significance of obesity's impact from a health-care cost perspective. However, the dialogue takes a decidedly strange (and I’d argue convenient) turn from there. Mr. Pollan’s logic suddenly morphs into wholesale condemnation of mainstream animal agriculture. We pick up with Pollan's observations about a shifting diet below (these immediately following his processed food comment above).