Forks Over Knives : Could This Movie Save Your Life?

I'm officially adding another movie to my list of films that can help you to become a more mindful eater (see previous blog article). It's a documentary called Forks Over Knives that was recently released in NYC, LA and various other cities. You may have seen a clip of it on the Dr. Oz T.V. show. In a nutshell, Forks Over Knives is about two doctors, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn, who are advocating a plant based diet (similar to vegan). Whether you agree or totally disagree with the message of this movie, it may get you to start thinking critically about what you eat and how it impacts your health.

I invited a tough critic to review this film with me. Let's just call him "John." John is extremely attached to his BBQ grill, owns his own meat smoker and is an amateur connoisseur of steak. I knew if there was going to be a tough sell, this man would be it. Giving up meat, or any food for that matter, is the last thing on his mind. The only information I gave him about the film he was going to watch was "it's about food."

I was prepared for the film's provocative message. I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Esselstyn in person. I was struck by his passion for his work. I attended one of the lectures he gives across the country about his research and book for my job.

The film, Forks Over Knives, is filled with statistics and research. The information they present suggests that what you eat, particularly the amount of protein, dairy, and oil, dramatically impacts your health. Critics of this approach indicate that the research may be presenting one side of the debate and is skewed. It's always important to examine research critically. There is another concern that was not mentioned in this movie but is an issue for professionals who treat eating disorders. For some people, eating plans that restrict particular types of foods or food groups can lead people to become obsessive. This can trigger disordered eating and eating disorders, which also jeopardize your health.

What's the benefit of this diet? This movie indicates that a plant based diet can decrease your risk of cancer significantly and can get you off all kinds of medications. You see examples of individuals who stop needing medications after a very short period of time. A famous advocate of eating this way is Bill Clinton, among many others (click to see video). The relationship between health and food is not a new idea. As Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said in 460 BC, "Let food be thy medicine." Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn indicate that 70-80 percent of the health care budget could be reduced simply by changing the way we eat.

Unfortunately, documentaries are often seen by a select group. It's likely that you would decide to see this film if you were already interested in the topic. Therefore, these movie goers are probably already open to the idea of improving their eating habits. The message needs to spread farther than this group.

If national change is to happen to our diet, we have to get people talking about it. Here is an idea. Turn this film into a Hollywood film. Cast a young Dr. Campbell as a Hollywood actor (Greg Kinnear or Matt Damon perhaps?) and tell his story. The documentary stated that Dr. Campbell allegedly was blackballed from Cornell for his ideas and research that went counter to many of the school's food industry ties. Let both sides tell their version of the story. Would it be controversial? Definitely. But, would this get us finally talking about what we eat in a new way? Stop the diet talk and start talking about health. Let's put it up for debate.

What did John, the meat eater, think of the film? "I never thought of it this way," he said as the movie ended. He wasn't ready to give up meat and dairy but was sold on being more attentive and mindful of what he eats. He was impressed that these two doctors in their seventies were running, biking and looking great. John was still thinking about the movie the next day. He reported ordering spinach in his omelet instead of bacon.

There are lots of different ways to eat to improve your health. A plant based diet is just one approach. Be sure to talk to your doctor and a dietitian about the pros and cons of your current eating plan. Work together to determine what would be best for you. What is ultimately important is the overall message: it is time to begin to be more mindful of what, why and how you are eating for your health and well-being.

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is the author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful, and Mindful Eating 101 and is a Huffington Post and Psychology Today blogger. Her books have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Natural Health, Self Magazine and on the Dr. Oz TV show. Visit Albers online at