Photo: National Archives (NARA)
Bill Clinton is now following a vegan diet, and according to this article, he has been doing so for about three years. How many of us remember the Clinton years – the jokes about all the fried food, not to mention the stories of how he would stop at a burger joint during his jogging sessions! Not anymore. After enduring a quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and a more recent heart-health scare in 2010, Clinton, with encouragement from his friend (and heart specialist) Dr. Dean Ornish, adopted a diet free of all meat, dairy, and eggs. He has lost 30 pounds and says he feels great.
Although he admits the transition was difficult, Clinton says he was motivated by his desire to “live to be a grandfather.” That is certainly a strong reason for wanting to improve health. And a plant based diet tends to do that – not just for Bill Clinton, but for pretty much everyone who follows it. In my other blog, I recently wrote about some of the many health benefits of adopting a vegan (or plant-based, or animal-product free) diet, and a while ago on this blog about the possible effects on lifestyle advice now that obesity is considered a disease by the AMA. The health benefits of vegan diets range from improved heart health, to a lower risk for many cancers, less chance of type 2 diabetes, and a lower BMI, among others. Bill Clinton has said he is worried about the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and believes that collectively changing what we eat could go a long way towards improving health and reducing the overwhelming health care costs in the U.S.
Most interestingly, to me though, was this comment: “So I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival.” Many people adopt a vegan diet because of concerns about the horrific animal suffering, environmental devastation, and potential food shortages which result from raising animals for the express purpose of killing and eating them. And for many of us who would like to see widespread veganism become the norm, it would be really emotionally satisfying if people were more aware of the suffering of sentient beings and acted accordingly. But what if people became vegan to save themselves? Would that be so bad? It certainly would be better for the suffering creatures, the environment, and the world’s food supply. Maybe we need to more strongly emphasize the health benefits of becoming vegan in diet and the consequences of not doing so (which is not to say we should ignore the other compelling reasons to become vegan). But for all beings, including those who cruelly and sadly end up in slaughterhouses, the drive towards self-preservation is great. Most people want to live long, healthy, active lives. And if Bill Clinton, a man who had a reputation for reveling in the consumption of cholesterol-filled, deep-fried, saturated-fat-laden heart-poison, is happily promoting a vegan diet and using his own story as an example, then there is definitely hope that anyone else can do it too. So keep talking up veganism, Mr. President!
Finally, since we are on the subject of veganism, I’d like to mention one of my newest-discovered vegan blogs: Have Gone Vegan. We ran into each other in the blogosphere, and HGV is another voice in the effort to promote a healthy and humane vegan lifestyle, so take a look if you like. A permanent link is over in the blogroll for future reference.