I like to read vegan literature when I get a chance to. I generally find myself gravitating more toward books on animal rights, welfare and advocacy than anything else, but as of late I've been trying to incorporate more health and wellness into my literary diet. Most recently, I selected Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, who is probably more commonly known for her books Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips and Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor. Crazy Sexy Diet is a follow-up to these and is an exploration of how a mostly raw, whole food and plant-based diet took her from a terminal cancer patient to energetic, positive and thriving.
From a health perspective, I'm not sure there exists is a more sound argument for veganism than Kris' story. Kris was in her early thirties, fueling her body via the Standard American Diet (SAD). Put simply, the SAD is mostly comprised of highly processed convenience foods and it is generally the diet of choice here in North America. Typical of SAD enthusiasts (myself included, for a large portion of my life), Kris' concern was less with what was in the food she was eating and more with whether or not it would make her fat. Like many of us, under the SAD she suffered from chronic ailments that sadly have become normalized in our society - acne, frequent colds, allergies, depression, eczema and fatigue, to name a few. All of these can be typical byproducts of SAD participation. When combined, however, they can very quickly go from annoying to life-shattering.
When the symptoms got bad enough, Kris visited her doctor. Soon afterwards, she was told that her liver was filled with so many tumours that it looked more like Swiss cheese than it did an internal organ. There were also ten more tumours found on her lungs. Adding insult to injury, the cancer was deemed inoperable and radiation/chemotherapy were not considered options.
Because she was SOL when it came to the more popular western medicine options, Kris really had nothing to lose by looking into an alternative that most oncologists would probably roll their eyes at: the supermarket.
Crazy Sexy Diet is a documentation of all that she learned in doing so.
The story of how Kris saved her own life isn't really all that complicated. To think - if she achieved the results she did with cancer, imagine the positive impact following this kind of diet can have for the rest of us?
I think what I like most about this book is that it is very informative, but at no point is it pushy or demanding. I like to think of it as a friendlier version of Skinny Bitch. Skinny Bitch is one of the more controversial vegan-oriented books to ever hit the market and one that I personally didn't respond all that well too. I appreciate the effort, and I do believe that anything that gets people "talking vegan" can be considered a good thing. All the same, I worry that it perpetuates misguided vegan stereotypes and furthermore, I don't really think that berating and degrading people into a certain line of thinking is the best course of action in the struggle for long term change. I understand that Skinny Bitch was written with a hint of sarcasm and even silliness to it, but even so I found the dialogue to be patronizing and downright insulting at times - and I am vegan! For me, education and empowerment always do and always will trump intimidation.
With Crazy Sexy Diet, you get the tools required for change without the added attitude. The chapters are thorough and informative without being completely overwhelming. It is the perfect book for a curious carnist or a novice vegetarian/vegan. Long-term vegans may have already discovered some of Kris' secrets (which is one of the reasons that sustaining our veganism is so darn easy!) but there are a lot of little helpful hints and suggestions that even the most seasoned vegans will find useful.
Kris Carr's diet and lifestyle revolve around maintaining the delicate acid-alkaline balance in the body, measured via the pH scale. The last time I interacted with any kind of chemistry information it was the eleventh grade and in that class I spent far more time making googly eyes at Paul than I did making googly eyes at the periodic table of elements. To say that I have no working knowledge of the pH scale and the acid/alkaline components of substances is an understatement.
Thankfully, Kris walked me through it, explaining why alkaline-rich foods are so important to body functioning and just how alarmingly acidic the SAD is. She also explains why, when it comes to keeping it alkaline, the food preparation process is just as important as the food itself, with raw, living foods maintaining more of their nutritional integrity than those that are (literally) cooked to death. Sad news for a raw veggie hater such as myself.
She goes on to highlight how the body compensates for our own lack of diligence when it comes to maintaining balance - mainly, by mining integral minerals from bones, teeth, tissues and organs, thereby hindering their functioning and in turn encouraging a multitude of acute and chronic impairments as tame as a runny nose or as serious as an immune disease. This could explain the seemingly ironic correlation between countries that consume the most calcium (via dairy products) and the increased incidence of osteoporosis: cow's milk (and cheese, and butter, and ice cream), like other animal proteins, is highly acidic, thereby forcing the body to leech alkaline from from bones in an attempt to neutralize the imbalance, in turn contributing to their deterioration.
Kris covers alkaline-rich foods while also exploring the importance of phytonutrients, chlorophyll and enzymes among other things - terms that, strangely, you never hear in our nutrient-starved, diet-obsessed and generally quite ill society. We can tell you the number of calories in a bag of potato chips but very few of us know why kale is so good for you. How many of us even know what chlorophyll is? Honestly, the last time I thought about clorophyll it was while writing a fifth grade science report on plant photosynthesis.
Listen, I'm not saying you're going to buy into all aspects of this book. Admittedly, she lost me a little bit in the meditation section. Not that I'm somehow opposed to meditation or reiki or spirituality or religious dialogue. It's just not as much my scene as superfoods and paraben-free face wash and learning about how the digestive tract works. For others, spirituality is as integral to their health and wellbeing as the pesticide-free apple they have in their lunchbag, and that's fine too. Whatever works.
The great thing about this book is that you can adopt it all, or you can adopt some of it. You can make small changes here and there, or you can book yourself for a colonic, do a juice fast and make a meditation corner in a quiet room in your house all in one day. At no point does Kris demand that you integrate every last exercise and recipe into your life - she is just telling you what she did, what worked for her, and what might work for you too. I love a little bit of advice without a side of guilt.
Furthermore - and this is what I really, really love about this book - Kris at no point demands that you stop living your life. Not once does she ask you to stop participating in the occasional bender of fried tofu and bottled wine. The best part of life is living and she doesn't want to take that away from anyone. Sometimes it's the binges we go on and the nights we lose track of how many beers we've had because we're laughing too hard with our buddies that are the ones that keep us going. They are healthy while being so disturbingly unhealthy. The key, just like when it comes to pH, is keeping it balanced. This quote sums it up the best, I think:
"Consistency is important but you don't have to be perfect. Health is about keeping in an overall right direction...You may have a beer and chips in the afternoon followed by a shot of tequila for dessert. This is life - it's sweet, fun and unpredictable. I am not perfect and I never will be. Perfect is beige. I am red hot! So are you...You don't politely sit at tables - you dance on them. And after last call, you get back out on the health highway." (p. 17)
A lot of us don't have cancer, but some of us will eventually. It's scary to think about a group of all the people that we love and care about, and when cancer will affect it. Not if cancer will affect it. But when. Or maybe it already has. Too often. I'm not saying this to be alarmist; I'm saying it because it's true.
My bottom line is this. We could do absolutely everything right - eat all the right food, get the right amount of exercise and remove all the toxins from our environments. And the cancer (or the heart disease, or the stroke) could get us anyway. Fit and healthy people get sick everyday and I don't want to take away from that or somehow victim-blame those who are already sick, regardless of how they fueled their bodies before or during their illnesses. These things make terminal disease no more or less tragic.
I'm just one of those people who believes in stacking the deck in my favour, regardless of whether or not it works out. I think it is time that we all began empowering one another to fight for ourselves and our right to live long and healthy lives. We need to start holding our own, because sadly, no one is going to take care of us for us. Instead there are actually many forces out there intent on doing the direct opposite: misguiding us into a false sense of wellbeing via marketing, advertising and those ridiculous "SmartCheck" labels they put on cheap cans of salt with soup labels on them. This book is part of the journey toward this kind of self-empowerment, and I encourage you to check it out!