By Kevin Kolodziejski
My sixth grade teachers assumed I was being just another class clown when I voted for Gus Hall, the Communist Party nominee for president of the United States in 1972. But I saw my role in their mock election differently.
As a restaurant waiter doling out the final course that comes along with the entrée they had selected. A nice-sized serving of their just desserts.
Regardless of the reason for it, my vote shouldn’t have surprised my teachers. Not if they truly believed something they told my hell-raising sixth-grade class repeatedly. A something I believed so wrong and so insulting that it brought out something only my parents had previously seen: the rebel in me.
My sixth-grade class was admittedly a handful and contained at least a dozen out-and-out delinquents who claimed when caught to merely be class clowns. They often were paddled as a result, and I had no problem with that. I didn’t even have a problem with teachers moving the paddling from the hall to the front of the class to elevate the embarrassment. But what irked me to no end was that before putting a hurting on the young offender, they would harp on and on about how at 11 or 12 or even 18 years of age, you’re not yet an adult.
You’re a work in progress.
Not a Communist, Just a Work in Progress
So this work in progress cast his bogus ballot for the third-party candidate instead of Nixon or McGovern. It’s something I now regret, but not because the teachers summoned me to their insufferably smoky faculty room, expressed their profound disappointment in me, and issued a one-hour detention. But because I’ve since embraced the phrase that once bothered me worse than nails dragged against a blackboard.
I now know I was, am, and will always be a work in progress.
That’s true for you, too, but no reason to rebel. Just feel grateful. For it means you can still improve your health and thereby progress as a cyclist.
Learn From But Don’t Become a Vegan
But what’s it take for a work in progress to progress? The greater part of it, the Stoic philosopher Seneca says, is the simply the desire to do so. While I’m certain you desire to progress as a cyclist, what’s the chance you feel the same about eliminating all meat and animal-based products from your diet? About 1 percent, according to 2023 Gallup poll.
But if you take the time to consider a recent study comparing a vegan diet to an omnivorous one, I’m 99 percent sure that you’ll agree with the idea behind this week’s article. That you can make important health progress from a single and simple dietary lesson.
The Dietary Lesson Detailed
Researchers at Stanford University recruited 22 pairs of twins, average age about 40. Their use of twins “reduced variables, such as genetic differences, upbringing, and lifestyle choices,” diminishing the degree of uncertainty inherent in dietary studies. They then had one twin eat one of two diets for eight weeks. The press release described both diets as “replete with vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains and void of sugars and refined starches.” One, however, was entirely plant-based. The other included some chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, and dairy foods.
For the first four weeks, both groups had breakfasts, lunches, and dinners delivered to them, instructions on what snacks to eat, and on-call assistance from a registered dietician. For the next four weeks, they prepared their meals themselves with the registered dietician’s help.
The resulting paper, “Cardiometabolic Effects of Omnivorous vs Vegan Diets in Identical Twins” available online at JAMA Network Open explains that weight loss during the study “was not discouraged,” but that it wasn’t the goal either. In fact, participants were instructed to eat “until they were satiated throughout the study.” So, it’s noteworthy that the twins on the vegan diet lost on average 4.2 pounds more than their counterparts.
More Significant Than Weight Loss
When lead author, Dr. Christopher D. Gardner, Ph.D., a nutrition scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the Department of Medicine in the School of Medicine at Stanford University, speaks about the study, though, he doesn’t consider the weight loss difference to be as big a surprise as the average difference recorded in the LDL-cholesterol and insulin levels between the groups. After all, he explains, the omnivore diet was designed to be healthy, so much so that it increased the group’s ingestion of vegetables and whole grains while decreasing their use of added sugars and refined grains “compared to their pre-study diet.”
Yet the reduced levels of LDL-cholesterol and insulin suggest, as he writes in the JAMA article, a “significant protective cardiometabolic advantage” to a healthy vegan diet when compared to a healthy omnivorous one.
But you enjoy eating meat and animal-based products and don’t want to stop, you say. Gardener acknowledges most people feel the same and addresses that in the Stanford press release. “What’s more important than going strictly vegan,” he advises, “is including more plant-based foods in your diet.”
Advice that’s a really simple way for any work in progress to continue to progress.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.