More about VB6

I thought that I should talk a bit about what VB6 is.

VB6: Vegan Before 6 is a book by Mark Bittman, food columnist for The New York Times.  The short story is that because of his health, he had to make a decision: drastically change his diet or begin a lifelong drug regimen to control his cholesterol. VB is what he came up with. You can read more about it-–if you like—in a few of the many  articles and posts that came out last year when the book was published.

Of course, you can be vegan and eat a completely unhealthy diet. Coca-Cola is vegan, after all. On VB6, white flour, white rice, pasta,  sugar, and junk food are, during your vegan hours, out. The point here is to move toward a more plant-based diet—or, as Michael Pollan put it in his own work, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Bittman’s plan is based on six basic principles:

  1. Eat fruit and vegetables in abundance.
  2. Eat fewer animal products.
  3. Eat (almost) no junk food.
  4. Cook at home as much as possible.
  5. Consider quality over quantity.
  6. See your weight as just one component of good health.

Food breaks down into three rough categories:

  • Unlimited: Almost all fruits and vegetables; seasonings and condiments such as mustard, hot sauce, herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Flexible: Beans and lentils; whole grains; some fruits and veggies (such as avocado, corn, potatoes); nuts and seeds; healthy oils.
  • Treats: Animal products (i.e., meat, fish, dairy, and eggs); white flour and rice; pasta; alcohol; sweets and sugar.

The rule is simple: During the day (or whatever your vegan hours are), eat all you want of the unlimited foods, some of the flexible foods, and none of the treats. After 6 p.m., eat what you want.

There’s one other thing Bittman repeats again and again: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He presents the plan a certain way, but maintains that you have to do it the way it works for you. That’s one of the things I really like about this.

So, I will drink cream and sugar in my morning coffee, and I will have a bit of sugar in my afternoon tea. That isn’t going to kill all the benefits I gain by shifting my general diet toward healthier whole foods. And if I have eggs and bacon and mimosas at a weekend brunch with friends, that’s fine too. I’ll eat vegan for dinner, or maybe I’ll just write off that day.

The other thing I like about the plan is that, even though it amounts to “Eat more plants,” there’s enough structure for me to sort of hook into psychologically. I can break the rules if I choose to, but there are rules. Also, I get a free pass every day, so if I really, really want a cheeseburger (I love cheeseburgers), I can have one. Most nights, I will eat healthier foods–because this probably doesn’t work if I don’t do that, too–but no one is telling me that I have to.

Also, since my vegan meals will generally be during daytime hours, I think this will be pretty easy on my home life. I’ve asked my husband that we not have junk foods in the house for the first month or so (especially chips—I love chips), but it’s not as if I’m asking him to give up meat for dinner. He’s open to healthier food, but I really wouldn’t see either of us choosing to become full-time vegans.

The final thing I will say here is that this is not a space for people to argue with me about my diet. You say “vegan,” and people freak out. Just read the comments on any of the stories about VB6 last year: all the true believers come out to argue. This blog is about me trying to be healthier, so support and discussion are welcome; polemics, not so much.