Rachel's Reviews > Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet

Vegan for Life by Jack Norris
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's review
Sep 07, 11

Read from August 08 to 19, 2011 — I own a copy

I think this is a very important book, and mostly done quite well. It makes it clear that we need to really clean up our diets if want to have optimum nutrition. Unfortunately this message for me, is too depressing, since I'm not able to clean up my diet to that extent, while keeping my calorie count low enough so that I will be as slim as I want. It takes real effort and planning to pack that much nutrition into the 1200 calories I need to limit myself to (on days when I don't exercise), to lose the weight I want to lose. (If I exercise, I add calories to the limit, such as 80 calories per mile run.) But at least this book is here, and has a lot of great information. If I ever get organized enough to figure out how to pack the needed nutrition into my diet, it will be a great reference. In fact, I already think it is a great reference; I read the copy borrowed from my friend Lisa, but afterward I bought a copy for myself and plan to make a permanent space for it on my real-life bookshelf.

Above is a summary of my reaction to the book.
I figure not everyone is interested in all of this, but if you are interested, read on for more of my impressions below.

I was initially enthusiastic, but in the end, I felt disappointed by this book. I feel that, although it tries very hard to tell you how EASY it is to get all the nutrients you need with a well-balanced diet, in the end, it is not easy at all. Not when I don't have the opportunity to plan out exactly what I eat all the time. (I believe this difficulty would be true for vegan diets or meat-eater diets.)

I actually ended up feeling depressed by the end of the book, as I will never be able to live up to all the things that the book says I need to eat on a daily basis to get optimum nutrition. If I could take a supplement for most of the important nutrients, that would help a lot (a magic pill! YES!), but the authors are reluctant to recommend supplements in several cases. (They are proponents of B12 and DHA/EPA supplements, but not much of any others.) The reluctance to recommend supplements is for a good reason ... as the authors mention, supplements can cause other unintended consequences. For example, excessive zinc supplements can cause a copper deficiency. And calcium supplements (if taken with meals) can cause an iron deficiency. Etc etc etc ...

So! Supplements are not a smart way to make up for bad nutrition ... yes, I hear that wisdom. But ... I can't be sure to get awesome nutrition every day. Maybe someday I will be able to, but right now I am (and for the past few years I have been) too stressed out with various things in my life to get THAT ORGANIZED about my diet. I'm sorry, right now I just can't do it. And that's depressing for me.

By the way, during August, when I was reading this book, I started eating extra foods that the book said I should be eating to get missing nutrients, and even though I started running and exercising during the same period, I gained FIVE POUNDS in just 3 weeks!!! At the end of August, I was the heaviest I have been in 20 years! I guess because I was eating all these extra beans and nuts that were not part of my diet before. Goodness gracious! Talk about unintended consequences. I started off the month at what I consider to be my "maximum weight" ... the one that when I see it, I say, OH BOY, time to get back on the treadmill. That's why I started exercising IN EARNEST again. And it wasn't that I gained extra muscle from the exercise, I could actually SEE the extra flab around my middle. I caught my figure in the mirror as I was stepping into the shower and said WHOA! What is THAT!??! I thought maybe it was my imagination, so I stepped on the scale, and whaddyaknow ... I was 5 pounds over what I consider to be my maximum weight! I started off the month with extra flab I didn't want, but now I had extra extra flab!

I know the book says that it's better to be slightly overweight, than underweight. But .. well, I'm sorry that I'm this superficial, but I honestly desire to be much slimmer than I am now. Over the past 15 years, my weight has been fluctuating between 103 pounds and 123; ideally I like to be around 108, not 123. So believe me, I was not happy to suddenly be at 128! I am starting to worry that it might not be possible for me to get all the nutrients I need on the lower calorie diet I would need to limit myself to, in order to be as slim as I want. Again ... this is depressing for me. I want to be slim AND healthy.


I also have comments about specific concepts mentioned in the book that I found confusing / unclear. I am going to re-skim the book so that I can write all my comments and questions here. Hopefully the comments would be helpful for a future edition of the book.
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Reading Progress

08/08/2011 page 60
21.0% "Love this. Thank you Lisa!! I made my bf run out and get me some SUBLINGUAL B12. I've been taking tablets that you swallow, but the book says these are not absorbed readily enough. Wonder if the tablets are OK if I grind them up in a smoothie? Hate to waste the b12 vitamins I've already got. Hmmm ...." 1 comment
08/09/2011 page 72
25.0% "I am often sloppy about my diet. Some days I eat nothing but salsa and tortilla chips. I only thought of it as being bad from a weight-gain point of view, but now I realize ... on the days when I went wacky eating chips and salsa, I surely did not get enough calcium and other nutrients, which are needed on a daily basis. I'm sure I knew this, deep down, but how easily I forget! I'm glad for this book to remind me."
08/15/2011 page 138
49.0% "The authors emphasize that nutrients such as iron and zinc are more easily absorbed from meat, compared to plant foods. Vegans need to ingest MORE of these nutrients, in order to get the same amount useable in the body. Getting enough of these nutrients isn't a "given" if you're eating randomly, so careful food choice and/or supplementation is important for optimal health. So glad the authors are frank about this."
08/16/2011 page 179
63.0% "I'm confused about something. The book says that taking calcium supplements with meals decreases the body's absorption of iron from those meals. What about foods that are naturally calcium rich, such as dried figs or sesame tahini? Or what about calcium-fortified soy milk and OJ? Will the calcium in those foods interfere with iron absorption? Dried figs are naturally high in iron AND calcium; will these 2 cancel out?"
08/18/2011 page 219
77.0% "EGADS! No wonder I've been gaining weight. The menu plan for the 180-pound Male Weight Lifter is the one that is most similar to the quantities and types of foods I eat on a regular basis! Guess it's time to cut back on my portion sizes, huh!?! Or start lifting weights. :) Actually, I'm sure it would help if I could do both." 1 comment

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Lisa Vegan Maybe you could add all those things (such as beans & walnuts) but in slightly smaller amounts. Also, there's too much vegan junk food/desserts/low nutrient density food out there now. I think the authors don't want you depressed and maybe you don't need to eat everything optimally every day to be healthy. It's like when they say you need a (ridiculous) amount of oatmeal or nuts or whatever to get enough of whatever nutrient. For a short woman, it's harder to fit in so much food as it would be for a tall man, and not get overweight.

I can eat only about 900 calories a day if I don't want to be fat/overweight. Even when I was strenuously exercising over 15 hours a week, and doing weight lifting, I still could eat only 1,500 calories a day, occasionally up to 1,800 calories a day, if I wanted to avoid being significantly overweight. I'm a short woman who's always had a slow metabolism. Of course, even now that I can't exercise like that, I could be much thinner than I am, but I can't eat much, and if I fit in all the recommended foods, there would be ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM for ANY treat foods of any kind. Not willing. But we can use this book as a guideline. It did get me to start taking DHA-EPA supplements and be more diligent about trying to increase the nutrient density of more of my meals.

Lisa Vegan I love this book but I hope it doesn't make non-vegans think it's hard to have enough nutrients on a vegan diet. Those who eat animal products do have to be at least as careful in order to get what they need. Except for B12 of course.

Rachel Yes, Lisa ... I should clarify that the authors did not recommend that I eat foods in such large quantities as what I was eating. But with certain types of foods such as nuts, beans, rice, I tend to overeat when I have them around. I really love nuts especially! So yes, I may start with the intention of just eating 5 cashews, but next thing I know, I have eaten the entire bag (1000 calories). Etc. That's why I tend to steer clear of those foods. Now if I could be organized and do some simple things like partitioning 3 walnut halves per day (as an example), into some little vitamin containers or something ... that would probably help me get past my urge to eat the entire bag. I agree with the authors that the nutrients from these foods are important, I just need to find ways to trick myself into portion control.

Lisa Vegan Ah, okay. I see. Maybe if you give yourself permission, genuine permission, to eat them in the suggested serving sizes, you'll be satisfied with those amounts. Better than not eating them at all. Probably the trick is to always have plenty of vegetables around for if you want to keep eating. Easier said than done sometimes, I suppose. Treating the three walnut halves like supplement pills is actually a really good idea.

Rachel Hey, I just noticed that Vegan For Life is my 100th book "read" on Goodreads! I didn't plan it or anything, but I am happy it worked out like that!

Lisa Vegan Rachel wrote: "Hey, I just noticed that Vegan For Life is my 100th book "read" on Goodreads! I didn't plan it or anything, but I am happy it worked out like that!"

Hooray! I love that!!!

Hope your 1,000th book will be a vegan related or otherwise significant for you book.

Rachel Lisa wrote: "Hooray! I love that!!!

Hope your 1,000th book will be a vegan related or otherwise significant for you book. "

Thanks Lisa! I hope so, too. :)

And by the way, I'm glad it wasn't Jellicoe Road, ha ha ha! (JR turned out to be my 101st book.)

Lisa Vegan Oh, that would have been sad. I liked it a lot more than you did but there was nothing special about it, not like this book.

Pay attention so your 200th, 300th, ... 1,000th book are special for you.

message 9: by Betsie (new) - added it

Betsie I just read your review and I thought I'd let you know that The Happy Herbivore has vegan meal plans that are all 1200 per day and are packed with nutrition. I have been very happy with the ones that I have used. www.http://happyherbivore.com/ Good luck!

Rachel Hi Betsie,
Thank you, that's great info!
I will check out HH's meal plans.

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