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VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good Hardcover – April 30, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

MARK BITTMAN is one of the country’s best-known and most widely respected food writers. His How to Cook Everything books, with one million copies in print, are a mainstay of the modern kitchen. Bittman is a columnist for the New York Times, writing on food policy and cooking in the Opinion and Dining sections and the New York Times Magazine.


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Six years ago, the man I most trusted with my health said to me, “You should probably become a vegan.”
Not exactly the words I’d wanted to hear, and certainly not what I was expecting. But I’d asked Sid Baker, my doctor of thirty years, what he recommended, given that he’d just told me that at age 57, I had developed the pre-diabetic, pre-heart-disease symptoms typical of a middle-aged man who’d spent his life eating without discipline.
He’d laid out the depressing facts for me: “Your blood numbers have always been fine but now they’re not. You weigh 40 pounds more than you should. You’re complaining of sleep apnea. You’re talking about knee surgery, which is a direct result of your being overweight. Your cholesterol, which has always been normal up until now, isn’t. Same with your blood sugar; it’s moved into the danger zone.”

A more conventional doc would’ve simply put me on a drug like Lipitor, and maybe a low-fat diet. But Lipitor, one of the statin drugs that lowers cholesterol, is a permanent drug: Once you start taking it, you don’t stop. I didn’t like the idea of that. Furthermore, its effectiveness in healthy people has never been established, and it’s also been implicated in memory loss and other cognitive complications; I didn’t like the idea of any of that, either. And at this point, low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets have essentially been discredited: They might help you lose weight, but they’re not effective for maintaining that loss in the long term, and they may even wreak havoc on your system.
But becoming a vegan? A person who eats no animal products at all? Calling that a radical change to my lifestyle was more than a bit of an understatement. Yet it was clear that something had to be done. I asked Sid, “Is a compromise possible? Any other ideas?”
“You’re a smart guy,” he said. “Figure something out.”
I thought about this for a few days, and I recognized that what he was saying made sense. There are no silver bullets, and over the years it’s become increasingly clear—much as none of us wants to hear it—that the most sensible diet for human health and longevity is one that’s lower in animal products and junk food and higher in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and minimally processed grains.
I knew that, and I’m guessing you do, too. Yet the idea of becoming a full-time vegan was neither realistic nor appealing to someone accustomed to eating as widely and as well as I do. Furthermore, I had no interest in becoming an isolated vegan in a world of omnivores and—though I have vegan friends, to be sure—the world of omnivores is where I live. Full time.
Yes. I like vegetables and grains; I love them. I love tofu, too, when prepared well. Even back then, I was eating beans far more frequently than I ever had. But none of this got in the way of my enjoying pork shoulder, pizza, bacon, and burgers. I was not prepared to give up that kind of food. That sounded untenable and, more importantly, unsustainable for more than a couple of weeks.
So the question became: What could I do with the conflict between what was undoubtedly Sid’s very sound advice—“become a vegan”—and my own established, beloved, well-socialized lifestyle?
The answer, to me, was this: I’d become a part-time vegan. And for me, this part-time veganism would follow these simple rules: From the time I woke up in the morning until 6 in the evening, I’d eat a super-strict vegan diet, with no animal products at all.
In fact, I decided to go even beyond that: Until 6 p.m., I’d also forgo hyper-processed food, like white bread, white rice, white pasta, of course all junk food, and alcohol.
At 6 p.m., I’d become a free man, allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted, usually—but not always—in moderation. Some nights, this meant a steak dinner; some nights, it was a blow-out meal at a good restaurant; other nights, dinner was a tunafish sandwich followed by some cookies. It ran, and runs, the gamut.
Whatever happened at dinner, though, the next morning I turned not to bacon and eggs or a bowl of Trix but to oatmeal or fruit or vegetables. For lunch, rice and beans or a salad—or both. Throughout the day I snacked on nuts and more fruit.
I called the diet “vegan before six,” or VB6. And it worked.
A month later, I weighed myself; I’d lost 15 pounds. A month after that, I went to the lab for blood work: Both my cholesterol and my blood sugar levels were down, well into the normal range (my cholesterol had gone from 240 to 180). My apnea was gone; in fact, for the first time in probably thirty years, I was sleeping through the night, not even snoring. Within four months, I’d lost more than 35 pounds and was below 180—less than I’d weighed in thirty years. And the funny thing was, the way I ate in the daytime began to change the way I ate at night.
So why be vegan just until 6 o’clock? Am I suggesting that 6 p.m. is some kind of magical metabolic witching hour? Not at all. Truthfully, the hour itself doesn’t matter much, and if you habitually eat dinner very early, your plan may be VB5—or VB9, if you live in Spain. The point I was making to myself, and that I’m saying to you, is that dinnertime sets you free. Dinnertime, because that’s when you’re likely to want to eat the most, because that’s when you’re most likely to drink (and lose discipline!), because that’s when you’re most likely to combine eating with socializing, an important and even beneficial thing.
But even though the time itself is arbitrary, it has the power to make you stop and think before acting. In fact, the rules are what VB6 has in common with “regular” diets; because anyone can say (and many people do), “Eat sensibly, don’t overeat, increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, eat less junk and high-calorie, low-nutrition foods.” If it were that easy, there’d be no need for diets. But by telling you “Don’t eat animal products or refined foods during the day, and feel free to eat what you like at night,” VB6 gives you the structure you need to exercise limited but effective discipline in a way that accomplishes all of those things.
During the day you’ll be observant, and eat way more fruits and vegetables than you probably have until now, and virtually none of the foods that we know cause your metabolism to go haywire, putting a downward spiral in motion. In the evening, you’ll still eat more thoughtfully, but won’t necessarily avoid or limit foods you love and can’t imagine eliminating from your diet. Simply put, at 6 o’clock you can put “the diet” on hold—a compromise that offers the benefits of restraint without the hardship of perpetual denial. Even reading this now, six years after I began, it still sounds pretty good to me.
This is not to say that my adapting to VB6 was seamless. I wasn’t exactly “becoming a vegan,” but this new diet was certainly not the way I was used to getting through the day. In 2007, when I first embarked on this plan, I’d been a professional food writer (and eater!) for more than twenty-five years. My diet had become increasingly indulgent and untamed, and my opportunities for eating “well”—that is, lavishly—were near constant. I had few rules and, I thought, little need for them. Like many of us, I ate what tasted good to me.
Even before this conversation with Sid, my thinking about food and eating had begun to change—enough so that his suggestion that I become vegan wasn’t completely out of left field. I knew, for example, that we Americans eat too much junk food and too many animal products. I knew that food was being produced in an increasingly mechanized and unprincipled manner, without taking into account the welfare of consumers—that’s us—or the environment or animals or the people who grew or processed it. And I knew that our health as a country was going down the tubes, and that the Standard American Diet (SAD for short, and it is just that) was at least in part responsible.
The combination of thinking that way and my new way of eating led to profound changes in my life; it changed not only my diet but my work. I didn’t want to become a preacher or even a teacher, but the more I thought about our diet, the more I practiced VB6, the more I recognized that these changes were essential not only for our health but for that of the planet and many of the things living on it.
I began to write not only about cooking but about eating, about food. I began speaking publicly about the relationships among eating, health, and the environment, and I began changing my work at the New York Times: After nearly twenty years of writing about recipes, cooking, and the delights of food, mostly for the Dining section, I branched out to Week In Review and other sections. This led, eventually, to my becoming a Times Opinion writer, with my main subject being food: how, what, and why we eat, and the forces that affect those things.
There’s no lack of subject matter, that’s for sure: Food touches everything. You can’t discuss it without considering the environment, health, the role of animals other than humans in this world, the economy, politics, trade, globalization, or most other important issues. This includes such unlikely and seemingly unrelated matters as global warming: Industrialized livestock production, for example, appears to be accountable for a fifth or more of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.
But chances are you didn’t buy this book to save the planet, or to improve animal welfare, or even to think about those things. You probably bought this book because you wanted to improve your own health or, even more specifically, because you wanted to lose weight.
If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place, because VB6 can help you do both of those things. My own weight has stabilized and my health has improved over the course of the last six years, and VB6 can do the same for you and help you to do it, not with some two-week snake-oil miracle cure—though you’ll probably see changes for the better in the first two weeks you’re on this diet, if you take it seriously—but with an easy-to-make change that you’ll want to stick to for the rest of your life. And best of all, you will be able to do just that while eating as well as (or better than) you ever have before, and without denying yourself any food you really love.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 1 edition (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385344740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385344746
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (374 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hello Kitchen TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been following this type of lifestyle since last year and I've lost nearly 100 pounds so far. I didn't have to wait on this book because Bittman has openly shared his VB6 lifestyle for a few years, and I've read every article and blog post with interest. I couldn't wait to get hold of his new book and I ordered the Kindle version at midnight when it was released.

VB6 is informative and inspiring. It provides the basis for a very liveable lifestyle that has the potential to turn your life around, just as it did mine. The book includes a 28 day menu plan to get you started, complete with a variety of delicious recipes. Weekly wildcards let you bend away from plants if you are in a pinch or social situation that requires it.

The recipes range from simple to complex, but none require special skills or hard to find ingredients. The recipes include more nutrition info than most other healthy cookbook provides. They include calories, cholesterol, fat, sat fats, protein, carbs, sodium, fiber, trans fats, and sugar.

I've lived a plant strong lifestyle, but not 100% plants, for the last decade. I still ate cheese and other dairy products. I ate seafood a few times a year. I also ate a lot of junk. Processed foods, too many grains, and way too much sugar. Definitely not enough vegetables. I battled my weight and felt terrible.

I strongly dislike labels such as vegan and vegetarian. Labels give some people reason to judge others and their dietary choices, which is really just silly. They also evoke guilt and confusion when someone struggles to conform. This is NOT a book about being vegan. VB6 is not about perfection or 100% adherence to a specific plan. It's about making better choices that we can live with.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A disclaimer: I came to this book with a lot of skepticism. As a (vegan) fan of Mark Bittman, who has relied heavily on his columns in Runners World, his columns/recipes in the New York Times, and on his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian book, the concept of eating vegan only until 6PM, and then eating a heavy meal, did not make sense.

But from Dean Ornish's foreword, endorsing the approach, I realized that if the few hours per day one is not vegan are in the morning, noon, or evening matters little. What matters is that most of one's diet is vegan, and that those evening meals aren't heavy, either.

Bittman explains that his approach developed when his own doctor advised weight loss via a vegan diet as a requirement to avoid the diabetes and cardiovascular issues towards which he was heading. Even readers like myself, who don't have "numbers" pointing towards those problems, can recognize that weight loss is a benefit in relieving any orthopedic problems which are developing.

There are a lot of "convenience foods" which people rely on, whether dieting or not, and Bittman goes into a lot of depth as to why the Lean Cuisines and packaged "diet" bars are really no better, for nutrition or weight loss, than their non-diet cousins. The key is making your own meals, and "cooking" doesn't have to be such a big production.

Bittman explains the diet and then provides some great breakfast, lunch, and (non-vegan, but not very fattening) dinner recipes. The lunches include lots of salads and soups, and since I've never been disappointed with a Bittman recipe, I'm looking forward to trying these.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was very hesitant to give Mark Bittman's VB6 only three stars. I have closely followed Bittman's writing in the New York Times for several years. I own two of his cookbooks, How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and use both constantly.

But perhaps that is the problem. For anyone that follows Bittman or other similar food writers, there is really nothing new in this book other than collecting all of his recent ideas in one place. I actually read about Bittman's "VB6" diet over a year ago in one of his Times articles and adopted it for myself despite not having it explained in a book. I wasn't very overweight, but like Bittman I lost about 15 pounds quickly and, as he notes, noticed that as I ate healthier during the day, it changed my eating habits overall and I continued to eat healthy food at night as my cravings for highly processed junk foods subsided.

An obvious benefit for the VB6 diet is its simplicity, but unfortunately this also leads to not having much to add in the actual book. The "diet" is just what the title says: eat vegan before 6 pm, and then you can eat anything you want for dinner so long as you try to avoid processed food and treats. Really, that's it. The majority of this book is devoted to explaining why such a diet works, and why you should avoid processed foods. Although this information is great for beginners or people with no real knowledge of nutritional science, most of this information is pretty basic to most people. If you want to know the details, I think you can gain a lot more from watching Robert Lustig's "Sugar: the Bitter Truth" video on YouTube or even reading Bittman's own columns about Lustig, without buying a book.

The other major portion of this book is the recipes.
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