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Flexitarian Journeys and Plant-Powered Insights: Tamara Park's Enlightening Dive into Plant vs. Meat



In the latest episode of the Plants vs. Meat podcast, Bryan engages in a captivating conversation with the world-traveling, award-winning director and producer Tamara Park. Her journey, which began with a global adventure and a thought-provoking viewing of "Food Inc.," led her to embrace a flexitarian diet. This personal transformation from a meat-eater to a flexitarian is a testament to the power of self-discovery and the potential for change.


Tamara's candid exploration of her dietary evolution, from the immediate shift to vegetarianism post-"Food Inc." to her current flexitarian stance, underscores a broader narrative about the flexibility and curiosity that guide our food choices. Her admission of the challenges in consistently integrating protein into her diet, especially as a woman constantly on the move, opens up a crucial dialogue about the myths surrounding protein and plant-based diets.


Bryan, leveraging his expertise and personal experience, debunks the common protein myth, highlighting how a whole food plant-based diet naturally caters to our body's protein needs. He draws attention to the strength and vitality of herbivorous animals, reinforcing the message that our bodies are adept at synthesizing the necessary proteins from plant-based sources.


The conversation takes a serious turn as Tamara voices her concerns about climate change and the carbon footprint of meat consumption. Bryan, echoing these concerns, highlights the urgent need for a shift towards more sustainable practices. The environmental impact of our dietary choices is not a distant problem but a pressing issue that requires immediate attention and action.


Ethical considerations form the crux of their discussion, as Tamara reflects on the cultural and personal connections to food, and the moral dilemmas posed by meat consumption. Bryan challenges listeners to reconsider their dietary choices in light of ethical considerations, advocating for a plant-based diet not only for health and environmental reasons but also as a compassionate choice.


This episode of Plants vs. Meat not only offers insightful perspectives on the flexitarian diet and the power of plant-based eating but also invites listeners to embark on a journey of self-discovery and mindful eating. Tamara's story is a testament to the evolving nature of our relationship with food, underscoring the importance of informed, ethical, and sustainable dietary choices. Join Bryan and Tamara on this enlightening episode, and let their conversation inspire you to explore the vast potential of plant-based eating for yourself, the planet, and the beings we share it with. Listen to the full episode here!

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>Podcast Episode’s Transcript 


Please understand that a transcription service provided the transcript below. It undoubtedly contains errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions.


Bryan (00:01.106)

Hello and welcome to another episode of Plants vs. Me. I'm your host Bryan and we are back at it here to debate for another few minutes with a dear friend of mine and Tamara is a world traveling, globe trotting, amazing award winning director and producer. She has been known for captivating stories from around the globe.


And today she's going to join us on Plants vs. Meat to share her insight on some intersections with plant-based diets and the environment and the art of storytelling as we were talking about earlier today. So get ready for an enlightening conversation with Tamara. So welcome to the show, Tamara.


Tamara Park (00:48.177)

Happy to be here, Bryan.


Bryan (00:50.454)

I am excited to dig into this with you. So just give the people a little bit of a background on you and that kind of stuff. Like what is your current diet right now and how long have you been on that current diet, I guess?


Tamara Park (01:09.121)

So Brian, I consider myself a flexitarian. So I love vegetables. Man, I recently got an air fryer and I am like, you know, amazing. So I do love vegetables, but I'm coming up to the conversation with this question of how do I deal with protein? And so, you know, I think my story of just


Bryan (01:13.006)

Okay.


Bryan (01:19.17)

The best, isn't it?


Tamara Park (01:37.981)

becoming a flexitarian through the years. Like when you're traveling, when you're going around the world, you know, sometimes you have options, sometimes you don't, you know, and it's been good to be flexible. And I watched Food Inc. Oh my goodness. It was sobering and profound and enlightening and


Bryan (01:42.539)

Yeah.


Bryan (01:50.189)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (01:55.83)

Okay, good one, right?


Tamara Park (02:06.977)

I was a full on vegetarian for at least the next few days after I watched that. And then I just became curious and perhaps maybe lazy. I'm ready for your brilliant insights on how to get protein because I'm a woman on the move so I've got to have energy. I've got to...


Bryan (02:09.966)

Ahem. Heh heh heh.


Bryan (02:32.085)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (02:36.317)

you know, sustain a lot of motion. So I'm curious to hear.


Bryan (02:38.698)

Yeah, I think that's one of the biggest myths around really. Like when people find out I'm plant-based myself, they definitely go, where do you get your protein from? So I've answered that question a million trillion ways. So honestly, I'm not even worried about it. Like our body is so good at synthesizing the proteins that we need. We just have to give it the fuel. So there's lots of different.


amino acids and stuff, you pop those into your body and it will put together the full protein for you. So you can, yeah, just, you just gotta have a handful of walnuts or almonds or, you know, nuts are your favorite. Beans are your favorite. Um, but honestly, if you just eat a whole food plant based diet, the protein just kind of takes care of itself. So if you think about it, cows,


Tamara Park (03:09.053)

Why are you talking to me about this? Cause I'm, I'm serious. How the fuck is this?


Bryan (03:29.698)

bulls, gorillas, elephants, like they're all some of the strongest. Turtles are the longest living animals on the planet and they are all plant based. So, um, they don't worry about their protein either. So, um, so yeah, I would love to unpack that. So I'm, I guess I'm curious if we dive into it a little bit here, what is your favorite dish to enjoy?


Tamara Park (03:53.853)

Mmm, chocolate. Chocolate and a cappuccino, please. But I, you know, awesome, awesome. I, you know, I do like fish and I enjoy a lot of vegetables. So, you know, there's, I'm naturally inclined to lean towards vegetables.


Bryan (03:57.078)

Chocolate. Yes, right?


Bryan (04:05.598)

I'm with you on that, I'm with you on those two for sure.


Tamara Park (04:23.765)

And, you know, I just, I have this little like protein, you know, question or haunt that is always in my mind.


Bryan (04:31.198)

Yeah, I'm sure once this video goes live, there'll be a million comments telling you all the pros and cons of protein on that front for sure. But I mean, there's a cultural side to it, too, right? So I guess, you know, let me ask you one other question is like, is there a particular like childhood memory of food as it relates to dishes that you grew up with or dishes that you cherish or part of your family culture and history?


Tamara Park (04:38.398)

Oh. Alright. Right me.


Tamara Park (04:44.349)

What? Please.


Tamara Park (04:58.441)

That is a fabulous question. You know, I was reflecting today, our family had this rhythm of going to church. I have a family that deeply holds faith. And then we would go to this restaurant in Charlotte that no longer exists, but it was called Ryan's Steakhouse. And you got a burger, and you got like a whatever you could eat salad bar.


Bryan (05:22.24)

Mm-hmm.


Tamara Park (05:28.285)

And then you got an ice cream cone. And I, you know, I mean, it was all the goods and it was great. And you could just sit there, you know. I'm so happy.


Bryan (05:39.274)

Yeah, I mean, Ponderosa. I mean, it sounds like a Ponderosa to me, but it's probably a better version. But.


Tamara Park (05:46.137)

Well, I don't know how much better, but you know, I mean, that's no longer my kind of go to combination of food, but I, you know, but meat was, that's an essential, you know, Uh huh. Yeah.


Bryan (05:52.397)

Yeah.


Bryan (05:59.614)

I grew up, I grew up in an Italian family, so it was pasta and meatballs. I mean, those are the go to. So, yeah. And so, well, I guess, you know what? You know, last little icebreaker here, we'll dive into the deeper topics here. So what it like you are a globe traveler, like you have been to probably every country on this planet. I'm so impressed. And.


Tamara Park (06:22.249)

Bye.


Bryan (06:23.242)

What is the most exotic or unique food that you've tried that's left such this lasting impression?


Tamara Park (06:30.305)

Oh, that is fascinating. So I went to, in fact, it may actually be called the carnivore. I can't remember the names. And Kenya and Nairobi. And they had ostrich meatballs, was one of the things they had. But they would just, they had all of these animals that were on the spit and they would come with.


Bryan (06:40.85)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (06:59.013)

you know, plates full of meat. And I think they, when I was there, they no longer were serving zebra, but it was just, you know, what? The array of a safari, you know what? You're cool. So that was fascinating. And then I ordered some in Japan. Ooh, I ordered some things that, you know, I have no idea what I ordered.


Bryan (07:14.103)

Yeah.


Bryan (07:17.55)

For sure.


Tamara Park (07:28.213)

I did show up in large quantities. I will say one time in Tokyo, I was just there traveling by myself and went into a little like hole-in-the-wall place and you were to get these tokens. And I was going to get like just a small respectable meal and a beer. And you had to get these tokens and basically put it in a vending machine. And somehow it was very curious. It was a restaurant that somehow you had to.


Bryan (07:28.546)

Yeah.


Bryan (07:52.878)

Okay.


Tamara Park (07:58.173)

participate in this whole process. And apparently I hit the wrong button. And I'm sitting at the bar, you know, waiting for my, you know, my drink and then my little respectable, and they brought me two large plates of food. And here I am. So that wasn't one of my finest orders, but there we go.


Bryan (08:00.526)

Okay.


Bryan (08:04.853)

Hehehe


Bryan (08:14.489)

Oh boy.


Bryan (08:22.742)

I've done that too, a few times with the language mistakes as well, like order in the wrong food and, and stuff. So, well, I kind of want to unpack like three topics with you. It's the, it's the health and the planet and the ethical side of it. And like, you've already touched on a little bit of your concern around, you know, the protein question, right? Which is probably the one of the most common ones, but like, you know,


Tamara Park (08:43.918)

And yeah.


Bryan (08:47.546)

I find that like meat eaters believe that consuming the animal products is essential for your optimal health. Um, so what are your, what are your thoughts on, on potential health benefits of plat based diet or, or concerns you have around like just, I don't know, what is optimal health in your, in your opinion for that balance, I guess.


Tamara Park (09:03.137)

with you.


Tamara Park (09:09.341)

Yeah, I think one, just making sure your body has sustenance, you know, and what it needs to fuel it. And speaking of fuel, like that it has energy. And then, you know, I want to be healthy. I don't want to have, you know, be dragging around a lot of extra weight because I want to be in motion. So you know, I think the big question, Bryan, is...


Bryan (09:15.115)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (09:32.342)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (09:40.513)

How do I give my body what it needs? And I'll hear this is, you know, I've heard that when you age, you have to double your protein. So what does that look like? And is that true? But like, I've listened to, you know, those in the health industry who've, you know, who've said, no, not, you know, not 30 grams of protein, you need 60 grams of protein a day.


Bryan (09:43.088)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (10:04.85)

Yeah, yeah. I don't know what the optimal number is. I guess the anecdote that's popping in my head is like, it's a smidge less than more or less half your body weight, at least for men. I think maybe it's a little bit less for women. So, I mean, I don't know, I guess probably in that 40, 45 to 60 range, you know.


if you if you do some math for men, unless they're like working out and trying to like, you know, be the body builders and stuff. But yeah, this is where I'm not like the end all be all expert on it kind of a thing. But I really think the American culture has really set us up for this whole worry about protein, when you really don't have to worry about it. I mean, I guess


Uh, if you, if you watched, if I strongly recommend you watch game changers and, uh, one of the, you know, ultra fighting guys is on that show. And he talks about how the, the gladiators bay back in Rome were primarily all plant based because that was the best way to fuel their body. You get the raw core building blocks. Cause I don't know, you're feeding the plants to the animals. They're turning it into protein.


Tamara Park (10:56.353)

Boom.


Tamara Park (11:09.441)

Thank you.


Bryan (11:19.03)

Then you eat the protein and I'm really like your body almost has to break it down to the building blocks to build the right kind of protein for you, uh, on that front. So that's why it takes longer to digest the food, uh, that's meat based and, and stuff. So, um, I guess I, I push back and I just sort of say like, uh, I mean, you, you've


You and I have had dinner together a few times and have hung out and stuff. So, I mean, I don't feel like you're running around having red meat at three meals a day. Like you're very, but you do feel like you need to have that a little bit here and there to get the right energy or nutrients for your body for the optimal health. Right.


Tamara Park (12:01.929)

Yeah, I mean, I probably have red meat like three times a year, maybe. Yeah. So, um, and I tried with the chicken and the fish. Exactly. I do eat tofu. I do, but it is that kind of sense of like, Oh, you know, like if I go a day or two without, am I giving my body what it needs? You know, I'm a question that lingers with me.


Bryan (12:05.354)

Right. Yeah. But the chicken and the fish. Yeah.


Yeah.


Bryan (12:25.034)

Right. Yeah.


I think if you're eating the rainbow on your salads and you sprinkle a few pine nuts or pumpkin seeds or sesame or sesame or like just or throw a scoop of black beans or chickpeas on your salad you're going to be you're going to be golden avocado. So I think you I think you wouldn't you wouldn't be worth it.


Tamara Park (12:35.169)

That's so interesting.


Tamara Park (12:44.197)

I do eat, yeah, I try to eat avocado. So avocado makes it further to protein, even though it doesn't have protein in it, the way that the body metabolizes it.


Bryan (12:56.234)

Yeah, avocado is a great source for just the right kind of energy building blocks and stuff. I mean, if you really think of all food as having the amino acids in it, you might get six or seven amino acids from the tomato. You might get another two or three you need from the kale or from the lettuce or from something else. Um, when, when you say an almond has all of the complete building blocks of a protein in it, but like broccoli,


Broccoli is technically a complete protein. I mean, I think it's like 11 or 12 out of the, the whatever number of amino acids that you need to make a complete protein, right? So if you get a few from here and a few from there, your body is really good at putting the protein together for the energy it needs, right? So it's just.


Tamara Park (13:42.837)

Brian, I try to pay attention to life, and how do I not know this stuff?


Bryan (13:46.45)

Right. Exactly. So, well, let's switch over to the planet side of it. Right. So we've unpacked the health a little bit. If we if we poke in to the planet side of it, like, I guess what's your what's your sort of stance on climate change and like the greenhouse gases and emissions and deforestation and all that kind of stuff as a world traveler, you've seen it, I'm sure.


Tamara Park (13:50.982)

Really exciting!


Tamara Park (14:11.081)

I've seen it and I do believe it's real. And I do try to pay attention, I will say, after even watching Food Inc. like that, radically I think reduce my red meat consumption and try to get, pay attention to the chicken and sources and fish sources. So, I mean, it's quite compelling,


Bryan (14:13.645)

Yeah.


Bryan (14:23.96)

Mm-hmm.


Tamara Park (14:40.553)

the carbon emission gas from cows. Yeah.


Bryan (14:44.407)

Yeah.


I mean, it's not, it's not even, it's not even that. I mean, it's to me, I guess it's the fact that we're transporting, we're growing all this beautiful vegetables to transport it, to feed to the cattle, to kill the cattle and transport them and transport that. So how much gasoline are we spending on, on transportation of meat or like fish? Like we're clearly overfishing the oceans. We're pulling almost one and a half trillion fish, I think each year out of the ocean.


Tamara Park (14:54.985)

Yeah.


Bryan (15:16.162)

So it's just incredible how we're gonna, I'm less, after I watched a couple other documentaries, I'm almost less worried about climate change killing us. I'm worried about we're running out of fish. When we run out of fish, nothing's gonna eat the algae. Then the algae will use up all the oxygen and we'll just be left with carbon dioxide and we'll die. So it's just like, we almost have to stop eating fish just to save the oxygen. And so.


Tamara Park (15:33.65)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (15:43.463)

Bye.


Bryan (15:44.482)

They're saying, I don't know when we'll run out of fish. 2050 we'll run out of fish. So I don't know, we've got to cut back on that too. So it's just mind blowing when you start unpacking some of that. So.


Tamara Park (15:57.797)

And it is tricky to really desire to show up. I love nature. I'm so grateful for our planet. And I've seen the destruction from glaciers, radically being less where you see the glacier lines in Alaska.


Bryan (16:07.394)

Yeah.


Bryan (16:22.099)

Mm-hmm.


Tamara Park (16:23.165)

you know, the Mediterranean, like they say the Met is dead, you know, swimming in there and not being in the coral reef. So I grieve over that and it does feel tricky. We eat every day to live into our values. So, you know, I hear you. I don't know if you've ever watched the series,


Bryan (16:38.551)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (16:51.177)

The Good Place, have you ever watched that? So it's a fascinating series and I won't dive too much into it, but it's this idea of like, what does it take to be good? And so it's looking at the end of the day and kind of weighing people's goodness. But really the big thing they pose is the earth has become so complex that when we try to make good decisions, there's a whole line up of other.


Bryan (16:53.693)

I haven't. Yeah, I have to check that one out.


Bryan (17:09.016)

Mm-hmm.


Tamara Park (17:19.749)

other choices. So like getting your vegetables, well, how much fuel you use. So I just that because we're living in a complex society to live on our pure values. There's a big cost to that and a big complexity. So you feel like you're living your values on the planet. I'm curious about that.


Bryan (17:29.578)

Yeah, for sure.


Bryan (17:38.078)

Yeah. I mean...


Bryan (17:44.879)

I mean, I think we all are human and falter now and then on that front. You know, like I'm big time in the corporate world. So, you know, there are times when there's no choice and you have to, but I do think it's best to admit those failures and move on. And we'll try again tomorrow. But I...


Tamara Park (17:51.285)

Yeah.


Bryan (18:09.834)

I think there's probably other areas of my life I struggle with less than the eating side of it. I guess I've just seen some of the amazing benefits of, you know, living a more plant-based life on so many levels. So, but I think that's a great segue into like the last segment was the ethical side of it, right? And so as a person who has traveled and tried some very exotic foods, like you were talking about, like it's shocking. We had on one of our other podcasts, the Glen Merzer show, we had


Elwood's dog meat. So if you check out Elwood dog meats website, I mean, they're, you know, taking the dogs that nobody needs and, you know, and humanely slaughtering them and shipping the dog meat, but that is shocking to people all around this globe that people would breed dogs and sell the dog meat, yet most likely the pigs and the cows are just as smart as the dogs. So why is that so shocking and heartbreaking and


So obviously that's a fake website, but its goal is to get you to really think about it. And she was on the show talking about how much hate mail and nasty voicemails she gets from people that are complete dog lovers on that front. So what, how do you unpack the ethical side of, you know, the pigs and the cows versus the dogs and the cats and stuff?


Tamara Park (19:33.681)

You're bringing it, Brian, look at you! Hahaha!


Bryan (19:36.774)

I'm trying.


Tamara Park (19:39.741)

You know, I will confess, like, I think it's tricky and I'm not, you know, I do, um, wow, I feel like we've got this gift of living on this gorgeous planet, you know? And there is the invitation to honor, you know, honor each of us as humans and honor animals and honor the nature. So I, you know, it is.


Bryan (19:54.338)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (20:03.947)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (20:08.933)

It is a struggle. It has been interesting to be in places where people really love, love their livestock and just, I think, desire to kind of honor that process. You know, whether I've seen a pig killed in Cuba and all sorts of different, different...


Bryan (20:23.116)

Yeah.


Bryan (20:30.038)

I mean, it's so, so good. I know you've seen that kind of thing. Like you've seen a chicken or a pig or something like you said, but most people in America haven't, you know, they almost take for granted that the chicken nuggets show up and there was no death or harm to anything. So, yeah.


Tamara Park (20:34.182)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (20:37.855)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (20:46.797)

Right. Yeah. And so it is interesting to be in places where people feel deeply connected to the land and deeply connected to animals that I do think kind of guide the way that they approach, whether it's the raising of them, the slaughter of them, the eating of them, where there's a much more mindfulness and connectivity to that.


Bryan (20:57.207)

Yeah.


Bryan (21:02.862)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (21:12.898)

You almost have, you know, I mean, as you become to me, as I became more plant-based myself, you almost have a much stronger respect and understanding of what a hunter does, you know, cause at least they're going out to.


Tamara Park (21:26.089)

Yeah.


Bryan (21:28.814)

to hunt the deer and to track it down. And I know maybe they're using a gun and it's at least as quick and painless hopefully for the deer, but like at least that brings you back to the ritual and like you're saying, the honoring of the process you're going through versus what we take for granted in America on a daily basis. So, yeah.


Tamara Park (21:34.462)

Yeah.


Tamara Park (21:50.397)

that they're seeing them as animals out in nature in their element versus being in basically a factory, you know? Yeah, but I, you know, I think it's tough and I will say like this conversation is having impact on me, which yeah, so.


Bryan (21:55.04)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (21:59.818)

Yeah, yeah.


Bryan (22:11.018)

Good. Well, I appreciate you taking some time to just sit down and talk about this. I think it's an important topic. And like I said, I do think people can have more optimal health by living a whole food plant-based diet. And we can be the change for the planet that we need. You know, not only, you know, skip the straw, but, you know, choose.


choose more plant-based options. And then definitely the ethical one is just such a hard one to unpack and really find the right answer for. But I appreciate you really taking some time to think about, I would, the movie that changed my life was Forks Over Knives. So if you haven't seen that one, watch Forks Over Knives. And then I think the newest, latest one that really, again, re-impacted me was Game Changers. I think it's on Netflix, so you can check that one out.


Tamara Park (23:04.13)

I will check it out. And I will say I was a vegan today in preparation for this interview.


Bryan (23:09.639)

Oh, thank you. We appreciate you. Well, any final closing thoughts as we kind of wrap up for today?


Tamara Park (23:16.969)

Well, I will say the biggest thing you've challenged me is to trust the process that my body, if I eat, you know, a healthy plant based diet, and it sounds like I need to be quite intentional about it, but that I can trust that my body will put together proteins in ways that aren't pre-packaged. And that's a really, that feels like a big aha for me. So thank you for that.


Bryan (23:45.314)

Good, good. Well, thank you so much, Tamara, for joining us and spending a few minutes. I know it's been a long day for both of us. We both got up early for some events this morning and it was just great to connect with you and spend a few minutes talking about this. So thank you. Again, I'm Brian. This is Plants Versus Meat. We really appreciate you tuning in to our first couple episodes. Help us spread the word.


Tamara Park (23:46.552)

Mm-hmm.


Tamara Park (23:54.315)

Mm-hmm.


Tamara Park (24:02.017)

I always enjoy it.


Bryan (24:11.358)

about this and we look forward to seeing you soon on another episode. If you know somebody we should debate and have a little chat with please send them our way. It's podcast at plants versus meat.com. Thank you.


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