November 11, 2008

Update on the Raw Food Diet

Do you have it in a different color? Transparent is so last year...

Did you ever wonder about Cinderella? I mean, did she really think she could live happily ever after with a guy who's got some weird frangible shoe fetish?

Health is not a fairy tale

It's like those shows that celebrate someone losing 200 pounds... but there's never any follow up on these shows to find out what happens next.

Here at Cranky Fitness, we are determined to shun such prevarications. So it seemed like a good time to provide an update on how my body felt after the 30 days of 90% all raw vegetables.

- Because I was on such an extremely low-fat diet, my skin broke out. (I know -- it's supposed to break out when it's greasy. I'm weird. The only time my skin has problems is when I'm behaving like as a teenager, i.e. going on extremely rigid and unrealistic diets.)

- Because I became so used to eating vegetables 90% of the time, it was no hardship to transition after the 30 days into eating lots of cooked veggies. Roasted vegetables, lightly sprayed with olive oil, are much more filling than their raw relatives.

- Because I've gotten so used to eating vegetables, it's -- wait for it -- gotten to the point where I, the most confirmed carnivore on the face of the planet, don't crave 'substantial' food like meat, chicken, or fish. Used to think those were the essential cornerstones of a meal, without which you would have cranky, resentful stomachs. Turns out that's not a basic law of nature. Gravity is a law of nature. Meat with every meal? Not.

- Look, if you're a guy please skip this point and go on to the next. (Are you gone? Good.) Okay, I have to mention that going cold carrot was an incredible help in that it made the cramps much, much, much, much less painful. (I would like to throw in a few more 'much'es into that last sentence, just to emphasize the point, but I think you got the idea already.)

- I put on a pair of jeans and walked around for 20 minutes before realizing that these were my 'skinny' jeans that I'd not been able to fit into two months ago. Still haven't unpacked my scale, but I take the jeans as proof that the raw food helped me shape wise.

A love affair with lettuce? Maybe just a fling

A coach that smells of pumpkin? Actually, I'd prefer a crock pot.

A raw food diet might make a useful transition for someone who wants to eat more healthy food and less saturated fat. I wouldn't recommend having a long-term relationship with an all-raw diet, but as an intermediate step to a more healthy diet? Might be worth a try.

I think I might suggest adding this idea to the Cranky Fitness Diet Book. Every diet book I've read starts out with an intro diet, a two-week section that is supposed to help the dieter lose weight quickly and get motivated to go on to the long-term maintenance diet.

Judging by the comments, everybody here is already into healthy diets. I feel like I'm trying to catch up to the point where you're already at. So maybe you can tell me -- did you all jump straight into eating healthily? Or was there a transitional period, where you went to an extreme version of a diet before settling into more moderate and healthy habits? (Or did you always eat 'good food' and if so were you never tempted into evil ways?)


  1. This is good stuff. Love the 'raw food diet' already.

    I grew up mostly on veggies (thanks mom!) That being said, I still love them (raw mostly) but grew into loving meat as I only do meat occasionally on eating out, which ends up being 1-2x monthly.

  2. R, that sounds like an excellent goal to aim for. I'll try to only eat meat when I eat out, which in these frugal days is not as often as it used to be.

    It's really strange to be reading the blog when it first posts, i.e. before I've got to bed rather than reading it when I get up in the morning. Must try to work on my getting-to-sleep strategy.

  3. This is funny. I still have my journal from when I was on my journey of losing 50 pounds. When I started, my goal was just to stay between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day and walk.

    I kid you not, for the first three months, I had a Butterfinger candy bar for breakfast from the machine at work. Thankfully, I decided that wasn't the best way to go eventually.

    Perhaps that's why I actually got to my goal weight though. I'm usually an all or nothing person. I suppose the flexibility I allowed myself helped me to see some initial loss and then get motivated to focus more on health.

  4. Does an ED count as a "Transitional Step"? because that's what got me into a nutritionists office, and that's how I began loving protein.

  5. I'm glad you had a good experience! That's one of the big motivating factors to sticking with something, huh?

    Okay, I'm just gonna let my weirdo flag fly here. I can't eat raw vegetables. It's not that I don't like them, I really do like them! It's that they give me, of all things, heartburn! Raging, horrible, no Tums will cure it heartburn!

    Somebody, please tell me I'm not the only weirdo out there with this problem? Please? Or offer some suggestion to counteract the problem?

  6. I started slowly. First I cut out regular soda and only drank diet or water. Then after a few weeks of that I cut back on fried foods. Didn't totally stop eating them, just cut back. Then after a couple of weeks of that I started working out. When I work out I eat better period. Something to do with not wanting to screw up all that hard work. Oh and I keep a food journal. I may not always stay within the calories I set, but at least I can see when I screw up and it makes me feel bad. I'm over diets!! I just try to make good decisions when I eat, and work out when I can. I've done south beach, atkins, WW, you name it, and nothing has worked as well as this has!

  7. The problem with a mostly vegetable raw food diet is that it can be difficult to get enough calories. Thus my raw diet is heavier on fruits than veggies, though I also get plenty of those. It also helps to have blended salads and green smoothies to get more greens in the diet.

    I also try to keep the fats to fewer than 20% of total calories, so fruit calories become even more important.

    My transition to eating raw was about a two year journey that simply started with trying to add one good thing a week to my diet. It built up from there.


  8. My (relatively) heathy eating is the result of my allergies. From the age of six I couldn't eat much that wasn't prepared at home, and although we ate a lot of desserts, the idea of not eating a lot of vegetables first is a foreign concept to my whole family, allergies or not.
    When I was twenty and my food allergies changed to where it was difficult to eat a balanced diet, I went to a nutritionist for advice, and she said I was the first client she'd _ever_ had who wanted vegetables for breakfast. I told her if she wanted me to eat protein for breakfast I would want vegetables to go with it.
    Due to this lifetime of food restrictions I utterly refuse to count calories. I just try not to eat too much.
    And learning to always read the label about the same time you learn to read is a Good Thing.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  9. The raw food diet is probably the only one I've never tried! (Despite all evidence on 20/20 to the contrary...sigh) I'm not opposed to it on principle but knowing my predilection to take things to the extreme, I probably won't do it. It also seems as if it would be hard to balance with cooking for a family.

    That said, I love my veggies and we do have them with every meal - even breakfast!

  10. Reduced cramps? Sign me up? What about overall crabiness? lol.

    I went through a number of extreme diets in college only to leave myself with a fluctuating weight and poor body confidence. I switched to moderation and all got better. :)

  11. Hmmm, when I went vegetarian my diet consisted entirely of french fries and slushies. Granted, I was 12 and my mother wasn't very supportive and wouldn't make special meals for me.

    It was only in college when I took a nutrition course that I plunged into healthy(ish) eating habits.

    I've found that once you start eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and cut out fatty foods your body loses the ability to digest tons of fat.

  12. I'm loving these comments! Especially because it sounds like everyone took a different path to Healthville. It's not one size fits all :)

  13. Eating Vegan with seafood, I have a high percentage of raw in my diet. I think it's a healthy way to go. Before they cooked food, there were no Orthodontists :-)

  14. Dr. J? Before they cooked food, were there plumbers or lawyers or chiropractors? :)

  15. Way to go Merry! I don't think I could ever go quite so hard core into the raw food thing. I like veggies, but I mostly like them cooked. I do eat less meat than I used to, but I tend to eat meat every day (though not necessarily every meal). I just go with the everything in moderation thing, and I try to eat all natural, local ingredients (great-grandmother's diet, kind of thing).

  16. My stepmom was big on making sure I ate three square meals a day, so a diet with plenty of fruits and veggies and low on snacks has always been the norm for me.

    But even her standards were too Standard American for me. I've been following a "divide and conquer" strategy since high school, when I cut sugared drinks and red meat from my diet. Except for my mid-20s, when my lifestyle was unhealthy overall, I've been chipping steadily away at unhealthy things in my diet.

    What helped the most in ending my food cravings was getting rid of all pre-made foods, even the organic ones. With rare exceptions, everything I eat, I make myself. I eat small, reasonable portions, and I no longer have cravings.

    I've never been a big person, but keeping my size where I want it sure is a lot easier when my knuckles aren't white from struggling to resist the call of the pre-packaged brownies, no matter how organic they may be.

    Going cold turkey might be the right way for some folks, but I've been happy with the end result of my bit-by-bit strategy.

    To anyone looking to clean up their diet, I would say, start anywhere. Pick one thing to eliminate, don't overcompensate in some other area of your diet, and focus on just one new habit at a time. Once you're comfortable with, say, no more HFCS, pick something else.

    Small steps along the path will get you where you're going, just like big ones will. It's all about consistency and persistence. We're worth it!

  17. Super interesting! LOVE the "health is not a fairy tale" line.

    I didn't always eat healthy. When I started to try to be "healthier", I included things like Special K and cup-a-soup (my current health-savvy self is just a-turning in her grave...). So I guess that was my transition period... just becoming more aware of portion control and such. And then slowly eliminating processed food and spending a lot of time being open to trying new superfoods and such. Yummy.

    I would be incredibly interested to try the raw food thing for a little while, though!

  18. There are some really good raw restaurants and "un"-cookbooks out there. One of my favorite places is called Soulstice Cafe, which is raw, vegan, and gluten free. (It's also in the lobby of one of the gyms I teach at-CONVENIENT!). The food is terrific, but heavy on the prep work. I know that right now I'm not in a position to eat that way all or most of the time, nor can I afford the equipment.
    But it is possible to eat a varied diet and keep it healthy, IMHO.

  19. When I started my quest for healthy living, I did WW pretty religiously. Now I lean more towards intuitive eating - eating whatever I want, basically, but paying attention to things like hunger & fullness signals.

  20. This is all great reading for somebody who has a goal of losing about 15 pounds gradually over the next two years. Or sooner...I wouldn't mind that.

    I can say that sodas and other sugary drinks have almost no appeal for me, thank goodness. (I might have a Coke once a year.) That's about the only really good thing about my eating habits that I can think of, though.

  21. Im a straightinto'er.

    like ripping off a bandaid I had to do it all at once :)

  22. I am not a member of the long-time-healthy-eating echelon. By most standards, I wouldn't even rank with the semi-healthy echelon. Despite the fact that I'm no longer gorging on King-sized Reese's PB cups, I still eat processed and convenience foods.

    At times in the past I dove headfirst into new diets, but I'm a bit more tentative now. I've joined Weight Watchers but am allowing myself to play around with the program if I need to ;).

  23. It's funny--I've actually been thinking about this lately. I think the way I eat is 'normal', but I'm coming to realize it isn't. Lately I have been constantly getting comments on how healthy I eat at work--and for some reason, they are often said with a sense of criticism that I just cannot understand (I don't comment on the fact that you eat fast food everyday, eventhough i see that as unimaginable, so please don't make comments to me because my rice and veggies or fruit don't appeal to you).

    While I don't think of myself as an overly healthy eater, I do go for all whole grains and lots of veggies and fruit and very little red meat or fried foods. I try to cook as much as possible and rarely eat fast food or drink sodas. Why do I do these things? Lots of reasons--it was how I was raised, so to me it's just habit; I love my body and want to take care of it; it's much cheaper to cook at home than eat out; fried and greasy foods just don't appeal to me; and, on the occasion I'm craving something really rich or fatty, I go ahead and eat it--the result of which is that I usually don't enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would, so I'm not really tempted again for awhile; when you don't eat a lot of fatty foods, they tend to make you feel icky when you do.

    Oh, but my number one rule is to NEVER beat myself up or feel bad about anything I eat! It drives me crazy for a coworker to bring in cookies or fudge to share and get the evil eye from others. Are you kidding me?! These things are delicious, yummy treats and should be treated as such (which includes treating yourself to them in moderation, but also enjoying them when you do).

    OK...that was long, but this has just happened to be on my mind lately.

  24. I'm in awe of your willpower. 30-day plans never work for me because I don't fully commit to the values.

  25. Monica, have you read Dr. J's recent column on this subject? It's a good read, addressing the whole eating peer pressure thing:

  26. FYI, buddy :-)

  27. Dr. J, that is a cool article. I want to read more on that subject.

    Also, I liked your peer pressure blog. Don't blame you for getting miffed. I know I would get tired of answering those same questions over and over again!

  28. I'm a slow learner. It's taken decades for me to slow myself down enough to learn what feels good for me to eat, and at last I'm attaining a healthy sustainable body! In the past 2 years--since the real glory days of my premenopause--I've tuned in & step by step quit wheat, most wine, most dairy, drastically reduced red meat and added soy. The trick for that last one was to find really delicious soy yogurt. Worth the effort!
    I'd be willing to try 90% raw but my dear SO not so much.

  29. I was weaned on chicken paprikash (with dumplings, of course) and stuffed cabbage. BIG Hungarian meals and a proud member of The Clean Plate Club.

    After I left home, who could be bothered with cooking? 'Comes in a box and can be nuked in the micro' became my staple diet. I racked up frequent flyer miles at the drive-thru windows.

    Four months ago, I began transitioning to a raw foods diet. I've learned that can mean 10 different things to 10 different people. For me, it means eating food in its natural state, not refined, not processed. That means, I consume a primarily plant-based diet, consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts.

    The changes in my health have been nothing short of amazing, and I've kicked over 60 pounds to the curb along the way.

    Like you, Merry, I don't crave meat or heavy foods any more. I still have a thing for wild Alaskan salmon though. And, I like mine grilled, not raw, thank you.

  30. Oh, Earthmother, I'm with you on the no-raw-fish movement. I've taken too many microbiology courses to enjoy even the thought of sushi.
    Congratulations on the successful transition to a healthy diet.
    Where are all the insomniacs of the world? Surely I can't be the only person who's on an insane sleep cycle right now ... can I?
    Really? You're all snoozing right now? Well I must say I am impressed.b

  31. I started out by sticking to my diet's guidelines EXACTLY. Then I realized that I would never be able to keep it up, so, after a couple of weeks of it, I started treating myself once in a while, and I'm still losing.

  32. Thanks Merry!!

    The study was a surprise to me too, but makes sense. My background is ecological nit ch and evolution biology before I went to doctor schools.

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  34. i just had lunch with a girlfriend who has fibromyalgia - she went raw and was able to get off of more than 30 pills and pain meds a day. Amazing! But I don't know if I could do it, unless the circumstances were dire.

  35. Raw food diets take so much preparation and planning that I don't think I'd be very successful at it with my current schedule.

    I've pretty much tried some version of every diet out there, though, and in the end I've settled with listening to my body, making healthy choices most of the time and enjoying the other stuff in moderation. In general, I eat a lot of fruits and veggies and try to avoid processed foods. I try not to beat myself up if I have one or two (or a dozen) not-so-healthy days. And if I lose a few pounds along the way, well that's great, too.

    In the past I've had to fully commit to a diet right away or I'd get discouraged. Eventually, I'd find that commitment too restrictive and would end up going back to my old habits. That's why I've started trying things in the opposite order. Gradual change -> long-term habit. This was a great post and you really got me thinking about trying to adjust my diet to include more raw (natural state, as earthmother puts it) foods and less processed/cooked foods.

  36. Eating raw foods is very beneficial if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet. I don't know about long term though? I think for the most part we can eat just about anything we want as long as its in moderation!

  37. Ami? I'm puzzled. Probably it's the lack of sleep, but I don't see why you feel a raw diet takes a lot of preparation.
    The reason I ended up going this route was that I needed to go mostly vegetarian and I didn't have time to do anything else.
    I went to the store once a week and bought food that I didn't need to do anything to except wash: apples, carrots, things like that. The most prep work I did was to slice a bell pepper up while at my desk.
    I'm curious what sort of preparation you undertook. Maybe I was going about this the wrong way?

  38. Transitional.
    No junk...smaller junklate at night.
    Bit by bit.
    Even now when I splurge, it's usually way more healthy than before.
    I don't think I could go all raw...I need muffins to live.

  39. Merry - I guess that doesn't sound so bad...the raw food diet plans and testimonials I've heard always involve fancy homemade juices, smoothies, etc. Maybe I'll give it a try after all, although I already eat a lot of raw food to begin with so I'd just be replacing non-raw foods with more fruits and veggies. I'm intrigued.

  40. Here's my "fancy homemade juice" I enjoy just about every morning:

    1 head Romaine lettuce
    2 cukes
    1 Fuji apple
    handful of sweet pea sprouts
    1/2 inch fresh ginger root

    Total time, start to finish, including clean-up: 5 minutes!

  41. Yay! on the skinny jeans...cuz well ya know :-)

  42. Would you reccomend this diet for a 16 year old dancer? Like will I have enough energy to dance?

  43. Would you reccomend this diet for a 16 year old dancer? Like will I have enough energy to dance?


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