Many people find that the most difficult part of making diet changes and following a healthy lifestyle is actually putting it all into practice and embracing it.
What do I actually eat? How do I make it?
Many times things may make sense in our minds or in theory, but when it comes to living it on a daily basis, things can get a little more difficult.
Today I have a video for you where Dr. Joel Fuhrman explains how to maneuver the initial potential obstacles that people face during changes in diet and lifestyle.
In it you’ll learn:
• How your tastes for certain foods can dramatically change when switching diets.
• Why some people experience a “detox period” when changing their lifestyle and may feel slightly worse before they feel better.
• How you can balance getting the best from your diet by utilizing fresh, raw foods as well as consciously prepared cooked foods.
• Some of the healthiest ways of cooking food that balances preserving nutrients while making them easier to absorb.
• Why dishes like soup are such a healthy and easy way to get a wide variety of nutrients and flavors into your diet.
Knowing how to eat and live a healthy lifestyle and actually being able to put it into practice are two very different things. In today’s world, it is an uphill struggle to say no to the temptations of cheap, albeit tasty and readily available food.
But in my opinion, it’s worth every effort. The riches you get in return for investing into being a healthy person and taking the time to seek out and eat good quality food will be far, far greater than settling on any cheap commodity item that some people insist is okay to eat!
Being a healthy person need not be difficult. Just take the queues from people who’ve been through it before and you’ll be that much happier and healthier for it.
It’s a bit of a shocking realization when you notice that health gurus, who write diet books and give advice on how to live long, tend to live shorter lives than the average person.
They seem to be beaten only by rock stars (who have an average life expectancy of 42 years old for American rock stars, and 35 for Europeans!)
Here are just a handful of examples of people who made a living teaching others how to extend their lives yet died younger than the average person:
Michel Montignac: A very famous Frenchman who promoted a healthy diet based on the concept of the glycemic index, died at 66 of cancer. He was the inspiration behind the “South Beach Diet.”
Dr. Atkins: Probably the most famous diet guru in the world (who weighed 258 lbs at 6 feet tall), died after spending 9 days in a coma at the age of 72 from a slip on the ice. The medical examiner noted that in his health files that he had previously had suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure, and hypertension. There was never any autopsy performed on Dr. Atkins, so it can’t be confirmed whether or not his other health ailments prevented him from recovering.
Paavo Airola: Author of “How to Get Well”. Led the juice fasting and natural health movement in the 70s and 80s, yet died of a stroke at the age of 64.
Roy Waldorf: Said that he was a longevity expert and wrote the book “The 120-Year Diet”, died in 2004 at the age of 79. That’s still a fairly long life, but nowhere near the projected marker.
Dr. Nathan Pritikin: One of the most prolific authors on the low fat diet, he took his own life as his body was overtaken by leukemia at age 69.
Ross Horne: A student of Dr. Pritikin, claimed that he would have lived longer if he had embraced the fruitarian diet that Ross promoted, but he himself died of cancer, albeit well into his 80’s at the time.
T.C. Fry: Leader of the Natural Hygiene and fruitarian movement, died of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 70.
Robert E. Kwalski: Author of the famous book “The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure,” died at the age of 65 of a pulmonary aneurysm.
George Oshawa: Literally invented the macrobiotic diet (which actually translates to “the way of long life”) passed of lung cancer at the age of 73.
Adele Davis: Pioneered the concept of healthy eating and was known for her somewhat “radical” recommendations, died at the age of 70 from cancer.
Of course it wouldn’t be fair to say that all health and diet gurus died young, because they didn’t. Some of them lived to be at least a little longer than the average folk:
Paul Bragg: died at 81. Although it was widely claimed by his family that he died from a surfing accident, apparently cause of death was a heart attack, a fact which has since been removed from his Wikipedia page.
Norman Walker: known for his prolific works promoting raw foods and vegetable juices, died at 99 (and not at 118 years old as was previously claimed).
Jack Lalanne: More a fitness than a diet guru, died at the age of 96 from pneumonia.
What Does It All Mean?
The fact that a good majority of health gurus don’t live significantly longer than the average person, and in many cases actually live shorter lives, doesn’t in itself mean anything revolutionary.
People are fallible. Health gurus can be mistaken. More importantly… health gurus are human just like you and me!
Some health gurus promoted a low fat diet; others just as passionately promoted a high fat diet.
Some health gurus practiced what they preached most of the time; some did part of the time, And some, like always is the case, didn’t practice their teachings at all.
In some cases these inconsistencies didn’t prevent them from living a long life, like Paul Bragg who used to enjoy an occasional burger in his favorite Honolulu restaurant.
Others, like T.C. Fry, struggled to apply their strict teachings in their own lives 100% of the time, yet still lived far longer than what their doctors had predicted (T.C. was predicted to die in his forties, before he changed his lifestyle).
Some gurus have even tried to give immortality a go, like Roy Waldorf, and practiced calorie restriction. Yet as a result he only to lived slightly longer than the average male life expectancy.
Some diet gurus pretended to have the solution to weight loss, but were themselves overweight when they passed away. No need to name names or point fingers here!
Who knows? Maybe it’s too much pressure to be a high-profile health guru and knowing that people expect you to be perfect all of the time.
Maybe some health gurus would have changed their minds about a few things they got wrong, but to maintain their image they refused to admit to others and themselves that their program did not work and that they needed to try something else.
Or it could be that many diet gurus start with poor health in the first place and then get motivated to find a solution and write a book about it.
The fact that some diet gurus die young should not lead us to the conclusion that all diet advice is bad. But it should lead one to question the quality of the advice they are getting from anybody who is claiming to have answers.
I find that most diet books on the market are mostly just for maintaining the status quo and trying to encourage people to keep up their bad habits that they’ve become comfortable with.
Bad Health Advice Like:
- Eating a ton of cholesterol is actually good for you, so start the day with organic bacon and eggs
- Eating a lot of meat is man’s natural design (the last guy who tried to live on an all-meat diet is Vihjalmur Stephanson, and he died of a serious cardiovascular disease at 81).
- Eating a lot of fat is good as long as it’s “good” fat, so douse your salad and everything else with buckets of olive oil
- Carbohydrates are “bad” but lots of meat protein is good
- Fruit is “bad,” but factory-made protein drinks are great for carbohydrates
It can be difficult to see through all of the confusion surrounding most health doctrines, but it doesn’t need to be.
Essentially, I think every diet claim falls in one of three categories:
- Some things are good for everybody, and there’s science to support it
- Some things are downright bad for everybody, and there’s science to support it
- Some things are more complicated, and depend on individual situations.
Some Examples Of Good Health Advice:
- Fruits and vegetables are GOOD for everybody, yet most diet books don’t promote a diet based on fruits and vegetables.
- All science out there supports a diet based on fruits and vegetables, yet very few people actually do it.
- A comprised of more plants is GOOD for everybody, and so is taking proven steps to improve your health such as exercising, and eating fresh instead of packaged food.
- The Standard American Diet (SAD) without exception isn’t doing anybody any favors, nutritionally speaking. Any diet book is generally going to be at least a step above that!
- Other things are not black and white. For example, there’s a debate as to whether a completely vegan diet is better than one that contains a small percentage of animal products. I prefer to eat a mostly plant-based diet, but others think they can get certain nutrients by eating some quantities of animal products.
- Some people feel best on an all-raw diet, although there’s no definite science to say that it’s absolutely the best diet for everybody.
- Some people just can’t eat certain foods due to allergies or sensitivities, likely because of past health experiences.
Ultimately, it’s up to YOU to become your own diet guru.
You’re the one who knows what’s right for you, and you know that better than absolutely anybody else.
It doesn’t really matter how much fat person A eats in a day or how bad pancakes are for you person B says, none it is really relevant to you, as you need to base your opinions and conclusions off your own thoughts and experiences. It’s always great to hear other people share their experiences, but at the end of the day: have your own!
Gut bacteria and intestinal health has been a popular topic of discussion in the health scene. Almost everybody has heard of probiotics and how good they are for your health, and food marketers are even putting probiotics in all sorts of things now, from soft drinks to zinc tablets.
But there’s good reason for that: the environment in your gut and the symbiotic relationship that you have with those bacteria and the rest of your body is critical to your health and wellbeing.
All sorts of things can throw off the balance of “good”/”bad” bacteria in your intestinal environment, like overconsumption of alcohol and even improperly released emotional stress.
Check out this video today where the excellent Dr. Michael Klaper discusses the importance of your digestive environment and how it’s even related to such diseases like Leaky Gut Syndrome.
You can find out:
• A few of the many common everyday things that people do that ultimately causes disaster for their gut bacteria, and how you can fix it
• The concept of “you can’t do one thing”: how everything you and I do effects absolutely everything else around us, near and far, and how this is key to understanding good health.
• Why proteins leaking into your bloodstream, AKA an autoimmune disease, can spell disaster for your health and why the health of your intestinal environment is in direct relation with this.
• How you can actually repair a damaged gut environment and see how this one change in one part of your body affects the rest of you too!
Producing a healthy gut environment is something that I feel everyone should take at least small steps towards creating.
So next time you find yourself feeling a little under the weather or experiencing a sour stomach, trust your gut!
The other day I was thinking about summer. For most of us in North America, the change of seasons is definitely in the air, and it had me yearning for the tastes of summer. This brought me right to one of my favorite salads, ingredients as follows:
- Crisp romaine lettuce
- Sweet and ripe raw corn
- Garden-ripen tomatoes
- Diced mango
- Creamy avocado
- Fresh herbs picked from the garden
- Lemon juice
If you haven’t had a chance to try a good salad with quality ingredients like this, I highly recommend you try it out! Par of what makes it so good is the quality and freshness of the ingredients. I always opt for the freshest I can find.
But another reason it tastes so great is the combination of the sweetness in the mango and corn, the savory taste of the tomatoes and vegetables and herbs, and the creaminess of the avocado.
Many people who adhere to food combining rules would have a fit over this concoction. Sure, it will taste like heaven in the mouth, they say, but hell in the stomach!
Well, maybe not quite. Let’s take a look.
Indeed, what about food combining rules?
Most people who are following a raw food diet or health-conscious diet have heard something about food combining, or consciously combining (or not combining!) certain foods for the sake of ideal digestion.
For example, the original book where many food combining advocates base many of their ideals, “Food Combining Made Easy” by Dr. Herbert Shelton, presented many “rules”, but no real reasons behind them.
Also, a lot of people have misinterpreted that book. Because Shelton said “eat melons on their own”, some people think they should never eat melons with other fruits (such as peaches), when in fact Shelton clearly stated you could do so.
Essentially, his rule was meant to avoid the common combination/abomination in those days of a big slice of watermelon after of rich meal of meat and pasta.
In my book the “Raw Secrets”, I simplified food combining rules in the raw diet to three essential rules:
- Don’t combine fat with sugar
- Don’t combine acids with starch
- Don’t combine different types of fatty foods within one meal
Today, I’m going to simplify these rules even more, and completely deconstruct the food combining theory.
How I Reconsidered These Rules
For many years, I followed food combining rules blindly without questioning them. Then I started simplifying them over the years, and realized that some of them weren’t really necessary.
At this point, I have eliminated most of the “rules” I once thought were absolutely essential. Over the years, I’ve watched how other raw foodist and raw food enthusiast actually ate.
Many of them didn’t pay attention to any of these food combining rules and just ate the combinations of foods they felt like eating or that tasted good to them.
Yet when I saw what they were eating, they were breaking all the rules! What I’ve learned over time is that many of these rules didn’t really have much validity for most people, and you don’t really need to follow them so strictly.
The idea behind many food combining rules is to simplify the process of digestion. So naturally, the “sandwich” is one of the worst combinations ever, because it combines many classes of foods which are optimally digested in a completely different acidic or non-acidic environment in the stomach.
In the raw food diet, people naturally avoid most of these combinations, leaving mainly one: the combination of fat and sugar.
The idea behind this rule is that combining fat and sugar, such as dates and almonds together, will let the sugar ferment in the stomach.
The reason is simple: almonds and other fats take a lot more time to digest than simple sugars. If you eat them together, the sugar you eat will spend much more time in the stomach and intestines and start to ferment.
But even with that rule, the traditional rules of food combining allow for certain exceptions. For example, you can combine acid fruits with nuts together.
The idea is that because nuts digest well in an acidic environment, acid fruits don’t compromise that picture, and also contain less sugar than other sweeter fruits.
This line of reasoning always appeared a little suspicious to me, and I noticed that this combination didn’t really bother me at all.
But one thing that struck me as particularly bizarre is that many foods in nature naturally contained the dreaded fat and sugar combination.
For example, the durian, a beloved fruit of many raw-foodists, is very rich in sugar and quite rich in fat (20-30% on average).
Even avocados contain some sugar and carbohydrates, and so do nuts (especially cashews).
There are also other fruits in nature that contain this forbidden mixture of fat and sugar, such as the Ackee fruit, popular in Jamaica.
So it always seemed a little bizarre to me that the argument was that it was “natural” to follow these food combining rules, yet nature broke it’s own rules, as it were.
I find that many people who are suffering from indigestion or other ailments blamed on a lack of proper food combining tend to have something in common: they’re eating a LOT of fat with a LOT of sugar, for example.
Eating a pound of raisins and almonds together might not leave you feeling the best. But try eating a few dates and few almonds together. You’ll probably find that this combination goes down just fine.
The same goes for other fatty foods too.
Eat a giant bowl of guacamole and chase it with a bunch of bananas and figs, you might experience a bit of digestive upset.
But dice up a third of an avocado in a salad that contains lettuce and mango, and you’ll probably be fine.
I’ve found that this rule of avoiding fat and sugar mostly has to do with the quantities that are eaten together.
So to simplify it all, my new single rule (if you can call it that!) is that it’s fine to eat some fatty foods with some sweet foods, just don’t go crazy on the amounts of each thing you combine.
I would just recommend trying to avoid fruits that are very concentrated in sugar such as dates, dried fruits or bananas, and instead use juicy fruits. It also helps to avoid large amounts of fats like oil.
I sill appreciate the essence and spirit of food combining, as I do feel that it’s great to get more in tune with eating simpler and in combinations that make you and your body happy. However, I don’t think you need to deal with any of the stress or restriction that strict food combining devotees can fall prey to.
I’ve found that much of it is really mind over matter in this case. Just eat your healthy food and enjoy it!
Nutrient density is something that really is sort of the key to health and nutrition.
I mean think about it for a second: let’s say person A. eats around three pounds of food per day, and they get so many nutrients from that. Then let’s say person B. also eats just three pounds of food per day, only the food they are eating contains ten times the amount of nutrients in person A.’s food.
Each person can go through their entire lives eating the same amount of food, but the nutrient density and the types of foods they eat really make the difference.
I mean, eating 1,000 calories of white flour and sugar is going to effect your body much differently than 1,000 calories of sweet potatoes and beans.
Check out this video today with Dr. Joel Fuhrman and you’ll learn:
- Why almost all of the traditional dieting tricks just don’t really result in lasting weight loss.
- How nutritious foods feel to your body vs. foods void of real nutrition. This actually determines how full you feel after eating!
- Learn which foods are the most nutrient dense (no, cupcakes didn’t make the list).
- How many vegans and vegetarians can actually end up getting most of their calories from foods that really aren’t that healthy.
Nutrient density is something that I have personally been aware of for a while now, and is something that I feel is critical when it comes to eating well.
Much of the draw of a raw food diet is that many of the foods are by default more nutrient dense, but I think that you can combine the best of both worlds by eating both nutrient dense raw foods and nutrient dense cooked foods.
I’ve been involved in the raw food scene since 1997, but I didn’t eat only raw foods 100% of the time. I only ate a 100% raw food diet for about 3 and 1/2 years in my early days, and since then, after a lot of experimenting, I now eat a combination of raw and cooked foods.
Of course, during the last 15 years, I’ve had periods when I ate more or less raw foods. I also ate 100% raw for months at a time.
But it’s been very clear for many years that a 100% raw food diet as an ideal to maintain for life was just not right for me.
Today I’m going to present to you six reasons why I personally don’t eat an entirely raw food diet. These all apply to me personally, but have also applied to many others before.
6 Reasons Why I Don’t Eat 100% Raw
#1: Cooked food is not toxic
One of the main reasons why I don’t eat a 100% raw food diet is that there’s really nothing that has convinced me that this is necessary to be healthy. A lot of the raw food “advice” spread everywhere in books and websites often implies that eating cooked foods will make you sick, because it is “toxic.”
Pseudo-scientific arguments have included:
- The food enzyme theory
- Pottenger’s cat studies
- The digestive leucocytosis study
- Kirlian photography
- The “diet by design” arguments
- The “no other animals cook their food” argument
In this article I will not debunk each of these myths. You can already find plenty of information on the subject on my website on many of these myths to give you another point of view.
My conclusion is that cooking food does not make it “toxic” by any stretch of the imagination. Some cooked foods are unhealthy, some cooking methods are relatively bad as well, but so are some raw foods or raw food combinations.
It’s not whether a food is “raw” or “cooked” that matters. This is really an oversimplification. We have to look at many more factors to judge whether a food is healthy or what could be its part in a healthy diet.
Raw foods are great for you— of course. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big proponent of raw foods. This is a lot of what this website and my products are about.
But cooking some foods also can be just as good for some people. It essentially increases the variety of foods you can consume and increases the overall quality of your diet. Many vegetables, for example, are difficult to eat raw, but extremely healthy after being just lightly cooked.
#2: I enjoy traveling too much
One of my passions in life is traveling. And when I travel, I like to discover and enjoy other cultures. On a 100% raw food diet, traveling can be a big hassle. You’re essentially condemned to spend all your time looking for fruit markets and then eat your food in tupperware containers in your hotel rooms. No bueno!
I don’t travel all the time, but enough to want some flexibility when I travel to try some local cuisine, or be able to leave the hotel room for more than a couple of hours without worrying about running out of food.
Maybe this reason wouldn’t apply to everybody, but for me enjoying some stress-free travel once in a while without constantly obsessing about food is one of the main reasons I don’t eat 100% raw.
#3: I like not freezing to death
I live in Canada. While I tend to spend some time in the tropics every year, I do live in a cold climate most of the year.
I’ve done a 100% raw food diet in cold climates. And I’ve done a diet that includes warm, cooked soups and other cooked foods in the same climate. Which one is easier? I think just asking the question is answering it!
Yes, a 100% raw diet can be done in cold climates, for sure. But even the raw foodists that are doing it are often planning to move to a tropical country or state!
At this point in my life I have no interest in relocating to another country full-time. I like to visit other places, but not live there permanently.
In the heart of the winter, coming back home from a cold day only to turn on your blender and make a cold soup can be downright demoralizing. I’m only speaking for myself of course, but I see nothing wrong in enjoying a big pot of hot vegetable soup on cold days, instead of having to settle on a cold salad of raw lettuce and tomatoes.
#4: My digestion is strong enough
Many raw foodists tend to yo-yo back and forth between 100% raw and cooked food diets, only to return to more cleansing and detox and an even stricter raw food diet later.
They find that whenever they eat cooked food, it totally “destroys” them. A bowl of rice will make them pass out as if they ate a big Thanksgiving dinner, and eating out at the restaurant causes them to feel so sick that they’ll spend a week recovering from it.
I call it “the raw curse” and talked about this weird phenomenon in many of my books. Raw foodists incorrectly think that their bodies have become so pure (as in “super healthy”) that it now rejects the toxic cooked foods that most people are habituated to (like a drug).
In reality, what’s really going on is that the “raw food body” has simply stopped producing the proper mix of digestive enzymes and they simply can’t properly digest more complex foods. By eating only foods that require almost no digestion (like fruit and greens), their digestion has “dumbed down” to the point it can’t handle anything much more complex.
Some people even take this to an extreme, making their diets even stricter with time, like eliminating fatty foods like nuts and seeds entirely. This leads them to become even more sensitive and weakens their digestion further.
The same phenomenon happens in reverse. Someone eating a junk food diet devoid of fiber with lots of meat, white bread and few vegetables can experience some serious digestive discomfort when they start eating lots of fiber-rich foods, like beans or fruits and vegetables. In can take them weeks or months to adapt to this new healthy diet.
Some long-term raw foodists have even fantasized that if they ate a hamburger they would end up in the hospital, and possibly die. That’s a little extreme and probably not likely to happen, but there’s a good chance that hamburger would make them seriously ill!
The trick to avoid the “raw curse” is to retrain your body to digest certain foods. You can do it for almost anything. And eventually, eating a bowl of brown rice won’t put you in a coma, and having a little bit of garlic in your stir-fry won’t cause you to have nightmares all night!
#5: My teeth are stronger now
I will be the first to say, I still eat a lot of fruit. But because my diet is more varied now, and my nutrient intake higher and my teeth are stronger than ever before.
When I was 100% raw or close to it, my teeth would be weak, prone to cavities, and often sensitive. Now I don’t get the sensitivity in my teeth from eating certain sweet foods or acid foods like I did before, nor do I get any cavities.
One change I’ve also made in the last few years is that I now rarely eat a lot of citrus or very acidic foods. Eating large quantities of these foods over a period of time can do a number on your teeth. Part of this is due to fruit ripeness.
Now I focus on fruits that are milder, like bananas, apples, mangoes, papayas, and melons. However, whenever I eat acidic foods, my teeth are fine because they’ve re-enamelized and built some resistance. And because my diet is more varied, I get my calories from a wider variety of foods and don’t have to rely on a single staple food, like oranges or grapes.
#6: I enjoy having a life
You can have a life if you’re 100% raw, I know! But it will be a life that revolves around food.
You will think about food, plan your food intake, and worry about food a lot of the time. And very likely, you’ll have to avoid many social situations around food, choose your friends carefully, always justify your diet, and surround yourself as much as possible with other food-obsessed raw foodists.
After having obsessed about food for all of my 20s, I enjoy having enough flexibility with my diet that I don’t have to constantly worry about social situations and how I will handle them with my “weird” diet.
I don’t go out of my way to eat junk food, and for the most part, I enjoy staying at home better than going out. However, the human being is a social creature. And I enjoy being part of the “world” without having to create a world of my own all the time.
So when family or friends invite me over, they’ll try to make something healthy for me. But I’m not going to analyze every single ingredient that goes in the food that I’m eating all the time. And if everybody is having wine, I’m going to have a glass too and enjoy it.
Your diet has to fit your personality, and make you happy. For some people, eating 100% raw fits their personality and maybe helps them control other aspects of their lives better.
My personality does not fit a 100% raw diet. I’m someone who’s passionate, always interested in new things, open-minded, and not an attention-seeker. I’m also very curious about the world, food in general, other cultures, and new ideas. To stick to a strict no-exceptions-permitted-diet simply doesn’t work with who I am and never did.
I’m not saying that I’m 100% right but I definitely know what’s right for me and that’s what’s most important. I also know that most people, no matter how hard they try, will not be able to stick to a 100% raw food diet. And that’s okay! Seek your own truth and be you, not who somebody else thinks you should be.
A few years ago, I did an interview with Dr. Steven Bratman, M.D., who wrote the book “Health Food Junkies,” which was his personal story of how he became so fixated with healthy eating that he wound up hurting himself.
The book also talked about some people that Steven met that became so obsessed with health foods that some of them got severely sock, and some even died.
In my interview, Dr. Bratman confessed that the book did not become very popular, because the average person did not care about crazy health foodists, while the “health food junkies” that he talked about were not going to buy a book on the subject.
So the book is now out of print, but the term “orthorexia” that Bratman introduced in his book is now something you’ll hear once in a while.
Orthorexia comes from the Greek word “ortho” which means, “right or correct”, and “orexia” which means, “eating”. So it equates to righteous eating; a fixation in eating what is subjectively deemed “proper”.
Bateman defines orthorexia as an obsession with eating healthy food and avoiding unhealthy food, to the point it becomes physically or mentally unhealthy.
To Steven Bratman, “orthorexia” is a mental disorder similar but different to anorexia. “Orthorexia” is the specific obsession with food and bodily “purity,” not weight and appearance.
So while someone who is struggling from anorexia has the obsession with their own body image and restricts their food intake to an unhealthy degree as a result, those suffering from orthorexia are fixated on food and bodily purity.
The anorexic person may skip meals or skimp on amounts of food to avoid weight gain, while the orthorexic would obsess over the quality of or pesticide residues on their food and how “clean” it is.
But is there such thing as “orthorexia”, or an actual obsession with healthful eating?
When I interviewed Dr. Bratman, he seemed convinced that there was very little evidence that eating junk food such as potato chips or even steak was actually bad for you.
It seemed to me that because he was so obsessed with food quality in the past, he took it to the other extreme by not caring at all about what he eats now.
However, I do think that some people can get a little too obsessed with food and the ideal of “purity” that they end up hurting themselves.
As I talked about in my book Raw Food Controversies, I even met people that died due to their unhealthful obsession with purity.
I think that while some people go totally crazy with this diet obsession, many others go the other way and don’t care at all about what they eat, much like the general public.
And while it’s nice not to have to really pay any mind to the food we eat, much of the time it does result at the very least people not feeling their best, and at worst, developing anything from a long list of other maladies stricken by the average eater.
So it does make sense to care about what you eat and want to improve your health with raw foods, green smoothies, and fasting, but it’s important to keep things in the right perspective.
To me, the biggest problem that I see with raw foodists and other “health foodists” is that they don’t have their priorities straight.
Many people obsess about little details, such as making sure everything they eat is absolutely 100% raw and organic and spend considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in doing so. Although they do end up undoing most if not all the benefits by making BIG mistakes, such as eating too much fat or not exercising at all.
Some people are so obsessed with diet that they find it becomes their primary focus: they can’t stop thinking about what they’re going to eat, and experience anxiety if they are in a situation where their dietary needs can’t be met.
Alas, they end up spending most of their time in isolation out of fear of having to eat or be put in a situation where there are unpure foods present.
Others always feel like their diet is not “good enough,” going from a fairly strict raw food diet to one that eliminates ALL fats, spices, and condiments and eventually many of these people do so much fasting, cleansing and detox that they end up depleting their bodies to the point of no return.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Healthful eating is healthful, as long as we keep things in perspective.
Dr. Bratman wrote in his book: “When an orthorexic falls off the path, the only remedy is an act of penitence, which usually involves stricter diets or even fasting to cleanse away the traces of unhealthy foods.”
He also says: “Whereas the bulimics and anorexics focus on the quantity of food, the orthorexic fixates on its quality. All three – the bulimic, anorexic, and orthorexic – give to food a vastly excessive place in the scheme of life”.
How can you tell if you’re an orthorexic person?
Try it now, for fun!
Give yourself a point for each question. The more points you accumulate, the more “orthorexic” may be:
1.) Do you spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food? If you do, give yourself a point. If you spend more, give yourself two points.
2.) Do you plan tomorrow’s food, today? So, do you think in advance, “what am I going to eat tomorrow?”
3.) Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat, rather than the pleasure you get from eating it.
4.) Have you found that as the quality of your diet increased, the quality of your life has diminished?
5.) Do you keep getting more and more strict with yourself?
6.) Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the foods you now believe are right?
7.) Do you feel a sense of self-esteem when you eat healthy food? Do you look down on others who don’t?
8.) Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
9.) Does your diet socially isolate you?
10.) When you are eating the way you are supposed, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control?
When I look at the questionnaire above, I can honestly say that there was a point in my life where I would have answered “yes” to almost every single question.
I used to think about food all the time, to the point where it would be my main topic of conversation with EVERYONE. I tried all kinds of strict “detox” diets, hoping to finally experience the benefits promised to me by the raw food gurus, but nothing worked!
In fact, with time, I became sicker and sicker. I was so obsessed with this ideal of raw foodism, but at the same time filled with cravings and felt unsatisfied. I was even having dreams of eating various cooked junk foods.
In one dream, I remember eating a giant chocolate cake, and waking up the next morning feeling so guilty, as if I had just killed somebody.
That is just not healthy any which way you slice it.
Now, even though I do still think it’s important to have some measure of control over your diet and not fall for the, “everything in moderation trap”, you don’t need to let it control you and your entire being. There really is more to living healthfully than just eating healthfully.
Here are a few guidelines I’d like to give everyone to help him or her avoid any mental or physical struggles with their food or bodily purity:
1.) Don’t just eat anything and everything , “because it’s raw”.
2.) Don’t absolutely refuse to eat something that’s not organic especially if the alternative truly is far less healthy. A commercial banana is still better than “organic” soy ice-cream or organic raw cheesecake. Organic and vegan pies, pastries, and other delicacies are still foods that need to be reserved for special occasions, or at least not eaten everyday.
3.) Don’t think that just because you value healthful living that everyone else feels the same way. Or that you are somehow better or more enlightened because of your newfound pursuits in dietary purity. You didn’t reach this level of dietary goodness your whole life until now, there’s no need to alienate your friends and family by being “holier than thou”.
4.) Compare yourself with yourself, rather than with others such as raw food “gurus” and anybody else who claims to be an expert on any topic and extolls their virtues and wisdom from (soap) boxes on high.
5.) Realize that it’s okay to give yourself goals, but sometimes fall off the wagon and pick yourself up again. It’s just part of the process.
6.) Stay a bit flexible in your approach, and be open to new ideas. You will never learn anything new with a closed mind. And if you never learn anything new, you’re never going to grow.
7.) Treat others and yourself with dignity and respect. Food is only one aspect of your life!
What have been some of your experiences with orthorexia, food purity, and the mind-body relationship?
Quite often I get people asking me questions about how much fat they should be eating in their diet, or what is a healthy amount of fat to eat.
Someone asked me recently what are some differences between my approach and other types of low-fat diets, a low fat raw vegan style diet, for example.
The low fat raw vegan diet is a diet where the focal point of the diet is raw fruits, like bananas, dates, figs, cherries, melons, papayas, mangos, etc., followed by raw vegetables, like lettuce, celery, and tomatoes.
Although I’ve been aware of the dangers of high-fat raw food diets since 2002 when I wrote my book “The Raw Secrets,” it was not until 2005 that I really gave the low fat raw vegan approach a try.
I’ve learned a lot since 2005, and I have noticed that most people thrive on lower-fat, higher-fruit raw diets more than any other type of raw diet. Most other programs are just way too high in fat and don’t allow for near enough fruit to really be a healthy, long-term program. Short-term cleanse, possibly yes, but certainly not a way to eat for life.
Because I do not follow a strict low fat raw vegan diet as espoused by others, many people have been asking me what I think of it and what I would do differently.
I’ve found that most people who experiment with the raw food diet eventually either give up or find their own approach that works for them. In my experience, a low-fat raw food diet with a LOT of fruit and a LOT of greens works for the greatest number of people, but isn’t necessarily best for everyone.
My teachings are still very close to low fat raw vegans diets in many key areas, such as:
- The importance of the low fat diet
- Eating enough fruit, and not being afraid to do it
- Eating plenty of greens
- Fitness being just as important as nutrition for overall health.
Here are the few areas where our viewpoints differ:
1- No obsession about being 100% raw. I’m certainly a big fan of fruits and vegetables, and both still make up much of my diet, but I’m not strict about being raw like I had been in the past. I’ve found that healthy cooked foods like potatoes, vegetables, and whole grains are actually far healthier than the overabundance of fats and oils found in many raw food recipes. Plus I’ve found that some people just feel better including choice cooked foods in their diet.
2- Fat. I allow more than 10% fat, over the course of a month. Although I have done the “less than 10%” thing for a while, I prefer to stay in the 12-18% range, with 15% being a good target for most people.
Many low fat raw vegans have such a fear of fat that they’ll avoid all nuts and seeds. Thus they end up eating only fruit, or only fruit and little greens. However, there are important nutrients in nuts and seeds, such as essential fatty acids and minerals that are hard to get from just fruits and vegetables. So if your fat is coming from healthy sources, especially certain high-omega 3 seeds such as hemp, chia or flax then it’s fine to go above 10%.
3- Supplements. I am no supplement whore. In fact, I’m one of the few raw food promoters to never have launched a line of supplements. That’s because I find that 99% of what’s on the market is useless in comparison to fresh foods.
But, certain supplements can be intelligently used, and it would be hard to argue that they don’t have their place.
I’ve explained in the past why most raw foodists and vegans should consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement to avoid any possible deficiencies that could lead to disastrous results. Vitamin D can also be an issue for some people, and intelligent use of a supplement is often advisable when you live in a northern climate year round.
4- Condiments. Although in theory I agree with the idea that a condiment-free diet is best, most people, myself included, find such a diet too boring and ascetic.
In practice, I have found that using some fresh herbs, spices, and even some raw hot peppers can make food much more enjoyable.
I also don’t mind using some “non-raw” condiments sometimes, such as salsa in a jar, as I find it to be a more suitable way to add zing to a salad rather than using a fatty dressing.
The most important thing is to eat a lot of greens and vegetables. If you find it easy to eat them plain, then by all means go for it. But if you’re like me and find your salads and raw soups more palatable and enjoyable with a bit of spice, then don’t feel guilty for not being “perfect.” It’s far better to eat salads and soups more frequently with a little seasoning than rarely and stay 100% natural hygiene. Eating more fruits and vegetables is really what matters.
Some people can take these to extremes and even formulate “low-low-fat” diets, where no overtly fatty foods like nuts, seeds, or avocados are eaten, resulting in less than 10% of total calories coming from fat.
Even though nuts and seeds should be limited, let’s not forget that they contain important nutrients that cannot easily be found in fruits and vegetables, and I personally don’t recommend following any of these ultra-low-fat diets for any considerable period of time, outside of short-term cleanses.
It’s also noteworthy to consider that the low fat raw vegan diet is rather new, and almost no one in the history of mankind has actually eaten that way for more than a couple of decades.
Therefore, it’s quite obvious that not *all* answers have been found and that although I think that the low fat raw vegan diet has much to offer, there’s still room for improvements, such as food quality/variety and individualization.
Ultimately there are a lot of overlaps between what I promote and many of the principles found in other low-fat raw and vegan regimes, I’ve just modified it over the years to allow for more individualization and long-term health.
So the best thing you can do to find out what works best for you is to experiment with different approaches and giving yourself permission to do so. Ultimately what matters is how you feel and the conclusions that you’ve reached for yourself.
Supplements and their merit or demerit is always a bit of a passionately discussed topic. On one end you will find people who have shelves and closets full of all kinds of bottles, boxes, potions, pills, and perfumes, and they swear by every single one of them. They also spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on these supplements every month.
On the other hand, you have the naturalist: the people who won’t even think about taking anything that was isolated or altered from it’s natural state, meaning vitamin pills are out of the question. I’ve had personal experience and observations that I’ve experienced over the years on both sides.
Check out Dr. John McDougall’s take on supplements and whether or not they really are healthy, let alone necessary. You’ll learn:
- The difference between taking things that are actually good for you vs. taking them on faith.
- Why you might actually be flushing hundreds of dollars down the toilet each and every month.
- How some nutrients, and a surplus of them, may actually cause more harm than good.
- Why those big bottles of vitamin supplements could actually lead to cancer and heart disease.
- How the food you eat and the nutrients in them all work synergistically together, not in isolation from each other.
I’m somewhere in between the gradient scale of the extremes of the naturalist and the superfood connoisseurs when it comes to supplements. Some people can greatly benefit from taking specific supplements, even isolated supplements, during certain times or for specific needs. Vitamin B12 is a great example of this.
But at the same time I don’t think you need to spend hundreds of dollars on all kinds of potions and pills to be healthy, either. Eating a varied diet filled with an abundance of fresh foods will take you much, much further than any amount of supplements ever could.
Dr. Michael Greger is someone who really does keep up-to-date on all the latest nutrition information, and he’s passionate about sharing it with people. He has been a medical doctor in the plant-based nutrition field for years and always presents his information in an easily digestible way.
Low carbohydrate diets are a diet fad that has been around for years. Whether it’s Atkins, paleo, primal, or anywhere in between, there have been people writing books saying that eating bacon and eggs, in lieu of starches and vegetables, is the panacea of good health. Some of us may have an idea as to why that’s not really the case, but not everyone understands the real health challenges people can face on such diets.
Check out this video of Dr. Greger explaining the pitfalls of low carb diets, how to avoid them, and more:
- Understand what the insulin index is and how certain foods’ different indexes directly affect your health.
- Take a look at why beef, a carbohydrate-void food, actually spikes insulin levels higher than that of white potatoes, bread, or pasta.
- What exactly causes diabetes and how what you eat can either help with or cause it.
- Why your insulin sensitivity is so important to your overall health and how this common practice can actually wreak havoc on it.
- How treating the cause for diseases like diabetes vs. simply treating symptoms is the only way to allow people to become truly healthy.
There will always be fad diets out there claiming to offer all the health benefits and absolutely none of the pitfalls. The reality is that there really is no perfect one-size-fits-all diet that you can box every single person into.
That being said, sausages and eggs for breakfast every morning may not prove to be the healthiest for anyone involved.
But with a combination of common sense and modern science, we can say that eating more whole fruits, vegetables, grains and other plant foods in your diet will almost always be for the better.