Below you’ll find an entire new chapter from my upcoming book The Raw Food Controversies. So far the title is sticking, although I haven’t seriously started looking for another one. Maybe the first idea is the best? I dropped the word “Exposed” from the title. UPDATE! RAW FOOD CONTROVERSIES IS NOW AVAILABLE HERE
What do you think? In this new chapter, I continue the story of how I got into the raw food diet in the first place. Future chapters will expose my story of decline in health when I followed the wrong kind of raw food diet, the raw food gurus I met and everything I read along the way.
If you can’t wait to get started now, I suggest the Raw Health Starter Kit as the best resource:
“Look Mommy, I Stopped Eating And I’m Still Alive”
The next book I picked up from the library was the giant tome on fasting by Shelton, which was translated into French as Le jeûne, meaning fasting, but the actual title in English was the longer The Science and Fine Art of Fasting.
It was a fascinating book on the history of fasting, its use in religion and in the animal kingdom, the physiological changes that occur when someone fasts, and how to use fasting to improve one’s health.
Shelton’s book made fasting actually sound cool and fun. Because he wanted to prove that fasting was safe, he went to great lengths giving examples of all these people that fasted for long periods of time and were able to keep their energy levels and even keep working.
Although the type of fast Shelton recommended involved absolute rest in bed, he also gave examples of people who fasted up to 40 days on water, and kept working during all that time.
After reading the book, I decided to give fasting a try and fasted for 3 1/2 days on my own. I didn’t rest in bed, but instead stayed active and continued my life as normal.
I found that fasting was a lot easier than I thought. The first day was really easy and I actually had a great amount of energy.
I was biking everywhere, and on the second day of my fast I met my highschool friend Hugo Cromer and told him I hadn’t eating anything for two days and I felt amazing.
He said: “Man, you’re crazy!”
Things got more difficult by the morning of the third day. On the second day, I was very hungry, but energetic. The thought of eating an apple made my mouth salivate.
On the morning of the third day, I felt less hungry and less energetic. I had discovered that my body was adjusting to the physiological effects of fasting and quickly moving in the ketonic state, where it was starting to feed of its own fat reserves.
During that stage, hunger disappears, along with energy. I’ve noticed over the years that the only people who feel amazing and energetic throughout a fast are overweight people. Skinny or thin people feel lethargic as soon as they hit day three. So on the third day, the fast didn’t feel that great.
But I stuck with it, and ate a fruit meal on the morning of the fourth day, which didn’t taste as amazing as I expected. I wasn’t crazily hungry like I was on the morning of the second day, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
What this fasting experience proved to me was that it was definitely possible to live for a while without food, without harming the body.
In my high school biology class, I had learned that the human body would die after 3-4 days without water, and only 7-8 days without food.
I don’t know where my teacher had gotten that information, but when I fasted for 23 days on water in 2005, I certainly disproved her assumption!
How An Old Frenchman Would Transform My Assumptions About Diet and Health
For the rest of the summer of 1996, I continued experimenting a little bit with Shelton’s diet, but without taking the plunge.
Towards the end of the summer, I went back to the library to look for some new books to read on diet and health. Among the various titles, from Fit For Life to more of Shelton’s books, I found a few curious-looking book by a Frenchman named Albert Mosséri.
Without really thinking about it, I picked up a few to add to my collection.
When I opened and started reading the first book, La Santé Par la Nourriture (Health Through Diet), I was blown away. After a few chapters, Mosséri had already introduced the concept of eating 100% raw by translating parts of a book by an Iranian author called Hovanessian.
Even though Shelton had kind of mentioned that man’s natural foods should be raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, he didn’t insist on that point. But the quotes by Hovanessian were so passionate in advocating a 100% raw diet that somehow I started to share that enthusiasm and felt this was probably the way to go.
The translation of Hovanessian’s book, Raw Eating, was only part of Mosséri’s work. When I started reading Mosséri’s books, time would stop. Without realizing it, I would have spent four or five hours reading.
Mosséri was a student of Shelton, whom he considered his biggest mentor. But Mosséri took a very different standpoint on many crucial aspects of the Natural Hygiene diet where he disagreed with Shelton.
Shelton’s books were written in a very old, ancient style and sounded very formal and severe, like having an old, cranky, puritan grandfather lecture you on morality for hours.
On the other hand, Mosséri was from a different generation (born in 1925, Shelton was born in 1895), and still alive (Shelton died in 1985).
Mosséri’s books were much easier to read, and in them he mixed stories, interesting quotes, personal experience and a kind of dry humor only a native French speaker could appreciate.
When I read Shelton’s books, it felt like I was presented with concepts that were ideological, but impossible to follow. Reading Shelton made you feel he was some kind of super-human, impervious to the influences of modern society, and you were a low-class, corrupted moron for not being 100% pure and natural like he said everyone should be.
Mosséri had a more down-to-earth approach that made you feel like you were normal for struggling in a society that did not promote health, and he also described his personal experience and struggles with interesting stories, which made you feel connected to him, without having met him in person.
The more I read Mosséri, the more I started to understand what was this concept of Natural Hygiene that I had discovered in other books, but never quite understood.
Mosséri was really passionate about Natural Hygiene and really bitter about modern medicine. He also had a lot of experience with his fasting center to back it up, working with some of the sickest people in the world, who came to him as a last resort.
But more importantly, Mosséri was also anti-naturopathic medicines, and spent a lot of pages to disprove everything from homeopathy to herbal medicine.
His main concept, which he got from Shelton, was that healing is a biological process, only the body can undergo. No other outside influences, whether they be drugs or herbal remedies, can heal you. At the most, they will suppress your symptoms and not get at the root of the problem, which what he referred to as the cause.
One example he gave is that of a cold. We know that there are thousands of remedies to get rid of a cold. For example, some people take a drug. Others prefer herbal teas. Yet others go for a more brutal approach, such as drinking a shot of whisky. There are literally hundreds of folk remedies for getting rid of a cold.
Yet what do all of these remedies have in common? Everybody who takes them eventually gets better. But that’s not all… the person who does not take a remedy at all, and just stays in bed and fasts, also gets better, but much faster than everyone else, while addressing the real cause of the cold.
According to Natural Hygiene, and even modern medicine, there is no remedy for a common cold. What all of the remedies have in common is that they suppress the symptoms to some degree. But Natural Hygiene says that the symptoms should not be suppressed, because the dis-ease is an effort of the body to restore its homeostasis, or state of health, and should not be stopped in any way. Instead, we should provide the body with enough rest and other elements of healthful living, so that it can go through the disease naturally and heal itself, without any outside interferences.
The reason why Natural Hygienist use fasting is not because fasting itself cures anything, but because it allows the body to get enough rest (from digestion and physical activity), so that all its energies can be directed towards healing.
As I read Mosséri’s books, I became fascinated with this concept of Natural Hygiene. My mother was a nurse so I had had my exposure to modern medicine and knew it was not always the perfect savior we often believe it is. I now realized that even “natural” medicine were often just less dangerous ways to suppress the same symptoms that drugs try to suppress.
In terms of diet, Mosséri differed from Shelton in a few important areas. He believed strongly that Shelton was wrong in recommending a large amount of nuts and seeds in the diet. According to Mosséri’s experience over the years, the quantity of nuts recommended by Shelton on a daily basis led to some severe health problems (he even went as far as to say that he had know people who had died from those problems).
The problems he mentioned were: bad digestion and gas, constant hunger caused by malnutrition, skin problems, lack of energy and even cancer.
However, he said that it was not necessary to eliminate all nuts from the diet, but we had to limit them to about five almonds a day! In his later books, he increased that amount to about once ounce.
Mosséri was also against grains like Shelton, but much more vocal about it. He claimed that bread and grains were not meant for human beings because we are not granivores like birds. Grains were acid-forming and were the primary cause of mucus in the body, therefore he said that if you stop consuming bread and grains you will never experience a cold in your life ever again!
He was also anti-meat (which goes without saying), and fish, so essentially all that was left were fruits and vegetables.
In his books, he quoted Hovanessian’s book on Raw Eating extensively, which claimed that a 100% raw food diet was the only way to achieve health. But after this long exposé against cooked food, he gave his own opinion about it, which was more moderate.
Mosséri first quoted some research about some tribes living in New Guinea that were living almost exclusively on cooked sweet potatoes. He said that if cooked foods were so bad, we wouldn’t find a tribe in perfect health living on a mostly cooked diet. However, he said that no tribe had ever been found — in perfect health — living on a diet of 90% bread or grains.
He also said that Hovanessian made these big salads by grating all of these strong vegetables together, like cabbage and onion, with milder vegetables, like carrots and lettuce, and then adding his own dressing of honey and oil.
Mosséri felt that if you couldn’t eat a vegetable raw (like raw cabbage), in large enough quantities, without mixing it in a big salad and camouflaging the strong flavor with questionable items like honey and oil, then you probably shouldn’t be eating that food raw in the first place.
Mosséri claimed to have a very sensitive palate, so he didn’t enjoy the vast majority of vegetables in their raw state. If he only ate the ones he enjoyed raw, then there wouldn’t be much left on the menu.
So as a compromise, he cooked some vegetables, just enough to make them more edible, and included those vegetables with his dinner meal.
Mosséri was also stressed the importance of eating when genuinely hungry. He said that most people do not wait for hunger to eat, but instead wake up in the morning, drink some coffee or other hot beverage that made their throat open unnaturally, and ate something without feeling true hunger. According to Mosséri, eating without hunger led to eat too much, and the wrong foods, which was the primary cause of disease in our society.
He described hunger as a pleasant feeling, not pain (which was a sign of false hunger), and generally for most people only occurred 4 or 5 hours after waking up, unless they were athletes — in which case they would probably wake up hungry.
He offered a basic menu plan, which were described as the Ideal Diet:
Morning: Don’t drink anything, don’t brush your teeth. Wait for true hunger.
When you feel true hunger, calm it with a few fruits. Repeat a few times during the day.
Evening Meal: Either have a big salad (with avocado and acceptable condiments), or cooked potatoes with lettuce, or steamed vegetables. Alternatively, you can have salad at around 4 or 5 p.m. and follow it an hour or two later with cooked vegetables (including potatoes).
I was really inspired by Mosséri’s writing and decided to give his diet a try. Fortunately for me, one of Mosséri’s favorite foods was potatoes. He was strongly against grains, but gave the green light to potatoes, which were a vegetable and naturally alkaline-forming.
When I experimented with Mosséri’s diet, I discovered that by waiting for true hunger, I would really appreciate the fruits I was eating, and thought it was the best meal on the planet. Many days, I would only start eating at around noon or 1 p.m.
In the evening, I would often make a massive salad, or eat a giant bowl of potatoes with some lettuce.
I found that I really enjoyed the taste of the foods I was eating (even without spices or salt), but I had trouble making the diet work.
Because I would wait for true hunger to eat during the day, and only eat a few fruits at a time, I would feel ravenous at night. I would then devour almost two pounds of cooked potatoes, and then feel tired afterwards.
Because the diet was difficult to maintain, I would often fall of the wagon and eat some junk food, and then pay for it the next day by feeling terrible, which led me to fast even longer, often all day, before I felt true hunger again.
It was my last year of music school (I had decided to finish my curriculum in three years instead of two), and my interest in classical guitar was waning. My true passion now was diet and nutrition, and natural hygiene.
The classical guitar field is extremely competitive and only a small percentage of the very best players eventually become performers. And even most of these performers still have to teach at a university to make a living, because there’s not a whole lot of interest in the world for classical guitar music.
But with health and nutrition, the possibilities were endless. I could see myself working in that field, perhaps even at Mosséri’s fasting retreat, and who knows what the future could hold for me.
So for that last year of music school, although I was determined to complete my studies with flying colors, I knew that I was not going to continue in university and have a future in classical guitar. I wanted to do something with health and nutrition.
For that school year, trying to follow Mosséri’s diet, I felt extremely isolated. I didn’t share my new beliefs with most of my friends because I knew they would think I was crazy (no one can live on fruit and potatoes!).
I spent a lot of time hunting for new fruits at different markets, and would buy exotic items such as papaya, whenever I could afford them.
I also started corresponding with Mosséri. I wrote him long letters, that I would mail to his address in France, and he would always reply back with laconic note that I would ponder for days.
When I told him that I felt so isolated with this new lifestyle in a long letter, he replied saying: “You have to break the isolation. Find other like-minded people you can share your thoughts with.”
Naturally, I wanted to go to France to see if I could land a job working at his fasting center. But when I asked him about that, he replied “I closed down the center so I can focus on writing my books.”
He recommended that I read all of his books and Shelton’s books several times, and also get a basic training in human physiology, which I did by reading more and more books, until I had essentially read everything he and Shelton had written that I could get my hands on.
Towards the end of my school year, around the spring of 1997, I felt my options were running out for what to do the following year. Mosséri had closed down his fasting center and was no longer accepting interns. I did not know any other similar fasting center in the world, and I seriously needed to meet some people in person who shared the same ideas and interests.
I truly felt I was alone in the world, trying to eat this way and learn about Natural Hygiene. I did at some point correspond with some people of my age that I found in the magazine published by the American Natural Hygiene Society, in the “Connections” section, but never met any of them in person.
However, right about that time when the spring flowers were in bloom, I went online for the first time and discovered a book that would give me the answer about what to do next.
The Main Causes of Disease
by Albert Mosséri
Nature Hygiene, such as explained in my books, is meant for people in developed countries and not to those in the third world, who suffer from problems that are totally different from ours. Hunger and hygiene are endemic phenomena in many of those countries, wheras in Western nations nobody really suffers from hunger and lack of hygiene.
The main causes of disease that affect us are those:
1) Most people in civilized nations eat without being really hungry, and only because it’s mealtime. Children, who have purer instincts than ours, as well as animals, usually eat only when they are hungry.
2) Most people eat foods that are not specific to the human race, that is foods that have not been meant for us by Nature. The specific foods for humans are fruits and vegetables.
3) Modern humans also absorb a lot of poisons to stimulate themselves (coffee, tea, chocolate, refined sugar, alcohol, tobacco, chemicals in foods, etc.)
- Modern humans also take drugs, which are poisons. Very often, these drugs have no other purpose than to suppress the symptoms.
There are also many other causes of disease (to be reviewed later).
Don’t miss my next chapter! I will candidly talk about my first trip to California in 1998, when I met David Wolfe and the other raw-foodists of California, and how my health started to go downhill from following the wrong kind of raw food diet.