This post is unlike any I’ve put up over the years of DrPullen.com It is largely anecdote and not based on enough hard data that I will convince my physician friends. Intrigued? Read on.
My son Brett has been on a journey with his diet and health over the last few years. He has become an enthusiastic vegan, and eats a high raw diet, focusing on eating a very low fat, low protein, high unprocessed and mostly raw plant based diet. He feels great, seems happier than he has ever been, and eats vast quantities of fruit and vegetables while avoiding high fat processed foods, and use of oils and processed fats in food preparation.
Brett convinced me to take a 3 day “raw challenge” a few months ago. He was my mentor, cheer-leader and food-preparation-guru during this 3-day period. Each day he’d make sure we had plenty of fruit and veges in the house, and prepare dinner every evening.
Every day I’d force down 7-800 calories of fruit for breakfast by making a huge smoothie of bananas, other fruit, water and ice. For lunch I’d eat several pieces of fruit, and often a few dates to get my caloric intake up to where I was not calorie deprived and excessively hungry for dinner. For the evening meal Brett would make things like a big fruit and veggie salad with blended fruit dressing, often with more fruit to increase the caloric intake. Brett emphasized that there was no calorie restriction, and that it was important to eat lots to avoid hunger.
The hardest part of this for me was the raw dinners. It involved just too much chewing of raw vegetables for my enjoyment. I liked the smoothie breakfasts and fruit lunches. The surprise to me was that despite forcing myself to eat what felt like vast quantities of food I lost weight rapidly. In the three days I dropped about 8 pounds.
Over the next few weeks I continued to eat breakfast and lunch most days in the same way as on the raw food challenge, but went back to dinners more like a standard American diet. I gained back some of the weight I’d lost and even trying to eat healthy evening meals didn’t get me back on the weight loss road.
A couple of months later I agreed to eat what Brett and others call, “Raw-till-4” for a week. It has been popularized by Freelee the Banana Girl. Don’t laugh. I’m serious and she has a dedicated group of followers. I am skeptical of some of the theory behind this movement, but do believe it is healthy, achievable and as Brett would say, “less radical that cutting someone’s chest open to sew leg veins to bypass their fat clogged arteries. Now that’s really radical.” This is a very low fat, low protein diet where breakfast and lunch were as described above, and where after 4 PM (approximately, really from the evening meal onward) cooked food is eaten but strictly vegan (all plant based food, no animal products including no dairy or eggs) and very low fat. For dinner we’d eat things like pasta, root vegetables, other cooked vegetables, bread, and cooked fruits. I found this approach much less difficult than a fully raw diet. Evening meals were filling, tasted good and satisfying I quickly lost several more pounds and felt like I could continue this way of eating. For more details here are the “rules” of a raw-till-4 lifestyle.”
Now for several more months I’ve been eating a high-plant based diet. My goal is a vegan diet, but I have not completely avoided the tiny amounts of hidden animal products that sneak into some processed foods or restaurant meals. Examples are on a recent birding trip the choice between a baked potato with what butter I could not scrape off vs French Fries at a rural town restaurant with limited choices. I made what I thought was the healthier option (the baked potato with only a little butter) and did not decide to skip the restaurant food and eat just fruit and foods I’d brought along on the trip.
Still several months into this eating approach I feel good, have lost about 20 lbs and expect to lose more. I feel good about the changes I’m making. I take supplemental vitamin B-12 and D3. I have reduced my gym workouts which make my arthritic hip hurt more in favor of increased walking and lifestyle exercise. I see no reason I cannot continue this eating approach, and think it is overall very healthy. I eat plenty of protein as beans, nuts and in my plants and veggies. (I am skeptical that the RDA for protein intake is heavily influenced by the dairy, beef, chicken, pork and seafood industry money) So far I have no untoward symptoms of concern. I’m working on the social aspects of this plant-based diet. I am trying new ways to make hosts comfortable when I choose not to eat some parts of their meals. I hope to get closer to the “raw-till-4” eating lifestyle, get my weight down to ideal for me, and reduce my risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer. I believe that a plant based, low fat, low processed food diet is going to be sustainable, enjoyable and uber-healthy.
I believe some of the data that links diets high in animal fat to many types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and bowel problems. I also believe that eating animal products is supporting macro-economic environmental industries that are contributing to destruction of our environment and are not sustainable long term. My tiny contribution to limiting cattle and dairy industries makes me feel like a better steward of our earth. This said my primary incentives are more immediately practical. I’ve found a way I can eat quantities of tasty food that satisfy my appetite, avoid the roller-coaster of weight loss and gain that calorie restricted diets have produced for me and many of my patients, and I hope will delay my need for a hip replacement by reducing wear on my joints from carrying too much weight. Wish me well.
I hope to post on this from time-to-time if it seems to be working out. I hope to also have Brett post more from his perspective.
For fun you may want to look at a Raw-till-4 video by Freelee the Banana Girl showing her food haul for a week and some meal preparation examples.