Why Iâ€™m So Mad at the Raw Food Movement Today
Last week I met someone whose story really moved me in a deep way.
About two weeks ago, I was visiting Dr. Graham at his fasting retreat in Costa Rica, along with my girlfriend and my friend Roger Haeske.
Dr. Graham had generously invited us for dinner and also to spend the day visiting his retreat near the Chirripo Mountain in Costa Rica.
The place is absolutely gorgeous! Itâ€™s about 4000 feet in elevation, so the air is a little cool at night and in the evening, but itâ€™s was superbly sunny during the day.Itâ€™s right next to the Chirripo River, with amazingly beautiful water and big rocks, with a ton of little pools to jump into.
In fact, I couldnâ€™t help myself but jumping in â€” and found the water to be surprisingly â€œrefreshingâ€.
Letâ€™s say that it got the blood flowing, like the cold water Iâ€™m used to in Canadian rivers and lakes.
Fortunately, thereâ€™s a pool with warmer water as well.But letâ€™s get back to my story.
For lunch, we had a delicious smoothie made with bananas and papaya. It was of a beautiful bright orange color. We ate it with a variety of greens such as lettuce and celery.
I got to meet some of the people who fasted there, which reminded me of my own fast in 2005.
At this point, they had started eating for about a week.
For dinner, we were served one of the most beautiful, tasty and yet simple raw food meal I remember EVER eating in my life.
The entrÃ©e was a delicious smoothie made with orange juice and mangoes. It was just â€œwowâ€.
Then we had a bright red tomato-mango soup, flavored with a few fresh herbs. The tomatoes had been slightly dehydrated in the sun for a day, which gave them a chunkier consistency and more intense flavor.
Then the main salad came. It was just beautiful. It was â€œriceâ€ made with a tropical squash called â€œchayoteâ€ that they had processed to make a base for the salad. On top of it was a delicious mixture of tomatoes, cilantro, mangoes and a few other ingredients I canâ€™t remember.
But the most amazing thing about this meal is that it did not contain any fat â€” no avocados, nuts or seeds, or oils â€” and did not contain any salt.
These two ingredients are SO common in raw food cuisine that itâ€™s rare not to have them featured in every single dinner recipe.Yet, it was absolutely delicious and satisfying.
Itâ€™s not that they never served any fat, but they just didnâ€™t that day. And nobody was missing it, I can tell you.
A Meeting That Moved Me
At the table, I was sitting beside a wonderful woman who had just completed her fast at the retreat. We chatted both in English and in Spanish, because she had moved from South America to the USA when she was younger.
At some point I asked her about her fast.She told me something shocking.For over three years, she could not walk. And since the fast, she was walking again.
I could see the tears filling up her eyes as she was telling me her story.
What happened I asked?
It was arthritis. In fact, it got so bad that she could not hold any utensils. Now she was doing it, and walking again!
But hereâ€™s where the real shocker came:She told me that for 4 years she had been following a raw food diet!
Thatâ€™s right! She had started the raw food diet 4 years ago, and her symptoms had gotten worse, to the point where she could not walk anymore.
But what kind of raw food diet?
â€œFrederic, she told me, I was eating raw foods for 4 years. I was following what they were saying, all of the gurus, like Robert Young and others.â€
Turns out she had done some live blood cell analysis. At this point, I knew where the discussion was headed. I wished she had met me at that time, and I would definitely have advised her against it.
But she did it, and the expected thing happened: all of the gurus told her she had some â€œfungusâ€ in her blood and she needed to avoid all sugar, including fruits.
So she followed the raw food program as itâ€™s recommended now by most raw food diet books youâ€™ll get everywhere: a diet where you actually eat very little fruit and not that much more vegetables, and where you get most of your calories from fat and oils.
And from that point, things got worse and worse with her health.You could tell that this woman was dedicated to improving her health. But she also got very confused along the way.
As she was telling me her story, I could see how she was actually MAD at the people who led her astray.
Those so-called â€œgurusâ€ who had no idea what they were talking about, and left her in a worse situation with their advice.
She had found out about the low-fat raw vegan diet and fasting through a friend of hers, who had in turn found out about it through my website.
It really was an amazing moment when these two persons came to me and told me eye-to-eye: â€œFrederic, I want to thank you. Without you, we would never be here.â€
Other Examples of Confusion
I would like to say that the raw food movement is â€œone big happy familyâ€, but thatâ€™s not the case.
Thereâ€™s a WORLD of difference between the diet that I recommend, and the diet that youâ€™ll see promoted in most other raw food books and websites.
The differences between the low-fat raw diet and letâ€™s say, the Sunfood Diet (by David Wolfe), or the Hippocrates Diet, or Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine (by Gabriel Cousens) are as great or GREATER nutritionally than the differences between the vegetarian diet and the meat-based diet.
Iâ€™m not saying that because I want to draw a line in the sand.Any nutritionist looking at a detailed nutritional analysis of these two kinds of diets will have to agree: these are completely different diets!
So itâ€™s very misleading to mix everything together and call that â€œthe raw food diet.â€
When someone tells you they â€œfailedâ€ on the raw food diet, you have to ask â€œwhat kind of raw food diet?â€
For example: I know a guy in Hawaii who was eating a 100% raw food diet for over 5 years. He even wrote a couple of books on the subject, and sold them through his website. Then a couple of years ago, he got really sick.
He stopped eating raw, and then revised his books to say that raw food was not the answer.
But he didnâ€™t get sick because he started to eat cooked food.
He got sick ON the raw food diet program he was following.
And what kind of raw food diet was it? The high-fat raw diet â€“ the same diet thatâ€™s recommended everywhere in the raw food movement (even though they will never give it that name).
Another example: ME!
I started on the raw food diet in 1997. Thatâ€™s starting to be a little while ago.When I first started, there was not as much information available as there is today. The Internet was just getting going. In fact, my website was one of the first websites on the topic.
When I started the raw food diet, I was doing pretty well. I was following the European model for raw food, which was pretty much the low-fat raw diet, after having studied with my first mentor, Albert Mosseri from France.
Then I moved to California and I became very influenced by the main leaders of the raw food movement. You probably heard about them. Theyâ€™re the biggest names people associate with â€œraw food dietsâ€ today.
The advice was pretty simple: eat as much raw food as youâ€™d like! As long as itâ€™s raw, itâ€™s okay. You can eat as many avocados as youâ€™d like. Raw is law. Cooked food is poison.
After less than a year on the program, I got seriously ill.
For an entire month I had no energy at all. Just walking for 2 minutes made me dizzy.
I was even afraid to tell people that I was sick, because raw-foodists were not supposed to get sick.
So I stayed in bed for an entire month, and ate only apples and a few other fruits.
After a month, I was feeling much better, and started working again.
Still to this day, I donâ€™t know what happened to me. I did not consult any doctor (because doctors are cooked, I thought at the time), and I told very few people about what happened.
It was a sudden illness, but with plenty of warning signs.And I was young! I was in my early twenties, supposedly on the best diet in the world.
The rest of the story has been told in my book â€œThe Raw Secretsâ€:
I discovered the mistake I was making, and then changed course to eat a lower-fat, high-fruit raw food diet, and now all of these years of struggle and low-energy just seem like a distant, unpleasant memory.
Some Good Examples
I told you earlier that my friend Roger Haeske came to visit me for a couple of weeks in Costa Rica.
I knew Roger because we had worked together on some projects, and through his own website and blog. But we had only met briefly in person while I was waiting for a flight in New York back in 2007.
He had never left North America in his life, and he was eager to come and check out Costa Rica. So I invited him to check it out, and got to show him around the Pacific Coast to some of my favorite, most beautiful spots I know in the world.
Roger has been eating a 100% raw food diet for 6 or 7 years I think. He had a similar history: he had started eating the high-fat diet everybody recommended, did not do well, and then switched to a low-fat raw diet and has been thriving ever since.
Letâ€™s put it this way: Roger looks SHOCKINGLY young for his age.Heâ€™s almost 42.
When he was taking his shirt off and playing soccer with the Costa Rican kids on the beach, people were mistaking him for a â€œmuchachoâ€ in his twenties.
To be quite honest, Iâ€™ve never met a man in his early forties who looks as young as Roger does. He even looks better in person than he does in his pictures.
His open secret?
The low fat raw diet
Vigorous Exercise (Roger practices a series of high-intensity exercises he claims helps him stay young. I believe him. Check out his program here).
Blended salads! (for more information, check this out)
Last summer, I met a 35-year old guy named Grant.
Grant is what people call â€œan ultra marathon runnerâ€, and what I affectionately call, â€œa crazy dude!â€
Heâ€™s done things such as running 100 kilometers through the mountains, where the hardest things at some point is just to fight off sleep while youâ€™re running.
Basically, when Grant invites you to go out for a run, you better have a few hours available (if not a few days!).
Think Forrest Gump (without the chocolate part).People say all the time: those people who eat a high-fruit diet, theyâ€™re not really healthy. Eating 25 bananas a day canâ€™t be healthy, they say.Yet, all of the healthiest people I have met have been eating this way.
In fact, whenever Iâ€™ve been to a typical raw-food potluck, I see a lot of pretty pale-looking people. Not the type youâ€™d necessarily ask to help you move your furniture.Except if itâ€™s a low-fat group. Then Iâ€™ll meet people who just INSPIRE me to get healthier and fitter.But back to Grantâ€¦
When I saw him again at Chirripo, he just had a glow in his face. â€œThis is not the guy I met last summer!â€ I told him.
Even a camera wonâ€™t properly capture it.Itâ€™s something youâ€™re not used to seeing. Itâ€™s a sort of radiating happiness.
Or maybeâ€¦ itâ€™s just this long-forgotten look we call â€œhealthâ€.
Iâ€™ve met a lot of athletes. And often I just donâ€™t see that look in their face.
Bodybuilders tend to be the worst. Even though they have the â€œperfectâ€ body, they have the look of sickness in their eyes, coming from their protein overeating.
The State of the Raw Food Movement Today
I recently read an article written by a popular raw-food author.
Maybe youâ€™ve seen this article, or maybe not. Iâ€™d rather not reveal the identity of the author as to avoid attracting unnecessarily attention to his teachings, because honestly, Iâ€™ve rarely read something that bad.
But I think it pretty much sums up the state of the raw food movement today: that of mass confusion.
Hereâ€™s the whole point of the article:
- The raw food diet is not the answer, but avoiding overeating is.
- The basic advice he gives is to eat raw, but to avoid overeating.
- You shouldnâ€™t be counting calories, or percentages of fat versus sugar, but just make sure you donâ€™t overeat.
Of course, â€œovereatingâ€ is never clearly defined in the article, and left to the imagination of the reader.
But he gives us some clues: according to him, eating 25 bananas a day is overeating.
On the good side, he advises against eating chocolate and too many raw food recipes.But what is overeating? Isnâ€™t it not eating more than your body needs?
If an athletes needs 3000 calories per day, and yet eats 25 bananas a day plus some greens, they should technically be â€œunder eatingâ€, because the bananas only provide 2500 calories at the most, and the greens almost none.
Oh, now some people will say â€œcalories donâ€™t matterâ€.
I used to believe that. Until I realized that calories are just the energy you get from food, and yes, they DO matter.
Everyone will naturally be drawn instinctively to eat the exact amount of calories they need, as long as they are provided with natural foods only and they put ridiculous theories in their minds such as â€œI must avoid overeating at all costâ€.
Over the course of a month, a wild animal will eat the EXACT amount of calories it needs.
I once did an experiment. I wrote down everything I ate for an entire month. I didnâ€™t count calories. I just ate enough to be satisfied.
Then after a month, I calculated the calories for every day.
I was very surprised to realize that I ate almost the EXACT same amount of calories every single day, without counting them at all.
So you do NEED a certain amount of calories to survive and thrive.
The Real Overeating
The average raw-foodist is NOT overeating on total calories. In fact, they are â€œunder eatingâ€.
What happens is the average beginner with the raw food diet will eat too much fat, and not enough fruits and vegetables.
Raw-Foodists are just not eating enough fruits and vegetables, period!
The advice of â€œavoiding overeatingâ€ is simply one of the worst Iâ€™ve heard in a long time.
Hereâ€™s what will happen: people will try to follow it, but with no real understanding of the nutritional balance that must be achieved on a raw food diet.
So theyâ€™ll keep eating too much fat, and not enough fruit. Theyâ€™ll constantly be craving something, but will try to use their willpower to eat less, because they think their problem is overeating.
In fact, theyâ€™ll notice that they feel better when they eat less.
Of course! When theyâ€™re eating less, theyâ€™re eating less of the excess fat they were consuming!
But thereâ€™s still that nagging sense of constant hunger, and for that they blame themselves. â€œI must not overeatâ€.
Their body is BEGGING them to eat more carbohydrates, and theyâ€™re starting to seriously crave some sweets and some cooked foods.
But NO! I must not overeat.
Sooner or later, theyâ€™ll give in and either binge on something sweet other than fruit, or high-fat raw food recipes, or binge on chocolate and pasta.
Then theyâ€™ll feel bad, because of the â€œovereatingâ€, but get enough calories to keep them going for a while.
And the cycle will go on and on, over and over again, until their health goes down the drain.
Raw Food Restaurants
Last summer, I took two weeks to drive through California on a vacation.
I flew to Los Angeles, drove to San Diego, drove all the way to San Francisco, then Fort Bragg where the Raw Food Expo was happening, and then drove all the way back to LA.
Letâ€™s say that I did a lot of driving!
But I also got to stop at many raw-food restaurants along the way, because after all, California is the â€œMeccaâ€ of raw-foods.
What I found by eating at a few different raw food restaurants is this:
- First of all, very few fruits and vegetables are served. In my opinion, you can get more fruits and vegetables if you go to an Italian restaurant, or even a Steak House, than youâ€™ll ever get at a raw food restaurant.
For example, at Julianoâ€™s restaurant, I was served the special of the day. It was a sort of imitation of Fettuccini Alfredo. The vegetables used were zucchini, bathing in a white sauce made with nuts and who knows what. The whole thing was very fatty, very salty, and in my opinion, not very good at all. The quantity of vegetables used was TINY compared to what Iâ€™m used to eating. And I got the same experience at every other raw food restaurant where I stopped!
- It takes much more creativity to create a gourmet meal out of fruits and vegetables, without using a lot of fat and without using salt and spices. Then you have to be a REAL chef and rely upon the natural flavors of food, the presentation, the combinations, etc.
But any fool can add a bunch of fat and salt to a dish and make it taste reasonably good. So thatâ€™s why I say Iâ€™m not impressed with raw food restaurants: I really donâ€™t see a lot of creativity there. All theyâ€™re trying to do is reproduce the meals from the Standard American Diet using raw ingredients.
This is getting to be a pretty long article, and I feel I still have a lot more to say.So let me wrap it up with a conclusion.
Iâ€™m mad at the raw food movement because of all of the misinformation spread everywhere.
And in fact, Iâ€™m very close to saying that there is no such thing as the â€œRaw food movementâ€.
What we seem to have is a circus of self-proclaimed gurus who are promoting completely conflicting philosophies. You might as well separate them into two or three completely different diets.Yet, they all want to sing under the same banner. Well, not so fastâ€¦
As a group, the raw food movement is pretty confused; when in fact, it does not need to be so complicated. When in the world did we think that this diet was supposed to be about packaged â€œsuperfoodsâ€, chocolate, and recipes that imitate cooked foods?
The whole thing was about eating LOTS of fruits and vegetables! An abundance of fruits and vegetables â€” not an abundance of fats and oils.
You can become incredibly healthy, but you have to know where youâ€™re going.
Are you going to keep trying to mix all kinds of conflicting philosophies into a mishmash of a program that works more or less for youâ€¦ or are you ready to radically transform your health using the principles of the low-fat raw food diet?
Iâ€™ve met a TON of people all around the world who are experiencing amazing success with the low-fat raw food diet.They all seem to have some things in common:
- They have given it enough time. Not just a few weeks or a month or two.
- They are paying great attention to MANY factors of their health, not just diet.
- They eat a LOT of fruits AND greens, and very little fat.
- They try to make health and fitness their priorities.