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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Heaven and Hell - My 3 Day Dance with High Raw Vegan & a Cool App/Web Tool

As I approach the four-year mark on my whole foods, plant-based food program, I've reached a level of comfort in my understanding of why I eat the way I do and also a level of confidence around the kitchen.  I now have enough of an assortment of satisfying recipes, good cookbooks and alternatives for 'veganizing' most recipes I come across.  I also have been through the calendar year a few times now, so can deal with the various holidays and food-centered celebrations and the people that love me (and those that don't but find themselves in my proximity) have grown used to these big, big changes.

Although, I enjoy pretty good health, have maintained my initial weight loss (more or less, currently up about 7 pounds, but holding at that number), and do not actually even remember the last time I was sick, I still have been feeling that something is missing and that I can, and should, tweak my diet again, delving deeper into my understanding of what constitutes the recipe for optimal human nutrition.

And so, I looked into raw vegan diets, again.

I had looked at the 80/10/10 and 60/20/20 programs early into my switch to vegan eating but felt I was facing a big enough challenge going vegan at that time and passed it by.  {The numbers represent percentages of the macro-nutrients carbs/protein/fat, with the 80/10/10 being associated with Douglas Graham and classified as 'high raw vegan' cooked foods, carbs obtained from predominantly fruits, some veggies and fats from nuts and seeds in very small amounts}.

After reading up on the rationale behind Graham's program and agreeing with most of the logic behind it, I thought this would be a perfect 'spring cleanse' for me and a way to see if this program would be beneficial.

Day One:

Although I quickly realized that it was going to be a BIG challenge to ingest enough food in order to get the calories (2500) needed, I was optimistic and feeling very energized by the fruit meals.  I eat probably about 60-80% raw anyway, so I figured this would not be that difficult.

By afternoon, I was hungry, despite eating more food (in bulk, but not calorically) than I usually do in a whole day, but felt mentally clear and very energetic.

By evening, I was STILL hungry, hungry most of the day, despite eating a LOT and often, and I realized I needed a way to track what I was consuming.  A friend had told me about and I found an app for it on my Android phone, downloaded and started inputting.  I realized that despite eating a massive quantity of fruits and veggies, I was over 1,000 calories low.  I consumed a huge salad and added a dollop of left-over rice casserole to help with the hunger and calorie load.

Day Two:

I started the day with a liter of water, as is recommended by some of the successful raw foodists, and had been generally keeping water consumption way up.  I felt VERY rested and supercharged for the day, great energy and wonderful mood, almost euphoric.  Hopeful, I jumped into my day planning out the food and tracking it on myfitnesspal.  I also thought I would add smoothies in to help with the physical aspect of consuming that much food and to boost calories.

This day went pretty well and I stayed very 'up' all day, dropped my tea consumption, realizing I didn't even need my much energy.  This is great.

Day Three:

I woke up starving....I mean, like STARVING, like a month on a deserted island starving.  Never have I been so hungry in my life.  I stayed in this state, no matter what I ate.

By lunch, I was about in a panic.  Despite my continued input of food into my mouth and numbers into my app, I couldn't even approach the numbers I needed.  I downed 6 Medjool dates to get my energy going and ease my increasing anxiety.  I started getting a headache.  I became dizzy.

I made a HUGE salad, like feed 10 people salad and started tearing into it waiting for a moment of satiety where I could take a breath and relax a bit.  It never came.  I just remained hungry, hungry, hungry.  I added some avocado, thinking that would help a bit and it did a tiny bit, but...still, I was miserable.

Then I went to the bathroom to get ready to go somewhere for the evening and I looked in the mirror and about freaked.  I was bloated, with a swollen abdomen that I have not seen since I was 8 months pregnant.  It was scary.  It's when I realized, that although the logic of this type of eating makes some sense, there is one teensie-weentsie little thing that seems to not be's called PHYSICS!  There is a maximum mass that can be put into another physically massed object.  Even allowing for the wonderful tolerance of the human body and the stretch of the stomach, still, there is a limit. Oh, I was miserable.

It is now 24 hours later....I followed my 'regular' vegan diet for most of today, but still spent most of the day hungry. It was like my body was just stuck in this fear of starvation and was telling me, hey, stupid, you aren't giving me what I need!  I had a nice sweet potato with black beans, corn and brown rice with some salsa and avocado for lunch and that finally did the trick for me.  I'm finally not dizzy, feeling more 'normal' and settled.  (Also, now only 4 pounds off my original weight loss numbers....having lost three pounds the first two days).

I did learn a lot from this foray into high raw vegan, and I do think that the fat levels in my diet have been too high...too many raw cashews slipping in, too much coconut milk.  I'm continuing to use the myfitnesspal app to track my can be customized for any program being followed and has been useful to see some other nutrients I've been concerned about.  I wish it had even greater detail, but there are some nice features on it, including the ability to just scan the UPC code of an item and to pull up the nutritional info from that.

I actually think the 80/10/10 numbers may be about right (or maybe 70/15/15 or thereabouts), but HOW that 80 is gotten is vital, for me, anyway.  I can't get that all in raw fruit/veggies, but could split that 80 about 50/50 probably between simple and complex carbs.  I'm going to play with it a bit and find the right ratios for me and see how my energy and general wellness goes.

More power to anyone who wants to follow this program and who is able to and there APPEAR to be great successes out there.  I think, with any program, we do need to listen to our bodies as we go along and be willing to change and tweak as feels right to us.  I think too, that yes, maybe we, as a people, did eat raw 10,000 years ago prior to modern agriculture, fire and so forth and maybe genetically we haven't changed that much in that time, but there is a food efficiency to a complex carb and there is a place for cooking our food.  While much remains the same, we are NOT the same humans we were 10 centuries ago, either, in many ways.

There is a practical side of this program too; I simply cannot (or am not willing to) spend about 4 hours or more a day in the physical act of eating, (and, a resultant vastly increased time in the bathroom!), and just getting this amount of food down is quite the challenge.  I would say the jump from vegan to high raw vegan is as far, or farther, than the jump from the standard western diet is to whole foods plant based (vegan).  It is very difficult, or at least I found it to be.

Sue, getting back to basics, in Ohio


  1. Lost my long comment when I wanted to preview it...
    Now I'll only say thank you for telling about your experience! It is so important to listen to our bodies.Sometimes a way of eating doesn't fit for our bodies be the theory ever so compelling. (I have to watch adequate calories and protein).
    Greetings from Silvia in Germany

  2. Oh, darn, Sivia, I hate when that happens! Thanks for taking the time to respond. I agree...listen to our bodies. Hope you are doing well. Take care!, Sue