I’m not going to sugar coat this article and I might sound somewhat rude, but I think someone has to step up and tell the truth about some “Gurus” in the world of nutrition. This is my way of helping people not making the same mistakes I made that led me to huge health problems. I will also demonstrate good reasons why people should always be critical of those so called gurus and thus believe in nothing, but their own observations.
Steve Pavlina has a blog called Personal Development For Smart People, which is the most popular blog on the whole Internet about personal development. Lets call it Personal Development For Misguided People, because the ideas shared on this blog are so far off the truth that people don’t know that they don’t know. The worst kind of ignorance!
Steve Pavlina himself has been a vegan for years already and there is no question for him as to if we’re meant to eat meat or not. He argues about animal cruelty and the fact that meat is a poison to us and makes us sick. The one man who’s supposed to question any preconceived belief goes on to describe meat eaters as ignorant and ill-advised without really questioning veganism itself.
A couple of years ago, Steve embarked on a raw food diet journey. On a raw food diet you only eat fruits, lots of them, vegetables and nut and all this has to be raw, because cooking food supposedly makes it toxic, dead, enzyme deprived, empty, …
Being the good guru that he is, he also convinced a lot of people to follow him on his journey by also removing all meat, grains, dairy and cooked food from their diets. At this time in my life, I was dealing with constant extreme fatigue, headaches and allergies and doctors where not helping so a promise to get healthy almost overnight appealed to me greatly. Also consider that people following a raw food diet are usually very vocal and go out of their way to convince you that anything else than raw fruits and vegetables is going to make you sick. None of them seem to really know anything about nutrition though.
A also then started to eat only raw food in the hope that I was going to get very healthy. Turns out I felt good for a couple of weeks and then it went downhill until I finally stopped seven months later being severely sick, malnourished, underweight and tired. I was feeling like a skinny old man and at 120 pounds when you’re six foot tall, you don’t have much to spare. My teeth where failing me, I had a protruding belly like the kids in Africa you see on TV, I was loosing my hair, my skin was flaking and at one point my digestion was so slow that I had a bowel movement only every four or five days and always felt full even after eating very little food. I also had frequent urination problems and extreme thirst during the night, which are often signs of diabetes. The reason why I stayed on the diet for so long is because I’m really stubborn and I’ll go through a lot if I believe something is going to work, and I believed really hard in the diet, because everybody on the forums and blogs will tell you that you’re only going through a detox period where you feel bad before feeling better. What a great excuse to stick on the diet! Only thing is this “detox” will never go for some people because it was never a detox, but the body missing precious nutrients and fats.
The reason why I ended the diet was because I felt that I was literally going to die if I continued, thus the tittle of this post. I thought my hormones would never come back to normal levels and that I’d have to deal with diabetes for the rest of my life. Fortunately for me, I think I was able to get out of it with only a small hole in a tooth, some bad memories and a whole lot more knowledge about my body.
The premises are similar to those of the Paleo diet: eating what we where meant to eat because we evolved eating those foods for millions of years and our digestive systems are adapted for those foods. While the Paleo diet studies early humans, the raw food diet looks at chimpanzees arguing that the’re the most closely related to us. Maybe the reason why we’re not chimpanzees anymore is exactly the fact that we ate meat and started cooking our food. After all, what drastic change other than cooking could have an impact so profound on our specie to the point where we developed at the level we are compared to other species? I see fire and then cooking as the turning points of our evolution. Cooked food is much easier to digest then raw food thus less work needed from the digestive system and more energy to allow the brain to develop. Of course cooked food oftentimes is less nutrient dense, but those same nutrients are very often much more bio-available when the food is cooked. In other words, we absorb the nutrients much better. Eat a bowl of raw brussel sprouts and you’ll see what I mean when you’ll be burping all afternoon.
Pavlina makes a point to tell people to test things out for themselves and not to automatically believe in what others say, but it is a known fact that someone will be believed as long as he believes in the idea himself very much, he is congruent on the whole story and has enough people believing in it. This is what makes some people so influential. Steve soon developed hordes of followers on his forums that where all raving about the benefits of the raw food diet while excluding any other idea with a passion. The movement is so strong that you’ll rarely find arguments against raw food on the Internet, because people talking against it are then criticized endlessly.
Most people in those circles are always pointing about the benefits in terms of weight loss and feeling more energized. I completely agree with the former, you will lose weight on a raw food diet, but at what price? We’ve developed as a society so focused on weight loss that we lost our focus on general health and well being. Do you want to know the real secret to instantly lose tons of weight? Stop eating! You’ll lose weight for sure. Of course I’m just having fun here, but raw fooders seem so focused on weight loss that when some of them become dangerously thin and emaciated, others reassure them that it’s just a question of standards and that we are not really meant to be buff or muscular. What an excuse to stay on the diet! As for having more energy, it’s very possible, especially in the beginning, because grains, dairy and bad fats are not in the diet so people probably feel the benefits of not having those foods, but associate them to the fact that they consume no meat and they eat everything in its raw form.
By going from one extreme of eating a standard american diet to a raw food diet you can’t really tell which of the foods you cut where really the offenders to your health and you’ll often accuse the same foods that today’s general dietary recommendation try to limit (saturated fats and red meat for example).
When you read the forums long enough you’ll heard about people starting to have problems with their teeth and having weird symptoms like irregularity in some women’s periods or loss of sex drive. People having those problems are often answered to dial in their diet and to make adjustment, like if it was not strict enough already. Some will tell you to limit nuts and other fats like avocados to the point where you only get 10% of your calories from fat. Others will tell you to juice your vegetables and to make green smoothies all the time and yet others will advice you to consume wheatgrass juice or other “superfoods” like spirulina, agave and other hyped foods. In other words, if the diet is not working well for you, it’s your fault and you should further complicate things. I don’t know if those people think that our ancestors had the ability to juice or puree their foods or that they had constant access to those rare superfoods.
I see a lot of good intention in people following a raw food diet and I understand why they want to change today’s dietary habits, but I think that jumping to the other extreme has its dangers. Everybody on the diet seem to forget that not all animals are treated with cruelty and fed growth hormones and antibiotics and that in nature, which we are still part of, animals die for other to live. Plants also die for other animals to live, but in the end it all comes back feeding the top soil and then plants can continue to grow, animals can continue to eat them and other animals can continue to eat those animals. This is the circle of life, and I don’t think we have any knowledge or right to modify any of that. Read my article on vegetarianism and the environment for more information.
After ending my raw experiences, I discovered that the problems that I was dealing with before going raw where about intestinal flora imbalances, leaky gut and probably Candida overgrowth as well. Eating a raw food diet with a high amount of sugars from fruits magnified my flora problems and made me sicker and this is why I failed so hard on the diet while others last for years, degrading at a much slower pace and thus loosing sight at how they felt before.
Some will say that they feel more peaceful and closer to god. I felt that too, but it came from lack of testosterone and with it came loss of libido, drive, stamina, energy, … I now fully enjoy my natural aggressivity and know that it’s a normal part of life.
In conclusion, I find it sad that some supposed truth seekers like Pavlina become so skewed in a wrong direction that they can’t see clearly anymore the hard facts about things like diet and lifestyle.
I hope that this article will be read by people who’ll then see that it’s normal to feel sick and tired on a raw food diet and it’s not because they do something wrong, but because they would greatly benefit from having generous portions of fish, organic grass-fed and pastured meat, good fats (animal fat, coconut oil, nuts, butter,…) as well as vegetables (cooked or not) and some fruits. You’ll then see the meaning of the word thrive. Simply keep the grains, dairy and vegetable oils out, they are the real foods that damage you and the foods that where not available to our ancestor.
As for Steve, it’ll be hard for him to change, because even tough you base your own life on making conscious choices, changing your mind on something you put so much energy in is a real challenge. The ego is a powerful thing and it wants to protect itself from criticisms, even for the most “conscious” of us.