Day 3 of the diet and I’m feeling better than ever. I’ve been particularly energised today, despite not getting as much sleep as I might have liked (I got a sudden burst of energy and wakefulness around bedtime, possibly due to the baked potato beginning to release sugars into my bloodstream). No signs of sleepiness or bodily tiredness at all, and barely any lightheadedness.
I did get another wave of nausea this morning, but it was definitely down to the zinc tablet. I really loaded up on the soup and I was hoping that would provide enough of a cushion, but unfortunately not. I’ll either hold off on the zinc for now, or take it when I’m fairly full on the additional foods.
Just had my late lunch soup, and for variation I tried it cold straight from the fridge, with a little vinegar to sharpen it – very tasty and refreshing! All in all the soup hasn’t been the trial I was expecting, particularly now it’s pureed, and there are numerous ways to introduce variation if it gets dull.
Today’s schedule calls for both fruit and veg in addition to the soup, so I’ve been grazing steadily. More celery and carrots in the morning, along with grapes and a plum. Then in the afternoon I picked up a couple of kiwi fruit, more plums, bananas for tomorrow (no bananas or spuds today, boo), curly kale for dinner and a punnet of cherry tomatoes which it’s requiring enormous willpower for me to leave alone right now.
I am quite definitely enjoying all the fruits and veg on a different level now meat and dairy (and most flavourings and sauces) have been eliminated. I’m experiencing them in the way I’ve always felt you should experience fruit and veg; tasty, varied and appetising in their own right rather than as an obligatory accompaniment to meat. It’s really exciting, and even if I didn’t lose much weight I think this week would have been worth it for this insight alone.
It’s driven me back towards a previous area of interest – the raw food diet. I got interested in this last year, mainly because I was reading a lot of Steve Pavlina’s articles and he talks a lot about getting great results from eating raw food. It is supposedly an incredibly healthy and energising diet, and also makes it very hard to put on excess weight (major bonus for me!).
The tenets of eating food as natural and fresh as possible make a lot of sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lifelong carnivore. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t give up meat entirely and still find joy in life. But I could see a 5-day-a-week raw diet working for me. Over the last couple of days I’ve been digging up a bunch of resources and doing some research on the practicalities and people’s real experiences of the lifestyle (I’ve included several good ones at the bottom).
It seems there’s a pretty good thread of testimonials from people who have had a really good experience from the raw diet – greater energy, feelings of wellbeing, apparent better resistance to illness etc. Of course the issue gets clouded by people’s tendency to turn an interesting dietary experiment into a religion and defend it at all costs and against all rationality.
Many of the pages I’ve found make claims about the effects of the raw diet that are clearly pure speculation based on a partial understanding of scientific principles (and awful meaningless catch-all terms like “life force”), and there are some very weird dogmatic principles kicking around the community, like the insistence on “purified” water (whatever that means – distilled? Mineral water?). Actual dispassionate analyses are few and far between. If I get a chance I’ll have a dig into the medical journal databases (might as well use my university account while I’ve got it) and see if I can find some good peer-reviewed articles.
In the process of digging, I also turned up references to a group of people who I’ve never encountered before, and who are so wonderfully out-there that I have to mention them. If (philosophical) vegetarians look down on meat-eaters, vegans look down on veggies as being half-hearted, and rawists consider vegetarians to be murdering their nutrients with heat, who looks down on rawists? The answer: the instinctos.
For those who don’t know (I suspect quite a lot of people), Instincto (or Anopsology) is an eating philosophy developed by a French cellist called Guy-Claude Burger. It is based on the idea that we have a well-developed set of instincts and senses, developed over aeons, which tell us what foods we need and in what quantity, as well as how good different foods are for us. Burger discovered the “taste-change” or “stop”, the significant point at which a food we are eating becomes unpalatable as our body finds it doesn’t need any more.
Instinctos believe that we should eat entirely according to the urging of our senses – if a food tastes good, it’s because we need more of it. If it tastes bad, we should stop eating it. They assert that only uncooked, unprocessed foods retain this authentic primal interaction with our senses, and that over time we have developed methods of cooking, processing and flavouring our food essentially to “fool our bodies” and eat or overeat things we shouldn’t.
So far all well and good – in fact, a lot of this makes very good sense within reason. Our bodies are able to tell when we need food and when we should stop eating, and we do develop cravings for foods which contain nutrients we are missing (most obviously manifested in pregnant women). But there are a whole bunch of problems.
A:) Are our modern, conditioned senses capable of leading us entirely in what we eat? Were they ever able to lead us entirely, without any input from our brain?
B:) Modern fruits and vegetables have been intensively bred for characteristics like flavour and sweetness – many instinctos have a major problem with overeating fruit because they can’t seem to reach a point of taste-change. This mythical balance of sense and food, if it ever existed, may be impossible to find today.
C:) The insane claims made by many instincto theorists and users. They claim that absolutely any disease, including cancer, can be treated by instinctive eating, and that life can be dramatically prolonged, intelligence enhanced etc. There is no objective scientific evidence to support this, just huge amounts of speculation and religious raving by those involved.
D:) Most instinctos eat meat. Spotted the out-there part yet? They don’t cook it. In fact, they prefer it “ripe”, on the verge of rotting, because it gives the strongest taste reaction. There are many documented cases even among the pro-instincto groups of people suffering from parasites and infections as a result, and the claim that instincto eating will cure the diseases and infestations has not been upheld. One woman died, others have had to finally give in and take medication.
Despite the weird stuff going on in the extreme, full-on instincto diet philosophy, there’s certainly some good stuff in there, and it’s made me think about how I’m reacting to the changes in my diet, and to all this fresh fruit and veg. I’m definitely being driven more by my senses as I “graze” through the day, and I find myself picking or switching foods based on taste and smell. I’m certainly developing strong cravings and sensory responses to the foods I’m missing (the starchy potato had a phenomenal flavour and sweetness like I’ve never experienced).
The raw food diet, if I decide to push in that direction, is very much based on eating according to your body’s signals. I like the idea of getting more in touch with my body and reacting to its needs rather than just loading up with what looks good. I think there’ll be interesting stuff to come out of this.
Mark Hewitt is an English foodie, cook, philosopher, geek, shaman and writer. At the start of 2007 he sold or gave away almost all his possessions and left on a backpacking journey round the world, the purpose being (at least in part) to figure out why he would want to do such a thing. You can follow his journey and find other articles at: [http://www.scadindustries.com/sael/journal.html]