Earlier this year, I decided to try a combination of
intense daily exercise and a raw food diet. This was very successful. If you
want to "get in shape," don't waste your time with methods that
don't work. This might seem like a hard road, but actually it is an easy
road, because you get maximum results. Doing a lot of work with no results or
wishy-washy results is the hard road.
June 3, 2012: The New World
Economics Guide To Outrageous Health and Fitness
My self-imposed six-month period of raw food eating ended in May. I could
happily continue eating raw food indefinitely. It was no hardship -- indeed,
I now prefer raw food to cooked food most of the time. Plus, there's a lot
less work involved. No cooking and hardly any cleanup.
However, I decided to take a broader approach to things. There were two basic
reasons. First, my wife doesn't want to eat raw food all the time, and also
she's a really good cook. So, I want to enjoy some of her cooking, and not
eat separate meals all the time. Second, I enjoy the variety and artistry of
cooked food. Sometimes I want to enjoy a good soup, or a pastry or a good
It might seem like having a varied diet is "easier" than a strict
raw food diet, but it is not. It's harder. Raw food is easy. You just eat raw
food. There isn't a lot of thinking or decision-making involved. This is one
reason the raw food approach is so successful. It's easy enough,
conceptually, that you can actually do it.
Having a flexible approach is hard. You immediately run into what Michael Pollan calls "the omnivore's dilemma." If you
can eat anything, what do you eat? Obviously, the Standard American Diet will
destroy you, healthwise.
I've been trying to develop a new framework over the past few months --
something that allows me the breadth I want, but which produces most of the
results of a raw food diet, and avoids the consequences of the Standard
American Diet. I soon found that simply making it up as I went along wasn't
working. There's just too much decision-making involved. Should I eat a
muffin today? How many calories have I had so far today? How many baked goods
in the last week? What's in it? All this thinking, about every single thing
you put in your mouth, will wear you out. Eventually, you will stop
altogether, and probably degenerate back to a Standard American Diet. So, I
needed some new rules.
First, I decided to go at least 50% raw. Because, it's what I like to eat,
and the results are what I want. This is easy enough: breakfast and lunch are
raw. This usually means fruit or a fruit smoothie for breakfast,
and a big salad for lunch. I often have something raw for dinner too.
For the remainder, it is mostly vegan, which means vegetarian without eggs or
dairy. This is not too hard, because this is mostly my wife's cooking, which
is loosely based on Japanese country cooking. In other words, a base of rice
and miso soup, and a variety of vegetable dishes.
Asians traditionally don't eat dairy, and Japanese traditionally don't eat
eggs, so that's just not in there. Strictly speaking, miso soup is not vegan
(it has a fish broth), but I said "mostly vegan."
A little meat is OK. Mostly, this is fish, the quantities are small, and not
every day. 2-4 oz. is plenty, actually. We don't do the "big pile of
protein in the middle" type of cooking. It might mean a little bacon in
fried rice to add flavor, or some clams in the miso soup. I get probably less
than 10% of calories from meat.
I like a few baked goods, but you have to be careful. Baked goods have a ton
of calories, and it is mostly "empty" calories, namely, white flour
and sugar. So, I enjoy a little chocolate cake and so forth. But, you can cut
the portion size pretty small and still have the same enjoyment. And, not
One principle I've heard is to have 10% of your diet to be "rules don't
apply." You can eat big steak, hot fudge sundaes, cheese pizza, french fries, and drink cognac. Some people organize this
by having one day a week be "whatever day." That's 1/7th of the
week, and since you probably will still eat your normal healthy stuff for at
least one or two meals that day, it works out to 10% or so. You still can't
binge -- portion size has to be appropriate. If you do have a really big
meal, like a 2000 calorie meal -- there's a place we go to sometimes that has
a great Sunday brunch, with omlettes, roast beef,
oysters, eggs benedict and so forth -- then you can balance it out by having
a very light meal, like 300 calories of green salad, later. What you will
probably find is that a lot of that stuff doesn't really appeal anyway.
Even on "whatever days," I don't touch processed foods or fast
food. No soda, no flavored chips (plain corn chips and potato chips are OK
but no "zesty BBQ" flavor stuff, which is just chemical crap), no
readymade frozen foods, etc. Don't put that crap in your body, ever. I only
eat "real food," made from real ingredients, at home or a
Eat food. Not too
much. Mostly plants.
I wouldn't do this sort of thing if you are trying to get in shape or improve
your health. In that case, I'd go with a full raw diet for six months or
more. You need that turbo boost to get you to where you want to be. In fact,
you won't even understand "where you want to be" until you've tried
at least three months of raw food. You won't know what's possible. This is
really for after you've gone through that process.
It actually takes quite a lot of attention and discipline to make this work.
There is still a lot of decision-making involved. You've been warned. If you
collapse back to the Standard American Diet, well, I guess that makes you
another wannabe among the legions of yo-yo dieters. Too bad.
originally appeared at http://www.newworldeconomics.com/archives/2012/072912.html
on July 30, 2012.)