In the beginning, I gleaned the bulk of my raw information from Doug Graham’s message board on Vegsource.com. I am a “lazy in the kitchen” type person, so the simplicity of the “811” eating style—lots of fruit, minimal fat, and no gourmet recipes or superfoods—seemed enormously appealing. I read briefly about other raw dietary approaches, but they all seem too complicated and supplement-heavy.
So, still living under my parents’ roof, I loaded up on fruit and started on my merry raw way. I was already accustomed to eating a large salad most nights for dinner and snacking on loads of fruit, so the transition was fairly painless—the toughest part was giving up salty, crunchy items like chips. Prior to going deliberately raw, I was probably averaging 60% raw per day, simply because I was allergic to nearly everything else.
About a week after eating 100% raw, I ate some rye bread with roasted almond butter for breakfast instead of my usual fruit. It sat in my stomach like a brick. The drop in energy was immediate and horrible. It was almost a full year before I touched any cooked food again.
Epic Failure #1: high-fruit undereating.
My first year as a fruity raw girl was a mixed bag. I’d managed to graduate high school two years early (more due to stubborn determination than to genius-ness), and thanks to a flexible college schedule, I could go home every day for lunch and avoid gobsmacked stares as I inhaled huge meals of fruit. I embraced mono meals, learned about food combining, and reveled in the explosive, mind-boggling energy I suddenly had. For the first time in life, I wanted to move and run and jump and exercise. I needed less sleep and bounced out of bed each morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The depression I’d always ascribed to teenagehood was completely and utterly gone. Life was as sweet and juicy as my fruit.
There was just one problem. Even though I was eating even more calories raw than I had been on a cooked diet, I was shedding weight like crazy. Not in a good way. At one point, I got down to less than 95 pounds on a 5’5″ frame. I’m sure everyone thought I was anorexic. I wasn’t happy looking like Skeletor, but I felt so good that I didn’t care too much.
Slowly but surely, other unpleasantries started cropping up: hair loss, lightheadedness, insomnia, hoards of dental cavities and gum recession. I stopped feeling quite as energetic as I had in the beginning. I became incredibly spacey and absent-minded—I left my purse in classrooms on multiple occasions, I lost at least three different jackets on the bus, I misplaced my keys, and concentrating on schoolwork felt nearly impossible. Brain-fog mania!
After returning from a family vacation that year, my mom hauled me off to the doc.
I wound up with a naturopath who was more knowledgeable about nutrition than most physicians, but not too keen on raw—she was trained in Chinese Medicine, which is heavily pro-cooking. A blood test revealed a few deficiencies: B12, iron, and potassium—the latter of which made no sense at the time (hello, bananas!). The B12 levels were so low, in fact, that the doctor said I was probably facing neurological damage.
Indeed, I was not eating nearly enough, even though it seemed like so much. Confronted by worried family and persuaded by anti-fruit folks on other message boards, I ditched the high-fruit diet and looked elsewhere for answers.