Raw Journey: Part 2

Epic Failure #2: high-fat, raw-dairy-crazed, low-glycemic madness.

I think the bitter warring has died down in recent years, but back in time (2003-ish), fruit versus fat was the most vicious raw debate around. You were either in the fruit camp or the fat camp (sometimes called the “green camp”), never in any sort of grey zone between. For the sugar-avoiders, fruit was a hybrid, unnatural dietary monster; for the fat-avoiders, oils and other raw lipids were the culprits behind candida, deficiency, and every other health woe imaginable.

I jumped the fruit ship and landed in a sea of coconut butter.

In my search for the “right” raw diet, I started reading up on low-sugar approaches to raw. “High greens” sounded more appealing than “high fat,” but I found it impossible to slay my hunger without resorting to more calorie-dense sources—either fruit or fat. I loaded up on avocados and raw almond butter and fresh coconut meat.

I wasn’t a big fan of oils, but after reading The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife, I became convinced of the health-enhancing virtues of this delicious-smelling oil. It quickly became a staple in my diet. And by staple, I mean I was eating probably 8 – 10 tablespoons a day. No joke.

At some point during this phase, I started talking privately with a girl my age who had attempted a fruitarian diet, felt her health suffering, and adopted a diet espoused by the Weston A. Price Foundation. If you aren’t familiar with Weston A. Price, he was a dentist who traveled the world in the early 20th century, examining the health and dental development of “primitive” civilizations untouched by Western culture and diet. He found, unequivocally, that peoples eating traditional diets—whole, unprocessed foods, fermented products, raw animal foods, and specially-prepared grains—had beautiful and flawless facial development, whereas cultures infiltrated by processed and refined foods suffered from crowded dental arches and cavities. He published his findings in the book Nutrition and Physical Generation, which you can read online for free:

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

I think this is a wonderful book—especially the photos—that clearly shows how much a Western diet can degrade your health. However, the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) has taken the information in this book one step further, and uses Price’s work to validate a diet high in raw dairy, saturated fat, animal products, and other items considered “taboo” by mainstream nutrition. Although I now see many holes in the Foundation’s claims (along with some still-sparkling gems of wisdom), back then, I became thoroughly convinced that they were infallible.

Baaa! I'm udderly delicious.


Enter: raw dairy phase.

Having been a vegetarian since age 7, I wasn’t keen on going back to meat like the WAPF advised, but dairy was something I could do. After soaking up books and articles and websites delineating the benefits of raw—not pasteurized or homogenized—dairy, I started thinking my earlier reactions to milk products were due to eating cooked dairy. Perhaps I was just reacting to the altered proteins and denatured lactase enzymes in pasteurized milk. After all, if cooking plant matter creates undesirable compounds, wouldn’t heating dairy do the same?

The more I researched, the more I became convinced that raw goat dairy, in particular, was the best way to go. Due to its smaller-sized fat globules, goat dairy is tolerated by some people who react adversely to cow dairy. It has a slightly more similar structure to human milk.

I never cared for the taste of milk as a beverage, but I sure had loved cheese for most of my life. So I hopped over to the local health food store and bought a giant chunk of raw goat cheddar.

I took one bite and then inhaled half the block. Having been salt-free and low fat for some time, the rich flavor and saltiness was almost drug-like in its potency.

My taste buds were happy, but the rest of my body was not. I spent the night hacking and coughing and battling some gnarly post-nasal drip. Although the congestion wasn’t quite as bad as regular cow dairy used to give me, it was still there and it was still a nuisance.

Maybe most logical people would have decided, after that first day of unpleasantness, to nix the goat dairy. Not me. The mind is a powerful force, and I had thoroughly convinced myself—from the literature and anecdotes I had read—that raw dairy contained something magically healing, something vital, something necessary for health. For the next year or so, I consumed up to half my daily calories from raw goat dairy products such as cheese, unpasteurized yogurt, and a special fermented beverage called “probiogurt” I ordered bulk from a farm in Texas.


  1. I technically get the first response – i am in the fruit/fat/sex camp – i have gay sex (fruit) with overweight (fat) goats. DENISE HAS A MANGINA! DENISE HAS A MANGINA!

  2. @Me: Interesting, I did not realize that ‘gay sex’ was in fact a term for fruit. I couldn’t find substantial backing proof on Wikipedia, but hey, anyone can edit that right?… can’t believe your parents named you ‘me’. My parents were arctic wolves…amphibious too, slightly reptilian. Hey nice job on the first comment, commendable performance sir or madame. Well Me, take it easy out there, sounds like quite the lifestyle with all of the aforementioned fruit, fat, and ‘cation. Well you know what they say…

  3. Hi Denise:

    I’ve become obsessed by your website lately – stumbled upon it courtesty of Mark Sisson’s blog. I have a background in nutrition but feel there’s still so much I don’t know and I’m always searching for a better way to feed myself. My nutrition “bible” for years has been the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website. I’m wondering what holes you’ve seen in their claims – and what are the gems? I thought the WAPF was perfect – they legitimized my desire to scarf down chunks of cheese at will!

    Thanks for all you do – I teach stats and research methods at a university and I feel like I should have you be my guest lecturer. You make it real.


    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks for the kind words! I agree with the majority of what the WAPF puts out, particularly the importance of whole/real foods, the usefulness of animal fats in the diet, and the importance of using traditional food preparation methods (especially for those who wish to include grains and legumes in their diets). I’m really glad they’re out there fighting the anti-animal-fat dogma.

      I always prefer looking at the source of any data over second-hand interpretations of it, though, so I tend to focus on what Price wrote in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration rather than the summaries of his findings on the WAPF site (although there’s a lot of excellent stuff there, too). My main caveats are:

      1. Over-emphasis on dairy. Only two out of the 12 tribes Price studied consumed any form of dairy, and I sincerely believe it’s a food where individual responses vary *tremendously.* Most people can probably do fine with dairy fats (butter, ghee), but the proteins and sugars aren’t always tolerated, even in raw, high-quality forms. Raw milk in particular isn’t suitable for everyone and I feel the WAPF — at least in the past — has pushed it a little too hard, especially given the scarcity of tribes that even consumed it.

      2. Extrapolating Price’s work beyond what it can feasibly reveal about the health of the tribes he studied. Although all the primitive groups on their native diets were physically robust, there isn’t any vigorous documentation on their overall mortality rates, cancer rates, heart disease rates, etc. Studying teeth (as Price did) is interesting but extremely limited, and it’s possible that Price’s primitives had well-formed bodies but still suffered from some diseases we want to avoid. It’s hard to conclude anything about mortality based on his research, but at the very least, we can’t claim those groups were definitely in perfect health — too many unknowns.

      3. Too little attention paid to physical activity/lack of sedentary living. I’m not convinced that a traditional, calorie-dense, super-nourishing diet will have the same effect on a native who spends the entire day doing physical labor (as often was the case with Price’s tribes) versus an American office worker who sits at a computer all day long writing emails and playing MineSweeper. How much protection did the natives’ lifestyles confer? We can’t say based on Price’s research, but their lifestyles were probably an integral component of their health.

      4. Grains. I personally believe tubers trump grains in most departments, as far as starches go, and that many folks would benefit from cutting out grains completely rather than properly preparing them and continuing to consume them… particularly wheat.

      The gems are many — vocalizing the dangers of soy and polyunsaturated fats/vegetable oils, counteracting the vilification of animal fats (including raw animal fats), broadcasting the dangers of processed foods, teaching a proper prenatal diet, their focus on how to have a healthy pregnancy, clearing the bad rap saturated fats get… pretty much everything other than what’s stated above. I like to think that a combination of paleo and WAPF principles are enough to bring most people good health.

      1. Ah, thank you. I agree with all your points, and in fact it’s now occurred to me that the natives Price visited probably drank purer water than we do, breathed cleaner air, and weren’t slapping toxin-laden personal care products on their bodies. (There’s your next area of research – see Malkan’s “Not Just A Pretty Face” – chilling.) Thanks again.

  4. I am so glad Laura asked this. I was wondering the same as I’m trying GAPS / SCD / paleo to get healthy and guessed but did not realize that the WAPF dairy stance diverged so much for the original data. I’ve been force feeding myself raw goat yogurt and have noticed stopped up sinuses and terrible belly aches or vomiting. I knew something was wrong 😉
    I have been searching the net for others with similar experiences and found your blog. I am very thankful you posted your story. Our paths are so similar its unbelievable – down to doing 80-10-10 and posting on Doug Graham’s forum in 2003! Only I am a couple of years behind on finding what works best for me. I am learning *a lot* from your posts and will continue my n=1 experiment – it would be great to be healthy again 🙂 THANK YOU FOR SHARING!

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