Greetings forum members!
The following email was originally addressed to a paleo blogger whose website I love, but I decided, after writing it, to share it here, and to seek the advice and counsel of any former carb addicts that might be lurking here:
Where do I even begin?
Until last September, I followed a mostly vegan diet (with occasional fish) for about 14 years. What can I say? I came of age in the 80's and 90's, when going veg was considered the ultimate in health-consciousness.
I went all the way with veg. As faaaaaar as you can go. Vegetarianism turned into veganism, which eventually (3 years ago) turned into the raw food diet. I did see dramatic health improvements on the raw food diet (complete erasure of moodiness, brain fog, blood sugar swings, nagging fatigue and annoying minor health complaints), enough to motivate me to keep on with it. My Raw Infatuation eventually led to a mostly fruitarian diet, with me completing a one month stint on all raw fruits and veggies, with no overt fats last summer.
According to all the raw literature I knew so well, at the end of those 30 days, I should have been on top of the world, singing with health. This was not the case. Instead, I gained 20 pounds (I was eating a massive ton of fresh fruit), and felt lethargic and flat, with a sort of "what's the use" mental outlook. I also felt no desire to exercise, and I'm a very active person.
I refused to settle for feeling so sluggish, chubby and joyless for one more minute. I ate my first eggs in years at the end of those 30 days, half expecting them to make me sick (as warned by the raw leaders whose teachings I knew by heart). I was utterly amazed when, over the course of that day, I felt all my energy come back to me. Emboldened, I ate some halibut that night, and felt even better.
It's now eight months later, almost to the day. I have been seriously educating myself all these months by (finally) exposing myself to other points of view, and have been stunned to learn how limited and short-sighted the vegan diet really is. I could go on and on. I am pretty thoroughly confident I will never be vegan again.
However, I am confused. Really, thoroughly confused, for the first time in my life. I'm reading so much great stuff (Gary Taubes, Weston Price Foundation, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, The Vegetarian Myth, Primal Blueprint, etc.) and I'm loving all of this new information. Really letting it sink in and take root. I have come so far over the past 8 months it defies my imagination.
However. I am having trouble implementing this information in my own life. The thing is, I did enjoy massive health improvements from all of the fresh fruits and veggies I ate on the raw diet. I fell heads over heels in love with fresh fruit, and I still eat a ton of it. For example, just today I've had 8 bananas, a mango and half a pineapple, and for me that's actually taking it easy. It was only when I tried to take the raw diet too far, and let my diet become so unbalanced, that I began feeling unwell.
In an ideal world, I would love to keep my high fruit diet, with one meal a day that incorporates meat, and I have tried this, but, as you probably know, fruit and fat don't get along. For the first time in some years, I've felt occasional flashes of blood sugar instability (I used to REALLY struggle with this before raw - all those dense cooked carbs) and otherwise unexplainable fatigue creeping in (the only way I can describe this annoying fatigue is to have you imagine how it would feel to function through the day after taking a sleeping pill or two).
I can sense that I'm coming to a point where I'm going to have to make a choice: either high fruit or paleo/primal eating. There's already a lot of overlap between my diet and primal: no processed foods, no grains, no dairy. The only sources of carbs in my diet are fresh fruit and plain steamed potatoes, but when it comes to the fruit, we're not talking measly portions. I eat enough fruit in a single day that most people eat in a month. I love it so.
When I try to carry on with high fruit, I feel just great in many ways, but I'll notice that eventually, over time, my energy slowly begins to wane. My hair and nails become thin and brittle. Then I'll reintroduce meat, and I'll feel fantastic initially (my hair will become thick and lustrous again), but within a few weeks, eating so much fruit along with the saturated fat that meat brings means the woes I've already described: creeping fatigue and very unpleasant blood sugar swings.
Minor attempts to cut back on the fruit (and to completely get rid of the steamed potatoes) results in massively horrifying cravings. I will feel my energy completely crash, to the point that I actually feel depressed and ill, and the thought of eating fat (when I'm in that state) is utterly unappealing. This sends me running back to fruit, scared out of my wits.
Thus, my utter mental confusion over what to do. I am, as they say, at a stalemate. Is it possible to be addicted to fresh fruit? Because this is what it feels like to try and cut back on it, like I'm a drug addict trying to curb the heroin intake.
I have to admit, too, having been inundated with the hardcore low fat message for so long from health and fitness gurus who truly are the picture of health (they really do walk the walk), it's hard to completely accept that eating the high fat/high protein message recommended here is truly healthy. I can't imagine (as I site here writing this) eating a diet that incorporates so little fruit. The last thing I want to do is make myself really sick with an ill-conceived change in diet. Boy oh boy. Hello cognitive dissonance!
Many thanks to all of you for reading this long email and for letting me reach out to you with my current dietary stalemate. Certainly all the ties I made in the vegan and raw communities would be terrible resources for such a dilemma! I would only be urged to eat some more fruit and pull my head out of my ass. Quite a few would think I'd lost my mind.
I would greatly appreciate any words of wisdom or advice you can offer me. I am all ears.
Warmly and with gratitude,