In this article, I share a part of my story of adopting a mostly raw whole food plant-based diet and the most important lessons I learned. First, I like to talk about self-awareness because I had none when I started my raw food journey. I wrongly assumed that a clean diet was the answer to all my problems, and it appeared so initially. Indeed, switching to a high-fruit diet, eating abundant calories, and letting all difficult-to-digest and nutrient-poor food out of my diet made me feel like a superhuman. My fatigue elevated, my energy rose, my sleep improved, and I thought I could take up anything without failure. But unfortunately, little did I know about nutrition back then and even less about setting boundaries and self-awareness.
I grew up in a Slavic culture where everyone else comes first. Otherwise, one is considered selfish. I learned that others are always served first. Can you imagine what this kind of mindset meant for me when I became a mother of four children and a wife to my husband? My attitude made me available non-stop, day and night, for everyone but myself. Another part of my upbringing was always appearing perfect and never showing any weaknesses. As a housewife, mother, and scientist, I translated being perfect into practicing attachment parenting with four kids (breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing), having a shining house, and preparing homemade food while progressing with my scientific research endeavors. Does it sound crazy to you? Well, it was ambitious indeed!
When I switched to a high-fruit diet, my energy was through the roof, but I did not know how to use it wisely. I did not realize that I needed relaxation, sleep, and pleasant activities. And instead of focusing on my survival with four young children under age six, I decided to bring my mother, who struggled with health problems, from Slovakia to the Netherlands. I felt I had enough knowledge and energy to help her heal. My mother came to live with us in August 2017. She was desperately overweight and depressed but motivated to change her situation. She knew that losing weight was important for claiming her health back, so she joined me in eating a high-fruit diet and did terrific at it.
She loved the fruit and the smoothies I was making for her, and she started to lose weight and feel motivated. She went from being severely overweight and interested in nothing but laying in bed to losing 20kg, attending Dutch classes, and helping me with the kids and the household. It was a miracle. Her blood pressure stabilized, and she quit smoking and her blood sugar medication. Her GP was impressed. Although she loved to eat salads due to her teeth issues, she could not chew them properly, resulting in her not eating enough vegetables, especially leafy greens. I was not skilled at creating delicious green smoothies then, and I neglected this important food group in her diet. Besides neglecting my mom’s intake of some critical nutrients, I was overfocused on food and did not have sufficient literacy to understand my mom’s needs beyond food. It took a few months, but this neglect eventually backfired, and my mom returned to Slovakia and gained weight.
Our bodies have an immense capacity to adjust to stressful situations. Our stress adaptation mechanism works like stretching a rubber. It has a remarkable ability to expand and adapt; however, it will rupture when we push behind its limit. So when we eat a diet that is too focused on eating enough calories from fruits and marginalizes the sufficient intake of vegetables, our stress adaptation mechanisms tend to stretch too far and rupture. As a result, a diet deficient in essential nutrients can lead to health and mental challenges. Fruit is a high-energy food, but eating fruit alone is unlikely to cover all nutritional requirements. First, however, let me return to my raw food story.
Before embarking on my healthy eating journey, I was unaware that the stress I experienced in my life could result from inadequate nutrition. For our body to function correctly, we need to nourish it with everything it needs. Just think about it for a minute. Our body needs to obtain oxygen, energy, water, and nutrients from the external environment. All these elements form a system that is essential for our survival. We can not take oxygen or water away from the system and expect it to work. Likewise, we can not omit crucial nutrients from our diet in the long run and expect our bodies to thrive. Neglecting adequate nutrition for extended periods will show up as a body weakening, and no amount of calories from foods that do not contain the essential nutrients will solve the problem.
For example, one can go on a banana island or fruit diet only for some time and experience great benefits and results. Many people also relieve their symptoms by excluding overt fats from their diet for some time. However, in the long term, such restrictions can cause health problems. I know these statements are controversial; some live exclusively on fruit or without adding overt fats to their diet. Still, these people are not doing random experiments on themselves. People who seem to eat a complete fruit diet often include sea vegetables, drink celery juice, eat nuts and seeds or have access to high-quality permaculture tree-ripened fruits. Unfortunately, 100% of long-term fruitarians who do not eat vegetables and thrive are hard to find.
The same goes for excluding over-fat. While it is possible to obtain all essential fats from eating whole foods adding an appropriate amount of overt fat to one’s diet is beneficial. Fruits and non-leafy green vegetables contain around 5% of fat. Leafy green vegetables have approximately 10% calories from fats, making them excellent sources of essential fats on the raw vegan diet. If you eat enough calories and know what you are doing, you can obtain all fats from non-fatty foods. Yet, most people who embark on self-supervised cleanses or healing protocols usually do not have sufficient knowledge and often end up hurting themselves. In conclusion, staying self-aware, not neglecting your body language, and keeping educated about nutrition are imperative for your long-term success with healthy eating.
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