On dietary failure

I failed at a diet recently. Not a lose-inches-fast mainstream “diet”, but a diet none-the-less. In this case I spent six miserable February hours trying out the low fat raw vegan 80-10-10 diet. (That’s 80% carbs from fruit, 10% fat and 10% protein, for those who don’t know) before I did a workout in order to get warm and ate some baked chips.

The month long challenge was proposed by my friend Keith, who is someone that I like and who I also perceive to be in excellent physical health. I read the book (80/10/10 by Dr. Douglas Graham), collected the recipes, and bought two cases of bananas, a flat of young Thai coconuts, and a case of berries. I finished all the quinoa, tempeh, and roasted tahini in my fridge and got pumped. I asked a lot of questions before I began and although I was nervous, I also felt prepared.

I wanted to try this way of eating for a few reasons. 1) A big group of my friends was doing it together, so I’d have support. 2) It was a kind of vegan diet that I hadn’t tried before, and I like to know how I feel on all kinds of vegan diets. 3) I had heard it was great for energy and endurance in athletes, which sounded great and 4) I am studying to be a health coach with a strong emphasis in plant based nutrition. I figured first hand experience could always be useful to my future clients.

Despite all this, I failed to remember that I have tried variations of the raw diet multiple times before and always hated it. Juice cleanses made me feel crazy, almost instantly. Green smoothie protocols made me hate something that I love to eat. Regular raw made my stomach feel like shit (ugh, the nuts.) and low fat raw vegan made me feel hungry, resentful, anxious and cold. Really, really cold.

When I presented these woes to Keith he offered up many helpful suggestions. If hungry, eat more. If cold, sit in the sun. Eat more dates, mangos, pineapples, and bananas, as the tropical fruits tend to have more calories.  Drink more water, too, as hydration is key to satiation.

I really respect that Keith is able to feel awesome, digest like a champ, have a shit ton of energy, and maintain an extremely positive attitude on this diet. Time and time again, he suggested aiming for 1,000 calorie meals, and I imagine that if I had done that and stuck through the adjustment period, I would have experienced some benefits.

Thing is, I didn’t want to think about food as much as I was on 80-10-10. I am certain I don’t eat 1,000 calories per meal currently and it freaked me out to start. In my eating disorder recovery I found it easiest to eat lots and lots of smaller meals throughout the day, which is a habit I continue because it makes me feel comfortable. Duplicating that with fruit felt weird. I was unnaturally full, and also hungry. It was a feeling that triggered memories of anorexia and bulimia, and for my mental health I decided that meant that it was best to stop.

Failure is something I am always interested in, because the concept means so much and so little all at once. This diet, at this time, wasn’t worth it for me, but would I disparage the low fat raw vegan way of eating? No. It taught me a few things, even in the short time that I did it. It taught me (once again) that IN MY CASE cooked food is best in the winter. It taught me that I am extremely able to identify negative thought patterns and that when I start with the food perseveration I take care of myself with expediency. It showed me that I think both my body and the way that I eat are ALREADY great, so I don’t need to change them. That, in and of itself is an awesome lesson.

Failure just makes sense, sometimes, because it is informative.  In this case, I can be thankful for failure.

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2 Responses to On dietary failure

  1. Lora says:

    Very insightful post, thanks Lacy for sharing an interesting experience like this, and being so honest about failure – we can all stand to do more of that!

  2. raechel says:

    I felt so so similarly on 80/10/10. I wanted to love it, but it was ultimately pretty triggering for me—the overeating and still being hungry thing was just not something i was emotionally capable of sustaining. Kudos for giving it a try, but even more kudos for knowing that it’s okay to “fail.” (Speaking of, have you read Jack Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure?….Good read, and a sort of defense of “failing”).

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