Trigger warning: This post discusses eating disorders. If you are in recovery from an eating disorder and feel that reading about this topic may be triggering or will impede your progress, please come visit the blog again another day!
If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve been experimenting with the 80/10/10 diet. Short version for those of you who are just tuning in: 80/10/10 is a low-fat raw vegan lifestyle that encourages you to get 80% of your calories from fruit, 10% from protein via leafy greens, and 10% from overt fats (nuts, seeds, avocados). It also encourages daily exercise, daily sun exposure, and getting plenty of sleep.This style of eating/living is also referred to as “low-fat raw vegan” (LFRV) and “high carb raw vegan” (HCRV).
I have experienced tons of benefits eating this way. Increased energy, loss of cravings, rarely feeling hungry, great sleep, good skin, slight weight loss, feeling generally lighter and more upbeat in my mood.
But despite these results, I intentionally “broke” the diet last week with some steamed vegetables that I added to my giant dinner salad.
(Note: Nothing that follows is meant to criticize anyone who has found success following this plan 100%. I experienced first-hand the benefits, and am certain that many of the low-fat raw vegans out there are living totally healthy, awesome lives!)
Why would I stop eating in a way that offers me so many great perks? In a word: obsession. In another word: anxiety. In a third word: money.
First, the obsession: I became fixated on reading all I could about this diet, which included tons of message board-reading and youtube video-watching. While there are plenty of LFRV gurus that stress the importance of balance, there are a whole lot more LFRV gurus that make you feel like steamed vegetables are toxic, grains are poison, oil is the devil, and that if you’re not being supported by your friends, you should find new friends. Yikes! And my commitment to this diet made me start to feel like I had to embrace all of those things as truth, and that if I didn’t, I was a failure. And this started to make me really judgey about food, and the people who were eating the food I was being judgey about. And, more than that, it started to make me really afraid of food. Like really afraid. And that scared the shit out of me; it’s a sensation I know all too well.
Being afraid of the steamed vegetables, or brown rice, or olive oil stemmed partly from relying solely on testimonies over science, but more so because I was convinced that if I didn’t stick to the 100% raw vegan plan that I wouldn’t be able to lose the weight that so many claim they do by being pure raw foodists. And once again I realized that something I claimed to be doing for “health,” turned out to be more rooted in my seemingly impossible-to-shake desire to be thinner.
Being vegan and struggling with an eating disorder since the age of 11 makes for a complicated relationship with food. When I reject food because it’s an animal product, it comes from a place of mental and emotional health, and a commitment to my politics and ethics. When I reject food because someone on a message board told me it will keep me from losing weight, it comes from a place of fear and self-hate and total selfishness. When I realized this, I knew that sticking to this diet 100% would continue to trigger the eating disorder mentality with which I am obviously still struggling.
I was also starting to feel a lot of anxiety about how it was impacting my social life. Although there are plenty of activities that I love doing with friends that don’t involve food, I really love the activities that do involve food! I love cooking for friends, and I love enjoying the food friends share with me. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of vegetarians and some vegans, and my non-vegan friends are always so excited to share something with me that they went out of their way to make vegan.
When I got hooked on detoxes and shifted to a more clean-eating diet, I already had to start explaining to people that I no longer eat soy, avoid gluten, and steer clear from sugar. I know it might seem hypocritical for me to say I am okay doing that stuff, but not okay rejecting non-raw food, but I really feel that I have to draw a line somewhere. And for me, eating cooked vegetables or the occasional grain really doesn’t make me feel sick. And if the whole point of a raw vegan diet is to feel healthy, and I can eat steamed broccoli and still feel healthy….well…then…I’m gonna eat the broccoli!
It’s certainly possible that I don’t know what “real, optimum” health actually feels like. If I stuck to 100% raw foods for years, maybe I would reach enlightenment and live to be 150. But I sort of don’t want to live to be 150, you know?
I saw one great raw foodist video that talked about how we should look at health as a spectrum, and people should choose where they want to land on that spectrum. I would like to be at the higher-end of health, but not at the expense of my emotional stability. I would like to be at the higher-end of health, but not at the expense of an evening with friends that involves a vegan, gluten-free piece of birthday cake (did I mention my bday is on Thursday? ;)). I would like to be at the higher-end of health, but not at the risk of turning me into the woman who spends far too much of her time obsessing about how to get thin.
So, let’s say there is a (physical) health spectrum from 1 to 10. Ten being the absolute ideal, optimum health. I bet a low-fat 100% raw vegan diet could get you to be a 10. But I think I’m content with hovering around an 7 or 8. (During the holidays, just bump me down to a 6). Because I’m pretty sure, for me, being lower on the optimum physical health scale means I’ll be a bit higher on the emotional health level.
Finally, buying a lot of organic produce in the winter was getting very expensive. My grocery bills have been exceeding my budget. I know it will be easier to buy a lot of fruit in the summer, but for now, I can’t really afford to buy that much fruit.
None of this means I’m abandoning what I’ve learned on this diet. In fact, I plan to maintain a high-raw diet, and will continue to keep my fat intake low, avoid salt, and get the majority of my protein from greens. Like I said: eating this way makes me feel physically great! But I just need to make sure I detach myself from the belief that I have to be perfect. And it will be helpful for me to stop identifying as exclusively “80/10/10.”
I’m going to try to stick to blog-reading that makes me feel better about myself, not worse. I’m really motivated by people who embody a commitment to health and balance. Gena Hemshaw from Choosing Raw is probably the most inspiring healthy living blogger I’ve come across. I often read her posts about body-love and shifting to a high-raw (rather than exclusively raw) diet and feel my ED-mentality diminishing with each word.
I also really adore Dara Dubinet. She is 100% raw, but she constantly tells people to do what they can and not to feel bad if they don’t go full on raw. She often says, “just add things, don’t eliminate.”
Also check out A Simply Raw Life which espouses an almost entirely raw diet, but has the occasional cooked vegan recipe because, as Felicia reminds us, “we are only human!” Another good one: The Detoxinista, who abides by a clean eating lifestyle, but not without an occasional treat. Oh, and I can’t forget Kibby’s Blended Life! Read her About Me section and you’ll see how she glows with balance!
So, concluding thoughts on 80/10/10? It’s pretty awesome. But it isn’t a diet that can be sustainable for me, at least not while I’m still battling some ED demons, and not while I have other priorities. Maybe someday I’ll grow up to be Dara Dubinet….but until then I want to enjoy what’s left of my youth—(I’m feeling a little melodramatic about turning 28)—the parts that involve an occasional night at the bar, the random night of vegan ice cream (and rom-coms) with pals, a sporadic piece of vegan birthday cake, etc. Thus, the blog will still have a lot of 80/10/10-friendly recipes, but I’ll also include some cooked food and the occasional not-low-fat dessert.
Whew! Posts like these make me feel super vulnerable, but I hope they can be of use to people who might be struggling with some similar things. <3