Eat to Live


I recently mentioned my plans to start Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live challenge on January 8th, but I started early. I started on January 1st because the longer I planned, the more time I had to eat the foods I thought I would miss. Instead of having a farewell to pasta week, I decided to jump in.

December is one of my favorite times to indulge, but this year I was more aware than ever about how food was making me feel. Cookies gave me belly aches, increased sugar kept me up at night. Butter and cheese made me feel sluggish and any more than a glass of wine left me feeling fuzzy. None of those feelings felt worth the indulgence.

I have a good understanding of how food impacts health and gave up all animal meat, including seafood between 2006 and 2009 to better support a healthy life with Multiple Sclerosis. I also know how dangerous other food I eat, like sugar, pasta, cheese and bread can be, but somehow justified keeping them in my diet because …

  • I’ve already given up so much
  • Pasta makes me happy
  • Who wants to live without chocolate
  • Everything is ok in moderation

I made up those stories and more to support my poor food choices. I wasn’t eating a terrible diet in comparison to some people, but then again, I wasn’t eating a great diet in comparison to some people.

In 2006, when I was diagnosed with MS, I considered Joel Furman’s Eat to Live but dismissed it as too extreme. I thought about it from time to time, but didn’t give it serious consideration until recently, when my friend and author of the new book Wake Up: 31 days and actions to take charge of your life, Matt Frazier wrote about experimenting with Eat to Live for 3 weeks.

Did I mention that Matt is a vegan, ultra-marathon runner and through this challenge discovered that his diet wasn’t as healthy as he thought it was? I was so inspired that someone like Matt was taking this challenge, that I got the book and made a plan. For extra accountability, I’m sharing that plan with you.

My six week, Eat to Live challenge

This eating plan is about big quantities of nutrient rich, low-calorie, whole foods (mostly fruits and veggies). After 5 days of eating the foods described below, I can honestly say that I haven’t been hungry once. I’ve had very few cravings and actually had trouble eating everything recommended.

Aside from 2 days of sugar separation anxiety dull headaches, I didn’t have any other issues and feel like the hard part is already over.

This is what I’m eating every day for six weeks:

  • 1 lb raw veggies
  • 1 lb cooked veggies
  • 4 pieces of fruit each day
  • 1 cup of beans
  • 1 oz nuts or seeds


  • 1 of the following per day: small potato, 2 oz avocado, 1 cup of whole grain rice or whole grain pita pocket.

Limit to one per day:

  • cup of coffee (gave it up now and will reassess moving forward)
  • glass of red wine (I may or may not include wine, mostly not)

Off limits

  • All animal products
  • snacks
  • fruit juice
  • sugar/flour/processed foods
  • salt
  • oil

I’m not taking cheat days or meals. The best part of Eat to Live is the simplicity. Every morning, I weigh everything out and know what I’m going to eat for the day. The first day it was tough to eat so much, but now I’ve found a balance that is very manageable. There are a variety of recipes, but for the first week or 2, I am keeping things really simple. If it gets boring, I’ll switch it up.

My daily menu looks like this:

  • Breakfast: 1/4 lb cooked spinach, fresh fruit or smoothie, green tea
  • Lunch: Kale and Romaine salad with beans and other raw veggies, fresh fruit
  • Dinner: Salad with beans, cooked veggies (usually broccoli), more fruit

I’m also including a little all natural, unsalted, sugar-free peanut butter for raw carrots and apples. (less than 2 tablespoons)

This may sound extreme and a common criticism of the eating plan is that most people won’t stick to such restrictive recommendations regardless of the health benefits. Dr. Fuhrman responds to that, “This is an irrelevant point. Since when is what the “masses” find socially acceptable the criterion for value? Value or correctness is independent of how many will choose to follow such recommendations: that is a separate issue. The critical question is how effective these recommendations are to guarantee a slim body, long life, and enduring health. All those naysayers have missed the point; the recommendations were not designed to win a popularity contest.”

The scientific and anecdotal evidence aside, that explanation convinced me that I had to give it a try.

I’m not suggesting that this challenge is right for you, but it is worth considering. Read about it, talk about it with your physician and simply consider it. If it’s not for you today, what is? What change could you make to your diet right now to benefit your health.

Again, this may sound extreme, but I also know that you are not the masses. You are extraordinary. You are here to simplify your life and choose what matters most and I have to believe that health is on the top of that list.

Not to mention, the only way to determine if something is too extreme or not is to try it

  • I thought dressing with 33 items or less would be extreme, and it wasn’t.
  • I thought living with 100 items or less was extreme, and it wasn’t.
  • I thought not eating animals would be extreme, and it wasn’t.

My fears about getting started were always more extreme than the actual challenge.

It is so important to challenge our fears and beliefs, because you don’t know what you don’t know. Experience and experiment. Challenge and discover what’s real, what’s true and how you define extreme.

We are not the masses. We are unique individuals who can always choose to change. I look forward to telling you how things shape up at the end of six weeks.



  1. says

    Wow Courtney I admire your dedication. I’m not sure I could follow this eating plan at the moment. I live in a place where fresh fruit and vegetables are very expensive at this time of year. Besides by the time they have been trucked up to the frozen north the produce is not very fresh!! I also find this diet a little too extreme (although I appreciate your thoughts about that mindset). Could you suggest some micro actions that I might take towards this kind of eating? I feel I would need to take it one baby step at a time :)

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Sharon, I think the first step is to read about it. The China Study and Eat to Live are both great places to start. There is also a documentary called Forks Over Knives that I’d recommend watching. Next, experiment. Try meatless Mondays or No pasta for a week or whatever you need to start shifting your diet to better supporting your health.

  2. says

    Courtney, I think this is a really interesting plan. Do you have any recommendations for how to adapt this plan if your spouse isn’t interested in doing the same thing? Even though the meals might be simple, I do not want to cook two dinners (one for myself and one for my family). Although, I am sure it would be better for all of us if we followed the plan. Thanks!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Lauren, My husband isn’t doing it. He eats some of the veggies or salad that I’m having and then we add whatever else he wants to eat. It doesn’t feel like 2 separate meals and it’s easy to incorporate more veggies to his meals simply because I’m already preparing them. Hope that helps!

  3. says


    With the exception of bread (I bake my own), I eat a similar diet. My must-have EVERY day foods additionally include organic dried Turkish apricots, organic red grapefruit, and a sweet potato. My beverage of choice is water, and loose-leaf ginger lemongrass herbal tea from Tea Forte. I don’t consume alcohol or sugar, but I do eat wild caught salmon once a week — in my experience, it’s important for the physical competition I am part of.

    • Courtney Carver says

      That’s awesome Laurie. I always included fruits and veggies in my diet, but this is such a huge shift because of the sheer volume. There is little room to be hungry for anything else.

      • says

        In coming back and reading more of your readers comments throughout the day, I go back to my conviction:

        “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.” — Laurie Buchanan

  4. says

    I don’t think this sounds extreme, but then I’m vegan. My current challenge is eating to heal some damage from GERD; raw fruits and vegetables are off the list right now for me, as is anything too acidic or too high in fat. However, if I didn’t have that current limitation, I would join you. I base my meals around beans, tempeh, non-acidic veggies, and pasta, for its low glycemic index. Best wishes to you, sounds like a great plan!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Thanks Patricia, I’m hoping that this 6 weeks will help me transition into a full time vegan diet. Feel better!

  5. Karen C says

    You should get spiralizer (got mine on Amazon – Paderno World Cuisine spiralizer) and you can simiulate pasta noodles. So far I have made zucchini noodles using it and they were wonderful with a homemade tomato sauce and meatballs! The noodles can be cooked or not cooked. Julienne peelers also work, but I love the very long strands I get with the spiralizer…makes me feel like I am eating healthy spaghetti. Plans are in the works to spiralize sweet potatos, butternut squash, cucumbers…Yum!

  6. Vada says

    If you haven’t already, you should read what has been put out by Dr. John McDougall ( as well. He basically falls into line with Dr. Fuhrman and the Forks Over Knives folks, but has an interest in the connection between MS and diet and I believe has a study going (or is trying to get one funded). I truly believe that a vegan diet is best for all – our health, the animals, and the environment. It’s a win-win-win!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Yes! Thanks Vada, I’ve read some of his work. This also has some parallels to Dr. Wahls TedX recommendations in how she reversed her MS symptoms.

    • Diane says

      I love Dr McDougall! He’s just so passionate about getting his patients healthy through food and lifestyle changes, not drugs. And I don’t think he’s a fan of Dr Fuhrman’s at all. Furhman recommends limiting starches while McDougall’s plan is starch-based (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, corn).

  7. says

    Hi Courtney,

    You were the first blog i ever followed and i wish you well with this challenge, but you haven’t suddenly gone from eating the common western diet of high fat, high sugar to this diet you have changed things gradually and that is a good thing.

    As a latter-day saint i believe that God gave us animals to eat but with this caution ‘sparingly and in times of winter and famine’ I understand this to mean when there is nothing else to eat. We think that for us that would never be the case, but (and there are lots of buts) i have been in situations in the past where i had to eat what other people provided for me.

    However saying all that my diet always needs a shake up, more vegetables and fruit. I only eat meat if i am invited out for dinner which isn’t often and then i have the smallest portion i can get away with, i normally eat a vegetarian diet but i do need yogurt and some grains or my body stops working. I am a work in progress.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Beverley, I do think I’ve had a better time with the side effects because I’ve been vegetarian for several year, but sugar is vegetarian, so for me that has been the toughest separation.

  8. varuni says

    my advice to you as a food chemist.
    Please include both cereals and pulses together in your meals to ensure that you get the required quota of all the essential amino acids ( ie a complete protein )

  9. sazzleflip says

    Do you have the kale raw? I recently bought the book but am worried I won’t be able to avoid things I shouldn’t eat, so waiting until I can really commit. How are you managing any cravings? Also, 33 items of clothing?? Really?? :-)

    • Courtney Carver says

      I do eat Kale raw. When ever I eat a lower carb diet, I have incredible cravings, but not with this. The volume of veggies is so high that I am not hungry or craving anything! It’s pretty awesome.

  10. says

    I am so excited to have stumbled across your blog! I began Eat to Live in early November and absolutely loved everything about it. I got a little off track during the holidays (I’m vegan, but ate more than 3x/day, ate processed food etc). I bought a bunch of fresh fruit and veggies at the store and was planning to jump back in to ETL full-time tomorrow, not even realizing it was the beginning of the 6-week challenge. I look forward to following your progress! It only took me three days of being vegan to fall in love with it, so I have a feeling the 6 weeks will be amazing for you!

  11. Julia says

    I have been reading your blog for a while and enjoy a lot of it. I have also been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. I don’t eat processed foods, or carbs that aren’t vegetables or legumes, or juice, junk, etc, but I love good food. Obviously a healthy diet is one of the most important things a person can do for a healthy long life, but where is the enjoyment in the Eat for Life diet? 6 weeks is making no difference in the length of anyone’s life and this diet is likely to turn people off vegetables, serving them like you’re feeding rabbits. Yeah, it’s healthy but it sounds and looks as good as eating a field of grass. And what is wrong with a bit of olive oil for god’s sake? I could see it for a one week cleanse, but other than that it’s pretty pointless and more importantly, joyless. What’s next? No orgasms for a month?

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Julia, It’s actually been a pretty joyful process so far and while I don’t have to focus on what I’m going to eat everyday for a few weeks, I can focus on finding joy off the plate. My biggest intention is to break my sugar cravings and I think that will take more than a week.

  12. says

    I was inspired to read Eat to Live by Matt’s post. I devoured it over Christmas (pun fully intended) and have almost made up my mind to start. Basically, I’ve been doing the very thing you decided to stop doing – making excuses to eat the things I think I want for just a little while longer. Once of the things I really want to stop doing in my life, though, is making excuses for things I know are hurting me. Thanks for this post and the reminder that these choices only seem extreme because most people won’t follow them.

    With most eating plans, I immediately wonder what’s in it for the creator/author. No matter how long I thought about this one, I couldn’t think of a single benefit Dr. Fuhrman would get from me becoming healthy, which made me think less and less skeptical of his recommendations.

  13. says

    Hi Courtney,

    I love the look of your daily menu – I’ll be really interested to hear how you feel at the end of the 6 weeks and what choices you make from there.

    I did a 30 day Paleo challenge which, though completely opposite to your no meat rule, was also an extreme diet and one I gave up because of it being so extreme. That being said I did learn an awful lot from the experience.

    This plus having previously tried the slow-carb diet taught me a few things I didn’t know (e.g. I already knew spinach was healthy, but now I know it’s awesome). I also found someone who ate nothing but kibble (the monkey chow diet) and I interviewed someone who did a 30 day water-only fast – all very interesting experiences.

    In the end we have complete control over what we choose to put in our bodies and of course those choices have a very real impact on our health.

  14. says

    So, if you have the avocada you’re not supposed to have the 1 cup of grains? I thought it read that you could have both. I’ve been doing it since Dec. 30th and I had pretty bad headaches for the first 3 days. They are gone now. And when it says that fruits are unlimited but to aim for at least 4 per day but then it says to avoid in between meal snacks, I get confused. Can I grab a piece of fruit any time I am hungry? Or if its not mealtime is everything off limits?

    • Courtney Carver says

      Melissa, I thought it was an either or with Avo and whole grains, but don’t have the book nearby. The plan recommends no snacking between meals, but I haven’t stuck to that every day.

  15. Elyse says

    This is @ Julia: It does sound like an ascetic way to eat but my gosh, since starting it I’ve found so many amazing recipes that I never would have found had I not been open to it. And I mean amazing in that 1) I feel like I can feel the nutrients coursing through my body; I just feel better after eating them, and 2) amazing tasting in that I’d serve them, no question, to someone used to the standard American diet, they are that good.

  16. says

    I’ve been an admirer of Joel Furhman for years. We already juice, blend, do a lot of raw and vegetarian meals, but we are not 100% yet. Your article is pushing me over the edge to take the plunge and sign on to this challenge with you. Thank you for the encouragement…and thank you for being such an amazing encourager to my hubby, along the way (!

  17. says

    I LOVE Dr. Fuhrman! I had the privilege of hearing him speak in a small group recently, and even got to talk to him about a health concern. I’m so glad to read the experiences of others on this path!

  18. says

    Courtney, you’re so inspiring! I did Eat to Live a couple years ago but have drifted away…and gained 30 lb. :( Having surgery next week and not sure how fast I’ll bounce back, but thanks to your post and email, I will be resuming Eat to Live ASAP. Awesome.

  19. Michelle says

    Courtney, I’m really taken with your recommendation to make SMALL changes in the right direction (for lasting change) vs. trying to change everything all at once. I’m a pro when it comes to intention, but fall when I FEEL the least bit of resistance. Your persistence is admirable. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m in the middle of addressing my food plan, and also left a comment/question on your Morning Routine site. Anxious to hear from you!

  20. Linda says

    Just caught this blog…and I find it interesting and something I need. I know for absolute sure I need to get off the sugars, and less fat. I have no problem with no meat since I don’t even care for it, but I don’t consider myself vegetarian. I have a problem which really doesn’t impact WHAT I can eat, but I have no sense of smell or taste due to sinus surgery a few years ago. I know I like to eat things with texture, crunchy, etc. I like salads for that reason. I can taste things that are taste bud tastes, like sweet, sour, bitter, etc. but no specifics in those categories. Perhaps that’s why I like to eat sweets so much.(some things are more a sensation than taste… like real peppermint I can “feel” more than taste, or real lemon I can “feel” the sour sensation) Folks sometimes comment that since I have no sensation of smell or taste, I should have no problem “dieting” since I could eat anything even if it tastes bad. Vision still plays a part in it as well as imagination… like I love cheesecake mostly because I remember the taste. But this “diet” suggested here might work well for me.

  21. Diana says

    You have peaked my interest! I’ve been reading a lot about nutritional eating, allergy free, anti-inflammatory diets, GMOs, refined sugar and health, it all sounded so complicated and your plan really simplifies it and makes it seem do-able for me. Would you please take some more pictures. I’m not quite sure what it would look like to weigh/measure out all of your food for the day. Do you weigh/measure everything raw? Do you have any place locally that you prefer to buy your greens? What is your shopping routine, do you shop once or several times per week since it is produce. Do you set a budget or go all organic? I am not really sure how to shop organic and what is crucial to buy organic, since there have been quite a few shows and articles about how not everything labeled organic is actually organic. What kind of water do you drink? I currently use tap with a Brita filter but am considering a more sophisticated filtration system. Do you put anything on your steamed spinach…like spices? Do you have a special routine to wash your produce…like wash it all and divide it as soon as you come home, soak it in a bath with vinegar/baking soda to remove pesticides, keep leafy stemmed greens in a glass jar of water by a window so they will continue to photosynthesize and not loose their deep green colors/wilt?

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Diana – I do measure everything raw, although after a few weeks of measuring, I am more comfortable knowing how much I eat without measuring. I shop every 3 days and buy mostly all organic produce. I eat my steamed spinach plain and wash everything as I go with water. I drink purified water but mostly because I don’t like the taste of the water in our tap.

  22. Meredith says

    Hi Courtney! I would love to try this. I am reading the book now, but I have some questions for you since you’re doing it, and I’m just at the beginning of the book:

    1. Do you have to do plain salads, since I’m assuming that dressings are off limits?

    2. How do you measure a pound? Do you have one of those food scales? Since we’ve been minimizing our stuff, we have very few tools like this and I’m trying to avoid buying anything before we leave for our big trip to the other side of the world. Just wondering how I’d measure.

    3. How do you handle going out to restaurants and/or over to friends’ houses? Just take your own stuff?

    Thank you!

  23. Courtney Carver says

    Hi Meredith, There are plenty of dressing recipes in the book and I’ve found quite a few oil free options available for purchase. I did use a food scale initially, but to get a good look at what I pound is, use the scales in the produce sections of your grocery store.

    When I go out, I will either bring my own dressing or order steamed veggies. I haven’t planned many social activities during the 6 weeks so I can really stay focused on sticking with the plan, and when I do, I plan things like movies or a hike so our time isn’t centered around food.

    • Meredith says

      Thank you so much Courtney. This really helps. I’d love to hear what, if any changes you plan to make after your initial 6 weeks.

  24. says

    Just like what Barney Stinson always say in How I Met Your Mother – Challenge…Accepted! Seriously, I really would like to try out your program because I’ve been through everything that says “get fit and get results” but to no avail. Yours might work on me.

  25. Heather says

    Hi Courtney I just started the eat to live diet yesterday and I this this really has the possibility of reducing my MS symptoms, I have been fighting this disease for 17 years and I think this is my last chance before I give in to my neurologist and go on the MS drugs. I have been studying and reading about different claims from doctors and individuals for years from Swank to Wahls to The china study to Eat to live and all of them have one commonality NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS OR PROCESSED FOODS. Wish me luck on my journey, I will win my fight if I have anything to say about it!!!

  26. Jennifer says

    Hi Courtney,

    As I am starting the Eat to Live plan now, I was looking for your follow up describing your experience and results. Can you direct me to your post?

    Thank you,

  27. says

    Great post Courtney. Reading this really highlights for me just how much unheatlhy junk is actually accepted in our culture as a legitimate food source. I really connected with your concern that the diet would be “too extreme” and how you compared it to other restrictions you once thought you couldn’t live with, and now do. Remember to be patient with yourself and keep in mind that our journey to a healthier life is not linear. There will be days with ups and downs thats ok. I’m on a similar path, and have to remind myself of this daily. Simplicity also means being flexible in your approach to yourself. Thanks for sharing such a personal food journey – it encourages so many!