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)
- All animal products
- fruit juice
- sugar/flour/processed foods
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.