“RIP all or nothing!”
Take a collective deep breath. I know I need one.
Tuesday was quite a day.
The Raw Food Diet was pronounced dead. This announcement sent shockwaves all over the world.
Our server crashed because of the news.
Readers were divided.
Some were elated — it had controlled them for so long — they were now free to eat on their own terms.
Some were mourning, they didn’t know what to do without it.
Some raged — “it’s still alive, just hiding out in a cave in the mountains in the Hunza Valley.”
Raw food leaders wrote to us publicly and privately. Some angry that we were exposing the flaws of their perfect diet, some relieved that someone was actually telling the truth.
But what exactly is the truth?
Frederic has been talking in my ear for a while about writing an article about the raw food diet being dead — no longer here as the rigid, cooked-food-is-poison dogma.
I liked the idea.
We had seen a lot over our 20+ years of speaking, traveling, reading and interviewing.
In fact, I wanted to do a series on the concept — a collection of articles where we interviewed past leaders who were no longer raw, we shared how quickly raw food businesses and restaurants were closing or changing their menus, and where we talked about the history of raw food and what is really is today.
But, I don’t know how necessary that is now. Most of what I wanted to say was said rather definitively and thoughtfully in that 3000+ word obituary.
So, I figured I’d take today to chime in and confirm the death, but also share my own personal thoughts, a little more back story and to highlight just a few things to answer any pressing questions.
Yes, the raw food diet is dead.
What the raw food diet was 10 years ago — even 5 — is quite different these days. Many of the leaders have changed. Things that were once popular are no more. My friend Nomi Shannon always says to me that the fads in raw go in cycles. Spirulina was hot in the 80′s then resurfaced in 2008 and then quietly made an exit in 2012. Kombucha is back and mainstream from the 70′s.
That brings up an interesting point. Because of kombucha, green smoothies and juicing, more and more people are embracing raw food principles. At the same time, less and less people are taking up the raw food diet as a way to eat in our modern world.
This simply means that raw food is no longer a popular diet — said bluntly: as a diet, it is dead.
What has taken its place is just simply eating raw foods at any percentage, at any time. Not as a strict diet, but as part of your diet.
As a diet, raw was rigid, unforgiving. Cooked food is toxic. Your dehydrator must be set no higher than 118 degrees. The life force will keep you alive longer than your peers.
As a type of food, raw is not. Drink more juice. Eat more salads. Green smoothies can heal the world.
Eating plenty of raw foods is just what we do.
It’s not a “thing” anymore.
People who’ve never even heard of raw foods have embraced raw food principles without having to view it as a diet where gurus make the rules and you’re destined for poor health if you don’t follow the guidelines perfectly.
So for that reason, the raw food diet is dead, and I’m fine never seeing it again.
But why is it dead?
The raw food diet was in hospice for quite a long time before we announced its final demise.
The reason why?
Back when Herbert Shelton wrote his books, it took time to find information. It was found in libraries, encyclopedias (good luck finding Shelton’s work there,) mail and telephone. It was cheap to mail but took too long. You paid by the minute to make long distance phone calls, so if you were on a budget would you rather call your sister in Seattle or Mr. Shelton?
When someone started the raw food diet back then, they were either doing it alone — or on a commune, or in an ashram, or some other alternative community.
Those who were alone, if they experienced problems with living to be 150 years old, would have contact the author by mail and hope that he or she wrote back. There were no online forums or support groups. There was no easy pipeline to pass information.
Those in the communes and ashrams could discuss their diets and what was going wrong or right, but these are secluded groups. The information didn’t always leak out into the public — there were no blog posts, search engines or podcasts.
Today, if you buy Victoria Boutenko’s Green for Life and start drinking green smoothies you can go online and instantly find people using that book to improve their health.
Also, today, when you’ve decided to do an extreme raw food diet, if you experience problems — with your teeth, cholesterol, hormones, skin, energy levels, menstuation, etc. — then you instantly can get support from others who have been through those challenges as well.
What’s happened on the Internet is that information flows faster. That’s good news for people searching for answers to improve their health, but bad news for raw food diet experts who want to hold dearly on to a particular diet dogma when their followers are dropping off the diet and sharing why on message boards, blogs and forums.
The raw food diet in the last 4-5 years, with the saturation of YouTube and Facebook, has been shown its own flaws and is exposed.
It’s not a lifestyle.
It is just a tool that you can use to heal, feel better or add into your own routine to get healthy.
Yes, it is a mighty tool. I’ve seen remarkable things happen to people who eat raw food. But it is not a diet that someone follows in hope of perfection on all levels of being — whether it be spiritual enlightenment, athletic performance or longevity.
Those who were on the diet, are not longer on the diet
While we were traveling, we met a ton of people. When we see many of them again 3-5 years later, there this funny dance that happens.
It goes like this…
1. A lot of small talk.
2. A question: So, are you still raw?
3. An answer: Well…
4. An interruption: Good, we’re not either… want to get Thai food?
5. Relief, a great dinner and hugs.
I guess you could argue that we’re all weak, incapable beings. Unable to stick to a diet and that our bananas aren’t ripe enough or we’re not eating enough dehydrated onions, but my that’s not what real science says. Respected evidence from the Blue Zones and other long lived communities shows none of them ate raw food as a diet. Some of them even drink coffee and wine — plenty of it.
As Frederic stated, with fewer legitimate exceptions than not, the raw food diet doesn’t work long term. It’s great for cleansing, detox, healing, and feeling better — but there’s a point where the threshold is crossed and returns diminish.
In fact, it happens to the leaders too…
There are plenty of “raw food leaders” eating cooked food.
I don’t know another way to say this and I’m not going to raw cane sugar coat it — there are plenty of raw food leaders and experts who say they eat 100% raw food, but in reality eat a high raw diet.
I’ve even shared meals with some of them. Cooked ones.
I don’t care what they eat. It doesn’t matter to me.
I’m definitely not going to expose them.
I remember being at one fantastic retreat with a bunch of raw foodies in Sedona. The leader of the group had brought in a caterer to serve food. When they set up, it was clear that there were a few raw food options and one big steaming pot of cooked tamales. (This was when I had started eating cooked food again and was not worried what people thought publicly.)
I watched, one by one, each person go up to the table and get the raw food options and leave the tamales be. This was until one brave soul asked for a tamale and it was put on his plate.
Then everyone was silent, but down the line you could see the relief in everyone’s eyes.
In fact, I think everyone after that got the tamales and left the raw stuff sitting for the flies — unfortunately for the people who chose first, the tamales were all gone before they could get seconds.
That day, I saw a lot of raw foodies relax. Not even that they were raw foodies, really. They just instantly became human. Real. And for me, more like the people I want to be around.
Ultimately, I don’t think what a raw diet leader eats really should matter to you or me. If you’re looking to follow a leader blindly and do their raw food bidding, then your work starts with learning to keep your own power not giving it away to someone who knows nothing about you, your genetics or your needs — emotional and physical.
Take the tamale. It’s ok. (As long as the corn is organic.)
The mission is clear…
There are three things we stand for here at Renegade Health that you can always expect. We hope our announcement reflects clearly what we stand for…
1. We share our own personal truths. Fred and I have made an informal pact to tell our truths regardless of how we might think our readers react or how it may affect our business. Truth trumps any monetary gain — it also helps us keep our consciences clean. Renegade Health was built on trust and being truthful is how it will continue to grow.
2. We will always question the experts. No, we are not gurus. We never said we were. In fact, I cringe at the words “expert” and “guru.” We are researchers. We are hack journalists. We are seekers. We’re not always right, but we’re more objective than most. We’re not brainwashed by dogma and when we see it, we want to make sure you do too.
3. We stand for you. You, the reader, is what brings Renegade Health to life. So for us, we want to keep you informed. We want you to learn as we learn and take what you need to get yourself healthy. We don’t promise that you’ll live to be 233, but we do promise we’ll share some things that will help you make your life better, more enjoyable — and we’ll probably make you think a bit along the way.
R.I.P: The Raw Food Diet
R.I.P: Expert Worship
R.I.P: The Cult of Raw Food
R.I.P: All or Nothing
Today, something new has been born.
D.O.B. 10/16/13 – The Paleo Diet.
Just kidding — we’ll announce its death in 5-7 years.
What’s really been born is you — a you that is free to question. A you that is free to eat without referring to a book or website. A you that eats without guilt, fear or shame. A you that realizes a diet is no way to healthy and raw food is tool to help you get there.