Sunday, March 28, 2010

What Happens When We Cheat on our Diet

Reading Victoria's blog, Healthy Living with The Devoted Woman has inspired and motivated me to get back on track and stay there! While I have been maintaining - for the most part - 90-95% raw, I do have days where I cheat and will eat, of all things, a slice or two or pizza!! UGH!

That has GOT TO STOP!! I'm only hurting myself when I make these poor choices. Several years ago, I came across an excellent article written by a raw guru, Frederick Patenaude, about what happens when we cheat on our diet. It was very helpful to me and I knew I would need to revert back to it again. I should have pulled it out sooner!! Here it is...

Cheating & The Psychology of Dietary Change
When we try to follow a healthy diet, it’s perfectly normal at first to have desires or cravings for unhealthy foods and to feel tempted by these foods. Sometimes, for one reason or another, we may decide to say, “What the hell!” and indulge.

First, it should be said that what matters most is what we do on a daily basis and not what we do rarely or occasionally. So small diet derogations once in a while are not as harmful as if they were habitual. The other side of the coin is that these small but repeated cheats can sabotage all the benefits we are expecting to have with our diet.

When we eat a diet composed mostly of fruits and vegetables without spices or salt, and when we eat those foods with genuine hunger, we eventually purify our body and become ultra-sensitive to any poor food choice. The body reacts violently to any unhealthy food, much like a child does. The worst thing is the surprise of finding out that the old foods we used to love — those that seem so innocent still — can have such a dramatic effect on us. We’d like to be able to eat them occasionally and be fine... oh, we’d like so much to be able to!

Let me use my own experience as an example.

In most people’s minds, a cooked vegan meal is a rather healthy meal. Most folks would eat that and feel fine. That might even be the healthiest thing they ate all week! But for someone whose system has been cleansed out by a pure diet of fruits and vegetables, things aren’t the same.
If I ate such a meal, let’s say, composed of split pea soup, a vegan pizza and soy ice cream, it will definitely affect me in the most negative way. I might have a hard time falling asleep and my sleep could be disturbed by weird dreams. I’ll become dehydrated from all the salt contained in those “healthy” vegan foods. But the worst thing is that I’ll have such a hard time getting back on track again. For a week I might feel kind of ill, but not really — just a sort of slight sore throat and aching in the muscles. A slight depression could even set in and I’ll have the hardest time to feel like myself again. What a setback for just a little dietary indiscretion!

I know from experience what happens when I decide to eat something I normally don’t, for having been there more than a few times. But I also know that this experience is common to all those that have experienced living on a natural diet of fruits and vegetables.

Studying the Law of Vital Adaptation will help us understand why this happens.

Here is the law as stated by Herbert Shelton: "The response of the vital organism to external stimuli is an instinctive one, based upon a self-preservative instinct which adapts itself to whatever influence it cannot destroy or control."

What it means is that over time, the body can become accustomed to all sorts of harmful substances. It will adapt itself to it in order to protect itself. This is done at the expense of many vital processes. Shelton again:

“There was the ancient king who, in order to protect himself against poisoning by his foes, accustomed his body to various poisons by a gradual increase in the amount taken, until, when a time finally arrived when he desired to take his own life, by poisoning, he failed in the attempt. The first effort of the living organism, in relation to adverse and inimical influences, is to overcome and destroy them. Failing in this, it attempts to accommodate itself to such conditions and influences. For what it cannot overcome, it must learn to endure or perish.”

When we start a pure diet of fruits and vegetables, the process described by Shelton is done in reverse. The body rejects accumulated toxins and reverts to a more pure state that has little tolerance for poisons. That is why we can react so strongly to the foods we used to eat without a second thought.

It’s a rather interesting experience to see how bad certain foods can make you feel once you've eaten a simple diet of mostly fruits and vegetables for a while. I’ve noticed how certain foods make you drowsy, others just stimulate you and later make you feel depressed, others make you feel irritated, and others make you feel almost drugged.

A friend of mine isn’t a habitual coffee drinker. Recently, he had 4 coffees in one evening. Although he felt great initially, because of stimulation, the following day he fell into a sort of depression that lasted a good 2 days!

This backsliding is probably necessary to understand where we want to go. But what really hurts in the long terms are the small cheats that end up occurring on a rather regular basis. Let me explain. If you go out one night and have a pizza after having been on a clean diet for a while, you will feel it. I guarantee that you will not feel encouraged to repeat the experience the next day. But if instead you have a muffin here and there, drink some tea once in a while, add some soy sauce to your salads, etc., you might not feel horrible, but all of those little things begin to add up and one day you wonder why you don’t feel so good anymore, without realizing what has actually happened.

When we disturb the instinct, we disturb the main natural and physiological alarm that is supposed to protect us from harmful things. Health can only be perfect when our instinct is perfect. Cheating often ends up depraving our instinct and perverting it. It’s better to perfect it, so that it can protect us in life.

Life should be fun, and eating healthily shouldn’t be a big struggle. At some point, you have to accept the path that you have chosen and be happy with it. What’s the point of eating healthily if you feel deprived and you’re constantly going back and forth and trying to find your balance again, each time?

Trying to eat raw using the force of willpower alone is meant to fail, ultimately. On one side you are trying to make yourself eat in a way that you think is good for you, but on the other side you are fighting it, because on that level you do not want to do it. This inner struggle, in spite of the greatest willpower in the world, is going to make you fail.

The key is to come to accept on a deeper level the diet choice we make, rather than understand it on a purely intellectual level. I always tell people that they shouldn’t strive to eat a particular diet, such as a raw food diet, simply because they think it’s the best for their bodies. Instead, they should focus on the reasons they are doing it. The reasons can include: having more energy, improved complexion, waking up feeling energetic, feel more connected to nature, feel more peaceful inside, radiate health, live healthily, etc.

“A discrepancy between what we eat and who we are in the world generates a kind of tension, which is resolved either when the diet moves back in line with the person’s incarnate role, or when the person’s entire life changes to come in harmony with the new diet. Force, that is, willpower, can hold diet and being apart, but not forever. The tension will build, in the form of intense cravings, aversions, and, eventually, physical illness.” Charles Eisenstein, The Yoga of Eating

One thing that took me a long time to understand is that our diet must harmonize with our other behaviors; otherwise it is doomed to fail. There’s a saying that goes, “You cannot change one thing without changing everything.” Let me explain.

A diet of animal foods and alcohol is compatible with a number of lifestyles, but incompatible with some others. The same goes for a vegan diet, or a raw-food diet. If you want to be in a death metal band, a raw vegan diet isn’t the most appropriate for that lifestyle choice. On a pure energetic level, eating banana smoothies doesn’t jive with screaming gory lyrics in a death metal band!

A raw-based diet, such as the one described in the book The Raw Secrets, is a radical change. It will call for more radical changes in every area of your life. If you are not ready for it and were just looking for a quick fix, you will have to face some major hurdles along the way, because your diet choice won’t harmonize with your other manners of being.

A fruit-based diet is a high-energy diet. It isn’t compatible with a sedentary lifestyle. It isn’t compatible with certain low-energy activities, friendships, and even jobs.

So one way to make the diet work, indirectly, is to focus on other areas of our lives. Instead of focusing on the diet, we can focus on becoming more active or inviting new, more positive friendships. By harmonizing those areas of life, it will become easier to make the diet work, almost without any effort.

I can so relate to this article because I am a living testimony of what Frederic writes. I can go for days consuming nothing but freshly juiced carrots/celery/apples/beets and parsley, green smoothies, and salads, but then, I'll come home and hubby has ordered a pizza. I cave in and eat a slice or two. Within 30 minutes, I can feel the mucous build-up in my sinuses, within an hour I start wheezing. The next day I start sneezing, my eyes itch and my lungs hurt. Wheat and dairy are major "no-no's" for my asthma. So why do I eat it?!!

I cannot even begin to describe how amazing I felt when I was 100% raw. I struggle to understand why I am finding it more difficult this time to maintain this lifestyle. My motivation the first time was to get off my asthma meds, which I did ... until I started eating cooked again.

When I make a decision to cheat, I am not only cheating myself but my Lord and Savior as well. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and I should treat it as such. Since I profess Jesus as my Lord and Savior, this area of my life should be surrendered to Him as well. I have decided to make eating an act of worship, thereby honoring Him with my food choices.
With the help of Jesus, I know I will succeed. I am determined to CHOOSE LIFE! Living (raw) foods are Life. Jesus is Life! I can do all thing through Christ who strenghtens me!! Hallelujah!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I totally relate. I have had such a hard time staying even high raw. I need to get back to 100%. I know my health depends on it.
    Praise God! I will be praying for you!
    Debra @ Vegan Family Style
    Ps- I'm giving away a copy of Food Inc on my blog- entries close at midnight 3/31

  2. Thanks Debra. I just want to share what I know and lead others to a healthy lifestyle, both physically and spiritually! =) I certainly appreciate the prayers, and I am happy to recripocate. I'm headed over to your blog to register for the free copy of Food Inc!! ;D