It’s probably time to come out of the closet and tell you that I’m no longer drinking the Fuhrman carrot juice. I think a lot of his advice is good, and I will eat more healthy than ever before thanks to that. But I have found that his diet doesn’t work for me. I have suffered from malaise and low-energy levels for the past 3 years. I thought, how can I be so tired if I’m eating the greatest diet on earth?
Before I discovered Dr. Fuhrman. I ate a healthy low-fat vegan diet essentially the same as Dr. McDougall’s plan; and in fact, that is when I lost all of my excess weight. On the Fuhrman plan, I lost a bit more, then maintained, then gained as the malaise set in. I think this corresponded to the time when my metabolism dropped. Dr. Fuhrman says this is a good thing and leads to longevity. This led me to be cold and tired all the time. I was wearing a wetsuit in the pool! I gradually gained 10 lbs, probably due in part to the lower metabolism. At least I didn’t have to wear the wetsuit anymore after that.
Interestingly, while on my previous diet, my cholesterol was 131. Three years later on the Furhmam diet, my cholesterol was 151. Is this just statistical noise? Or was it the nuts? Some nuts are high in saturated fat, which is correlated with cholesterol levels. I think the nuts combined with the large amounts of fruits I was eating is another reason I started gaining weight. I was eating a high-fat, high-sweet diet and my metabolism was low.
In the past couple of years, I got more strict with the diet, limiting my nuts and seeds to 1 oz a day, and consuming almost no grains and starches. I was eating a lot of vegetables and fruit, and my grocery bills were quite high. I ate much of my food raw, except for soups cooked on weekends, mainly due to food prep issues (I didn’t feel like cooking late at night when I did most of my food prep for the next day). This halted my weight gain, but it was quite an effort, and I was still tired all the time! Maybe my body was putting too much energy into digesting all that raw food. I started wondering if I need animal products in my diet.
About 6 months ago, my friend Holly and I were wondering together if there is something wrong with our diets, and we began this journey of exploration together. She suggested the low metabolism was our problem and we explored diets that boost your metabolism—not trying them out, just reading about them. More recently we considered the possibility that a high-fat diet is probably not the ideal way to lose weight. Since I wish to remain vegan, the obvious option for me to explore was adding starches back in to replace the calories from nuts and seeds and fruit.
In the last 2 months, I have been including more starches and intact grains (not flour products yet) in my diet, first tentatively and then more aggressively, and my energy levels have skyrocketed. I feel like I used to. I’m shattering my records in swimming, biking, and running. I’m happy again. I have been astounded by this. And Holly is experiencing the same thing! After more research, she came up with the answer: the serotonin boost from starches. This enhances your mood and raises your metabolism. Wow, it sure does! Interestingly, we are both experiencing some insomnia from these high energy levels--sleeping soundly but waking up much earlier than usual. I suspect these effects will subside but I’m hopeful that my “set-point” energy levels will remain higher than previously.
Other beneficial features about including the starches and grains is that my food prep time is much lower, the quantities of food I need to eat are smaller, the time it takes to eat is shorter, I feel more satisfied and energetic eating these foods, and the recipes are fun. I’m looking forward to trying my old favorites again: mashed potatoes, red beans and rice, tofu jambalaya to name a few. I’ll post more about my new menus soon. I logged my grocery bills several months ago and I’m doing it again now--I’ll report on the results when they are in.
I used to think Drs. Fuhrman and McDougall agreed on most things, only differing in minimum amounts of nuts and seeds required, and typical amounts of grains and starches. Now I think there is a fundamental difference, and I think they would agree, from what I’ve seen of their posts on their forums. Dr. Fuhrman says “the salad is the main dish”. Dr. McDougall says starches are the main dish. This is actually a big difference. On Fuhrman’s diet, you plan entrees centered on salad and greens and veggies; nuts and fruit provide a large portion of the calories. On McDougall, even if you a lot of salads and vegetables, they are side dishes as far as calories go; the main source of calories is from grains and starches. The result is that Fuhrman’s plan is usually a high-fat, high-fruit diet and McDougall’s is low-fat and less-fruit. I think it’s easier to lose weight and maintain on a low-fat, low-sweet diet. A light bulb went off in my head when I was discussing restaurant options with Holly a few weeks ago. Out of habit, she suggested having one of the entrees over greens instead of brown rice. I noted that if we had them over brown rice, the total fat content would go down, the total calorie content would go up, we would be satiated for longer, so would be able to eat less later on, and eat lower fat overall.
I have been watching all of Jeff Novick’s DVDs. I find them very informative, sensible and convincing. I think following his approach is the easiest way to lose weight, maintain weight, enjoy familiar (though modified from the Standard American Diet) comfort foods, and live a healthy life. It is basically a low-fat, whole foods, mostly vegan diet. This is the diet recommended by Drs. McDougall, Esselstyn, Barnard, Ornish, and Campbell. I will discuss the controversial nuts and seeds issue in another post.
Here is a funny aside about our new discovery: I attend a weekly meditation class. When we start the class we reflect on our motivation for doing this, which is to be happy. Then we wish to extend our own desire for happiness to all others. As I was reflecting on these things, I thought how in the last 3 years I have read or listened to over 10 books on happiness, motivation, and meditation to try to help me recover from my malaise. And what finally worked for me? Potatoes?! What would my teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, think of that?!
I hope my Fuhrman friends will still be friends with me. I have just found a need to try something else. I would love to hear your comments and critiques. I am definitely open to challenge on this. I do not claim to know the answers; I’m just trying finding out what works for me.