All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

End of my 30 Day Raw Food Cleanse

Mustard Greens, part of my breakfast on the last day of my raw food cleanse

The End of the 30 Day Raw Food Bread Fast Experiment

I have now completed my 30 day Fast from Bread, which includes a fast from everything grain, everything from the meat and dairy industry, everything processed, everything cooked, everything with caffeine or alcohol.  In short, I have completed a 30-day raw food diet, which more or less corresponded to the month of May, 2013.

Most visible results:
I have lost about 20 pounds in this month.  Since this is on top of the 20 pounds I lost from merely fasting 2x/week for six months, I found this fascinating -- and proof, to me, of what Richard Wrangham said in "Catching Fire: how cooking made us human" i.e., those who live on a raw food diet will have a low BMI.  

Now, the amount of pounds I had lost from merely fasting two days a week had pretty much plateaued after 4 months: I had lost those initial 20 pounds, but the weight loss had stabilized.  I wasn't overweight any longer, but I wasn't losing any more weight either.  When I first began these 30 days raw, I was in the normal range for my BMI (albeit the high end); I had been eating the usual lacto-ovo vegetarian diet: I had been eating bread with cheese and butter or margarine, and drinking a dribble of milk in my tea, eating 3-4 eggs a week from my backyard hens and eating plain yogurt and kefir when it occurred to me to do so.  Since I was already a lacto-ovo vegetarian when I began this 30 day raw food diet, therefore I didn't have to give up meat.  And I drank alcohol so rarely, it was no hardship to give up booze too.  I eat nuts rarely, but I had to attend to my habits to forgo all seeds and grains.  These are things I would regularly put in my bread, and they are still in the house.

For the past 30 days I have given up all cooked food, as an experiment to get the dietary fat levels down.  In the beginning I was trying to hit the target of 80% carbs, 10% protein, and 10% fat, the targets proposed by natural hygienist Douglas Graham.  With the addition of infrequent avocados, that low percentage of fat was difficult to achieve (see for example, the caloric totals for my 10th day).  Furthermore, it is difficult to eat enough fruit to get 80% of your adequate daily calories if you aren't used to eating that volume of fruit and leafy greens.  Even after 30 days of practice, it seems unlikely that I can sustain this amount of fruit eating. And so, my weight fell because I simply wasn't getting enough calories.  I wasn't hungry, but I was getting tired of fruit, and spending a lot of time -- and money -- eating it in substantial amounts.

On top of eating green leafy vegetables as Jethro Bodine-sized salads, I was also consuming some vegetable juice daily -- usually in the form of wheat grass juice, and often some vegetable juice, mostly green, from kale or collards or chard or other green veggies.

At the end of these 30 days, my weight is now slightly below the middle number of my BMI.  If I keep this up any longer, I will be in danger of eventually becoming underweight.  I see no signs of the weight loss plateauing, like it did when I merely fasted.  Since I already look sick, to many people, I will bring this experiment to a close now.

During my 30 day experiment I chanced upon the work of Dr. John McDougall, and after a close scrutiny of his diet guidelines, I am convinced that it makes far more sense than Graham's diet does (see the last couple of blog entries, for how I researched McDougall's claims).  I think now that Graham's ideas are built upon faulty premises, and I don't trust him.  According to Richard Wrangham, we humans evolved on cooked food.  We don't do well on raw diets.  I will now be adding cooked foods -- especially starch -- to my diet.

During this 30 day experiment, I was still fasting 2x/ week too.  In fact, this is also true of the day after my 30 day goal was reached: since that turned out to be a fast day for me, this 30 day experiment is actually a 31 day experiment.

Would I do it again?  Perhaps -- with reservations.  If ever I find my weight creeping up again, I could most certainly do a raw diet of 10-30 days duration again.  Would I eat this way continuously?  I don't think so.  I have heard of people doing okay on this diet, but they have to eat very carefully and almost continuously.  I have even heard of one woman who says she gave birth to a very healthy baby and nursed her while eating nothing but raw fruits and veggies.  This is not the norm, however, it is the exception. The woman is Douglas Graham's wife, Rozalind Graham (see Patenaude's blog comments here, for example) and the child is their daughter.  Some people claim this little girl is malnourished now, based on nothing more than pictures of her; there has been an Internet controversy over this.  I'm in no position to judge.

But let's not compare my experience to anyone else's.  For me to become more active, more energetic, more fit, I will simply require more calories.  And since I'm not eating enough calories while eating only raw foods, I conclude that this would be difficult for me on a raw diet.

In short: pure and total raw food is a stress that my body doesn't need.

The Re-introduction of Solid Food
Speaking of babies: one of the tools used by anthropologists who are looking at the development of human cultures, and individual consciousness, over the lifetime of humanity has been to look at existing more or less primitive humans, those few remaining tribes who are hunter-gatherer, to see what are the norms (in terms of social structure, diet, etc.); and failing that, to examine the growth of modern human infants into the full range of adult human behaviour -- supposing that the growth of the individual in some way mimics the natural history of all human development.  

It might seem like I'm changing the subject, but bear with me.  Joe Cross (of movie "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" fame) called his 60 day juice fast a "reboot."  It occurred to me, while on this raw diet for 30 days that I was also "rebooting" -- in the sense that I was regressing to an infantile dietary stage.  One day I ate more bananas than anything else -- because they were on sale, and getting soft, I got 2 large bags of bananas for $2, and that day and the next I ate almost nothing but bananas.  And what is the first solid food we give to babies?  Usually soft, mashed bananas.  This raw diet, I thought, is giving my digestive system an entire reboot back to my infancy.  

And in a way, I am using this detox as a bridge.  I really feel as if I am starting over.

This time, my determination is to eat a low fat vegan diet (again): some raw fruits and vegetables, but also some cooked foods, especially starches in the form of potatoes, sweet potatoes and legumes -- and yet to continue with my fast, of eating no grains.  Originally the idea was, to do this no-grain thing for one year.  I think the more realistic plan would be to continue the no-grain thing for another 30 days, and see how that goes.  I still miss bread and I miss rice.  I can't see myself giving up grains entirely forever.  That was just the plan at the outset -- to take myself off them, to prove that I am not physically or psychologically addicted to bread.

I think that I've succeeded in showing that already.  But weaning myself from cheese and other milk products has been far tougher than taking myself off bread.  It is the things that we associate and combine with bread that are fattening -- and addictive -- not so much bread itself.  At least, not the whole grain sourdough breads I have always insisted on making.  At this point, I'm confident that I'll one day make bread again -- only I'll be more conscious and cognizant of what to put on it.  It has to be low fat, or we increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and a whole host of other problems.

I wonder if I would still like bread as much if I didn't eat cheese and nut butters -- all the fatty things proscribed in the McDougall diet -- or if I would then prefer the other starches?

Other Noticeable Changes
My mother-in-law says that in the last month I look like I've aged 10 years.  My brother-in-law says I look like "the walking dead." I had a dying patient who is 96 years old recently tell me I look far older than my stated age.  Later in the night, he called me to his bedside to ask me if it would be all right if he prayed for me.  A doctor I rarely see was shocked at my appearance, and I quickly reassured him that I wasn't sick.  "Are you sure?" he asked, and I could almost read his mind, as to what he barely stopped himself from saying aloud: "I'll be the judge of that!"

So my mother-in-law calls my appearance "death on slippers" (a translation for the German phrase which means 'dead man walking.')  I think that she is right, I look dreadful.  And this may be true because the result of the 30-day diet is an inordinate amount of stress that I've subjected myself to.  Now I doubt very much that this stress is due to the diet of raw fruits and vegetables itself, but is more likely to be the result of not getting enough calories, and thus living off my stores of fat and protein.  If it is true that those fat deposits also housed a lot of toxins, then there has been extra stress in moving those toxins out of my body, too.  That certainly is one way of looking at things.  Or it could just be the fact that the body's proteins have started to break down, and my body is literally being torn down, from the inside out, or the bottom up.

Someone asked me if I felt I had more energy.  I do not, at least, not always.  I don't necessarily feel lethargic, either.  But I have just enough energy to do what I have always done, and not enough to do extra.  I feel like I want to exercise, but I know that on this diet, I will not have enough calories to follow through with it.  I spend more energy digesting than exercising.

I am scrawny now.  I have no padding on my ass, and when I sit on a hard chair, it is like sitting directly on my skeleton.  My arms and legs look like toothpicks.  I have never looked so emaciated.  But it is my face that is the most noticeably changed.  The lines there are deep, the wrinkles much more evident, even as the skin is stretched tighter over my skull bone. 

Curiously, I feel more hydrated in general, not requiring as much extra water or hot herbal tea (except on total fast days, and then the reverse is true, I have to push myself to drink more or I become somewhat constipated).  The biggest change has been in my nasal tracts, which don't make as many boogers.  Were these boogers some toxin that I was expelling from my lungs after ingestion of dairy products like cheese?  Or is it because I took the grains from my diet that I no longer have grain byproducts collecting in the nares?  I don't know, but I presume it was the dairy.

I had reported that my hips felt better, that there was no deep bone ache (an ache that I had not even been aware of, before this 30 day experiment).  This is true, or it was; but I think that after 30 days, a different pain is beginning to appear.  The tug of gravity is once again being felt and I think it is because some of my muscles are deconditioned because I haven't had enough energy to do exercise to keep the muscles toned.

I think it is wise for me to end this experiment.

What I ate on the last day of the fast
I tried to take pictures of everything I ate on the last day of my raw diet, so I could total up the calories, but my camera died half-way through, right when I was at a restaurant and had ordered a fruit cup and a salad with no croutons, no bacon bits, and no dressing ("no fun," quipped the waitress).  I wondered if I was eating more calories now, having more practice at eating more fruit.

Here's the list of what I ate:

  • Breakfast:
    • 3 bananas
    • 1 tomato
    • 1 large salad of mustard greens
    • glass of green veggie juice
      • The juice consisted of about 6 stalks of mustard greens, 5 celery stalks, 4 small carrots, 1 cucumber, 1 apple, 5 small bok toi cabbages, about 1" of ginger root, 1 full lime.  (Since the mustard greens were somewhat peppery I didn't juice all of them, and ended up eating about 3 of them in the salad, since I didn't think my wife would like too many in the juice; we shared this juice, and there was enough for us both to have a glass for breakfast, and enough to refrigerate for me to have some later in the day)
  • Midmorning:
    • red grapefruit
  • Before leaving:
    • banana
    • plum
  • Enroute Before lunch, since someone else chose the restaurant and I knew I wouldn't get much there:
    • 3 bananas
    • 10 cherries

  • Lunch (expected to be disappointing, and it was)
    • Restaurant "Fruit cup" consisting of about 3 strawberries, 1/3 banana, 1/8 honeydew melon, 1/8 cantaloup, 3 blueberries, 1/3 of a sliced kiwi (skin still on), 4 chunks of pineapple (and it cost $4.99!!?!) Served in a banana-split sized bowl, this was bigger than I thought it would be, but still far smaller than I wanted. Outrageous lack of value.
    • Restaurant "Large Salad": Iceburg lettuce based (~1/8 head), with 1/2 tomato, some red cabbage shavings,  and cucumber chunks (~1/3 cue)(and it cost $11.99!!!?!!).  They call this large?  Not enough for a side order of salad, let alone a full meal for me.
  • In the middle of our afternoon walk:
    • 2 pears
    • 2 small cups of water

  • Supper:
    • The Papaya seeds, leftover from my supper
    • large papaya
  • Evening snack:
    • red apple mango
    • small sweet mango
    • 3/4 jar of green veggie  juice
    • glass of water

      The larger of the two mangos

      Veggie Juice
Here, in table form, are the total calories and the percentages from carbs, proteins, and fats.

Quantity Food Calories, Carbs, Proteins, Fats (each) Calories, Carbs, Proteins, Fats (total)

Calories=105; Carbs=26.95;Proteins=1.29;Fats=0.393

TotalCalories=787.5; TotalCarbs=202.125;TotalProteins=2.7;TotalFats=1.725

Calories=22; Carbs=4.78;Proteins=1.08;Fats=0.25

TotalCalories=33 TotalCarbs=7.17;TotalProteins=1.62;TotalFats=0.375
(per cup, boiled)
Calories=36; Carbs=6.31;Proteins=3.58;Fats=0.66

TotalCalories=36; TotalCarbs=6.31;TotalProteins=3.58;TotalFats=0.66

Calories=95; Carbs=25.28;Proteins=0.6;Fats=0.23
TotalCalories=190; TotalCarbs=50.66;TotalProteins=1.2;TotalFats=0.46

Calories=(52x2)104; Carbs=(13.11x2)16.22;Proteins=(0.95X2)1.9;Fats=(0.17X2) 0.34

TotalCalories=104; TotalCarbs=16.22;TotalProteins=1.9;TotalFats=0.34

Calories=30; Carbs=7.54;Proteins=0.46;Fats=0.18

TotalCalories=30; TotalCarbs=7.54;TotalProteins=0.46;TotalFats=0.18
Calories=43; Carbs=10.89;Proteins=0.72;Fats=0.14

TotalCalories=43; TotalCarbs=10.89;TotalProteins=0.72;TotalFats=0.14

Calories=124; Carbs=31.01;Proteins=1.70;Fats= 0.79

TotalCalories=248; TotalCarbs=62.02;TotalProteins=3.4;TotalFats=1.58

Calories=((4+6)/2)5; Carbs=((0.92+1.38)/2)1.61;Proteins=((0.08+0.12)/2) 0.1;Fats=((0.04+0.05)/2) 0.045

TotalCalories=15; TotalCarbs=4.83;TotalProteins=0.03;TotalFats=0.135
papayaCalories=124; Carbs=31.01;Proteins=1.70;Fats= 0.79
TotalCalories=124; TotalCarbs=31.01;TotalProteins=1.70;TotalFats= 0.79
melon, honeydew
Calories=58; Carbs=15.45;Proteins=14.54;Fats=0.22TotalCalories=58; TotalCarbs=15.45;TotalProteins=14.54;TotalFats=0.22
melon, cantaloup
Calories=23; Carbs=5.63;Proteins=0.58;Fats=0.13TotalCalories=23; TotalCarbs=5.63;TotalProteins=0.58;TotalFats=0.13
16th of cup
(per cup)
Calories=83; Carbs=21.01;Proteins=1.07;Fats=0.48
TotalCalories=5.1875; TotalCarbs=1.313125;TotalProteins=0.066875;TotalFats=0.003
Calories=46; Carbs=11.14;Proteins=0.87;Fats=0.40TotalCalories=15.18; TotalCarbs=3.6762;TotalProteins=0.2871;TotalFats=0.132
16th of cup
(per cup)
Calories=78; Carbs=20.34;Proteins=0.84;Fats=0.0625
TotalCalories=4.875; TotalCarbs=1.27125;TotalProteins=0.0525;TotalFats=0.11875
(per head)
Calories=75; Carbs=16.01;Proteins=4.85;Fats=0.75
TotalCalories=9.375; TotalCarbs=2.00125;TotalProteins=0.60625;TotalFats=0.09375
Calories=34; Carbs=6.05;Proteins=1.65;Fats=0.45TotalCalories=11.22; TotalCarbs=1.9969;TotalProteins=0.5445;TotalFats=0.1485
almost none
cabbage, red
Calories=~; Carbs=~;Proteins=~;Fats=~TotalCalories=~; TotalCarbs=~;TotalProteins=~;TotalFats=~
TotalCalories=1737.3375; TotalCarbs=430.113725;TotalProteins=33.987225;TotalFats=7.231

Notes on this table:
For calories:
For carbs:
For protein:
For fats:
Most of the quantities for the restaurant salads are simply guesses, and I'm almost certain that I guessed too high.
There may be calories in the juice I drank, but I have no way to calculate that.

Using the simpler algorithm that (Protein is 4 cal/g) and (Fat is 9 cal/g) and (Carbs are Total-prot-fat), these are the Values & Percentages of carbs/protein/fats for this day's total:  
Carb 1536.3096; Prot 135.9489 ; Fat 65.079

Carb 88.4289667%  Protein 3.73037803% Fat 3.73037803%
As you can see, I have not hit the 80-10-10 target, but have overshot to about 88-4-4.  I have deliberately avoided avocado today, since last time I checked my calories, that one raw fruit made my entire day too high in fat; and of course I'm not getting enough protein to hit Graham's target.

HIgh Carbs and Blood Sugar
Something else my mother-in-law said caught my attention.  As a non-insulin-dependent diabetic, she is concerned that a high fruit diet such as I have been on these past 30 days -- so high in raw fruit and vegetables -- will cause one's blood sugar to be highly elevated.  Why?  Because for her, she cannot eat that much fruit.  It is too high in sugar.  It is natural sugar, yes; and it is tempered by the fiber of the fruit.  But is there enough fiber in fruit to keep the blood sugar within acceptable bounds?

To test this, after my complete fast on the 31st day of this raw food diet, I broke my fast at midnight, while I was working.  I tested my blood glucose several times, to see what sort of a curve my blood sugar might take.  I expected it to spike a little bit, but then to level off within the normal range (in other words, more or less the normal Glycemic Index curve).  I was surprised by what I found.

Midnite: BG 4.3  ; this was after a total fast (nothing but water and herb tea) for >24 hrs.

0015: BG 11.0 ; this was following 2 ripe bananas and 1 ripe plum; both of these fruits have a Glycemic Index (GI) around 50.  This is quite a spike.

0030: BG 6.3  ; back to normal range.  But wait.

0045: BG 8.2  ; this was the surprise.  There was a rebound, and it has gone beyond the normal levels.  Why might this be?  I wondered if it might be because there were still significant numbers of ketones in my bloodstream that must be used up first?

0100: BG 8.1  ; at the one hour mark, the glucose is still elevated.  I am not hungry, though.  There is an inhibitory effect on the appetite if the body has eaten enough fruit; but what had I been doing, all this month?  I have been ignoring that, and forcing myself to eat more fruit to get my calorie level higher (without succeeding, by the way -- I was still not eating enough calories -- obviously, because I was losing weight).

0115; BG 8.1  ; my blood sugar not stabilized to a normal level, even after more than an hour after eating the fruit,.  Thinking that the machine must be faulty (even though I had just calibrated it, prior to my experiments), I tried the next glucometer.

0120: BG 8.4.  So its not the glucometer's fault.

At  0145, I ate some cooked starch.  And thus, my raw food detox was officially over.  I ate a medium sized sweet potato that I had microwaved for 7 minutes.  I ate it with a spoon, and it was good.  Now a sweet potato has got an even higher glycemic index than a banana and a plum.  Sweet potatoes are very sweet indeed.  The GI comes in at somewhere between 77 and 94, depending on how it is cooked.  None of the methods cited in the database were from a microwave, however.

0200:  BG is now 4.3, normal range again.  Now I expected it to go up again, because I ate this starch.  I'd test one more time.  Why isn't the blood sugar spiking like it did for the fruit?

0220: BG 6.2  ; still normal!  Could it be that the fiber in this sweet potato is tempering the glycemic response?  Or is it merely that the ketones are now down to an acceptable level?

At this point, I quit testing my sugars.  But I did look up a couple of studies from the Cochrane database.   I wanted to know if high carb diets would enlarge the pancreas of dieters; or if this might lead to diabetes or pancreatic cancer.

The answer is no.  The evidence is clear that eating a fruit-based diet with some vegetables is protective against pancreatic cancers, and does not in itself cause diabetes.

That's good news, but hardly certainty.  I would advise anyone trying a raw food mostly fruit diet to be diligent in checking their blood sugars -- particularly if the raw diet is accompanied by fasts.

After the 30 Day Raw Diet
Once again, following my diet's change back to cooked starches, I experienced a change in my gut flora, and it took a day or two to adjust to the new diet -- although I didn't have the gut aches that I did with the raw sweet potato.  I still eat a lot of raw fruits and veggies, still drink green juices from green leafy veggies, but now I've added starches in the form of cooked potatoes and beans.  I have decided, for now, to continue not eating any grains -- so no wheat, no barley, no corn, no rice and of course, no bread.  This is quite a hardship, as many wonderful recipes are to be tried in our household as we embark on new eating habits, following the guidelines of Dr. John McDougall.  Adding rice or grain pasta back into my diet would go a long way to easing our household into that new vegan lifestyle.  However, I'm still trying to see what effects being grain free -- bread free -- has on my health.  

I no longer get urges to eat bread.  I suspect those urges came more from the cheese I was eating than the bread, to be honest with you.  And as far as exorphins go, milk products have just as many as wheat.  They were discovered virtually simultaneously, after all.  

Oh, I still think sometimes that it would be nice, and convenient, to have a slice of bread in the evening, rather than going to the trouble to eat some more fruit or vegetable, which takes a long time to chew, and might be far sweeter than I want.  Going without bread is a hardship for me merely because I have to look for other, more costly alternatives, to increase my calories.

Because of the hardship, and because of a very important wedding ceremony coming up next month, I'm only going to give this "grain free" fast only another 30 days.  I see no real point in it any longer.  I believe most of the problem of eating bread (and its reputation for increasing weight) is what you put on it.  After the next 30 days of being grain-free are over, I expect I will start eating rice -- and even baking bread -- again.

But I wonder if I will ever want to eat quite as much bread as I did before?  Without butter and cheese, I wonder what I will be putting on my bread?  Actually, McDougall's website is a treasure trove of information about that too.  This month, in fact, his free newsletter contained several recipes for vegan spreads that I  would love to try.  Perhaps this blog will later discuss my attempts to make these and other spreads from scratch, rather than simply describing the whole grain breads I'm baking -- because they had just about reached a level of quality and similitude anyway.

Who knows where it might go?  Perhaps, like many other things I've embarked upon, this blog will simply fall away, as it becomes less useful.

Notes to Myself
  • Following the quick perusal of an extensive text on food addiction (Brownell, K. and Gold, M. ed. (2012) Food and Addiction: a comprehensive handbook. Oxford University Press -- see the commentary here for a quick overview), I don't believe I'm truly addicted to bread.  I will have to look a lot harder at this text, perhaps in another blog entry, before I'm convinced, however.


  1. Wow! Congratulations, you made the challenge! I bet its not easy to start a 30 day raw food cleanse. Great motivation is really needed for this. Anyway, a great weight loss is the fact that you feel very good about yourself on the inside. I’m also proud of you having the willpower to stick to the program without cheating.

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