My Thoughts on the “HCLF” Raw Vegan Diet
Hi everybody! Today was supposed to be my weekly Loving Lately post, but something is heavily on my mind today & I think today’s post would be better spent discussing it. I also haven’t done a recovery update post in a while, even though I feel like I have because I have been writing about my recovery in such detail in my book!
Well… what happens to be on my mind today is the “High Carb Low Fat” (HCLF) raw vegan diet, and the fact that there are so many blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts and websites out there dedicated to it and how it has “changed people’s lives for the better,” etc. I have gotten three emails today ALONE from young girls asking about the HCLF diet and whether it will cure their problems, heal their eating disorders, help them lose weight and guide them toward their greatest state of health happiness.
Let me begin by reminding you that I will never knock someone else’s lifestyle and/or dietary choices if it works for them. The people I am addressing this post to are not the thriving HCLF raw vegans. I am addressing this post to the people (the young girls, specifically) who come across these Instagram accounts/YouTube channels and believe that eating this way, copying these people’s diet and lifestyle choices, will lead them toward their ideal life and health & fitness goals.
For those who are not aware, the HCLF raw vegan lifestyle, otherwise known as the 80/10/10 diet, otherwise known as “fruitarian,” “raw till 4,” “carb yourself up,” etc. is a diet where you get about 80% of your calories from the carbohydrates of fruit (and in the “raw till 4” case, from steamed starches as well), 10% from fats and 10% from protein. A typical HCLF meal consists of a smoothie made of 10 bananas, and it wouldn’t be rare to follow that with another smoothie made from 12 dates and filtered water. People are encouraged to eat upwards of 3,000+ calories per day on this diet.
I feel comfortable addressing this topic because when I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I started eating this way for a period of time. I was enamored by the women on Instagram & YouTube who flaunted their six packs and their extremely active lifestyles, and then posted their HUGE plates of fruit for dinner consisting of more servings of fruit than I’d normally eat in a week. The lifestyle seemed enchanting, and I wanted their glowing skin, tiny physiques and what seemed to be their radiating happiness and confidence.
Now I know that emulating someone’s diet will not give you all of those things, and beyond that I know that eating in a HIGHLY restrictive manner is absolutely the last thing you should do if you have food issues/anxieties or a pre-existing eating disorder. And if you don’t already have an eating disorder, eating that way might lead you toward developing one– because in that lifestyle the amount of foods that are “off limits” and that will make you “unhealthy” are many, many, many things that I believe are truly good for us.
I talk all about my experience on the HCLF raw vegan diet in my book, but for now I will tell you my thoughts on young girl’s wanting to emulate the raw vegan lifestyle because it looks appealing online…
It. Breaks. My. Heart. It breaks my heart to see and hear beautiful, motivated, capable young women being sucked in to an extreme diet and way of life because it has been branded to them as “THE HEALTHIEST WAY TO LIVE” above all else. If anything is claiming to be the #1 healthiest, or the ONLY way to live, then you know you’ve found a problem. No diet should claim to be a cure-all for everyone or everything. Likewise, no diet should claim to give you a particular body type or body style. (For the record, in case you need to hear this, I know many HCLF raw vegans who do not have the six pack tiny frame you see being flaunted on Instagram along with the diet.)
Secondly, if what you want to do is change your lifestyle to live healthier & eat more foods from the earth, there IS a way to do that without being radically extreme and restrictive. You can and should eat plenty of fruits, veggies, nuts, grains and legumes. If you want to be plant-based, COOL. Try it. Labeling any diet is no longer my cup of tea, but if it inspires you to be healthy and you feel good then I will not argue with you. Unless you are trying to heal yourself from a serious illness or disease, I personally don’t see any logical reason to eliminate cooked food (and even animal protein, sue me) from your diet.
Next… if you have digestion issues, this diet will NOT BE YOUR FRIEND. My body trying to absorb and digest a 10-banana smoothie was actually a joke, and eating that way made me catatonically ill for weeks on end. I know that the response from the HCLF vegan community would be that I didn’t eat that way for long enough, or that I “didn’t eat enough fruit,” but my body would not have lasted longer on the diet and I am 100% positive that it was not for me.
I could go on and on and on and ON, but the main point I want to get across here is this… You are beautiful. You are enough. Each and every one of you, no matter what your diet is or what you are struggling with, you are enough. Trying to eat the same way you see other people eating because you want to look like them or feel the way they claim to feel is not good for your soul and psyche, and trust me it is NOT something you need to do.
On a very personal level, many people from the HCLF raw vegan community very much attacked the ish out of me when I transitioned from a vegan diet. Many of the “leaders” in that world who I once looked up to as a picture of health and happiness turned out to be extremely nasty and volatile (and downright insecure) once their ideologies were threatened.
So, if you’re considering changing your diet in an extreme way… please consider my advice– you don’t need to go that extreme. If you are susceptible to an eating disorder especially, this diet is not for you. It might feel like a great fix at first and a way to EAT without being worried about weight gain, etc… but in the long run it is very detrimental for some of us, and I am a living testimony of someone with extended health problems because of trying to eat this way for a period of time.
Don’t compare yourself! And don’t believe every claim you hear about the, “I feel healthier than ever before…” because oftentimes that is a mask for something deeper, and quite usually the opposite of what they are saying.
Thoughts on the HCLF raw vegan lifestyle? Have you ever tried it? Would you be into the idea of me making a YouTube video further discussing my thoughts?