The Great Grand Diet Trial Of 2011: June

May 7th, 2012 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles

In 2011 I set about on a journey to regain my health – a series of dietary experiments. You can read the backstory here. Prior to beginning these trials, I had used an elimination diet to clear up a systemic Candida infection. I was also healing my gut/digestion through the intensive application of probiotics via fermented foods and beverages, and it worked, because cultured food is magical!

The Test
In June, I stayed RAW, and I also eliminated added oils.

The Theory
“Fat” is one of the most contentious topics in the health world. There are experts coming from every angle, each brandishing their own set of studies. MDs, specialists, naturopaths, nutritionists, RDs, gurus, shamans and the wonderful Wizard of Oz – they all have an opinion on FAT. Some advocate using food-based fats (think nuts and avocados) while avoiding extracted or isolated oils. Some advise eliminating fat entirely, like the high-carb vegetarians using low-fat processed foods, or the raw vegan “80-10-10″ fruitarians. On the opposite end of the spectrum you’ll find the high-fat proponents. To them, saturated fat is a essential nutrient and cholesterol is only a problem when it drops too low. These are the Atkins/paleo/Weston Price-types.

I’d been eating a relatively high fat diet (I’d call it moderate, but I suppose it’s high compared to most vegans – about 35% of my calories from fat) for the past few years. When I first increased my whole-foods fat intake (from avocados, nuts, and coconuts), I experienced better digestion (it helped relieve constipation, I might as well be blunt) and much healthier hair and skin (less dry, more supple). My body just seemed to benefit from more fat! But I had been eating that way for years, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was “too much of a good thing”. What would happen if I greatly reduced my fat intake?

I was happy remaining all-raw, so my goal for June was to eliminate all added oils (like olive oil and coconut oil) while minimizing high-fat whole foods (like avocados and nuts).

The Results
Interesting. Very interesting.

The month started off so strong, on that raw food high from May which propelled me forward filled with energy. I was still working nonstop on Rawesomely Vegan and I was having a blast testing recipes and [un]cooking up wild creations in my kitchen. Eating “light” took a little getting used to, I’ll be honest, but I was surprised at how quickly I figured out substitutions.

As the month wore on I just grew weary of low-fat life. I definitely lost some weight (I didn’t have much to lose – I dropped that last few pounds which brought me back to my pre-pregnancy weight) which was nice, but other than that, it wasn’t doing me any favors. My skin lost a bit of its luster and I felt like my energy suffered some. Mostly, my enthusiasm for all-raw eating was slipping away. By the end of the month I was ready to throw in the towel.

I’m really glad that I did this trial, because it confirmed that I’m someone who thrives on a moderate- to higher-fat diet. On the one hand, I probably don’t need as much oil as I have used at times in the past, and it was great to practice incorporating alternatives. But on the other hand, my body undeniably runs better when it’s well-oiled (ha!), and gosh I’d be willing to bet that a lot of other people (especially women) are the same. We live in a lipo-phobic culture, but I think that many folks would do well adding a few more healthy fat sources (but that’s another discussion for another time). Overall, I learned that fat is my friend and that low-fat-raw-veganism is NOT a sustainable option for me.

I ended June with a sense of accomplishment. July, however, was something else entirely . . .

Edited to link in the rest of the series:

Putting It All Together

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed this summation and was curious what your carb/calorie intake was or if you were getting enough ‘hydrating’ calories. I believe in the healthy fats of avocados, coconut oil etc and am currently trying to find my own balance. I commend you for sticking with these trials for an entire month. I lack that ‘lock down’ will power at the moment, but this might have inspired me to stick with it for a month, journaling the process. ;)

  • littlemonster32

    I feel that Dramatic Cat needs to be inserted at the end of each of these posts.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, I know right? But I have to keep you *hooked* for next time! ;-D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I’m such an extremist by nature, it’s actually pretty easy for me to make big sweeping changes and stick to them. Now balance . . . that one’s a bit more tough.

  • Lou Dwan

    Fat is definitely my friend… since becoming vegan (and a Mama!) I NEED fat for energy, and good mood. At first I was wary… Probably the “fear” from living in a fat-bashing society – but it’s amazing how much better I feel on a high fat vegan diet. Oh and fat is also deliiiiiicious :) Great summary, loving this little series (come baaaack to blogging!)

  • Rachel @ Rachel in Veganland

    I really admire your dedication to your diet trial, Sayward! It must have been so hard to go with out fat! It’s great to realize this post and reflect on the fats in my own diet in an attempt to be more healthful, though. Thanks for another enlivening and uplifting post!

  • Alina S

    I am so happy to read this post! I have been questioning my fat intake lately… I think I could benefit from decreasing the amount of oils I use, but am glad to see your take on eliminating them entirely. I tried sauteeing my tempeh in veggie broth the other day and it just wasn’t the same!!

  • Moira

    Mm interesting. I have been wondering if or how I should alter my fat intake. On some days a certain amount of fat or fat+protein gives me horrible indigestion aka acid reflux and so on. On other days I have absolutely no problem. Oh the life!

  • bitt

    I have a few friends who really love the low fat fruit thing but it’s not for most people I’ve seen. Since you have been writing about these things, I’d love to go back and see what you ate during those time periods. Is there a way to search your site via month? Any archives widget or something? Thanks!

  • Fran@BCDC

    Miss your regular posts…just wanted you to know… :-(

  • Erin Katterhenry

    Its so interesting how everyone needs just a slightly different diet. I’ve just recently eliminated oils and feel great without them! I guess that’s the beauty of diet experiments, we all get to learn how we work best!

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Sarah B.

    Hi Sayward, so nice to hear your voice again! Makes me realize how much I miss reading you on a more regular basis. I am enjoying your diet trial series however, thank you for posting it.

  • Laura Agar Wilson

    I’m definitely a fat person! Haha, I think that sounded wrong but you know what I mean ;-) I’m really trying to maintain a good level of fats in my diet right now (I’m dealing with amenorrhoea) so coconut products and avocado is my friend. Miss your blog so much, hope your enjoying having a better work / life balance though xxx

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  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    I was hoping you would examine fats (specifically, added vs. whole foods) as part of your trial! This is definitely a dietary fat-phobic culture we live in, which can make it difficult to ferret out unbiased/substantiated information on fats. I’ve found that when I’m high raw I have a much harder time digesting nuts — but upping avocados, coconut oil and the like are more noticeably beneficial.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Monika! I owe you an email! =D

    That’s interesting about not digesting nuts while you’re high-raw, I’ll have to look out for that. So good to hear from you, and see you here, and be here, and and and !!!!!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, I’m definitely a fat person! ;)

    I find that nut butters mesh well with so many things, they’re an easy way (too easy, for me) to up the fats. On cereal or oatmeal, on pancakes, on toast, on fruit, in a sauce for veggies or grains, on ice creammmmmm!!!

    I miss you guys too! It’s great to hear from you. I am definitely regaining my balance . . . slowly. Good luck with your stuff too. Amenorrhea is no fun.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I know right!? We are all so different. My husband is the same way, he can eat bread and starches forever, but a bit too much oil and he’s feelin’ ill. I’m just the opposite!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Me too Fran, me too.

    (but thank you, it’s good to hear!)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Sarah!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Oh man I wish there was! I should add the “by month archive” thingy in the side bar or footer. It’s just a widget I think. I’ll look into that. In the meantime, here’s a few WIAWs from last June (I just scrolled through the WIAW posts and looked for the ones with RAW in the title to get my bearings and checked the dates from there, haha. All the WIAWs are under “the food” –> “foodstyles”)

    then it looks like I posted a WIAW of our anniversary dinner, which I was not raw for. Then I skipped a few WIAWs and didn’t do another one until early July, but it’s also a good example of how I was eating then:

  • Sayward Rebhal

    If I eat too much fruit with fat (like apples plus nut butter, one of my favorites!) it can mess with my digestion. Maybe it’s a combination of foods that are giving you trouble. Worth investigating!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Veggie broth is great for some things, but it aint the same for things like tofu/tempeh. They need that richness, mmm.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Rachel! It was a strange 9-month trial, but ultimately it was SO worth it. =)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay fellow fat lover and vegan mama! Yes, I think it’s especially important for us mamas. And the awesome flavor does help. =)

  • Stacy

    I shouldn’t nag, but I keep hoping you’ll come back to blogging regularly! I miss you!

  • Argos

    I’m not too surprised to hear you experienced some mostly negative results by eliminating fats, but I’m so glad to hear that someone went through a person trial to confirm it. Fats are essential for our bodies to store and process certain nutrients (such as fat-soluble vitamins). I’m glad that for the most part, people are starting to see that a moderate intake of healthy fats is actually a good thing for us, and that not everything we eat has to be fat free if we want to be healthy or lose weight.

  • Argos

    Heh, just realized my post sounded a little preachy. Didn’t mean it that way, and I understand that for some people a low fat diet really does the trick for them.

  • bitt

    Thank you!

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