As you may know, I experimented with eating a raw paleo* diet (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should read “Raw Paleo Experiment” first) from 2/11 to 3/3. I shared some of my experiences in other posts, but there’s enough to be said that writing a review makes sense. Without further ado here’s my raw paleo experiment review:
The first problem I encountered before deciding to start the experiment was convincing myself that the food tasted good – or at least didn’t taste horrible. Well, let me tell you: it ranges from almost no flavor to delicious. My favorite raw meats are heart, fish (which tastes much better than cooked, in my opinion), shrimp and beef steaks. I had already eaten plenty of raw fruits and vegetables before starting the experiment, so those were not a problem. The only thing I didn’t enjoy eating was raw liver, which I only ate once. Maybe I’d get used to it had I eaten it more often, as some people say that they love it.
Having eaten like this for three weeks in a row, I can tell you that it is not as complicated as it may seem. In fact, knowing what you are and aren’t allowed to eat might be the hardest part, but it is also a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy learning about nutrition. Putting the ‘rules’ into practice is very straightforward.
Assuming you have the ingredients at home, all you need to do when you’re hungry is eat. You can spend some time concocting a beautiful dish or just eat some meat or fruit by itself, which takes less than one minute to prepare. It’s really that simple. Still, some planning issues might occur, since you should freeze the meat for two weeks before eating it. Here are some tips to avoid getting out of food:
- Buy a lot of meat at a time, so that you always have some in the freezer. Whenever you have less than one week’s worth of meat in the freeze, it’s more than time to go buy more. Ideally, you should leave the meat in the freezer for two weeks before consumption, but you won’t die if you eat 1 week old meat once in a while. Your improved immune system can handle it.
- Have a lot of ‘back-up’ eggs. If you somehow manage to almost run out of meat, you can have some egg-meals to buy yourself time.
- Defrost every day. Before going to bed, put the meat you’ll be eating the next day in the fridge (for dinner) or on the counter (for lunch), so that you won’t have to panic-defrost it right before a meal. You’ll be very grateful for your diligent past self when all you have to do to eat is put the meat in a plate and chop some vegetables.
- Be creative. If you run out of food anyway, stay calm, and be creative, you’ll figure it out. Besides, fasting for a day is healthy .
There is one set of situations where coordinating a raw paleo lifestyle will be harder, and that is when you’re somewhat dependent on someone else. I, for one, am 17 and still live with my mother and many siblings. She buys most of our food, so it was sometimes harder for me to always have enough of the ‘right’ food, especially since I don’t have a lot of time to go grocery shopping.
If your situation is similar in that you’re not 100% in charge of your food (or don’t want to be, for time or money-related reasons), make sure to plan ahead before you jump into this trial so that you know how you’re going to make it out alive. Your disadvantage also comes with an advantage, though: you’ll have a chance at becoming more independent and learning how to manage your resources.
If you usually buy and prepare your own food already, the logistics of switching to a raw paleo diet will not be a big deal.
Although a lot of people swear by this diet and say it has completely changed their lives, given them more energy than ever, cured them of X and Y, etc etc, I didn’t really experience many physical changes. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t have any noticeable negative effects, and, looking back, and I did feel ‘lighter’ than I do now on a cooked diet. However, I didn’t get a happiness- or energy-rush.
When I think back to my raw paleo days, even though I might not have gotten the splendid results I expected and wanted, I know that I learned a lot from those three weeks. Mainly, what I learned and the consequences of doing the trial can be separated into three categories: weight-loss, growth and other lessons. Let’s start with the simplest one.
During the first few days I lost over 1kg (2.2lbs) without wanting to. I quickly understood that I had to do something about it or else I’d start getting too skinny, and made an effort to ingest more calories, which wasn’t that easy. Losing weight on this diet is almost effortless, for three reasons:
- Fewer calories. Removing processed sweets can significantly reduce the amount of calories one eats, and so does removing the carbs (like pasta or rice) that usually accompanied your cooked-meat dishes. I, for one, lost weight probably because I ate the same amount of meat or just a bit more at every meal, but did not eat the rice that I used to have with the meat, meaning that I ingested fewer calories overall.
- Better calories. Eating a lot of carbs + fats is a recipe for weight gain. In a nutshell, by significantly reducing the amount of carbs one eats and separating them from the fats, our body doesn’t accumulate as much fat and learns to rely on it for energy instead of relying on blood sugar. The whole process is a bit more complicated, and it’s explained in the resources I provided in the opening post.
- More satiety. A raw paleo meal leaves you satiated instead of craving for more. Before the experiment, I’d usually be very hungry by 9:30 am (eating breakfast at 7 am). When I ate fruit and 3 raw eggs for breakfast, I often wouldn’t be hungry before 12 o’clock. I still forced myself to eat two apples at about 11:20 in order to get a few more calories in, but I could have lost a lot of weight just by skipping the morning snack I no longer needed.
That said, it’s probably easy to lose weight consistently and keep it off on this diet, if you want to. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to lose weight if you don’t want to. Here are some tips you can use to get more calories in:
- Add fruit before meals. Fruit doesn’t have a lot of calories, but by eating two bananas 30 minutes before lunch and again before dinner, you can add about 400 calories to your daily balance. I got into the habit of eating two pieces of fruit some time before my big meals, because it wouldn’t ruin my appetite (I’d be hungry again 30 minutes after eating the fruit, because it goes through the system so fast) and was an easy way of eating a bit more.
- Add fat to your meals. From olive oil in your salad, to avocado to bone marrow to pork fat, adding some fat to your meals will also provide you with easy calories. Pork fat has about 630 calories per 100 grams, so you really don’t need a lot to get extra calories. I added one or two slices to my steaks.
- Grated coconut. This deserves a special category because it provides cheap calories, which come predominantly from saturated fat: the gold of the paleo diet. At 1 € ($1.29) per 200g and 600 calories per 100g, it’s really cheap, calories-per-buck-wise. Add some to your salads, have some with honey as a snack, blend it with your ground beef, etc.
- Just eat more. If you’re still losing weight, just increase the amount of everything you eat, especially the meat. I’ve learned not to rely on nuts for many calories, since they may be harder to digest.
The best part of this experiment was definitely the growth experience. I learned a lot during the whole process and became more mature as it unfolded. I think the experiment was worth it simply for the growth it provided me.
First of all, I learned a lot about nutrition. As stated in the opening post, I read more than a dozen books, lots of articles and even scientific studies to prepare for this experiment. This opened my mind to a lot of things and cleared many misconception I had before. I learned that a diet is not the healthiest just because ‘ethics’ say it should be (see the vegan diet) and that a balanced perspective should look at the morals, the science and the personal experience of users behind a diet in order to determine how nutritionally viable it is.
I also reinforced the knowledge that beliefs are interchangeable. I used to think the raw vegan diet was indisputably the healthiest possible diet, and now I know exactly why it isn’t. So what? Sticking to your beliefs is the antithesis of growth and should be avoided. We’re here to learn more about the world, not pretend we know everything and close ourselves up to new perspectives.
The social aspect of the diet also taught me a thing or two. I learned to be less dependent on other people’s opinions and less sensitive to ‘hate’. Other people’s believing my food had no taste or was down-right unhealthy got me wondering how they could know that if they’d never tried it and what mysterious vitamin I was missing from not eating nutrient-vampires like grains. I didn’t close myself down to other people’s opinions if they were backed by a valid point, rather I learned to see them for what they are, petty opinions unworthy of my worrying about them. Now I filter what I listen to, so that I can pay attention to what really matters.
On top of that, I am now much more aware of what I eat. I know exactly why the cake I had earlier today was bad for me and am able to make decisions based on truth and knowledge. Does that mean that I only eat 100% healthy food? No, but whenever I eat unhealthy food, it’s because I choose to do it, and I know the consequences. I’ve gained a new level of control over my life and make a lot less uninformed decisions. I am responsible for myself and this experiment has made me a lot more aware of my responsibility.
I’ve also learned not to seek approval for awareness-raising experiments other than my own. I’d never have done this experiment had I listened to everyone else around me (or asked them, for that matter) and I would have missed lots of cool growth and nutrition lessons. The next time I want to do something crazy, I’ll just do it. If you want to try something new, there doesn’t have to be a reason to do it other than that you’ve never done it before and will probably learn a ton from it.
There are two other things I became aware of that don’t really fit into the other categories.
First of all, I realized how addictive cooked food really is as soon as I started eating it again: I could eat some foods forever and never be satisfied. When I’m not hungry, eating raw food seem like a chore, while cooked food feels very appetizing.
Also, I learned that eating too many nuts can lead to… ugh… digestive problems. They are not very digestible and should be reserved for snacks.
I probably won’t be doing any other food-related experiments soon, but will keep writing on other topics. I also expect to come back to this experiment in the future (perhaps in a few years) and try it out for 90 days with a few changes, one of them being that I’ll eat predominantly meat.
To sum up this experiment, I’d like to say that it’s definitely worth it and that you should try it out for yourself to see what effect raw paleo foods have on you.
*I ‘cheated’ a few times during the trial when I went out for sushi and ate the cooked rice and by eating roasted peanuts twice. Since these ‘cheats’ were fairly small, I don’t think they influenced the whole experiment much. If you’re going to try out the diet, allow yourself occasional cheats like I did, and it will be easier on you psychologically (assuming you can handle it and won’t go on a non-paleo cooked food binge).