I was recently asked by one of our faithful realders for suggestions on how to actually practice a plant-based diet, so here is an article about my suggestions.
First of all, let me state my qualifications: I’ve been a junk food and compulsive eater for over 20 years. I was almost 100 pounds overweight. I now have neurological problems in my legs and I think this have been caused my over-20-years of consuming Diet Cokes – with its aspartame. I have tried all kinds of ways to control my compulsive eating, including Weight Watchers, Overeaters’ Anonymous (ok, I broke my anonymity), and tens of books. Everyone has a theory on how to loose weight. None of them worked for me……until the Uchee Pines’ diet (which is a version of the 7th Day Adventist diet and the standard vegan diet).
I recently went on a 17-day program at Uchee Pines, which is a natural healing, 7th Day Adventist health institute. They put me on a whole-food, plant-based, vegan, healthy diet, and then added counseling, medical exams, medical evaluations, prayer, education, support, and exercise. After going through this program three times in five years, their message may have sunk into my thick, oppositional head. I’ve been successfully practicing their diet now for over three months.
Here are my tentative conclusions. They are “tentative” since I could fall off this diet any time (as I have often fell off diet plans), and then I will have no suggestions to give to anyone.
First, I will briefly describe the diet. It is as simple as it is difficult.
- Eat only plant-based, mostly whole foods. Strictly vegan. Take B vitamins, especially B-12, if you like.
- Eat only 2 meals a day, and nothing – not even a morsel of food – in between. These meals consist of a healthy, full, satisfying breakfast, which can be the biggest meal of the day. Then eat a smaller, but still full, healthy, and satisfying dinner between 2 and 4pm. Then, if you really need to, have a very small healthy snack about 6 or 7pm, for example, a piece of fruit or something.
They say: “Eat like a king in the morning, eat like a prince in the afternoon, and eat like a pauper at night.”
- That’s it! Nothing complicated, just completely revolutionary and counter-cultural.
What is counter-cultural about this diet is that you eat for health and energy, and not for pleasure or socializing. But as an antithesis, you may socialize more!
Eating two full, probably home-cooked meals often means that you eat with family or friends. Also, because you are totally fasting in-between meals – ingesting only water and un-sweetened tea – each meal becomes a literal feast! Food, even plant-based food – especially if home cooked — will taste utterly fantastic (1).
Polluting the American mind
Another aspect of the counter-cultural aspect of this diet is that you will be thinking clearly about nutrition. The whole society seems to have their minds polluted with hundreds of billions of dollars a year of advertisements spent by the sugar and animal products industries. One of the goals of these advertisements seems to be, not necessarily to convince you to buy their products, but rather to confuse you about what is healthy and what is not.
Once you practice this diet for a while, and experience its validity, you may perceive a seeming reality about the food industry: in general, they don’t care much about human health. With a few exceptions, their main interest is profit and financial survival.
You are constantly being confronted with advertisements, for example, Pepsi advertisements in the sports world, and statistical studies showing, for example, how we need animal products for protein; how we need milk for our bones (2); and how aspartame has not proven to be harmful. Being barraged with these messages, we may develop the cognitive belief that, “Well, no one really knows what is healthy and what is not, so I may as well eat whatever tastes good.” (That is, foods that contain fat or sugar.) (3)
A theory behind this mode of eating is that you are continually fasting. You are giving your body a rest – to digest the food and fight disorders – between each meal. You are not putting in any more food into your digestive system until the food that is already there is fully digested. Once on this diet, you can feel this happening. You can sense authentic hunger versus hunger pains caused by a desire to eat compulsively.
As an example, you can eat breakfast at 8am and dinner at 3pm. Then you will have a 6-hour fast between these two meals and then a 16-hour fast between dinner and breakfast the next morning – every day! (3a)
If you need to lose more weight than on this diet, you can fast one day a week – which is now easy to do since you have developed the habit of fasting 22 hours every day! This one-day fast could begin at 4pm and end at 8am the day after next. This amounts to a 40-hour fast!
Break(the)fast will never taste so good, or be so healthy.
Another theory involved in this continual fasting is that you give your body a chance to work at cleaning out your system and fighting all the enemies – viruses, germs, bacteria, pollution, etc. – that enter your body every day.
The theory for eating dinner early in the afternoon is that you shouldn’t go to bed with undigested food. Sleeping is time for your body to recuperate and rebuild itself, not to digest food. Plus, by eating late at night and then having a good breakfast the next morning, the food from the night before may still be undigested in your stomach, and it may stay undigested throughout the day, while your digestive system works on your breakfast and dinner. You can imagine what this undigested food looks like.
The goal of this diet is to get your body into maximum health, with all the body functions working in harmony.
What is going on inside your body is continual warfare: the good guys fighting the bad guys. With this diet, you are not aiding the enemy by feeding your system all kinds of junk and toxic food. And you are not tying one arm behind the backs of your allies (your blood, circulatory system, and white blood cells) by stuffing your system with compulsive eating. You are not clogging up your veins and arteries with fat from animal products.
Even after a few weeks of this diet, with proper exercise, you may feel your body working on all 8 cylinders. If you fall off the wagon and stuff yourself with unhealthy food, you will be able to feel the dysfunctional affects.
Get back on the wagon
If you fall off the wagon, no problem. Just climb back on as soon as possible. Let go of the sinful temptation to beat yourself up or use the fall as an excuse to stuff yourself with thoughtless eating for days on end. Just fast until the next meal, and then eat a good, healthy and satisfying meal. You’re back on the road to maximum health.
Garlic, one of the healthiest foods, is anti-viral, anti-germs, and anti-social
Like garlic, the Uchee Pines (ucheepines.com) diet can be anti-social. When everyone is eating dinner at 7pm, and snacking in-between meals as a social medium, you will be saying, “no thanks.” When at a restaurant or a friend’s house, where there is no healthy vegan food, you will be again saying, “no thank-you,” and fasting.
But this is the price you pay for living a healthier life. Sure, you may be able to get away with unhealthy eating habits for 30 or 40 years, but then you will have to pay the piper. It’s your choice.
Make no doubt about it: this diet involves hunger, suffering, and pain. After every great meal is a long fast, instead of feeding the monster of millions of pathological micro-bacteria in your microbiome, who are all craving to be constantly fed unhealthy food. You will be fasting, instead of giving in to every whim — disguised as hunger — to eat tasty food. (This may be simple gluttony.)
Perhaps, after a while, the diet will become easier. The desire to eat all that delicious food – sugar, cheese, meat, milk, and fish – may always be there. But the reward for your self-discipline may be: to attain, and stay at, your ideal weight; to have your numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, and insulin) return to normal levels and stay there (without medication); and to have a greater sense of dignity and health.
One way you can deal with the pain and suffering is to simply accept it. There is also pain and suffering in necessary exercise. So what? That’s life. Fully experience the pain and suffering, get to understand it, and watch it eventually go away…..until the next bout. This pain and suffering may be better than the pain and suffering from being fat, being in bad health, being out of shape, or dying from cancer. (4)
Veganism can be unhealthy
A basic fallacy that is common with people practicing veganism is that it is always healthy: just don’t eat animal products – especially as a neurotic religion – and you will be healthy, wealthy and wise. NOT.
The fallacy here is that you must still refrain from eating unhealthy food, including eating as little processed food as possible. You need to stay as close to the plant foods’ natural state as possible. That is, eat a salad rather than canned vegetable soup; eat an apple rather than drink apple juice; eat boiled vegetables rather than a frozen dinner. Lay off as many toxic chemicals as you can. Give your body a break. Be a friend.
It’s no secret what is healthy food and what is not. Just google it. The problem is developing the self-discipline, the sacrifice, and the habit of healthy eating.
An ideal diet
The Uchee Pines’ diet can be seen as an ideal diet — the best. If you can’t do it completely, fine, it isn’t a religion. But you can try to get as close to it as you can. For example, if you have concerns about not getting enough nutrients without animal products, perhaps not enough B12, go ahead, have a serving of fish once a week.
What if I can’t practice this radical diet
No problem! If you can accept this diet as the most healthy diet available, then you can practice a more doable version of it, one that fits into your level of willingness to sacrifice and your level of a having a disciplined will.
For instance, you can try your best to fast in-between meals. You can have three meals, instead of two, with the last meal befor 6pm and with only food for a pauper. You can fast for a day when you feel your body is full of toxins (for example, alcohol toxins from over drinking). If you can’t fully fast, you can have a day of vegetable-juice fasting. You can eat as little animal products as possible. You can exercise every day. And on and on.
But if you find yourself with a serious illness or disorder, it maybe time to think about practicing the diet rigorously — at least until you get better.
Save the planet
Being a healthy vegan is doing the most effective thing you can do – as a humble individual – to save the planet from global warming and the depletion of non-renewable resources. It may be enough. You could be doing your part in the struggle. You could be proud of doing your duty in developing a healthier body and a (little) more healthy earth.
Get ready, get set, go!
Here’s a joke for you: Veganism conquers the fear of death. Once you practice a fully vegan diet, you can’t wait to die!
(1) Although not recommended by the Uchee Pines diet, recent nutritional research has shown that coffee and red wine may be healthy. So, go ahead and have a cup of (decaffeinated) coffee or glass of red wine with your meal. You deserve it, you will be fasting for the next 16 hours!
(2) On Netflix, see the documentaries, “What the Health” and “Forks Over Knives.”
(3) Read “The China Study” on Wikapedia for a summary of this revolutionary statistical analysis.
(3a) 16 hours seems like a lot, but it really isn’t, once you consider that it involves, say, 8 hours of painless sleep (And some health experts say you should sleep 8 hours for maximum health. Uchee Pines says that 2 hours of sleep before 12am is equal in health benefits to 4 hours of sleep after 12am. )
For example, if you finish dinner at 4pm and go to sleep at 10pm, that’s only 6 hours of fasting. Then if you wake up at 6am and eat breakfast at 8am, that’s only two hours of fasting. It’s doable.
(4) There are tens of diets that promise you can loose weight and regain health with a diet where there is no pain and suffering. This cannot be; it is false advertising. As with every other aspect of life — like sports, career attainment, or even romantic love — there is pain and suffering involved. An antithesis to these fake diets is the still unproven maxim:
“No pain, no gain.”
Another seemingly ageless maxim is:
“Easy choices lead to a hard life. Hard choices lead to an easy life.”
Also, developing self-discipline with your eating habits can help you develop self-discipline in other areas of your life.
Rachel Moss says
Hi RG! Thank you so much for answering one of my questions. I’ve been waiting for your reply on how your shift has been, what is the diet all about and how can it be sustainable. There are a lot of great points that I agree with you on, and I think the most important part is that we should not abuse our bodies by falling into the temptation of feeding it junk and unhealthy foods. I am thinking of trying this diet myself and I hope I could sustain it as well, as you do!
Tx for your response. And good luck in trying the diet. I think it’s almost impossible, since it’s so counter-cultural. I couldn’t have done it without going to Uchee Pines. Going through the 17 day program — with other people — got me into the habit, and I liked how I felt.
Since then, I fell off the wagon once, and I hated how I felt. A doctor at Uchee Pines — Dr. Mark — told me of one of the guests who stayed only 5 days. He weighed 300 pounds and was on the verge of having a heart attack. But he was so self-disciplined that he stayed on the diet, and has become much healthier. Not me, I needed more.
I certainly think it’s worth giving it a shot — as radical as it is — and you may end up just practicing an easier version of it. Like I said in the article, I feel it is the best diet for health that I’ve come across, and any easier modification of it may be good enough for your purposes.
One possibility is to grit your teeth and try the diet for a month. Then evaluate how you feel. If possible, even check some of your numbers before and after: blood pressure, insulin, cholesterol, and weight. Then eat your historical diet for a month. Again, evaluate how you feel and, if possible, check some of your numbers again. Then evaluate if the sacrifice is worth the benefits.
Of course, you should do this under the care of a medical professional, of which I am not. Thus, I can’t give you advice.
Davina Johns says
I love this article RG! Thank you so much for sharing with us an intricate details of your journey to fitness. I strongly agree on so many points on this article. I think its good that you also mentioned that the decision to make oneself healthy is a commitment and breaking a bad habit is really difficult. Esp if the habit has been going for so long. I admire when you said that its okay to falter once in a while, but just remember to get back on track as soon as you can and not to stray too far from the path.
Thanks for your comment and thoughtful read. Please throw an idea or two to our readers about your experiences concerning the battle of the bulge.
I have the idea that diet is largely habit. Go through the fire of pain to establish a habit (Uchee Pines says a establishing habit may only take three weeks), and a change of eating patterns becomes easier.
For example, I never thought I could give up my addiction to sugar, that is, the addiction to eating sweet foods. But after a year, I’m shockingly not attracted to that sweet taste any longer. Not that chocolates, ice cream, etc. still don’t look scrumptious. (Nothing like a good paradox!)
We seem to agree about falling off the horse. Again, this isn’t a religion. What’s the problem? Fall off the horse — get back on — fall off again….. The fundamental decision seems to be the main thing. And let’s all lay off the self-contempt.
Davina Johns says
Thanks for your response, RG. I do have struggles on diet and exercising! I’m just starting but I’m falling off the horse a little too often. It’s hard sometimes I think it goes about having a strong will. Mind over matter as they say.
Tx for your comment. Welcome to the club. I have a female friend who says that every woman has struggles with diet.
I really don’t know about will power. In Overeater’s Anonymous that say that the problem isn’t will power but rather turning your will over to a higher power.
As I mentioned in my article, I’m on the side of will power — or call it self-discipline, if you like. I just can’t keep on my diet without a firm commitment and a willingness to sacrifice and suffer — but sacrificing and suffering for a higher state of well being.
I like the term “gentle, self-disciplined will” better than “strong will.” Trying to ramrod behavior into our lives with a “strong will” can hurt our authentic personalities and lead to failure.
Also, as I stated in my article, I wouldn’t be practicing my diet without the education and indoctrination of Uchee Pines. Thus, I feel that education is important.
But this has been over a 20-year struggle for me, and I still might fall off the wagon, so I have the firm belief that many of us must take it easy with ourselves, keep learning about nutrition and keep plugging away, and keep an eye on the long run: seek and you will find.
I feel confident that you will find your unique solution to those struggles. You seem to have an open and inquisitive mind (you wouldn’t be reading and responding to all these crazy ideas if you didn’t), and so you seem to have one of the main ingredients to lead you to the truth about things — like nutrition. However, we all know that truth may not lead us in the path that we would prefer.
Let’s all keep working on the question of nutrition, and how to put our knowledge into practice.
I plan to write an article on “the act of will” one of these days.
Davina Johns says
Yes! I’d love to read an article about “act of will” and you know about psychological battles especially of those that are handling with the physical and mental journey like healthy lifestyle and clean living.
Dubey Daniels says
RG is right, garlic is awesome. It actually helps me a lot when I have a cold to overcome. For some reason it gets up better a lot sooner.
I just don’t get Vegans – human nature is to be carnivores – is it not. A friend of mine is vegan and and says she does not eat any meat. What in the world does she eat for protein?
Good point! Throughout history people have needed animal products to survive, for instance, Eskimos. And we do need B12, which only comes from animal products.
However, as civilization progresses, we now may be able to practice a more healthy diet.
For example, what was the average lifespan of historical peoples who were on an animal based diet? Some studies say they lived, on average, only 30 to 40 years. Some studies show that vegans and vegetarians live longer and have less diseases. (See “The China Study” in Wikipedia.)
Another way of looking at our historical eating patterns is to compare these patterns with medicine. Virtually all medicine has negative side effects. The doctor and the patient have to decide whether the beneficial effects of the medicine are worth the negative side effects.
The same is with food. Eating animal products in the historical past may have been necessary for survival, and worth the negative, long-term side effects: all the major Western disorders: heart attacks, cancer, strokes, diabetes, etc. (The historical person usually didn’t live long enough to experience these long-term side effects.)
However, now that we DO live long enough, and we DO have healthy alternatives to an animal based diet, the cost of this diet may not be worth the price.
You can test these ideas yourself. Try a plant based diet for a month and then an animal based diet for a month, and see if you feel any differently. But remember, both diets have to contain “healthy” foods. You’re not going to feel good if you eat junky, processed food on either diet. (And 80% of our diets consists of processed foods!)
Keep our readers in touch with your dietary experiences. You could enlighten us all!
Davina Johns says
Been trying to follow your schedule and routine on how to go about the shift to eating plant based diet. And I think I’ve been doing good so far! It’s only been a couple of days but I can see some improvement
It’s amazing that you’ve experienced benefits after only a few days! Keep us in touch with your experiences. These experiences could help other readers!
Davina Johns says
Youre right. The market is now saturated with “healthy”, “organic”, “vegetable-based” labels but are actually heavily processed food. They are trying to camouflage their way into making them seem as a healthy food.
Very interesting RG. Seems like I might just try this schedule. Do you think its just by chance that a lot of religions actually fast during certain parts of the year?
Good insight! I doubt that fasting would have survived history if people didn’t experience benefits.
And also spiritual benefits. You’ve heard of the spiritual tradition of “fast and pray.” It seems — for whatever reasons — some people have found that prayers are more effective if they fast along with the prayer.
One person said that fasting is like allowing the garbage truck to clean up some of the garbage laying around in your body.
Dubey Daniels says
RG, you ever considered writing a book on health & fitness? I think it would be a bestseller. I implemented you suggestion on eating like a king in the morning, prince mid day and a pauper at night and I already feel better. The only thing I disagree with you on is that we should eat like a Queen in the morning, a princess mid-day and a pauper at night.
Spoken by Queen Dubey.
I agree with you.
I think it is important to keep in touch with those good feelings when you try a change in your eating habits, and also try to understand what you ate that makes your feel sluggish or upset.
I feel filling your body with all kinds of various foods, all the time, creates confusion in your digestive system and you can’t understand a thing about what is going on in your body, or how your body is reacting to the uncaring way your are treating it.
Rachel Moss says
This is becoming even harder especially with the holiday season!
I’m on your side. I fall off all the time. It seems an almost draconian diet. I feel like a Trappist monk when I’m fasting between meals. However, when I succumb to tasting the delicious food — always available — I descend back to compulsive eating — no fun. It isn’t easy to sacrifice. That’s why it’s called “sacrifice”!
My interpretation of this reality is that it isn’t easy to reverse a 30-year eating habit. My microbiome has it’s own needs and desires.
I still have the conclusion that this is the best diet for optimal health. Working at Belleview Hospital, you don’t have to tell me what an unhealthy diet leads to.
As far as the holiday season goes, IT’S A HOLIDAY SEASON! So, what he hell, fall off the wagon once in a while. And on the other days, thoroughly enjoy your two meals (and a possible snack) a day. The key is to, after a short vacation from your diet, quickly get back on the wagon and be committed to a healthy long-term diet plan.
Good luck with your 6 hour fasts!
Dick Knapp says
I have been a veg since 1969. Am now 99% vegan. It gets easier.
Thanks for your annual letter. Would like to discuss some things with you. Email?
Davina Johns says
It’s awesome! I hope to sustain being vegan for as long as you are!
I look forward to it.
Great hearing from you. I see Izzy (Now “Rich Moore”) all the time. In mail contact with Huckins. You can write “clearnewsbyrg” Looking forward to hearing from you.
Been doing this for the new year. It’s one of my new years resolution One week in so far so good!
My email is “email@example.com” You can email me with more specific, and more personal questions if you like. As I’ve said, I think it’s the best, and healthiest diet around, and perhaps one of the easiest, once you change your eating habits.
Good luck with an important decision. (Even if you decide not to stick with it, you may learn something from the experiment.
Davina Johns says
Will definitely watch these “What the Health” and “Forks Over Knives” recommendations you have!
Rachel Moss says
I’ve read something about a 60-day juicing detox. It’s when you can only consume blended or extracted juice and vegetables for a certain period of time. It’s kind of like fasting but not water.
I’ve read similar things. I agree. Its a form of fasting, and may even have better effects. But 60 days seems rather rigorous and should possibly be under the supervision of a health professional. I think 3 days or 5 days might be safe — and healthy — for most of us.
I went to a raw foods health center for a week one time. They put us on a wheatgrass juice and a fermented bean sprout juice diet for three days. It was difficult but all of the participants felt great. I saw wonderful things happen in the week on raw, organic foods, but I was not even to keep that diet for a day when I left.
Many of these proposed diets are great, but doing them is a different matter (see David’s comment below).
I believe the will of the mind is always stronger than the will of the body.
It seems you are in a minority. For most of us, the body often beats the mind.