My ‘Eat to Live’ Challenge

eat to live coverFive years ago, a 10-day challenge led to my eventual decision to go vegetarian (and to start this blog).

A few years later a 30-day vegan challenge, which I completed successfully, actually taught me that I wasn’t ready to go vegan yet. But when I was ready six months later, that month-long experiment was probably to thank.

Why should we do uncomfortable challenges like these, with food or anything else? For me, the answer is clear: you might just discover something you love, when you learn that actually doing the thing is easier than worrying about how tough it surely must be.

But even if your experiment doesn’t lead you to change your life, a challenge around something so near-and-dear as food will almost certainly teach you something about yourself.

And so …

My Latest Challenge

For several years I’ve long been intrigued by the “don’t eat extracted oils” philosophy. Because if I’m honest, oil isn’t a whole food, and I’m fond of saying that I eat whole foods.

I also knew that I ate a lot of salt, woke up every day with an urge for a small, strong cup of coffee, and enjoyed a single (usually strong) beer almost every night.

I was comfortable with all of these things, citing moderation, lots of exercise, and no tendencies toward serious addiction (when it comes to ingestibles, at least).

And yet, I must not have been 100 percent comfortable with these choices … because I’ve always been fascinated to hear about people who enjoy these things, like me, but deliberately choose never to indulge in them.

So, almost two years removed from any restrictive diet challenge, I decided it was time for a new one.

Enter Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

I first came across Joel Fuhrman when I found his book Disease-Proof Your Child, which somehow led me and my wife to Super Immunity — currently the nutrition book that I recommend to anyone who will listen.

Only in this backdoor manner did I find out about Eat to Live, his #1 New York Times bestseller. When on my book tour several people told me they had followed the the Eat to Live plan and lost 20, 30, or even 60 (a woman last week in Raleigh!) pounds as a result, I was deeply curious, even though I had zero interest in losing weight.

Why? Because the point of Eat to Live isn’t weight loss. It’s health. And I found Dr. Fuhrman’s scientific approach in Super Immunity so appealing, so sensible, and so convincing that I didn’t want to just pick and choose a few elements to incorporate before slowly returning to my set point. I wanted an immersion, to understand what “eating to live” really feels like.

The ‘Eat to Live’ Plan

Fuhrman pulls no punches. With an internet full of incentives for people to tell us what we want to hear — that some hot new study shows that salt, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, saturated fat, etc. are somehow good for us — Fuhrman recommends only what his years of intense research and medical practice have taught him.

And those recommendations, predictably, aren’t quite so much fun to eat (or tweet).

The diet he believes to be the healthiest possible for achieving your ideal weight and maximizing longevity and resistance to disease, and the one I’ve been eating for the last 10 days, includes:

  • Less than 5 percent animal products*
  • No added salt (not even the unprocessed kind)
  • No added oil (not even unheated olive oil)
  • No refined sugar of any kind, and no syrups, nectars, or juices
  • Minimal alcohol
  • Minimal caffeine
  • Fewer grains (even whole), more raw vegetables, more beans, and more raw nuts than I’ve ever eaten for any length of time

*Fuhrman isn’t sure whether “no animal products” is healthier than “a tiny amount of animal products,” pointing out that the longest-lived populations have always eaten a small but non-zero amount of them (and it may be that B12 is the reason for this). Being vegan, I’m of course not eating any animal products.

The first and last bullet points are no problem. The last represents a shift, but not an unpleasant one.

The biggies, for me, are the salt and the oil. This is the first time I’ve cooked without oil for sauteing, and most definitely the first time I’ve abstained from all salt.

Fuhrman is slightly less rigid with alcohol and caffeine. He says that while consuming none at all is best, a small amount (one glass of wine a day, one cup of coffee per day) is probably alright. I’ve not yet chosen to limit the coffee beyond my usual 10 ounces in the morning, but for this challenge I decided to limit alcohol to two drinks per week total — a big change from one drink per day that has basically become an after-dinner ritual for me.

Finally, I’ve made a few small modifications to the plan because I’m worried about losing weight. I’m eating more than Dr. Fuhrman suggests for most people — I eat snacks between meals (fruit and raw nuts, mainly) and more fats (in the form of avocados and nuts) than the standard plan allows for.

The First 10 Days

Eat to Live is supposed to be a six-week long strict plan, followed by a slightly more lax version that allows up to 10 percent of your calories to be exceptions to the above (even animal products, if you’re so inclined). But because of holiday plans, as well as my concern over losing weight when I’m already thin and — let’s be honest — my fear of how tough this diet would be, I’ve decided to do just three strict weeks. Like with any other challenge, when that time is up, I’ll reevaluate and decide where to go from there.

Here’s what I’ve observed so far on the Eat to Live plan:

1. Not consuming oil is really quite easy. For salads (which we eat all the time on this plan, often as meals and usually with beans), we make nut-based dressings which are pretty good. And who knew that water-sauteing actually worked? I’ve always had a hangup about cooking with anything but oil, but now that I try it, water works just fine. Keep in mind: this isn’t gourmet food; just practical, healthy food that gets the job done.

2. Not adding any salt is really tough. In fact, not being able to add salt just about ruins the experience of eating for me. Nothing tastes like anything, and Mrs. Dash is a poor substitute. I find myself getting depressed around 3:00 pm when I think about dinner and remember that it will taste like air (until my taste buds adjust, I hope). But that’s what’s great about challenges like this — I’m reminded of an emotional attachment to food that I always want to deny, and made aware of just how accustomed I’ve gotten to salting my food, when for most of human history we have not added any salt to food. (Fuhrman points out that a day’s worth of food naturally contains 600-800 mg of sodium, by comparison to which the U.S. daily recommended intake of 3500 mg seems absurdly high.)

3. Skipping the nightly beer is tough, and I think about and crave the flavor and aroma of hops each night (I usually drink hop-bomb IPA’s). But this hasn’t been nearly as difficult as the salt.

4. Fortunately, I haven’t lost any weight and I don’t feel any less energy from not having oil in my diet. I’ve been running but not intensely, so it’s hard to tell if there’s been any impact there — I’d be excited to see how such a high-nutrient but lower-calorie diet works for sports.

5. Ultra-healthy cooking is extremely simple. While there are some more involved recipes, my favorite Fuhrman-approved dishes are the ones where we water-saute or steam a bunch of vegetables, throw in some beans (homemade with no added salt), and top with a quick nut-based, raw sauce or dressing. Easy and quick, with minimal cleanup.

6. Frozen fruit makes a great dessert! Blend it with some dates, unsweetened almond milk, and sometimes cacao powder, and it’s a really nice treat to look forward to that helps me get through saltless dinners. I’d be fine if I never ate vegan ice cream with added sugar again.

7. My normal diet is not nearly as healthy as I thought. Even without being 100 percent convinced that a moderate amount of oil and salt are unhealthy, eating so strictly has made me realize just how often I make unhealthy exceptions in my usual diet. The times I get a Naked smoothie or juice from the coffee shop, the times I drink two cups of coffee or two or three beers, the times I add salt to my food before I even taste it, the times I go all day with only one or two pieces of fruit, the days I skip the salad … when you put them all together, they add up to a lot of slips, even within a single week.

I’ve learned a lot in 10 days. Right now, I’m still in hell-no-I-could-never-eat-this-way-forever mode … which, of course, is why it’s called a challenge. But I’ve got another two weeks or so until it’s time to decide what to take and what to leave from this experience, and who knows how I’ll change in that time. And that — how I’ll change — is exactly the point. I’ll let you know.

Two Fun PS’s

1. Huge congrats to Leo Babauta and Scott Dinsmore on finishing their first 50-miler last weekend in San Francisco! Read what Leo learned from the experience.

2. My sister Christine (who used to write Sweet-Tooth Friday dessert posts for No Meat Athlete) started a blog — about a novel approach to writing a novel. (Thank goodness she didn’t make that her tagline.) Totally unrelated to plant-based fitness, but hey, she’s my sister. If you have any interest in writing a novel, it would mean a lot to me if you’d check out her blog. Maybe a good 2014 goal for somebody?

Hope you have a great one. Any Eat to Live veterans out there? I’d love to hear how it went for you, and what elements you’ve hung on to.



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  1. Tammy Smith says:

    Wow, this is too funny! I just downloaded the Eat to Live book on my e-reader yesterday because I feel like I’ve hit a plateau and wanted to challenge myself and kick things up to get me motivated again! I just started the book, but look forward to making continued improvements to my plant-based diet, and hopefully this book will help me do that!

    • I just downloaded it last week! I’m adapting a lot of the changes he wrote about. But am not following diet 100%. I feel better and in general have more energy, so I wish those positives would outweigh my cravings for the old, unhealthy food…..I’m having to cook the “old way” for my husband and kind of in the middle of two extremes for children. It’s a lot of extra work for me! I just want to be healthy.

  2. It was so good to meet and run with you at Fleet Feet in Raleigh. Salt is one of my pitfalls too but I get by with substituting pepper. I use it all the time and even sprinkle cayenne pepper right on my entree sometimes. Salsa is also a great substitue for the saltiness that I miss.

  3. What about the lack of salt while being an endurance athlete? Just seems like it might be walking a dangerous line with hyponatremia, especially for people who are “salty sweaters.” I guess I’ve heard one too many stories of people dying of hyponatremia after a marathon to think that a super low salt diet would be anything close to a good idea for a runner. Just my two cents though 😉

    • This is a huge point!!! Of course, everyone is different, but I am a very salty sweater and I live in a year round warm and humid climate. I was not eating adequate sodium for a while (not on purpose, it was just the way I was eating) and I had a terrible reaction while running, passed out, hit my head, almost got run over by a car, took a nice and expensive trip the to ER and was told in no uncertain terms to NOT limit my sodium intake!

    • The salt intake should be kept low for overall health, BUT, athletes need to use an electrolyte drink mix to replenish sodium, potassium and can buy the powder form and mix your own quite cheaply….water alone on a hot, tough run will not do the job….

  4. I’m an endurance athlete (mountaineering and distance cycling are my sports). I have also been eating according to Dr. F’s guidelines for about 4 years. There is a great newsletter on his website (access for members only) on fueling the vegan athlete. Basically, athletes who are not interested in weight loss should incorporate 2-4 ounces of nuts/seeds per day in their diet (or 1-2 oz of nuts, plus some avocado) and additional beans and starchy vegetables. Personally, I found the extra starches key to maintaining a high training load. You’ll have to experiment to see what works for you, which may take longer than 10 days.

    I also think it’s important to not just focus on what not to eat, but to think about what you are supposed to eat: 1 pound of cooked vegetables, 1 pound of raw vegetables, at least 3-4 fruits, 1 tbsp flax seed, 1-2 ounces nuts/seeds, 1+ cups of beans DAILY! Eliminating junk alone won’t provide the best results in terms of health. Eating the right foods will!

    Finally, Table Tasty is a seasoning that many people have found helpful as they wean off of salt. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t comment personally.

    Good luck to you in your experiment. Ping me if you have additional questions. I have seen tremendous results adopting this way of eating – both in performance and health – and wish you the best wherever you land at the end of your experiment.

    • Just to add to Carry’s post, if you Google ‘fuelling the vegan athlete’ it comes up as a pdf. Really good article!

    • Crystal Currington says:

      I looked up Table Tasty to look at ingredients, “Glutamate” is a neurotransmitter and doesent sound smart to put in your body.

  5. I’ve been contemplating giving this a try myself or Happy Herbivore’s reboot, which is similar. I wonder how the no salt will affect the long distance running or would you make exceptions when training for longer distance races?

  6. No salt. Say what?! As an obsessive distance runner and also cross/strength-trainer (this is new and not even short lived! I am proud of myself), I sweat boatloads every single day. I would love to hear your thoughts on how not replacing that lost sodium chloride, which often forms a palpable crust on my forehead, is a healthy way to go about eating.

  7. I just finished reading Eat to Live last night- it is really compelling. It made me realize how even as a vegan, I need to really ramp up the nutrient dense foods and steer away from salt, oil and processed foods. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like your idea of starting with just 10 days.

  8. Two suggestions to make your pain points less painful:

    1. Buy some hops and make some hop tea. Hops, even in pellet form, are a whole food, and steeping a tea from them might be a good substitute that gives you a nice aroma and taste.

    2. Celery and chard are naturally high in salts, and can add a nice salty flavor to foods, without added salt. I’m not sure if this is cheating or not, but I started adding chard to roasted potatoes and I don’t feel like they need added salt to taste good.

  9. Matt, have you been to She is testing the recipes from Fuhrman’s Eat to Live Cookbook, discussing and rating them. She’s given a thumbs up to quite a few recipes so far.

  10. It’s a healthy diet but a little too restrictive….In the so-called Blue Zones of longevity around the world where most inhabitants live into their 90’s and 100’s, grains are a component….with oil usage, I am unaware of any scientific evidence showing harm by using rice bran oil for heating and olive oil for cold use. (We know that Jesus ate olives..can’t get a better endorsement than that..)
    Many valid studies have demonstrated that moderate caffeine consumption protects against certain cancers, but all trials used freshly brewed expresso method coffee….
    Regarding beer/lagers, athletes should be drinking the light lagers (2.7%alcohol) only..they taste just as good as the heavy drinks when you are thirsty. If you have a solid training regime of 3 x weights w/o per week, running or cycling or boot camp on the other days with only one rest day, then you should be able to have wine with dinner every night. Keep it down to 2 glasses though…These statements are based on my 80 years of experience and I am superfit albeit too modest….

  11. I read Eat to Live about 2 & a half years ago and immediately started eating that way. I was a salt freak and the lack of salt made food seem really bland at first, but after about 6 weeks I started appreciating the real flavor of food instead of salt. Now I can’t stand salty food and it makes me feel ill. I also lost 40 pounds and was never starved or deprived. I have kept the weight off and eat Dr. Fuhrman’s diet and I love many of the recipes. If I want junk food I eat it but it’s now pretty rare that I crave it and I have learned that I feel bad after I eat it (physically). Stick with the idea of whole unprocessed foods and you will shed pounds and years!

    • Awesome. And congratulations! That’s (of course) the point I want to get to with the salt. It makes sense, when you look at the sodium numbers I mentioned in the post, that it would happen that way. But right now it feels like it never will! 🙂

  12. In mid August, I did a diet very similar to this, except is was for weight loss for me.
    There was no salt, no sugar, no oils/fats, no nuts, and no grains or beans of any kind. It was all produce. However, it did include organic whole milk, eggs (hard boiled), some seeds, and fish.

    Eating no sugar was a piece of cake for me (no pun intended) – which surprised me, because I have always characterized myself as having a HUGE sweet tooth. However, using no salt was incredibly difficult. You can add herbs and spices to veggies till the cows come home but without salt, they just don’t taste as good.

    I finished after about 10 weeks, and in that time, my taste never adjusted to the lack of salt. In fact, I got more and more miserable as the weeks went on and started to eat only fruits. I lost a total of 36 pounds.

    Since then, I’ve been following no specific diet. I try to eat whole foods and include a veggie and/or a fruit with every meal. And for about 6 weeks now, I’ve maintained my weight loss – even through Thanksgiving!

    I understand that it’s fairly recent in history that humans started using salt. And of course too much is bad for us. However, I believe that the overuse of salt comes from all the processed junk in the standard American diet, and that it’s rare for a person who is conscientious about eating healthful, whole foods to overdose on salt.

    I’m really curious to see what you think at the end of your challenge. Looking forward to hearing more:) Love your blog!

  13. I can hardly call myself a strict vegan since I love certain foods that contain milk, but I try to eat vegan food when possible. I almost never add salt to my food when I cook it, but I love potato chips which contain both the added oil and the added salt.

    Since I went vegetarian/vegan I’ve lost 30-35 pounds in half a year, but then I gained some of my weight back since I eat a lot of unhealthy food and sweets. I bet that if I cooked more on my own, I would have lost even more weight, but I’m too lazy to cook every day.

  14. Dick Willis says:

    I have been following the Eat to Live refi mine since March. I dropped 65 pounds quickly and have now kept it off with little effort for four months. My nutritionist advised me against eating too little sodium so I haven’t been as strict with that but I do the rest by the book. We often use a wok and sauté our veggies in red wine for a bit of additional flavor. I depend on seeds and nuts in the afternoon to keep my calories high enough to sustain my exercise (now Crossfit 5 days/week). I just finished reading Super Immunity and am making a concerted effort to eat mushrooms and onions on a daily basis. Most if the rest ends up in my morning smoothie. This allows me to eat enough of the raw leafy greens on my teacher’s schedule (short, early lunch). I don’t find it difficult following this plan and have enjoyed experimenting with the more elaborate recipes at family gatherings to avoid the really awful traditional feast offerings. Enjoy your current challenge.

    • I’m curious if you catch flack from the Crossfit community, which I heard is skewed largely toward low carb/”Paleo?” My massage therapist, an athlete and Crossfit fan, is into “Paleo” and talks about his protein needs. Do you find that you maintain muscle and have good performance on Eat to Live? I’d suspect so, but it’s hard to convince some people.

      • Hi Kelli, I’m surprised that a massage therapist would be involved in Crossfit seeing as their flawed method of training results in continual rotator cuff and other joint injuries which means the physiotherapists love Crossfit “muscleups & pullups with weighted vests” because it gives them a steady income stream from repairing the damage caused.
        Also the no grains and plenty of meat was one of the reasons that early hunter/gatherers (Paleos) had the shortest lifespans in history. Grains are the mainstay of those that live to be a centenarian.

      • Kelli, This is my one and only beef with the Crossfit community. I’m a strict vegetarian 20+ years. Got involved in Crossfit 1.5 years ago, go 4-5x / week. I’ve lost 8% body fat, almost 15# of fat during that time – also incorporating a whole foods oriented veggie diet. Every time our gym has food challenges, I cannot participate because they fully do not support a vegetarian diet. They even just posted an article about converting a long time vegetarian to a Paleo diet and implied that this was the only way to get good results in Crossfit. Lame! Other than that, find a good gym with well trained coaches and small class sizes, and you should not have a problem with injury as Trent states. And maybe just keep quiet about being a vegetarian! Crossfit works and is generally an amazing inclusive and supportive community, with this one annoying exception! 🙂

  15. This is a great challenge Matt. I haven’t read the book but it’s now on my list. I had the same concerns on the salt that other folks had. I seem to be a heavy salt sweater and now I wonder if I was over doing it.
    I also love high hop IPA’s. If your ever in Fredericton, NB try Picaroons Yippee IPA. World class beer! Lynn’s idea sounds good and I’m going to give that a try.
    I did a 50 miler on a vegan diet challenge this year. Never ran before and ate lots of meat. Now I’m ready for another. I think you just helped me find it. You never know what your going to find that you end up loving. I’m likely to be a vegan runner for the rest of my life now. Never would have learned that if not for the challenge.

  16. Hi Matt,

    Eat to Live was Dr. Fuhrman’s first book and the most rigid. His other book Eat for Health has three levels, each one goes deeper into healthier eating. You don’t have to change what you eat but add more veggies. I am just reading the book now and have not yet started, but from what he says, each person who starts out eating more veggies actually pushes out the habitual foods by their change in tast buds and losing the desire for the foods they were hooked on. If you go onto his site, there is an amazing assortment of vegetable add on’s such as several salad dressings – his products of course and balsamic vinegars. They look fabulous. But you didn’t have to go at it so full force and could have done it layer by layer. If you sign up for his newsletter he has recipes too. It’s all about the micronutrients in food. The more higher rating micronutrient foods you eat, the faster your body will balance it all out. You will naturally heal whatever was imbalanced in your body and get healthier – it’s a given!
    Good luck everyone and have a totally awesome Happy & Healthy New Year!

  17. It’s great that you’re posting this, as I was already excited to do the challenge starting 2014. I’ve never done New Year’s resolution type things, but I have been trying to improve my health through veganism (somewhat healthy) for two years now with no real results. I’m hoping this will really kick my body into gear! I’m excited to read more.

  18. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Matt. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, as always!

  19. matt, you’re doing awesome! this is such a fascinating post. I absolutely love Dr. Fuhrman’s work, and I feel like being as close as possible to this is completely sustainable- so good for you for going the extra mile and taking the entire challenge for a few weeks! I’m excited to hear more!

  20. Love that you’re taking this on! I took on that challenge about a year ago, and I loved the no oils part – but struggled with the salt. Sugar was easy for me to led go of completely because I love over ripe fruit ! I found that foods like freshly cooked beans from the pressure cooker without salt tasted like watery balls of nothingness, which is completely opposite from what I know them as: THE BEST FOOD EVER! Anyway, my taste buds DEFINITELY have changed 100%. I never add salt to anything of mine, but if my hubby has leftover potatoes I will have some, which I sprinkle salt on during their steaming. I’m now 80/10/10 (with overt fats only 2-3 times a week) and I love it a lot. A lot a lot. My taste buds are out of this world – even lettuce tastes like crazy good, strong business. Something awesome has been how much celery blows my mind! Every time I eat some I almost struggle to handle it’s saltiness- but love it so much! Many people dehydrate celery and Vitamix it for a salt substitute… I say, too much work – just eat celery and toasted nori for some sushi and your sodium needs will be happily fulfilled!

    Enjoy your journey and thank you for inspiring us!

  21. Matt, I’ve been following the Eat to Live diet for over 5 years and I love it with all my heart. The salt desire goes away (food may taste bland to me at times, but I have zero perception of it needing salt, just more spice) and I find eating this way absolutely joyful, not restrictive. Also, you can definitely cook gourmet/fine food without oil, sugar and salt – it’s just a matter of finding the right recipes. Good luck and enjoy!!

  22. I’m really glad that you wrote this post. I’ve read Eat to Live before but it was several years ago and I just wasn’t really into the challenge then. I’ve been following a plant-based diet for just over two years now and I eat healthier than most of the people I know, but I too am finding myself allowing more and more not-so-healthy slips lately (vegan pizza with Daiya on top, nice beer while out to dinner with my husband, sprouted toast with vegan butter when I’m feeling snacky, sometimes days without a salad, etc.). I really need something to get me out of the unhealthy funk I’m in so I think I’ll pick this book up from the library again and see if I can commit to the whole 6-weeks challenge this time. I am worried about the salt issue… I recently tasted a couple of vegan chilies at a chili cook-off that were made without added salt and they tasted like nothing at all. I’m considering ordering Dr. Fuhrman’s spice blends from his website but they’re almost $20 each! Anyway, I’m babbling now. Thanks for the post about the challenge. I can’t wait to hear how you feel about it after the full four weeks.

    • Hi Chasity,

      Your taste buds are not yet ready for the no-salted chili. You need to cleanse your palate. I’m reading the Eat for Health book and it takes you on a step by step process or re-introducing yourself to your taste buds before they were blasted with chemicals and foods you crave so much. Add more of the healthy things back into your day and you will push the bad stuff out and feel better about it. Add fruits and salads or at least more vegetables and see where that takes you. It’s an ongoing commitment.

  23. Matt,have you ever tried Nu Salt ??? wondering what you think of it ….I have a terrible reaction to sodium,more than average …indulge in popcorn and a hot dog and my legs…doesn’t matter if it is a vegan alternative or something off the charts beefy…. can swell an inch over night…dont care if you are 110 or 160,NOT a plus LOL…anyway,I canme upon Nu Salt when looking for alternatives at Mother’s Market….it isn’t sodium based…it is POTASSIUM based…and its uber salty tasting…you cant use alot…really don’t need to…but see if that makes things a little bit more FUN to eat 🙂

  24. This sounds like quite the challenge! Salt would be the big thing for me too especially since I don’t just cook for myself. :-/

  25. I’m not a Eat to Live veteran… yet. I bought the book a while back and am slowly digging into it. I’m stuck between deciding to go full on vegan or keep a few, organic and local raised animal-based products in my diet. It’s difficult mainly because my husband is a carnivore and so is my entire family (minus one cousin).

    I’m intrigued by this post though and intend to finish the book sooner and try this challenge. I think I could try it for 3-6 weeks and be able to make my decision regarding meat and by-products. Thanks for posting your thoughts. I look forward to reading more after your initial 3 weeks are up 🙂

  26. Woaaa, what a great post! I’ve not read Eat to Live (yet) but I know what you are experiencing…. Since a year I’ve (like Nicole) drifting more and more into the 80/10/10 world and the “no overt fat or salt” is a big part of that “diet” as well. I (was) a huge fan of salt/fat before, especially as I love(d) cooking (still do, for my wife….who’s justa plain ol’ vegan) but the longer I do this, the less I crave salt and oils i do not miss at all. After some time my taste seriously changed and those taste’s became “too much/too intense”. And now I just love and seriously enjoy the different tastes of raw (ripe) fruit and veggies. Amazing!! When want some tanginess when I make gazpachos I also add celery, works great. And, regarding sport and salt intake… I’m training 6 days a week, mainly long distance running but also ride my biking (road and mtg), box, surf etc etc and I have so far not had any issues due to low sodium intake and hey, I do NOT consume any processed sportdrinks nor gels/bars (I only bring dates and fruits with me during training/at races. Keep up the rawness, and the site!

  27. This appears to be a glorified detox. I hope these modifications do not become added to your permanent lifestyle. Your diet appears to be nutrient dense and more than restrictive enough.

  28. Natasha McLean says:

    Hey, I am that woman from Raleigh. I feel so special to have been called out. Still have another 30 lbs to go. ETL makes senses but temptation is everywhere. Some days/weeks are great but others are not. I had an amazing run with a group of friends on Sunday. When we were done I felt like I had another 10 miles in me. Alast I went home and did some chores.
    It was great meeting you Matt.

  29. Eat to Live “veteran” here. I’ve been following Dr. Fuhrman’s program just over three years now. At first, it was because I had horrible migraines and allergies, and my husband was taking blood pressure medication (we were both mildly overweight). Although we were already vegan, it took us about 3 months of completely changing our diets to conform to the Eat to Live standards before each of us had incredible strides in our health. I write about my experience a lot on my blog where I also feature recipes that go along with the program.

    Now that we’re both feeling our best and completely off medication for those conditions, we eat a bit more salt, maybe about 200-300 mg a day from coconut aminos or miso paste in the nut-based dressings and sauces. We also eat more grains and nuts/seeds than the strict plan, but have found that our taste buds adapted and we don’t miss most of the junk we used to eat. Also, something that we have stuck to fairly religiously is not eating between meals. Let’s see, the only other things I can think of that we do outside the plan are that my husband sometimes uses coconut oil to roast veggies and drinks de-caf coffee. I use stevia sometimes to sweeten hot beverages.

    Good luck with your journey and I hope you write about it again.

    • Hi Carrie..Good info blog of yours although I would question the not eating between meals concept as an entirely empty stomach allows the gastric enzymes to sometimes erode the gastric mucosa. Never empty, never full is a good motto….grazing is natural amongst animals.
      Also, de-caff coffee contains chemicals….go for pure freshly brewed expresso coffee made from freshly ground beans….there are a number of studies that support the health benefits. The American habit of allowing stale coffee to simmer on the stove is very bad. Caffeine is certainly not the monster that some people would have you believe.

    • Regina Ruiz says:

      I love cocount oil! Can I use it on this plan??

  30. Getting slightly off topic, it is interesting to hear an expert’s comments on the current gluten-free fad..Dr.Peter Green, Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, says “gluten free diet is NOT healthier and lacks important vitamins, minerals & fiber. Going gluten free means that you are saying no to many nutritious foods, and indeed many gluten free products are unhealthy.
    Half of your carbohydrates should come from grains (are you taking note?) which will lower cardiovascular disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes. Gluten free products are low or often absent in zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, the important B vitamin group and fiber.”

    This post will be wasted on those flagellants who are always looking for something new and are not happy unless they are miserable…sad

    • I’m going to be one of those “flagellants who are always looking for something new.” Since I was a little girl, after every meal, I would have to lie down on the floor because my stomach would expand and distend, starting anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour after I finished. When I got into high school, I tried to remove what I thought would help. I was a vegetarian for awhile, removed dairy, and eventually cut out the breads and pasta, but at that age didn’t consider the gluten hidden in so many foods. It wasn’t until I was out of college and living here in Alaska that I came across a naturopathic doctors’ practice who recommended a food allergy panel, and for me, gluten AND gliaden (both parts of the wheat) were off-the-charts sensitive. While I don’t have celiac disease (I had been tested for that as a child), eating wheat or gluten sets off an inflammatory reaction in my body that included what I call my “wheat baby” (I look about six months pregnant), joint aches, headaches, rashes, and brain fog.

      I agree that a lot of packaged “gluten-free” products are often devoid of a lot of important nutrients. Still, I’d rather have a couple of slices of GF bread a week, avoid most pre-packaged GF, and enjoy grains like brown rice, quinoa, and millet. I haven’t seen any research that says half of carbs should come from grains, and I’m not saying that a diet of gluten-free cheese nips, french fries, and red meat is the way to go. For some of us, though, looking for whole grains that naturally contain no gluten or wheat is the way to keep healthy and clear of mind.

  31. I only recently became a full vegetarian – in late October. I’d been keeping up with your blog for about a year and, finally, decided to take the plunge. I’ve had meat a couple times since but haven’t really missed it much except when there’s a ham directly in front of me. After reading this post, I got Eat to Live from the library and devoured it (pun fully intended) in one day. Over the next few weeks, I’m planning to use up the foods I have around the house already and begin replacing them with foods that fit the Eat to Live plan. Within three weeks or so, I should be fully following E2L. I’m definitely planning to follow it strictly for the full six weeks to see how things go.

  32. Hi Matt – do you have a follow up report on how the Eat to Live challenge went?

    Completely unrelated but I read your book in about 2 days. I guess others would consider me an “advanced” runner and I devour all Vegan exercise books – Thrive being an important one to me. I loved your book even though it was geared towards newbies. Great job!

    • Hi Amanda,

      I haven’t written a followup yet, but I plan to! The long and short of it is that I adjusted to the taste of the food without salt very soon after I wrote this post. The problem I didn’t solve was losing weight — I felt like I just couldn’t get enough calories, and I lost several pounds (which I know many people would consider a good thing, but not me). My wife had a lot of success with it and lost 12 pounds or so in the first three weeks, and she has stayed with it. I’ve kept a lot of elements — and I definitely notice every time that I reach for the salt or oil now — but have been more lenient and am adding oil from time to time just to boost my calories.

      Glad you liked my book; thanks for the feedback!

      • Hi Matt,

        Thanks so much for the reply. One of the reasons I relate so well to your site and posts is because I am also a skinny runner! I have no need to lose weight and actually need to gain some. Like I said before I love reading all about the vegan lifestyle and running/sports books but a lot of time/pages are devoted to how to lose weight. I think there needs to be a “maintenance” program so we all don’t walk around as skeletons. I understand people need to get to a healthy point first but once there, let’s eat enough to stay active! Thanks again 🙂

        • Hi Amanda,

          I see your point and understand that you as a fit person (and “thin” in comparison to the average person) feel like all focus is on losing weight, and yes, that’s the biggest issue in the western world at the moment but, never the less, you are right, it’s not always about just losing weight.

          Have you read any books/seen any video’s from Doug Graham? The focus is getting people healthy, period. If that means getting more muscle tissue and/or losing body fat does not really matter, the goal is to get to the point where you thrive, physically and mentally.

          • I hadn’t seen any of the books or videos by Doug Graham but I see them now! Awesome. Can’t wait to read these. Thanks, Matt!


  33. I am hoping ‘eat to live’ will compliment and solve a few dietary problems this end. Getting into runbq quite well now. Thank you for keeping me o your mailing list . Yours in runni g

  34. Although I’ve been vegan for the past 11 years – I just started a similar program (McDougall diet) in January. Me: old (62 years) female with a torn meniscus since 2008, and an autoimmune thyroid disorder (Hashimoto’s disease). But , hey I’m feeling pretty good. Last week did an 8K (my best time since 2007) – gonna try to eat this way for a year!

  35. Lisa Lewis says:

    I purchased Eat To Live a few years ago, read it, and then proceeded to not follow the program! It wasn’t until this last new year that I truly was ready to get healthy. I’ve always eaten pretty well, but consumed nowhere near the amount of vegetables that Dr. Fuhrman recommends. For the last 2 months I have been( loosely) following the program. I am not finding it too hard to consume the 2 pounds of vegetables on most days. I have slipped into eating too much animal protein- about 4- 6 oz a day. I’ve noticed the weight loss slowing down. When I’ve really gone overboard with processed sweets, I definitely notice a decline in my energy.
    I am so glad to have the chance to be the best me. You calling this a challenge appeals to me. A challenge with myself. I feel a new motivation growing in me. Even though I’ve often taken 2 steps forward and 1 step backwards, I am moving in the right direction.
    Thanks for helping me reevaluate!
    The salt is definitely the hardest part for me too!( I hate Mrs. Dash – have you found any other good salt substitutes?)

  36. danielmarshall41a says:

    1. You are eventually going to like vegetables without salt, as long as you eat no salt.
    2. Frozen bananas whipped, or bananas with nuts frozen, makes great vegan ice cream. Flavor with fruit of choice.
    3. Some thin people have a nervous diathesis and need: outdoor life, good food, exercise; plus kindness, sympathy, understanding. I am one such and write from dramatic experience (50 lbs.). This recommendation is from Herbert M. Shelton, the health guru of the mid-twentieth century and writer of health classics. If you’re like me, you’re not going to do it by stuffing yourself with high-calorie foods; I tried. I did it working as a foot messenger and eating bunches of bananas, big salads, and nuts (go easy on nuts; they’re concentrated proteins; be nice to your liver). My feet grew 1 1/2 sizes.
    4. I follow Eat to Live and have been generally living this way for 45 years (except that not using oil started with reading Eat to Live).
    5. I like the favorite recipe that you presented.

  37. Kathleen says:

    I’m a 58 year old female, post menopausal and vegetarian most of my life, but still a sugar addict. I did Eat to Live three years ago and stuck with it very strictly for about eight months. The first 28 days I lost 25 lbs, and I’ve never lost any weight before on any diet prior. I didn’t miss the sweets too badly as my taste buds adjusted, and I felt so fantastic and full of energy. I live alone and found that I became bored with the same foods over and over again. I found that you HAVE to try new recipes and different veggies and dishes to keep yourself from getting bored, if not, you’ll start to drift off it, as I did, and that’s why I’m reading this blog, because I want to do it again, and be healthy. Although I eat no meat, my body produces cholesterol and I have to watch my dairy, which is another thing I have to stop or it’s going to kill me. ETL is a great way to show you how you should be eating for optimal health, and it’s your choice whether or not to continue or cave to the bad habits again.

  38. Steve Pastor says:

    I’ve been doing the vegan version of “Eat to Live” for 15 years (which is far more beneficial than 6 weeks) and strictly followed a very similar precursor to ETL for 30 years before that. I met Dr. Fuhrman and his sister Gale at a National Health Association (formerly the ANHS) “Natural Living Seminar” in 1976. This was about eight years before he decided to go to medical school. I believe he was 22 years old and he and his sister were at that time the second top figure skaters in the country and the third top in the world. His interest in the raw or high raw whole food vegan diet that the ANHS promoted was related to his status as a world class athlete.
    I can guarantee that you will lose your taste for salt. It will start tasting bitter and it will become hard for you to believe that there was a time when you enjoyed it. You will develop an ability to taste delicious natural flavors that you never knew were there.

    • Victoria Lastra Soledad says:

      I love this story and appreciate the encouragement you give regarding the salt issue that so many experience when starting ETL. I’m closing out my third week of the six week plan and really struggled leaving the salt alone this week. The first and second weeks were enjoyable and easy for, but somehow, the third week really had me struggling. Thankfully, I’m showing signs of being in the clear. However, I think the fact that you’ve been eating clean for so many years and reassuring us newbies that it will be okay, certainly helps! I’m so excited about the progress I’ve made so far. Internally, I feel so much better. No more lower abdominal pain, constipation, migraines, mood swings, depression, anxiety and joint pain!! That’s just in THREE weeks. I can only imagine how great I’ll feel after the six weeks and on toward the next 15! You’re an inspiration sir! Thank you 🙂 And I would also like to extend some gratitude to Matt Frazier, for sharing your journey. And a thank you to the other commenters here. The support I found here is priceless.

  39. Vincent says:

    Dr. Furhman is a hero and a gift to everyone who wants health and a long life. He’ll get you excited about tasty, healthy food for your body/life. Have tried it, and will never look back. Only wish I could have swayed some of my family members along before they suffered the last decade of their life-with what I now know could probably have been prevented. Didn’t have all of the information then. Ill health affects whole families-everyone suffers.
    If by some strange coincidence that you stumble across this review and read it, a sincere “Thank you-Dr. Fuhrman!!!!! You have been sent to us from somewhere fine.

    • Victoria Lastra Soledad says:

      I second your sentiments here Vincent! I would also like to thank Dr. Fuhrman for giving us this knowledge and fighting chance at a healthier life that we can hopefully pass on to our children and extended family members. It hit my heart when you said that you wished you could have swayed some of your family before they suffered so much. I hope one day you can be a great example to your family, the way you’ve been a good example to me (a stranger) here today. After I’ve finished my six week transformation with ETL, I hope to never look back either. Take care and thank you!

  40. I’ve been doing the Eat to Live Plan for a few weeks now. I’m losing weight on it. Unlike people who are trying to lose weight, I’m actually perturbed by it. I feel like I don’t have options and weight loss is being thrown in my face these days! I got into powerlifting not too long ago and I was trying to gain weight when I had to have angioplasty a month ago. Now I’m told I shouldn’t lift weights anymore and that I need to lose weight (I was 178 with a 19% bodyfat when prior to the angioplasty. Now I’m 170).
    Instead of feeling better, I feel hungry all the time, and I get frustrated and a bit cross with people lately. Is this just an adjustment phase? Is this really the best diet for a heart healthy way to eat AND still be athletic?

  41. I’ve been eating this way, no booze, no coffee, minimal salt( use Dr Fuhrman’s vegizest product for example), no meat, minimal sugar, maybe snuck small chocolate once a month? Maybe, for a year, and it gets easier and easier: weight down to 132 steady, strength up 20%, 5k time decreased by 2 mins!!!(at 50 years old), cholesterol down 60 points! With ldl great, hdl at highest healthy level, and BP improved. For coffee, I do do Dandy Blend! With hemp milk, I do sneak a little goat milk, apparently harmless, health wise. I’ll never change, why would I?

  42. Barbara W says:

    when i was doing the ETL program, i remember reading that the secret is that you need to get all of the Nutrients out of your food.

    Dr Fuhrman said, “Chew your foods thoroughly to breakdown its cellular walls to release as many of the nutrients as possible.”

    When i was doing this, i had gotten to the point that i craved my salads and fruits, and felt great. I see a lot of people who put a large amount of food into their mouth and chew 3 or four times then swallow, if you do this you are not getting the benefits from your food. I think the smoothies get to the nutrients but if you do too many you don’t have the satisfaction of chewing.

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