This is one of few categories that makes me nervous to write about. Eating with others, in front of others and sharing how I actually eat is scary for me. With my medical history it’s no wonder. Eating has been excruciating, isolating, and debilitating…why would I want to open up that part of life to the world?
Yet, I love sharing my story, good and bad, with the world because I know it is full of purpose. God is using my experiences to speak to others and for that I’m truly thankful.
Today, I’m sharing openly and honestly about this new healing journey I am on. My prayer is that this inspires even one other person to be courageous, do the work, and never give up. I’m also sharing this because it will hold me accountable to continue on this path.
In summary, I was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor in 2013 at the age of 20. I had to immediately withdraw from college, close out my life and head into the storm. I had a Whipple surgery to remove the cancer along with half my pancreas, my gallbladder, pieces of my duodenum, intestines, stomach, and lymph nodes. It is a brutal, torturous surgery and very long recovery. 6 weeks into recovery I developed pancreatitis for the first time, thought to be a surgical complication. This sickness never went away; I would briefly get better before my pancreas erupted all over again. The only way to treat this horrific disease is through pain meds, IV fluids, and keeping a patient NPO in the hospital. NPO means you have nothing to eat or drink by mouth for a period of 24 hours – several days.
After multiple hospital admissions, my pancreas continued to worse. Therefore I was eventually put on a 24/7 feeding tube, anchored deep in my intestine bypassing my stomach, as my sole source of nutrition. I consumed small amounts of clear liquids during this time but DID NOT EAT A SINGLE BITE OF FOOD FOR 300+ consecutive days. Healing was not happening. I was fighting for my life and dying very slowly, very painfully. I was a 21 year old who was practically bedridden, unable to do anything other than hope and pray that the next day would bring miracles.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I had to make the difficult yet life-saving decision to go through another brutal surgery to remove the remainder of my diseased pancreas along with my spleen and have an auto islet cell transplant (you can read about the surgery and recovery here.)
Things definitely got worse before they got better and though I was now “able” eat again, my body had completely forgotten how to eat and digest. My entire GI tract had be cut into, rearranged, partially removed, and sewn back together. Anatomically I am like Frankenstein at this point. Also, because of the extended amount of time that I spent on total digestive rest, I developed gastroparesis, bowel dysmotility, and chronic constipation along with a myriad of other residual damage from having a sick pancreas.
I continued to dramatically lose weight, getting down to 85 pounds although im 5’7.5″ with an athletic body type. At one point I had lost over 50 pounds from my starting weight which was lean and muscular. Through most of the last 2.5 years post-op, I’ve been slowly fighting to recover and discover life again…a new life in this new body.
Hard doesn’t even begin to cut it. I’ve been living off mostly pureed foods for years; mainly vegetables blended with herbs, spices, and broth to make some nutritious creations that my body could somewhat digest though never without extreme pain, nausea, and vomitting.
I’ve gradually gained weight and am around 105 pounds currently. I’m MUCH MUCH better and look like a completely different person. But the eating/digesting stuff, never really improved. And without being able to properly absorb nutrition you cannot fuel your body for deeper healing and progress forward. I could not continue on, for the rest of my life living that way. Doctors never knew what to tell me to do. Some would say “Whatever you think is best,” and others tried to convince me that I was “Doing great!” because I was better than before. Dieticians NEVER had any healthy advice. I was left to figure this whole thing out on my own.
So, I continued learning. During my period of not eating I spent tons of time thinking about food…what would I eat if I could? What foods would be the best to promote healing? What foods had I spent my entire life eating that would have contributed to my cancer and diseased pancreas? Why were we being taught to drink milk for our bones, cover our veggies in “heart healthy” olive oil and eat copious amounts of animal protein when THESE foods were the very culprits behind much of America’s sickness, obesity, and suffering?
Over and over again, from a variety of sources and perspectives and experts in medicine, science, and nutrition, the plant based diet proved to be the optimal diet for health and vitality. I read incredible stories of healing from nearly every imaginable disease. I knew that vegan was the way for me! I continued to wonder, how can I heal myself with food if I cannot eat? How can I heal myself with food when my body keeps thinking food is poison?
But when I started eating again, my doctors just wanted me to get calories and they didn’t care how. I also had just spent nearly one year without eating anything so I wanted to try (and deserved to) bites of things that were not good for me. I wanted to taste everything again! But nothing really tasted good…there was way too much salt, sugar, and oil on everything. My palate had not been stimulated so for the first time in my life I was tasting the real flavor of foods. My brain was not doped up on chemical taste enhancers (though I was doped up on other things) and I realized that the “normal” foods were so altered they no longer tasted natural… yet people will never notice that when they continue to shove their mouths full of unnatural things.
About five months post-op, I had finally had enough of trying to eat solid foods which did nothing but damage and caused excruciating suffering. I was living off of hot and sour soup broth from a local Chinese restaurant. I needed more calories, nutrition, strength… all my hair was falling out in massive wads and I was severely malnourished. I looked awful and felt even worse.
My dad suggested I try making my own soups with the vegetables that I love so much. I’m not picky at all– I love all food. When I say that, I don’t mean that in the way that most people mean when they say they like everything because usually that implies junk. I have never tasted a vegetable or fruit that I don’t love (besides grapefruit) and I thank God for giving me a family that raised me to eat all things. This has been a huge help in healing. So, I began experimenting and figuring out how to make delicious pureed soup out of any vegetable. My calorie intake was still way low but my nutrient/vitamin/mineral intake was sky-rocketing. Very, very slowly I was able to reverse the extreme deficiencies and heal many issues. I remained quite ill, as expected, because my recovery is projected to be 3-5 YEARS followed by a life time of chronic illness.
For the last 2 years I’ve been mostly vegan, eating dairy in the form of ice cream or a few bites of cheese about once a week. I also used coconut or olive oil to cook my veggies in and would buy veggie chips cooked in oil. I was under the illusion that these oils were “miracle foods” and health promoters. It wasn’t until January of this year that I truly learned the dangers of oil for our epithelial cells, cardiac health, blood flow and overall bodies.
Six months ago I had another abdominal surgery to insert a gastric stimulator device which works like a pacemaker for the stomach. This device can greatly improve quality of life by lessening nausea, vomitting, and helping the digestive process. It has certainly made a big difference in my world. I had 10 days that were amazing for me until we changed the settings on my device and threw everything out of whack. Things with the device are better now but have yet to return to their former glory.
Since January of this year I have been 100% vegan and have not consumed anything with an animal product. I’ve also been completely oil-free with the exception of a few meals at restaurants/vegetables at a wedding that probably were cooked with oil. While my simulator was helping I focused on eating a starch-based vegan diet (promoted by Forks Over Knives and Dr. McDougall.) I loved it..this is the way my husband and parents primarily eat at this point and they are thriving. But, once my device stopped helping as much I could no longer eat this way. I went back to being on 95% pureed foods and felt some better, yet eventually felt worse again. Until my learning and experimentation led me to the raw fruitarian diet.
What the heck is a fruitarian diet?
A raw fruitarian diet is a style of eating comprised mostly of properly ripened fruit along with tender greens (think salad greens like romaine) and easy to digest vegetables, along with the optional addition of seeds and nuts, herbs and spices. This lifestyle is mostly free from added salt and sugar. It is a vegan diet that DOES not include OIL. The fully raw diet means you do not eat cooked food. The fruitarian diet follows this macro nutrient ratio: 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, 10% fat.
Some of you are probably thinking this sounds bananas! Way too high in carbs (because all that fruit sugar will make you fat, cause diabetes, rot your teeth) and there is not way that’s enough protein, oh and the fat intake is too low. And isn’t that boring, or tasteless, or way too restrictive?
No, to all of the above.
I understand those reactions. But I also know the science behind this and I know and am confident that this is one of the most natural ways to feed our bodies and the body responds amazingly. I plan to write a post dispelling all these popular misconceptions (but this post is already super long, so let’s save it for another day.) You can learn more here.
This diet is SUPER high in water, nutrients, vitamins, minerals and magical healing properties found exclusively in plants. Super ripe fruit like spotty bananas with lots of brown areas along the peel, sweet melons, amazing oranges, the juiciest mangoes and crisp, watery romaine are the easiest foods for our bodies to break down. Digestion becomes effortless because of the high water content and the high fiber content. These fruits are gentle, do not cause bad gas and when eaten properly (meaning NOT in combination with animal foods, oil, processed foods and cooked foods for those of us with digestive issues) they can digest quickly and oh so efficiently. Mono meals are the best for easy digestion. Mono means ONE, so a mono meal is when you eat only one food for your entire meal. I’ve been eating 2 cantaloupes at a time, or I’ll eat as many ripe mangoes as I can comfortably consume, and sometimes it’s a meal of several ripe bananas. When you give your body only ONE element to digest, especially a food full of water, fiber, and nutrients, the body does not have to expend as much effort and can use energy for other functions like healing.
Take it from someone who did not have functioning bowels and a semi paralyzed GI tract… these foods will clean you out and move through you. In fact.. I’m 2.5 weeks laxative free! If you know me, you know I’ve been living on at least 6 types of laxatives PER DAY for the last 2.5 years. I decided to remove myself from them (something I’ve tried many times and regretted within a day) and push my body to re-learn this process on its on. After learning proper food combining techniques, my digestion has improved ten fold. It’s not perfect and there are some days I’m left frustrated, BUT, this recovery has been years in the making and I cannot expect that one month of fruitarianism will bring me to my healing goals.
Basically, “raw food is living food and cooked food is dead.” I’m not in the camp that thinks properly cooked plant-based food is bad. However, raw food (with the exception of some vegetables that are very hard to digest raw) is best. Raw foods like fruits and greens are overflowing with perfect enzymes that are killed off during the cooking process thus decreasing their nutrient bioavailabiliy. When you eat them raw you get all of their water and antioxidant power. For someone trying to heal from complicated disease, I want to eat whatever is the MOST nutritionally dense. Also, for me, I either have to eat all cooked food or all raw food. My digestion does not like it when I try to mix. Until recently I could never eat lettuce although I craved salad constantly. I figured out that when I’m eating completely raw, romaine lettuce is not an issue for me…it’s actually quite soothing to my system. To learn more about the raw food benefits, please check out this amazing story at ChrisBeatCancer.com.
I’ve been living off raw fruit and leafy greens since April 17th with the exception of a few meals when I had cooked vegan foods (vegetables, rice, tofu, multigrain bread.) I enjoyed those meals immensely though they were NOT worth it at this point. My intestines slowed down significantly in the days following and actually, I’m still feeling the effects of some cooked veggies nearly a week later.
This week I made the decision to go FULLY RAW for as long as it takes to heal on a deeper level and get my digestion working properly, because I 100% believe I am going to make this happen with diligence, discipline and hard work. I never thought digestion would truly improve. Now, I’m seeing many glimpses of a bright future and I keep visualizing myself with the body I want, running around, working, having babies and thriving. I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on this. I’m going to keep my eyes fixed on THE LORD, my shield, my strength, my guide and my Healer. I know He is leading me on this raw journey. He is answering the prayers of so many of you by showing me a way when I thought there wasn’t one. THANK YOU for continuing to fervently pray over these last 3.5 prayers. And thank you for continuing now!
I feel like I am praising Him with every bite I take. Why? Because I’m eating directly from the Earth He created! I’m treating my body the BEST I possibly can. I’m honoring Him with my body and decisions and listening to what He asks. This is a hard journey. And yes, I’m loving the taste of everything I’m eating ((I love that fruit is basically mush when it’s ripe so I feel like I’m eating fully solid food even though it’s mostly water)) BUT I still live in a world where I cook (vegan) for my husband, drive by restaurants on every corner and eat COMPLETELY different than anyone I’ve ever met. This is hard. I remind myself that this type of action and willingness to take responsibility for my life rather than playing the victim card, takes COURAGE. And it’s okay for me to call myself courageous. Courage is DOING something in the midst of fear and the unknown.
Fruit is nature’s candy! One bite of sweet, juicy fruit feels like an indulgence..a dessert! You could literally eat banana ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner.. add in a salad somewhere or make your banana ice cream with the addition of greens and BOOM, you’re all set! Fresh, good produce feels like such a treat to me. I even love and crave the taste of a crisp head of romaine lettuce. It’s a gift to eat so simply, without the needs for flavor enhancers, chemicals, processing, tons of salt or sugar. Fruit is truly the best type of fast food– simply wash and peel, chopping is required for some…but it seriously does not get much easier, healthier or more delicious.
I’ll touch on this more in the future…currently I’m experiencing a deep level of detox and it stinks. It feels like the flu. My body hurts extra. My skin looks terrible up close. I’ve never had much acne but now I have all these little bumps covering my face and part of my neck. They feel/look gross. This tempts me into wanting to get a hot broth based soup to soothe me or a big plate of steamed veggies or dive into some soft bread. Don’t get me wrong, these foods can be healthy and wonderful! But, currently, they wreak havoc on my body. After removing added salt (plants have natural sodium-I am getting enough but not too much sodium each day) and spices, my puffiness has decreased and I’ve put less stress on my body. I HAVE to stick with leaning on the power of raw fruits and greens to heal my body and I know that quitting and giving in simply for the feeling of comfort or conformity is NOT worth it. I’m actually thankful for this level or detox because my body is entering into a “healing crisis” which means a deeper level of healing is happening.
DO HARD THINGS, people! LIVE with courage. LIVE with faith. LIVE different. BE BOLD. and PUT IN THE WORK. LISTEN to your body and your Creator.
The challenge for most people with this style of eating is learning to re-think portion sizes. 300 calories of cantaloupe means I have to eat 1.5 medium melons while 300 calories of cheese pizza is one slice. You have to eat large volumes to get the calories and honestly, it hasn’t been hard for me to eat larger quantities because the water content helps the food to still light and never heavy.
I’m excited to have you all along with me for this journey. If you see me at a wedding this summer, a restaurant, a family/church function you’ll understand why I have a giant bowl of romaine, or an entire cantaloupe or huge green smoothie. My calorie intake is still at least 600 calories below my minimum goal (we must rethink calories and stop considering them all bad– we need ENERGY to thrive– think about WHERE you are getting your calories from rather than how many) but my nutrient targets are maxed out every day.
For example, I’m getting a minimum of 3,000% of my iron needs every day… 200% fiber… 2,000% Vitamin A, 3,000% Vitamin C and 1,300% Folate… I am a little low on protein (I’m so close) ONLY because my calories are low. If you eat sufficient calories of any diet, you are getting adequate protein. In America we need to be concerned that the majority of the population is getting way TOO MUCH protein and NOT ENOUGH fiber, nutrients and essential minerals.
Anyway, I’m planning to post an update each week along with sharing informative posts answering questions such as how do I grocery shop? How much do I buy? What do I eat in a day? How much does the food cost? How do I handle social situations? What benefits am I noticing? And many, many more, IF there is something you are specifically interested in knowing please let me know!
If you are still reading, thank you. Thank you so much for your interest, support, encouragement, love and prayers. I am incredibly grateful for this little platform the Lord has given me to tell of His glory and His story.
Until next time… eat your fruit and veggies, my friends!
For more: listen to Still Waters Blog Podcast available for download, here.