the green meanies: a scientific investigation

blue-green meanieSo for the past four days I’ve been on a rather extreme form of diet; yes me, who never goes on diets. And, in the world of diets, faddy or otherwise, it would be hard to find one more extreme than this one. You see, I am not allowed to eat food on this diet.

Let me repeat that: I am not allowed to eat food on this diet.

There is a very good reason the word “Diet” derives from the root word “Die.”

Click onward if you dare and read the entire 2007-word, heart-rending, or at least angina-producing, saga.

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I have a friend staying with me, let us call him the Cybergypsy, for that is what he calls himself, yea, when he isn’t using one of his other names. And who is this Cybergypsy? He’s a Modern Tribal Artist, Holistic Healer and Raw Food Chef who is, in fact, in demand around the world. He’s a leader in the raw food movement and a friend of mine for many years and let me tell you, he has never in all the time I’ve known him looked healthier or been happier or more balanced than he is at this very moment, most of which he attributes, rightly or wrongly, to his raw food diet.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a demi-destitute person in possession of a free world-famous live-in spa service and personal chef should avail herself of said services (which do not include the services of which you’re thinking, you dirty blog reader, you!). So, since the #1 thing he raves about is the fantastic cleansing effect of a four-day green smoothie fast, and since I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled anyway and figure four days on even a deadly toxic diet probably won’t kill me, these appear to be the optimal circumstances for giving the ol’ vegan orthodoxy a go and so I ask him to put me on said four day green smoothie fast.

Cuz sometimes I’m just not very bright, y’all.

Now, it should be mentioned that this is a test of will more than anything else. I’ve been on some stupid diets before, although more by poverty than by choice (eg hmmm, what will I have for dinner today? How about some scrumptious barley with savoury soy sauce? Hoo boy, can’t wait! etc, etc…) and I know that I can pretty much tough out a week on Cheerios and water if I have to. But the fact remains that I prefer Cheerios and water, or barley and soy sauce, or even, frankly, licking the soles of my shoes, to green smoothies, so staying on this will be a matter of straight-up willpower.

Invisible Dinner!

Now: I love spinach. I love salads. I love mangos, and pineapple, and bananas, and all kinds of things that go in smoothies. I just don’t like smoothies. Nonetheless, I hold my nose and my taste buds and my better judgement and I commit to the four days of olive-to-Chartreuse congee-textured “nourishment”.

The premise is that after the first day of clearing out the pipes, your intestines sort of realize they’re not going to be needed and they more or less shut down; this is supposed to reroute apparently boundless energy to the rest of your body and you receive an incredible boost, comparable perhaps to snorting a couple of ounces of primo Columbian.

This does not occur.

The first thing that happens is, I get a headache. I never get headaches, for reference; well, I get them maybe once every year or so, to put things in perspective, yet nonetheless, within eight hours of starting this diet I get a killer headache. I mean, I get the kind of headache where it feels as if Leatherface has caught me and is determinedly trying to make a nice vase out of my skull, only the damn chainsaw won’t cut all the way through, no matter how long he keeps at it. He keeps at it all four days. And yes, you may insert “thick skull” joke here; as I told you earlier, I’m obviously not very bright.

Every four hours or so I down another perhaps 24 ounces of green sludge, sometimes with mangos, sometimes with pineapple, and it tastes in reality not too bad although I would rather have some mangos or some pineapples and some salad, rather than the miscegenistic pureed concoction which confronts me at regular intervals all day.

The second thing that happens is, and this is the truly dangerous part, I become extremely cranky.

This should give anyone pause. I mean, look at how I am normally, and turn the Bitch Dial up past maximum, then go to hyperdrive, kick in the afterburners, and jump to Warp Eighteen. On PMS.

Which reminds me, the third thing that happens is, I get my period a week early. Apparently this is a classic response to physical or mental stress, which there is no doubt I’m under, as I’m getting maybe 600 calories per day, or less than 50% of the recommended minimum for a healthy person my height, sex, and build, perhaps 10% of it protein.

The fourth thing that happens is I become almost comically stupid. Okay, actually comically stupid. A full list of the truly dimbulb things I’ve done over the past four days would run to the tens of thousands of words, but just as an example, instead of giving my face a refreshing spritz of my neroli water hydrating mist, I squirted moisturizer all over my face and hair; L’Oreal bukkake time chez raincoaster!

Also (#5), I actually lack the oomph to blog or exercise, hence all the YouTube and quiz and Archive filler you’ve been digesting so diligently. If the diet weakens me to the point where I cannot complete even 1/4 of my usual rollerblade route without resting several times (yes, it was my first time out this year, but that’s just a bizarre impairment, well over what would be expected) there’s something wrong with it. I force myself to go for long walks and a should-be-but-isn’t-easy skate because I remember that people on ultra low calorie diets lose muscle as well as fat, except if they continue to exercise, which means they only lose fat. I don’t want to dissolve the hard-won muscles I’ve been working on for three months now.

Of course, then there are the chest pains (#6).

It is at this point that I instantly decide that the experiment as such is concluded, and head directly, if slowly, to T&T supermarket, where I purchase and devour with great pleasure three Vietnamese salad rolls with shrimp and peanut sauce. When I get home I announce the chest pains and the conclusion of the diet to the Cybergypsy, who looks properly alarmed, but who suggests that I am mistaking other symptoms for chest pains. At this point I reach deeply (or shallowly) within myself, reference the bitchiness I referred to earlier, and direct it at the Cybergypsy, who leaps up off the sofa and makes me some soup, STAT. He’s well aware that I could slip back into carnivorous ways any moment, and he’s the handiest meat source around.

From this point on, I’m on what you might call a modified green smoothie fast, in that I am on green smoothies until I decide that I’m not, whereupon I have some of Cybergypsy‘s miso soup with mushrooms and seaweed, which is, it must be admitted, among the best soups I’ve ever had, or, if pressed and near exhaustion like, say, on a rollerblading expedition, perhaps a couple of chicken fajitas from McDonalds (which I normally never go into; I MUST be desperate), or a nice serving of proper salad with Greek salad on top of it and some yummy feta, or even (over Lydia‘s protests) six pieces of sushi. And I’m back on my multivitamins and calcium chews. Sue me.

It should be mentioned that, in the spirit of indulging a crazy friend, Lydia has offered me her Green Chartreuse on the general principle that it’s green and you can blend it nicely and I could surely use a drink by this point, but alas, it appears that the monks of Chartreuse are fickle and that after a mere seven years in the cupboard the erstwhile Green Chartreuse has turned the colour of transmission fluid, bespeckled with floaty bits. As such, I think it likelier than ever that it would meet with my coach’s approval, for verily something in there is alive and must therefore qualify as Raw, but oddly I pass.

Also in the spirit of indulging a crazy friend, Timethief has posted about the raw food vegan diet. There are indeed many good things to be said about incorporating an ecological sensibility into our dietary choices, as well as a consciousness of the health benefits of reducing the amount of meats in our diet, but I’m not currently of a mindset to say them, to say the least.

Have I mentioned my blog posts suck lately? At least I’ve gotten enough strength back to get my word count up…

Effect #7 is that I become incredibly hungry. Okay, hands up who DIDN’T see this coming? Still, the Cybergypsy stalls. “What do you mean by ‘hunger,’ he says,” and tries to rationalize it away as anything else but hunger, at which point I go absolutely apeshit on him and hands up who didn’t see THAT coming? Now, the hunger might have something to do with getting my period, which reportedly burns 200 or so extra calories on the first day because it’s basically nothing but muscle contractions and blood loss, but since I’m putting the early period down to the diet, I’m putting the hunger down to it as well.

Effect #7 is a weird itchiness all over, the vague sensation that bugs are crawling on my skin at all times, which is particularly irritating as I’m trying to get to sleep.

Effect #9 is, apparently, that I lose the ability to count.

Effect #10, which hits day three, is that my mouth becomes full of canker sores and my glands swell up. I refer you to any medical journal or alternative medicine practitioner: this is not a sign of increasing health. It’s a classic response to physical stress. If the detox orthodoxy is correct, then this must be because my circulatory system must be ragingly full of toxins right now, and perhaps toning down the fast thing is a good idea, no? I stuff down the multivitamin and two of the natural-source E’s and hope for the best.

Effects #11, which manifest on Day Four, once I’ve already cut back and reintroduced normal foods, are that my skin looks uncharacteristically dry, and I have a cold sore springing up. Also, the computer has developed an alarming tendency to crash, which I put down to sympathy pains. After one day completely off the diet, both these symptoms vanish, although it is to be noted that I still have the bloody headache except for the hour immediately after eating and the damn computer is still crashing.

Utterly Solipsistic Yet Nonetheless
Highly Accurate Conclusions

  • the diet had the practical effect of bringing on several classic symptoms of acute physical stress, from which I conclude that the diet is itself a major stressor and should be avoided. And don’t “well duh!” me, biotch!
  • the diet administrator’s response to each of a wide range of critical flags was that the solution was to continue with the diet. The orthodoxy references only itself; “Because it’s in the Bible, that’s why.”
  • my doctor thinks I’m an idiot, and there is evidence to support this thesis.
  • smoothies do substitute adequately for a meal, but are too low in calories (if prepared this way) to be a major dietary component.
  • I felt compelled to eat at McDonalds, which is normally a place I feel perfectly comfortable avoiding for months at a time. The extreme deprivation of the diet, whether caloric or sensative, drives participants to overcompensate.

Okay, I think I’m done. Time for a buffalo burger!

26 thoughts on “the green meanies: a scientific investigation

  1. while on the fasting slushie thing, did you give up caffiene? if so, that might be the cause of your headache. when i had the flu some years back, on about day 3 (when i was feeling well enough to know how miserable i felt) i had a raging headache that no pain killer would remotely resemble relieving. on day 5 (of the flu and day 3 of the headache) i realized that i’d not had coffee in that length of time. 1/2 cup later and i had no more headache. i liked that part.

    i watch supersize me last night. that’s pretty much cured me from nearly every fast food there is…except veggie pitas with humus and babaganoush (or however it’s spelled).

  2. Yes, I gave up on caffeine, but a caffeine withdrawl headache, which I’ve had several times before, feels quite different at least to me (more acute, centered inside the brain) and only lasts a day and a half at most. Caffeine often alleviates headaches because it’s a vaso-somethingorother, can’t recall if it’s a dilator but I think it’s a constrictor, and it’s a common ingredient in painkillers for that reason.

    I’ve also had a headache from not eating enough, and this was like that. Exactly like that. This is only confirmed for me by the fact that every time I eat a meal the headache goes away, then it comes back in an hour or so, six shots of espresso notwithstanding. Obviously I’m still running on empty.

    Right now the temptation is to load up on the fats, but so far I’m being relatively cautious and am balancing things out with plenty of veggies.

    Fortunately, in Vancouver we’ve got a lot of healthy choices for fast food, starting with Steamrollers, whom I adore. That’s why it’s so odd that I went to McDonald’s: it’s right down the street from Chinatown, and I could have had the grilled chicken salad instead of the fajitas, but I didn’t.

    Fronty, don’t tempt me. Except that Coke Zero is awful.

  3. I’ve surprised myself: my eating is not the least bit out of control. The stomach must really shrink if you don’t feed it much, because so far today I’ve had two scrambled eggs with gorgonzola, onions, spinach and celery, a glass of guava juice, a six-espresso 1% latte, and a flatbread with peanut butter and Seville Marmalade. I am about to make some chili with low-fat ground buffalo meat and soybeans. This is not pigging out by anyone’s measurement.

    But I still have that damn headache. Self medicating with another 200-calorie flatbread.

  4. Christ. That’s the scariest thing I’ve read since Peter Straub’s Shadowland. OK. Scarier even.

    I’d have been on the whisky by halfway through Day 2.

  5. There’s a reason everything else eats vegans. They clearly aren’t healthy enough to escape.

    The rising popularity of this sort of silliness may explain a great deal about the North American political landscape in the past seven years or so: “I meant to vote for Gore, but I got sorta lightheaded and confused.”

    I’m seriously considering calorie reduction. I’m actually learning to treasure a rumbling stomach, for in appetite as in much else, anticipation is part of the sweetness. But if you see me downing green sludge, it’s gonna be a shamrock shake.

    Come by our place if you need a rest cure, we’ve had the barbeque out for a couple of weeks. We’ll happily cook you a haunch of venison, provided you can actually catch it yourself. It usually prances through the backyard at dawn, nibbling daintily at the delicacies fair nature hath contrived to produce for its exclusive consumption in our flowerbeds.

    It’s about five foot and a hundred pounds, so you’re evenly matched.

  6. In my last job, one of the fellows was a vegetarian, and he knew all the best vegetarian jokes. My favourite: “Yeah, I know what vegetables are… that’s what food eats”.

    As for the apparent toxic reaction to the diet — were you drinking vast quantities of water? When you’re doing anything that forces your body to draw on your fat reserves, you should be drinking lots to keep your system flushed. Of course that puts a strain on your kidneys, but there’s the trade off…

  7. Yes, Doug, of course I was; I’m less hydrated now, probably because what I’m eating has a lot more protein, and I still drink more than my two litres of water daily. It’s not the water that puts the strain on the kidneys at all, it’s the toxins and the breakdown of protein from your own muscle fiber which creates acidic byproducts which is why you need to drink lots of water in the first place. The kidneys have to filter that out of the bloodstream, they don’t mind a lot of water; that is easy to deal with.

    And Metro, I’m surprised you say venison wanders through your back yard. Haven’t you called the cops yet and reported them for trespassing?

  8. No, no. Only some soft city-dweller who couldn’t cope with the natural world–like the sound of birds outside her window in the morning–would do that.

  9. I would do no such thing. Kill them and feed their poisoned carcasses to my enemies, perhaps. Report them to the cops…in this neighborhood, what would be the point?

  10. I hate these stupid extreme diets/cleansing programmes/etc.

    Way too extreme and serve no purpose whatsoever.

    Want to ‘detox’ a bit? Just eat very light (say, fruit & yoghurt) and drink plenty of water with fresh lime juice in it for a day – ONE day. Then cut out extra fat and salt, keep drinking lots of water. But also keep adding things that feel good. Poco á poco…

    There is no such thing as ‘bad food’ (well, except maybe for McDonalds). And even that shit can be metabolized when taken very occasionally. Like those two cups of coffee a day, two alcoholic drinks, up to 5 cigs … moderation.

    Honestly rain, you’re lucky you didn’t end up seriously ill.

    Meanwhile, two litres of water a day really should be a basic daily habit for everyone. Especially that one really big glass of water when you first wake up in the morning, even before you get out of bed. It really helps set you up for the day.

  11. RC: your solution has a certain elegance, I grant you. Removing, metaphorically, several stones in your shoe with some number of birds.

    Sorry Az, but I disagree.

    The “x quantity of water a day” business is a myth perpetuated by Coke and Pepsi, now that they’re trying to flog Dasani and Aquafina as health drinks.

    Eat when the belly rumbles and drink when you’re thirsty. It’s the way we’re built to operate. Green sludge is certainly an option, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

    I’ll stick to dead, burned animal flesh, and such vegetables as aren’t fast enough to escape the traps I set for them. Oh–and any cheeses I see lying around, torpid after consuming a small child.

  12. Since my bout of cancer, I’m much more experiential than before; I know that statistics can give averages and trends and are one source of wisdom, a good one, but that I should check in with my body and see how it’s feeling to gauge the success or failure of a particular program.

    Cybergypsy’s never looked better, like I said, and never felt better, but by god this did not work for me, nor, looking at the independent studies, should it have been expected to. Indeed, I expected it to be four days of pointless torture. If it had only been four days of torture, I could have stuck with it, but those two little words, CHEST PAINS, are the two that I take rather seriously, and brought about an immediate end.

    I do know that I personally feel better and am far stronger physically when I drink about two litres of water daily. If I don’t, my skate times suffer, I have to go down a size in my weightlifting, and I poop out much faster. This is something I’ve tracked over several years. Fitness logs are an amazing tool.

    Looking back at this diet I see that my estimate of 10% protein was way off: it’s more like 2.75%. So at that point you can see that just to maintain life functions I was probably digesting my own muscle fibres. That connects with the studies which report muscle loss on fasts, and is probably why gyms always try to get you on their protein smoothie diets.

    By the way, since I don’t own a scale and can’t be arsed to find my tape measure, I’ve no idea if I lost weight.

  13. The “x quantity of water a day” business is a myth perpetuated by Coke and Pepsi, now that they’re trying to flog Dasani and Aquafina as health drinks.

    Except that I’ve never heard of those Pepsi myths and discovered for myself many years ago that drinking more water made me feel much better.

    Cancer, rain? Did you blog about this? Are you okay now?

  14. I’m fine now. The cancer was 11 years ago and I’ve long since got the all-clear. The “eight glasses of water” thing is in a 1967 Canadian Air Force fitness manual I have, so it’s certainly been around a lot longer than designer water.

  15. Pingback: got coffee? « raincoaster

  16. Didn’t your raw chef friend tell you that doing any sort of fast involves detoxification symptoms? i.e. anything like, headaches, etc. are normal? Did you do anything to gradually ease into it, or go from eating McD’s straight to the fast? Fasting (even on green smoothies) is serious business, and requires you to do your own research. It’s not like have a doctor give you a drug, and all you have to do is sit back and relax and watch it work. NO – you have to do it intentionally and know what you’re doing. It’s like “Aw man, I went and saw a doctor, and ya know what, they put a needle in me! Can you imagine that??? I’m never going back there…Doctors are insane and no one should ever see one..” If you understand what you’re getting yourself into, and have better reasons for doing it other than just on a whim checkin’ out the raw vegan thing, you know what to expect, and you won’t make your life miserable!

  17. Thanks for the condescension, Julie. I don’t actually eat McDonald’s very often, as I said in the article, and Cybergypsy had been staying with me a number of weeks and helping me with my diet the entire time before we launched the fast. I was as prepared as anyone humanly could be. And headaches are common on fasts, but fasts themselves are not normal: the headache is a response to the shortage of nutrients in your bloodstream. Duh.

    The next time you have chest pains, just keep on doing exactly what you’re doing. I’m sure you’ll work through the “toxin release” phase to a phase where you never ingest another toxin again!

  18. Pingback: Things it is not fair to post when I’m on a diet « raincoaster

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