Fruitarianism : Living Only On Fruit

Fruitarians believe that eating nothing but raw plants promotes health and happiness…


living-only-on-fruitOn the second night of the Woodstock fruit festival in upstate New York, long after dinner had been cleared, I stood in the dining hall and waited with other festivalgoers for what was rumoured to be a “fuck ton” of durian, a large, spiky tropical fruit famous for smelling like dung…It was the first of the festival’s many “Sweet Durian Nites”, a dance party that climaxed with the consumption of hundreds and hundreds of ripe durian fruits…A narrow-headed man with arms like an action figure introduced himself as Jay and asked if this was my first time trying durian. I told him I’d only had it cooked in puddings or cakes, and he assured me that raw, fresh durian was a completely different thing…
Then I heard a whoop coming from the centre of the room near the kitchen. Volunteers began wheeling carts from the back kitchen thawing room, each cart piled 40 or 50 menacing-looking globes high, every spiny lump wrapped in protective plastic netting… The air filled with an alarming smell, something like shit, something like cafeteria meat. I alternated between thinking that something had gone horribly wrong and reminding myself that it was only durian. This was the fourth annual Woodstock fruit festival, a 14 day celebration of health, fitness, and the consumption of an entirely raw fruit-based vegan diet. There is no meat at the festival, no animal products, no processed food. There are no grains, no nuts, no cooked or steamed or sauteed anything. There is no salt, no oil, no refined sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, garlic, or onion. Sometimes there are herbs or raw corn. What there is: fruit – more than $100,000 (£64,000) worth of fresh and frozen produce trucked in from fruit and vegetable wholesalers in the Bronx and Chinatown, greens from a nearby organic farm, and donated watermelon from a farmer in Pennsylvania…
I was first introduced to fruitarianism by a close friend who crashed with me for a weekend in 2012…Most faithfully described as a “plant-based raw vegan diet” (the term fruitarian is preferred among practitioners, although only a fraction are on an all-fruit diet), fruitarianism largely adheres to a nutritional regimen known as 80-10-10. This is a high-carb, low-fat diet in which at least 80 per cent of one’s calorie consumption is expected to come from the simple carbohydrates found in fresh fruits and vegetables, with at most 10 per cent each coming from protein and fat. As a point of comparison, the Atkins diet begins with a recommended ratio of 10% carbs, 29% protein, and 65% fat. Because fruits and vegetables naturally contain small amounts of fat and protein, Dr Doug Graham, an unlicensed chiropractor and the man behind 80-10-10, claims that you can thrive on a diet composed entirely of fresh raw fruits, raw leafy greens, and only occasional supplements of nuts or seeds. For a fruitarian, breakfast might be 1lb of kiwi blended with 1lb of orange juice, with 1lb 12oz of peeled bananas wrapped in romaine leaves for lunch, and a three-course dinner consisting of 1lb blended tangerines and pineapple; 1lb of tangerines, celery, and red bell peppers blended into a soup, and a side salad. This diet is not easy to maintain, but raw fruit experts promise a vast array of benefits. In testimonials, fruitarians claim that going raw has done everything from curing cancer to eliminating body odour and changing the colour of one’s eyes from brown to blue. Unlike other diets, 80-10-10 promises to transform your experience of your body, revealing levels of thriving that you didn’t know existed. In this way, “going raw” breaks with the traditional function of diet as rudimentary medicine (seen even in early Hippocratic medical texts) and becomes a lifestyle. A diet tells you what you should eat; a lifestyle tells you how you should feel about it.
The history of recreational dieting is fairly brief. Until the rise of natural-food communities in the 1970s, it could be argued that for most secular people, diet and lifestyle were imagined as distinct, compartmentalised aspects of daily life. Diets were faddish, seasonal, geared towards achieving a specific goal and then abandoned once they were no longer needed. They were not supposed to rearrange social ties or create new communities, only help you to succeed within your existing community by becoming a slimmer and more attractive version of yourself. From the 1880s onwards, after the discovery of food as a composite of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, most diets emphasised eating the right amount of existing mainstream foods in the right proportion to satisfy nutritional needs. That changed with the leftist utopian food communities of the 1960s and 70s – a precursor to today’s fruitarians – and the age of negative nutrition, which sought to reduce or eliminate foods that had previously been part of a nutritious standard American diet. Negative nutrition spurned sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and fat – and the suspicions it raised about the standard American diet lent momentum to the growing natural foods movement.
In the natural foods movement of the 1960s and 70s, activists and hippies combined diet, politics, and community, to provide a vision of how one could live a life that matched one’s diet. Foods were eliminated not only for health reasons but in order to cultivate a desirable personality – meat-eating, for example, was denounced as an impediment to spiritual growth and a cause of aggressive behaviour…The fruitarian lifestyle shares the narrative structure of the macrobiotic diet, its emphasis on eliminating toxicity within the body, as well as its ethos of restrictive decadence. Where it differs from macrobiotics is in its fixation on a utopian past. Like those on the nutritionally inverse “paleo” diet, fruitarians eat in hope of returning to a past that predates the primal wound of agrarian society, but whereas paleo dieters hark back to the era when humans were hunter,gatherers, fruitarians look back to an even earlier time, when we were simply gatherers – equal, undifferentiated, and deeply in harmony with nature…
The Woodstock fruit festival began in 2010, a time when the fruitarian community was more scattered and less tech-savvy. Founder Michael Arnstein envisioned the festival as a place where eaters who had communicated online could meet in person, and where longtime practitioners could be brought into the spotlight and transformed into role models for those just starting out. Arnstein invited about 20 guests, established fruitarians, such as the YouTube celebrity Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram (aka FullyRawKristina), to speak at the festival and serve as fruit festival “pioneers”. In exchange for giving talks and leading exercises for free in the festival’s first year, pioneers are invited back each year, for varying amounts of compensation. Many of the festival presentations advised on how to deal with cravings. A craving for rich foods and desserts, for instance, might mean that I was not consuming enough calories… Having a stomach packed with fruit is a strange and not unpleasant sensation. After eating 3lb of mixed kiwis and nectarines, I felt agile and my mind seemed to work at double speed. Although I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t full, and the idea of achieving fullness was daunting – I didn’t know how much I’d have to eat, or how much time I’d have to spend peeling, tearing, chewing. Fruitarians make continual reference to how “digestible” fruit is, and one consequence of this digestibility is that you burn your meals quickly and are hungry again soon. Other consequences of digestibility are scatological. Any bathroom shared by 14 women is bound to be busy, but in the close quarters of our female-only cabin it was hard not to be aware of the steady procession into and out of our single shared toilet. Frequent defecation is an open secret of the fruitarian lifestyle, and while leaders of the movement don’t talk much about the downsides of this, they often tout the improved quality of your poop as a perk of the diet…
At the festival, I spent days talking to people endlessly about food: what kinds of fruit we could buy where we lived, what kinds we wanted to try, our dietary goals and aspirations…It’s generally believed that the development of agriculture made civilisation possible, freeing early humans from lives in which nearly all of their time had to be spent planning and pursuing food. I would say instead that agriculture, and the divisions of labour it propagated, created the precursors of our present-day lifestyle options – specialisations in class, consumption, and daily routine that have grown more numerous and finely demarcated over time. Lifestyle differentiation made possible lifestyle choice, including the choice to adopt a lifestyle in which you would once again spend nearly all of your time thinking about eating.
In theory, fruit is free and abundant, a sweet package of harm-free profit. Fruit is literally made to be eaten, and the relationship between an apple tree and the creature that eats the apple and transports its seed to some other promising location is symbiotic. What better basis for a community could there be than fruit, which is symbol and sustenance at once? But real fruit is expensive, difficult to source and ship without compromising on these principles. Most commercially grown fruit is harvested by labourers who are overworked and underpaid, then shipped long distances in gas-guzzling trucks or oil-guzzling ships that exact a toll on the environment. There are also health concerns. In 2013, Ashton Kutcher was hospitalised for two days after following a fruitarian diet for a month, part of a Method-acting stunt designed to prepare him for filming the Steve Jobs biopic Jobs (“I was doubled over in pain, and my pancreas levels were completely out of whack,” Kutcher later told reporters at the Sundance film festival.)
Conventional nutritionists confirm that the diet is too high in sugar, which can cause tooth cavities and overwork the pancreas, and too low in nutrients vital to maintaining the body. Fruit, for all its excellent qualities, is low in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, zinc, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, iodine, and vitamin D. Sticking to the diet long-term can result in dangerous deficiencies that many fruitarians try to ward off with nutritional testing and vitamin injections. And while going on a restrictive diet is not necessarily the same thing as having an eating disorder, doctors warn that the severe dietary restrictions inherent in eating strictly low-carb or fruitarian regimens can trigger orthorexia nervosa, a term that literally translates to a “fixation on righteous eating”. Orthorexics are prone to anxiety over the purity or healthfulness of their food, to the point where their restricted nutritional and caloric intake can cause severe malnutrition.
By the last day of the festival, I felt OK. For seven days I hadn’t eaten anything cooked, anything seasoned, anything animal, nut, or seed, and I hadn’t had any water – at first because I couldn’t find any cups on the festival grounds, and later because I realised I didn’t really need to. I didn’t have many cravings, though sometimes I felt annoyed that I had to eat more fruit… The fifth annual festival will take place in August 2015, and a promotional video from this past summer has already been released to encourage attendance… People smile wordlessly at one another, and share fruit.
(This is an abridged version of an essay from the latest issue of n+1, on sale now. To find out more, visit nplusonemag.com /subscribe.)
– The Guardian: Alexandra Kleeman.‘This means raw: extreme dieting and the battle among fruitarians’

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