I’ve always been accustomed to a diet rich in exotic fruit; because I grew up on a tropical island (Puerto Rico), it’s a food group that finds its way into most of my meals. Papayas, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, passion fruits, watermelons and berries are just a few of nature’s candies that I typically enjoy at home.
That is why when I first read about the Raw-Till-4 diet it sounded more like an extension of my way of eating than a restrictive diet. All of the raw fruits and veggies I could eat before 4 pm, and a hearty cooked meal for dinner?! It sounded perfect to me.
When Lent arrived freshman year, I couldn’t decide on a Lenten penance. In the past, I have abstained from chocolate, sweets and Facebook, but this time I wanted something that would challenge me both mentally and physically. As I took my last bite of fried egg on avocado toast and wiped off the pearl of yellow yolk hanging from my chin, I made my decision. For an entire month I would abstain from eating cooked food before 4 o’clock. It sounded like the perfect challenge.
I began my first week feeling optimistic, convinced that the diet would be a piece of cake (not literally of course). I started every morning by consuming enough fruit to feed the entire freshman population in the dining hall (sorry for taking it all) and stuffed my backpack with fruits for snacks until every zipper was stretched, each strand of fabric visible as they exhaustingly tried to keep my bag from bursting.
For lunch I would assemble the Mount Everest of all salads. I’d take as many ingredients as I could get my hands on, and like someone building a house of cards, intricately place each item one-on-top of the other in a balancing act—any tight-rope walker would be impressed. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, carrots, chickpeas, beans, mushrooms, cucumbers were just some of the ingredients I’d include in my tower for a satisfying, but often messy, lunch.
After eating my monster of a salad I’d snack on fruits and veggies for the rest of the afternoon, eagerly waiting for 4 pm and dinner. Rice, cooked vegetables and fish was what I typically ate, occasionally replacing that meal with pasta and veggies.
I was feeling alive. I felt less sluggish and, surprisingly, craved fruit and vegetables. On top of that—and maybe it was all psychological but—I even thought I looked better. I finished the first week feeling motivated for Week 2, convinced it was only going to get better.
Disclaimer: The weekend was a bit harder. When all my friends were ordering french toast at brunch, I had to ask for a smoothie or about 10 bowls of fruit. Stay strong.
Week 2 was just an extension of Week 1; I still felt great. However, I was quickly tiring of the options at the dining hall. Pineapple, watermelon, bananas and grapefruit were not exactly exciting my taste buds anymore, seeing as they were all I had eaten in the morning for the past week. Luckily enough for me, I had a Vitamix in my room (best birthday present EVER), so I put it to good use.
That week I ventured to the grocery store, or as I like to call it the Garden of Eden, and sprinted to the fruit and vegetable sections. Like a child in a candy store, I ran around frantically, grabbing all of my favorite fresh fruits—papaya, strawberries, passion fruit, mango—and a bag of frozen berries. This changed Week 2 for me. Instead of just eating solid pieces of fruit during the day I was making delicious green and berry smoothies and juices, to have for breakfast and as snacks.
Needless to say lunch was getting repetitive at this point as well, so I also rummaged the grocery store for some more “interesting” veggies. I stocked up on avocados, kale, portobello mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and alfalfa sprouts to make lunches I could look forward to eating. I even made a portobello “burger” that was to die for. This made Week 2 go by with ease and instilled in me a confidence that lifted my hopes as I headed into Week 3.
Around Wednesday of Week 3 I realized that all I wanted for breakfast was toast with avocado and an egg on it…Or just toast…Or oatmeal, or really ANYTHING warm. I was also back to eating the dining hall fruit by this point because my bank account wasn’t exactly forgiving about my food purchases from the week before.
In addition, the energy I felt during Week 1 and 2 had disappeared without a trace. Instead I was tired, moody, and had a headache as pesky and persistent as a gnat buzzing around your head. This may have been because I was not eating enough—only because I could not muster the will power to force the same fruit into my mouth again. I also found that during Week 3 I was really overdoing it with my 4 o’clock meals.
I was skimping on food throughout the day and really gorging at dinner—sometimes eating a full meal, and then “snacking” on another one. I went into Week 4 ready to quit, ready for some real breakfast.
To my surprise the beginning of Week 4 was not terrible. I took some of the dining hall fruit and made smoothies, which was more enjoyable than taking bites of the fruit itself. However, halfway through the week something strange happened. I dreamt about bread. It was an extremely vivid dream. I could feel my teeth sinking into a perfectly crispy, bronzed piece of toast that was drowning in sticky peanut butter as a drizzle of honey trickled off the side of it and slowly slid down my hand.
I think it was my subconscious’ way of reminding me that I didn’t want cold fruit for breakfast; I wanted something warm and comforting to fill my belly and my heart, but I decided to weather on. I finished the last week exasperated and hungry, but proud. I had made it through.
Living on a college campus really inhibited my creativity—making meals in my dorm was like trying to paint a masterpiece with just two colors (yeah I just compared myself to a master painter). But really, limited access to ingredients was the biggest obstacle I faced; had I been at home I believe that Week 3 and 4 would have felt just as great as the first two.
Since then I’ve continued including Raw-Till-4 in my diet, but for shorter periods of time, usually only a couple of days, sometimes a week at a time. However, I’m sure that when I’m back home in Puerto Rico or if I am living in Hawaii (isn’t that everyone’s dream?) I could make it for the whole month.
If you think you’re up for it, I say give it a try. Most likely it will also make you feel more awake, lighter and healthier; plus I think it’s the perfect way to get back into your healthy routine with a kick. Just make sure you maintain variety in your meals or you too will start dreaming about bread.