Angela Stokes is a British woman who, about six years ago, tipped the scale at 300 pounds. Today, she weighs a stunning 138 and exudes a kind of inner peace that only comes from a profound inner transformation.
She lost the weight on a raw food vegan diet.
"So what do you have to say to that, Mr. Low Carb?" I've been asked (smugly) by more than a few people.
Actually, a few things. Starting with "Congratulations".
Here's the thing: The Standard American Diet (or in Angela's case, the Standard English Diet) is horrendous. One of the reasons that people lose weight- and frequently regain their health- on such a wide variety of eating plans is that nearly any "diet" or conscious eating strategy is a vast improvement over what they were doing.
Or, in other words, " anything is better than McDonald's!"
In Angela Stokes own words, "I ate junk food all the time. I was very closed down emotionally. I had no interest in dieting; I just wanted to eat all the time... that was my comfort in life".
Now it happens that Ms. Stokes accomplished what she accomplished using raw foods. Her diet was heavy on nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits and fresh juices. I can't see a thing to object to in that. Remember, I'm not really "Mr. Low Carb" I'm "Mr. No Junk". There's nothing incompatible about eating fresh whole foods and eating controlled carbohydrates.
Eating as she did, Ms. Stokes automatically cut out a good portion of the foods and ingredients that cause the scale to rise just as they cause your health to deteriorate: sugar, processed grains, trans-fats... need I go on?
Now we can quibble over details. Does this make Raw Foods "better" than Low- Carb or better than Weight Watchers or Low-Fat?
I think that's the wrong question.
It's just as easy to find people who've transformed their life and lost even more than 138 pounds on a classic Atkins-like low-carb regimen (just ask Jimmy Moore). And it's possible to even find people who've done it on low-fat (just ask Dean Ornish).
The point is not to ask "is my diet better than yours"?
The point is that different regimens work for different people.
Personally, I have a few issues with a 100 percent raw food diet. I think- unless you're getting at least 2 tablespoons a day of flaxseed oil- you won't be getting optimal amounts of the valuable EPA and DHA omega-3's found naturally in fish. You will definitely not be getting enough vitamin B12, deficiencies of which don't make themselves known for many months if not years. And an exclusively raw food diet is very hard to follow, and is too low in protein for many- though not all- people.
But that shouldn't blind us to the very valid point that when you change your diet from- excuse the expression- crap to good food, you're going to see benefits. I should point out that it's almost impossible to over eat calories on a raw food diet and that alone is a major benefit.
The take home point from Ms. Stokes experience is that whole foods are beneficial and any change from a junk food diet is going to produce terrific results.
The take home point should not - repeat not - be that raw foods is the only way to go.
I've often maintained that some percentage of the diet should be raw. How much? Don't know. Maybe for some people, 20%. Maybe for others, 50%. Maybe for a few, 100%. And most likely, for most, it will shift from day to day (or season to season).
As a postscript it's worth noting that Angela Stokes didn't change her whole life just by losing weight. She now counsels others about healthy eating, has joined support groups, has an active network of social connections, and has obviously done a lot of work on her emotional life.