In 2004, scientists at Columbia University in New York decided to investigate one’s ability to adhere to a specific diet.
For this purpose a raw vegan diet was chosen. Although there are countless diets, the diet attracted researchers’ attention for several reasons. First, in US and Canada, a raw vegan diet has become popular in the recent years. Second, there are valid scientific evidences showing that raw vegan diet is healthier than conventional cooked one. Third, relatively to other diets, little research has been done on it.
The experiment was quite remarkable. It took place in the 60-year-old raw vegan institute, Hippocrates Health Institute, in Florida. In general, people visiting the institute all have a similar goal in mind – to learn how to get health back and hold tight to it employing only raw plants. The institute provides accommodations and meals, all vegan and virtually all raw. Lectures on the raw food lifestyle are the core of the institute’s program. Exercise classes, spa treatments, meditation sessions are also available.
The menu at the institute consists of freshly-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, including the wheatgrass juice which is offered a couple times per day. The largest bulk of calories is coming from the sprouted seeds: grains, legumes and nuts. Some other foods are mushrooms, variety of seaweed, fermented vegetables and surprise… flowers.
People visiting this place in August of 2004 were those who participated in the study. Not all were eligible though. They had to meet a certain criteria. Specifically, they had to be older than 18, know English, have no dementia and be comfortable completing the questionnaire. When everything was sorted out, a total of 84 people were eligible and actually wanted to participate in the study. Among them, the vast majority was white women with an average age of 54.
Basically it went like this. As soon as people knew they are in the study, they had to answer a set of questions. Then in 10-12 weeks, they were sent another set of questions (by this time they already left the institute). Depending on the individual, their stay at the institute ranged from 1 to 3 weeks.
Based on the data coming from the answers, only 14 people still adhered to the raw vegan diet two months after they left the institute. That is only 17% out of all those who participated! However, their diet was not necessarily a 100% raw vegan diet. The cut-off was 80%, so if 80% of their diet consisted of raw vegan foods, then they were considered to be adherent to the diet.
So, as you can see, most quit. What made this group of people continue to eat the way they did and were taught at the institute? In other words, what factors determined their adherence? At the end, a raw vegan diet is very extreme, and some of those that participated were jumping into it from the conventional western diet.
It turned out that more education, presence of two or more diseases, greater self-efficacy, fewer close friends and relatives, and worse physical quality of life were the major factors that increased one’s determination to stick to a raw vegan diet. Now, let’s sort a couple terms here.
Self-efficacy is a term coined by a psychologist. It means how strong you believe in your ability to reach a certain goal, whether a short-term or a long-term.
Physical quality of life is the level of your physical wellbeing: do you have any medical conditions, how healthy your diet is, how active you are and the like.
Let’s look at each factor separately.
Factors increasing your ability to adhere to a raw vegan diet
It is obvious. More time with books means you are better aware of how the world works. Even if your background has little to do with a health field – parallels can be drawn, links can be made, etc., as to what good and not-so good for health.
Presence of two or more diseases
Pretty obvious as well. The more pain you feel, the greater you desire to feel well.
Again, self-explanatory. The more you believe in your strength, the higher the chance you would be able to resist temptations and stick to the diet.
Fewer friends and relatives
You may think that a family support will improve your ability to stay on the diet. However, in most cases, when making extreme changes such as trying to follow a raw vegan diet, there will be no family support. It is weird but true. Even if your family is relatively okay with your choice, you will frequently be exposed to the cooked foods they are eating. Friends are better in this regard, but not easy to deal with as well.
Worse physical quality of life
This is similar to the presence of diseases. The more terrible you feel overall, the greater your desire to get your health back.
Things you can do to help you stick to a raw vegan diet
Every day strive to learn something new related to raw veganism and healthy living in general. Whether it is an article in the news, someone’s blog or a chapter in a random health book on a bookshelf. Pay more attention to alternative and natural approaches and less to conventional. Plus, don’t take FDA recommendations too seriously.
Look deeper into yourself, your abilities
Remember that time in your life when you achieved something you first thought you would never be able to do? Compile the memories like that and think what makes this time different and why on Earth you would not succeed (you would, eventually 🙂 )
Don’t stress too much what your family says or thinks
Okay, so, someone in your household doesn’t want to get over an idea of you starting to eat only raw baby carrots and raw peanut butter. Are you going to lay awake all night and think how to please them? Your life, your actions and your mistakes (if there are any). Don’t try to describe the benefits of a raw vegan diet, in situation like that, everyone is in a deaf mode. Be quiet and act like you hardly hear them. Don’t feel bad. At the end, at least everyone’s nerves would stay fresh. Besides, with time, you will radiate the benefits and they even will attempt to follow you. If the food they are eating is tempting, come up with a raw food alternative and sit together. Still want a little bit of that egg salad? Get up and go to another room. If your attempt to stick to the diet makes you a bit socially isolated, then let it be. You took another route and there is no way you can be on two different routes at the same time.
To wrap up, definitely the study provided some food for thought. Now you know what areas in your life must be addressed first to fight temptations and make raw baby carrots and peanut butter your new habit!
Link, L.B., Jacobson, J.S. (2008). Factors affecting adherence to a raw vegan diet. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 14, 53-59