Hi Fruitbats! Welcome to the RT4 Frequently Asked Questions page. We’ve been working hard to put these together for quite a while now, and we’re really hoping that this will help address some of the most common questions we see in the group. We’ll keep adding to this document as more questions come to mind. If there’s anything you’d like addressed that isn’t here, please comment below to let us know what to add when we do the next update. Hope these answers help you on your journey!—Freelee and the RT4 Admins
About the RT4 Principles
Common Early Challenges
Common Health Concerns
Will this lifestyle help me get my period back? (see also the FAQ on PCOS)
On Ingredients and Food Combining
What is Raw Till 4?
The first thing you need to know is that Raw Till 4 is a lifestyle (for life), not just a diet, and especially not an overnight quick fix (that doesn’t exist). It’s a lifestyle, because it includes more than just diet. It includes all the ways we choose to live our lives: diet, exercise, rest, sleep, mental attitude, ethics, etc. With a change towards true health comes true healing, and that is going to include more than just physical changes: it’s going to include emotional and mental changes as well. And all those changes will be gradual, not overnight.
Most people who begin living a RT4 lifestyle find that they begin to see themselves quite differently, with more self-love, more happiness, less judgment. Most people find they begin to see others differently as well, to see the world differently. Many also begin to make ethical connections they had never really considered before, especially those who embrace veganism fully. All these things make RT4 a full lifestyle. It doesn’t mean you have to change who you are, what you do for a living, your friends or family, but for most people the change will go beyond just diet. So, what we put in our body is certainly one of the most important aspects of health, but there are other things we must try to do as well. Health is wholistic. Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit.
Here are the key principles to this lifestyle.
1. Only plant foods are allowed on this program. No animal products, no exceptions.
2. Raw fruits & greens (mainly fruits) must only be eaten until 4pm (or 2 hours prior to dinner time), then a high carb cooked dinner of high starch plant foods. No cooked food during the day.
3. 800+ calories from fruit for breakfast and 800+ from fruit for lunch is recommended for success, then a high carb cooked dinner of 500+ calories. Aim for minimum 2100 calories per day for women, 3000 for men.
4. Aim for as close to 90/5/5 as possible in your calorie ratio: that’s 90% of calories from carbohydrates and 5% of calories each from fats and proteins. Try to keep fat intake consistently below 10% and carbohydrate intake consistently above 80%.
5. Stay hydrated! You should pee about 8-12 times per day, and your urine should be clear. Drink a liter of water when you wake up in the morning, and a liter of water about 30 minutes before each meal for optimal results.
6. Fragmented sodium (salt) should be kept to an absolute minimum. Under 1000mgs per day and under 500mgs for maximum leanness and health. Use herbs, lemon juice, etc. wherever possible in place of salt.
7. Oil is not recommended on this program. It should be kept to an absolute minimum as well. Learn to cook (& eat) without it and you will gain wonderful health benefits. See our ingredients-not-supported list for more.
8. Food should be eaten whole and minimally processed wherever possible. Vegan junk foods, mock meats, tofu and other such foods are not recommended as regular staples. Minimize these as much as possible for best results.
9. Eat organic wherever possible, it tastes much better and is better for the environment.
10. If possible, try to make one day per week a 100% raw day. This will help keep the focus on high raw, and will keep your system as clean and optimal as possible.
11. Recommended sources of cooked carbs are: potatoes, root veggies, rice, gluten-free pastas, high carb ancient grains. These should be your main dinner staples, with other wholesome plant-foods as sides.
12. No fruit after cooked food or fermentation and poor digestion will likely result. If you’re still hungry after dinner (or craving sweets) you didn’t eat enough fruit during the day for your body’s needs. Eat more cooked dinner instead and then aim for more fruit the next day.
13. Big green smoothies are great for getting the calories in for breakfast/lunch. Bananas are a wonderful fruit staple throughout the day. Other high calorie fruits like dates and mangoes make great staples too.
14. Unlimited calories at every meal, no restriction. The majority of your calories each day should come from fruit. Don’t under eat on fruit during the day or “save up” your calories for dinner time. RT4 is about abundance at every meal.
15. Chickpeas, beans, lentils are not high carb choices so should be used as side dishes instead of main staples.
16. Move your body daily. Find an activity you love and make it your playful exercise. Exercise is critical to overall health and well-being; it stimulates your metabolism and gets everything flowing well. Plus it’s great for our mood! Building up a regular sweat will promote optimal health results on this lifestyle.
17. Make sure to get lots of rest, relaxation and good sleep. Learning to incorporate good rest, early nights, and regular sleeping patterns into your life will greatly improve your overall health.
18. Be sure to get some sun. Full body sunbathing is recommended, for a minimum of 20 minutes every day. Get in your vitamin D and boost your sense of well-being.
19. If necessary, supplement B-12 with either shots or sublinguals. Around 40% of the population (vegan or not) are B12 deficient, and this can greatly reduce our health results.
20. Practice gratitude and peaceful emotions at meal time, and don’t forget to cultivate a little self-love!
Be sure to enjoy this journey. Focus on long-term health instead of short-term results. This is a lifestyle you can do for the rest of your life, and if you focus on becoming healthy inside, you’ll end up looking healthy on the outside in time. You will come to a healthy weight naturally if you give your body a good foundation of healthy habits. Consistency and patience are key!
Is RT4 the same as 80/10/10?
No. Raw Till 4 is not associated with or the same as the 80/10/10 program. There are significant differences, like:
1. Our calorie recommendations and overall goal of abundance in all aspects of life. We never recommend restriction on this lifestyle, and there is no upper limit on high carb calories.
2. We include cooked food, with an emphasis on starches.
3. We don’t recommend fasting, except in the case of diagnosed medical conditions that absolutely require it.
4. We aim for closer to 90/5/5 than 80/10/10 for our macronutrient ratio.
5. RT4 isn’t nearly as strict and we don’t have a “purity mentality” about food and healthy lifestyles. RT4 is meant to work in the real world, for anyone in any situation.
6. On RT4 you can actually go out for dinner with your friends!
How does RT4 compare to the McDougall plan?
The basic foundation is the same, and both diets are based on the same nutritional science. The main difference is that we focus on high calorie raw fruit meals during the day, while Dr. McDougall recommends focusing on starches (though he also wants people to include “a plentiful supply of fruits and vegetables”). We also focus more on abundant calories, while many who do the McDougall plan will restrict their calories for weight loss, or generally eat less than we would recommend. So there are differences, and Dr. McDougall isn’t fully supportive of a high-fruit diet at this time. We cannot say that the diets are the same, but to our view their similarities far outweigh their differences.
Dr. McDougall’s website is a wonderful resource for the nutritional science backing a high-carb plant-based diet. www.drmcdougall.com
How do I get started on RT4?
It’s very easy to get started. The best way is to spend a little time learning about the lifestyle. Go visit the RT4 group (www.rawtill4.com) and download the RT4 Principles document. Watch youtube videos from successful long term RT4ers, ask questions in the RT4 group, and when you’re ready start a diary in the group. Here are a few resources to get you started:
How to eat RT4: http://youtu.be/kSIMp-nw0iA
How to start RT4: http://youtu.be/FEw8GvTrzEM
7 Day RT4 Planner: http://youtu.be/Yp50ehEWtb4
How do I start my RT4 Diary?
A Raw Till 4 diary is a way of tracking your daily diet and activity, in order to help you stay on track in the beginning. Having a diary also helps knowledgeable RT4ers, like the administrators of the RT4 Group, to help you identify any problem areas or weak points in your lifestyle, and to help with any issues that come up along the way. You may end up with lots of questions about the changes in your body while it heals from a past of unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits, and it’s nearly impossible for seasoned veterans to answer those questions without seeing some details on what you’ve been eating, how much you’ve been sleeping, exercising, etc., so having a diary can be critical to your early success. See here for more: Why a Diary is important.
So this is what you can do:
1. Go and join the RT4 Group (www.rawtill4.com).
2. Post a picture (something that motivates you)
3. Then under that picture you can post each day’s diary as a comment.
Here’s the format we recommend for diaries:
Breakfast: ## kcals of fruit (list details of food eaten)
Lunch: ## kcals of fruit & veggies (list details of food eaten)
Dinner: ## kcals of cooked carbs (list details of food eaten)
Totals: ## kcals % carbs, % fat, % protein
Water: ## Liters
Sleep: # hrs
Exercise: provide description of exercise
Pee breaks / elimination / other info: If so inclined, you can include this kind of information, and anything else you think is relevant.
Feelings / emotions / other notes on the day:
An example diary:
Breakfast: 10 banana smoothy (1050 cals)
Lunch: 3 mangoes and 6 medjool dates (900 cals)
Dinner: 3 cups (cooked) of rice with veggies & sauce (750 cals)
Total calories: 2700 (Ratio: Carbs 92/Fat 3/Protein 5)
Water: 3 liters
Sleep: 9 hours. Slept well, early night and early rise.
Exercise: Hill climb on my bike and 30 minutes of light Yoga.
Feelings: Very light and happy today. : )
There’s more good information in the RT4 Group about diaries, and hundreds of diaries to check out to see what others are doing.
How do I meet others who are on this lifestyle?
The best place to start is the RT4 Group (www.rawtill4.com) where you’ll meet thousands of other RT4ers, from long-term veterans to other newcomers. It’s a great place for support and encouragement, and for asking all the questions you have about how to succeed on the RT4 lifestyle.
After that, you can get involved with the annual Raw Till 4 Thai Festival, the biggest and best gathering of RT4ers in the world! There’s a facebook group where the festival is organized; people share youtube videos and updates and connect with each other online between festivals. Most importantly, it’s free and organized and operated by the community itself, so get involved and become part of the event from start to finish!
You may also be able to find RT4 or high carb vegans in your area through these groups, or by using www.meetup.com. Some RT4 youtubers also organize meetups, potlucks and events around the world, so just getting involved in the online community is the best way to begin connecting in the real world too.
Why is there an objective calorie minimum, and isn’t that too many calories?
The number one reason people fail on the high carb vegan lifestyle is that they under eat. They “listen to their body” or “listen for true hunger” and eat only until they “feel full,” but they simply don’t get enough fuel for their body and eventually their body just takes over and their cravings overwhelm them. Next thing you know they’re going out for a steak dinner and ranting about how the vegan lifestyle didn’t work for them!
We believe in objective standards for our health because subjective standards just aren’t trustworthy. We don’t believe in listening to your body, especially when your body is in a state of ill-health. Someone who has been calorie restricting for most of their life might “feel full” after 3 bananas. Does that mean they only need 3 bananas per meal to thrive, is that what they’re body is telling them? Of course not. They need the same number of calories from healthy sources as any other active adult. But their body’s signals are messed up and aren’t truly telling them what they need. They need to re-train their body signals by focusing on objective goals. This is how anorexia is treated in treatment centers, for instance. They don’t listen to the patient’s body and base how much they eat on that. No, they set an objective target and the patients force themselves to meet it until it begins to feel natural and their health begins to return. The same idea applies to anyone coming from an unhealthy background: they need objective goals to aim for in order to re-train their body into healthy habits. We cannot just trust our old unhealthy habits to somehow bring us to a state of health. We need to reprogram ourselves for health, from the inside out.
We are also driven by results with our recommendations for this lifestyle. Over the years have refined our approach to be the most helpful and objective as we can based on observing and coaching thousands of people and based on our own long-term experience with the lifestyle.
We have come to recommend 2100 calories minimum for women and 3000 minimum for men. 2100 calories will allow you to get all the energy you need, and all the vitamins and minerals you need. Less than 2100 calories per day over time is almost guaranteed to develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies (particularly as the quality of conventional fruit, veggies and grains isn’t as good as it could be), and definitely guaranteed to develop an energy deficiency for any active adult life. We find again and again and again that those who consistently meet the 2500 calorie minimum find success on the lifestyle long term, while those who don’t end up struggling or give up altogether and fall back into their old diet yoyo, often going all the way back to killing our animal friends for food.
It’s also important to know that it’s completely natural to have a full, round belly after eating a fruit meal. That may feel over-stuffed to a newbie, but over time it’ll feel normal, because our stomachs are designed to be able to stretch that way. If you’ve eaten standard processed foods and animal products for most of your life (like most of us had before coming to the lifestyle) then your stomach will be used to getting lots of calories in a small volume of food. When you switch to a plant-based diet you’ll need to eat much more volume in order to get the same number of calories. So you’ll need to re-train your stomach to stretch enough to get the calories you need to strive. It may feel difficult in the first few days or weeks, but in time it’ll feel natural and easy to eat 2100+ calories from fruit and starches every day! When that happens you’ll be set up to thrive for the rest of your life.
To demonstrate that our calorie recommendations aren’t invented or out of touch with the scientifically demonstrated needs of adults, here are the recommendations for healthy, active adults drawn from the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010”. These numbers are for “a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.” In other words, the basic life of an average adult. Anyone with increased physical activity, sports training, etc., is going to need more calories to fuel their athletic life. With RT4 we recognize the importance of fitness for overall health, and we also recognize that even when we go well over these numbers we remain lean long term because we’re keeping our fat intake low and our carbohydrate intake high (and carbs don’t make you fat).
Estimated Calorie Needs Per Day
So you can see that abundant calories are essential to our health and well-being, and that having an objective number is critical to long-term success. Remember: carb up to thrive! Don’t shy away from abundant calories from clean, healthy fruits, starches and veggies!
For anyone still concerned about excess carbohydrate calories turning into fat, take it from one of the most well educated doctors on the planet, who has spent his life specialized in the health benefits of a carbohydrate (largely starch) based diet:
Excess Starch Does Not Turn to Body Fat
“A widely held belief is that the sugars in starches are readily converted into fat and then stored unattractively in the abdomen, hips, and buttock. Incorrect! And there is no disagreement about the truth among scientists or their published scientific research. After eating, the complex carbohydrates found in starches, such as rice, are digested into simple sugars in the intestine and then absorbed into the bloodstream where they are transported to trillions of cells in the body in order to provide for energy. Carbohydrates (sugars) consumed in excess of the body’s daily needs can be stored (invisibly) as glycogen in the muscles and liver. The total storage capacity for glycogen is about two pounds. Carbohydrates consumed in excess of our need and beyond our limited storage capacity are not readily stored as body fat. Instead, these excess carbohydrate calories are burned off as heat (a process known as facultative dietary thermogenesis) or used in physical movements not associated with exercise.
“The process of turning sugars into fats is known as de novo lipogenesis. Some animals, such as pigs and cows, can efficiently convert the low-energy, inexpensive carbohydrates found in grains and grasses into calorie-dense fats. This metabolic efficiency makes pigs and cows ideal “food animals.” Bees also perform de novo lipogenesis; converting honey (simple carbohydrates) into wax (fats). However, human beings are very inefficient at this process and as a result de novo lipogenesis does not occur under usual living conditions in people. When, during extreme conditions, de novo lipogenesis does occur the metabolic cost is about 30% of the calories consumed—a very wasteful process.
“Under experimental laboratory conditions overfeeding of large amounts of simple sugars to subjects will result in a little bit of de novo lipogenesis. For example, trim and obese women were overfed 50% more total calories than they usually ate in a day, along with an extra 3.5 ounces (135 grams) of refined sugar. From this overfeeding the women produced less than 4 grams (36 calories) of fat daily, which means a person would have to be overfed by this amount of extra calories and sugar every day for nearly 4 months in order to gain one extra pound of body fat. Obviously, even overeating substantial quantities of refined and processed carbohydrates is a relatively unimportant source of body fat. So where does all that belly fat come from? The fat you eat is the fat you wear.”—Dr. John McDougall, “People Passionate about Starches are Healthy and Beautiful,” March, 2009.
Is it ok to fast or juice feast on this lifestyle?
No. We don’t recommend fasting or juice-fasting/feasting on this lifestyle. It’s ok to have some juice during the day, especially if you can fresh-squeeze it yourself, but going on a juice fast is terrible for your health and always does damage to your metabolism and digestion.
Fasting is starvation. It puts your body into a state of restriction and turns you into a fat-storer. You might lose some initial weight by fasting or juice-feasting—it’s easy to lose weight by starving ourselves—but as soon as you try to return to your normal eating habits you’ll gain it all back and more. Then what do people do? Another fast, or another juice feast to “cleanse” or drop the weight again. We see it time and time again. It’s a yoyo game, and it’s not one you want to play. Focus on long term consistency. Get all the calories and nutrients you need daily; exercise daily; create sustainable habits, and over time your body will find health and balance and you’ll get all the results you’ve ever dreamed of. Fasting and juice-feasting are shortcuts that simply don’t work.
Here’s something to consider: have you ever wondered why some so-called diet gurus are constantly “detoxing,” juice-fasting or water-fasting because they feel they need to “cleanse” their system? If your diet and lifestyle are truly healthy and sustainable, like RT4 is, there’s no need to continually detox or cleanse all the time. The unending need to “detox” or “cleanse” is a sure sign that someone’s diet/lifestyle plan isn’t truly healthy or sustainable. Those who are consistently healthy long term don’t detox or cleanse; they don’t need to, because they’re not building up toxins or collecting junk in their digestive system. And that’s the goal with RT4: consistent health, day in and day out, for the rest of your life.
On the importance of fiber:
Why are only plant foods allowed on this lifestyle?
There are so many reasons why you should give up all animal products and eat a vegan, plant-based diet. It’s better for your health, in every way. It’s better for the animals. It’s better for the environment. It’s really a win, win, win, for everyone!
Here’s a little information on why plant-based is healthy and animal products are not:
For information on the ethical aspects:
For information on the environmental aspect:
Do I have to wait until exactly 4pm to eat cooked food?
No. RT4 isn’t the kind of diet plan that is so strict. The idea is to eat raw until a couple of hours before our cooked dinner (to give the raw fruit enough time to move through our stomach). For most people this will be around 4pm, and that’s where the name of the lifestyle comes from, but you can customize the principles of RT4 to your life. Some people work afternoon or evening shifts; some have kids to take care of or soccer practice to coach. Everyone has a unique life-situation and a unique schedule, so try to adapt the lifestyle as best you can to fit the life you want to live. Stick to raw foods for your first two meals of the day, and try to get the majority of your calories for the day from those raw fruits. Then switch to a cooked meal to finish the day. Once you’ve switched to a cooked meal, stay on cooked food for the rest of the day.
Can I eat cooked for lunch too?
Yes, it’s ok once and a while, but it’s better not to make a regular habit of it—always try to focus on fruit as much as you can. We understand that some days it might be too much of an inconvenience to have a raw lunch (maybe you have a business meeting or just have no access to ripe fruit, etc.). On those days it’s fine to have a high carb cooked lunch and then another high carb cooked dinner. People are regularly treating and reversing our society’s main diseases through a carbohydrate focused plant-based diet, whether cooked or raw, so if you’re not able to go as high-raw as some others, that’s fine: you’ll still be eating one of the healthiest diets on the planet! For optimal results on RT4, especially in the beginning, we do recommend always trying to get the majority of calories from fruit, day in and day out. But we realize that you live in the real world, so just do your best.
Why can’t I eat fruit after cooked food?
Raw fruit digests much faster than cooked starches. Eating raw fruits before cooked starches works perfectly because the fruit can digest quickly, and ending the day with cooked starches works well because it has all night to digest. But if you eat a cooked meal and then try to have fruit after it, the cooked food will still be slowly digesting when the fast-digesting fruit hits your stomach. This will block the fruit from being digested optimally and can lead to fermenting and overall poor digestion. Many will end up bloated or with stomach aches if they eat fruit after cooked food, so we recommend that once you’ve switched to cooked food, stick to cooked food for the rest of the day. If you’re still hungry after dinner, eat more cooked starches instead of going back to fruit. The next day, make sure to increase the amount of fruit you eat during the day so you don’t face that problem again. It takes time to build up new habits and routines, but keep trying and eventually you’ll get the swing of things.
How much water do I need to drink?
The main thing here is to stay hydrated; that’s the goal. So, it’s not just about drinking a specific volume of water; it’s about making sure you remain hydrated throughout the day and night. Someone living in the desert, for instance, is going to need to drink a lot more water than someone living in a humid rainforest: dry climate verses humid climate makes a big difference. And there are many other factors that come in to play. Most fruits you eat or drink, especially citrus fruits and melons, will help hydrate you, and you can include the water used in smoothies when considering how much you need to drink in your specific environment. But you’ll need to drink some straight water throughout the day as well, if you want to be properly hydrated.
We recommend drinking water at certain times of the day: when you wake up, about 30mins before big meals, during and after exercise. But the amount needed to remain hydrated will vary for person to person depending on many factors. That’s why the best objective way to determine if you’re drinking enough is to pay attention to the color and frequency of your urine. You want to be peeing 8-12 times per day on average and you want your urine to be as clear as possible. That’s the best measurement. If your urine is yellow, it means you’ve gotta drink up because you’re already dehydrated. If your urine is clear each time, you’re doing fine. Drinking water also helps with digestion, so it’s good to drink water about half an hour before meals. That’ll get your digestive system activated.
The most important thing to keep in mind here, is that when you’re facing a specific issue during your early days/weeks/months on this lifestyle, it is very difficult for anyone to truly know what the cause is without knowing a lot about your health situation. This is where keeping a RT4 diary is key! Without a diary it’s all about guestimations and it’s really not helpful for you or others to be guessing about your food intake or what the causes of your issues are. Objective data is what is really needed in order to address specific health issues, detox symptoms, or other common side-effects of the healing process. So before asking many of these kinds of questions, be sure to start a diary and be consistent with it for at least 2 weeks. When asking for help the most important thing is to be honest! Be transparent and honest and put yourself out there. Only when you do that can we really help you.
Why am I so bloated?
There can be several reasons why you might be experiencing some bloating in the beginning of this lifestyle.
Bad food combining is the most common reason. This can be from eating fruit after cooked food, or from mixing certain kinds of fruit with others, like sweet fruits with fatty fruit or nuts and seeds, or acid fruits with sweet fruits, or melons with anything else (melons should always be eaten alone). Have a look at the food-combining chart for a guide to proper food combining for fruit and veggies.
Another common reason is simply due to our past dietary habits. If you’ve spent most of your life eating animal products and other high fat processed junk food, then there’s probably quite a bit of gunk in your digestive system that needs to be cleaned out. When you start eating lots of fruit and veggies (which have loads of fiber), the cleaning process will start, but it can take time. Until your intestinal tract is cleaned out, the fast-digesting fruit and veggies may be impeded from moving through you as quickly as they should. These can build up and produce gases and can lead to bloating. For those who experience this, it is temporary: once your system is cleaned out your digestion will begin to improve.
Some people (in our society, most people) may also have done damage to their gut flora (all the little microorganisms that live in your digestive tracts), and until the body is able to re-balance and repopulate those species, your digestion may not be optimal. Some foods may not digest well, and may lead to buildups of gas. It can take some time for this to heal/re-balance in newcomers, especially those who come from more severe ill-health, eating disorders, etc., but everyone who sticks to the lifestyle will experience improved digestion—in time you’ll be running like a perfect little carb engine!
Women should also be careful to pay attention to their menstrual cycle, and not mistake those symptoms for purely dietary symptoms. Bloating and tummy discomfort isn’t always due to the food we’re eating.
There may be several other reasons for bloating, so the best way to get accurate answers is to start up a diary in the RT4 group and ask the knowledgeable admins for assistance.
On proper food combining: http://youtu.be/cgChn26zVaY
Why am I gaining weight?
Short term weight gain on this lifestyle is quite common, depending on your background. If you’ve been under-eating for years, the body adjusts its metabolism to suit those conditions. When you start eating enough clean, healthy calories and nutrients your body reacts from a state of poor metabolism, and that reaction is to store for future need. If you’ve been calorie restricting or just not supplying your body with enough nutrients consistently, then your body will be accustomed to that, and will anticipate the same for the future. So what happens is that the body hangs on to everything it can (in the form of fat stores) while maintaining the same poor/slow metabolism. It’s thoroughly trained to anticipate a lack of nutrition, so even when it begins to be given enough calories and nutrients it will still remain in that state for a while (this can vary depending on many factors, in direct proportion to the severity of the past lack of nutrition—could be 2-6 months, could be 2-3 years in some cases like it was for me). After a while your body will begin to speed up its metabolism, as it heals internally. It needs to become accustomed to receiving adequate calories and nutrition before it will trust you enough not to feel the need to store fat. It takes time for your metabolism to change (the body always works slowly and steadily), but eventually you’ll go from a fat-storer to a fat-burner. At that point your body will utilize the fuel you give it fully (utilizing glycogen stores, and not needing fat stores).
This is essentially the core reason why short term fat gain may occur on this lifestyle, and why after a period of time the weight will begin to drop. There are also other weight gains that can happens that have nothing to do with fat: hydration gains, bone density gains, muscle mass gains, increased glycogen stores, more volume of food in your digestive system, water retention, etc. Some people have been so used to being dehydrated their whole life, when they finally start hydrating their body again, they mistake the increased hydration for fat. And too many people—way too many people—are still using that ridiculous and pointless device called a scale! The scale only tells you your weight; it doesn’t tell you what that weight is! Like Harley says, “when a woman gains weight it’s fat, but when a guy gains weight its muscle.” Too many women weigh themselves on the scale every day and freak out over every kilo. That’s not helpful. Throw out your scale and focus on health instead of trying to micromanage your weight. Focus on health and long-term your weight will take care of itself. There are NO long term RT4ers who are overweight. That says it all right there. Stick with the program, and even if you gain in the beginning while your body heals, know that you won’t be overweight long term. RT4 will naturally burn off your fat without you having to force it to happen through insane exercise. Just embrace the principles of the lifestyle and have patience.
How long will it take to (insert health goal here)?
This question, in all its varieties, is the most common one we get from newcomers to the lifestyle. And we understand; everyone wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel! But it’s an impossible question to answer. How long it will take your body to heal depends on a hundred factors: it depends on all the details of your past, all your old habits of eating, exercise, stress, sleep, etc., etc.; it depends on everything you’re doing now, how closely you’re following the RT4 principles, what your life situation is like, etc. The same issue can heal in weeks for one person but take months for another.
We see amazing health transformations on this lifestyle all the time. People lose weight, clear up their skin, heal their menstrual cycle; people even reverse type-2 diabetes, chron’s, PCOS, IBS, Hypothyroid, etc., etc., but how long it will take is just not something anyone can answer. All anyone can say is: yes, this lifestyle will help you improve your health in a thousand ways, but it will take time.
Why am I getting acne and/or other detox/healing symptoms?
Acne is a very common healing symptom. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and when your body is cleaning itself from the inside out, your skin can really show the process to the world. But it is temporary. Long term, your skin will clear up, once your body is done its healing and everything is rebalanced internally (including your hormones). Remember, the healing symptoms aren’t a reflection that there’s something wrong with the principles of RT4; it’s a reflection of our past habits.
Your body will go through some healing when you come to this lifestyle. For some people that healing is intense and the “detoxing” can be tough. For other people it’ll be only minor. It all depends on where you’re coming from and how well you’re able to incorporate the lifestyle principles into your life-situation. If you need help or guidance with specific healing symptoms, start a diary in the RT4 group and ask the admins for advice.
Why do I get dizzy, have headaches, etc. after eating fruit?
This is another issue that may have several causes, but there are some very common ones.
The most common reason for dizziness or headaches immediately after eating a large fruit meal is if one still has lots of fat in their bloodstream from their past high-fat diet. The fat coats the receptors of carrier cells, which block insulin from being able to do its job. This inhibits sugar from being transported through the blood to where it’s needed, and can lead to a temporary blood-sugar spike. It’s not the fault of the fruit, but the fault of the fat from our past dietary habits.
Fluctuating blood sugar levels have been positively linked to migraines, and migraines are found in higher percentages among diabetics than non-diabetics (which demonstrates the link to blood-sugar and insulin). When the blood sugar spikes, the body will react by releasing more insulin, and this can cause a blood sugar spike to be followed by a blood sugar low. The low can then lead to constricting of blood vessels in the brain, and so a headache or migraine will set in. Other triggers can be set in motion by the rebound to a low, including increased blood flow to the brain (the body’s attempt to bring more sugar there: more blood = more sugar) which can lead to increased blood pressure and changes in the diameters of the blood vessels in the brain. All of this is due to fat in the bloodstream, a strong reason for adopting a permanently low fat diet!
For people in this situation, what is required is a period of adjustment. You need to allow your body to clean the bloodstream of dietary fat, and this is exactly what RT4 will do—by keeping our intake of fat very low (under 10% of total caloric intake) while also giving our bodies an abundance of nutrients to work with. In extreme cases, it might be helpful to focus more on slower digesting starches and fruits in the beginning, as the faster digesting fruits (like melons, for instance) would be more likely to cause fast blood-sugar changes.
Another reason for dizziness is simply undereating. If you’re not supplying your body with enough carb calories, your body will start to lack glucose, and a lack of glucose will mean not enough fuel for your brain. When that happens you may feel dizzy or get headaches. The cure is this situation is to carb up! Give your body all the fuel it needs, give your brain all the fuel it needs, and you’ll thrive.
There may be several other reasons for dizziness, headaches and other symptoms, including serious medical conditions. For these it is important to consult a professional (a vegan-friendly doctor is ideal). If you need help or guidance with specific symptoms and have ruled out serious medical conditions, start a diary in the RT4 group and ask the admins for advice.
Why am I craving sweets after dinner?
The simple answer is: you didn’t eat enough during the day. Cravings for ANY kind of sweet food is your body telling you that it needs more fuel. Every cell in your body runs on glucose, and if you don’t get enough carbs to provide enough glucose to your cells, your body will cry out for more. If you’ve just eaten a big cooked carb dinner, and your body is suddenly looking for something sweet, it’s because it was/is lacking glucose for fuel, and now that it has a big cooked meal to digest, it needs that fuel.
In this situation, it’s not good to try to fill the sweet-tooth with fruit, because following cooked foods with raw fruit will almost always cause digestion issues. The best thing to do is to focus on filling right up with more clean cooked starches that evening (maybe make it a second, small dinner), and then refocus the next day to make sure you get in enough fruit during the day. Cravings at the end of the day mean that we’re not supplying our body with all its energy needs, so use those days as motivation to carb up! Really try to get in that minimum of 2000 calories of fruit prior to your cooked meal. It’ll make all the difference in the world. When we’re truly carbed up and our bodies have all the glucose they need, cravings for sweet things or junk food vanish into thin air, because our body just isn’t in need of anything.
What if I just can’t eat that much food?
You will be able to in time. It can be difficult in the beginning, because your stomach is accustomed to small-volume foods that provide a lot of calories (mostly in the form of fat). So you need to re-train your stomach to stretch. It’s natural for our stomachs to stretch with each meal, and to have a big belly after a big meal. That’s normal. It just takes time to get used to it.
But also: it’s really not that much food, when you think about it. Here’s an example day on RT4:
Breakfast: 10 banana smoothy (1050 cals)
Lunch: 3 mangoes and 6 medjool dates (900 cals)
Dinner: 3 cups (cooked) of rice with veggies & sauce (750 cals)
Total calories: 2700 (Ratio: Carbs 92/Fat 3/Protein 5)
You might be thinking: “10 bananas in one meal! I can’t possibly do that!”. Ok, then, in the beginning, don’t do that. Split it up into two meals of 5 bananas.
Breakfast: 5 banana smoothy (525 cals)
Snack: 5 banana smoothy (525 cals)
Lunch: 3 mangoes and 6 medjool dates (900 cals)
Dinner: 3 cups (cooked) of rice with veggies & sauce (750 cals)
Total calories: 2700 (Ratio: Carbs 92/Fat 3/Protein 5)
That should be pretty easy.
The best advice is to eat until your full, and then eat a little more. Each time you do that you’ll send signals to your stomach that it needs to start learning to stretch more. After a few weeks of doing that, you’ll be surprised at how quickly and easily it adapts. After a while you’ll be putting back 10 banana smoothies like it aint no thing!
Now, if you come from a background of severe calorie restriction, and your stomach is the size of a small fist, what can you do? Well, instead of 3 meals in a day, maybe you focus on having 4 smaller meals. To meet the 2100 calorie goal, all you need is to eat 4 meals of 520 calories each, and that should be pretty easy (that’s only 5 bananas, or 2-3 mangoes, or about 8-9 medjool dates). Or you can graze: eat about 2 mangoes 6 or 7 times in a day and you’ll be at 2100 on just fruit!
Try tricks like these and slowly work your way up to larger meals. But be sure to get in the calories one way or another: your body needs them! Focus on that objective goal of 2100 calories minimum. Success on this lifestyle depends on giving your body enough fuel and enough nutrients, and the only way to do that is to re-train yourself to eat large volumes of high carb foods.
What do I do if my family/partner/friends aren’t supportive of this lifestyle? What resources can I share with them?
This is a very common question, and one of the biggest difficulties of the lifestyle. Social disapproval can be really hurtful in the beginning. We all have friends and family and loved ones who we love, and we care about our relationships with them. When we become vegan, and when we start eating differently than them it can sometimes cause them to react negatively towards us. We see many people struggling with disapproval from their parents, if they’re young, or from their partners and friends. There’s really only one simple answer though: you’ve just got to do what you know is right for you! You can’t change the way other people think or feel, or the way they treat you. You’ve got to follow your own path and find the strength within you to embrace it regardless of what others say. You want to be healthy, and you’ve finally found the way to do it: don’t let others talk you out of it or bully you into conforming to society’s unhealthy habits.
While dealing with disapproval can be difficult in the beginning, it does get easier with time. As you start really demonstrating the results of this lifestyle, people might still disagree with you, but it gets pretty hard for them to ignore those results. Long term RT4ers are shining examples of true health, from top to bottom, inside and out, so even if people still argue against the lifestyle, they’ll have a hard time explaining how it is that you’re so healthy! So, focus on that, focus on long term health, and ignore the haters or doubters.
When it comes to life-partners, it can be a real challenge. If you got into a relationship before going vegan or embracing RT4, and your partner isn’t interested in joining you on that path, it can put real strain on the relationship. Each person has to decide for themselves what to do. For some, the right decision will be to leave the relationship if it becomes unsupportive or divisive. For others, they might find ways to balance the relationship despite the differences that come up. The main thing is to be open and transparent with your partner and keep an open dialogue. If you don’t have that, the relationship probably isn’t going to last anyway. So open up and explain to your partner what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Show them videos, read plant-based health books together, watch documentaries together. Help them understand the lifestyle, and why you’ve chosen it. How they choose to respond is not in your control, but you will have done your best.
For young RT4ers who are still living with their parents and aren’t yet free adults, the same idea applies: talk to your parents, share information with them, share videos and documentaries and books with them. They’ll probably be worried that you won’t get enough nutrients or have other concerns about the lifestyle, so the best thing you can do is first educate yourself, and then help educate them. Show them websites from respected plant-based doctors (McDougall, Esselstyn, Caldwell, Greger, Barnard, etc.), show them long-term successful RT4ers so they can see healthy people on the lifestyle. Really help them see what you see, and show them the reasons why you’ve chosen this lifestyle. If you’re passionate about veganism, show them documentaries on why veganism is essential; show them Gary Yourofsky’s speech; watch Earthlings with them; explain to them the ethics behind veganism and why it’s important to you. And, if after all that, your parents still insist that you consume animal products, you have the right to say no. You can refuse to eat your animal friends. No one has the right to force you to participate in something you are morally opposed to. If you continue to run into problems with them, reach out to the RT4 community for advice and assistance and support.
Do I need to supplement vitamin B12?
Maybe. Maybe not. The first thing to know is that B12 isn’t a vegan issue. 40% of the population of the USA are B12 deficient, and less than 1% of the population is currently vegan. So B12 deficiency is a big problem, for nearly half of the population (vegan or not). You can get tested to verify if you’re B12 deficient (go for the Urinary MMA test, as it’s the most accurate). If it turns out you’re B12 deficient, you’ll definitely need to supplement. If you haven’t gotten a blood test, or can’t get one for whatever reason, it’s safe to supplement B12 anyway, just to be sure, as your body will eliminate any excess B12 in your system.
There are two types of B12 supplements that are recommended.
1. a sublingual: a single tablet that goes under the tongue, or
2. an intramuscular injection (shot), which generally goes into the shoulder.
Both of these methods bypass the absorption process, and bring the B12 vitamin directly into the bloodstream. The injection is the best option, to guarantee that you’re getting all the B12 you need.
There are many symptoms that may come up from lack of B12, two main ones are chronic fatigue and depression. It may be quite often that people have these symptoms and never make the connection to a B12 deficiency. When you supplement B12 you may find these symptoms greatly improved, and you may find other positive effect too, like more efficient weight-loss, for instance.
Don’t we need healthy fats?
There are a lot of myths involved in the “healthy fats” idea. The truth is, the human body needs very, very little dietary fat. In fact, the less the better!
There are three types of dietary fat: poly unsaturated, mono unsaturated and saturated. Saturated fats are never good for our health. Any intake of saturated fats causes the liver to start pumping out extra “bad cholesterol” (LDL), and saturated fats immediately damage the endothelial lining of the arteries when eaten. Most plant fats are unsaturated, but they can be either mono or poly unsaturated. There is no need for either saturated or monounsaturated fats in our diet. So the only kind of fat we need from diet is polyunsaturated, and there are actually only two fatty acids that we need from diet at all: alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty-acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). These are known as Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).
We actually need a very tiny amount of either omega 6 or 3. Standard requirement is usually given at 1.1-1.6 grams per day, but actual requirements are probably more around the 0.4-0.5 grams per day. So we’re dealing with somewhere around 1-2% of total calories. The important thing isn’t about getting a lot, but just making sure that the ratio of 3 to 6 is as close to 1:1 as possible. The problem with people on a Standard American Diet is that they get too much omega-6, so their ratio is way off. The solution from mainstream nutritionists is to encourage them to eat more omega-3s to balance the ratio, which is utter nonsense because they’re already loaded with fat! The “healthy fats” movement is really nothing but clever PR for the animal industry, designed to get people to keep buying eggs and fish and other nonsense products, and it has spread into vegan circles for absolutely no reason. The real solution is for people to cut down on their omega-6s to bring the ration back into balance. This means eating a low fat, high carb vegan diet.
“The safest and healthiest way to get your EFA [essential fatty acids] is in their natural packages of starches, vegetables, and fruits. Here they are found in the correct amounts in protected environments surrounded by vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals to make them balanced nutrition.”—Dr. John McDougall
But… but… where do you get your Brotein!!??
There’s no need to worry about, or even think about getting enough protein. It’s all hype, propaganda and myth. The human body needs very little protein from dietary sources. It synthesizes almost all of what it needs internally. In addition to this, every single plant-food on the planet has protein (essential amino acids) in it, in just the right amounts for our bodies. So don’t worry about it. Keep focused on high carb living, and forget all the nonsense you’ve ever learned about protein and the mythical need for animal products.
When asked how much protein we need, here’s the best reference you can provide:
“The requirement indicated by the meta-analysis (a median requirement of … 0.66 g/kg per day of protein) can be accepted as the best estimate of a population average requirement for healthy adults.”—WHO Techincal Report Series, Protein and Amino Acid Reqirements in Human Nutrition (2007), p. 125 (7.10).
For most people this means somewhere between 30 grams (100lb/45kg person) to 50 grams (175lb/80kg person) per day, or between 120 and 200 calories from protein per day, about 5% of total calories!
On specific amino-acid requirements: http://goo.gl/FncKpw
What about calcium, iron, etc., etc., etc. (and: “cronometer says I’m low in ___ nutrient.”)
There are so many concerns about individual nutrients in the health world, but most of them are just scare tactics to get you to buy some kind of product. In reality all we need to do is eat a proper, healthy diet of abundant fruit, starches and veggies to get all that we need. A good book to read on the problem with focusing on individual nutrients instead of on overall health is T. Colin Campbell’s book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.
We highly recommend using http://cronometer.com/ to track your food intake, especially in the beginning of your journey on this lifestyle, but many people who start using cronometer (or similar tracking programs) become concerned because the default settings will tell them that they’re lacking in a certain vitamin or mineral. In some cases, the default settings are based on flawed or biased science or have been unnecessarily effected by food industry propaganda. The default setting for calcium is a good example of this. It is also impossible to know exactly how much nutrition is in each piece of fruit we buy. The standard amounts shown in cronometer are the nutrition world’s best guesstimate or average based on standard testing, but the banana you have might have more or less of any given nutrient than cronometer shows. So the main point is that cronometer is best used to guide us in the big picture: number of calories, macronutrient ratios, and a general sense of vitamins and minerals, but it’s going to be less accurate for specific nutrients, specific amino acids, etc. The only truly accurate way to determine if we have vitamin or mineral deficiencies is to get regular blood tests done.
But let’s address a couple of popular concerns:
As far as calcium goes, the dairy industry has been very successful at creating concern over nothing in that area. Here’s some good quotes, and studies, and other materials.
This article by Dr. McDougall sums it all up very well:
Couple of quotes from an article and a study:
“A 1992 review of fracture rates in many different countries showed that populations with the lowest calcium intakes had far fewer fractures than those with much higher intakes.” http://pcrm.org/health/health-topics/preventing-and-reversing-osteoporosis
“Calcium intake is much lower in Asia and Africa than in the United States and Europe, mainly due to the exceedingly low intake of milk and dairy products. However . . . the prevalence of osteoporosis, especially hip fracture, is currently much higher in Western countries than in developing Asian countries” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15775506
The human body really doesn’t need anywhere near as much calcium as we’re taught it does. The concern over “getting enough calcium” is nothing more than a very successful marketing ploy by the dairy industry (as McDougall explains in the article above). On the RT4 lifestyle we get easily enough calcium just from an abundance of fruit and veggies, and by avoiding animal proteins we avoid the problem of our body leeching calcium from our bones (see Forks Over Knives for more on that issue).
It is possible to be iron deficient. But it is also possible to get too much iron. The human body has no way to excrete excess iron, so whatever amount is absorbed stays in us and is either utilized or just builds up. Excess iron in the brain has been linked to neurological diseases like Alzheimers, and extra iron in the body is linked with cancer growth. So if you’re concerned about iron, the solution isn’t simply to go straight to supplementing. With iron, it is important to get accurate blood tests done to determine if you’re deficient. If you are, there’s no real need to supplement, the better option is just to focus on eating an abundance of fruit and veggies. Leafy greens will help, or make green smoothies in the morning, or have green juice as a snack between meals.
Here are some good links on iron (including the “Iron Maiden” smoothie recipe from Freelee!):
Is it possible to do RT4 with diabetes?
Absolutely. Not only is it possible, a low-fat high-carb plant-based diet is proven to reverse type-2 diabetes! We’ve also seen many people with type-1 diabetes who are able to greatly improve their health on this lifestyle and greatly diminish their symptoms. You’ll find several members of the RT4 group who have reversed their type-2 diabetes or are easily managing their type-1. Reach out and connect with them for support and reassurance if you need it.
In some cases (if you’re experiencing drastic blood-sugar fluctuations, for instance) it may be important to transition into the RT4 lifestyle more slowly, rather than jumping in all at once. It is likely better for many diabetics to have several small meals throughout the day, balanced with some greens, as opposed to large fruit meals right from the start (you can work your way up to that in time). Have a salad and some steamed veggies with your dinner meal. Make sure to keep your fat intake as low as possible, ideally around 5% of total calories (this is very important). There will be some trial and error involved in determining which fruits work best for you, and for some it may be good to focus more on starches than fruit in the beginning, as the starches may be easier on blood-sugar levels while your body is still cleaning out the fat from your bloodstream. If you are currently on insulin medication, do not discontinue without informing your doctor. You will very likely need to ween yourself gradually off of your insulin, as your body begins to process sugar more efficiently.
So, if you have diabetes, before you jump straight into the lifestyle with both feet, be sure to do two things: 1. read Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes (if you’re diabetic, this is the most important book you could possibly read!) and 2. consult a health-care professional who is familiar with Dr. Barnard’s work and the dietary approach to reversing diabetes, and work with them closely during your transition to a plant-based lifestyle. We’re convinced, from observing many people, that RT4 works wonders for those with diabetes, but we also want you to be careful with serious conditions like these. Educate yourself, take your time to be sure about the steps you need to take, and be smart and careful when you do take them. But rest assured: a high carb, low fat plant based life-style is the best way to reverse type-2 diabetes.
Will this lifestyle heal my IBS, Chron’s, PCOS, Hypothyroidism, etc., etc.?
Time and time again we see people reversing these and other major health concerns on the RT4 lifestyle, so the simple answer is: yes, if you can do the lifestyle, following the RT4 principles as closely as possible, and be consistent long term, there’s a very good chance these and many other issues will either heal completely or diminish significantly.
IBS, Colitis & Chron’s Disease
IBS and other chronic digestive issues can absolutely be cured on the RT4 lifestyle. The common triggers for people suffering with IBS are eliminated on RT4, and simply following the RT4 Principles will often bring considerable relief almost right away. The most important factors will be: keeping your fat intake low, adhering strictly to the rules of proper food combining, drinking plenty of water, getting regular exercise, adequate sleep and learning to manage stress. Though it is often claimed that fruit worsens IBS symptoms, this is only of particular concern for those following high fat diets, diets including animal products and/or combining foods incorrectly. It is the consumption of refined sugar, with a lack of digestive enzymes that will exacerbate IBS symptoms, much moreso than fruit sugars. So, there are certain foods to avoid, and certain rules that are important to follow while healing.
First, ripe, spotty banana smoothies are your best friend, along with soaked dates. Try adding green juices to your daily routine (not as a meal replacement though). Try celery, cucumber, spinach, peeled lemon and apple, add a little water and sip a cup of this daily on an empty stomach. Increase water intake between meals. Steamed veggies at night and baked sweet potato with soft tender lettuce leaves is ideal. Be sure to peel anything with a skin, like apples, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers (you can leave peels on for making the juice). Avoid any citrus, chili, onions, garlic, pepper, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cruciferous greens like kale, nuts and seeds. Also be sure to eliminate spices as much as possible. It’s very important to be strict on these things during the healing phase, then you can slowly reintroduce the ones you like once your digestive system is fully healed.
For those with full Chron’s, it’s highly recommended to focus on the simplest diet, with lots of monomeals (meal of one kind of fruit) for the first few weeks or months. You want to go as easy on your digestive system as possible. Monomeals of ripe bananas are ideal. Simple dinners of, say, sweet potato with steamed veggies, are a good option. The main idea is to give your body time to heal by focusing on the healthiest source of calories, the most easily digestible options, while minimizing or eliminating any problem foods, and being consistent. Consistency is key!
The first thing to know about PCOS is the difference between polycystic ovaries (where a female’s ovaries contain cycsts) & polycystic ovarian syndrome. For one diagnosed with PCOS, the main symptom is an irregular menstrual cycle, which is commonly accompanied by other symptoms, including acne, high or low BMI (either end of the spectrum) and abnormal hairiness. Many women think they have PCOS when in actual fact they have polycystic ovaries but lack the other symptoms that would qualify as the full syndrome.
PCOS and polycystic ovaries are associated with hormonal imbalances, including too much of the male hormone androgen. This causes cysts to form in the ovaries, preventing them from maturing an egg and ovulating. A female with cystic ovaries can go months or years with no period or ovulation or sometimes even have 2 periods in 1 month, or extremely painful periods to the point of fainting.
There are two main dangers related to this condition.
In addition to these—though it isn’t a health danger it is a downside for many women—is difficulty conceiving, and perhaps a need for fertility treatments to get pregnant at all.
Most women who come to RT4 with cystic ovaries or PCOS will probably also have been abused with the pill for a few years. Most often it’s the Diane-35 pill or “Jasmin.” It takes at least a year if not 2 or 3 for the body to heal itself fully from the effects of the pill, so it is important for women to understand that and be ready for it—it is a healing process that goes beyond the change in diet. When beginning RT4, this hormonal healing process may be accelerated, because the body is also getting all the nutrition it needs to aid/boost the process. During this time one may expect a couple of common effects. First, acne breakouts (these can be quite severe for some), not just on the face but also on the back, shoulders, arms, chest, neck. Second, weight gain (for women coming from calorie restriction) or weight loss (for obese women), which will help enable regular menstruation. Initial weight fluctuation of one kind of another is to be expected, related not just to healing of one’s metabolism (due to adopting a healthy diet), but to healing of one’s hormonal system as well (due to recovering from the pill and overall rebalancing of hormone levels). It’s often that the body will prioritize healing the hormonal system, particularly if it has been extremely harmed, and it can take many months, perhaps even a couple of years for it to fully rebalance. The effects from this process, including the weight fluctuation, may be added to the effects of healing that the change of diet alone may have, so women with PCOS, and even women who express only one or two of the symptoms, commonly go through a few months of fairly strong healing processes initially. In terms of timing: some women find that they begin to have regular menstrual cycles after only a couple of months; others within the first year of the lifestyle. Most will see significant improvements within a year. The full healing of PCOS may take longer for some.
Key factors for healing your hormonal system are:
1. Rest and reduced stress. Stress is a major factor, as the female menstrual cycle is very easily affected by stress.
2. Cardio exercise that gets the lymphatic system moving and builds up a good sweat (recommended once per day, with a couple of rest or lower-intensity days each week).
3. Good hydration (aim to pee 8-12 times a day, clear urine)
4. Avoid all overt fats during the initial healing stage.
5. It can be helpful to focus on juicy fruits like watermelon/melon/kiwi/pineapple/citrus fruits, etc. It may also be helpful to minimize the denser, lower water fruits like dates and bananas for the initial healing period (first couple of months), and then reintroduce them back in after that.
6. Really go for the leafy greens during the healing period; nice, big salads along with your dinner is perfect, or green juices as between-meal snacks.
If you give it time, stick to the RT4 program as closely as possible, PCOS can absolutely be healed/reversed on this lifestyle (the cysts can even disappear/dissolve away). We know dozens of cases of women who have healed their PCOS, returned to a regular menstrual cycle, become fertile again, and have rebalanced their body’s hormonal system fully. To put it simply:
“A plant-based diet is the best option for women with PCOS.”—Dr. Neil Barnard
Many thyroid issues are significantly reduced and even removed altogether by switching to a high carb, low fat plant-based diet, like RT4. It has been demonstrated that vegan diets do protect against hypothyroidism, but the question is whether or not it can be reversed. The answer seems to be: it depends. It depends on the nature of the hypothyroidism (it can be caused by iodine deficiency, medications, surgery, radiation, or by “autoimmune thyroiditis” (aka Hashimoto’s), where one’s own immune system attacks the thyroid gland). It depends on the severity of the condition. It depends on dozens of other health questions unique to each person. So it’s a complex issue, overall.
What we have seen are hundreds of cases of clinically low thyroid function returning to normal levels on a high carb vegan lifestyle, both all-raw and Raw Till 4. If the issue is due to low iodine especially, it should be able to be reversed with this lifestyle in no time. The other causes, and the more severe cases may not be so clear-cut. We have seen testimonials of people who have been on medication for years (even decades!) for hypothyroidism, who feel amazing on this lifestyle and some have been able to go off their medication without symptoms returning. We have even seen a few testimonials of diagnosed autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s) being reversed on the lifestyle. But clinical studies that use this lifestyle haven’t been done yet, so we can’t verify without a doubt that it’s possible (waiting for the scientific community to get on that one!). For now, we can say that this lifestyle definitely improves thyroid function, and will reverse many thyroid issues. In serious cases of hypothyroidism it is still advisable to work closely with a doctor (preferably a vegan-friendly doctor) to track how the diet may be improving the issue, and determine together if medication is still required.
Will this lifestyle help me get my period back? (see also the FAQ on PCOS)
Firstly, it’s important to understand that Raw Till 4 is a healing lifestyle and everyone will go through a period (no pun intended) of healing and detox. Starting a healthy, high carb vegan lifestyle will, for most of us, begin a hormonal healing process. It’s difficult to anticipate exactly how the process will go for each individual, because each is coming from a unique health background. But there are two quite common scenarios that we can touch on here.
1. coming to the lifestyle with no period and getting it back
2. coming to the lifestyle with a period, losing it at the beginning of the lifestyle, and then gaining it back after your body has healed.
For the first scenario:
Coming to this lifestyle with no period can be a result of a few things: 1. a background of calorie restriction and low BMI, which can disrupt or eliminate one’s menstration, 2. PCOS (see our FAQ on PCOS), and several other reasons, which may be unknown/undiagnosed, one example being the consumption of animal products, which can aggravate P.M.S. and cause irregularity in one’s cycle.
If you have abnormalities in menstruation, or no menstruation at all, adopting a high carb, low fat, vegan diet will definitely help you. This lifestyle has been demonstrated to be ideal for regulation of our body’s hormonal systems, and we’ve seen many women who have been able to restore a balanced, healthy reproductive system, without the aid of any kind of medication.
If you were calorie restricting, and are now following the RT4 Principles, your body may gain some short-term weight—one thing this allows is the ability to rebalance your hormone system and allow regular menstruation to occur again. In these situations it may be that the hormonal healing will be prioritized, so that your body may not begin to fully normalize its BMI until the hormonal healing has had a chance to reach a certain point of progress. This is entirely natural. Another common symptom that can arise during the healing process is acne. Some will experience acne breakouts, usually on their face, shoulders, back or arms. These are both part of the balancing process and will clear up in time. It can be difficult to deal with acne breakouts and weight gain, so reach out to those who have gone through it for support and encouragement.
If you’re experiencing this scenario, try to just stick to the RT4 Principles as closely as you can, be patient, trust in your body, and allow it to rebalance your hormonal system. Then you can celebrate the return of your body to full functionality. Rejoice at how wonderful it is that your period has returned, and be an inspiration for other women who are going through the same journey. : )
For the second scenario:
People who come to this lifestyle will be healing anything from diabetes to digestive illnesses to PCOS, or even cancer. The most common issues to heal among females are the results of eating disorders, calorie restriction and yo-yo dieting. So with all this healing going on, it’s no wonder some women’s bodies may suspend the full effects of menstruation for a while. There are priorities in our bodily mechanisms, and a full and healthy menstrual cycle can be a lower priority than some other internal healing if that healing is vitally important. Think about it this way, your body is going to put your reproductive cycle on the back-burner until it’s got the rest of you sorted out, because reproducing is the last thing on the to-do-list when a lot of healing is taking place. This suspension can last from a couple of months to more than a year, depending on many factors (each person’s journey will be unique in this regard).
It can really alarm us if we lose our period, and it’s not uncommon to freak out a little when that happens! But we must remember the human body’s amazing ability to heal itself, and educate ourselves on what missing our period can mean. In the end, the best thing is to relax, enjoy the holiday, and allow your body to heal at its own pace. There is a chance, of course, that you’re pregnant, so it’s always a good idea to check that first. ; )
Losing your period (amenorrhea), can also occur when weight and/or body fat % is dramatically low. If this may be your case, it’s important to address it as soon as possible. Focus on the RT4 Principles, especially on getting in enough carbohydrate calories, and start a diary in RT4 Group, so we can assist you on your journey to health.
Even without bleeding, you may still experience some of the common symptoms like cramps, mood swings, cravings; this is a sign that you are still ovulating and menstruating. Irregular, really long periods, or losing it entirely are most often signs of hormonal imbalances which will balance out on this lifestyle in time if you can follow the RT4 Principles closely.
What to expect in terms of menstruation on the RT4 lifestyle:
As well as balancing out hormones, Raw Till 4 has many other positive benefits regarding that time of the month. Most women who follow Raw Till 4 and other low fat, low protein, high carb diets such “The Banana Girl Diet” experience one or more of these benefits:
1. less period pain/cramps or none at all
2. lighter periods
3. shorter periods (2-4 days)
4. more stable moods and less or no cravings.
In general women will experience periods that are shorter, less painful with lighter flow. Most women report that they come to feel much more at ease with their cycle; it’s not as strong, not as disruptive when it happens, it doesn’t smack them in the face quite so hard. ; ) Some long term RT4 women, who are physically fit and in optimal health, may experience little to no bleeding but still be ovulating. In this case, it’s important to know that even if you aren’t experiencing bleeding it’s still possible to get pregnant. It’s also possible to menstruate each month but not be actively ovulating. So it’s important to understand that having or not having your period is not the same as ovulating or not ovulating. You may want to see a gynaecologist/endocrinologist to confirm which applies to you. Be aware of the natural consequences of sexual activity, regardless of which stage of this journey you’re on. Be safe, smart and know your body.
It’s crucial to keep fat and protein low (below 10%, close to 5%) during your period in order to reap the best benefits when it comes to your menstrual cycle. It can also be very helpful to increase your caloric intake (even by as much as 1000 calories) as this time of the month can be taxing on energy. So don’t be afraid to carb up even more than usual! Remember to eat unlimited fruits, veggies and tender leafy greens, as well as drinking 3+ litres of water to keep your blood and body strong and healthy.
A little more on the topic:
You may also want to look into alternatives to traditional sanitary items such as menstrual cups like the moon cup and the diva cup. Many find that their period pains reduce after switching to using menstrual cups. These methods are free of toxins and much friendlier on the environment. There are also reusable washable pads if you’re not into menstrual cups (see the video links below for more info).
The contraceptive pill interferes with the body’s natural hormone regulation and rhythms and can, among other things, increase risk of blood clots. Many people choose to stop taking the pill along their health journey. This can be a large contributing factor towards having an irregular cycle or losing it all together for a while, as it can take up to a couple of years for the body to fully rebalance after going off the pill. Another common symptom of going off the pill is weight fluctuation (either weight loss or weight gain), as weight (especially water retention, etc.) is impacted directly by hormones. Reactions like these are normal considering the body has been taking in mixtures of hormones every day for extended periods of time and is now rebalancing.
Here are some videos that you may find helpful:
For women with PCOS or symptoms that may indicate polycystic ovaries, See our FAQ question on PCOS.
Can I do this lifestyle while pregnant or while breastfeeding?
Abso-fruitly! This lifestyle is based on eating an abundance of wholesome, nutritious, energizing foods that are fit for mom and baby at all stages. There are many high carb plant-based vegans who have gone through complete pregnancies, have been able to abundantly breastfeed, and who are raising happy, healthy children. Furthermore, with this lifestyle you avoid all the harmful effects animal products and high-fat foods can have on developing children.
“Experts agree that pregnant women can thrive on vegan diets.” (PCRM).
One of the main things to remember is that during pregnancy (and while breastfeeding) mom is essentially eating for two. Standard recommendations, drawn from scientific studies, tell us that during the first trimester one can remain at about their regular caloric intake (remember our minimum 2500 calories/day recommendation), but during the second and third trimesters it’s important for the mother to increase her calories to promote the health of her growing baby: an extra 340 calories is commonly recommended for the second trimester, and 450 (or more) calories for the third. It’s estimated that to grow a healthy baby typically requires 60,000-80,000 calories, so moms: don’t be shy, carb up so your baby can thrive! We highly recommend using https://cronometer.com/ to track your calories; we also recommend weighing your food to be sure your measurements are accurate. No one wants to take any chances when it comes to the health of their baby. : )
The rest of the RT4 principles apply fully during pregnancy. Contrary to popular beliefs, no extra protein is required during pregnancy, nor extra fats. A high carb, low fat, low protein plant-based diet of abundant calories is ideal. In terms of exercise, it’s important not to take up heavy exercise, or to significantly increase one’s exercise routine during pregnancy. If one is accustomed to a certain level of exercise prior to pregnancy, one may keep it up to some degree during the first and second trimesters, and relax it during the third—it’s important not to overdo oneself. Remember that your baby is depending on a healthy, balanced and consistent environment for healthy growth, so it’s important to take a “middle path” during pregnancy: don’t push yourself over the top, but try to move your body a little every day. Pregnancy yoga can be wonderful, moving into more restful styles as your due date nears. Avoid stomach exercises. Focus on light cardio, light stretching and listen carefully to know when you need rest.
Dr. John McDougall has several articles on his website that discuss key aspects of pregnancy on a high carbohydrate plant-based diet, and specifically addresses some of the common concerns women are told to worry about, including omega-3, protein and calcium:
Dr. Michael Greger provides good information here as well:
It is possible for women, vegan or not, to be deficient in some vitamins and minerals, or to have other underlying health issues that can play a role during pregnancy, so it is always important to address any concerns with your ob/gyn or midwife. This is particularly important if you are new to the plant-based lifestyle or are not yet in ideal health. Never self-diagnose, and never assume you’re getting everything you need while you’re pregnant: be objective, get tested for deficiencies, and be engaged and health-conscious during the whole process.
The first thing to know is the difference between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Hyperemesis is defined by “extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting” during pregnancy, and can cause dehydration and weight loss, leading to more severe health concerns for both mom and baby. If you’re experiencing persistent nausea and vomiting, it’s important to talk to your ob/gyn or midwife to find solutions. One of the most important things in severe cases like this is to stay hydrated. Coconut water can be very helpful. Focus on juicy fruits or fresh-squeezed fruit juices, and drink lots of water. Remember also the importance of adequate calories while pregnant: take persistent vomiting seriously and work with your ob/gyn or midwife to make sure you and baby will be healthy.
One thing we highly recommend is keeping a food-diary during your pregnancy. There are several reasons for this, which apply equally well when not pregnant, but there’s a specific reason to do it during pregnancy, and it relates to morning sickness. It may be that nausea and vomiting, especially during the first trimester, are indicating that something mom is eating isn’t the right food for her baby at that time. The foods most commonly associated with this are animal products, caffeine and alcohol, which should all be eliminated during pregnancy. But it may also relate to pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals in the food, or just to certain foods that aren’t what your baby needs at that time. By keeping a food-diary along with a record of your morning-sickness symptoms, you’ll be in a better position to notice if certain foods seem to be triggering nausea and vomiting. If you do notice a certain type of food that you can associate with morning sickness, try to eliminate it for a while, and see if things improve.
See here for more info on this topic: Flaxman SM, Sherman PW., Morning sickness: a mechanism for protecting mother and embryo, Q Rev Biol. 2000 Jun;75(2):113-48.
If morning sickness continues to occur, most women find it helpful to focus on juicy fruit like pineapples, green or pink lady apples, oranges, mangoes, etc., and for dinner simple/plain cooked starches (boiled potatoes, rice, etc.). The simpler the better. Monomeals of fruit and simple fruit smoothies are ideal, along with simple recipes for dinners. If the nausea is persistent, some women find nibbling on rice cakes or rice crackers helpful. Sipping on lemon juice seems to also help, as can chewing on ginger candies. Some also find acupuncture to help, if you have certified Chinese medicine practitioners in your area. But it’s important to remember to get enough calories from clean foods, to get enough fluids, and to focus on removing any food-related causes of the nausea if possible.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s something else: all you partners out there… a nice foot rub goes a long, long way; a nice head massage perhaps too; and don’t forget to remind mom whenever possible how beautiful she is! Oh, and be sure to prepare juice for her, bring her coconut water and fresh fruit, and show her that this is a team effort. : )
A Word on Hormonal Effects During Pregnany
During pregnancy hormone levels rise. In the beginning its primarily hCG, which plays a role in morning sickness and gives that “pregnancy feeling.” This hormone doubles every 72 hrs in the beginning, peaking at 8-11 weeks, then dropping and remaining at that level until delivery. Progesterone, the “pregnancy hormone”, steadily increases week by week. Oestrogen causes the uterus to grow, among other things, and steady rises until after giving birth as well. Hormonal changes after giving birth prompt your breasts to start producing milk. The baby’s sucking motion (if feeding) produces prolactin, which stimulates milk production. Pregnancy hormones gradually leave your body as you start to produce this milk and the three pregnancy hormones start to drop. Keeping your food intake at a good level will help to get through this phase and help with lessening the symptoms of the “baby blues”, which can happen on the third day after delivery due to the hormonal drop and pure exhaustion from giving birth.
After the Birth & Breastfeeding
Letting our bodies recover from pregnancy can take time. Our body has undergone a very special experience that is both physically and emotionally strenuous. Now, in addition to this, we have a new bundle of joy to care for and focus our thoughts and emotions on. Many new mothers find themselves struggling with questions like: “is my baby eating enough?”, “is he/she growing at a healthy pace?”, “am I producing enough milk?” or “why am I not producing enough milk?”, “is my baby still hungry?”, etc. It’s natural and expected for a mom to be worried or unsure about these issues.
Long term high carb mothers have been willing to share their knowledge and experience about breastfeeding and all the other details of the first months of baby’s life, and what they stress most clearly is the importance of relaxing and allowing yourself to rest and heal after the birth. Be accepting of this process of rest and healing and focus your energy and thoughts on loving yourself and your new bundle of joy. Embrace the love of your ability to create this amazing life, to nourish this life, and give your energy to your new born baby.
Here are some suggestions we hope will be helpful for new RT4 moms:
1. What many new moms may not realize is that breast-milk production requires more extra calories than they needed during pregnancy. An ideal recommendation is an extra 500 calories on top of your own needs while actively breastfeeding. The kind of food you eat doesn’t have to change, of course—a high carb vegan diet is perfect in every way—abundant calories, abundant vitamins and minerals, all the essential amino acids and omegas and calcium and iron we need, and all this will come from following the RT4 Principles. It will be helpful to focus on lots of fruit and fruit smoothies. The first few months may be a time when mom needs lots of extra energy to compensate for interrupted sleep and busy days with baby, so one reommendation we make is to really focus on starting the day right: go for a big fruit smoothy, or any fruity meal where you can kick start the day with an abundance of easily digestible calories (aim for 1200+ for breakfast if you can). Again we recommend using https://cronometer.com/ to track your calories and weigh your food to be sure your measurements are accurate. Be objective so you can assure you and your baby’s health.
“Your baby is going to nurse and your body is going to make milk, and if you don’t have enough caloric input to sustain the milk supply, your body will start pulling fuel/energy from your body fat in order to make milk for your baby (which, if you are overweight, may sound like a good thing, however it can lead to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), chronic ketosis (which can stress your kidneys), and eventually, decreased milk supply).”— Melissa-Marie Marks (Registered Midwife and high carb vegan mother).
2. Stay hydrated! Hydration is vitally important for breastfeeding mothers. Drinking at least 2-3 litres, or more, of water (or coconut water) per day will be key. Try also to focus on juicy fruits such as watermelon, melon, etc. These can encourage milk production. Be sure that you are peeing clear, 8-12 times per day.
3. At first you might experience low milk production. This is normal. The more relaxed you are, the more trusting you will be of your body; the more practice you allow your baby on suckling, the quicker your body’s milk production will adjust to the new requirements. Stressing or worrying may delay this adjustment. Remember that each baby consumes different amounts and that this is quite normal. Comparing with other babies or even other pregnancies you’ve had in the past may not be helpful. Being tempted to add artificial supplements to your own diet might actually cause the opposite effect you desire and decrease your milk production levels. Some worried mothers are sometimes also tempted to seek another breastfeeding mom to help nurse her baby but that actually harms the long term process because it discourages the body from boosting its own milk production. Try to keep going and focus on the long term results—sound familiar? ; )
4. Try to get your daily routine in tune with your baby’s daily habits. When baby sleeps try to make sure you sleep. Exhaustion can really play tricks on our body. Try to get as much rest as possible. If you’re using a breast pump, try to ask your partner or another assisting person to feed baby during the night so that you can get some rest. If you can, try to focus those first few weeks just on yourself and your baby and nothing more. It’s important to allow yourself to customize the RT4 Principles to this new, unusual daily routine: you may not be able to stick strictly to regular waking and sleeping patterns or to perfectly laid-out meal times, so just focus on the core principles and do your best.
5. Many new moms struggle with negative feelings about their bodies. Your body has just gone through some major adjustments, and you may feel less attractive, your body may not feel as tight or fit as you were, or would like it to be; you may be worried about the appearance of and sensation in your vagina, or worried about how your partner will see you. All this is perfectly normal and common. But because of these feelings, some moms tend to want to start exercising strenuously as soon as they can, and may end up pushing their bodies too hard. In our society there can be a lot of pressure for this—for instance, you may see new mom’s in magazines showing off their insta-six-packs and setting impossible standards for most moms. It’s important not to be overly concerned with this and not to overdo yourself. As always with this lifestyle, we want our focus to be on overall health. During the first few weeks, rest is more important than activity: your body needs the rest and needs the time to rebalance everything in your system, and to focus on what is important: a healthy system that can provide abundant milk for your baby. So, for exercise we recommend taking it easy for a few weeks, and as you feel up for it, start gradually adding in a little light cardio. As you start feeling more ready, focus on moderate exercise that will allow you to build up a bit of a sweat. It’s important for new mothers not to overdo it, or to push themselves too hard. After six months or so you’ll probably be ready to get right back into your full fitness routine, but in those first six months, take it easy and allow yourself the time and freedom to accept your body and all its changes and develop your relationship with your new baby.
6. Before feeding time is a good opportunity to strengthen the maternal bond and to talk to your baby and express positive emotions of love. If the baby is extremely hungry and crying, a quick hug will also be sufficient. Emphasis on verbal and tactile communication between mom and baby is important. During the feeding itself, try to focus on positive emotions because the emotions you are feeling especially during those moments will surely pass on to your baby and help him/her with her development. The RT4 principle of focusing on feelings of gratitude and peace at mealtime applies equally to mom’s meal time and to baby’s. : ) Breastfeeding is more than just physical feeding; it’s a bonding exercise between mom and baby and a wonderful opportunity to feel close to each other.
7. Baby’s body weight: it’s normal for a baby not to increase in body weight during the first few weeks. It might even take a couple of weeks for the baby to return to his/her initial birth weight. It’s advised not to weigh her/him more than once a week, just like we recommend not to weigh ourselves. Those scales are just going to get us stressed. It can also be quite normal for a fully breastfed baby not to produce faecal matter every single day.
8. On advice from others: many people who give us advice love us very much, however, they may not be familiar with the high carb vegan lifestyle. Hopefully you’ve been able to develop a healthy relationship with a midwife, or can seek out a neonatal nurse who will work with you and your lifestyle. If you have already been on this lifestyle long enough, your body will really be a “well oiled machine,” ready to go, so you need not worry over its functionality or ability. Sometimes it’s when we receive ten different pieces of advice that we can become doubtful and unsure of ourselves, especially during this time. Try to surround yourself with as many supportive friends as you can, seek support from the high carb vegan community, and find other moms on the lifestyle to provide mutual support on the journey. This will really help you stay healthy, rested and relaxed. Remember: what’s most healthy for your baby is a calm, happy, well-fed mamma.
Is RT4 ok for children?
The ideal food for an infant is their mother’s breast milk. Until at least 6 months of age, an infant’s diet should be exclusively mother’s breast milk. At this point, the natural food to introduce first is fruit. Children are naturally drawn to sweet fruit and will be happy to eat it at every opportunity. Mothers should continue breastfeeding while gradually introducing fruit and starches to their child’s diet, from 6 months into their second year. Some recommend continuing to breastfeed until the child naturally weans, which may be up to their fourth year. Once your child is weaned, they should be eating a high fruit, high carbohydrate vegan diet for optimal health. The beautiful part is that you can share this lifestyle fully with your toddler, eating fruit together during the day and having fun making nice, big starchy dinners!
Ideal foods for your child include any and all fruits, especially sweet fruits like bananas, mangoes, etc.. Try making smoothies with bananas and your child’s favorite berries, like blueberries or raspberries (guaranteed to make for a happy child). Starting the day with a big meal of melon is as good for a child as for the parent. Drinking fresh-squeezed fruit juices helps keep them hydrated while also providing extra energy throughout the day. Parents can also begin introducing cooked veggies and starches into their child’s diet as they’re weaning, so by the time they’re weaned they’ll be accustomed to cooked vegan dinners. Try simple steamed veggies, and try including some fresh leafy greens each day as well. Mashed potatoes are usually a bit hit. Include rice, corn, quinoa etc. as well. The healthiest cultures in human history have relied heavily on starchy foods for their staples, and your child will thrive on starches and fruits and veggies as well.
Children need an abundance of calories to support healthy growth, but tend to have small stomachs, so the ideal is frequent smaller meals throughout the day: between breastfeeding and snacks of fruit during the day, along with simple meals of brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, etc., for dinner, your child will be getting all the nutrition they need for healthy development. Once weaned, they can follow the RT4 principles, allowing them to eat as much as they desire. From age 2+ until about age 4-5, the common recommendation for calories for an active child is around 1400/day. From age 5 until around 12 a healthy child should be getting around 2000 calories per day. Once your child reaches their teen years, they should be meeting the RT4 minimum recommendation of 2500 calories/day. (see the FAQ question on our objective calorie recommendations for more on this).
Now, there are also many myths about dietary requirements for children, mostly perpetuated by food industries who have money to make from unnecessarily concerned parents. As new parents following a high carb plant-based diet you may face some concern or criticism from well-meaning friends and family. The truth is that a high carbohydrate vegan diet is ideal for a growing child. There’s abundant evidence that vegan children thrive, and even exceed the health of non-vegan children in many ways. Children on this lifestyle will develop well physically, mentally and emotionally; they’ll get all the nutrients they need, and won’t have to deal with health-impeding foods like animal products. They’ll have strong bones from calcium in plants without animal proteins to disrupt the process; they’ll have healthy hearts by avoiding all dietary cholesterol; they’ll avoid type-2 diabetes by avoiding too much fat in their bloodstream; etc., etc. There are countless benefits of this lifestyle over a standard western diet!
About macronutients (carbs, proteins, fats):
Children, like adults, need very little protein. Human breast milk has only about 6% of total calories from protein, and there is no reason to increase that number when your child begins to wean. We are naturally a low dietary protein species. Infants do need a little more fat than adults do, but this is taken care of by mother’s milk. As your child weans, there’s no need to pay special attention to supplying abundant fats in their diet. The natural omegas (3 and 6) found in all plant foods will provide them all they need, so long as they’re getting enough calories. If you want a little more fat for them, avocados are an ideal source. The main thing, though, is enough calories. It is vitally important that a child be given abundant energy to support not only their growth, but their increasing activity as they become toddlers. If you’re supplying your children with enough calories, they’ll get all the protein, fat, and vitamins/minerals that they need.
There is one possible exception, and that is vitamin B12. B12 deficiency is an epidemic in our society, with around 40% of people (vegan or not) being deficient. In order to assure that your child is getting enough B12, we recommend considering a sublingual B12 supplement (for both parents and child). All other vitamins/minerals will be supplied in abundance by a high carbohydrate vegan diet, including calcium, iron, etc. It’s also important to allow your child some time in the sun, with bare skin and no sunscreen, in order to get their vitamin D and all the other benefits the sun provides.
Why is (insert item here) on the ingredients-not-recommended list?
Our ingredients list has developed over the course of about 7 years. It’s not a dogmatic list; we’ve made adjustments over the years as new information and experience comes up. The list is divide into two categories: items that must be eliminated entirely, and items that one should try to minimize, but that can play a role in the occasional recipe or dinner out.
The first category includes any and all animal products and all stimulants. RT4 is a vegan, stimulant-free lifestyle. One cannot be RT4 while still including these foods. One will NOT get the same results as other long-term RT4ers if one insists on continuing to abuse their body with these kinds of items.
The second category includes items that may be harmful to your body, but that can be handled in small quantities without major health issues arising. For the best results possible on this lifestyle, especially during the first year, it is highly recommended to follow these guidelines as closely as possible. This particularly applies to things like oils, salt, fermented foods, and other tough-to-digest items. If you’re coming to this lifestyle from an unhealthy past (which 99% of people are), then minimizing these kinds of items as much as possible is going to greatly help in your healing process and will lead you to optimal health much faster with a lot less speed-bumps along the way. Remember, this list has come from years of experience and research.
Now, after one has been RT4 for a few years (minimum two years), has healed themselves fully from any past dietary health issues, and is really starting to thrive, it may be possible to have some of the items from the second category without feeling ill-effects. This is particularly true for those who have a good, healthy exercise routine, who regularly build up a sweat and have high functioning digestion and metabolism. Many of us who have been on the lifestyle long term find that we have little issue with a little salt or a little oil while eating out, for instance, but during the first couple of years it was much more difficult for us to handle these kinds of foods without negative effects. So remember, a big part of the first stage of this lifestyle is about healing ourselves from past bad dietary habits, and the cleaner your diet is during that stage, the better. Later on, you’ll probably be able to get away with being a little more flexible with some of these items, but always be sure to minimize them when you can. The results you get on this lifestyle will be directly related to how closely you follow the RT4 recommendations, so do your best and keep your long term health always in mind.
In our ingredients list, we’ve included links to sources we find to be credible and on-point when it comes to these items. If you have a question about a specific ingredient, those links will answer them for you.
What about gluten?
A little less than 1% of the population have celiac disease, a full intolerance (inability to digest) gluten. For these people gluten must be completely avoided. For all others, there may be no need to completely eliminate gluten, but there may be reasons to minimize the amount of gluten one includes in their diet. It may also be important for people who are healing from digestive issues to avoid gluten entirely until they’ve healed themselves of those issues.
It’s also important to keep in mind that people rarely eat gluten-containing foods clean: they’re usually also loaded with fat, covered in dairy, and other junk. Thus, many of the health issues commonly associated with gluten are likely actually caused by animal products and oils. Doctors like Dr. McDougall and Dr. Greger, and plant-based nutritionists like Suzan Levin, stand by the position that for anyone who is non-celiac, gluten is actually good for you, and is fine to play a role in your high carb vegan diet.
It seems, however, that gluten may help cause and help exasperate certain digestive illnesses and an array of autoimmune diseases that essentially begin in the gut. The key issue seems to be gluten’s role in triggering the protein zonulin, which is the “doorway” to Leaky Gut Syndrome (see the research done by Dr. Fasano). Leaky Gut means that the intestinal wall has become more porous, allowing molecules into the bloodstream that wouldn’t normally make their way in so easily. Once in the bloodstream, these can cause all kinds of autoimmune issues as the body tries to fight off these intruders. In order to heal, one needs to remove the foods that were causing the issue, which will mean removing all animal products, oils, and apparently gluten as well, while focusing on as clean a diet as possible. Once one’s digestive system has healed one may be able to include small amounts of gluten in one’s diet without suffering negative effects, but that will be for each to determine for themselves. Gluten may also play a role as a neurotoxin that can cause damage to nerve tissue—many people with neurological diseases (autism, migraine headaches, ADD, bipolar, schizophrenia, neuropathy, epilepsy, etc.) have been shown to do well on a gluten free diet.
On the RT4 lifestyle, gluten need not play a primary role anyway; it’s naturally a fairly gluten-free lifestyle. If you focus on our recommended starch staples (rice, potatoes, corn, etc.) then you’ll be more-or-less gluten free anyway. Gluten will come into play for things like wraps or perhaps the occasional vegan pizza or small amounts of mock-meats on very rare occasions. Gluten is in some pre-made sauces, gravies, etc., as well, but those are also only occasional foods on this lifestyle. Most long term RT4ers tend not to consume much gluten even without making a strict effort to avoid it. So RT4 makes no strict rule against gluten, but does recommend not to make gluten-containing foods part of your main staples: minimize gluten when you can for the most optimal results.
And now, a little comic relief: http://youtu.be/AdJFE1sp4Fw
What about almond milk, chia seeds, flax, popcorn, soy, etc., etc., etc.?
The Raw Till 4 lifestyle is intended to be one of abundance, and particularly one of an abundance of clean, healthy, high energy carb-loaded foods. The primary focus should always be on consuming adequate amounts of healthy carbohydrates at each and every meal. Simply put, you always want to be carbed-up! Though popcorn, and other low-calorie dry foods like popped lotus seeds and rice crackers, are fine, they’re actually pretty empty foods. They offer little in the way of carbohydrates and calories, they are often dehydrating and sometimes even difficult to digest. Many people tend to feel the need to “dress” these foods in any number of toppings that often include high-fat and high-sodium contents, which will only hamper your results on this lifestyle. These foods provide minimal nutrition or energy and yet they can easily fill your tummy. This can then take the place of healthy, nutrient-dense and energizing plant foods that could and should be eaten instead. Essentially, low-carb foods and low-cal foods like popcorn offer very little payoff for the body. They’re ok as snacks, but always make sure they’re not interfering with your ability to eat enough of the RT4 staple foods.
Foods like almond milk fall into the same category as other high-fat vegan foods: they’re ok once and a while, or as an ingredient in the occasional meal, but are best avoided as staples. Almond milk is one of the highest fat vegan milks, soy milk is less, but also high fat. Rice milk is probably the best option.
Many modern nutritionists and doctors (like Dr. Greger, for instance) recommend chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts and other seeds in order to help meet our daily needs of omega-3, because the science does show these foods to have some beneficial and disease fighting properties. However, on the RT4 lifestyle, when one is not consuming health-damaging foods like meat and dairy or lots of oils, the same beneficial properties are obtained simply from an abundance of high carbohydrate fruits and starches. On RT4 we recommend to limit these foods in the same way we recommend to limit other higher fat foods. They’re ok once and a while, but not necessary for overall health on this lifestyle. Eat them if you wish, but try to keep your daily fat intake low. Definitely no need to make these foods regular staples. Low fat (under 10% of total calories) is the idea for optimal long term health as a high carb vegan.
What if I want to be fully raw?
We’ve moved away from recommending a fully raw lifestyle simply because for the majority of people it proves to be unsustainable. If, however, you’re in a life-situation where abundant ripe fruit is available year round, and you have the time, money and passion to stick to it, a fully raw lifestyle can be very healthy. However, over time our experience is that the results on RT4 are the same, if not a little better, than on a fully raw vegan lifestyle, so we don’t want anyone to feel pressure that they need to be all-raw.
The first thing to do if you want to aim to be raw vegan is to get Freelee’s ebook “Go Fruit Yourself.” It chronicles the beginning of her high carb raw vegan lifestyle, demonstrating all the common mistakes and helping you to see the critical points of how to make the lifestyle healthy and sustainable. The number one point is to get enough calories daily! The number one reason people fail at a fully raw lifestyle long term, is failing to eat enough.
For support in your raw journey, please join either the bananagirls or the bananaboys facebook group. You’ll find plenty of other people who are attempting the fully raw lifestyle. If/when you decide to stick with RT4, use the RT4 group for all the support you need.
Why can Freelee, Durianrider and Neet eat not-recommended-ingredients when they go out for dinner?
Neither Freelee, Durianrider nor Neet consume the items that RT4 is strict about: animal products and stimulants. They, and many other long term RT4ers, do have some salt or oil or other items on our ingredients list sometimes, especially in restaurants where there’s less control possible. One of the big reasons why they can get away with it is because they’ve been on this lifestyle long term and they have excellent fitness. Their bodies are in tip-top shape, including their digestion and metabolism, and they regularly build up a good sweat cycling, running or playing.
It’s important in the beginning to be fairly strict with the RT4 principles and the ingredients we recommend to minimize, because you’re not yet dealing with a body that is in optimal health. Your digestion is likely sub-par from so many years of unhealthy eating; your metabolism is probably less than ideal; your fitness could probably be improved upon. Many will come to the lifestyle in a fairly rough place health-wise. In order to fully heal our bodies it’s important to eat as cleanly as possible: focus on fresh fruits, clean starches, leafy greens, and eat them in abundance. But try to stay away from too many processed foods, like mock-meats, tofu, etc., and try to minimize salt and oil and fermented foods and other ingredients on our list—if you do that you’ll set yourself up for the most optimal, and quickest, healing process. As you do that you can also build up your fitness by consistently doing moderate exercise with some high intensity exercise mixed in. Focus on staying hydrated, getting good sleep, etc. In short: build up positive, health habits. Once you’ve healed your body and settled into a healthier routine, perhaps after a year or so of being fairly strict with the RT4 Principles, then you’ll probably be able to be a bit more free when you go out for dinner without facing negative effects.
How do you afford this lifestyle?
It’s quite easy, actually. The key is to focus on the cheapest, most abundantly available fruits and starches as your main staples. Bananas are the staple fruit for most RT4ers, and they’re typically cheap and available just about anywhere. Rice, potatoes and corn are among the cheapest foods on the planet and can form your main dinner staples. Use these as your staples and it’ll be easily affordable. Then, feast on seasonal fruits and veggies to add variety, and play around with as many dinner recipes as you can to find the ones you love.
Another helpful key to making this lifestyle affordable, especially for couples or families, is to learn to buy certain foods in bulk. Rice, pastas, etc., especially. Also bananas, dates, mangos, etc. See if you can find these in bulk at discounts. Talk to your local produce managers to build up relationships, seek out farmer’s markets. Become a smart and conscientious grocery shopper, and that part of this lifestyle quickly becomes easy and enjoyable.
Why don’t Freelee or the admins have official medical or nutritional credentials?
The real question is: why do we need to? In an age when the whole of human knowledge is at our fingertips, the most important thing for everyone who is trying to be healthier is to do your own research. That’s what we’ve done, and that’s what we want you to do. We don’t want anyone to just blindly take our word for it. However, we do want to help you avoid the years of trial-and-error that many of us went through in our health journeys, by presenting you with as much good information as we can. We want you to verify for yourselves not only that a high carb plant-based diet works, but why it works, and this is why we continue to point people towards trusted sources like Dr. Greger, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Barnard, Dr.’s Campbell and Esselstyn, and many more.
Anyone who wants to see credentials, will find plenty of professionals recommending the same fundamental principles of health as we do: high carb, low fat, low protein, vegan, with exercise, plenty of water, regular sleep cycles, low stress, and a focus on whole fresh foods like fruit, starches and veggies. There’s no secret there, really. All we’ve done is take those principles, apply them to our lives and experimented until we’ve come to what we believe to be the most optimal lifestyle principles.
To begin your research, try starting here:
One other note on the subject of credentials: it’s important to understand that doctors are NOT taught any more than the most basic nutrition; most are absolutely unqualified to give nutritional advice. In addition to this, as far as medical or nutritional schooling goes, it takes years for new discoveries, even when proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, to make their way into the curriculum. This means that most people with certifications have been educated based on old, and very often outdated information, and unless they take the initiative to educate themselves outside of school and their career, they are just as likely to be misinformed as any average person with access to Google.
Here’s a quote from Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on the subject. It’s drawn from his response when asked the question: “why do doctors not promote plant-based nutrition?”
“It’s been estimated that it takes about 17 years for new information that has been found to get into the clinical arena. I think now though, with the internet and other things, it’ll happen more rapidly. I think that as we have outcomes that are so powerful, it’s going to be very very hard for clinicians not to employ this [plant-based diet as a healing modality]. But there’s a problem though: clinicians like to be compensated for their time spent with patients. Right now, insurance companies are not paying the physicians for the time spent doing this [investigating/practicing dietary methods of healing], so it’s much more [financially] rewarding for physicians to hand out pills, to do procedures … so compensation is a factor. … but you’re talking now about behavioral modification and you’re talking about nutrition, and most of the doctors have no knowledge in that arena. So they either have to school themselves to obtain this knowledge, or they’ve got to relinquish the patient, send them to somebody else, who does have the skillset to help these patients.” (source)
Let’s put this in perspective. The internet is only 25 years old. Nutritional research takes about 17 years to make it into the clinical arena. This means that the information currently being taught to clinicians all around the world dates to a time when the internet still used dial-up connections! Furthermore, it’s not only a question of how long it takes for information to get into the curriculum, it’s a question of bias against good science when it counters people’s deeply held beliefs and/or when it counters vested interests or threatens the mighty dollar (pharmaceuticals, surgeries, etc., along with animal agriculture, are BIG businesses; do not underestimate their ability to drive policy in the field of health and nutrition). The findings of the China Study, for instance, we’re compiled in the mid 1980s, published in peer reviewed journals, and stand as a monumental (and life-changing) information in the field of nutrition. It’s findings, however, have yet to make it into the standard curriculum. On the other hand, the belief that humans need protein from animal products continues to form the core of most clinicians personal belief systems and personal lifestyle choices.
It’s for these, and many other reasons, that we constantly repeat that if you want to find health, follow those who are getting the results you desire. Credentials mean nothing if the person who has them cannot keep themselves healthy. If a doctor is obese, why take their advice on nutrition? If a nutritionist is recommending milk or eggs or other foods overwhelmingly demonstrated to be unhealthy, why take their advice? Do your own research, become your own guide, lead yourself to health. That’s the key. Look into the science, the most up-to-date science, and simultaneously look into those who are getting the results you desire—when you find the science matching the lifestyle of those people, then you’ll know you’ve got the answer!
Why are long term RT4ers so damn sexy!?
Sorry, this is a trade secret. The only way to find the answer is to do it yourself. ; )
Q. What does a banana girl eat in a day?
A. At least 95% of your calories come from fruit, 5% from greens, nuts and seeds. You aim to get 9-12 hours of sleep a night. You make sure you drink
3 litters of water or more a day.
An average day might be:
Breakfast: Datorade: 20-30 dates blended on high speed with around 1.2-1.5 litres of water plus cinnamon to taste. Around 1300 calories
Lunch: 8-10 Mangoes/half a large jakfruit/3 pineapples
Dinner: A baby green salad with 5 chopped up bananas and 5 dates. Put aside some dates and banana and blend as sauce. Or you can eat Rawtill4 style for dinner.
On this program you are allowed overtly fatty foods like avocados once a week MAXIMUM.
Q. What improvements can I expect on this lifestyle?
Although everyone is different, if you stick to the program the following results are very common:
– Infinitely improved digestion and elimination
– Clearer skin, whiter eyes, shinier hair and stronger nails
– Much more energy and motivation to exercise
– Heightened mental clarity
– Positive fluid loss as suspended toxins leave the body
– A sense of well-being that can only be achieved on a HCRV lifestyle
– No more bingeing due to total satiation after meal time
– No longer dependant on stimulants like coffee to get through the day
– Depression becomes a thing of the past
– More connection with nature, the animals and yourself
– Start to forge new raw friendships/a whole new community
– Drug dependency is overcome
– Waking up fresh and with energy rather than groggy and lethargic
– Acne and other skin conditions begin to or completely heal up
– Completely overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Q. Do I need to take Supplements on this lifestyle?
The only supplement I recommend is Vitamin b12. This is not because I recommend a vegan diet but due to Vitamin b12 deficiency being rife throughout society. Please watch my video here to get clued up on testing and supplementing.
If you have digestive issues or a pas of drug use (prescription or recreational) then its likely your body is not producing the intrinsic factor (necessary for b12 uptake). This means you can eat all the b12 you like but none will be absorbed. I recommend taking a quality b12 supplement such as methycobolamin in the form of a sublingual or a intramuscular shot. These both bypass the digestive system and go straight into the blood. Please read more here in an article I wrote on b12. I recommend you take one sublingual/shot per day for a week then one per week for a month then one per month after that.
Q. I can’t afford to do this lifestyle!!
The beauty of this lifestyle is that you no longer have to fork out hundreds of dollars to naturopaths, homeopaths, Drs etc for useless supplements. Personally I now save around $300 a month on supplements alone since starting this lifestyle.
Firstly you need to get real. You don’t have a discount body! So you deserve the highest quality food every meal. Before this lifestyle I was making regular visits to the Dr/Naturopath/chinese medicine Dr. Twice the gastroenterologist cost me $215 for 15mins. Each time I visited these ‘Dr’s’ I would leave with an armful of costly supplements. This added up to several hundred dollars a month which now goes to organic food. Remember every dollar we spend is a vote for what we believe in so support organic growers and the environment.
I no longer have health insurance. I have known many people to spend several thousand dollars are year on operations associated with following a shitty lifestyle. On this lifestyle the chances of needing an operation are almost completely cut out. So there’s another several thousand a year. Apart from that packaged processed foods are not cheap to your wallet or health. Put your health first and your wallet wins as well.
– Forage fruit off friends/abandoned trees.
– Get to know your local organic shop owner for discounts or even get a job there.
– By from the organic wholesalers and get BIG discounts, buy in bulk.
– Buy ripe, spotty bananas from the bargain bin
You will find the longer you are on this lifestyle the less you spend on meaningless material possessions and the more money you end up having for organic food.
So many times I see the latest porsche in mint condition rock up to the KFC drive through. Who’s inside the car? A fat unhealthy diseased human being putting his wallet before his health. You are also likely to move from your expensive rental to somewhere more modest and simple which is also cheaper. Another thing I do is house-sitting. This really saves a lot of money! Not only is it free-rent but sometimes you actually get PAID to stay in the house and look after the pets. Try to get a yearly 3month gig and watch your bank balance rise. More details on www.housecarers.com. You may or may not get rid of your car and buy a bike instead. Many people do this which of course translates to more cash in the pocket as fuel isn’t exactly cheap these days! It’s all about simplifying your life.
Q. Isn’t that TOO much sugar?
No. Eating large quantities of healthy fruit sugar is not only good for your health but vital for health. In order to thrive, every one of our trillions of cells needs to be receiving a steady supply of sugar. So every cell in your body runs on glucose. The most easily converted source of glucose is fructose/fruit sugar. We have a sweet tooth for a reason! We get cravings for sweet sugary foods for a reason! Because every cell runs on it. It’s just up to us to be discerning enough to choose the right sugar to consume – fruit sugar. Nature didn’t get it wrong when she made fruit attractive to us in every way. It’s perfectly shaped to fit snugly in our hand. Its smell is fragrant and appealing to our senses. Fruit is brightly coloured to catch our eye and attract us closer. Lastly it tastes *amazing* without any salt or human intervention. For a food to be called a ‘food’ it must pass that simple test. Eat as much fruit as you want and then put some more down the hatch! This lifestyle is about abundance not deprivation.
Q. Isn’t that TOO much potassium?!
No. Our bodies need roughly a minimum of 5000mgs of potassium from our food daily. That is a LOT of potassium! Fruit is the perfect source. The only people who should be concerned about their potassium intake are those in hospital with renal failure. Their kidneys are not working properly due to their adherence to a crap diet and lifestyle. Don’t be scared of the humble banana! It will turn you into a superhuman if you eat enough of them. Please read my in-depth article here
Q. Won’t all those carbohydrate/fruits make me fat?
No. Your body rarely stores carbohydrates from fruit as fat or even from plain cooked carbohydrates. These are the brain and bodies number one fuel which it requires all the time for proper functioning. Having an excess of carbohydrate in the body is virtually unheard of because when we eat sufficient calories from carbohydrates we activate a stop mechanism or we reach a satiation point because every cell in the human body runs on glucose/carbs. Never ever restrict your carbohydrate calories. People get fat from eating excess fat and protein not from plain high carb foods like fruit, rice, pasta and bread. We have been sold so many lies by the diet industry, telling us that carbohydrates make us fat. Well this just isn’t true, its a load of shite actually. I have lost 40lbs of excess blubber eating all the fruit sugar I like and most importantly I have *kept* it off easily. Remember we cannot burn fat efficiently and cleanly without the presence of carbohydrates so eat up big time. If you have some weight to lose and fitness to gain then you must make sure you eat over 2500 calories from fruit a day. And PLEASE have patience! It didn’t take your arse a week to get that big did it? Listen to slim people.
Q. But I LOVE meat and dairy…
You love torture, mutilation, rape and slaughter?! Really? Of course you don’t. Wake up. Your body is merely dealing with an addiction. There are many addictive properties in meat and dairy such as casomorphins, hetrocyclic amines, oestrogen and other hormones, adrenaline, uric acid, pathogenic bacteria, cholesterol, saturated fat and carcinogenic compounds created by cooking. What chance does your delicate taste-buds stand against such an onslaught?! Nudda. Don’t forget the salts, spices and rancid cooked oils accompanying your dish. HIGHLY addictive. Couple this with the fact that meat and dairy are some of the most calorically dense ‘foods’ available. If we allow ourselves to get hungry we will eat ANYTHING. People have been known to eat eachother so another animal spiced, sauced, salted, crumbed, fried, sauteed, steamed, boiled, poached, baked, grilled is not a stretch at all. Eat food that wants to be eaten and leaves you guilt-free, lean and beautiful – fruits and greens.
Q. But won’t my teeth rot out of my head from all the fruit sugar?!
No. Please refer to my article on fruit and teeth below>
Q. Where do you get your protein?!
From Fruits and greens! Watch my video here to learn more >