Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview with a fruitarian - 36 - Jeff Atwell

OK, First, please just briefly introduce yourself.. your name, what year you were born, and where you're living now.. Also tell us about any online profiles, blogs or webpages you might currently have?

My name is Jeff Atwell. I was born in 1978. I’ve been a 100% low-fat raw vegan since mid-2007, and a 100% fruitarian since Dec. 2009. My wife, daughter, and I just moved the first week of July into our first house in Valencia, California. We’ve spent the previous 8 years living in apartments in Pasadena. Valencia & Pasadena are both suburbs of Los Angeles. I think the city of Valencia is named after the orange variety (because there are a lot of oranges grown nearby)… it should be a good place for a fruitarian to settle!

I don’t have my own website or blog. However, I am pretty active on several of the fruit / raw forums. Here are some places where you can get more information about me: iheartfruit.com, fruitariannirvana.ning.com, 30bananasaday.com, and rawnaturalhygiene.ning.com.

Jeff and his daughter, Rose

Thanks Jeff, so you're in Southern California now, is that where you grew up too?

No, I was actually born & raised in Ohio, and my parents and most of the rest of my family are still there now. I moved out to California in 2002 at the age of 24 to go to graduate school.

OK. I read on your profile at the fruitarian ning, that you're a stay at home dad looking after your 1 year old fruit loving daughter, how's that working out for you!?

In short, it has worked pretty well so far. Before the birth of my daughter, I was a graduate student. Officially, now I am still a graduate student, just one who is "on leave".

Is your daughter still being breast fed too? If so, how's that working out with mum being at work?

Yes, still breastfeeding. Mom pumps her milk at work. I’m into natural child raising. So, I really think it would be best for my daughter Rose if my wife stayed at home with her. This way, she could have fresh breast milk on demand. I believe that Rose getting fresh milk directly from the breast would be the best for her physically & emotionally. But, sometimes the practicalities of the real world take precedent.

My wife enjoys her job, and earns more at it than I could working right now. In truth, my wife would prefer to work than stay with Rose all day. And, I do enjoy watching Rose and think me giving Rose refrigerated breastmilk while she’s at work must be the next best thing to fresh. We don’t have any other family close by, and we certainly did not want a stranger to watch Rose while we both worked, and so one of us clearly needed to stay home.

Is your wife into the whole raw vegan fruit thing too?

My wife enjoys fruit, but she grew up in China, and still enjoys typical Chinese food (lots of stir-fry vegetables with a little meat added as a condiment). This has been a source of conflict between my wife & I, since I believe that her diet isn’t optimal for her or our daughter (via the breastmilk). My wife already knows what I think about cooked food, and to keep the peace I’ve found it helpful not to remind her every time she sits down to eat. I try to lead by setting a good example.

Rose is 17 months now, and has had only breastmilk and fruit thus far in her life. I am very glad my wife has let me do this with her.

Jeff and family outside house

So, you've been doing the 100% fruit thing now since the beginning of December 2009, more than half a year now, what's your verdict so far?

Yes, 100% fruit since December 1st, 2009. I am really enjoying it. In the couple years prior to this, my diet consisted of fruit & greens, but getting the greens down was always a struggle for me. After reading about you, Kveta, Anne Osborne, & Fruity Jules, I decided that I had to try it. My primary motive is that fruit is what tastes best to me. However, I also appreciate the ethical aspects of fruitarianism.

Absolutely 100% fruit? All raw fresh, IE, not dried or such?

Right, all raw, all fresh, and about 99% organic. No canned fruit, no frozen fruit, no dried fruit. As an example - mangoes are one of my favorite fruits. But, most of them in the US have been imported, and have been subject to hot water treatment. I no longer eat these. I only eat domestic mangoes in the summer when I can get them, which haven’t been heat treated.

Also, I eat the entire edible portion of the fruit, and don’t juice. I think some valuable nutrients are lost when one juices.

I'm guessing you're supplement free too?

Yes, I don’t take any supplements. I’m not going to worry about the B12 issue unless I start to notice a decline in my health, in which case I might consider taking a B12 test, at least. Many 80/10/10 types call themselves fruitarian, so I guess since Dec. 1 you could call me a “strict fruitarian”: no nuts (including coconuts), no seeds (except unavoidable ones, as in kiwi or strawberry), no greens, no salt, no spices, no peas, no seaweed, etc.

Great, I'm aware that the term fruitarian gets used very loosely these days, and it's refreshing for me to meet someone else who's using the term to describe 100% fruit..

Let's backtrack some, I'm presuming you grew up on a pretty standard diet? When was it you started making changes to it, and what drove you to make those changes?

Yeah, I did grow up on a pretty standard diet. I actually wasn’t too big of a meat eater growing up, but I did drink a lot of milk. I think I’ve always had an interest in nutrition. I recall eating bowls of milk & cereal for breakfast before middle school, and reading the nutrition facts on the label while I was eating. But I was in my 20s before I started to do things out of the ordinary in my diet. In my early 20s, I was really into improving my physical performance, getting stronger, faster, etc., and I started looking for ways to improve by adding supplements and changing my diet. By trial and error, I found that taking supplements didn’t have any beneficial effect, and was quite expensive. With the diet changes, I didn’t notice much effect on my physical strength no matter what I ate. However, I found that I could run much better if I ate less animal products, and less salt. At this point, I started to read a lot of books on the topic (veganism, raw, etc.), and I started to appreciate some of the other benefits to this lifestyle (ethical, environmental), whereas before I never really thought about it. Since then, I’ve gradually cleaned up my diet more & more, first as a cooking vegan, then as a low-fat cooking vegan, then as a low-fat raw vegan, and now finally as a fruitarian.

Any significant weight or health changes over the course of that time?

I am prone to overeating and weight gain. Before I was a low-fat raw vegan, I needed to calorie restrict to keep my weight down. Now, as a fruitarian, I eat as much fruit as I desire, and still don’t need to worry about unwanted weight gain. My health has always been very good, regardless of what I have eaten. Unlike many others, I didn’t come to this lifestyle because of an illness.

I’ve done the Mohican 100-mile Trail Run twice, in 2007 & 2008 (it’s in Ohio, near where my parents live). In the months leading up to the 2007 race, I had mainly a sort of junk food vegetarian diet, and I finished that race in a little over 27 hours, for 53rd place. In the months leading up to the 2008 race, I had a 100% low-fat raw vegan diet (I would say 95% fruitarian…I had a few greens), and I finished the race in 18 hours, 40 minutes, good enough for 2nd overall. I’m not going to pretend that all of this improvement is related to the diet, because it isn’t. In the second year doing the event, I was more familiar with the course, had trained harder, etc. But, I still think that my diet did play a part in this.

I am curious to know what I could do now in a race, but I haven’t done so since my daughter was born at the beginning of 2009. As a stay-at-home dad, training for a race of this distance is extremely difficult. I would like to race again, but I plan to wait until she gets older. Family first. :)

About your graduate student status, you were working on a PhD in theoretical physics right? I'm presuming that that would require a pretty logical mind set, do you think having that type of mind has helped you reach the conclusions you have? And if so, why do you think it is that others with apparent similar mindsets fail to reach those conclusions?

Yes to me, trying out a fruitarian diet seems to be such a logical thing to do. It is good for the environment, good for plants, good for animals, and likely good for us too. Furthermore, it seems all the other large primates live primarily on fruits, and I think this should be a clue as to what is likely good for us.

I have often referred to my 100% fruit diet over the past 7 months as an “experiment”, and that is how I am approaching it. I actually wouldn’t say that I have reached any conclusions yet. Thus far, I am feeling great on 100% fruit, and I am optimistic that I will continue to feel this way, but I cannot be certain.

I suppose that other scientists don’t consider trying an experiment on fruitarianism because they just haven’t thought about it, or they think it would be too hard, or too dangerous, or whatever.

Having come from a pretty conventional background, with both parents in the medical industry, how did they react when you started making those changes? What's their opinion of your current fruitarian diet?

I would say that my parents consider me to be just a little bit… well… different. I’ve got two siblings, and I was the one who was always doing things in an unconventional way. I think they would call my current 100% fruit experiment “extreme”. They fully appreciate that fruit is nutritious, but don’t see any reason to eat it to the exclusion of everything else.

I'm guessing their concerns would revolve around not getting enough protein or minerals or such? Were they the kind of things you perhaps found yourself also questioning in the years leading up to you becoming a

Yes, my parents and others have asked those questions, and I know how to answer them pretty well. And yes, I used to worry about these things too.

So, are your parents accommodating [I mean, happy for you to sit and eat fruit with them, or does that create a tense situation] if you go and visit them?

Sure, we are on good terms. If I’m coming to visit, and I ask my mom to pick up a case of bananas in advance, she’ll do it. More than anything else, we like to laugh together about my diet.

Ha! That seems like a pretty healthy approach to me! What about your 2 siblings or other members of the family - what's their take on where you're at?

I have a younger brother and a younger sister. I’ve tried, at least a little bit, to convert pretty much everyone in my extended family, and I would say that I’ve had the most success with my siblings. I think both are eating primarily vegetarian diets right now. I don’t see any reason to continue in my attempts to convert family members. They already know what I think. I think it is best to simply set a good example.

Do you ever get cravings for foods other than fruit?

Not recently, no. The hardest food for me to give up was cheese. I think this is because I grew up eating a lot of dairy products. When I first went vegan in 2007, I used to dream about cheesy pizza. At first, I had to use my logical mindset to not give into my cheese cravings. I had to remind myself of all the reasons why cheese is a harmful, addictive substance, and tell myself that this is why I couldn’t trust my intuition at that time on cheese.

Fortunately, over the past few years, there has been a substantial shift in my intuition, so that now I only seem to crave fruits.

You stopped nuts a couple of years back, what was the principle reason for doing that, and how were you feeling after eating them?

I found nuts to be too easy to overeat. After I started, I couldn’t stop eating them, and then afterwards I would feel sick. I used to crave nuts, but similar to the cheese, I got over nuts too, and no longer desire them.

I understand that not every fruit appeals to everyone at any given point in time, I often go months not touching bananas and even finding the smell of them very unappealing, so I Guess I understand why you're not eating avocados at the moment.. What about your little daughter, Rose, has she ever tried one? does she like them? Are there any fruits she doesn't like? Has she tried durian?

Rose actually loves avocados. It is one of her favorite fruits. I let her eat as much avocado as she wants. We have let her try a wide variety of fruits, and she seems to like just about all of them, to varying degrees. No, she hasn’t had durian. I would love to give her some. However, all the durian around here is frozen and not organic. Rose’s diet is 100% organic.

Jeff, Daughter, Fruit

Could you give us a brief rundown of what (and when - time of day) you might eat on a typical day?

I usually only eat once or twice each day. If the meal consists of really juicy fruits, I’ll probably want to eat twice. But if the meal contains a lot of the more filling fruits (dates, persimmon, sapote, sapodilla, bananas, etc.), then I can be satisfied for the whole day on just one meal, particularly if I’m not exercising very much. I prefer to eat infrequent large meals for a couple reasons. I think it is easier on the teeth, and I think it makes it easier to go out and get work done.

I always have a morning meal, and I’ll have an afternoon meal if hungry. I really listen to my body regarding when & how much to eat. Right now, in July, I am eating mostly melons and stone fruit.

How much do you think you spend a week on your fruit?

My wife, daughter, & I usually have a weekly fruit bill in the range of $100-$150. And keep in mind that this is 100% organic, and includes a wide variety. We buy most of our fruit in cases from an organic wholesaler in Los Angeles. Buying it all from the local grocery would be a lot more expensive.

Is it easy to get hold of good quality fruit in California? A wide variety? What kind of things can't you find that you'ld like to be able to?

Yes, the fruit here is pretty good, both in quality and variety. For fruitarians in the US, California & Florida are probably the two best places to be. There are a lot of fruits I haven’t tried yet, and would like to, such as: charentais melon (after reading Anne’s book), ice cream bean, peanut butter fruit, chempedak, & cacao fruit.

Does the new place you've just moved into have a garden? If so, do you think you'll be growing any of your own food there?

We have a nice yard, with plenty of space to plant some fruit trees, raspberry bushes, melons, you name it. I’m looking forward to using my fruit scraps for compost now. I always felt guilty dumping them in a trash can.

I imagine looking after a 1 year and a half old all day must keep you pretty fit and active, do you spend a lot of time outdoors together? What else are you doing to keep fit and healthy now that your not training regularly for marathons?

Yeah, we go outside a lot. I’m a big fan of sunlight and getting vitamin D the natural way. I try to do some strength training and some running each day. I usually do that in the early morning, before my wife & daughter are up.

Do you know any (or many!) other 100% fruitarians, or people headed that way?

Only my daughter, plus people I know on the internet.

Could you hazard a guess of how many 100% fruitarians there might be in the world? Do you think the idea is spreading?

If we’re talking about long-term 100% fruitarians with absolutely no slip-ups for years, then, from what I gather via the web, the number appears quite small, like less than 10. However, I have to believe that there are some tropical jungle peoples without a web presence that live on fruit, and so I’m inclined to say the real number is probably in the thousands.

Yes, I think the idea is spreading. I think your website, and forums like iheartfruit.com and fruitariannirvana.ning.com have helped a lot to spread the word.

Have you done much travelling at all? Any places you can recommend for fellow fruit fanatics?

My wife & I have taken many small trips to national parks in the western US. That's one of our favorite things to do. I don't have much time overseas, but I spent the summer of 2002 doing physics at CERN (the particle accelerator), near Geneva, Switzerland. That was an interesting experience. Also my wife and I went to Hawaii in 2005, visited her family in China in 2006, and took a cruise to Alaska in 2007. Since then, with saving up for the house downpayment and then with my wife being pregnant and then having a baby, we haven't traveled much.

I look forward to taking some fruity vacations in the future. I would love to visit Central & South America and Southeast Asia. I'm sure that I could try many new tropical fruits in these places. I also want to get back to Hawaii, and visit the organic fruit farms there. During our 2005 visit, we stayed on Oahu and did mainly the standard tourist stuff.

Do you have many other interests?

I enjoy being outdoors, and being with family. So activities like hiking & camping really appeal to me. Researching nutrition is also a hobby of mine.

Do you're friends and neighbours know you're on a fruit diet, and if so, what do they make of it?

Well, we just moved to a new area, and I don’t really know anyone here yet. If we get invited to any neighborhood barbecues, I’ll be sure to set a good example with fruit.

Do you think that your diet could be improved further, or is your feeling that it's about as good as it gets?

I feel that my digestion and absorption of nutrients has improved since I removed greens from my diet. I am optimistic that this will continue to improve gradually. But besides that, I think fruitarianism is as far as one can go. I don’t think long-term mono-fruit diets are healthy. Variety is important.

Where and how do you see yourself living and eating in 10 years from now?

We just bought a house, and in 10 years I expect we will still be here. By that time, we should have many mature fruit trees in our yard, and so hopefully a lot of my food can be coming from those.

Finally, is there anything you'ld like to add as words of encouragement to those that are aspiring toward fruitarianism?

I encourage others to listen to their bodies, and proceed at their own pace. If you are craving greens, then this may indicate that they are providing useful nutrients to you at this time. I don’t think greens contain any essential nutrients which fruits do not, however it is certainly true that greens contain more of certain things than fruits do. If your ability to absorb these nutrients is compromised, then your body may need the greens right now. However, over time, your body’s ability to assimilate these nutrients may improve, and then you may find that your desire for greens will lessen.

Jeff & Rose


Anonymous said...

dude, jeff, use your scientific mind to really take a step back and evaluate these photos. very little lean body mass, and you are not really lean i.e. no striations or definition aka "skinny fat". your eyes and face have aged and you show real exhaustion. would the healthiest diet in the world really do that? i will just leave it at that and not keep elaborating. honestly, this post is out of love, please receive it this way. you have an obligation to yourself to step back and without bias critically think this.

Anonymous said...

This was wonderful, thanks so much to both of you. I'm about five weeks without greens and I still can't figure out if I am craving them because of necessity or because of having eaten so many for sooo long!! I'm going to resist and see how the next few weeks transpire. Susan Sunshine :)

Cosmic said...

Thank-you Mango and Jeff(Rose is adorably-cute:)!

One Love!


Anonymous said...

To Anon -

Thanks for your honest assessment. Here's what I think...

I have done some experimenting with the relationship between my diet and my physical strength in the past. What I have found is that they are pretty independent of one another. In order to build muscle mass, one must lift heavy weights on a regular basis, and be sure to eat a sufficient amount of calories. The source of the calories doesn't seem to matter much, at least for me. In high school and college, I was really into weight lifting. I was about 170 lb at the time, and I'm 5ft-9inch, and had pretty low body fat. In grad school, I got really into running, and cut way back on the weight lifting, and lost weight. Now I'm around 130 lb. I think I look how a lot of runners look, regardless of what they eat. So, in summary, I think my current body shape is more related to my current lifestyle as a stay-at-home dad whose primary activity is running, rather than my current diet. :)

I am not as strong as I used to be (although I can run much better now). However, I am not a weakling. I can still do 10 reps of one-armed pushups with each arm, and carry my 95lb wife around on a regular basis. :)

On my aged face, well, I don't think this is related to the diet. I suffered from severe acne as a youth. In retrospect, I think my poor diet at that time had something to do with it (particularly the dairy, from what I read now). Anyway, those scars have caused me to look older than a lot of other 32-year-olds. Acne is something which has run in our family. Certainly I look much younger than my dad did when he was my age, and in fact I think I probably look younger than my 26-year-old brother (hopefully he won't read this). :)

Take care,

Anne said...

Lovely interview Jeff ♥
Beautiful photos of you and Rose.
Thank you for sharing.
I find it very inspiring your love and dedication to your family.
Also, great how you eat organically grown fruit.
Thanks Jeff and Mango ♥
Love and Peaches,
from Anne XX

Unknown said...

Great Interview! I love this stuff, Mango. Individual personal experiences are so valuable to read about as one is embarking on this diet and lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your story, Jeff. You will love designing your fruity backyard orchard. I just planted a tiger striped fig tree, even though I do not yet own the house I am living in. I saw it at the farmer's market and I just could not resist it. It was so cute and it just called out to me, "Take me home, take me home." So I did and now it is in the ground, a symbol of hope for the future.

Love & Light, Esmee

Fruity Jules said...

Thank you, Mango and Jeff, for this excellent interview. It is very inspiring to all of us! Very few people are able to do what you are doing, Jeff! I really appreciate your openness and I think you are looking "clean" and lean and healthy. And I love your beautiful family. ♥

Mango, your writings are at the top of my list of the best out there! Thank you for being a steady voice of reason and experience. I'll contact you for an interview after I return from traveling this summer.

Love to you and Kveta,
Julie ♥

Christine Wang said...

i can totally relate to this post. i live in glendale, ca so we are really close. i just had a son in may and after i gave birth, i have been easily fruitarian since i want to treat my body with respect. i have been experimenting on and off with clean diets for health reasons (i have always been thin and am 108 pounds two months after having a child). jeff, if you would like to meet another raw foodist or start a community in this area, feel free to contact me at seahare87@aol.com.


tinah said...

I loved reading your interview. I loved all you had to say. I love that you didn't conclude these things; you just listened to your body real well and intuited your way to fruit!

Your daughter Rose is so blessed!

Happy fruiting!

durianrider said...

Great interview and great running times Jeff! Look forward to hearing more race results.

Jenalyn said...

Jeff, thank you for sharing your story and the "experiments" you are doing with your diet and lifestyle with us. I think it takes great courage to put everything out there. You always speak with humility and have a very open mind.

Tinah said...

Thanks for the great interview! Inspiring! Rose is so blessed! : )

Anonymous said...

Wait so mangoes aren't raw there boiled. could somone please explain this to me :) how would they ripen if there not raw?

Anonymous said...

It was a wonderful interview. Thank you Mango and Jeff. Jeff, how many lbs of fruit do you eat a day on average? Do you drink water? If so, what kind?
Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for the questions.

Regarding the mangoes - no, they are not boiled. The water is hot, but not that hot. And, I am talking specifically about mangoes which have been imported into the US, conventional or organic. See this discussion: http://www.30bananasaday.com/forum/topics/all-imported-mangoes-not-raw, and this one http://www.vegsource.com/talk/raw/messages/99955972.html.

Do you know Doug Graham? This is what he had to say on his forum about imported US mangoes a while back:
"Hot tubs rarely go over 102, and almost never over 104. At 104, it
would be painful and dangerous to spend more than a few
minutes, even if you had trained to do it, with lots of practice.
Air temp is a completely different issue from water temp.
When fruit is on a tree, it is attached to a cooling system. Fresh cool water from the tree goes into the fruit. The fruit is shaded, and typically during the hottest part of the day, the sun is straight overhead, so a cover of leaves protects the fruit.
Still, many people will not accept the heat-treated mangoes, for
good reason. They lost their smell, and the flavor has been tainted. What this means, chemically, is difficult to be certain. The research
I have read has spoken solely of enzyme activity, which apparently
resumes when the mangoes cool. Which enzymes, the study did
not make clear. There are other issues. Mangoes are dipped in water that is 130F, according to the research I read. But the length of time varies according to the size of the mango, with larger mangoes getting a longer dip. This is an imprecise system, at best, and some mangoes are invariably over-dipped. Also, the temperature of the water must vary somewhat, and if it goes to 131, could make a big difference, especially to the mangoes that are relatively small for their allotted dip time.
Overall, you end up with mangoes that rot from the center outwards, that taste of nothing, (at least compared to fresh mangoes) and that are of questionable quality all around. Good thing there is a FL and CA mango season. US grown mangoes are not treated to hot water. "

On the food & water - When I drink water, I drink distilled. I know distilled water doesn't exist in nature, but neither do products of the industrial revolution, and to remove them I see distillation as the most reliable method. But, I enjoy juicy fruits quite a lot, and so don't drink much water. Sometimes I will go weeks without even taking a sip. I'm not sure how many pounds of food I eat...I never measure in that way. Over the past couple months I have recorded exactly what I have eaten here: http://iheartfruit.com/index.php/topic,714.0.html.

Hope that helps,

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