The Interconnectedness of Raw Food, Eating Disorders, & Recovery

Is a raw food diet the cure for binge-eating? (Yes this "polish sausage" is raw vegan.)

First, let me tell you a little bit about myself.  I have no degrees in counseling, therapy, mental health, or recovery.  I’ve never conducted any studies on these topics.  I simply have my experience, observations, and perspective.  Take it for what it’s worth.

My eating disorder began when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eleven.  I was put on a strict meal plan, and because my parents loved me and didn’t want me to die from diabetes, they enforced it.

In retrospect, I now believe there were multiple factors in the development of my eating disorder.  One very strong factor was the resentment I felt about the strict control over my life, along with missing out on things my peers could enjoy.  Also, my family pattern was to use food as a comfort and reward—but I wasn’t allowed to do that, and I had not learned a healthy way to cope.  And, an equally important but overlooked factor (for most of my life), was that my healthy carbohydrates were restricted and my food was lacking in nutrients.

I began with hiding and secret eating of snack foods, and crossed a major boundary line when I went away to college and began eating whatever junk food I wanted, in massive quantities.  Gaining thirty pounds my first year, I began attempting to “burn off” the calories through over-exercise, and got into triathlons to justify my long sessions at the gym.  I continued this pattern for the next fifteen years, also attempting calorie restriction, fasting, various diets, laxatives, and vomiting (which I could never actually get myself to do).

I was obsessed with food, weight, and appearance.  I was never satisfied; always craving.  I couldn’t lose the weight, no matter how much I exercised, because I couldn’t stop bingeing on crap foods.  I was miserable and hopeless.  I knew I was killing myself as a type 1 diabetic.  My HbA1c ran in the 12-14 range; my terrible blood sugar control triggered frequent seizures, I was setting myself up for diabetic complications such as blindness, which scared me to death…yet I could not stop bingeing.  I could not stop doing the very thing that was killing me.  Ending my life seemed the only way out, but I just couldn’t follow through with that either.

When I was face-down at my bottom and willing to do anything to get out, I tried every “solution” offered to me—books, programs, counseling, you name it.  These were systems and programs that were working for other people.  I did a lot of self-analysis—learned a lot about addictions and factors contributing to my distorted thinking and habits.  But nothing worked to help me get free.

After years of searching, I was finally introduced to something that worked.  It was free, but required a ton of hard work.  I was introduced to a new way of living, which changed everything for me.  This new way of living addressed the spiritual, emotional, and mental issues that were keeping me tied to my eating disorder.  Once I addressed those, I became free!

The next part of my eating disorder recovery process was finding an unselfish way to care for and nourish my body, which is how I was led to raw foods…and then to a fruit-based raw food diet.

I believe firmly that if I had not first recovered from my eating disorder, there is no way I would have been able to stick to the fruit-based diet.  In my previous attempts to lose weight and stop bingeing, I had not been able to stick to any diet for more than an hour or two!  My mind was my main problem—it told me that bingeing was my solution.

During the process of “chasing recovery”, I had tried a “food addict” meal plan that eliminated processed, refined foods.  I was amazed at how the cabinets stopped “calling to me” on that diet.  I had eliminated the addictive substances.  (I have a relative who works as a food chemist for a large processed food company, ironically…designing the “hooks” that kept me addicted for so long.)

Yet even on that diet, my mind drove me to binge.  I binged on healthy foods.  I wasn’t hungry; I wasn’t even necessarily craving food.  I often just ate because I didn’t know how to deal with life, and a good binge would help me not have to think about it!

So I had seen the effect of certain “food” substances on my body (or anyone’s body, for that matter!)  But I had also seen that there was more to my problem than just addictive substances in foods.

After recovering and while working on transitioning to the fruit-based raw food diet, I had major swings between healthy raw foods and my old “comfort foods”.  In these experiences, I noted time and again the drastic contrast between how the different types of food substances affected my body.  Bingeing on processed foods gave me a much more effective “buzz” than bingeing on lettuce.

I also had many opportunities to work through the emotional, spiritual, and mental reasons that I kept going back to those old foods—using the tools of my new way of living.  I dealt with jealousy of others’ “free” eating, anger that I could no longer be ignorant about the effect of food on my body, and just wanting to eat the old stuff because I liked the taste.  I also dealt with embarrassment and frustration with gaining weight and having health problems on a raw food diet, despite working so hard, especially when the results were supposed to be just the opposite.

I also dealt with the normal physical issues of transition: the major one being, learning to eat enough calories.  I began to notice how my daydreams of old foods stopped when I had more calories in my system.  And, over time, as I dealt with my nutrient deficiencies through supplementation, I not only watched my health improve, but I also watched my remaining cravings totally disappear.

Some people say that going raw makes one obsessed with food, and causes eating disorders.  My perspective is that any major life change takes an overhaul of habits.  After thirty years of eating a certain way, this takes major re-thinking and prioritization for a successful transition.  I spent a lot of time and focus on it for years, but as time passed and I became comfortable with the lifestyle, I no longer had to really think about it.  Now, I just do it.

And certainly, there are those with eating disorders who choose to follow a fruit-based diet because they can binge on fruit and still be skinny (and healthier than if bingeing on junk food).  But this doesn’t mean that the diet causes eating disorders.

Some people talk about the diet being how they recovered from their eating disorder.  I definitely believe getting rid of addictive substances and getting proper nutrition changes things.  During my transition, when I would “cheat” and eat cooked foods, even healthier vegan options, I could tell my nutrient needs were unmet—I would feel unsatisfied, and I would need to still eat a complete raw food meal in order get satiated—twice as many calories (or more, depending on how much cooked food I had eaten in my unsuccessful attempt to become satisfied).

Perhaps those who recover from their eating disorder by diet alone are not as “far gone” as I was.  Maybe they had not progressed to the mental obsession I had developed in the latter years of my eating disorder.  Perhaps their disordered eating stems only from the above-mentioned physical reasons.

Another explanation for the “diet alone recovery” may be that this person has merely transferred their addiction to something else.  I have observed this in the “addiction world” for years.  I have seen how easy it is to “fix” one area and have an addiction pop up in another area: work, success/power, sex, body obsession, exercise/athletics, Facebook…the list could go on and on.  I have certainly done my share of transferring addictions before recovering.

Lastly, I want to say that I have talked to many people who have struggled with staying on the raw food diet.  Perhaps it is nutrient-related.  Perhaps they have emotional, spiritual, and mental issues that need to be resolved.  (One example is the belief that 100% raw is restrictive and leads to disordered eating—I was there once, but have used my tools to work through that.)  Perhaps they have the same mental obsession that kept me bingeing, no matter how healthy my diet.

My conclusion is this: eating disorders are multi-faceted.  In general, I do not believe that eating raw foods causes or cures advanced eating disorders…but that a healthy diet is intricately related to a healthy relationship with food.

I share these experiences and perspectives in the hopes of helping anyone who may be struggling with food issues.  If you can relate to my story and experiences, I invite you to check out the eating disorders tab on my website (, where I provide information on how I recovered.

Tasha Lee

Tasha Lee

Tasha Lee is passionate about sharing the gift of fruitful living with others. She is a fruit & diabetes blogger, health coach, and author of the book Healing Diabetes with Fruit. As a type 1 diabetic and epileptic, Tasha's own health has vastly improved on a fruit-based diet. In addition to promoting healthy living, Tasha also loves to serve in sign language, music, and disability ministry.

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