Why Vegan Diets Fail

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Most people assume that vegan diets fail and cause people to become scrawny, emaciated, asexual, anemic, thin-haired, bloated, and frigid because it lacks animal products.  Or protein.  I’m not so sure.  While we do seem to have a biological need for animal-sourced nutrients like vitamin B-12, and a big deficiency there will certainly cause some issues, my suspicions on why vegan diets (and all diets) so often yield a host of problems and symptoms lie elsewhere…

I have recently had the pleasure of working with a young guy in the vegan vlogging vurld.  Yeah I know, that only narrows it down to several thousand vegans who like to celebrate their awesomeness in video format.  He’s a really good kid, smart, honest, and has had great success with weight loss (obviously, it’s very difficult NOT to lose weight on a vegan diet). 

But, as almost always happens, lots of low metabolism symptoms started to set in.  Low metabolism symptoms are virtually the same as starvation symptoms, because starvation = reduced metabolic rate.  Some of the more common symptoms (he experienced many of these but not all) are…

  • Reduced sex drive and function (impotence, vaginal dryness)
  • Hypogonadism (ball-shrinkage)
  • Reduced body temperature
  • Reduced rate of hair growth, and fingernail growth
  • Dry skin (especially hands and lower legs)
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Hair loss
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Polyuria and nocturia (frequent urination in general, or at night)
  • Dry mouth
  • Gas and bloating
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Dizziness
  • Light periods or absent periods (amennhorea)
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of strength
  • Loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia)
  • Anemia

But, without eating any animal products at all, Vegan Vloggie-Vlog (V3?) has seen body temperature surge over 98.6, facial hair growth accelerate, sex drive and function return (Tiger Wood?), strength and muscle mass increase considerably, urine frequency decrease, sleep improve, etc. – and just generally feeling warm all over and in the hands and feet as well, even in the dead of winter.  In fact, V3 mentioned cruising around in my co-hometown (A little place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano) in January in light clothing and feeling toasty warm.  And it’s well-known that hands can get extremely cold in this locale in winter.

Anywho, I think starvation symptoms often arise on a vegan diet because vegan diets are naturally conducive to a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake, and, also significant, a reduced food to fluid ratio (more water content in proportion to calories).  And, because of the lunacy that is promoted for good nutrition and health these days, all this combined together is a pretty deadly combination for the poor human metabolism. 

A typical vegan will not only avoid all meat and dairy products, which makes the diet less enjoyable and spontaneously reduces calorie consumption, but in addition will often develop religiosity over “nutrients” as well.  Nothing against vitamins and minerals, but by far the most important nutrient we obtain from food is calories – particularly as the metabolic rate and the systems that are influenced by it (all systems are influenced by it, if not flat-out controlled by it) are concerned.   

With this obsession with nutrients comes the consumption of lots of fruits (tentatively – sugar is bad!), vegetables, juices, smoothies, green drinks, magic herbal teas, salads, sprouts, raw foods in general, and other things that are high in water and low in calories.  Water is “good” and “essential” so another couple of liters (or in some cases gallons) get thrown in with that already excessive water intake from watery foods.  This is extremely significant, as calories have to be concentrated enough to keep the metabolism functioning properly.  Eat as much watermelon as you want, but it will progressively lower metabolic rate further and further the more you eat, due to the diluting effect of excess water (this concept is discussed in Eat for Heat).

And “salt” is taboo amongst the health-conscious, vegans and non-vegans alike, which is very significant in the context of excess fluid consumption.       

The net result is usually a low-calorie diet with excess fluid consumption.  Many of the calories that are consumed are in their less-concentrated and less-digestible raw form.  Total Metabolism Suicide (TMS). 

When health problems arise that are clearly attributable to a low metabolism/starvation, the typical course of action is to do a cleanse, fast, or detox protocol that usually depends on an even more extreme decrease of calories and increase in fluids.  TMS Hypercharged! 

If vegans do eat concentrated calories, it usually comes in the form of nuts and seeds rich in metabolism-suppressive linoleic acid.  TMS Bonus. 

While I’m not an advocate of a vegan diet, I could still accept someone eating that way if they managed to get in the appropriate amount of calories and were thriving in the basic areas of physiological competency – metabolic, digestive, sexual/reproductive, sleep, immune, and so forth. 

If you are a vegan and this is all sounding about right to you, and those symptoms made you feel like I had somehow wiretapped your brain, try some dates, maple syrup, some well-salted yams and potatoes, lots of white rice and soy sauce, concentrated foods like chips, cookies, breads, pancakes, chocolate, and muffins (you probably already fight the urge to binge on these daily), calorie-rich fruits like bananas and mangoes, and enough coconut milk and coconut oil to make your food heavenly.  And ditch the tea, water, and low-calorie green drinks.  Have some fruit juice or even some soft drinks instead – but never more than you are thirsty for. 

As your metabolic rate increases dramatically with these very simple changes, you should see the majority of those symptoms improve or disappear altogether.  No cleanses, or heavy metal detoxes, or colonics, or supplements, or superfoods required.  And you can remain vegan.  Although, would it really kill you or the global biosphere to just eat a damn slice of cheese (pizza) every now and then?  While this may feel immoral to you, I think it will bring you closer to God.  Because… Cheese is f’n Christ!


  1. Yihaaaa!

    • 2nd

  2. The fact that you mentioned linoleic acid reminded me of a question I’ve been wanting to ask you:

    Restaurants like Ihop and Village Inn are great sources of abundant, easily digestible calories. But I assume that they also cook a large proportion of their foods in vegetable oils high in LA.

    So what’s more important in general, avoiding PUFA or packing in the calories? Personally, I’ve noticed that my body temperature hovers around 99 F after eating at Village Inn. (e.g. pancakes, bacon, eggs, and pie)

    • Calories by far. Especially in the short-term.

      • When I was the most successful at weight loss I would eat one or two meals a day and just stuff myself. The meat was not so important, but the calories certainly were.

  3. Love your writing. It always puts a smile on my face.

    • I was thinking the same thing. You drive the point home but always make me chuckle, too :-)

  4. I have to say, forgoing my aversion to PUFA consumption and wheat has really let me get out of the health-hole I was living in.

    Excess PUFA consumption may be bad in the long run, but eating lots of fast foods and pizza and not really caring about what they’re cooked in at the moment has warmed me up like crazy, gotten rid of my starvation symptoms, and I’m pretty sure my thyroid is working even better.

    I’ll deal with PUFA restriction/reduction once I’m really back to 100%, but honestly, the symptoms of starvation are way worse than consuming PUFA’s at least in the short term.

    My orthorexic tendencies make me alittle nervous to start playing around with my diet even after all this is behind me though. Can a balance be had? For me, reading lots of health blogs leads to questioning my diet…if I start to tinker than I keep trying to tinker if I let myself get that far.

    Another thing that’s been bugging me is worrying about somehow getting diabetes from all the food I’m eating. I know that’s the eating disorder in me speaking, but a little reassurance might help ease my mind :P

    Anyway, right now, the most important way for me to heal is the pizza, burgers, and ice cream all while generally avoiding health blogs (with the exception of small doses of 180 now and then, but even that can get out of hand for me). My libido has been pretty crazy lately, my shaking is lowering and sometimes even completely gone, sleep is a lot better, nails are growing, and I’ve woken up sweating more than a few times. I think that makes me less susceptible to disease than the way I was going, yeah?

    • Kamran
      Do a search for diabetes in Matt’s blog. In the last few weeks he did a post on pregnancy diabetes. Essentially, he said eating more.. having more sugars helps ward off not bring on diabetes. Your body gets better at processing sugars!

      • Yes Kamran , you can be re assured . I used to think about getting diabetes whenever I ate a carb. Nobody can promise you that you won’t but try not to dwell on the negative. In addition to the gestational diabetes article the recent one about accute stress is a good one. Good luck.

        • I don’t remember if I read it in one of Matt’s posts or somewhere else on teh internets, but just recently someone pointed out that the test for diabetes used to be checking your pee for excess glucose. Then, they changed it to checking your blood for excess glucose, and BAM, suddenly the whole world has “diabetes”. Just something to think about . . .

    • Kamran – I hear you about the othrorexia and the diet tinkering. Constant challenge for me as well.

      When you say you’ve woken up sweating, do you mean you are getting night sweats in the middle of the night? that’s totally been happening to me lately. I wake up in a puddle of sweat at like 2 or 3 in the morning. It’s been kind of disturbing me. Anyone else have that happening???

  5. Awesomeee post! Former raw vegan (1+ year on and off) and had to stop when my hair got so thin and my belly was so bloated from too much watermelon. Thought a 30 day juice feast would solve my problems, but it just made things *worse*. I gained so much weight after stopping showing me my body was really starving. After re-feeding, I am now eating to appetite, 3 meals a day and the extra weight is finally coming off. I am not gorging on food anymore, and my temps are up! Thank you!! Can’t wait until the extra weight all comes off- naturally as my body finds its set-point. Thumbs up on this one.

    • How long did it take you to turn around from weight gain to weight loss?

      • For me it took 8 months of weight gain.

        • Are there any RRARFers here who didnt start from a low weight? Cuz im already heavy and I am totally scared of gaining for 8 months!.. Almost wondering if I should do some extreme diet, lose 80 pounds then RRARF and only gain 20 back :) or will I do as usual and lose 80 then gain 100?? sigh

          • Chief started from an overweight state, but he has a slightly different method. Maybe it would work for you.

            I would not do an extreme diet and then RRARF because yes, you probably would gain it all back and more.

          • I like this post-
            “You cannot operate from a place of fear”
            It is damn scary when u are gaining weight and dont know if or when it will stop!
            It is all experimental what we are doing, there doesnt seem to be any tried and true path as far as can see.

            I was looking through more of Billy’s website and found this section where it described more about what he did in his 6000 cal year.


            “So, after having worked out a rough figure for the daily calorie consumption for someone of my weight and activity levels, I set upon eating 3500 calories a day, ignoring the rational to drop the figure by 15-20% or 200 kcals. My ideas stemmed from the understanding that the thyroid controlled metabolism (the rate at which we produce energy), by producing thyroid hormones. So, it made sense that the thyroid would prefer a stable, reliable amount of energy which would allow it function fully. Weight rapidly fell from me and I went more extreme with my research. For the final 6 months I ate 6000 kcals a day and ended up at 10st. I’d made my thyroid hyperactive and it was burning energy at a rapid rate. ”

            It seems he started to lose weight fairly quickly, and continued to lose after increasing to 6000.
            But how many of us have increased calories and gained and gained.. and not lost .
            Is absolute consistency of calories/food really the only missing key? Is going higher and higher in calories a key? What is really the key in getting this stuff to work for you?
            Billy says;
            “you dont have to cut calories to lose weight”
            “you dont have to go hungry to lose weight”
            always in my experience I have had to cut calories and go hungry to lose weight.

            So how do I get from that experience, to his experience?!
            Is it truly just picking a higher number of calories and sticking to it day after day until (probable) gain has stopped and weight loss begins???

          • Very few people gain weight for more than 8 weeks, let alone 8 months. And most raising metabolic rate through the methods described here are not underweight.

          • Really very few people?

            (That would’ve been ridiculously awesome if I didn’t keep gaining weight after 8 weeks.)

          • I started from an overweight state (the heaviest weight I’ve been in my life). Then, I proceeded to gain even more weight. But after those months, I lost weight.

        • How much weight did you gain at your peak? And did you feel a change in appetite when you started losing? I’m almost at the 8 month mark myself…

          • Hey Nira, I gained 28 pounds at my peak. I felt a change. I stopped mindlessly binge eating and late night study eating. Awesome! (or not awesome based off your ellipsis.) How has your body changed after 8 months?

          • Thanks for responding, I’ve gained a little more then you, it’s reassuring as you had great results. I’ve had a dramatic increase in my lean body mass I think, so I am surprisingly lean considering how much bigger I am. My appetite has been progressively shrinking, but I am still waiting for the turn around in weight. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to lose weight though, as when I eat to appetite, symptoms of a slowed metabolism come back.

          • No problema! Perhaps, you have gained lean mass. It’s hard to determine that especially because we so badly want to believe that we are gaining lean mass :P When I got to my heaviest weight (my before picture) I thought I got so heavy because I was weightlifting. But it turns out I just got fat. The best way to measure body progress is through pictures. I have photos through my transition and they comfort me.

            That is too true. Whenever I ate to appetite or not filling myself up my digestion slowed. Tmi: I was passing three long stools a day at my heaviest. What low metabolism markers are you noticing?

            As for weight loss, I think it is important to do some exercising after your metabolism has healed.

          • I’ve been taking scrupulous records of my measurements, which has been reassuring. No photos though, I’m not nearly responsible enough to keep those in my computer. I didn’t realize how painfully thin I was before…it’s nice to feel womanly again. As a plus, I am attracting men who are more muscular and not so “vegan” looking :)

            Digestion has slowed unfortunately though. Nothing terrible just some cramps, and joint pain. I came here after a severe bout of GERD, so I guess I should keep pushing it since I will do anything to never have heartburn again. I’m just so full that it is hard to keep eating so much. I’ve been trying to pick up the exercise, I’ve never had any luck losing weight that way so I’m a little cautious, plus I don’t want to undo any of my metabolic healing.

          • That’s good! It’s true, it’s less responsible of me to put these photos on my computer. But it is in the name of science, of course. Your plan does sound good, of wanting to keep the healing up. Yeah, the weight loss thing is tricky. I want to lose more fat too, but am unsure at the same time.

  6. This is so reassuring. Because I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life and whenever I’ve tried to eat meat/fish I was immediately sick. Mind you I was a healthy child until I developed an eating disorder in my teens.. and so it spiraled. At 22 I’ve experienced pretty much every symptom you list despite eating a “healthy diet” and was at the end of my rope until I was directed to your site. I’ve been re-feeding since late August and while my body temperature went up a little bit, I only saw a dramatic increase after reading Eat for Heat, as that was the point where I ditched the bottle of water from my handbag and got out a salt shaker instead. It has made a massive difference.
    I used to dread winter and now people keep asking me how I don’t get cold.
    As for body composition – yes, I put on a few pounds. Maybe 10. Maybe less. Who cares. And as several ladies already testified it went to all the right places, namely boobs and ass. So finally at 23 I no longer look like a prepubescent boy.
    But I was growing increasingly concerned that the lack of meat/fish in my diet would eventually stall my progress. I imagine if somebody who consumes no animal products at all can still see a significant increase in their metabolic rate then I shouldn’t worry too much.
    Thank you Matt. For this article and for being one of the few people giving out the truth these days.

    • [quote]And as several ladies already testified it went to all the right places, namely boobs and ass. [/quote]

      I believe you, but for the sake of scientific research, could you post pics?

      • I agree. We need more scientific proof of the T and A phenomenon to support Matt’s theories.

        • I still want to know the secret to the T and A phenomenon! I think I got the A but not the T!! (Unless T wants to stand for thighs, which yes,did grow when I re-fed)

          • I think that it is the rebalancing of hormones, so for some it is estrogen and others it is progesterone. I’m not sure what other hormones might be involved.

          • That might make sense then. I lost boobage when I went off the pill, and my hormones still have not totally recovered. Much better, but still working on it.

          • You THINK you have the A but not the T? Well I would be happy to judge this for you. Purely in the name of science OF COURSE.

          • Haha, all this T&A talk on a site where guys are revving up their hormones!!

        • Yeah, we need scientific evidence. If you gain weight and the fat is going to all the right places, I’d say that’s proof you got things working.

      • hahahaha :D

  7. So, the Vegan Dude just started carbing out like crazy?? That’s good to know that it’s not a protein issue, as I am always concerned that I am not getting enough protein…

    • Not necessarily. He was coming from a high-calorie 80-10-10 diet, and added dried fruit, coconut milk, cooked starches, and lots of salt. And calories. Temp shot right up and everything else improved predictably.

      • Thanks for the clarification Matt – I am still tweaking my own diet as temps are not shooting up!

        : )

        • Was he on the 30-banana-day-fruitarian 80:10:10 diet?? Salt – yes – I seem to have the worst time with it. Makes me really constipated, seems to shut down my energy, get leg twitches, and i get a lot of swelling under my eyes.

          Anyone else have salt issues? Maybe that’s why I am not having my temps get about 96.8 or 97.0, even though I’ve gone from 148-150lbs to 160-162lbs (at 6′ 2”) the last three months since giving this a whirl. Iodine not helping (my TSH was 4.8 prior, T3 around 98).

          Sometimes I wonder if I need to drink more fluids with increased salt intake because I seem to be one of the few people who do not have an over drinking background…

          • My typing is awful — my last message was supposed to say that my temps are stuck in the high 96s and sometimes low 97s, morning, under the tongue. Gaining weight but not getting hotter….

          • Salt is therapuetic at first, but I think it’s easy to overdo it. I had to increase fluids and potassium and decrease salt recently. Nothing is static or universally true. Any substance can be medicine or poison depending on the context and the quantity.

          • I had to take in a lot of salt to see a temp rise and it was inconsistent for me until I really upped my calories.

          • Ditto for me. Eat for Heat made a lot of improvements, but I’ve been a blasting furnace at 99 pretty regularly since getting my TDEE every day very consistently. Feels good.

    • Funny, If I don’t eat meat I really don’t warm up. It can’t be protein though. I eat things like family boxes of shells and cheese, 1,000 calorie pancakes, triple servings of hashbrowns and eggs, milk, half a block of monterey jack, and whey protein. So plenty of protein and calories. Still I’m cold until I get half a grilled chicken or a triple burger. Must be something else in muscle meat that’s giving this effect. But then I’m a super skinny bastard with a body fat percentage of “error”. Probably need lots of everything.

      • Same here. And it’s not that meat can take lots of salt, but the concentrated form of protein plus starch warms me up and keeps me satiated and stable for long time.

      • Sometimes it’s the salt in meat that makes it so warming, as meat can take a ton of salt without tasting too salty. Your typical triple burger might have 5 grams of salt or more. Not saying meat isn’t a factor. For many it is, and some seem to need more than others. But just throwing that out there.

      • Same here. If I eat only carbs, or too much carbs in relation to meat, I feel float-y and chilly. Very ungrounded. I’m also the underweight type (till recently!).

        • Yup, me, too. Meat (red meat specifically) is key.

          • Oh, and I don’t need a lot. No 16-oz steak. But, a burger or something like that, maybe 4-8 oz, several days a week.

  8. That green smootie looks delicious. I want some!! (not j/k)

  9. I personally do much better with starches than dried fruit, too much gives me a tummy ache but I can eat rice/soy sauce all day.

  10. Just what needed to hear, Matt! I”m not vegan but will always be vegetarian & this is very helpful. Would luv to see more about this topic – thanks!!

  11. Awesome post. I’ve been following you like forever and you are without a doubt my favorite blogger. However it always kind of bothered me when you say vegan diets are no good. I eat a vegan diet an never felt better. My kids are doing great and so is my wife. But we eat a sane vegan diet. Lots of grains/starches, fruit & veggies, nuts & seeds and yes sugar & (coconut) oils and yes, cookies too. The foods are great, the calories are way up there, and we do NOT feel depprived of anything. I feel like crap when I eat meat though. (And I used to be a Weston a. Price advocate). Veganism is awesome. There’s just a lot of stupidity out there giving veganism a bad reputation. This way of eating by the way totally restored my health after, drumroll please… low carb. Can’t believe I fell for that. :-)

    • Jay could it perhaps be the acidity and purines of the meat making you feel off? It makes your body produce a lot of uric acid which can produce body odour and some weird probems in excess but you could perhaps balance it out with some lemon juice or something. I think avoiding acidic things isn’t the best in long term because it is good to train your body to handle different foods and strenghen digestion instead of weaken but it’s up to you :)

      • Ahh, that’s why in Middle East people always, always have lemon slices with anything containing meat, or fresh lemon juice added to stews and such before serving. It tastes delicious.

    • I do not doubt that a proper vegan diet is healthier than low-carb. However, I feel like crap if I don’t eat meat (and I don’t eat a lot but I need some). We all have different bodies that react to different diets.

    • “i feel like crap when i eat meat though.”
      any food requiring bile for digestion could cause liver toxins to recirculate. taking a couple of activated charcoal capsules with heavy meals has helped me in that regard.

  12. Do you think fasting through morning and eating later in day (going with body’s natural cicardian rythm of eating) will improve hormonal health and bring the metabolism up? With eno9ugh calories of course. You say you eat in the monring to bring your temps up.

  13. Hey 180DH followers,

    Interesting post Matt. I used to suffer from a lot of these problems when I first became vegetarian. I lost 9kg in 12months and became emaciated. Then I fell into fasting, followed by low carb, zero carb, raw zero carb… And then got saved by Matt a couple of years ago now. Despite my negative experience, I returned to veganism about 12 months ago because my girlfriend is vegan (we moved in together) and because it is cheaper lol (I am a broke PhD researcher with no scholarship). This time, I am combining Matt’s insights and my own and I make sure to get enough calories, enough sugar, enough fats (although I am lowish at maybe 20% of calories). My weight has been mostly unchanged and I am doing ok really. In fact, I was telling Matt recently how my pb at bench press recently got better at 100kg now (for 1m81 and 78kg). I think I look the opposite of emaciated with broad shoulder, wide back and strong legs. My girlfriend calls me “the food monster”, so there is no undereating going on. I must admit that I am not strict and that I eat non vegan from time to time, having things like meat, pizza, ice cream, etc.

    Anyways, jst my two cents on this issue ;). I won’t act like Durian Rider and say that veganism is the way to go on anything. The only thing I kind of believe is that it is beneficial if you are suffering from heart issues. In such a case, I would definitely follow Esselstyn or Mcdougall. Other than that, I don’t think you need to be a vegan. But it isn’t mean you can’t be a healthy one :)

    Allow me to visnish with a spam to my brand new French learning website. For those of you tired of seeing me eat pizza on Matt’s channel, you can check out my website: http://www.verbekefrench.com. It is actually educational !

    • Thanks Martin, your website is awesome, learning French is an enjoyment and a privilege!!

    • “I eat non vegan from time to time, having things like meat, pizza, ice cream, etc.”

      Martin, that may be the coolest statement I ever read from a Vegan :)

      • Why? If a Vegan chooses to not eat animal products, it’s really none of your business. I’m one of those Vegans who NEVER eats animal products because it makes me physically ill, plus I don’t like it. Meat eaters are the majority, and I find that they are always trying to push their food choices on me. I don’t appreciate that. I find your comment annoying because the consumption (or lack of consumption) of animal products has nothing to do with “coolness”. *eyeroll*

    • I’ve actually been studying French off and on for a couple of years, hopefully I can get back to it soon. I just tried pulling up your site and got:
      “Error establishing a database connection”

      I’ll try again tomorrow, if I remember.

      • It finally came up for me. All I can say is, trés bien!

  14. I don’t understand how eating lots of junk food can be healthy. If eating tonnes of food
    Is so good why are so many people morbidly obese? I am underweight and have swollen legs that are discoloured. I went back to eating animal products 2 years ago but haven’t noticed any improvement. My meals are large but I rarely feel full; I think I am scared of food. I dream about food all the time. My temps are usually about 36.4. I eat lots of yam, potatoes, avocado, plantain
    Cheese, kefir, veg, some meat and fish,coconut oil and ghee! Where am I going wrong please?

    • If you rarely feel full, it may be because your body is just not getting enough calories. I thought my body might have just gotten screwed up from my diet stuff and wasn’t signaling my brain properly, but it’s much more likely that it’s just signaling its desperate need for calories.

      Read this: http://www.youreatopia.com/blog/2012/5/22/extreme-hunger-what-is-it.html

      If you are scared of food and dream about food all the time, you should probably also work on repairing your relationship with food. I used to fear wheat like hardcore because of my acne, that it took me way too long to really get the help I needed because I held on to my fear of wheat so much. I thought I was intolerant but many of my reactions to bread came from a low metabolism, drinking too much water and not getting enough food in me rather than just the bread itself.

      While eating all those healthy foods in large amounts are great, there is just something else about letting yourself eat the crap foods you’ve been craving but derpiving yourself of that eating healthy just can’t replace sometimes. This is just my experience and my opinion. Sometimes, after binging on fried and oily stuff, I feel like a few delicious apples would be incredibly satisfying.

      It’s probably an oversimplification but maybe the morbidly obese and sick get that way because they hang on to processed foods like some health nuts hang on to eating only whole foods. I think both really have their place in health.

      • I’m tempted to think that a rise in obesity has a lot to do with an increase in nutrition ‘education’/nutrition fear-mongering. For example, margarine started becoming popular in the 80s in Sweden (or that’s at least when we started eating it) and really, you couldn’t make people buy it if it weren’t for the saturated fat scare. I’m guessing this is when people start fussing with food, not eating intuitively or according to how people had eaten for generations. Leading to starving/binge type eating.

        • I think you’re right, Josefina; I’m from Denmark, and all the ‘avoid butter, use light margarine’ craziness also started in the 80’s. In 1980, I came to the US as a young exchange student, and I remember dropping my jaw completely at the sight of some of those extremely obese Americans. I had *never* seen anything like it. Now, it’s just as common here (and, of course, so is 100 tv channels, iPads, cheap soft drinks etc.)

      • I always dream of food when I am deeply hungry!
        It is my body’s sign to me that it is getting into starvation territory.

        I have observed this many times over the years, and come to realise that the food dreams always come when I am food and calorie deprived at a deep level.

        • A few years ago I did a juice fast for 3 weeks (under medical supervision). I did well, but towards the end of the 3-week period I used to dream that I go into a food store and ask for some meat. The shopkeeper would serve anyone else, but not me… It was a terrible dream. Anyway, the fast was OK, and although eventually I regained the weight, it took me over a year.

        • I never dreamed of food, even during the height of my starvation.

          However, every waking moment was spent wondering what to eat, scrutinizing my body, and looking in some sort of mirror to see if any new acne had popped up in the last 5 minutes.


          That’s true, I feel like the more we ignore how culture’s have eaten in the past and the more we accept reductionistic, one size fits all theories that deviate from most past cultures, we have a greater potential as a population to become unhealthy provided we blindly follow those recommendations.

          That’s not to say the evolutionary perspective is necessarily the right one, but it is one to consider when you demonize things like saturated fat that have been consumed with no problem for centuries.

          I don’t doubt starving/binging contributes to obesity rates. I have a fat-looking face and a huge belly relative to the rest of my body because of my starvation phase. I’m a really skinny dude so it doesn’t look that bad and when I gained 10 pounds, I thought that was really cool despite the fact I felt so hungry all the time.

    • I see this paradox too… I can’t quite accept that all obese people somehow get to their obese state by check-mark (yo-yo) dieting… Maybe it is a major factor for some, but surely, not many. Our society has an overabundance of calories and somehow rather than seeing a super-metabolism epidemic, we get an obesity epidemic. Perhaps a long-term unrestrained energy oversupply, the kind that creeps up on you when you eat hyperpalatable foods daily for years and years, is far more damaging to the body than the more traditional intermittent oversupply (christmas, festivities, chinese new year, festivals, holiday, celebrations etc). The eustress phenomenon seems to have evolutionarily selected into our cultures! So I see the cause as a combination of thrifty genetics and the modern (processed) food industry – add in dieting and weight fixation as a bonus.

      • We know that obesity proneness is the main factor in the development in obesity in this modern lifestyle, and number and size of fat cells for example is established before any of us even taste a slice of pizza.

        • And yet there is a huge difference in the percentage of obese people at, say, Whole Foods vs Walmart (or Golden Corral lol).

          And I don’t really buy the “socio-economic stress” theory. I am not totally discounting it, but I am nowhere near to convinced.

          • What about the rich guys procreate with naturally thin women theory?

          • hmm, I dunno, is that true? Seems plausible.

          • I think that theory is a good one…

            but like you’ve pointed out, stress itself is fattening. It probably needs other chemical, environmental, food(al) factors to go along with it, but stress seems to be the “BIG SWITCH” that tells fat cells to grow (and multiply?).

            I’ve seen people go from thin to fat in 6 months due to a major stress event. For others it takes a couple years and multiple stressors, but stress is always a major factor.

          • Yeah, I am inclined to agree. I think chemicals are obesity-promoting. Ditto to hormones in meat and milk. And all the refined veggie oils. Articial sweeteners are fattening, too (although that goes in the chemical camp). A lot of people are on medications that cause weight gain, too, which cannot be totally discounted. And I believe the lack if minerals in soil is fattening, because food is inherently less satisfying. And then the whole dieting mantra just fuels it all.

            I do not think white flour is fattening, assuming you eat enough nutritious stuff, too.

            If it were just stress, poor people would have been fat throughout the ages. They weren’t. Traditionally they were very thin, until the last couple of decades. (I do think stress is fattening, it’s just not the only thing, IMO)

          • Hmm, poor people aren’t necessarily stressed.

            I lived in Damascus, Syria and met lots of poor people. They are not so stressed, really. They are working a lot, trying to feed their families, and have very simple life. But the type of stress i see in the western world is very different and quite unnatural.

            I realize poor people here in the US have different lifestyles from those in the MIddle East.

            Also, people there are naturally constantly socializing, visiting, drinking teas and coffee together absolutely daily, and that’s done not over the phone or internet. It’s very de-stressing to walk about the city buzzing with people, stopping by park, chatting with a person at the bus stop, even though the air is heavily polluted. I’ve not seen a single obese person there. The lifestyle is totally different, very simple. Similar with Europe, although that’s changing now i think (haven’t been there in a while so i don’t know for sure).

          • you’re absolutely right, friends who lived in middle east say the same and are shocked at the levels of sociability here, people there would go round to the neighbours/friends everyday and have a vey close knit community stresses are very different there.

          • Reminds me of this Onion article: http://onion.com/QeAOl5 “Nation’s Lower Class At Least Grateful It Not Part Of Nation’s Middle Class”


          • That is very true. I wouldn’t be surprised if the stress related to obesity is partly related to our social isolation that is so prevalent in the US.

    • Your diet sounds pretty unenjoyable to me, and I bet if you tracked calories you would find that you are eating far less than you imagine. But I may be wrong. Athletes eat the most calories, so clearly calories aren’t harmful in and of themselves. There are other things besides food that contribute to obesity, and the eating patterns of the obese usually seem to be starving and binging, starving and binging – not just walking around eating everything in site all day. Plus, as we age, calorie consumption steadily decreases as body fat percentage steadily increases. Think beyond the calories in terms of obesity if that’s something you fear, as really calorie-dense foods may be the exact thing you need to get stuck out of the rut you find yourself in.

  15. I was vegan for over a decade without any issues. Some relatively minor annoyances actually cleared up: headaches, ashtma, some other stuff. I was mostly a ‘junk food’ vegan, but would start eating ‘McDougall’ like when I felt a little slow. It would work like a charm for awhile, tons of energy, sleeping well, but I wouldn’t get enough calories and would end up back on the ‘junk’. This cycle actually worked great for me. Then kids came and through not wanting to be as strict and not wanting to deprive them, the animal products slowly crept back in. I slowly developed a pretty life changing case of gerd and was told I had a small hiatal hernia. Looking for answers I discovered the paleosphere and went on to feel more crappy than I’ve ever felt. Have tried so many things, including going back to vegan for short periods of time. It’s really difficult to know what helps and what doesn’t. This diet thing is one tricky bitch. Following some advice here along with ‘trial & error’ has me feeling better than I have in awhile and hopeful that I’ll continue to gradually improve. Trying to be unlike Tina and just Eat the F’n Food. Except maybe less dairy. Thanks Matt.

  16. I have gone Vegan for 9 mos after suspecting Heart Disease and feel better, though I experienced the symptoms Matt describes. Bought “Eat for Heat”. Now adding salt and sugar to Yams or Rice cakes; keeping it low fat and I feel great. no more coldness after Green smoothies. It’s been a real breakthrough for me.

  17. Damn, when I first read your list of symptoms I thought you wrote that he had “vaginal dryness”… that would be a problem.

    I agree that excess liquids and salt restriction leading to mild hyponatremia probably accounts for many of those symptoms, and I would also add foods high in thyroid suppressing goitrogens.

    Was he a soy boy?

  18. I did very well on a vegan diet and still gravitate that direction when ‘left to my own devices’…eat the foods I enjoy, that is. :) But getting ample calories has NEVER been an issue for me, even during my most stringently vegan days. Starving yourself is just no good.

  19. “Because… Cheese is f’n Christ!”
    So it would be something like… Cheesus? Duh.

    I agree, last night I ate as much cheese and crackers as my body wanted and then I had the most toasty and wonderful sleep ever. For the first time in months I didn’t have to rub my feet in order to be able to fall asleep, they were already warm. The four S’s of Eat for Heat are just amazing.

    • Chessus is THE LORD!!

      : )

  20. Matt, after reading your book “Diet Repair” I wonder what to do when you “only suspect” that you might have affected/damaged your metabolism but not to such an alarming degree. The background is that I have never seriously dieted or counted calories but I feel like I maintain my current (ideal) weight on too little calories given my exercise/activity level. It is not like I maintain on 800 kcal while exercising vigorously for 3 hours/day but I feel I should be able to eat more to maintain. In my early twenties I didn´t exercise and used to eat a lot and was skinny. Then I started to become more “health conscious” and started to work out and watch what I eat and I slightly reduced input and increased output (so littel over the years that I didn´t lose weight). I developped a fear of getting fat, partly because people commented on how this would probably happen to me if I continue to eat like I did (I wasn´t stuffing myeslf just eat a lot for a girl). I cannot give exact numbers as I have never counted and it might be that it is just because of my age (I am in my thirties now) so I do not know if it is a good idea to just go back to eating a lot even though my metabolism is fine and I have just a flawed idea of what I eat/should be eating or it is just my age…This would just make me put on the fat without benefits…Any thoughts? Thank you!

  21. “Cheese is f’n Christ!”

    Nailed it!

  22. My own 2 month foray into veganism many years ago went very poorly. Hippie roommates obsessed with toxins briefly convinced me it was the bee’s knees. When I got sick from it, my roommates explained to me that I wasn’t doing it ‘right’ as I didn’t eat enough tofu and vegetables. Somehow both my meat eating and my failure as a vegan gave them an opportunity to look down upon me. I’m guessing I just wasn’t eating enough. This makes me wonder, if some people (like myself) just have weak appetites and therefore should not dabble in rigid eating.

  23. Hey Matt, what do you make of this new diet Richard Nikoley is promoting on his site (“Slim is Simple”) that is described as being “water, fibre, protein” (basically the more of each of those in your food the better)? It’s about 6:30 into the video. Apparently backed up by science. Just wondering what your take is on it, since you seem to warn against diets high in water and fibre?


    • The more water, fiber, and protein in one’s diet the less a person eats. I have written about that in great detail on numerous occasions, but it’s not really a reasonable solution. It’s not realistic to think people will eat a plain, simple, and unenjoyable diet forever.

    • I’m just waiting for someone to come out with a book called The Cardboard Diet…

  24. Hey Matt when is the book coming? :P i’m excited!

    • It’s done. Just doing the busywork that goes along with getting a book out. I’m hoping Monday or Tuesday.

  25. Been looking through 180 Kitchen lately. I didn’t realize how important learning how to cook really good food was until I started doing it. I know from personal experience that it’s next to impossible (for me it was impossible) to eat enough calories on an unsatisfying diet, and if you’re used to eating that way and denying yourself good-tasting food, you might be force-feeding yourself high fiber, high vitamin/mineral/etc. food, wondering why you can’t seem to ever eat enough calories and not even remember what it’s like to really wolf something down and feel satisfied.

    My solution lately has been:

    -Shop to stock: make sure you have plenty of food and any special ingredients for cooking on hand. If you don’t, you could end up eating less than you need to support your metabolism because you feel too tired to go out and get something to feed yourself properly.

    -Cook for the week: make good tasting food. And make a lot of it. If you don’t, you could end up eating less than you need to support your metabolism because you feel too tired to make something to feed yourself properly.

    -Listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re thirsty, drink. If you shop to stock and cook for the week this’ll be a lot easier because everything your body needs will be right at your fingertips. The key is preparing yourself for the low, crummy times when you’re in the higher, better times — i.e., when you have the energy to shop and cook, do it then, so when you’re hitting a metabolic slump you’ll have the caloric and nutritive resources readily available to help pull yourself out of it.

    I’ve spent a lot of time curled up with a blanket on the floor skipping meals because I felt too tired, weak, lightheaded and depressed to get up and go to the supermarket or even go out to a fast food place to buy something to eat. I’ve also noticed this in my friends and those are the times that I offer to take them out to eat, and they always perk up after that without fail. Even if they weren’t aware that they were hungry and thirsty, they always seem to get those burgers and shakes or whatever it is down pretty good and are usually a lot more talkative and relaxed afterwards.

    Anyway, having steak and potatoes, a big bowl of cheesy rice, ice cream or pudding or things like that in the fridge can be lifesavers in those situations.

    • Thanks for the review Jib. Saw that a couple nights ago.

      • Always welcome :)

  26. With respect to the title of this post, Alexander Beddoe has what seems to me like an intriguing explanation in his RBTI textbook: “The concepts of energy also show why it is important to get variety in the diet. As was learned earlier, the human has the highest frequency of all creatures on earth. The human frequency shows that there is the greatest need for variety in the diet of any living creature … Take for example the mineral Iron. There is iron in spinach, celery, chard, and bib lettuce. yet, in each the Iron is different because of the difference in the energy level of the Iron in the unique frequency arrangement of the different plants. The body needs those different types of Iron. it is the same with all other minerals” (Biological Ionization as Applied to Human Nutrition, p. 23).

  27. For most of you that aren’t getting good results just eating the food, try spending most of your day outside of the house or at least away from computer screens. As for me, I started maybe 1.5- years ago doing the whole get lots of calories. I used to be underweight 5’6″ guy at ~104 lbs at my best and from there I went to ~140 lbs now. During all this time I was still unable to get good sleep had to wake up in the middle of the night to eat a small meal sometimes 2 (always around 3-4 am) or if I didn’t eat right before sleeping then I would wake up with a pounding heart and in full alertness (always around 1-2 am) as if my body was about to drop or something.

    I’ll be honest, during this time I tried to get more then 3000+ calories but I was never able to because my stomach couldn’t handle that much food no matter what I ate. As in it starts to taste really bad and you can still only force so much afterwards. I recently tried eating out during both lunch and supper but that made the night even worse. I also tried adding like 3-4 tablespoons for sugar after every meal and in between meals with milk or yogurt. This was inspired by R. Peat thinking I was developing diabetes. All I got from this is bad cold with lots of thick mucous and phlegm, I hadn’t been sick in more then 2 years and never had this much thick mucous pouring out…

    After I got frustrated and decided to just say fuck it to all this diet centered mindset and just forget all of it. Instead, I would simply check what my body wants from moment to moment basis. I discovered some great stuff doing this, that I would like to share:

    -Your body is always adapting and all diseases or conditions are an adaptation response rather then some sort of a malignant infliction. The point of this is to change my lifestyle so it forces my body to adapt to challenging things rather then adapting to sitting down or relaxing all of the time.

    -I also discovered that I was depressed due to computer use rather then anything else. I used to think it was due to video games but after getting rid of that, I would just browse the internet and it would still be a “time/attention sink”. Need to avoid activities that abuse the natural dopamine reward system.

    -In support, I found this: http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/2/153.short and some other articles that support too much screen time leads to depression. I also read somewhere that increased screen time at night caused a disruption in melatonin production which lead to inflammation type symptoms. And if you didn’t know, depression comes along with a host of bodily symptoms like +obesity, +diabetes, +insulin resistance, +blood triglyceride levels, and +blood pressure. R. Peat has some good articles describing this which comes from too much serotonin production.

    So after finding that out I have cut my screen time significantly and avoid sitting as much as possible. In addition, I simply eat or drink till it starts tasting bad and repeat each time I’m hungry or thirsty. Which has lead to much better sleep; although sometimes I wake up but I can simply drift back to sleep. I also beat the alarm almost everyday even if its at different times. If I spend too much time on the computer, I catch myself getting more hungry and often without the feeling of satisfaction which leads to multiple snacks between meals.

    I just wanted to share all of this to show that its not always about the diet or calories in/calories out for that matter. And yes its hard as hell to get away from screens -almost like learning to live again but well worth it.

    • Absolutely. Agree completely. The day I stop blogging and writing is the day you know I’ve taken more interest in my own health than that of others haha. Did you ever read my Health Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors post?

    • This is a really smart post. Sounds like you’re really tuned into your body, which I believe is the real key.

  28. Ya I can understand you have to blog and use computers to make a living but we can still minimize computer use in rest of our lives. The study I mentioned and couple others all point out that problems start arising once a person starts approaching that 5 hour screen time mark, assuming they aren’t abusing their dopamine system via porn, addicting video games, or pointless web surfing (facebook, reddit, youtube, etc.) Another study or article (use google) also showed that after going past the 5 hour mark it didn’t really matter how much exercise was done to reverse some of the anti-metabolic effects. Other than that, 5 hours is plenty of time to be productive and make money to support a challenging outgoing lifestyle.

    My point is that eating only takes 2-3 hours max so why bother obsessing over it for the rest of the day. Instead focus on doing things like socializing, sports, and other rewarding activities that engage both mind and body. Anyway, good luck to all of yous and maybe see yous guyses in real life.

  29. Matt,

    Do you think that loading on carbs,sugar,salt and calories without (animal based) protein would not be detrimental for health in the long term?
    I mean may be enough carbs/sugar certainly could prevent muscle catabolism due to their sparing effects on protein but what if the diet is prolonged more than 1 or 2 years?

    • Not necessarily. Many species, including ones very closely related to us, subsist on very little animal based foods at all. Of course, I think the idea of NO ANIMAL FOODS at all is sick, twisted, delusional, misguided, dangerous/risky, and downright dumb. Whatever drives a person to become vegan (ecological devastation, mistreatment of animals, etc.) is more realistically approached with a reduction in animal-based nutrition, not complete animal-food abstinence. One is reasonable. The latter is extreme. Declaring oneself vegan is like refusing to ever get in a vehicle powered by an oil-burning engine ever again to lower greenhouse gases. You can cut your impact by 50%, or even 90%. Doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The all or nothing mindset is very unhealthy.

      • personally, I tried the 90% approach to veganism for a while, but the way a lot of these foods work, if a small bit is in your system (especially lactose), cravings make abstaining 90% of the time impossible compared to avoiding it 100%.

        The best way I can describe it is a smoker who has 1 cigarette a day. It’s putting just enough nicotine in their to keep their cravings strong, and it would probably be easier if they just quit completely.

        In the same way, when I used to make exceptions for friends’ birthday cake, I’d crave dairy for days following, then after about 2 weeks of having no dairy, I didn’t even have the faintest bit of desire when I looked at it…so it was just easier to drop it completely, and better for everyone.

  30. I just finished reading the book Carb Back Loading and was searching to find whether you (Matt) have commented on it somewhere? Have u read it?

  31. BTW Your last sentence of your last reply/paragraph is extremely well said! A perfect citation.

  32. Wow….I have been a vegetarian for years and many problems I had when I was a meat eater disappeared when I cut out animal flesh and dairy – my GERD went away, my anemia went away as did the feeling of being cold all the time, I did not experience major weight loss….I am not a big fruit eater although I do enjoy some. Everyone needs to find what works for them….I doubt we are all meant to follow one specific way of eating. I lift weights and I use an awesome, plant based protein powder, all natural ingredients, no sugar, fillers, etc.

  33. There are plenty of vegans who eat the way you recommend. They certainly aren’t scrawny, because they’re too busy being…doughy. And still riddled with vegan-associated health problems.

    Funny how Americans of all races suddenly have “fat genes,” even though their ancestors didn’t, and people from other countries develop these same genes after moving here and adopting the American way.

    This comment probably won’t make it…I don’t see a whole lotta dissent up in your worshipful cloister.

    • Welcome Mel. Dissent is encouraged here- aside from obvious spam, we don’t block comments.

  34. Hey Mattie
    Remember when I sent you one of my raw vegan diet journals? I have a lot of them Perhaps you can publish them and call it ‘Diary of Starvation’. ;-)
    Thanks to you I almost never have freezing hards or feet, a modern day miracle I am so so grateful for. Poor Harry :-)

  35. I feel like you guys don’t know the right vegans! I honestly would never restrict my diet if it weren’t for animal abuse, and you know… the planet, but I prefer not to contribute to things like that as much as possible. I mean, I’m not perfect, and every once in awhile I’ll have feta on my salad or something like that. I don’t expect to save the world, but I do think that being compassionate and caring shouldn’t be considered a crime. I just feel like saying that all vegans are health obsessed and cutting calories at every corner is just generalizing. I eat the full spectrum- everything from Ramen noodles to Oreos to giant salads, and I’ve had a lot of health problems that seem to be easing up since I’ve decreased animal products. Also, there are quite a few studies saying that plant based diets can be pretty damn healthy. I’m just saying… it’s nice to see both sides.

  36. I’m a vegan ironman triathlete. There’s quite a few of us (look up Rich Roll and Brendan Brazier, a couple of pros). I podium at most all my races, won a few as well.

    On a typical training day I eat close to 4000 calories. The calories are from whole grains, olive oil and avocados, and lots of fruits/veggies. I rebuild with pea and rice protein isolate (ratio of 3:2, respectively). My food is rich and healthful, loaded with natural spices for additional anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and micronutrient benefits

    Just fyi it is very possible. To be totally honest, unless you live in an area where you have to hunt for your own food, there’s no viable reason to not be a vegan in America today, especially if your meat comes from factory farms (98+% of all meat in this country)

  37. Matt,

    What about a vegetarian diet? Included animals products like ( eggs, diary)?

  38. “Cheesus Crust Saves” – Festival pizza vendor tagline

  39. great post. i have a friend who is a very underweight vegan, and there are some great tips here i can pass along to help him gain weight while remaining totally vegan. i don’t think he’ll be too sad to say goodbye to cruciferous veg, ha!

    what are your thoughts on soy/tofu?



  1. If I Were Still a Vegetarian… | Critical MAS - [...] excellent article with ideas on overcoming health problems on a vegan diet is Why Vegan Diets Fail by Matt …

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