Can you imagine living on mostly fruit?
As a kid, long distance runner and fruitarian advocate Michael Arnstein grew up on staples like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the occasional soda. Today, his kitchen is packed with high quality organic fruits and veggies like papayas, bananas, melons, tomatoes and little else. After experimenting with various diets that promised to improve both his health and his running career, Arnstein learned about fruitarianism — which instructs adherents to consume large quantities of fruit almost exclusively — and made the switch almost overnight. He’s now one of the lifestyle and diet movement’s most outspoken voices, and maintains TheFruitarian.com where he shares his own experiences with fruitarianism and boasts some pretty impressive marathon times.
It seems most fruitarians adhere to an 80/10/10 diet. Can you explain the breakdown?
It stands for 80 percent carbohydrates, 10 percent protein and 10 percent fat; the ratio naturally found in the majority raw fruits and vegetables. Sure, there are raw plants that deviate from this ratio, but most are within range. In nature, we’d be eating this way as an average over the course of a year. Most long-term raw foodists eat this way because it shows the most successful long term results when compared to higher fat, nut-based raw diets.
What inspired you to go fruitarian?
I read the book The 80/10/10 Diet
by Dr. Doug Graham in January 2008, went into the diet overnight and haven’t looked back. It’s been an incredible positive change in my life in nearly every way.
How has becoming a fruitarian changed your relationship with food?
Processed foods had a big impact on my everyday life, and I didn’t realize it until I gave them up for foods that love me back. Fruits and vegetables bring peak health and vitality in my life. If people think they aren’t addicted to unhealthy foods, just try to stop eating them.
As an active distance runner, how much fruit do you consume on average in a given day?
When I am training for marathons or ultra marathons I’m usually running 15-25 hours a week, which is extreme for most people. For me, it’s just what I need to do if I want to perform well. When I’m running that much I usually eat 4,000-6,000 calories a day from fruits and vegetables, mainly fruit.
What health benefits or physical changes did you experience after embracing the fruitarian lifestyle?
The list is tremendously long. First, I lost body fat. That was dramatic and well received as a competitive runner. I didn’t lose any muscle at all. I didn’t have body odor. My skin was never dry. I didn’t have oily hair or skin. My breath was fresh and my mouth felt clean and healthy. I never came down with any illness, colds or bacterial infections. Plus, my running improved dramatically, my outlook on life became very positive and I felt very alive and focused mentally.
In terms of nutritional value, is all fruit created equal? Are specific varieties more healthful and beneficial than others?
I recommend organic ripe fruit as the first choice, but living in New York it’s not very affordable or easy to get depending on the time of year. That’s why after six years eating this way I made the massive change and moved to Hawaii. I think if anyone gets into this diet and lifestyle they will eventually move to the tropics or a subtropical environment where they can get high quality fruits and vegetables. Now, I eat 95 percent organic, local and, of course, ripe fruit. Organic is a big deal, and local is equally important You can’t get a really ripe organic papaya unless you are close to where it grows.
Tell us about your annual Woodstock Fruit Festival. What might participants glean from this retreat?
The festival is a great place for people to try the diet and lifestyle in a way that is extremely easy and supportive. Many people attend who have never eaten all raw before. They never complain that it’s hard or unsatisfying in an environment where everyone is eating the same way, where there are unlimited calories and food options that make them feel good. Most people leave the festival with a deep conviction that they can do it themselves back at home if they make the effort. Eating this way for a week or two can have transformative effects in so many ways, and that’s our goal.
Dietitians often caution against eating regimens that exclude entire food groups, and more mainstream diet experts have criticized fruitarianism. What is your response to that criticism?
So few people can omit processed and addictive foods. The ones that do and really get over them find a new peace and freedom. There are many, many people that eat a fruitarian diet that are not only healthy, but also have far superior fitness. They thrive on a fruitarian diet. Yes, sometimes people run into B12 issues or some trace mineral issues, but these are the exceptions not the rule, and most of those issues can be easily corrected with some supplementation. The people that bash this diet haven’t done it, studied it, or are really hooked on foods that they don’t recognize as controlling their actions and behaviors. Fruit is a life of freedom and health.
In previous interviews you’ve talked about spending hundreds of dollars each week on your fruitarian diet. Is this lifestyle even feasible for those on more limited incomes?
There are usually good options in making fruit more affordable, but, yes, it can be very expensive in a city that isn’t close to where high quality fruit grows. In the winter it’s exceptionally hard. However, it can be done if you go to wholesalers and make the effort to find great deals. Or, if you’re like me, you eventually make your health the ultimate priority and you move to where it grows.
With fruit often being shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to reach North American consumers, is it possible to go fruitarian in an environmentally sustainable manner?
This is a tough question. I would say it’s less damaging environmentally than traditional processed food options. But to be frank, no, it’s not environmental or a great option. Humans need to move back to the tropics where we were meant to live and thrive with the foods that grow there.
As so many social interactions center on big meals or a round of drinks, how do you navigate these social situations as a fruitarian? Has adopting this lifestyle had an impact on your social life?
Come to the Woodstock Fruit Festival for your social fix! Seriously, it is a tough issue with the diet for most people, but with the huge online community it’s not impossible. I have made some fantastic friends with people who live this lifestyle, both in my local community and on the other side of the world. It’s better to have less unhealthy friends and more quality ones!
Is anyone a good candidate for this type of diet and lifestyle?
Yes. Everyone one of us is a fruitarian, only some of us are practicing. Eating raw fruits and vegetables is natural for all of us as humans.
What’s your advice for those looking to transition to fruitarianism from more mainstream diets?
Read The 80/10/10 Diet
, watch Youtube videos and follow people who are working very hard to promote this lifestyle. Visit the tropics, experience high quality fruit; and if you want an immersion in this way of life seriously consider the fruit festival.
Want to learn more?
The 80/10/10 Diet
Fruitarian Raw Food Transition: Enduring The First Six Months