“The answers to better health, I have found, are mostly found in the simple realm. And there is no better guide to anything than our own tastes, appetites, and thirsts. Disobeying our body’s cries for certain things, overriding our instincts, and exerting stubborn willpower is where we create the most damage, generally-speaking.” -Matt Stone
After six weeks on the GAPS diet, I read Matt Stone’s book Diet Recovery 2: Restoring Mind and Metabolism from Dieting, Weight Loss, Exercise, and Healthy Food (I read his first book, Diet Recovery, first, but book #2 is better). As the title clearly states, this book was written specifically for people like me—people who had followed various crazy diets in search of perfect health and destroying their health in the process. Stone argues that “With a high metabolic rate, EVERYTHING works better.” He describes what a high metabolic rate looks like and explains how we can easily sabotage our metabolism through diet, exercise, and stress. Common symptoms of a low metabolism:
- Bodily temperature below 98.6 degrees
- Cold hands and feet
- Dry skin, especially around hands and feet
- Dry hair and/or hair loss
- Decreased libido or sexual function
- Constipation, reflux, bloating, digestive distress
- Anxiety, aggression, depression, or mood swings
- Insomnia, especially waking up between 2 and 4 a.m. with the inability to fall back asleep; sleeping but not feeling rested
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst, dry mouth
- Brain fog
- Lots of allergies and sensitivities
- Food cravings or a loss in appetite
I read that list of symptoms, and ran to the bathroom to pee and check my temperature, and realized Stone was talking about me. Luckily, he offered a recovery plan: Rehabilitative Rest and Aggressive Refeeding (RRARF). The guidelines are as follows:
- Eat as much as you want of whatever you want, with an emphasis on the most pleasurable and palatable foods you can imagine. Eat plenty of everything (also referred to as the “high everything diet”). Consume an overabundance of calories.
- Don’t do any strenuous activity. Be lazy, and sleep.
This is not a diet. It’s the anti-diet. The goal is to flood yourself with a surplus of nutrients and rest—the two things your body needs to repair itself. RRARF is meant to be temporary, and continued only until a high metabolic rate is achieved and maintained. Some other helpful “raise your metabolism” advice from Stone:
- Take your temperature when you wake up; it should not be below 97.8 degrees and it should rise to 98.6 or higher after you get up and eat.
- Eat carbs within 30 minutes of waking up.
- Eat regular meals at mealtimes, striving always to include the “warming foods” or Anti-stress S’s: salt, sugar, and starch.
- Eat snacks when you are hungry or when your feet and hands get cold, again combining salt, sugar, and starch.
- Do not drink too many fluids (beverages and watery foods).
- Do not, under any circumstances, fixate on or obsess over any of these recommendations.
Yes, these suggestions made me balk. But what if Stone was right? The risk might be worth the reward. I certainly wasn’t getting anywhere eating nothing but meat, vegetables, and broth. So after a couple days of deliberating, I caved.
On the very first day that I started eating regular food again (March 20, 2014), energy surged through me like caffeine was being pumped through my veins intravenously. (Whoa!) I continued to eat all the most delicious, satisfying, and comforting foods that I desired with reckless abandon. If I was lethargic in the afternoons, I would nap. Besides going outside with my kids or maybe going for a light walk, I didn’t do any exercise. Almost immediately, the constipation was gone. Soon, my body warmed up (average temps of 98.6-99.1), the frequent urination subsided, and I was sleeping soundly through the night. Next, my rashes vanished, my acne improved, and my asthma symptoms receded. I felt like my vitality was restored. I felt happy, healthy, and normal. It was nothing short of miraculous.
After a few months, as Stone predicted, my cravings disappeared and I was no longer ravenous. I went back to a more normal diet, enjoying healthy, homemade foods alongside the “less healthy” stuff. I tried to eat intuitively, listening to my body for metabolic cues and giving it what it needed, always mindful of my salt, sugar, starch, and fluid intake. I felt so energetic that I needed to be more active. By fall, I could eat almost anything without digestive distress, and was boasting 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, improved allergies, improved PMS and cramps, and a superior immune system (to date, I’ve been sick once in 10 months!). I saw similar health benefits in my family as our diet became more relaxed.
Perhaps most importantly, my orthorexia was history. I felt completely liberated from my fear and anxiety of “poisonous food.” That’s a big deal. Stone says, “Guilt and worry about what you’re eating is far more unhealthy than any doughnut I’ve ever eaten.” I couldn’t agree more.
Do I think “RARRFing” is for everyone? Not even close. Do I think following the suggestions for maintaining a normal, high-functioning metabolism will cure all your ills? Of course not. Do I think Matt Stone’s thoughts on metabolism merit consideration? Wholeheartedly.
Coming up: My notes on Matt Stone’s book Eat for Heat: The Metabolic Approach to Food and Drink.
Postscript: In the interest of full-disclosure, I did put on about 20 pounds eating whatever I wanted and not exercising. That was fairly predictable. Matt Stone does speak briefly about weight-gain and weight-loss in his books, but I would prefer to save this topic for another post.