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Kirt Nieft
From Fit for Life, to Instincto, to Paleo

Kirt is a schoolteacher in Hawaii, and prior to his current position taught
special and regular education classes in the U.S. and abroad
in Peru, Thailand, and New Zealand.

Copyright © 1998 by Kirt Nieft. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.

I was born in Wisconsin in 1961, and went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, graduating with a special education degree. I grew up eating SAD (the "Standard American Diet") and it got SADder in college where I ballooned to over 240 pounds (at 5'10"). After the proper period of self-disgust, I lost weight by exercising and eating sparingly with no particular guiding nutritional principle in mind.

A couple of years later, after flirting with supplements and the Fit For Life program, I read up on Natural Hygiene and became a de facto vegetarian for a few months before discovering Instincto (otherwise known as "Instinctive Eating") via Severen Shaeffer's book Instinctive Nutrition. (See review on this site.) The paradigm really clicked for me, and at 26 years of age I became an instincto purist--at least to the degree one could be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My wife Melisa went along for the ride, but was never the dedicated nut-case that I was. Going from SAD to instincto resulted in many of the promised improvements in my health and I was soon a True Believer.

Within a year, we had relocated to work at an "American school" in Lima, Peru--one of the overseas institutions where children of Americans on leave or working in foreign countries go to school. (I taught fifth grade; Melisa was a high school counselor.) The tropical foods available there made it easy for me to stick with an all-raw regime. Two years later we ended up in Thailand at another international school. Thailand is known for its wondrous fruits, and there were many months when I was a de facto fruitarian. Nevertheless, when we would return to the States during the summer break we would gorge at salad bars and down seafood like there was no tomorrow.

Lovely as it was to be in the "instincto heaven" of Thailand, after four years it was time to move on, and we attempted to emigrate to New Zealand. After spending some time teaching and living on a communal organic farm (Wilderland) learning the basics of self-sufficiency, we decided to return to the USA, living for a time in suburban San Marcos, north of San Diego.

The foodstuffs in each of these locales were of very high quality and eating all-raw was never a problem for me, though Melisa struggled to go more than several weeks raw. Going only by the pleasure principle (instincto promotes eating foods that are selected according to whichever one happens to smell and taste best in-the-moment), I found myself eating too much fruit--with receding gums as proof. I began to eat salads as it became clear that my veggie intake was too low following my "instincts." And rarely could I eat raw animal foods in my diet for more than a few days running. Though such foods certainly made me feel good, I always seemed to end up back at too much fruit unless I showed some self-discipline, which I sometimes showed, sometimes didn't.

I had my first internet account in New Zealand, and soon discovered what is now the Raw-Food email listgroup. It turned out that this list and the contacts I made from it were instrumental in my growth. Up until this time I was in touch with very few rawists, and many of the ones I met were vegan--that is, horrified by the idea of eating raw animal foods. Though overall I was experiencing the best health of my life (excepting the above-described snags), I discovered after getting online (and also in subscribing for awhile to the Natural Hygiene M2M--now known as the Natural Health M2M) that in general rawists were anything but the picture of health, and that many were of questionable mental and/or physical health. Indeed, I could find very few all-raw folks who seemed to have both oars in the water. This, and two early miscarries by Melisa, during an extended time period when I was all-raw and she was mostly so, led me to question the efficacy of the all-raw program.

In order to prove to myself that all-raw was superior, I started a program of experimentation with some of the instincto taboos. I ate steamed veggies, raw dairy products, cooked meats (even commercial ones) and found that I didn't become constipated, acned, nor did I begin to feel worse despite monitoring for symptoms. To the contrary, I found I could eat cooked animal foods regularly and felt very little attraction to fruits. Similarly, avocados, which had been a daily staple to the point of an addiction, became undesirable. It is likely that prior to this, given the tendency to swing back into a high-fruit diet periodically, I probably would have been headed into some serious problems (beyond the receding gums I had already experienced) eating a high-fruit diet (50-70%). I was quite public about this experimentation in my posts to the Raw-Food list during the time, and the archives are available to anyone who is curious about the details of my experience.

In all, after nearly nine previous years eating all-raw, I have found that a paleodiet which includes cooked veggies and meat is enough to maintain my good health. I still enjoy raw animal foods, but have gone several weeks at a time eating cooked meat and raw bone marrow as the only foods. Ketosis, I suspect, may be a good break from an overload of fruit for so many years.

Today, Melisa and I are both extremely satisfied on a paleo regime which includes some cooked foods. We finally had a successful pregnancy and now have a new bouncing baby girl as of January, 1998. And we have found our dream property on the big island of Hawaii. (We plan to feed the extra fruit to some pigs and eat them instead of eating too much fruit ourselves. ;-) )

--Kirt Nieft, Summer 1998

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