But it would cost

I got thinking the other day how different my life would’ve been if, as a toddler, beer would’ve been repeatedly put into my sippy cup. . . .and fake food & cigarettes would’ve been a negative stigma to even be around or touch.

And later on, as I got older, beer would’ve been served with my high-nutrient meals, including school lunches.   

Most likely I would’ve grown up not eating pizza, cheeseburgers, spaghetti, fried chicken, beef ‘n noodles, cheese, ice-cream cones, donuts, and chips. In fact, most likely, I would’ve probably thought they were disgusting. . . . just as disgusting to me as the lingering smoke and smell of cigarettes.

However, I’d probably be totally addicted to alcohol and not be able to function without it. Possibly even totally dependant upon the stuff to get me through each day. 

I’d seek friends who also liked to drink. 

I’d seek activities where drinking was encouraged. 

I’d even possibly seek religious and social affiliations where drinking was condoned.

I’d most definitely turn to alcohol to calm my nerves, celebrate victories, cheer sadness, cope with stress, overcome insecurities, escape pain and responsibilities, and soothe a bleeding heart.

However, if, on down the road, I realized the damaging affects of alcohol on my body; including my inability to think clearly, hold down a job, raise a family, and have healthy interpersonal relationships, I may decide to get rid of the stuff. Once and for all.

But it would cost.

It would cost abstinence for rest of my life.

It may possibly require developing new friends and activities. 

And it may even cost finding different religious and social affiliations that would support my decision to remain sober.  

Addiction is addiction. When one is addicted to any health damaging substance, whether it is the standard American diet, sugar, “healthy” sweets, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, heroine, or meth; to live in freedom from the addiction will require a radical commitment to abstinence. Including possibly finding new friends, activities, religious and social affiliations that support the decision to remain free . . . for life!


According to Dr. Fuhrman, “The facts are that fast food and junk foods cause a thousand times as many premature deaths compared to cocaine; and it’s condoned.”


Are you committed to abstinence?

Think about it.  


image:  Emily Boller circa 1964

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Comments (23) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Amber - October 17, 2011 9:42 AM

I've been debating the total abstinence choice for a long time. Thank you for this, you've helped me finally decide - I do need to totally remove junk from my life. I thought it would be okay sometimes, socially, yet every time I eat one little thing, it consumes me and I just can't stop myself. I've been doing well with GOMBBS grocery shopping and eating at home, but now I can keep myself from stopping at coffeeshops after the library, and all the other little excuses I make to myself. Thank you, Emily, and thank you, Dr. Fuhrman!

Beth@WeightMaven - October 17, 2011 9:51 AM

I think total abstinence of processed foods is an unrealistic goal, nor do I think it is required.

Of course, "moderation" is not a good solution either, as "moderate" use of processed foods definitely does lead down the path towards abuse for many of us.

A commenter on my blog suggested that we need to adopt "intelligent control" of these hyper-palatable foods. I've been making that work since January by limiting processed foods to once a week.

bookwormmommy - October 17, 2011 10:18 AM

I also think abstinence for life may be an unrealistic goal. However, now that I am eating a high nutrient diet, I find that I do not want those processed foods. Sweets may be another story. I have always loved to bake, and it is a way I celebrate for my family and others. However, rather than baking treats and buying treats and stopping at the coffee shop for a treat, I am limiting myself. Special occasions (my son is turning five next month) we will have a cake. But it will be homemade with real food ingredients.
As a family, we are doing well with a high nutrient diet. We are slowly easing my son into it as well. But I worry if I become too strict about NEVER letting those bad foods pass our lips, it will be like alcohol is for some kids-something they sneak to do and binge on when out of sight. So, we refrain from buying candy, soda, chips, or fake baked goods. But if a friend brings a birthday treat to school, that is fine. And if he visits someone else and they have potato chips I will try not to make a big deal. I think this is sustainable and will help all of us be healthier as a family.

Janey - October 17, 2011 11:41 AM

There are those who seem to be able to occasionally eat junk food and not be triggered into a downward out-of-control spiral, but for many of us, myself incuded, it's one or the other -- choosing abstinence and health, or disease and misery. Thank you, Emily, for showing how clear the choice is and what the commitment to abstinenc re quires. Your experience and wisdom continue to inspire!

Thomas Boykin - October 17, 2011 11:51 AM

Dr. Fuhrman (and yes, even Emily two years ago when she was first celebrating her own personal success) were life-savers for me in the Member Center forums. Yes, I'm still a member to this day and order MANY of the stews and soups from the site since I'm honestly a lazy cooker. I don't think abstinence from alcohol or meat/processed food is reasonable, though, and I hope Dr. Furhman's message of the 10% rule still stands. We're not mostly vegans, we're "nutritarians," and that gives us that fair amount of "everything else" if we're good 90% of the time. It's kept me at my ideal weight with miraculous blood test results for two years. Smoking, of course, should be abstained from as I have done my whole life. Most wouldn't argue with that. Anyway, that's my two cents.

BTW Emily, congrats on your expanded role in Dr. Fuhrman's endeavors and on you being featured in his new book! I'm proud of you.

mike crosby - October 17, 2011 12:12 PM

I just completed a weekend at the Lifestyle Expo in LA, CA. Dr Fuhrman spoke twice but the doctor who got my attention was Dr Klaper. His talk was on the wonders of the human body, and focused on the digestive system.

Hands down, alcohol is a poison. It's not good for the body, and it's especially not good for the liver. I guess you could say if one keeps drinking excessively, the liver could be called the die-er. Aw, my fatal attempt at humor.

And BTW, Dr Fuhrman actually threw in a few jokes during his talks. I'll paraphrase one: Medical treatment is getting worse in the US. It's even worse in Canada. Dr Fuhrman said his mom (?) had to wait 18 months to get an operation. He said to Mom (?), you're almost 90, do you really think you need breast augmentation?

Also introduced in the audience was a woman who at one time was over 400 pounds. We got to see the before pictures on the big monitors in the room, and then the lady was introduced. My guess is her weight is now around 150, and she looked fantastic. Of course there was loud applause and a few even gave her a standing O. And this wonderful woman just turned to Dr Fuhrman and clapped and smiled in his direction. Great moment.

Chris - October 17, 2011 2:09 PM

A friend told me this year that its better to put your energy into helping those who want help and not waste energy on those who do not. I had been trying to encourage family (Mom with cancer) and friends who were not really open to try ETL. A friend insisted that Dr Fuhrman's research is flawed and became antagonistic. I've focused more on those who support our family's choices, whether they ETL or not. The people and the food we chose to "hang around with" the most, good or bad, will have an impact on us. We cant live in a bubble and remove all bad influences, but we can set boundaries with SAD food and people that pull us down. I agree with Emily that I've had to set more boundaries with places like my church, because they dont value good health and sabatoge my child by encouraging candy, donuts and soda for rewards. Its hard. I thinkl what Emily is saying is its better to cut it out if it will make you stumble and fall. I do think that a slim margin is ok, as was stated earlier about the 10% allowance. But 10% becomes blurry and can lead to 15, 20, or more. I think the focus is on the boundary and planning ahead of the moment what you will do, then follow through on it. Some may need to abstain totally from "treats" or it becomes a "trick" and they fall back down.

Jennifer B - October 17, 2011 2:12 PM

Thanks again, Emily, for sharing your story with such insight. I cannot play with any kind of half measure. All "intelligent control" of these hyper-palatable foods (thank you beth@weight maven for the awesome wordage) leads to an inevitable downward spiral. I'd like to justify alcohol. But I've already eaten so much nutrient poor, artery clogging, additive filled junk in my life that if I eat "perfectly" I am sure my earlier excesses will still catch up with me. I sort of feel like I purchase each day of my life and health with the good food/fuel I put in that day. I feel convinced that I have some sturdy and permanent weaknesses that I've harbored with my horrible food practices that is held in check by the awesome power of nutrient dense foods. I am hopeful that over the years of fueling my body with nutrient dense foods that there will be healing and maybe I'll feel like all is not so precarious. I am grateful to know what nutritarian means and I am grateful 100% keeps me from the slow steady blurring of the lines into empty calories and malnutrition.

I have a reprieve from my food past today, only in today. Really that's all we ever have, the choices I make to day will shape the health of my future. I am really done being sick. I'd rather plant the seeds for health today, where I make my choices.

black rice and pumpkin seeds,

Jennifer B

Jen - October 17, 2011 2:31 PM

I guess there are some folks who can do 90% and achieve and maintain amazing health. But based on my experience they are not the norm. People with serious conditions need 100%, addicts need 100%. Doesn't that likely encompass 99% or more of those drawn to this lifestyle? One treat a week means a week of recovery for me, and that's if it doesn't send me into a binge spiral. Thanks for being willing to tell it like it is Emily. Also, your post on "putting out the pilot light" was right on.

Emily Boller - October 17, 2011 3:21 PM

Dr. Fuhrman has said in the past that the more severe the addiction, the more abstinence is needed. He also said that healthy, long time nutritarians at a healthy weight, and without addictions, can "cheat" once in a while; because it does not drive them to further cheating and they get right back within their healthy constraints.

For me personally, since I had a food addiction for over twenty-seven years, I have established healthy boundaries that keep me safe. To be quite honest, I've met only a small handful, at most, of long time healthy nutritarians without a past food addiction.

For me it's best to heed Dr. Fuhrman's advice . . . the more severe the addiction, the more abstinence is needed. My addiction was pretty severe - it led to 20 years of life-damaging obesity and poor health.

And I meet and interact with MANY in this category.

Addiction is addiction. Abstinence is required.

Just like a former alcoholic may get by with taking a drink here and there; or a former nicotene addict may get by with smoking a cigarette here and there, but it's playing with fire, big time.

I lived in the misery of addiction long enough to know that I value freedom over a Dairy Queen Blizzard, hands down.

Nothing tastes as good as freedom feels!

Plus I absolutely love the taste of a blueberry spinach smoothie, or a bowl of California Creamed Kale over the artificial flavors of fake food. Any day!

I never want to go back to the dark dungeon of captivity ever again in my life. Ever.

I wish I had read this post when I was twenty-years-old. Perhaps I would've thought twice about my choices at the time; after all it was just an innocent flirtation with a candy bar here and there.

If someone would've told me at age 20 that someday I'd weigh 100 lbs more . . . AND that I'd be so miserably bloated and out of shape that I could barely move . . . .AND that I'd be so out of breath with the slightest exertion . . I wouldn't have belived them.

Not in a million years. Not me. No way.

I've played with fire and it about burned my house down.

For me, the cheating games are over.

Mitzi - October 17, 2011 8:35 PM

Abstinence is a bad word in our culture. If it feels good, and our urges say it is right ("follow your heart"), we are supposed to indulge, no matter how costly the long-term effects. So we hand out toxic food in schools and wonder why our kids are such a mess. If Johnny ate fruits and vegetables instead of chocolate milk and fries for lunch, he might be able to do math in the afternoon. Studies are showing that healthy eating at all ages has a strong positive effect on mental as well as physical health. Moderation when you are mature enough to handle it, and have no addiction genes, and no emotional baggage, might work for some. But for most people in the real world, abstinence is essential. This from someone who did not date until age 26, and has never consumed alcohol at 40. Sacrifice? Yes, but definitely worth it to avoid the alcoholism and other negative factors in the family tree. You can change your personal history for the better. Your past and your genes are not your destiny. But it may take a lot of saying, "no".

Krishna Allam - October 17, 2011 9:31 PM

Greetings Emily!!
It is always a pleasure to read your posts! I have a question for you and I am not sure if this is the right place because it is outside the context of what on this thread...but since it is an active thread I will ask it here.

So you might remember (not likely but it is likely a familiar story) I had been struggling with high chol..triglycerides...etc etc., I have adopted Dr.Fuhrman's diet and sure enough for the first time in the last 25 years I have experienced lower numbers that are now in the green...and they have always been in the red. I can share the exact numbers with you if you like but that is not important. I would like to know what I can do to increase my HDL. This number has also gone down along with my total cholesterol. I have increased my flax seed intake and hence my Omega-3s I think...Is this in itself adequate for raising my good cholesterol or are there other things I can do...appreciate your feedback.

Thanks in advance,

chris - October 17, 2011 9:34 PM

I guess I was relating to a "treat" as something less SAD and more healthy. Even so, it can definately spark a feeding frenzy for many. For me, I can keep it in check until PMS sets in. Then, its a full out reaction if I'm not abstaining 100%. I can say I know both sides of it because I experience it both ways, and I can predict when it becomes a danger zone. I respect the addictive side, and for some, abstaining is the only healthy choice.

For me, eating too much of a good thing is an issue that I've struggled with too. When I was 20 yrs younger, I consumed about 9,000 calories per day as I ran and trained hard with weights. Most people dont believe this figure, but its true. At 5'4", I stayed a size 4 or 6, so only those who saw me eat knew I consumed (never purged anything)quite a bit. In fact I was knick-named "pirhana" for that reason. (And "Ramba" due to my strength and muscular build.)

So now in my 40's, I still have a huge appetite but I eat considerably more veggies. Now, I make myself work out even when I dont want to. In the past, even though the calories were burned in heavy workouts, I still loaded my body with too many toxic foods. You can look good on the outside and still be unhealthy on the inside! I now have autoimmune conditions and need ETL as much as someone who is obese or has diabetes. Thank God I found Dr Fuhrman's books and Emily's encouragement.

Thanks Emily,


Emily Boller - October 18, 2011 1:55 AM

Great dialogue everyone! This stuff ~ EVERYONE's various perspectives ~ is what makes life a pure joy! You guys are ALL great!

I love Mitzi's way of thinking, "Your past and your genes are not your destiny, but it may take a lot of saying, 'No.' "

And, I'll add a favorite saying of mine that I heard years ago, but forget who said it, "Whenever we say, 'No,' to something, we are saying, 'Yes' to something better."

No to Dairy Queen - yes to life without diabetes.

No to handfuls of salted cashews - yes to no strokes.

No to Ranch salad dressing - yes to clean arteries.

No to buttered toast - yes to pretty clothes to wear.

No to cookies, pie and fudge - yes to feeling well, energetic and excited to be alive during the holidays!

No to binge eating - yes to a calm and productive day.

No to supreme pizza - yes to a life without depression.

No to creamy mac n' cheese - yes to life without pharaceuticals.

Hey everyone - that just gave me an idea . . . add your own "Yes to" . . . .and let's see what we are all gaining by saying, "No!" :)

(Krishna, Your question is a medical question and would be for one of the doctors on Ask the Doctor.)

Michael - October 18, 2011 12:29 PM

The thing I like about abstinance most is: there's no guesswork. I've tried "moderation" hundreds of times, but it was always so easy to slip into a binge. Trying to set limits is much harder than just deciding to not eat any, one day at a time. If you do eat something you didn't want to eat, analyze it. See what circumstances drove you to eat the unwanted food and come up with a plan for the next time you are in a similar circumstance.
Just don't beat yourself up over it. I used to do that and only had negative consequences afterwards. Slips are learning experiences.

GreenGiant - October 18, 2011 12:59 PM

Oddly, your post got me thinking of the Busch family (famous brewers) practice of giving a newborn 5 drops of beer immediately after birth. Out of the womb, beer is the first liquid on the newborn’s taste buds. I guess it worked to build a massive beer dynasty. Ghastly thought, eh? Celebrating a newborn not by raising a toast among the adults but by dispensing droplets of beer into the baby’s mouth. Hmmm, I wonder if the Smirnoff’s used vodka droplets!!!

Mark Osborne - October 18, 2011 3:15 PM

It's all about the rider and the elephant! Having your rider (conscious) make a decision to eat healthy is one thing, convincing your elephant (subconscious) is another. In a battle of wills the elephant will win.

You need to trick your elephant - you need embed a new goal into your subconscious and let it do the work for you. That's why self identifying yourself as a nutritarian and making certain foods forbidden works so well.

If meat is verboten then one goal center in the brain starts saying "I don't eat meat" whilst another is saying "that looks tasty". Initially that subconscious tension gives your rider the opportunity to resist. Keep it up and you will build "I don't eat meat" circuit will become stronger that the "meat looks tasty" - and no will power will be required.

However, the softer the goal, e.g. "I try not to eat too much meat", the less effective it will be - your subconcious needs simple straight forward goals.

SusieSuze - October 18, 2011 3:42 PM

I am going to confess something here which I hope people can get past and see that I am just a flawed human like the rest of us.

I was in a very low point in my life spiritually a few years ago and I tried a drug. This drug made me feel absolutely incredible. I yearned for it after just that one time. But because I am a fairly responsible person, I thought I could keep things in control. Once every two or three months turned into once a month and then once every two weeks. In the last month I used, I got to once a week. I knew there was a huge problem looming in front of me if I didn't stop. I had tried to rationalize to myself that I could keep myself in control and only do it every few months and it would be okay. Well I couldn't do it. Even though I was still able to do all the things in my world that showed I was being responsible and I was okay, inside I was so so scared. I could not wait for the next time I could take that drug again. Even though I had only used the drug less than 15 times over 2 years, the addiction was taking hold.

During these phases, I think I had a guardian angel on my shoulder that said "get help, you are getting hooked". So I did. I didn't lose my job or my family or my home or car or anything. I just got scared and saw how easily it could happen. So, I was very lucky to seek help when my addiction was just starting and had not caused any serious problems. I went through an education program that taught me so much. Our group learned all about addictions, what the triggers are, how to relieve stress, we did yoga and learned how to meditate. We learned that relapse is often a part of recovery and that we can use the relapse to dig further into our psyche to learn about ourselves, why it happened, and how to prevent it in the future. I think it is possible this program saved my life.

I also attended 12 step program meetings for a few months. It helped me a lot, though I don't feel the need to attend for the drug issue anymore. Funny enough, just yesterday I was thinking I needed a meeting because of food!!

The thing I really took home was that I had to admit to myself that I was powerless over the drug. No matter what I thought I wanted, my body wanted it!! I had to let my higher power take over. I am not a religious person but I do believe in the love energy of the universe, and I do believe it wants us to love ourselves and take care of this great gift we've been given. I want to respect this incredible life and do the best I can to take care of myself-- as a thank you and a show of respect to my maker!

I often feel I will always be in mourning that I can't have that high any more. Ever again. It is something I have learned to live with and have the strength to do because I choose life. The cravings are still there sometimes, but more and more rarely now, and I get so much pleasure in my life now, knowing how close I came to throwing it all way. I thank God that I had all the right people in my world to help me.

You may need to learn to live in mourning too. It's not easy to just accept the fact you can't have your health and eat SAD-food too. Just like I had to accept the fact I could not have a good life and that drug too.

MIke Rubino - October 18, 2011 6:37 PM

No to pizza pie, yes to a hilly bike ride.Good idea about abstinence for things we really liked and were addicted to . A few things for me are a dish of macaroni with a side of fresh locally made Italian bread and some kind of chocolate sweet for dessert. I dont miss meat, hamburgers,or the like, but put me in the middle of a dish of macaroni with some fresh sauce on top, along with a loaf of fresh Italian bread and Im in and have to watch myself.

Susie Suz, Yes maybe one just has to mourn the loss to make it work !

Karen Harris - October 18, 2011 8:01 PM

Good post SusieSuze! Back when I was in a 12 Step group for food addictions, we did a Cost/Benefit sheet for our addiction. There are costs and benefits (real or imagined) to the addictive substance, and costs and benefits to being addiction free. The things you perceived as benefits to the addictive behavior need to be grieved when you let them go. As you said, there may be quite a period of mourning in letting those things go.

Emily Boller - October 19, 2011 4:33 AM


Thank you for courageously sharing your story with us. That is eye-opening to read how easily harmful addictions can develop.

And yes, I totally agree . . . . just like one can't have both a good life and drugs; neither can one have health and SAD foods too.

Addiction is addiction.

Thanks for sharing.

Wendy (Healthy Girl) - October 19, 2011 5:44 AM

Emily, I just want to thank you and everyone here who took the time to comment on this blog posting. It really helped me today and I loved all the debate about this. I even recommended it to my blog readers who are struggling with their food choices right now. Very important stuff to think about!

Hawar - October 19, 2011 9:05 AM

Krishna Allam, the generous Dr.Fuhrman has posted some things about cholesterol in the past. Read the links below :) Best of luck and thank you for sharing your story.....if only my father in law followed ETL. He has really bad cholesterol. :(

Is higher HDL better?

Do low cholesterol levels cause cancer?

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