Extinguish the pilot light

I grew up on a farm. In addition to an orchard my parents always put in a large garden every spring. It produced a bountiful harvest to can quarts of green beans, tomatoes, tomato sauces & juices, corn, peas, beets, and pickles . . . .enough to last a family throughout the winter, with plenty of surplus leftover to sell along the road.  From mid-July until school started every fall, snapping beans, shelling peas, shredding cabbage, shucking corn, and washing tomatoes, pickles, carrots and beets for preservation were a huge part of summer.

Most farmhouses had a “summer kitchen.” It was a nifty, second kitchen; away from the main part of the house and used for the stifling hot process of canning the vegetables, making jams and applesauce, and baking fruit pies and apple cakes for the freezer. Since residential air conditioning was practically unheard of when I was a kid, the house stayed cooler by not heating up the regular kitchen. 

In the southwest corner of this room was an old gas stove. I was taught from an early age to respect the pilot light that remained continuously lit. As in all gas stoves, the purpose of this pilot light was to serve as the ignition source for more powerful flames; ones that could produce the necessary heat to cook and preserve food.  

My mom would strike a small, wooden match and hold it near the burner. Instantly it would ignite into a full, explosive flame. 



Fast forward about forty years. I’m now a fifty-year-old woman who has lost weight and restored health by nourishing my body with high-nutrient, plant foods. As a result of flooding my body with nutrients, combined with consistently abstaining from the standard American diet, addictive cravings for high fat, high salt, processed & sugary foods have been eradicated from my life. 

Because of this, I’m routinely asked:

  • How closely do I really have to follow Eat to Live?” 
  • How many times a month can I cheat and still have success?
  • I’m not hard core, but I follow the plan about 85% of the time; that’s good enough, isn’t it?”   

Of which my classic answer to all three questions is, “It all depends on how hard you want to make it on yourself.” 


It’s much easier and simpler to give 100% right from the beginning and keep the pilot light of addictive cravings extinguished, than to be continually fighting obsessive compulsions that are brewing beneath the surface. Been there. Done that. And it’s hard, hard work to keep cravings from becoming an all-consuming monster. In fact, it’s exhausting because it’s a next-to-impossible feat to accomplish!


Plus, it only takes the tiniest spark to ignite the pilot light of cravings to full power again, and that’s THE most dangerous place to live! 

One can do all the work of routinely preparing and eating high-nutrient foods, and get the majority of one’s health restored; but it may only take an emergency phone call, or a sudden traumatic event, or a stress-filled day with the kids to instantly ignite the raging flame of addiction.  

It’s just not worth it. 

Give yourself a break today and make life so much easier.

Give 100% and extinguish the pilot light!      




image credits:  tomatoes, flickr by MaplessInSeattle; match, flickr by Samuel M. Livingston  

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Comments (22) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Candice - September 28, 2011 8:55 PM

Emily, I couldn't agree with you more. The times I've had the most success with eating-style, exercise, career, or anything else have been the times when I've committed 100%. Great advice!

mike crosby - September 28, 2011 10:50 PM

I can't count the number of times I've said "this little bit won't hurt". And as Emily says, it becomes a cascading waterfall and I am powerless to stop it.

I've been doing really well on the diet and last week I said I wanted a burger and had it. A few days later a small coke. Before long it can turn out of control.

I do make mistakes, and because I'm generally healthy, it's not life and death for me. Sometimes I wonder how eating healthy became such a large part of my life in that I had no immediate illness. But the science is so overwhelming and what impresses me the most is that the numbers don't lie.

Being out here by myself I feel like I'm the only one who eats this way. I've been doing it a long time so it has become easy, but I do slip up. The nice thing is, the slip ups are farther and farther apart.

Not only do I draw a lot of motivation from Dr Fuhrman and his books, but from watching documentaries such as Forks Over Knives.

Bill - September 29, 2011 6:06 AM

Such a good article for everyone! If you are still on the journey of losing weight, this is an excellent article on what's ahead. For those who have gone to the maintenance phase for life, it only takes a bite and you are addicted again. I know from experience. I've lost the weight, gain my health, exercise 6 days a week but I can become consumed by a food like ice cream or pizza. I become crazy wanting more and then more! It's not worth with and I no longer torture myself.

Great article and a story to illustrate what happens. We must stay 100% on target for our bodies. To simply feel great each day.

Emily Boller - September 29, 2011 6:44 AM

Good to hear from you, Bill, and that's great that you are learning an important lesson in maintaining your excellent health!. :)

If anyone would be interested in reading Bill's interview on Disease Proof last year, (he lost almost 100 lbs!), here's the link to it:


Angelique - September 29, 2011 7:24 AM

Thanks Emily.

I believe its true. I am realizing food addiction is just as bad as my prior smoking addiction... I loved smoking even though it was bad for me. Sometimes on a stressful day I will walk by a smoker on the street and take a small whiff.. I know not to take a hit off anyone's cigarette's though... I would be hooked right back in (even after 6 years of not smoking!)

Last night I ALMOST went into the kitchen to eat something when I wasn't hungry (because I thought I really needed something sweet). Sure, it would have been a couple dates or raisins or something else healthy, but I knew I really didn't need it. I resisted the urge because I figure its only one step over the line... (Instead I brushed my teeth... It is also harder for me to want to eat when I'm not hungry with a clean set of chompers)

Tracy - September 29, 2011 7:52 AM

Thanks for the conviction, Emily. I fell off the Eat to Live wagon about 9 months ago and recently have jumped back on. Since getting back on track I have lost almost 16 pounds. This article is very convicting! Blessings!

Laura - September 29, 2011 8:06 AM

Thank you, Emily.
I wouldn't feed a baby something that would cause distress, craving, crying.
Sometimes I really need to think of myself like that little child and do the right thing.
I am still reveling in the freedom from cravings!
I won't go back there for some whim, or lack of commitment.

Annette Chambers - September 29, 2011 10:18 AM

It has taken me several years to finally get the results I have been dreaming about. The only reason it has taken me so long, is because I PLAYED around with 85% instead of 100% commitment. 100% commitment is the only way!

Peter - September 29, 2011 10:25 AM

I had given up processed food and sweets for two years, until recently some dietitian tempted me back into doing so by saying "don't worry, it's okay once in a while". She lit up my pilot light, but before the fire started going out of control, I quickly extinguished it, so now I'm back on track.

Dietitians are people or more specifically, idiots who know nothing about nutrition, that tell people what to eat. Not to mention this dietitian I saw had a few extra pounds on her, and it's not muscle. I'm never seeing another dietitian again.

Tracy - September 29, 2011 10:59 AM

I agree that 100% is the way to go. I find ETL very easy because its all about health, not weight. We are getting and/or staying healthy and to me the weight loss is the prize along the way. I've lost 100lbs so far but my mind concentrates on colorful life giving foods. Giving 100% to ETL makes it so much easier and you feel so much better, it just feels right once you clear out the crap floating around inside your cells.

Patti - September 29, 2011 11:54 AM

Thank you for this encouraging article. I do so well, then my cravings come and I think (as I heard many times on WW and other diets) -oh a little won't hurt, or -you have to have somethings sometime. Well, like Mike above said, before we know it it comes cascading down like a waterfall that I cannot stop. Thankfully, I can get back on track. I'm about 20 lbs. above-weight. The more I read about the eat to live diet,...the more I feel able to stick and -NOT- give in. Thanks again!

Mark Osborne - September 29, 2011 3:04 PM

Yep - I totally agree, this has been my experience.

Choosing to go for a 100% vegan nutritarian diet rather than "eat healthy" was the best decision I ever made. It really does make things easier and simpler.

I was forced to learn about new foods and what to order when eating out. The challenge made it interesting and once I has established a new set of habits sticking with it was easy.

Now I self identify as a vegan nutritarian, so making the right choices doesn't require any mental energy, instead it requires energy to eat any other way.

Emily Boller - September 30, 2011 8:04 AM


I absolutely love what you wrote about abstaining from cigarette smoking . . . beautiful analogy that speaks volumes!

Angelique wrote: "I am realizing food addiction is just as bad as my prior smoking addiction... I loved smoking even though it was bad for me. Sometimes on a stressful day I will walk by a smoker on the street and take a small whiff.. I know not to take a hit off anyone's cigarette's though... I would be hooked right back in (even after 6 years of not smoking!)"

That's a brilliant illustration of the power of addiction, and how important it is to keep the pilot light extinguished, even after six years of kicking the habit. Thanks for sharing.

Darryl - September 30, 2011 12:13 PM

Beautiful post, Emily. You're so right, 100% is infinitely easier. Either you believe in what you are doing, or you don't.

When people talk about "cheating", who, exactly, do they think is being cheated?

Emily Boller - September 30, 2011 4:54 PM

For those who are new to the whole ETL teaching, there is a learning curve to understanding the Science behind Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations.

AND slip-ups do happen to some at times along the way - they just do - it's a part of the learning process.

For instance, I committed to ETL in July 2008, and by that first Thanksgiving of ETL I thought it would be okay to have a traditional Thanksgiving feast. It never made me violently sick in the past. I had no idea how much I would painfully suffer as a result of eating that feast! I learned how TERRIBLY toxic fake food was that day ~ even though I knew from my studying that they were toxic.

I've had plenty of slip-ups in this ETL journey. I wish I could say that I've been perfect, at all times, but I haven't.

Even with eating only high-nutrient foods and having cravings for the standard American junk gone as a result, I've eaten beyond "before full." I've eaten as a result of being frustrated. I've eaten for stimulation because I was tired. AND I've eaten for recreation with others when I wasn't a bit hungry. However, and a big however, I quickly realized my error and moved on quickly; contending with all strength to keep going!

I want to be clear that the pilot light that I'm referring to in this post is the continual, intentional, ongoing, decision to choose compromises on a routine basis ~ even if they are seemingly insignificant at the time; that's the pilot light!

The willful decision to see how much one can cheat and get by; how much one can straddle the fence; how much one can habitully overeat and not suffer . . . . and still eradicate food addiction . . . . that is what I'm talking about as being a next-to-impossible feat to accomplish.

It can't be done!

I repeat it can't be done.

With repetitive compromises, the addictive cravings are rumbling beneath the surface and it only takes a tiny spark to ignite them to full strength and power!

In order for one to be truly free, the pilot light needs to be extinguished and remain that way . . . .for life.

AND to live in denial of food addiction's power is the path right back to captivity.

Choose the easy way, keep the pilot light extinguished, and make life soooo much more enjoyable for yourself.

The best of excellent health to all!

Rachel Bruce - October 1, 2011 10:00 PM

Great post, Emily! Some posts ago in the comments section, you had included a veggie recipe--it had eggplant & it sounded like a veggie lasagna with any form of wheat or bread--just all veggies. Can you post that recipe again.

Emily Boller - October 2, 2011 11:48 AM
StephenMarkTurner - October 2, 2011 2:51 PM

Hi Emily
I have tripped a couple of times in the last six months. The thing that starts it for me is essentially positive (this time I trained for and completed a long charity power walk). I find the large amount of extra calories needed hard to meet eating 'low down' on the pyramid. I will have to learn to eat much more nuts and seeds I guess.

Sharon W - October 3, 2011 7:25 AM

I'm reading Eat to Live right now, have been drinking my veggies in the form of green smoothies for the last 3 weeks. I've already felt improvement in my energy level as well as my digestion and am committing today to follow the ETL plan 100% for the next 6 weeks. I'm 63 years old and have been carrying about 30 lbs of excess weight for the last 25 years, a result of a lifetime of being a sugar addict and poor food choices. I'm depending on ETL plan to help me overcome my addiction to unhealthy eating habits and shed these pounds once and for all. I want to live with less pain and more energy to enjoy my 5 granddaughters. By the way, my 12 year old granddaughter has been a vegetarian since she was in the second grade as a moral stand against eating animal products. I was worried about her choice of not eating meat and now, here I am jumping on the bandwagon ;-). And a child shall lead the way...

Karen - October 10, 2011 10:47 AM

Thanks Emily. I am an admitted junk food junkie who has spent too long living in denial. I am one of those who would likely ask the "cheat" questions and test the boundaries too often. I started reading Eat to Live recently but haven't picked it up in a week or two. I noticed a big difference just by starting to eat more fruits and vegetables. I will resume reading as soon as I finish this post. I know I need this plan and I know I need to commit to it 100%. Thanks again for the nudge to do the right thing!

Steven Smart - November 11, 2011 12:13 PM

Emily: It has been a while since I have been on. I am always inspired by your teachings. Thanks and keep up the good fight.

Kristie Clark - December 23, 2011 9:23 AM

Hi Emily! You have inspired me and I to live in Indiana. In New castle a couple hours away from you! I signed up to go see Dr Fuhrman in March in Ft Wayne. I was wanting to know do you have a email? I understand if you don't want to give it out but if you are willing I would love to talk to you. I have a friend wanting to do this as well. My biggest issue is my family don't want to do it with me. I assume you might of struggled with that and I am wanting to know how you dealt with it. Thanks so much! Merry Christmas!

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