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/ October 24, 2013
The 80/10/10 Diet Hits Instagram And It Is Bananas

Let me ask you a hypothetical question: would you eat 30 bananas a day, 800 calories of dates, or 4 pounds of clementines as a meal if it meant that you would be super ripped and extravagantly happy?

Well then, the 80/10/10 Diet might be for you. An off-shoot of raw veganism, 80/10/10 (aka 811, or 811rv) is a high-calorie, plant-based but heavily fruit-dependent diet which requires its pledges to eat anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 calories a day. 80% should come from carbs, 10% fat, and 10% protein. In practice, this means a couple avocados a week, maybe a couple of nuts and some dried fruit, plenty of dates, and a lot, a lot, of bananas.

Dr. Douglas Graham, the diet’s founder and author of “The 80/10/10 Diet: Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and Your Life One Luscious Bite at a Time,” is an “advisor” to high-level athletes and celebrities like Demi Moore (and, Amazon helpfully points out, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” co-author Mark Victor Hansen.) He also runs a fasting retreat in the Florida Keys.

Graham developed the 80/10/10 Diet based on his 27 years of raw foodism and sports medical practice. The idea sort of makes sense for Olympians or bodybuilders: it’s like you soccer team’s pre-game pasta night writ large – minus the ziti, plus 3 pounds of potatoes. But the 80/10/10 Diet is no longer for elites and “Chicken Soup for the Soul” masterminds: it has hit Instagram in a big, big way.

Small women in workout clothes posed sitting on the floor in humongous piles of fruit; counters and shower stalls full of ripening guavas, endless recipes for banana ice cream: this is how a diet intended for full-time athletes and hardcore raw foodists has been interpolated by the bored and gullible on Instagram.

Instagram, a safe space for those with endless free time and confusing incomes, (do they have incomes? If yes, how do they also have time to get so damn cut? If not, how do they manage to buy $300 of fruit a week?) has gone gaga for the 80/10/10 Diet. It has sort of taken Graham’s basic principles and created its own figureheads and niche celebrities like The Raw Boy and Freelee the Banana Girl (pictured above.) The differences between 80/10/10 and #801010 arise when Instagrammers turn away from Graham and The Book and toward each other. Freelee has her own food pyramid and her own book, Go Fruit Yourself, as well as her own hashtag: #bananagirldiet. As opposed to Graham’s 80/10/10, there’s more of a community-insisted emphasis on “mono-mealing” (eating only one kind of food as a meal, like two whole papayas or five mangoes or 20 persimmons) and getting a certain amount of calories from dates. They even go so far as to allow cooked food, if you really want it. Some of them skip the greens and go all-fruit.

Graham does not endorse a “fruitarian” lifestyle and does not associate it with 80/10/10. In an interview on a website he seems to pay for, he warns that “I have not seen long-term fruitarians succeed, and have seen huge numbers of them fail (and too many die) over the almost four decades since I first started my dietary journey.” Famous fruitarians include Steve Jobs, briefly Ghandi, supposedly DaVinci, and Ashton Kutcher, who was hospitalized after a month of fruitarianism intended to prepare him to play Steve Jobs. What pulls 80/10/10ers back from the brink of death is Graham’s recommendation that 2-6% of your day’s calories should come from greens – but not the fun ones. Three heads of romaine lettuce, anyone?

What’s weird about 80/10/10-speak is that it’s more guru than gastroenterology. Fruit “nourishes” and “promotes wholeness” – it doesn’t “spike glucose levels” or “break down muscle tissue over extended periods of time.” Graham and #801010ers describe near-miraculous cures for vague past illnesses like allergies and digestive issues. In a video describing what she eats in a week, which comes to $250 of produce and coconut sugar, Freelee the Banana Girl argues that even those on a budget can afford to eat this way, in part because after you begin #801010, you’ll need fewer visits to the doctor – maybe you’ll never have to go again! #801010ers are superhumans, celestial beings, marathon runners who never really get into the specifics of their workouts. Dr. Graham says that he only trains an hour a day, on a good week.

And then, often, Instagram goes to church. Plenty of Instagrammers talk about going to “Banana Island”: from the outside, we thought this could be a seminar hosted by Graham or one of the minor deities like The Banana Girl. Then we googled it, and were confused about why so many experimental raw foodists were taking trips to a manmade island in Nigeria. Finally we found out that Banana Island is just a state of mind. It’s a euphemism for a period when an #801010er eats only bananas – plus some cucumbers, celery, or a little romaine, to taste – for anywhere from a few days up to a month. Graham explains Banana Island as an extreme mono-meal designed as part of an “emotional release program.” Graham’s concern is for people to understand why they use food, or develop certain patterns of eating “to retreat, to numb themselves, or to actually sometimes intentionally hurt themselves.”

So how do people end up eating in this very weird way, or in any other extreme diet which purports to tell the gospel truth? And why would they choose to promote that image of themselves on a social media platform like Instagram? To a layman, it seems like a retreat to only share your breakfast or a photo of your kickin’ abs, numbing to scroll through an infinite stream of photos of bananas in someone’s freezer, and intentionally hurtful to whittle your diet and lifestyle down to an obsessive hunt for fruit and compulsive exercise. But hey, maybe it works. All the #801010ers in my feed look great.

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