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MailTribune.com
  • Raw success: 200 pounds lost

    A Medford man goes on a raw-foods diet, and now 170 local people have signed up to follow his lead
  • Clent Manich's new diet likely sounds familiar to anyone who's tried to lose weight: Eat mostly fruits and vegetables and replace one or more meal with a shake or smoothie.
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  • Clent Manich's new diet likely sounds familiar to anyone who's tried to lose weight: Eat mostly fruits and vegetables and replace one or more meal with a shake or smoothie.
    The regimen seems sensible enough until Manich gets to the part about not cooking, as in consuming everything entirely raw.
    "I'm never going to eat cooked food again," says the 39-year-old Medford resident.
    Losing almost 200 pounds, overcoming type-2 diabetes and enjoying the best health of his life are the only reasons Manich needs to continue on a raw-food diet that includes copious quantities of "green smoothies." Manich's dramatic transformation has convinced 170 Rogue Valley residents that they, too, can benefit from consuming blended cocktails of raw leafy greens, fruit and water during a six-week "challenge."
    "I wanted to feel better," says Shirley Taylor, who works with Manich at Medford's Costco store.
    Since consuming green smoothies and other raw foods five days per week over the past four months and consuming only very small portions of cooked food on the weekends, the 63-year-old Grants Pass resident says she's lost 32 pounds and no longer needs thyroid-regulating medication. It's a diet she considers long-term, not just a quick fix.
    "I've tried every diet in the world and always gained it back," she says.
    Because it's low in calories, a raw-food diet leads to weight loss, proponents say. They point to enzymes, however, as the diet's distinguishing factor. For food to be "raw," it can't be heated above 115 degrees, which is thought to leave vital enzymes intact. Entirely plant-based, a raw-food diet includes — in addition to fruits and vegetables — nuts, seeds, sprouted legumes and grains, cold-pressed olive oil, raw honey, apple-cider vinegar, herbs, spices and some types of salt. Most raw foods are prepared using a Vita-Mix or heavy-duty blender, a food processor, dehydrator and juicer.
    His everyday diet previously consisting of Costco pizza and hotdogs, all-you-can-eat buffets and gallons of diet soda, Manich first heard the raw-food doctrine from licensed physical therapist and chiropractor Miven Donato. Manich ended up at Donato's Dophin Health and Education Center in Medford after he injured himself trying to walk off excess weight. At almost 450 pounds, Manich suffered a bout of pancreatitis in 2006, leading doctors to prescribe insulin for type-2 diabetes. He knew he needed to exercise, but suffered extreme pain in his feet and a pinched nerve in his back.
    Donato thought Manich was a perfect candidate for his "healthy boot camp" with its diet of 15 percent cooked food and 85 percent raw. Within two months, Manich lost 52 pounds and stopped taking insulin. But a cruise-ship vacation with his wife, Misty, led Manich into temptation. He packed the pounds back on.
    After returning to Medford, Manich received an e-mail from Donato that featured the testimonial of a woman who lost more than 100 pounds on a diet of green smoothies. This time, Manich decided to go totally raw, the only way he saw to avoid unhealthful foods. His first 100 pounds virtually melted off in a little over three months, during which he hardly exercised. Although he was hungry at first, his cravings for cooked food quickly subsided, Manich says.
    "The first three weeks were horrible, and I hung in there because I knew they were just detox symptoms."
    Once Manich reduced his girth to under 300 pounds, he started weight-training with Donato. In September, the two climbed California's Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 U.S. states. Believing there's no health goal he can't accomplish, Manich says he's determined to weigh 170 pounds by Christmas, which an endocrinologist told him would never happen simply because he's too old.
    "He's proven quite an amazing feat," says local health educator Linda Willis, who likens weight loss to mountain-climbing.
    "Very few people can climb Mount Everest."
    While fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are the base of a healthy diet, there is no scientific evidence that cooking these foods destroys nutrients, Willis says. There are so many more interesting ways to consume fruits and vegetables than to blend them up, she says, adding that it's a waste of time to try to concentrate mega doses of vitamins and minerals in a beverage.
    "As soon as you start drinking your meals, you're getting off base a little bit," she says. "It doesn't work in the real world."
    Willis does agree with raw-food enthusiasts, however, that one can obtain the body's required protein from plant foods. She says she also believes a proper diet can control some serious health conditions, often without the assistance of medication. Holding a doctorate degree in health education, Willis has been teaching her program "The Balanced Weigh" for the past 20 years.
    "I constantly am warning people about fads and fallacies out there," she says. "He (Manich) stopped eating all the junk food ... and that's why he lost weight."
    Passing trends are plenty familiar to Manich.
    "I've always had these fad diets left and right," he says. "I did the Slim-Fast thing ... that was garbage.
    "I did South Beach.
    "I went to Weight Watchers, and it just reminded me too much of an AA program."
    Although Manich acknowledges that raw-food has somewhat of a cult following — even in Medford where he frequently attends raw-food potlucks — the diet's adherents have been more interested in his health achievements than any notion of spiritual discovery, he says. Raw-food author and lecturer Victoria Boutenko, of Ashland, has appeared with Manich on a teleconference and created a Web site for the six-week "green-smoothie challenge" at www.greensmoothierevolution.com.
    Confident he's found not a fad but the route to wellness, Manich nevertheless cautions emulators to consult a physician first and undergo the necessary tests to get a clear picture of their health.
    "What I did may not work for everybody else."
    Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.
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