Bishop Eddie L. Long went viral with a video showing a very slender physique that he attributed to raw vegan meals.
Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, said in the video, which was posted on social media, that he gave up eating his favorite fried chicken wings and biscuits with honey from a fast-food chain in favor of being a “raw vegan.”
“People are asking, ‘Bishop, what happened to all of you?’” he says in the video, posted to his public Facebook page (but later taken down). “Well, all of me has meelllllted away.”
Long did not return several calls to his office to learn more about his eating habits. So, we have no details about his health, specific changes in his diet or whether he is working with a nutritionist.
Other high-profile individuals have gone vegetarian or the more challenging eating raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé once went on a 22-day plant-based diet as what he called a spiritual and physical cleanse. Beyoncé also invested in a vegan meal delivery service.
Entrepreneur, author and producer Russell Simmons removed animal products from his diet years ago.
There’s a difference, however, between being a vegetarian and a vegan or even a raw vegan. Some people practice a mixture of them all.
According to the Vegetarian Center’s website, whether you are vegan or vegetarian, you don’t eat meat. Some vegetarians though may eat eggs, milk and cheese. A vegan avoids all animal products and, beyond diet, may not wear animal-based items like leather and wool.
Nina Curtis, executive chef at the Ranch at Live Oak/Malibu in California, graduated from the Living Light Culinary Institute. She followed a raw vegan diet for three years and is an expert in raw vegan and cooked vegan cuisine.
“Usually you do lose weight because it’s cleansing and detoxing,” said Curtis, although she is not intimately familiar with Long’s nutrition plan.
“When talking about raw vegans, there are different degrees,” said Curtis. “I can be talking to another raw vegan and we can be eating very differently. Most people assume we all eat raw foods like salads and fruit. But the main reason raw can be so good for you is that we don’t heat anything above 118 degrees, which keeps all the enzymes in food intact.”
If you increase the amount of raw food in your diet, pounds seem to “melt” off you, she said. Changing your diet also has increased health benefits. It can reduce high cholesterol and blood pressure levels as well as lower the risk of diabetes.
Long, for instance, said he has more energy and lowered his blood pressure. He has lost weight and no longer has to take blood pressure medication.
It’s not a new way of eating, although it is growing in popularity, said Sonali Sadequee, an Atlanta-based health coach. “It’s not a trend, but it is trendy,” she said.
Fewer processed foods will always be better for the body, she and others say.
“The big thing to keep in mind, depending on your level of activity, what you eat is going to be different,” Sadequee said. “It’s not one size fits all.”
Quinnie Cook-Richardson of Decatur has been a practicing vegan for 26 years, is a raw chef and conducts retreats and classes for people interested in eating raw or making food decisions that are healthier.
She uses flavorful marinades and sauces as the key to making delicious gourmet raw dishes.
As a result of eating a plant-based diet, she said, her digestion is better, and she has more energy and is more alert. “It’s all totally improved,” she said. “Had I continued on that path, it would have led to other health challenges. As people of color, many of us have family histories of certain diseases.”
Cook-Richardson watched aunts and uncles suffer from a host of ailments. Some of them died before her grandparents did. “Knock on wood, I haven’t had any of those issues,” she said.
In the case of Long, “people are not accustomed to seeing him like that,” she said, although she is just an observer. “It doesn’t mean he is sick. I’m sure he feels a lot better and has a lot more energy and vitality.”
Dr. William Richardson has been a vegan for about 30 years — the last 10 as a raw vegan.
He said following that program meant an end to migraines, sinus problems and constipation.
“Sometimes I test patients to see how many push-ups they can do,” said Richardson, a holistic practitioner who is married to Cook-Richardson. “”I’m 62 and I see 25- and 30-year-olds who can barely do 20 or 25. No question, you have a lot more energy. I have always made dietary counseling a major part of my practice.”
Long, he said, “looks more fit and better in my eyes as a physician having been in the field for years. He is exercising, which is important. I think it was a good move for him personally.”