Lots of kids are picky eaters. Garren Rimondi wasn’t one of them. Growing up in the Fort Lauderdale area, he happily ate what he was served, though in his home, that meant more spaghetti and meatballs than star fruit and mangoes. But, that all changed when he turned 4 and was diagnosed with cancer.
“One day, my body began rejecting everything I consumed,” he says. In retrospect, Garren believes that was his body’s healing system kicking in. He and his parents went in for a blood test, and doctors diagnosed him with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Garren had four years of cancer treatments and has been in remission ever since.
His childhood health struggles piqued an interest in anatomy and physiology that grew tenfold after he discovered professional wrestling on TV. “I admired all those muscular physiques, so I began to learn about what foods to eat and how to train and become better once I started wrestling, myself,” he says. As a teenager, he ate strategically and ‘cut weight’ (losing weight quickly to meet a weight class) for wrestling matches.
In his 20s, Garren, who is now a professional photographer and videographer for local restaurants and food businesses, competed in one bodybuilding competition before shifting to fitness coaching. He continued experimenting with food as fuel and educating himself on nutrition. He tried it all—pescetarianism, vegetarianism, veganism, intermittent fasting. Finally, he found a combo that worked for him: a high-fruit, raw, whole food, plant-based diet with the occasional cooked or raw seafood dish thrown in. Garren learned how food changes chemically when it is cooked and the value of eating whole ingredients as close to their original state as possible. He started taking a naturopathic approach to his diet, considering factors like the best times to eat what and how foods should be paired for optimal digestion. After a while, his mind felt clearer than it had in years, his skin cleared, he didn’t feel bloated and he was sleeping better than ever.
Raw diets have been around for centuries and surged in popularity around 30 years ago. The average meal plan is simple: plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouted grains, seeds and nuts. Nothing is heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruit is key in Garren’s world. “Not high protein consumption, not grains, definitely not dairy,” Garren says. “I have learned that the machine of a body loves simple, hydrating, raw, living foods that assist with cleansing and create an environment within for cellular regeneration.”
Moving to Southwest Florida in 2005 helped further his fruit-forward lifestyle. A couple years ago, he started Tropicalture, where he promotes the fruit-forward lifestyle and sells T-shirts. “Living here allows me to enjoy fruits of every season, every day, month to month, year-round,” he says. He and his wife, Lauren, cultivate a backyard garden in their Bonita Springs home, where they grow pounds of produce, including soursops, black sapotes, blueray blueberries, mangos, ice cream bananas, Barbados cherries, jackfruits and mulberries, along with a myriad of other fruits. They also grow herbs like sage, basil and parsley that offer flavor and health benefits.
Though the backyard is bountiful, the Rimondis call in for backup. Once a month, for the last four years, they’ve ordered around 40 pounds of bulk variety fruit from Homestead-based Miami Fruit, which lasts them about a week. They make rounds to local grocery and food vendors, too. “If my wife and I aren’t juicing at home, we enjoy picking up juice from our local friends over at JUICELATION. I’m also a big fan of Organically Twisted,” he says.
Raw diets aren’t for everyone. Blending, juicing, drying, soaking and sprouting are time-consuming. While a raw, high-fruit diet can provide plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as cancer-fighting phytochemicals, adherents can become deficient in certain vitamins, per the Cleveland Clinic. Consulting your provider on what works for you is best.
The Rimondis aren’t 100 percent raw, either. They love to travel and indulge in new places through the local cuisine. At home, the couple eats lots of greens. “We try to get creative—we’ll do a Thai crunch salad with scallions, cilantro, basil from the garden, cucumber, romaine, lime, carrot, avocado, jalapeño and sesame-peanut dressing, and maybe some raw cashew crumbles to top it,” Garren says. “That’s just one of many.” They also enjoy sashimi, sushi rolls and cooked seafood. “This [raw] diet is a high majority concept more than it is quantified with percentages. I do eat differently than most, but it fits with the way I’ve set up my days,” Garren says.
For him, the health benefits of eating raw go beyond maintaining an ideal weight—though a low body fat percentage is certainly a perk. Regular blood tests confirm his levels are exactly where they need to be, with low lipid counts and stable glucose. He also sleeps better than ever, has less inflammation and bloating, and has lots of energy. “My skin is clear, and I’ve got healthy hair. I have a higher functioning lymph system—I’ve been sick only one time in the last five years,” he says. He likes that his diet connects him to nature and slow-living principles. He takes his time to listen to his body and draws from the bounty to nourish himself. “It takes discipline, but I’ve always enjoyed and respected the application of a consistent and disciplined lifestyle.”