In this article I will discuss the different ways a raw food diet can make you feel inconvenient or even endanger your health. I am not against a raw food diet - far from it. I would love to be able to make it a permanent lifestyle but so far am struggling with some of the issues discussed here.
You hear this statement once in a while in forums and raw food books. "Once Raw You Can Never Go Back".
From my experience there is a bit of truth to it.
I started doing raw food trials, enjoyed the challenge and excitement, but at the time wasn't even really considering doing it long-term. I did a one-week trial, 18-day trial, 30-day trial, and 100-day trial with cheat days in between.
I was excited to cleanse and have a lot of energy, and so I also did juice fasts, the longest one three weeks long.
I got definite benefits and was even more excited, although of course there were challenges as well, which I knew to expect.
However, I had made a huge change suddenly from my previous lifestyle, and after the trials, would usually quite quickly revert back to my previous diet, which was partly healthy, but included some junk foods and alcohol here and there as well.
I was dedicated to a long-term healthy existence, just didn't want to push myself to do it all in one go. I thought it would be good to go back and forth for a bit to see how my body reacted.
I also worked with some nutritionists to strengthen my adrenal glands and to start detoxifying heavy metals.
In a way this is a good thing, because it's a sign that my body can better recognise and feed back to me about unhealthy substances.
But it is inconvenient, because:
Of course the anxiety and low-blood sugar problems may be more closely linked to the heavy metal detoxification than 'too much' cleansing. What is more, the blood sugar problems were starting to build up even before I did any cleansing. So a lot of these issues are due to long-term lifestyle choices, and not enough cleansing.
Also, I am much more in touch with my body's feelings and reactions than I was before, so I will notice problems that I didn't notice when I lived a lifestyle of overriding my natural instincts and body's messages with sugar, caffeine, carbohydrates and alcohol.
There is the issue of 'peeling away the layers of illness' and imbalances, as well. For example, when I quit drinking caffeine I felt better, and in some ways more energetic (no energy slumps during the day, easier to wake up in the morning), but in other ways my body's long-term fatigue condition became more evident as well. For example, if I didn't get enough sleep, I would find it hard to concentrate at work without a caffeine fix. And working late into the evenings at home would also become harder, without using sugar or alcohol as a pick-up. And I still needed nine hours of sleep as before, likely due to slow metabolism, adrenal fatigue and being stressed out and overworked.
But when it comes to processed chemical foods, like organic cheese from the supermarket or trying to eat a veggie hamburger, I notice the difference in how I feel so quickly, whereas I didn't seem to have a problem before my raw trials. Whereas eating wholefoods, even organic meat and any fish, seems to be generally fine, as long as I don't stuff myself.
On the other hand, Taz, in this article, explains that his body has just got stronger, and is able to tolerate more things, since he became a raw foodist.
Changing slowly allows you to gradually get used to new routines, your new body and mind, and allows also your taste-buds to adjust. And most importantly, it avoids dietary swings back and forth, which can cause many very uncomfortable problems, from my experience, and probably also undue stress on the body.
There are many people who became raw foodists in a day and never went back, but it seems to me that most of these people were unusually health-conscious before (e.g. vegans and other health enthusiasts) and so the jump wasn't very big. It also seems that they either live in warm climates or do unusually high amounts of exercise. In addition, they seem to usually be active raw food community members, which means that they are surrounded by like-minded people. Why all of these points are important for your raw food success, whether transitioning suddenly or slowly, are discussed in the chapter below.
This is a very recent realization for me, which was explained in the book 'Yoga of Eating'.
"When something in your life changes, everything changes."
One could take it in a spiritual sense, as in the book, talking about harmonising energy vibrations, but the saying is also true in a purely practical way.
When I started juice fasting and eating raw foods, I learned, first of all, about many topics regarding health and politics that were not being discussed much in the mainstream media. I learned that this was because of the way the commercial world worked. I felt unable to discuss these findings at work because the competition for Architects' jobs is high and I though I would be seen as less of an asset to the company and a less serious 'business woman' if I held very different types of views from the mainstream or criticised the commercial world in a very fundamental way. Of course here and there I would take the opportunity to discuss things more openly, with people I knew a little better, but with most of my 'managers' and 'superiors' I would stay silent about these matters.
I became less interested in speding time with my workmates, partly because of the superficial conversation and partly because they were very interested in building their careers and I wasn't anymore. A feeling started growing in me that I wanted out of the office job, to avoid stress and an unhealthy environment, but also because I started thinking that I needed more of a challenge, and wanted to be my own boss.
I declined office-drinks and pizza-parties increasingly often, despite the fact that many of my co-workers were very nice and interesting people, career-builders or not. I became increasingly aware about wanting to be selfish with my time, going home to my boyfriend after a long week's work, meeting friends I had known for longer time, talk to my family on the phone across the country borders, or to relax, prepare a nice dinner, build this website, or do something more rewarding than staying behind in the office.
I also tried to start meeting my friends more often in the park during the daytime or in a cafe, instead of going out to the pub.
I was lucky, because my boyfriend was very open-minded about my new lifestyle, enjoying green juices and my experimental raw dishes sometimes more than I did. He also appreciated the health benefits he was receiving from my new knowledge and skills. My close family, also, were very health-conscious and where they didn't agree with my views we would have an interesting debate.
But my interests continued to change. I remember doing a juice fast while at work and feeling like I was in a completely different reality from the others. I had no problem functioning in that world and I got some comments about seeming very tranquil and peaceful, or looking very healthy, from people I didn't expect it. I got used to talking about raw foods openly and some people looked at me like I wasn't all there, but most were quite interested, some people even wanting to try it themselves.
So I lived in this flux of change and although it might seem like an interesting journey, and to some degree it was, it ended up in a point where I felt that I couldn't go to work anymore. The more healthy I got, the more acutely my body felt any violations on it, like having to work late in the office, having to commute in the trains during rush-hour, feeling bored about the seemingly meaningless work I was doing and feeling like I needed some junk food or caffeine to force my mind to focus when the task at hand was clearly very boring.
At points I would get interesting tasks at work and time would fly, no problem. I would perform better the cleaner I ate.
But it became increasingly difficult to put up with the boring tasks. My mind and body weren't happy. I had felt for a long time that I had to change my life but I had huge student loan payments, which seemed to tie me down and control my life's choices. I was counting years for when I would be free of loans and could possibly take time off work and explore other career avenues.
I managed to afford to take a little time off during the summer of 2013 to spend with my family back home, and this was a very relaxing time. I felt relieved and rejuvenated. I also had some additional time for myself as in total I was off work for three months.
It felt like a luxury, but the time went too quickly, and trying to go back to my new job afterwards both my mind and body rebelled.
I doubled my efforts to be a good employee, but I started growing increasingly anxious. Tweaking my diet to include less sugars, and other changes cleared a lot of the overt anxiety symptoms, but my mind was resenting the office work more and more. The opportunities for climbing the career ladder had absolutely no interest for me anymore. There was nothing that this career path could offer that I would be able to look forward to.
The point of the story is that my heart started yearning for freedom, for a lifestyle in clean nature instead of the city, for clean foods, and more than anything, the ability to listen to my body and mind and follow their lead. I think everyone feels like this at points, but the raw foods and the juice fasts seemed to strengthen my body's messages to a point where I would get physically ill if I didn't follow their call.
But also I started seeing that there were some slight promises of a way out of this routine here and there. I started seeing that I wasn't necessarily as trapped as I thought as I had been. These were not clear solutions to a completely new life, just little elbow room, that enabled me to start thinking of new possibilities, and allowed me to take some time off.
The whole journey has so far has been a very beautiful and painful process at the same time but now I live a day at a time, sometimes stressed out, but generally believing that things will turn out well. I have now decided that I will never want to go back to my old job, if I can avoid it. For a long time I was afraid of the thought of giving up my career, but now the thought fills me with excitement, although my future is still completely uncertain.
In my case, the biggest change I needed seems to have been my job. With other people it might have to do with their family, friends or other loved ones. It might change the relationships to be deeper, or give you more resolve to deal with any painful situations. I think listening to your body can make many false things fall away, at least that's how it feels like in my case. I feel like I live more fully, even though there are still many unresolved aspects to my life.
I have noticed that my relationship to other people have become better, more satisfying to me, since these dietary changes. I'm not as superficially entertaining (which is something I want to recover because humour is important!) but I feel that I understand people better and can also understand my own behaviour better. I am at a steep learning curve, triggered by the unpeeling layers of my false self!
In other words, raw food diet can make you feel uncomfortable with situations that are not in your best interest in life. Sometimes this can cause problems and be painful. But on the other hand, most of us are already in pain some way or another, so much relief can come from raw foods as well. And a certain joy can rise up which is long-lasting and deeply strengthening.
This is why I believe that for the raw food diet to be successful, it may require that you have a lifestyle of very high levels of exercise and movement. Raw food diet seems to be more popular in warm climates, perhaps because it is easier for it to work well there. Of course this has to do with the year-round availability of fresh raw food as well. But still, many long-term raw foodists have decided to move to the tropics, and some others, who haven't, have become professional athletes or begun to lead very active lifestyles.
It is hard to argue with the millennia-old wisdom of Chinese Medicine, but it is possible that there are different 'schools' of it, some of which may be more supportive of the idea of raw foods. Some of the Chinese legends of people living on the mountains seem to echo some traditional Chinese wisdom with very simple lifestyles in nature and very simple diets.
"Running Raw" on You Tube has some videos about hiking topless in a snowy scenery, while eating very little food, all raw. Apparently he just needs a few more nuts in the winter than usual.
If you are planning a long-term raw food diet, I suggest that you, again, transition slowly, so that your body and lifestyle (and emotions!) have time to adjust. And the considerations here seem to strengthen the importance of a high-activity lifestyle, as combined with a raw food diet, and perhaps other warming measures, like tea, sauna, hot baths and sunshine.
There are also many reasons why raw food diets sometimes may not be healthful at all.
For example, if your raw food diet is too high in sugar or acid-forming foods, you may feel a lot worse than before. Many gourmet raw foods may need to be kept as treats only.
And to point out the obvious: Just because something is raw, doesn't necessarily make it healthy, as in the case of foods that has been contaminated or raw superfoods that contain heavy metals (which is apparently a very common problem).
Food intolerances and allergies need to be considered, and any dietary needs related to imbalances in the body.
Many diseases have been reported healed by green juices, avoidance of cooked and processed foods, and other raw food measures, so sometimes it can be a simple way to radiant health.
But sometimes it may not be, at least in my experience, although I am yet to realize what seems now to me to be the perfect raw food diet: low-sugar, high alkaline, boosted by live spring water and high activity, while all the food is optimally digested and nutrients utilized.
Some people have a problem digesting raw foods and most people seem to not absorb nutrients optimally from any foods or supplements. And some conditions may also not respond favourably to raw foods.
Furthermore, raw food may suit some people but not others. There are many reasons why this might be the case, some of which are discussed above. So we must never make raw foods into any kind of dogma, accepting that people have different spiritual paths and purposes in life, some of which may require sacrificing health.
So when it comes to something as complex as the human body, and nature in general, it is usually not helpful to think in terms of polar opposites, seeing things as black and white. To problematize the idea of raw foodism means to look at it in a more complex way, recognising that it may not always be right or wrong. It may provide amazing health benefits at some times, but be a hindrance to health at other times.
If by 'health' we mean the holistic well-being of the mind, body and soul, then the diet may be an important part of it. But it is only a part, one piece of a puzzle, and usually the best results are experiences when all aspects start healing together, layer-by-layer, piece-by-piece.
I didn't use to take people seriously when they said that when you begin eating a raw food diet, 'emotional issues will surface to come to be healed'. I thought simply, that these people had either somehow done the diet wrong, which affected their mental health, or they had been too strict with themselves, and thus become frustrated. Either could easily be the case but also, I can now appreciate the saying in a different way, meaning that the false self and the false life surrounding you beginning to crack and chip away. This can be an emotional process, and scary, where you are learning to trust your body, mind, and the carrying power of life.
I hope that these pointers help you on your raw food journey and/or your journey to vibrant holistic health. And please understand that my appreciation of the raw food diet has only grown with the realization of these 'problems'. Think of it as you think of the sea: it is an unbelievably beautiful force of nature but it is also to be respected and not trivialized or taken lightly.
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Ulla is the Editor of Cheap Health Revolution, covering natural remedies and health solutions. Read more about Ulla and this website here: "About CHR"