Many people are fine on raw in the summer, then waver as winter approaches. This article is for you. It's also for those who have had no problems staying raw in the winter but would like a little material on file that could help other raw newbies.
It's easy to think that we 'need' hot food when it's cold. But this isn't true. We simply associate cold weather with hot food, with feelings of comfort. It's mainly nostalgia, but it can certainly hook people back into eating cooked food. There may be a psychological yearning for cooked food, but there's no scientific argument that I've found that says eating hot (or cold) cooked food will have any positive effect on our bodies in the winter. People who still want to eat cooked food will try to tell you it's 'what your body needs'. It's not true. Your body doesn't need damaged food in the winter any more than it needs it in the summer.
I'll tackle this by addressing some of the things I've heard those new to raw say when winter draws in...
'I NEED HOT FOOD IN COLD WEATHER'
Have you noticed no animal in the world needs hot food in cold weather? We don't either.
When we are cold, our bodies need to work extra hard to keep ourselves warm. That takes energy. If we then eat hot, cooked food, not only do our bodies have to exert more energy than usual to cope with cooked food, but they need to work extra hard to cool the internal environment when that hot food goes down our gullets. That means they have less energy available for keeping us warm.
We may well feel a bit warmer shortly after eating cooked food, but Victoria Boutenko explains how exactly that cooked food 'warms' our body, and how the process works to our detriment rather than to our benefit:
'When any impure substances get into our blood through the walls of the intestines, they irritate our adrenals - the endocrine glands located above the kidneys. The adrenals immediately begin to produce ...a variety of hormones. These hormones stimulate our sympathetic nervous system, which is why we feel awake at first. They also force our heart to beat faster and to pump larger amounts of blood through our body, which makes us feel warm. This feeling doesn't last long and we pay a high price for it. After 10-15 minutes our body gets exhausted from performing extra work, the heart requires rest, the nervous system becomes inhibited, and we feel tired, sleepier and even colder than before. However, we remember only the feeling of getting warmer after eating cooked food and repeat such stimulation again and again. This harmful practice wears the body out and by the end of the winter many people feel exhausted and depleted.'
'WHY DO I FEEL SO COLD ON RAW?'
It's not in your imagination. You are very likely feeling colder than the average person now you're raw.
Firstly, remember that women feel the cold more than men, and slim people feel the cold more than fat people. Hence, if you are a woman who has lost weight on raw, you'll not only feel colder than the average, but you'll feel colder than you used to on a cooked diet.
But also, many people, whatever sex, whether they've lost weight or not, do feel colder after switching to raw. In my first summer - admittedly not a great summer weather-wise here in the UK - I was always feeling cold, particularly in my feet and fingertips. Second summer I didn't feel as cold, even though the average temperature was no higher than the year before. Now, I'd say I still feel the cold a little more than the average person, but...it's definitely getting easier, and my own experience in this respect is echoed by those who have been raw for longer.
Why might we feel cold in the short-term?
David Wolfe, Sunfood Diet Success System: 'The feeling of coldness...is typically caused by a thickening of the blood during detoxification episodes; this decreases circulation. It is also caused by an increased blood flow to the internal organs - which are finally given a chance to heal - and a corresponding decreased blood flow to the extremities. Life change comes from the inside out. This is also true with the internal structure of the body. The most vital, central organs heal and transform first (the blood focuses there first). The musculature and the outer perimeter of the body are the last to heal.'
This is echoed by Susan Schenk in 'The Live Food Factor': 'This feeling of chill is believed to be part of the healing process, as the body is directing the blood, warmth, oxygen and nutrients inward to heal the most vital organs and tissues first, cleansing and rebuilding the body from the inside out.
Natural Hygienist Robert Rust: 'When a person who was formerly eating haphazardly of cooked and processed foods begins to eat healthfully by eating correct raw foods, they enter into a transition stage in which their body undergoes 'house cleaning' and healing from the damages incurred by the former diet.
One of the symptoms that may be experienced is a cold feeling, due to the lowered blood and lymph circulation that occurs when the body is not excessively stimulated by cooked food...
Even a person who is in a warm, tropical climate will experience cold feelings when transitioning to a raw food diet.'
So, feeling cold on raw isn't evidence that the raw diet 'isn't working'. It's a normal part of the early stages of switching to raw. Celebrate those cold feet and fingers!
Some feel that, in the long term, you'll feel less bothered by the cold than you did before raw.
David Wolfe: 'After you persist through the transition and detoxification - through the feeling of coldness - you will discover that your resistance to both cold and hot weather will increase by eating raw foods.'
Jan Dries ('Dries Cancer Diet' (high raw)): 'In the beginning, switching over to the diet can lead to chills, but only until the thermoregulation has adjusted itself.'
Victoria Boutenko 'During your first raw winter you may experience some cold due to the weakened adrenals, so put on an extra sweater, take a hot bath or do some push-ups. If you will continue staying raw, your adrenals will rest and recover, your capillary circulation will improve, your nervous system and your heart will naturally strengthen without any artificial stimulation.
She continues: 'My family is now going through our eleventh raw winter. We do not feel any discomfort from cold. We jump in icy-cold mountain rivers year round for enjoyment. In fact that is how we celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve. We always sleep outside under the rain or snow. Sergei, my son, goes snowboarding sometimes wearing only shorts. My daughter Valya rarely wears socks. Igor, my husband, loves to take snow baths. We strongly believe that staying on a raw food diet has helped us to feel comfortable in any weather and not to feel the cold.'
Susan Schenk: 'It [feeling of chill] disappears in time, the length of time depending on the individual's health going into raw.'
Robert Rust: 'As the body heals and purifies itself, which may take a few months or years depending on the habits of the person, healthier circulation returns and the person will handle the colder climate, if they are in one, better than they did previously on the cooked diet.'
Dr Gabriel Cousens writes that he felt colder on raw food until the second or third year, after which he would feel comfortably warm in cold weather and could even go out barefoot in frost. He also met some raw fooders in Alaska who reported feeling warmer in winter after being on the raw diet for some time.
So...hang on in there.
(EDIT JULY 09 - now three winters raw...)
Yes, I definitely felt the cold less in the third winter raw than in the first, and, this summer as well I haven't felt 'cold' in the way I did in the first summer. However, I still feel the cold a little more than the average person, and have a feeling this will be long-term. First reason - I am female, and am far slimmer than pre-raw. Second reason - new information for you! Studies of the healthiest raw fooders - athletes - show an average body temperature of 93 F only! A recent study of a group of 300 raw fooders showed an average body temperature of 96 F, at least two degrees lower than the 'norm'. The last time I took my temperature it was 96.2 F (35.7 C)So...raw fooders could be expected to feel the cold marginally more than the average person. It could actually be that the 'norm' of 98 isn't actually healthy. Perhaps those on a standard cooked, processed, omnivorous diet are in a constant state of mild fever as their bodies are trying to eliminate toxins. I'll just put that out there...!
The good news is that, in hot weather, which is nearer to the optimal climate for the human being - the one we all migrated from originally - raw fooders are going to feel far more comfortable than the average! And certainly in a recent spell of hot weather in the UK I was in bliss whilst others were grumbling. I'll not trade the health benefits I've experienced from being raw for feeling a little at odds with the climate on my cold little island.
'OK - ALL VERY INTERESTING, BUT, RIGHT NOW, I'M COLD!!'
What do animals do in the winter? Some don't appear to do anything different. They don't heat their food. They look and act much the same whether it's hot or cold, and appear to be able to accommodate temperature differences. Some migrate to warmer climes. Some hibernate. Others? They have, or grow, long shaggy, or furry, coats. So there's an answer if you're stuck in a cold climate in the winter. When it's cold, wear a lot more. Buy a long shaggy coat! We've got so used to centrally-heated houses and workplaces that many of us forgotten that when it's cold we should be piling on the layers!
Here's a suggestion for the toughest amongst you! For the last 30 seconds of a shower, turn off the hot water and switch on the cold. Closes the pores and retains body heat (apparently...never tried it myself...)
Also, here's a positive spin on feeling cold...we all know we should be outside more. Studies of longevity usually conclude that, as well as diet, outdoor living is a major factor contributing to a long and healthy life. For most of us living in UK-type climates, whether raw or not, that's a tall order. But, if switching to a raw diet and feeling colder makes us more aware that we may not be living in our natural habitat, and has us focussed on a long-term plan to move to somewhere warmer, that must be a good thing!
'I'VE BEEN TOLD CERTAIN FOODS, SUCH AS CAYENNE, HAVE A WARMING EFFECT.'
Many people say that hot-as-in-spicy foods such as chili and ginger can have a warming effect. Before you start adding chili to everything, consider the views for and against:
Ayurvedic medicine says spicy foods are 'energetically warm', pushing blood up to the surface of the body, thus raising the metabolic temperature.
The Natural Hygiene school of thought is in direct opposition to the Ayurvedic. Natural Hygiene says spices are at best irritants and at worse toxic.
Here's Mike Benton on cayenne (chili): 'All hot peppers contain a poisonous alkaloid called piperidin and a harmful crystalline substance known as piperin. Hot peppers also have acrid resins and volatile oils which irritate the digestive and urinary tracts. Cayenne pepper also contains an alkaloid called capsicin which irritates the body so severely that circulation is rapidly increased in order to remove it from the system.
That is why hot peppers make you feel 'warm' - the body drastically increases circulation to remove all the harmful pepper alkaloids as expeditiously as possible.'
(Incidentally, raw foodists should be wary of the Ayurvedic approach in general. I've seen ayurvedic medicine used as a justification for statements such as 'some people can't eat raw food' and 'raw food can be dangerous'! Just because something has been practised for thousands of years (as has cooking) doesn't make it right.
'OK, BUT I STILL FIND THE THOUGHT OF A WINTER EATING FREEZING COLD FOOD TOO MUCH TO BEAR!'
It's never necessary to eat freezing cold food. Neither is it good for the body to eat very cold food. It shocks the system and it will cause the body to have to work extra hard to adjust internal temperature just as it would for hot food. David Wolfe: 'cold refrigerated food will cool the body. Perhaps you can adjust your refrigerator to the warmest temperature it will allow.' Alternatively, take food out for half an hour before eating. And there are lots of foods of course that don't have to be refrigerated at all. I always keep fruit, and tomatoes, at room temperature.
Also, some people do find it helps to warm food in the winter; raw soups warmed can be very comforting. Warming food isn't cooking; it's only at around 105-115 F that nutrients start to become destroyed and/or damaged. See if you can get a thermometer, but, failing that, if you want to judge how warm you might allow a raw dish to get, think how warm a swimming pool heated to 105 - 115 F would be. Or...stick your finger under your armpit and bring your arm down quickly. That's a rough guide as to how warm your soup can get on touch.
Anyone with a dehydrator will know that food dehydrated to 110F feels very warm, and relatively stodgy dehydrated foods served warm, whilst not as optimal as non-dehydrated food, can again be a psychological comfort of great help to those in the early stages of raw.
So, do you need cooked food in winter? Sure - like a fish needs a bicycle. Can you stay raw this winter? Yes you can!