Sunday, 9 August 2009

'But I'm hungry!'

I've managed to escape from the UK summer ('variable'...) by making a last-minute booking for a fortnight on Koh Phangan, Thailand, to stay with some friends from the 30BaD forum. So, only time for one article this month.

It's a 'reprint' of an article I wrote for Fresh Network a while back. Many of you won't have seen it, and hope those who have will forgive me popping it in here. In September I will be back with an article that I have been working on for several months.

Note the first half applies more to those who still eat a little cooked food. The second half contains material relevant to 100% raw fooders as well.



He's there, on the shoulders of many of you who still eat a little cooked food. Some of you will feel he's not a problem, you rather like him, and are quite happy to have him around - he's a pet.

But he's a pest if ever there have been occasions when you've eaten cooked, but would have preferred not to. He scratches, he prods, he wants to play! Sometimes he sleeps for long periods, only to wake and cause havoc.

Here's the good news: that monkey can be trained. This short course in Monkey Behaviour will show you how to resist his prods until he becomes not only docile but may even become so bored with your lack of response that he packs his bags and leaves.

A physical prod is hard to ignore. The reason given for eating cooked food that seems to trump all others is: But I get hungry!' Stomach sensations persuade us that we 'must' eat - and now! And, if we're in a situation where it isn't 'easy' to eat raw, or if we're so 'ravenous' we tell ourselves raw just won't cut it, we eat...whatever's at hand.

We're conversant (ish) with the 98+ emotional/psychological reasons for eating when we're not hungry, but these stomach sensations are physically and are therefore, undeniably, signs of hunger. (Aren't they?) We dutifully make the super-large salad, or feast on fruit, but when two hours later our tummies are rumbling and we have an 'empty' feeling, surely we're right to complain that, 'I'm hungry - raw food just doesn't seem to satisfy me!'


There are two main stomach sensations that we associate with hunger.

These are:

  • Hunger Pangs
  • Empty Stomach

Hunger Pangs

That uncomfortable 'gnawing' in the stomach. Any reader who has not been 100% raw since birth will need no further description. We've been taught this is hunger - a natural consequence of not eating for a while. I'm going to suggest that this is...not the case.

Rather - the pangs are caused by cooked food eaten previously.

This isn't a new idea. I first came across it when my husband brought home a dusty litle book he'd found in a charity shop - 'Health Via Food' by William H Hay, MD, published 1934. Hay advises us to 'arrange the feeding habits so that no gnawing will ever again occur even when the stomach is entirely empty. Every gnawing feeling is evidence that the stomach contains a very uncomfortable amount of acid, the acid debris that follows the meal...". Hovannessian, in 'Raw Eating', published 1967, tells us these feelings are stimulated by '...poisons accumulated in the body.'

Sure, they're old books. But our modern-day doctors tell us that spicy and acidic foods often result in 'indigestion' - a term that covers a multitude of discomforts, with gnawing at the mild end of a continuum.

As for Hovannessian's 'poisons', raw fooders will need no educating there! Dr Doug Graham ('The 80/10/10 Diet'): 'If a perceived feeling of hunger is accompanied by feelings of faintness, stomach pangs, headaches or other discomforts, it is actually a sign of withdrawal from harmful substances.'

In other words, it's all part of the 'food crash' - a term used by modern-day health experts to describe symptoms of withdrawal from toxins. And, in the same way that a smoker may feel physically (as well as psychologically) uncomfortable whilst withdrawing from the last cigarette, and 'feel better' when he has the next, cooked food can also make us 'feel better' as the body puts on hold its detox activities in order to cope with the next onslaught.

It would be fair to assume that the more acidic and toxic the cooked food (and drink), the worse the gnawing later as it leaves our body. But, as many cooking processes can produce acrylamides that have been directly linked with cancer it's safest to work on the basis that all the time we continue to eat any cooked food, we are prey to some extent to those uncomfortable sensations that play havoc with our self-control and best intentions - 'I need pasta - a troughful - now!'

This is borne out by my own experience. Pre-raw, I'd feel gnawing most days. At 75% raw, I experienced it...frequently, although a little less. Since 100% raw (well, in fact, since 95%-ish) - no gnawing! Not once. Ever again. Even when water-fasting three days.

On 75% raw, the one cooked meal I was still clinging to was breakfast. For twenty years it had been, most days, toast (grains cooked then cooked again), processed fat spread, Marmite (for non-UK readers - salty cooked yeast extract with the appearance and consistency of tar) and coffee (strong, with powdered milk!). Of course, Hay, Hovannessian and Graham and anyone understanding toxins and addiction would have been able to explain to me why I would often feel unwell without my usual breakfast.

I thought it would be a tough call to give up that security blanket - the one thing that stood between me and a raw food diet. Bu when eventually I did - no problem! But that of course is because physical addictions only have a hold on us while we are withdrawing. If we then refuse to top up, (physical) addiction gone. Although, at the time, no one could have been more surprised than me to find that within a few days I was happily starting the day on fruit. Needless to say, the gnawing rapidly subsided from that point onwards.

Alkalising raw foods can help us resist the prods. I'll always remember my sceptical husband drinking his first green juice, then ringing from work to say that for the first time ever he hadn't felt the gnawing that would so often lead to his making a detour to the greasy spoon (truckers' diner) on the way in. This from a man who at one time would have hooted with derision at the suggestion that he'd be happy starting the day with 'spinach juice.'

If you've been felled by 'gnawings', next time they come, try reframing:

'This is an interesting sensation! It's good that my body is sufficiently vital and responsive to give me this clear message about the cooked food I've been eating. I appreciate the discomfort, will reduce the chances of its occurring again by eating raw today, and will try to remember what it feels like before it's history.'

Beat that monkey! (Figure of speech only).

Empty Stomach

We've been taught that this sensation, with or without sound effects, is hunger, and that therefore we should refill as soon as possible.

In fact, all it is is the stomach emptying. It may gurgle, as a basin does when it's emptying. It may rumble, growl...the medical term for this is borborygmus. Sita Chokhavatia, MD (Mount Sinai School of Medicine) explains that, rather than being a sign of hunger, it's our gastrointestinal system's housekeeping after the previous meal. It occurs when contractions move any remaining bits of food from your stomach. 'It's like squeezing and shaking a balloon filled with water and air.'

Once the stomach is empty, provided no gnawings are present due to previous cooked food eaten, physical sensations from the stomach should be minimal, if present at all, as the stomach is, after all, at rest.

Cooked-food conditioning leads us to incorrectly deduce that, if our stomachs feel empty shortly after eating a meal, then that particular meal can't have 'satisfied' us. In fact, it's more likely that it will have satisfied our bodies particularly well. Why? Because our stomachs have coped with it very easily.

So the next time you feel rumbling shortly after a raw meal, reframe:

'Oh good - my stomach's emptying already! It had no problems with that meal, and now that food, complete with every nutrient that it was designed to give me, is on the way to my small intestines, where my body will absorb the things it needs from it. Soon the emptying feeling will pass and my stomach will feel lovely and calm. My body will then be freed from that part of the digestive burden, releasing lots of energy!'

Congratulations. You've completed the short course in Monkey Behaviour. You've been introduced to the idea (or perhaps this is just revision for you) that it's past (inappropriate) attention that has resulted in those prods continuing to (negatively) affect you. You now not only have the strength (as knowledge is power) to ignore them but also to use them in a way that ensures they become increasingly ineffectual.

Right back at yer, monkey!

The great news is that the more raw we eat, and the more we learn how to undo the effects of a lifetime of cooked-food conditioning, the easier it all becomes.

As, when uncomfortable 'gnawings' due to cooked food are a thing of the past, and when we understand that the sensations arising from an emptying stomach aren't hunger and we no longer feel panicked into eating when we don't need to, or eating more than we need to (and in some cases eating food that we would prefer not to eat), we are greatly liberated. We can then tune into the true calls of our body and eat from true desire (and we can trust those calls, as long as the food desired is raw). We will enjoy the juicy watermelon, the crunchy sprouts, the sweet strawberries or the creamy hazelnuts, because they appeal to our senses of sight, smell and taste, and not because we 'have' to put something into our stomachs.


Where's that monkey gone?


Anonymous said...

How interesting! Thanks for republishing this. I hope you enjoy your holiday to Thailand & all the lovely fruits they have there :-)

Anonymous said...

once again...thanks for this, deb!

for me, it's not so much the hunger pangs but rather the 'psychological' pangs. it's more the cravings which dr. d says really have to do with not getting enough fruit. starting to work on it from that perspective.

thailand???? LUCKY YOU! enjoy it! i have a friend in malaysia right now...enjoying durian season! ^___^

you look great, btw. a real inspiration.

Debbie Took said...

I'm staying with Darrick, Harley (aka durianrider), Freelea and 'crew', and have been, tree-ripened durian - way-hay!

Anonymous said...

wow. durianrider and Freelea. that will be so much fun!

Jeff Ferguson said...

Great article Debbie. I have a pdf of Health via Food by William Hay. I am going to make a point of reading it.

Debbie Took said...

Brilliant! I'm not sure if Hay ever called himself a Natural Hygienist, but a lot of his writing is along NH lines, eg p145

'The idea of medicine is something to correct or relieve bodily conditions, and this theory, (for it is never anything bu a theory), has furnished fertile soil of the exploitation of humanity from time immemorial to the present day.

If the ailments of humanity could be reached in this way what incentive would there be to live correctly?'

Great stuff!

Karmyn said...

Hi Debbie,

I found this article VERY USEFUL. Thank you!


Debbie Took said...

Great to hear from you, Karmyn - I've just been over to your blog, and your gorgeous little boy is a tribute to raw-child-rearing!

Anda said...

Very useful article -- thanks!

The two problems I had when I first went raw about three years ago were other people (what do I do when I am a guest at a cooked-food dinner?) and WINTER. In the winter, I simply CRAVE something HOT -- a soup warm to 116 F. just wouldn't do the trick.

Have a great time in Thailand!

Debbie Took said...

I HAD a great time in Thailand - the article's a year old :-)

If you use the Search facility at the top of the blog you should find my article on Raw in Winter - hope it'll be of use in the months to come!