Monday 3 May 2010

Enjoy The Raw Food Diet!

I had such fun in my first year of raw! I ate all sorts of things as long as they were technically, theoretically...(at a pinch?) 'raw', and vegetarian/vegan. I watched various health problems melt away...I felt excited, exhilarated - on a raw 'high'!

I discovered Natural Hygiene. The simplicity, the logic, made absolute sense to me, and out went the dehydrated foods, the 'superfoods', the complex raw-food-pretending-to-be-cooked 'abombo-combo' dishes, making way for a love affair with fruit that has never abated!

At time of writing I've been raw for three and a half years. And '100%/close to' for all but the first few months. But...about eighteen months into my raw food journey, I had a period in which the list of 'non-optimal' foods that I felt I should prohibit myself from eating seemed to be growing daily with my reading, and, as well as feeling anxious about my food, I had fallen into the trap (that, ironically, so many cooked-food eaters are in) of having my life revolve around food, with every day full of dilemmas as to whether I should or shouldn't eat something, and what the consequences for my body would be.

Raw fooders by definition are people who hold themselves to very high standards, and we're generally enthusiastic 'all or nothing' types. The problem is that, if we push ourselves beyond the point we're ready to go to too quickly, placing too many restrictions on ourselves too soon, we can get to the point where we actually deserve the much misused term 'orthorexia' that cooked-food eaters love to apply to those following healthy diets, and in our constant worrying and ruminating can become poor advertisements for raw food.

There seems to be a downer/dilemma attached to just about everything that's a candidate for the raw fooder's gullet.

Have you ever denied yourself raw food you've desired because you've been worrying about one (or more...) of these?

AVOCADO 'I must only have half as Raw Food Teacher A says a whole one is too much.'
THE OTHER HALF OF THE AVOCADO 'Oh no - can't have it now. It's...oxidised!'
AVOCADO 'Maybe I shouldn't have it at all. People on the forum I like say it's 'clogging'.'

BANANA 'Mustn't eat it because my forum buddies say it's unripe unless covered with blotches/spots.'

BEETROOT 'Raw Food Teacher B says we shouldn't eat it as it's a high-sugar hybrid.'

CUT BAGGED SALAD. 'Hmm...would be so easy. But it's probably washed in chlorine.'

BRASSICAS 'Possible link with thyroid disorders?'

FRUIT 'Can only have x pieces a day as Raw Food Teacher C says any more is bad for us.'
FRUIT 'Can't buy that; it's not organic.'
FRUIT 'Can't buy those; they're not Fairtrade.'
FRUIT 'Can't buy those; they're not local.'
FRUIT 'Can't buy those; they're flown in.'
(CITRUS) FRUIT 'Can't have any more of those; could be bad for my teeth.'
(DRIED) FRUIT. (Ditto above.)

FLAX CRACKERS 'Shouldn't have dehydrated food.'

GARLIC 'Hmm...Debbie Took's article was quite persuasive and it'

HERBS 'Can't have those as toxic and, anyway, we shouldn't eat anything 'we can't make a meal of'.

JUICE 'Raw Food Teacher D says we shouldn't juice, as fibre and other nutrients are lost.'

LACUMA 'It's a powder, and powder isn't food.'

MUSHROOMS 'Shouldn't eat them as they're a fungus.'

NUTS 'Shouldn't eat them as Raw Food Teacher E says they're difficult to digest and not 'optimal'.

NUTS. They're dried...should only eat them from the tree in my garden when in season (er - me recently!)

NUT BUTTER 'Can't have that as it's not fresh, and it's processed.'

PUMPKIN SEEDS 'Can't have those as already had 10% fat today.'

OIL 'Can't have that as it's a fractionated food.'

OLIVES 'Can't have those as they've been salted.'

ONIONS 'Natural Hygiene says they're not food for us.'

RAWGOURMET FOOD 'Transition food' is only for beginners! 'Transition foods' are high in fat. 'Transition food' will drive you back to cooked food.' (Etc.)

ROMAINE LETTUCE 'I musn't eat it today, as I have to 'rotate my greens'.

ROOT VEG 'Perhaps shouldn't eat as once pulled from the ground the plant can't continue growing.'

SEA VEG 'Can't have that as I'm vegan and minute sea creatures get caught in the harvesting.'

SMOOTHIE 'Raw Food Teacher F says 90% of the nutrients are lost in blending.'

SPICES 'Can't have those - toxic stimulants.'

SPINACH 'Can't have too much as could be too much oxalic acid.'

SPROUTS 'Those following the diet I aspire to say they're 'pointless'.'

TOMATOES/PEPPERS 'They're 'nightshades'...'

SPROUTED WHEAT 'My forum buddies think grains are the devil.'


I'm not going to give my own views as to the validity of any of the statements above. Regular readers will know that I've planted a few of the 'downers' as above in my own articles. Suffice to say that some I agree with, and others I very much disagree with!

But, if this article has caught you at a point somewhere between the 'honeymoon' phase of the raw food diet and men in white coats knocking on the door, I do hope it will turn things around for you!

When I found myself, in that second summer, in a place where the raw food diet was making me feel anxious, I made some changes.

I stayed raw, but relaxed a little within the raw food diet. (I don't recommend that anyone relax into eating more cooked food - I've seen that happen with others too often to be convinced that it is anything other than the road back to ill health!)

When attending raw food potlucks, instead of taking fruit and leaves and eating nothing of others' offerings (feeling a little smug wearing my Natural Hygiene 'hat') I decided that I would instead partake of the various things on offer - cacao (toxic stimulant), fermented foods (that fizz - I'm sure we shouldn't be eating them!), nut/fruit pies (sure-fire recipe for 'football tummy'), dehydrated cookies, all sorts of weird concoctions.

When I went to California, as well as returning to our holiday home laden with piles of fruit and the most amazing romaine lettuces I'd ever tasted from farmers' markets, I partook of the rawgourmet cuisine out there with gusto! I tried packaged 'Leaf Cuisine' rawgourmet, visited well-known raw food restaurants, and ate dehydrated, salty food, because...I wanted to tick them off on my list of raw food restaurants 'experienced', wanted to take my husband, and because...they were fun! Places where raw food people gather have a buzz around them that always gives me a high, whatever the variant of raw food is on offer.

This relaxation within the raw food diet rejuvenated me. I've never looked back, and two years later am still very happily raw. If you can identify with any of this, whether you've been raw for months, years, decades, I hope my experience here can help. As I know of some people who didn't just spend a few weeks feeling anxious like I did, but have spent years feeling this way, and who, I believe, may well benefit from retracing steps a little before going forward again.

Let's remind ourselves of how far we've come.

Anyone who's following a Natural Hygiene-oriented raw food diet (which is how I describe mine) is light years from the standard cooked diet of the previous life.

Years of conditioning on a damaged, multi-ingredient cooked food diet dies hard. For most people, going raw is in itself such a huge step that restricting ourselves too soon within raw can backfire.

If eating 'less-than-optimal' raw food helps you enjoy your raw food diet more, go for it!

Oil, for example, is not an ideal food. Ideally we should be eating our salad without it. But a while ago, after visiting VitaOrganic in Wardour St, London W1, I developed a passion for huge crunchy brassica salads. I'd had such a lovely day in Soho and I had a psychological urge to recreate the meal I'd had there. I missed out the apple cider vinegar (for me that would be going too far!), but dressed my salad with cold-pressed sesame oil and lime juice, and...a little salt, which again, we should NOT be putting into our bodies - see my article on this!).

Sure, there's a valid and logical Natural Hygiene argument that says we should be able to eat foods without adornments and that these can pervert the tastebuds resulting in our being unable to enjoy food in its pure natural state. However....I cut myself some slack there and greatly enjoyed crunchy salads for several weeks. After a few servings, I cut out the salt! I'm not so enthusiastic about them now, but perhaps at that time my body was very much welcoming a particular nutrient abundant in red cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli!

Food is not the only thing that affects our health

So you went to a raw food picnic and had dehydrated cookies. But you spent three hours sitting in the fresh air, in the sun and interacting with other raw fooders! Sure, you could have stayed indoors mono-eating grapes. Which is better?

We can eat more avocado than someone else might consider 'optimal', go out for an hour and smile at everyone we meet, improving our mental well-being, not to mention that of others. Or we could spend that time furiously hammering the keyboard in a bid to convince someone on a raw food forum who happens to follow a raw food diet different from ours of the errors of their ways.

Raw food leaders are often more relaxed with their diets than their followers

I remember asking Dr Doug Graham ('80/10/10 Diet') whether he would be taking his own food to a party at SAF (London rawgourmet/vegan restaurant) recently. SAF food is just about as far from the high-fruit and leaves 811 diet that it is possible to get. He said no, that he would be having an '811 holiday' that day. Doug follows the policy that's it's the lifestyle you lead most of the time that is key to state of health.

I've seen 811 adherents on forums tell others firmly that herbs and spices such as basil, rosemary, cinnamon etc weren't '811'. In that case, someone should tell Doug that, as he enjoys them all.

(I'm using Doug as an example here only because he's the raw food leader I know the best. I also believe he has an integrity that certain other raw food leaders lack, and I've found he is upfront and honest about his (excellent) diet.)

Raw food leaders are fallible human beings

If a raw food leader has firmly told you that x or y is the way to go (or not go), that it is 'impossible' to be successfully long-term raw if you eat 'x', or 'impossible' to be successfully long-term raw if you don't eat 'x', please don't believe them! Because there are thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) who are living contradictions of these diktats!

Also, however authoritatively your raw food leader talks, there will be other raw food leaders of equal intelligence, experience and love for their fellow-men and women that will feel differently.

And the raw food diet that your raw food leader promotes is just one variant of the raw food diet - the variant that they have come to prefer. I love a high-fruit diet myself but can see from the evidence of those thriving on other sorts of raw food diet that it is not the 'only way'.

Do we pay a price for eating 'less than optimal' foods?

For sure. Whenever we ingest a toxin (eg salt), or alter a food so that it is significantly different from the natural (eg dehydration) or mix lots of different foods that were never meant to be eaten together (eg foods from different parts of the world), we must surely pay a price. For me, it would not be logical to think otherwise.

But, if our overall vitality is high ('nerve-energy' in Natural Hygiene parlance) our bodies should be able to manage occasional transgressions. For example, if we eat salty poor food combinations at raw food restaurants, we may experience symptoms later. We may feel thirsty. We may get a tummy-ache. We may get gas. If we only partake of these foods occasionally I believe (OK, I'm hoping!) that there will be short-term eliminative symptoms only. If we ate these sorts of foods every day we could assume a greater and more long-term negative effect on our health. But occasional short-term symptoms from partaking infrequently should simply 'remarry' us to the sorts of raw foods we know we feel best on. We may find ourselves consuming a far higher proportion of fruit and leaves in the days to come than we would have done otherwise. When we are raw, I think we can trust our bodies to set up desires which will 'even things out.'


if you really feel like papayas, but are denying yourself because they're not organic, because they'll have to ripen in the kitchen rather than under the sun, because they've been flown those delicious papayas - your body's crying out for them! If you feed your body what it desires rather than what your mind (or a raw food teacher, or those on a raw food forum) tell you you should or shouldn't, you'll feel all the better for it and be far better equipped to change the world/persuade supermarket managers to stock organic papayas etc!

If right now you have a desire for some raw food that you've prohibited because you do believe it's 'not ideal', consider having some! Have a whale of a time eating all sorts of raw foods you've denied yourself. My experience is that it will not 'open the floodgates' but in fact will more likely make you appreciate even more the sort of food you like to eat most of the time.

It can be hard on the ego (I do know!) to admit that perhaps we've pushed ourselves just a little further than we were ready to go. It may mean some loss of face on your favourite NH/811 raw food forum to say that, yes, you went to Euphoria RawRevolution yesterday, had 'sunburgers' and enjoyed them! But, actually, at the end of the day, other people worry less about your diet than you do, and so what if someone gives you a 'ticking off'!

If you are fine eating whole mono foods only, have been doing so for twenty years, then this article is not for you. However, for the remaining 99% of my readers...if you at any time find you're kicking against self-imposed shackles, I suggest retreat a little, regroup and make further 'improvements' (and, as discussed, that can be a subjective thing!) only when you wholeheartedly want to make them.


I now follow a policy of eating whole, unprocessed foods in simple combinations most of the time.
But I reserve the right to eat virtually any plant food raw, in any quantity I fancy, as long as it's not been heat-damaged. On a close-to-100% raw food diet, that's as far as I want to go right now while I turn my attention to non-food aspects of my lifestyle, the improvement of which could improve my health far more than cutting down on pumpkin seeds could.

I do aim for 'purist' - it's a goal. It is a sin, however small we might like to persuade ourselves it is (and you can see in this article that I do my share of that!), to fall beneath the standards we know we can achieve and our bodies will manifest the consequences of our transgressions from what is perfect. But let's remember how far we've come, and continue to improve, but only at a rate that we feel happy with. Our 'inner selves'/'higher power'/the universe/God will give us a shove when we need to move on again, and when that happens we will be given the strength to find it easy to take a few more steps forward. We need to distinguish between that direction, direction we can trust, from the perplexing and sometimes destructive stuff our minds can get up to from listening to the opinions of other human beings.

It's this policy - of having a great time enjoying all sorts of raw foods, of (at least this point in my raw food journey) not placing too many restrictions on myself within raw, that has enabled me to stay raw now for three and a half years, without any cooked food cravings, without ever 'falling off the wagon'.

It's this policy that enables me to enjoy the raw food diet, and stay...rawforlife!


Fran said...

LOL - thanks for the list Debbie, it really made me laugh. It could have been written by me.

And just want to say, I really enjoy reading your blog, despite not commenting often. Thanks for all the work.

Debbie Took said...

Thanks, Fran :-)

(And I'm very much hoping that this will not backfire on me and people read the list and start worrying more rather than less!)

Debbie said...

Love the post.

laurie said...

Great one, Debbie--I've pushed myself too far many times, and it doesn't work anyway!

Lissa said...

Debbie, you are making a very good point! I was smiling when I read that going out and socializing with people could be far more healthy than staying inside monoing on grapes or getting angry while sitting at your pc reading all those forums. ;-)

It's always so refreshing and uplifting to read your blog posts! :-)

Debbie Took said...

Ah, well I do speak as a seasoned 'forumer'! There is a marvellous cartoon I saw of someone feverishly bashing away at his computer. His wife says 'Darling, aren't you coming to bed yet?' He says, 'I can't - someone on the internet is WRONG!'

David Cohen said...

At the risk of repeating myself... ANOTHER GREAT POST FROM THIS AMAZING PERSON!!! It's real, it's here, it's Debbie Took.

Debbie Took said...

Ah... thank you David! XXX

Lawrence said...

Thanks Debbie - I certainly relate to your experiences. Having been a raw foodist now for a number of years, I have learnt to trust my instincts when it comes to making food choices and am far less purist than I once was. I feel much happier as a result.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Lawrence

'Purist' can have a variety of definitions and can be used positively or's been used of me (and not in a complimentary way) when I've said I won't eat pre-shelled brazil nuts because they're cooked.

Although purity is my goal, like you, I'll 'rest' right now at 100% raw/near to it, whilst I work on other aspects of my life.

(To anyone who's reading this, I do recommend the writings of Ralph Waldo Trine.)

watzzupsport said...

Hi Debbie,

As always you write great information, that is backed up by somebody who walks the talk. I often see the ' Purist' argument get bandied around and I duck for cover as I add the second half of an avocado into my salad hoping my sins will be forgiven :-)
I did my first raw food public talk last week and one of the things I hoped that i got across was that it is not a religion or a complex way of living.
I think you can cause more problems setting up what you can't eat, then you can by encouraging people with the good things to eat.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Russell

Congrats on your first talk. I've done a few and found them very exciting - well, they excited ME anyway :-)

No, raw doesn't have to be complicated and it's surely the devil at work that sets up all the 'you must not's, the divisions within the raw food movement, the 'my raw food diet's better than yours' raw oneupmanship, if you don't eat raw this particular way you're doomed etc. It can set up so much anxiety in people who came to raw with so much enthusiasm and joy.

Debbie Took said...

I've been thinking further about my brazil nuts comment above. I apologise for memory lapse/inconsistency/dishonesty here!

If someone else has prepared for me a raw salad and it contains sliced brazil nuts, or someone offers me a cookie containing brazil nuts, I will not enquire as to whether the nuts are raw or cooked, will actually assume it's the latter, but will eat them!

But I won't buy them myself, as there are few thousand other things I can eat out there that ARE raw :-)

Unknown said...

Hi Debbie,
I enjoyed this blog. It partly addresses my dilemma. I am trying to do lfrv and continue to fail because I want something savory in the evening. When I wasn't trying to do lowfat raw, I never failed and did 2 years 100%. My weight loss had stalled and I thought lfrv would be the answer, but not if I keep eating cooked stuff at night sometimes. Relax ... I will try. Lynda

Debbie Took said...

Absolutely. When we are 100% raw, we can trust our bodies when it comes to fat. I think we should eat as much fat as we feel like eating, and that those who think fat (like grains!) is the devil haven't made enough distinction between cooked and raw fat. I've seen too many people on lfrv try to ignore their desires for nuts, seeds, avocado whatever, then 'binge-eat' on them and beat themselves up for it. It's crazy.

Tringyokel said...

Good post Debbie.

I'm still quite a way from 100% raw but moving in the right direction. I was feeling guilty about the amount of fat in my diet but have now accepted that this is what my body wants at the moment. An avocado or some nuts is still better than fatty cooked food so I'm still winning in my view.

Also, not being totally pedantic about raw food I find that others are trying really hard to accommodate me. So, having a small amount of cheese with a salad when everyone else had pepper steaks for a lunch the other week did not really do any damage. And my friend is taking more of an interest in what I would prepare for myself now.

Thanks for the information and inspiration.

Debbie Took said...

Hi Graham

Re eating raw when others have prepared food for you, we each need to decide how far we're going to go. My policy is that, if someone has gone to the trouble of preparing a raw salad for me, and they've mixed in corn kernels (from a tin) because they thought they were raw, I won't pick them all out!

My mother-in-law goes to a lot of trouble to make me a raw Christmas dinner (starter and main course). But I haven't yet had the heart to tell her that the nuts she puts out for me when I arrive (eg cashews) aren't raw. I have a couple!

rawdatingdotcom said...

Debbie, Debbie, Debbie!!!!

What a fantastic read! I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I giggled many times (esp. the part about
40pineapples a day and the oxidised half of an avocado as these reminded me of some strict, preachy purists).

I have to say, I generally adore the great British sense of humour, full of wit and peppered with honest self appraisal, and you have that in bucketloads.

Thank you so much for 'keeping it real' and helping new raw converts to feel empowered rather than discouraged, anxious and ashamed.

I would love to meet you for a nibble at Saf or a raw potluck sometime.

You rock Debbie!


PS: after reading this well written article I felt tempted to start my own non-purist
website entitled "20avocados a day". Haha!

Debbie Took said...

Hi rdd

Your comments much appreciated.

I do actually find the food at SAF pretty weird, but, as I think I said in the article (if I didn't, should have) a little deviation from NH occasionally tends to make me appreciate even more the simple diet!

I do aim for 'purist' but simply haven't got there yet. And I freely admit that I sometimes eat for 'novelty/titillation' reasons (eg SAF!) - haven't grown out of that yet!

Debbie Took said...

To rawdatingdotcom

Have decided to take out the reference to '40Pineapples'. I did include it for humour, and glad you enjoyed it, and I used it to illustrate a point. However, slightly worried that some will take this as an implied criticism of 30BaD, which is actually my very favourite raw food forum, and it's so easy for misunderstandings to arise that I felt it best to 'cut' it!

Alison Andrews said...

Wonderful article Debbie! I totally agree too. I allow quite a bit of flexibility within raw too, I love homemade nut 'cheeses' and I love fresh herbs, not to mention some date mustard too. It all helps to keep me on track and when I tried to cut it all out, it didn't help me at all.

Funnily enough I was listening to a Doug Graham audio the other day where he was saying that people who try and cut nuts and seeds and avos out of their diet, are the most likely to go back to eating cooked complex carbohydrates. It definitely seemed to work that way for me. If I want to stay 100% or 'close to' as you say, then the nuts and seeds and avos have definitely got to have their place in my diet.

At a raw potluck I'd certainly tuck in, and in fact the other week we went somewhere where there were raw crackers (salted) and raw hummus (also salted) that we ate, and we enjoyed the evening but then suffered a pretty hectic hangover from the salt (must have been QUITE a hectic amount of it in there), which then, as you say, made us entirely appreciate the fruits and greens so much more. So, it's all still totally positive!

Debbie Took said...

Hi Alison

I think I get a 'salt hangover' after such events as well - have noticed a feeling of puffiness around the eyes.

I'm intrigued - what's 'date mustard'?

Alison Andrews said...

Date mustard is something that I'd never seen before coming to Dubai, but it is sold at speciality date shops here. The ingredients are dates, mustard seed and balsamic vinegar. So I guess you could make it yourself quite easily. It is absolutely delicious added to fresh veggies!

Debbie Took said...

Ah, I see. Now I wouldn't use the balsamic vinegar myself as it's not raw (and it's vinegar...), BUT do feel free to give me a cyberslap for saying that, as if I order a Greek salad (minus feta)at a restaurant and it includes cooked (as in pasteurised) olives, cured in SALT, I will eat them! (And enjoy them :-) It's those key words 'close to' 100% raw operating here. I'd be interested to do a survey of what particular ingredients are part of people's 'close to's!

Alison Andrews said...

Oh haha! I didn't even know balsamic wasn't raw. But I definitely knew it was a compromise. It would definitely be interesting to find out what people's 'close to' items are!

Unknown said...

Hi Debbie!

I've been reading you since 30bad and I have to say first of all, another great article! And it's perfect timing that I'm reading it because as of late I can resonate with everything you said! For example, I had been avoiding raw potlocks because of the high-fat combo-ambo dishes and I decided I'm much better off letting myself lose once in a while. This by no means puts me on a dominio affect path as some may think that would lead me away from 811, but rather it makes me enjoy more and not worry so much! It's okay! So, I went to a raw potlock last weekend at an indian veg restaurant that is looking to add raw food to their menu and I had a great time, tried almost every dish, and thoroughly enjoyed most of them. A month ago I would have felt guilty after a meal like this and just like you descibed, sat there imagining what it's doing to my body but this time was different. I guess the mentality you have on the raw diet determines your success or failure on it. Once again, great great post and perfect timing. Thanks.
xo, Nik

Unknown said...

Oh and I have to add, I laughed while reading your list and fully admit to having some of those thoughts before! lol

Debbie Took said...

Hi Nichole

Yes - I 'resonate' with that! I remember years ago on gi2mraw people were going on about how wonderful 'kale chips' were.

I'd always wanted to try them, but when 100% strict Natural Hygiene last year they were something I wouldn't have touched with a bargepole.

I saw them on sale recently, so bought some. And they were...a great disappointment. And horribly salty...

However, trying them got that old nagging 'desire'/curiosity out of my system. And the good news is that I'd also bought the biggest watermelon I've ever bought in the UK, and they had the effect of me making very quick work of that!!

Linda said...

Hi Debbie
I'm not 100% sure about this one. I don't do well with more than a little fat and I know this is common. I love your other blog posts to pieces though.
I'm just wondering if I can find out from you why apple cider vinegar has been reported to have an alkalising effect when vinegar is known to be harmful?
Thanks so much.
Lin x

Debbie Took said...

Hi Linda

Fat - just do what suits you. For years I've eaten a lot more raw fat than the 'low fat raw vegan' limit and I've fared well on it.

Apple cider vinegar - I remember looking into this a couple of years back, and my feeling was that ACV is as bad as any vinegar. As to claims for it being 'alkalising', the best bet would be to ask the manufacturers for evidence to back this up.

Linda said...

Thanks Debbie. I didn't check back again until now so I didn't realise you'd replied. I forgot to mention that I don't have ACV or desire to. My friend's skin looks nicer since she's been taking it but it could be due to something else although she swears by it. I'd personally rather stay on the safe side. I like my fruit/green smoothies too much, thanks to your inspiration and also all the other inspirations I've found since.

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