Raw Chef Panel Q2: The Raw Journey
Q. How long have you been raw? What percentage raw were you in the beginning of your raw journey? If you were 100%, how long did that last? What percentage are you now? And, finally, if you do eat cooked foods, what cooked foods do you eat?
A. I have lived a raw food lifestyle since 2004. I have been interested in nutrition my entire life. I grew up loving to cook and spending time in the kitchen. Creating recipes and wooing guests with my cuisine has been my greatest passion in life. Working with food is like a working meditation. It is my solace, my love, an expression of my inner beauty, my artistic self, my true being. I love food, and more importantly, I love food that heals and nurtures the body not only on a physically level but on a deep soul level. Raw foods do that.
In 2004, I was visiting my sister, Tanith, in Portland, Oregon for a weekend, and while in her home, I found a cookbook. It was Rawsome by Brigitte Mars. I had never before heard of a raw food diet. When I picked up this book, I was immediately entranced by its content. It promised a new way of eating that offered amazing health and beauty benefits. Being that I am the type to devour any nutritional book or cookbook I can get my hands on, I spent the rest of that weekend in Portland gobbling up every word on every page. I was instantly hooked. When I returned home, I sought out every book I could find on the topic. I started with Juliano’s book, Raw: The Uncook Book: New Vegetarian Food for Life and dove right in. I was immediately discouraged by the complexity of the recipes. Transitioning from a cooked food diet, I craved heavy meals. The vibrant pictures and recipes in his book allured me, but I realized that if I wanted something as simple as a sandwich that it would take several days to make it. The grains had to be soaked and sprouted for a few days, mixed into a batter and dehydrated for two or so more days to make the bread alone. My growling stomach and my impatience sent me right to the grocer for raw nuts, seeds, nut butters and dried fruit. These items were filling and easy to attain. At the end of my first week raw, I could proudly protest that I was indeed 100% raw, but I felt toxic. I could withstand this way of eating for about two weeks before I would delve back into my tried and true cooked foods.
One weekend while visiting Mendocino, California, I stumbled across Living Light Culinary Art Institute in Fort Bragg. They were advertising the first annual Vibrant Living Expo. I was amazed at this find. I bought tickets for the entire event and immersed myself fully into all the information and enthusiasm offered by the inspirational speakers and vendors. It was there that I saw Victoria Boutenko speak for the first time. Her philosophy on the importance of greens changed my life. I realized that I was missing green leafy vegetables in my diet. This was the golden key to my success. I went right home and invested in a VitaMix, a high powered blender equipped to purify the tough fibers of sturdy leaves like kale and collard greens. Adding green smoothies and large kale salads into my diet balanced me, allotting me energy and happiness on a level I had yet to experience with any cooked food diet. Once I discovered that raw foods were then vitalizing and sustainable for me, I enrolled in Living Light. I trained as a raw food chef. This was what I had been waiting for all my life. I was able to finally integrate my love of the culinary arts with nutrition. I fell in love with raw foods.
Before I could professionally endorse this radical diet, I wanted to know, first hand, what raw foods truly had to offer. There is an enormous amount of testimonial on the internet, claiming impeccable health, age defying and mood enhancing results. I had to follow this diet 100% and discover it for myself. I decided to commit and follow a strict raw food diet for three months. I kept a daily journal during the entire experience. I even had my blood work done before and after the three month period to scientifically see my physical results. I was curious.
Those three months were amazing. I discovered what all raw foodies had already known. I needed far less sleep. My sleep requirement went from 8-10 hours a night to only 4-6 hours. I had more energy than I ever had in my life. This was great, because it meant that those extra waking hours were productive. I wasn’t just sitting around, lounging in front of the television late into the night. I was getting things done and happily so. I was highly motivated. My mood increased considerably. I would often laugh for no reason or break into a happy dance while drinking my morning green juice. I felt clean, pure, wild and awake. My stress level decreased. I felt more connected to everything around me. I felt more whole and apart of the bigger picture. I believe this is why stress could no longer exist within my psyche. How could it? Usually, the things that stress one don’t even exist. They are fears and negative anticipations. They are small compared to what truly exists in this world, physically and spiritually. I could clearly see my place within the fabric of my earthly existence. I play a small yet significant role. I am interwoven with everything else, matter and energy. How could I feel stress over a man-conceived situation or materialism? I simply couldn’t any longer. I was blissful. I was also exceedingly healthy. I have never had a strong physical constitution, but that winter I didn’t get sick once. I shared space with clients and loved ones who suffered from common colds and flues, yet I never once fell ill. I felt super human. I loved the way I felt. I also loved the way I smelled. I lost my body odor and the need for deodorants. My body became sweet and pure. By month three, my third eye opened. I began to have physic notions. I could sense things would happen before they did. Small synchronicities would occur that would cause pause; I was amazed by my increased “knowing.” I was raw and awake.
I faced challenges. My social life got in the way of me staying 100% raw after the three month commitment came to a close. I found I had anxiety about dinners or lunches out with friends. In the beginning, I would isolate myself, becoming antisocial. However, after the three months ended, I succumbed to social invitation and began to incorporate cooked foods back into my diet. Sadly, once I did this, all those amazing benefits I mentioned above dissipated. I swung back and forth from being 100% raw to being a naughty cooked foodie. Being the perfectionist that I was caused me to struggle, for I turned myself into a gastronomic yoyo. In retrospect, I realize that had I just allowed myself to eat cooked foods once and a while, I would have handled transitioning into a raw diet far better than I did. I was unforgiving with myself; I was strict and inflexible. I was an all-or-nothing kinda girl, so I was either 100% on or I was very off.
Now my attitude around food is much healthier. I choose to eat 100% raw when I can, which is the majority of the time; I love the way it makes me feel on every level. If there are times I need to eat cooked foods, I do. I no longer beat myself up about it. I no longer feel shame, failure or anxiety around my food choices. Left to my own accord, I am a 100% raw foodie. When I am in a traditional social situation, when I am with family or if I am in a restaurant, I eat cooked foods. I savor my choices; however, I do pay the price for the experience after the fact. Cooked foods are simply not as clean as raw foods, so I often wake the next morning with puffy, watery eyes, dry skin and a runny nose, feeling dehydrated, sluggish with low energy. One could ask why I put myself through all that for a single cooked meal; however, just as I am with the nut-laden raw desserts I occasionally order, I am highly conscious of my food choices. Waking up once and a while feeling unwell is far healthier for me emotionally and spiritually then suffering from anxiety over my social life or from closing myself off from my family and friends in an effort to obsessively encapsulate myself in a rigid raw lifestyle. The latter is far more difficult for me to overcome.
When I do eat cooked foods, I keep it clean and, for the most part, vegan. I will, infrequently, have a little cheese, but, in all honesty, I am not interested in supporting the inhumane and irresponsible dairy industry. In addition, the dairy itself congests me dearly. I always feel terrible, experiencing cold-like symptoms after eating it. I will also eat fish occasionally, but the energy I feel from eating a once-living being causes ill-ease within me. I do ingest negative energy when I eat dead seafood. I am aware of this. I am reporting now that I eat a little fish, but I know this will change. My diet is an evolution. I see myself moving away from seafood completely at some point. It could be as soon as tomorrow or it could be months from now. It is unknown how my palate and my heart will change. My diet evolves in direct proportion to my spiritual work. The higher my consciousness, the lower on the food chain I wish to eat. I am sensitive to the energies of life. I eat no other meats of any kind. I simply respect animals and birds far too much to do this. The longer I am raw, the more sensitive I am to all living beings. The more I develop spiritually and the more Reiki I practice, the cleaner my diet becomes. This is an effortless and natural progression. My physical and spiritual self is intertwined; there is no denying this, no separating it. As I continue on my raw path, I spiral into higher levels of consciousness.
Clean, whole, vegan foods transform the body into a conduit for higher energy. Meat and dairy products not only numb the body from spirit, but they support a destructive and cruel industry. At this point in my life, I chose to eat for my health and my spiritual elevation. The only cooked foods that I truly enjoy are steamed vegetables, which I can handle with no ill-affects. I can eat root vegetables like yams and winter squash as well as steamed green vegetables like artichoke, broccoli and asparagus. I will also, occasionally, eat miso soup or a light pasta. I eat these foods sparingly, and I always eat mindfully. Raw foods are my absolute preference, for they naturally enlighten my body and my soul on more levels than I am even aware. They are brilliant. And, I am brilliant when I eat them.
I honor life; I honor Mother Earth, and I honor myself through my food choices. Eating raw vegan foods, I thrive.