These days I take my food choices seriously and eat a predominantly raw, organic diet, free from processed nastiness but historically I have had zero willpower in matters relating to junk food. I am under no illusions, I still have food daemons but I am well on my way to ridding myself of them. That is why I am writing this; because I’m far from perfect. I still have cravings for ‘naughty’ foods. I have the occasional lapse in my quest towards true health and I am sure that many people reading this will relate to that. I am also proud to say that I’ve travelled further on my journey and faster than I would ever have thought possible. So here is the story of how I found my way from carnivorous chocolate muncher into this, profoundly healthier, lifestyle. I’ve tried to include a few tips and plenty of information on what I’m doing, as a relative newcomer, to keep myself on track. If you’re dipping your toe into the waters of a raw food lifestyle but are struggling to commit fully, I hope this insight will help you on your way.
Tip #1 – Yoga is a great place to begin. Anyone can do yoga. Everyone will feel the benefits and it actually makes you crave healthy, nourishing food.
Raised in the Diet Coke era I have, in the past, lived on cereal for weeks at a time, praising myself because I had found a low calorie diet I could stick to without depriving myself of things I enjoyed. I was depriving myself of all nutrients and any chance of developing and maintaining a healthy body but what did I know? The fact that the calorie and fat content was satisfyingly low – that’s what.
Despite many positive changes that I have made in the past 12 months I will admit that I still have an addictive relationship with food. A guest left half a loaf of bread at my place a few months ago and I ate toast with pretty much every meal until it was gone. I can recall only one time in my life when I refused that sweet nectar that is at the heart of many a food addiction – chocolate. The wonderful thing is this – that occasion was last week. Amazingly, I didn’t feel deprived when my friends were eating their treats. Having eaten clean and raw for a while now I am beginning to manage, not only to say ‘no’ to past vices but also to feel pretty good when I do it.
Gina and Anth have educated me to a point where I have chosen to willingly cut out foods that previously made up around 80% of my diet. That is no mean feat and it is testament to their own commitment to the lifestyle. Because you can’t force change down people’s throats. You can preach the benefits of a raw vegan lifestyle all you like but anyone who is still far from your path will simply continue on in their own direction. All you can do – all you should do in fact – is commit fully to your own journey and become such a happy, healthy, shining example that other travellers feel compelled to follow where you’re going. These two people have done just that; they radiate health and happiness, it’s inspiring to see and I, for one, am truly grateful to them for paving the way (love you Rainbow Warriors!).
‘I’d love to eat raw but it’s just too much of a lifestyle change.’
If you identify with that sentence then let me tell you, it is ultimately a huge lifestyle change but that doesn’t have to be as difficult as it first appears. In fact it doesn’t have to be difficult at all. Switching from the standard, western, meat-eater’s diet (or even from that of a fake-meat loving veggie) means introducing lots of new foods and cutting out many of the old ones. It is a daunting task when you look at it like that. When you add the fact that the majority of us have massive food addictions – thanks, in large part, to huge corporations that design their food specifically to nurture these addictions and bolster their bank balances* – what chance do we have? Well we have no chance if you choose to look at it like that. So first we need to change the angle.
Tip #2 – educate yourself. Be appalled as you learn about the meat and dairy industry. Search YouTube for ‘Monsanto’ and watch the videos open mouthed. A desire to change your habits is bound to follow.
What I’ve found is that, for me, education has lead to a change in my perception. This has been followed by a change in what I want and how I want to live my life. I began to desire this lifestyle and the benefits it brings. Once you desire something, following through and actually doing it feels like the most natural thing in the world. You don’t have to jump in with both feet, deprive yourself of all the foods you enjoy and hate yourself for doing it. Instead, make yourself want it – taking in the well researched videos and articles on this site is a great way to start – taking action will soon follow.
I cut out meat, dairy, wheat and processed foods around nine months ago, in theory. Meat was easy; I didn’t eat it often anyway and I haven’t missed it one bit. I was less strict with myself on the other things and so I’d accept the odd coffee with milk, or I’d eat the occasional tuna melt every few weeks, usually post-alcohol when I am at my most susceptible to cravings. I had still made a dramatic shift in my diet and started practising yoga more frequently than ever so I began to notice positive changes in my skin, my weight and my energy levels. This spurred me on. The cravings reduced. The more I read about the addictive qualities of junk food and about the immense benefits of cutting it out completely the less I lapsed. Finally, though I hadn’t planned to give it up, fish began to taste like flesh in my mouth and I just couldn’t eat it any more. I reached a point where I wanted to commit to being vegan more than I wanted the convenience of maintaining extra options. My choice was made.
Making the Changes Last
Early in her raw food journey my sister gave me a taste of raw carrot cake. I was amazed to find that it was one of the nicest cakes I had ever tried! I couldn’t get enough of it but I was a long way from considering a raw food diet as a lifestyle choice. It seemed, at first, that preparing a decent variety of raw meals called for too much special equipment and too many ‘funny’ ingredients.
Gina made her way further down the rabbit hole toward this Rainbow Wonderland and so, being an interested observer, and in the hopes of further carrot cake, I ambled along behind her at a safe distance. If Anth sent me a YouTube video I watched it. When Gina recommended a book I read it. Here’s a fact – you can’t follow the academia of the topic without wanting to take heed and make changes. You simply can’t. When the truth about the food industry is laid out in front of you it becomes impossible to ignore. When you begin to make changes you feel so much better in yourself and about yourself that the next logical steps take you forward in the same direction. You begin to glow with goodness, health and happiness. Now I find myself in a position where previously strange words like ‘spirulina’ regularly crop up on my shopping list and equipment that had seemed, at first, like ‘extra stuff to buy’ form my kitchen essentials.
Tip #3 – get yourself a good blender and food processor. You can get into juicers, spiralisers and dehydrators if you want to (and you probably will eventually) but you’ll be amazed how much you can achieve with a fast spinning blade and the Rainbow City recipe pages!
I began eating raw and 100% vegan only around 8 weeks ago. For me, that meant cutting fish out of my diet and committing to no more lapses in dairy judgement. It also means that the convenience of being able to pick up a quick snack from anywhere and everywhere is gone and THAT is where most of us will feel the real loss, myself included. I live a modern, urban lifestyle so I’m rarely more than thirty paces away from being able to buy something to eat. I’m busy and the marketing powerhouses of the meat, dairy and junk food industries have seen to it that I don’t have to allow more than 5 minutes to pick up breakfast, lunch or dinner EVER if I choose not to. Up until recently I bowed to their suggestions far more regularly than I like to admit. I let them dominate my social life, my daily routines and my body. When the food they placed in my path made me sick, I took the tablets that put money into the pockets of pharmaceutical industry. Of course I wasn’t doing this intentionally but that’s worse, isn’t it? As an intelligent, professional person with all the world’s information available to me I basically did as I was told by the largest controlling powers in the western world for the best part of 32 years. If you think that sounds extreme then tell me, can you honestly say that you don’t do the same? Every time you grab a pre-made, non-vegan meal-deal at lunch, or even eat a meat dish in a nice restaurant for dinner, the chances are that raw, vegan healthful foods were limited or none existent on the menu. If you know the benefits of eating a raw vegan diet and choose not to, isn’t it because it’s just easier to take the path of least resistance?
I have watched videos highlighting that the meat industry is committing holocaust on a daily basis, then poisoning us with its produce. These videos are not wrong but they are not mainstream. You have to look for them and most people don’t. Most people don’t even agree with that premise. Interestingly though, most people do own pets and if they were ripped from the arms of their owners and slaughtered en mass the perspective of the population would shift pretty rapidly, don’t you think? As for the adverse health effects of meat, dairy and processed food – if you’ve read this far, the chances are that you know about them already.
Tip #4 – opt out.
You can buy into the ideas all you like. You can follow the tips, introduce new foods, read the books and make a myriad of positive choices while still eating a fry up on a Sunday morning. The chances are that you will notice benefits but ultimately you will still be sacrificing yourself at the altar of the higher marketing powers until you go vegan and eat raw. 8 weeks ago I reached the point where there was nothing left to do but commit. I’ve done pretty well. I feel great (the production of my first raw, vegan pumpkin pie being a real highlight). I know the temptation will always be there, to some degree, but I also know that my resolve is getting stronger and I am certain that I will never go back to the foods I ate before.
Do you know what? Ultimately, it feels good to opt out of the junk food culture. Every time you say ‘no’ to a soggy fast food sausage sandwich with its square egg you will feel a small sense of victory. If you feel a tiny pang of hunger that can’t be satisfied immediately because raw and organic produce isn’t as available as Walkers Crisps, then your raw, organic, superfood packed chocolate pudding with cashew cream will taste all the better as a result. So give it a go. Believe me, if I can do it then anyone can!
*The Extraordinary Power of Addictive Junk Food, New York Times, 20th Feb 2013