I wrote a post some time ago called The Vegan Sympathiser which touched on how I personally enjoy going vegan from time to time, and my appreciation of why some people choose this way of eating and living every day. Veganism as a concept makes the burliest of meat-eaters shudder in fear. How can Homo sapiens subsist on vegetables and legumes alone? It’s pure crazy! Can any diet be more harebrained?
According to my Vegan Colleague, yes and it’s called the Raw Food Diet (or eating raw). When I told him that I had embarked on the raw food journey, he reacted much in the same incredulous way a carnivore would to the mention of veganism. What benefit could you possibly get from not eating food that hasn’t been cooked above 46C degrees? Lunacy!
Clearly one person’s dietary belief is always going to be another person’s definition of insane deprivation, but as I’ve always maintained that you shouldn’t pass judgement without prior experience, I figured I’d start the New Year with a truckload of vegetables. At the very least, eating raw should remedy the post-Christmas heaviness and bloating, and I would no doubt learn a few things in the process.
The first two days of eating raw were pretty cool. I was buoyed by that feeling of being a superhuman; doing something most other people don’t. I suspect it’s the feeling conquerers of Mt Everest experience, except they actually do have something significant to feel superior about. I raided my local wholefoods store, sprouted some azuki beans and pored over an inspiring raw foods recipe book. The world of eating raw was looking good.
On the third day however, I started to feel a little sad. I had no intention of adopting raw foods as a permanent diet yet I was feeling something akin to homesickness. I missed my oven. I missed just being able to boil up some udon noodles as a simple lunch. Instead of feeling inspired by the many ways to eat raw vegetables, I became unenthused by the reality of how small the pool of things you can eat was. Zucchini can be sliced, diced and spiralised into faux pasta but at the end of the day, it was still a freakin’ zucchini.
I got over that little hump over the next few days, especially once I introduced some raw fish into the diet. I wasn’t starving (far from it!) or felt deprived of glorious carbs but what I did crave was some variety in my meals. Something to look forward to, I guess. Overall I was feeling good but that may have been more psychological than physical. I did notice that I wasn’t retaining as much fluid though. I was making an effort to drink more water but clearly I was also taking in extra hydration from eating so much raw vegetables and fruit. This was one aspect that I really did find beneficial.
I managed to get through the first week without much issue but by the middle of the second week, I knew the raw food diet was not my cup of tea (which you couldn’t have either technically but damned if I was going to go without tea!). The thought of eating another piece of raw zucchini or carrot, or anything containing nuts was making me feel nauseous. I was going off my food which by anyone’s definition is not a good sign. I threw in the towel and ordered a plate of vegetarian curry from the local food court and I swear, it was the best meal I had all month!
So did I fail the Raw Food Diet or did the diet fail me? I think it was a bit of both. I went into it reasonably well informed and with good intention but the success of any diet is exponential to how much change you want to make in your life through that diet. I was just chasing a quick detox so it’s little wonder that eating raw fell by the wayside once I started to feel less ‘blah’. I am generally in good health and not overweight so I felt persisting in the raw food diet wasn’t going to benefit me any further. If I had some concrete issues that I felt were worth trying to resolve I might have slogged it out longer but I suspect other less restrictive dietary modifications would have been just as beneficial.
Do I recommend eating raw? For every person who swears by eating raw, there are dozens who will label it as a fad diet that has no scientific basis. As far as I am concerned, any diet that is adopted without a good understanding of health and nutrition may as well be a fad. I pulled the plug on the raw food diet not because it wasn’t ‘working’ for me, or that I didn’t believe it would ‘work’ for me scientifically. Ultimately it was a hard diet to be on and I didn’t feel the overall benefits for me, if any, would outweigh the effort required to keep eating raw.
On the other hand, my Thermomix consultant is a proponent of eating raw. She also survived cancer. If she believes eating organic raw foods has prophylactic benefit for her, then I am not going to argue with her. If eating raw appeals to you and you think it might be the thing to relieve some health or lifestyle issues, I can only suggest reading up on it and giving it a go.
As for me, I’m going back to a low carb, gluten free and sugar free diet with lean proteins. I’m maintaining a good intake of raw vegetables and enjoy a raw smoothie in the mornings but I’ll leave the kelp noodles to the diehards!
So what are some pros and cons of the raw food diet in a nutshell based on this brief experiment?
- The feeling of being cleansed. The detoxification effect takes place after a few days (I got the classic detox headaches a few days into the diet).
- Learning to graze on this diet which helps to keep a nice and even glycaemic level during the day. In spite of the restrictiveness of the raw food diet, you rarely feel hungry and I had sufficient energy.
- Continual hydration of the body by eating raw foods and dare I say, it does improve the efficiency of your digestion and err.. elimination :|
- Eating raw does require a lot of time and effort, as well as good access to supplies to ensure you have enough (and different) things to eat during the week.
- The raw food diet can be costly unless you know where to source affordable fresh fruit and vegetables. You’re also meant to eat organically so that adds to the expense.
- Going out to dinner isn’t impossible while eating raw but it sure ain’t as fun :|