I have had a lot of inquiries lately about my journey into raw and how to get started. This has inspired me to tell my story and to share in a series of blogs the good, the bad, and the ugly on my ever continuing raw food journey.
The first time I heard about raw veganism was 3 years ago. I have been an on again off again vegetarian or vegan since my early 20's. When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I started eating meat again, then went back to veg, back to meat during another pregnancy, and then wanted to go vegan after my second little bundle of girlie awesome was born. I stumbled on the raw lifestyle when I was researching the healthiest approaches to veganism. The first book I bought was Victoria Boutenko's 12 Steps to Raw Foods. It resonated with me in a way that nothing ever had and I read about diet and I knew I had to adopt this lifestyle. I just didn't know at the time how hard it would be and that it could possibly be a life long undertaking.
Mistake 1 for me: Going all out. (I'm saying "for me" because what is a mistake for me, may not necessarily be a mistake for you.)
I went for it. I was now a raw foodist and I gave "raw" a go. Needless to say, it lasted a hot minute because I had no clue what I was doing. Then I gave up and went back to my old lifestyle, and the book sat on my shelf and collected dust for a couple of months. I did take a few raw ideas and began to incorporate them into my daily food regiment: green smoothies and nut/seed based cookies and desserts.
I understood the basis for the raw food lifestyle and it made perfect sense to me- not only morally, but scientifically, it was constantly on my mind. I knew that it was the right way to eat (for me) but it was very difficult to make these huge dietary changes all at once. I did the only thing a school nerd like me could do: I ordered more books. I started to learn more and incorporate more raw foods. Every raw foodist has their own philosophy and Sarma Melngailis and Ani Phyo promoted moderation and I could really relate to them and their stories. They made raw food glamorous, fun, and reinforced its lifestyle to me. I continued for the next year going raw for a few months, back lashing to meat and dairy, and then back to raw. Each time I went raw it was ALL OUT, 100% raw and I found myself frustrated and feeling like a failure if I did not eat raw.
So here are some things that I've learned in all of my starts, stops, and back lashes:
1. Make gradual changes. This lifestyle is a learning process. It isn't a diet. It involves a complete change in the way you have been eating, even if you are already a vegetarian or vegan. There are superfoods you may have never heard before in your life (maca, goji berries, raw cacao, spirulina, etc.) and you have to do a lot of research and reading about what and how to eat. Each start has lasted longer and each stop has been shorter. I'm getting to the point now where I am spending the majority of my year raw with benders that are coming fewer and further between.
2. Each start and stop had a purpose for me and was part of the learning curve. Each time I went raw for a month or two at a time, I learned new recipes, new raw foods, and easy ways to make a raw lifestyle more attainable for me. The more you learn and more options you have for foods, the easier it is to stick with it.
3. Get a support system in place. I had to get my health minded friends on board to encourage me. Thankfully I have my three best health girls- Lisa, Tara, and Mary. They love to experiment with raw food, are super healthy, and are supportive through my highs and lows. I needed to find new restaurants and ways to get raw food on the run. Thankfully I found Oasis Living Cuisine in Frasier and discovered that Kimberton Whole Foods had a raw section (who knew?)! I was able to ask the owner of Oasis and the employees at Kimberton lots of questions. I also have a very supportive husband and family. At this point they are used to my health antics and just nod and smile if they think I'm crazy.
4. Give yourself cheats. My cheats used to be a steak dinner with my girlfriends. Now my cheats are coconut milk ice cream, tortilla chips, and roasted nuts. Even my cheats are evolving!
5. Know that this is not just a physical journey, it is very, very emotional as well. Being the psych major that I am, I tend to focus on the emotional turmoil that accompanies various challenges. Raw food pushes you to very, very uncomfortable places both physically and psychologically. These issues could be a blog series that could last a decade. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and know that 30 years of habits may take 30 years to change. Be patient and loving towards yourself during the process.
I'm going to keep plugging away with this blog series while I have the next two weeks off from school. Hope this is helpful to you guys!