A Convert Speaks: The Benefits of the Raw Food Lifestyle via One Woman’s Experience”

Michelle_M

Let me begin by thanking Dr Craig and THE HEALERS team for inviting me to guest blog. Like a lot of people who use the internet, I tend to stay in my “neighborhoods” and so the discovery of the rich and inspirational holistic health internet community has been a pleasure to me. I encourage all of you who discover THE HEALERS site to pass it on to your friends who are like me, and who would have never thought to explore this side of the internet without encouragement. There will be a lot of valuable and cutting edge information on this blog, and it can benefit a lot of people who may not know about how close true wellness really is within their reach.

What I want to do in this post is give a non-expert position on why raw food living is the way to go, based on direct experience that is recent and thus hopefully even more relevant than other testimonials from more famous and latter holistic writers. I believe it’s important for regular people to understand how easy and beneficial this way of life is, but also that it is very simple and effortless to live the raw/living food diet and it might even save them money as well as improve health. The challenge I see for the holistic community is that there is a tremendous amount of propaganda and corrupted information that clouds regular people’s ability to perceive what those of us who follow this lifestyle already know. That makes it problematic; people never like feeling ignorant or inferior, and may react poorly to being told about how they are hurting themselves via their dietary habits, no matter in which how much of a friendly manner that information is presented. What I want to tell people who have been misinformed by the “sickness industrial complex” (SIC) is that even if you find out the full extent you’ve been lied to, your body doesn’t care so long as you make some easy changes to what you put in it. It will respond, quickly, and you will feel better. One of the most wonderful feelings in the world is, “Gosh. I’m glad I made that change. I feel so much better.” Second only to that, when it comes to lazy people like me, is knowing it cost virtually no effort to do so.

Some background: I have always been a pretty “good” eater. My mom is a professor of medicine and advisor on this blog, and she never really raised us to eat a great deal of sugar, fat, chemicals or other unhealthy additives and pollutants found in much of today’s food. I was an athlete and still practice yoga and daily walking (woof! someone demands it, don’t you know) and I’ve never been seriously obese. I have struggled with some wellness challenges, and I’ve lived in environments which probably introduced serious pollutants into my system for an extended period of time. But I love food, I’m a “foodie” and have strong roots in both the restaurant and organic gardening communities. I live off my garden 3 seasons a year and enjoy home-canned home grown produce in the winter. Everyone should have a garden, just sayin’. The point is: I’m a “high information” consumer of food and have been most of my life. However, members of my family have included those who are not, or don’t want to be, and I have had to prepare food for them, so I’m also aware of the challenges presented by, say, cooking for small children, or older people who are accustomed to certain sorts of unhealthy foods and “comfort foods” being the staples of their diets.

I met Dr Craig when I picked him up as a client, and we immediately hit it off in terms of how we think about life. My battles take place in another world most of the time, but I could immediately see the similarities of what he does and what I normally do. The quick version: we’re both fighting to bring forth vital and timely information in an environment that is controlled by people who refuse the majority real freedom of information. Information based in fact and demonstrable truth, applied correctly, that could change a great deal of people’s lives for the better. Anyone who has been labeled “alternative” in their own work by friends and enemies knows what I mean, and that’s how many people think of the holistic community. So to me, this is not just a health and wellness choice; it is political and moral and ethical. As those things mean a great deal to me personally, the language in which I speak of the raw/living food lifestyle is infused with them.

I didn’t really get what Craig was doing, or its importance, until I started working with him for a few weeks. His research and investigation into the optimal way to design and implement a wellness-oriented diet intrigued me. I have worked extensively in the political matter of what health care the government provides to its citizens, and as a policy analyst I was fascinated by the need for hard proof in the ways that a raw food lifestyle could benefit the taxpayer. THE HEALERS are a big new force in the project of making that happen. But I thought to myself, as I tend to do when I’m about to endorse or support something/one- I realized I had to try it. I have bio-scientific lab research experience, so I understood the basic science that supported what people like THE HEALERS are trying to establish more firmly in the literature. I said to myself, “let’s see just how well this can work on my specific challenges.” So a few weeks after meeting Dr Craig and his merry band of fellow holistic warriors, I stopped cooking most of my food and made more of an effort to increase the percentage of organic and alkaline foods I was buying.

Let’s switch into the mode that we all really want to be in but have the good grace to avoid most of the time: vanity. Thy name is me, as it is to a lot of women and men who care about looking good, for whatever reason, personal or professional. I’ve worked in high pressure corporate and academic environments where being unhealthy or obese is a negative; it fascinates me to travel the country to see where this is in force, and where it is not. Where I live currently it is not, and I share THE HEALERS goal of bringing useful, practical knowledge to the people who need it most, whereas now far too much of that only reaches the 1%. All of us deserve the right to look and feel our best; the best hair, nails, skin, body fat percentage/muscle ratio, energy level, and longevity with clarity and balance, as is possible. Many of THE HEALERS board speak of this from many different angles, and how this is within the reach of everyone. I encourage you to review THE HEALERS blogroll and see the individual stories and reports they have provided. I have a Masters in Divinity, and I will tell you that more than one theologian has spoke of the “holy grail of knowledge,” hidden in plain sight. In a similar way, the information we all need to achieve optimum wellness is out there, waiting for us to perceive. I hope this testament can advance that cause.

So getting back to buying new dresses to show off how great my waist was looking, it only took about two weeks for me to get how well the raw/living food diet was working, effortlessly, on my personal health challenges. Success was so easy I’m ashamed to say I didn’t do this sooner. And I’m not one to do the “diet fad” thing! I’ve always eschewed that kind of trendiness, and I suppose in some way maybe when I’d heard the words “raw food diet” it had become a turnoff for me, in the way anything that had “diet” in the title was a turnoff. I confess I don’t really like the word “lifestyle” either; it’s too politically loaded and ‘controversial’ for me to want to associate it with what we’re all trying to get people to understand when it comes to food, which everybody eats. Somebody please come up with a better term. It’s not a ‘lifestyle’ but rather “I personally choose to have a longer, better, healthier life through my dietary choices.” I’m sure someone can think of something better that is catchier.

But anyways, in a short time I had achieved what I wanted so easily, and I started calling all my friends and telling them about it, which, if you know me is pretty funny. I’m an atheist and I despise proselytizing. But there I am, the new convert, trying to get all my friends I know to suffer from things like depression, an extra 20lbs they can’t shed, bad skin… I’m not of a group that has a lot of chronic or life-changing disease (mostly because I’m too young, I expect that to change as I age) but I knew my friends were often dissatisfied with what they’d been doing, so I told everyone to give this nutrition-based approach a try. I said to them, “look, my waist is where I want it, I feel more energy during my waking hours and better rest in my sleeping ones, other functionality is greatly improved. And I’m not hungry or food-anxious all the time, like when on a diet that relies on psychology or gimmick or subscription to a proprietary product. It’s also simple and cheap.

Now, let me assure you: I am not Dr Craig and I have the privilege of being able to throw in a lot (by his absolute standards) of relatively non-beneficial foodstuffs in my menu. And folks, that is the Beauty of Life: it can have variety, and satisfaction, and one need not live like a monk to enjoy optimal health or near to it. Idioms about moderation aside, what I find best for me is actually closer to “less is more.” And it’s a win-win-win: health, budget and quality all improve when one subscribes to what I call the “85/15 Plan.” Just as we plan the remodeling of a kitchen, or the new client services schedule at work, we also plan what we eat, whether we are actively aware of it or not. Let me share with you my schedule and that of some other folks I know, because no one plan is right for everyone. The basic rule of this plan: eat 85% or more raw every day, and not more than 15% not-raw, processed, gluten, or otherwise denatured and/or food prepared outside the home kitchen/garden. The great realization I had is that to “taste yummy” and be satisfying, most dishes barely need more than 5-10% of cooked, processed or otherwise “bad” ingredients in them, usually in the form of a sauce, dressing or side dish, to make a meal totally delish and happy-making.

The real marvel: the raw food diet means feeling less hungry. All the time.  There are days when I have to literally force myself to eat, my body is so nourished from what I’ve been eating. Most people in America can’t even imagine what this is like, they are so addicted to unfoods that are like addictive drugs which give only an empty high. In contrast, there are days when raw foodies like me make it in a totally satisfied way on 1.5 meals a day. I could eat two or four grapefruit, on certain days, and not need any other nutrition by my vitamins, with complete energy, all day, supplemented with maybe a handful of spinach or a serving of kale juice. Most Americans would be floored by how little I eat, even while I feel so much more “full” than most.

Day to day recipe-wise, in my case, it’s ridiculously simple. What I’ve found works best, because there is an organic produce seller in my neighborhood, is to buy the freshest produce I want to eat for that 24hr period, daily. Some people might say, “But if I went to the store every day, I’d buy more than I needed!” but the truth is if you go daily it becomes a chore you want over as quickly as possible. There is little temptation most days to go at a leisurely, avarice-inducing speed and I find my overall grocery budget is less as a result. Today I had for breakfast freshly juiced organic fruits and leafy greens. For a snack, I tried a new supplement powder mixed with water (raw avocado milk would’ve tasted better) made from raw organic nutrients rich in protein, omega oils and vitamins.  Dinner was a salad of (raw organic as possible)  roma tomato, avocado, dried garden herb, sesame oil + rice vinegar, cumin, chopped fresh garlic and buttermilk-cooked chicken tossed with ancient salt and cracked black & red pepper. If I’m feeling decadent, I’ll have a kiwi or a perhaps a warming bowl of miso and wakame (raw seaweed). The only cooking I did was the chicken, which I boiled in buttermilk and seasoned with some crushed herbs I grew in the garden last season. If I had a cooking show, this would be a “From grocery bag to mouth in 20min or less” episode. I have not been hungry or lacked energy all day. The total cost of all the food I ate today is less than one single, hefty meal for one person at some fast food restaurants. 

In this economy, time is money, so the former is really important to me. Because I’m shopping according to my actual dietary ‘mood’ I’m able to save more, and waste less. Dr Terry Wahls, another advisory board member of THE HEALERS, once told me that it is important to make variation a part of the raw/living food method. She says it really helps the body take fullest advantage of the nutrients that the body needs. Her rule was to have each day a food of “green, yellow, red, black” colors, and every day have a lot of food in one of those colors. There are really good superfoods that can be bought easily in more American markets, even if not always organic. Some I find incredibly filling: grapefruit, kale, blueberries, chards, apricot, almonds, peppers of all kinds, garlic, fresh herbs, celery, shashimi grade fish grown in controlled sustainable farms… Buying every couple of days or daily means the freshest, most delectable produce you can get. I endorse the weekly shipments of fresh produce from micro-farms and local organic growers, strongly. It’s the closest to an evolutionarily-correct diet that modern humans can come. 

I want to talk for a minute about two things: the feeling better part of this, and the ease of the switch, because they are related. For many reasons, some more deliberately Evil than you may guess, it can be hard to give up Cheetos, Burger King and Pizza Haus. The human body is easily addicted to that which is not good for it. However, release and salvation are easier than most understand. I was one of those people; I thought I would always crave fatty, salty, HFCS-laden toxic food because “it tastes good.” In truth, it doesn’t. Just like harmful drugs and pills, unhealthy food gives us a “high” that we incorrectly can associate with “feeling good.” In the same way an alcoholic destroys tissue and brains cells for a buzz, or a meth junkies does the same at a faster rate, the “unfood” addict feels lost and unsatisfied without junk food. But like being sober is discovering how the body can function in health and ease despite previous abuse, and the mind achieve greater clarity, a raw food convert will discover that over (not very much) time, what once smelled or tasted ‘good’ now reeks of sickness and discomfort. Ex-smokers relate a similar phenomenon with respect to the sense of smell and quitting smoking. The body rewards those who return it to its ideal state, and who fill it with what millions of years of evolution directed it to crave and thrive upon, even in the face of adversity or occasional diversity in diet. But if you hear anything I say in this post, hear this: the body will correct itself given the right diet. No one diet is right for everyone, but it’s not that hard to figure out what your individual body needs, nor are we all that different from one another. We all need the basics: raw, organic, fresh, unprocessed, RGYB, variety… THE HEALERS will likely soon be posting about some of the evolutionary biological theory relating to how individually analyzed diet that takes into account genetic and evolutionary history affect optimal prescribed diets. I look forward to reading those discussions and I know you will benefit from them as well.

Let me conclude by saying that basic, simple changes will make all the difference in lifelong wellness and health. They are easy. They can save money (processed and boxed food costs anywhere from between 2-20x greater for the same nutritional value as raw), be integrated with a supplement regimen that can attack disease with a greater force than pharmaceuticals, and otherwise raise the level of quality of life for even the least affluent person with an ease that will satisfy the most lax among us. If “return to nature” is too much a cliche, the modern version is simplify. I can personally attest to the benefits of uncooked food as the major component of one’s diet, and I am far from alone. Think about how much time, effort and money you could save, as well as the health benefits, of the raw/living foods diet, and give it a try for 30 days. I promise: you won’t regret it. Comments to this post are welcome and benefit all of us who want to have a fruitful discussion about the easy, natural, organic and raw path to greater wellness and serenity for all of us, as well as a more balanced, integrated world in which all living beings can prosper and find joy.

In best wellness,
“Chicago Dyke”

Written by

Bio of Craig Oster, PhD

25-year survivor of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) & Co-founder / Scientist / Advocate at THE HEALERS campaign.

In 1994, at the age of 30, Craig Oster was given the “death sentence” diagnosis of ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Even though Craig’s physical functioning was slipping away, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1996. Dr. Craig entered hospice in late 2008. Dr. Craig’s fierce holistic quest turned his condition toward healing and he was discharged from hospice on May 30th, 2009.

Dr. Craig co-founded THE HEALERS Campaign on New Year’s Day 2012 with a mission to:
  • Demonstrate as much wellness as possible using his integrative approach focused on diet/nutrition, mind/spirit, and physical exercise
  • Inspire people to constructively approach whatever “hand that they have been dealt in life”
  • Conduct innovative ALS scientific peer-reviewed research that has the potential to enhance the wellness and quality of lives of people with ALS and their caregivers.

Over 50 renowned integrative medicine doctors, other health professionals and scientists have joined Dr. Craig’s ALS scientific research and holistic health educational campaign advisory team.

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