For several years, from 2002 onwards, I was on a pretty strict raw food diet. I would say that I ate about 80% raw food which, whilst it isn’t approaching the 99% attained by some extremely disciplined folks, is pretty raw.
My body loved it – my skin was clear and glowing, I felt wonderfully detoxed, clear and flexible on an almost constant basis. Whilst,unlike so many raw foodists, I didn’t experience a rise in energy levels (other things helped this), it felt like my body LOVED raw food.
For quite a few years, I myself (body aside for the moment) also loved eating raw food. I enjoyed experimenting with new recipes, using my dehydrator, making raw versions of cooked food, eating lots of greens and fruit. I didn’t massively miss cooked food. Of course sometimes it would have been nice to go for an Indian, be less awkward at dinner parties etc. But I met new friends through it, and my existing friends were wonderfully tolerant. Many of them even admitted they could see how much it suited me.
However, it did get harder over the years – I started to miss cooked food more, wanted to be able to join in when I ate out at restaurants with friends, got a bit tired of the discipline required.
Plus, and this was probably the biggest cause of the shift to a diet that included less raw food – about seven years ago my brother very generously bought me an Oscar juicer for my birthday. I hadn’t really looked much into green juicing before then, but now I started to experiment and it was a revelation. I found that if I drank a green juice several times a week, I could get away with eating considerably less raw food and still have the same glowing skin, detoxed feel etc.
Now some raw foodists will decry the desire to get away with anything. Eating a healthy diet is not about getting away with something, they might say. Discipline, dedication and sacrifice are part of the deal. To an extent, I might agree with them – we’re never going to get healthier if we aren’t prepared to at the very least cut down on our burger and chip intake (and that’s just the starting point of course!).
However, I’m fallible and imperfect, I have cravings and desires for things that may not massively suit my body, but they suit my tastebuds and my lifestyle. And having a good quality juicer enabled me to compromise without affecting my health. If I incorporated green juicing into my lifestyle I could go out for that occasional Indian meal, eat gluten-free bread, eat a portion of my daily diet as cooked food, and my skin still glowed, I still felt detoxed and healthy.
I didn’t go overboard, I still had a big salad most days (though I’ve never been able to eat a big green salad without adding in beans or fish, even in my 80% days). And apologies to vegans and the fish – I know it’s cruel, and I wish I didn’t do it, but fish is a hard one for me to give up and does contribute towards me being healthy.
I still didn’t eat wheat, only extremely occasionally ate the tiniest bit of dairy, I very rarely consume sugar, I ate a fair amount of fruit (less so nowadays simply because I don’t particularly feel like it that much). And of course, I ate chocolate! All in all, compared to most people, it was still a strict and extremely healthy diet. But it was SO wonderful not to have to be as strict as before to achieve good health.
And several years later it’s stayed that way. My diet now is a green juice 4-7 times a week, a big salad most days, gluten-free bread, some fruit, some chocolate, lots of coconut oil, olive oil, flax oil, supplements, herbs and superfoods (muscle-tested by kinesiologist Ella Owen), lots of water, occasional crisps or chips, some nuts and seeds, meals out say two times a month, tofu etc. This is what my body is ok with, and I’m (usually) happy to give it to it. If my diet starts to get too cooked, my body tells me, mostly in the form of blotchy dull skin. For vanity’s sake, I am then pretty quick to return to what it wants me to eat!
So what’s the point of writing this article? Well, I guess first it’s to dispel the myth that I’m still a strict raw foodist. (Even my brother, whom I regularly stay with, has taken forever to get this, and he was the one who gave me the juicer!)
Secondly, to show that there may be more than one way to skin a cat, so it’s worth a bit of experimentation.
Thirdly, to communicate how unique each of us are, and therefore what unique diets each of us needs. I personally DO need a very strict diet to stay healthy, at least at my present stage of evolution – maybe one day I can happily exist on just chocolate because I have evolved to such a level that what I eat doesn’t affect me! Or maybe not….
For myself, I need the kind of diet described above to stay healthy, but one of my best friends absolutely thrives on an ayurvedic diet suited to her dosha type. (Traditionally, Ayurveda seems to have frowned on eating much, if any, raw food, though apparently they are coming around to green juicing – the panchakarma detox centre my friend goes to in India now recommends that eveyone has a daily green juice). Another friend has had to exist on a very limited diet for the last couple of years because of severe health problems – an example of how our dietary needs can change over time. Another friend has to follow quite a strict anti-candida diet to keep her digestive system functioning properly – sweet food and alcohol are pretty much entirely off the agenda. I could go on since I have a lot of friends for whom healthy eating is central to their health (birds of a feather flock together and all that). Other people can of course be much less strict than myself and my friends and still thrive pretty well.
Eating well for one’s own particular constitution requires research and experimentation, attention to what your body is telling you, listening to other people but not handing over one’s authority to them. It’s also about finding the right balance for each of us between a perfect diet and how much we can and want to compromise.