Introduction : Why I’m a Raw Vegan

I proudly promote a whole-food, plant based way of life, which is something anyone can try, even if they're not vegan or vegetarian.

My blog’s content is 100% vegan – for the animals // for our health // for the environment

While I deeply believe veganism is more than just a diet [ the definition of veganism from The Vegan Society is: veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose ] an important aspect of veganism is the fact that there are a multitude of ways to practice it which, primarily for most, involves altering what is eaten. From 'junk food vegans' to gluten-free vegans, and everything in between, there's a version of veganism to suit everyone. What I want to talk about today is why I’m among the smaller number of individuals who eat a fully RAW vegan diet.

 Medjool dates.....seriously better than chocolate.

In full disclosure, I honestly don’t care what kind of [ vegan ] diet people choose to eat and I’m not here to sell any particular version. In fact, I encourage everyone to find a plant-based eating plan that suits them on a very personal level. The important thing is to ensure the diet is an enjoyable one so it can be practiced indefinitely. However, increasingly commonly people are turning to veganism for its healthful benefits, sometimes to manage or reverse serious conditions like heart disease [1], diabetes [2], acne [3], or debilitating gastrointestinal disorders [4]. These people will generally aim to follow a whole food, plant based diet, which is the most healthful diet for humans, and forgo the junkier vegan foods [ think tofu chikn in sticky orange sauce over fried rice … yummmm ] . But some – like me – who come to veganism at death’s front door take it a step further and choose to eat only raw plant foods, meaning no cooked food at all, just fresh fruits, vegetables and juices which can be easily and enjoyably consumed in an unmanipulated state.

This choice is a bit more controversial, even among religiously practicing vegans. Some say it’s unhealthy and unsustainable while others claim that if you eat a raw diet long enough you will achieve the Nirvana of health.  As for me, I can’t say one way or the other. Not yet at least. All I can say is that raw food is the only sort of food I can digest at the moment. That’s because for about 6 years of my adult life I was anorexic + for another 7 I was severely bulimic. And it totally wrecked my digestive system. I might as well have been swallowing tacks for 13 years for all the good I did myself. I’m not going to say I “suffered” with either disorder because I was never hospitalized and I genuinely didn’t realize my body and mind were suffering all the while. But flip to December 2013 // January 2014 when I finally decided I’d had enough. I’d realized I couldn’t keep up the disordered behavior any longer when I entered my first healthy relationship [ see ABOUT : HIM ] and I wanted to do everything right this time. Well, lo and behold, once I finally wanted to eat again I basically couldn’t. My entire digestive tract was so badly damaged that any food I ate slogged through my system, and just barely at that. I mean, anything I ate would sit in my stomach for hours and hours and hours unless I took HCl tablets. That’s how bad it was. And that was just the beginning.

Fast forward three years and about 20 doctors and specialists later and I’ve made small progress [ ALL ON MY OWN, mind you ] . I’ve dealt with the mental side of the disorder thanks to a great therapist and 2 years on medical leave, but not a single doctor could tell me what was wrong with me physically [ a fairly typical prognosis if the anecdotes of fellow recoverees and IBS // IBD sufferers are to be believed ] let alone what to do about it. I spent each of those years researching heavily. Thankfully, I’m a scientist + researcher by trade, as luck would have it…. But after dozens of manipulations and trials and tests with different foods [ I was sold on veganism right from the start of my healing journey ] ultimately, this raw food vegan diet is genuinely, 100% the only thing that has made the slightest impact. To this day, I can’t eat a steamed potato or even plain rice – or, god forbid, a seasoning – without having, uh, severe gastric distress for 2-7 days afterward.

 about one day's worth of food on a raw diet

Today, my diet is comprised entirely of fresh whole fruits with raw greens and other sweet vegetables that are deliciously prepared raw in salads or blended. I’m hoping this year that I will see some substantial changes in my health. To be completely honest, I’ve had a hard time cutting back on cooked vegan things until now – Jan 2017. I’ve always snuck in treats like veggie sushi and Japanese curry and lentil soups on weekends, and I’m a big, big fan of Hail Merry chocolate tarts and dairy-free nice creams, but each time I indulge it sets me right back at the beginning. I just wanted so badly to be able to eat fun things now that I don’t feel the need to regurgitate them!! *sighs* but alas, I’m learning to not use food as a reward any longer. That’s the biggest lesson for me in this simplified eating plan : food is for nourishment, only.

So I’m marking the start of 2017 with a resolution : I’m going to start fresh – and RAW – 100% of the time until my poor, abused tummy has had time to heal completely. I’ve referred heavily to the book Self-Healing Colitis and Crohn’s by Dr. David Klein, for any of you who may be suffering from chronic gut // digestive issues, this is the only guide that’s made a dent for me.

The seat of your health is truly in your gut – your microbia and the mucosal lining of your digestive tract play an astoundingly important role in total-body health and wellness [5]. Therefore, what you eat and how you eat it is of vital importance. The foods you consume are what your body has to thrive on, after all, so this is not a trivial manner. Now, if only I’d known that in high school, if I’d somehow managed to learn about the deadly nature of eating disorders alongside the names of all those STDs they’d had us memorize then maybe I’d have bypassed all this entirely. But, such is life, as they say. And I’m grateful to have come to this appreciation for health ; it’s certainly not something I take for granted anymore. Yes, my recovery has been a strange and absolutely frustrating learning game with endless trial and error and more than a few tears and pain-filled days.  But I have and will keep on trying until I get this right. I expect I’ll continue to drive myself crazy while driving myself forward because getting healthy and healing is worth every ounce of effort. And who knows, soon all this wondrous, bountiful eating could pay off.

[1] Esselstyn CB Jr, Gendy G, Doyle J, Golubic M, Roizen MF. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014 Jul;63(7):356-364b.

[2] N D Barnard, A R Scialli, G Turner-McGrievy, A J Lanou, J Glass. The effects of a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. Am J Med. 2005 Sep;118(9):991-7.

[3] Melnik BC. Evidence for acne-promoting effects of milk and other insulinotropic dairy products. Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program. 2011;67:131-45.

[4] S L Jowett, C J Seal, M S Pearce, E Phillips, W Gregory, J R Barton, M R Welfare. Influence of dietary factors on the clinical course of ulcerative colitis: a prospective cohort study. Gut. 2004 Oct; 53(10): 1479–1484.

[5] Marchesi J R, Adams D H, Fava F, Hermes G D A, Hirschfield G M, Hold G, Quraishi M N, Kinross J, Smidt H, Tuohy K M, Thomas V L, Zoetendal E G, Hart A. The gut microbiota and host health: a new clinical frontier. Gut. 2016. 65:330-339