Karin is the author of The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets. She has been a featured speaker and culinary presenter at numerous events such as the Raw Health Expo, the Pure Living Expo (formerly the Raw Living Expo) and The Woodstock Fruit Festival. She has been interested in nutrition since 1988 and has been studying and practicing raw food nutrition since 1990. In addition to presenting and writing, Karin enjoys gardening, exercising and reading peer-reviewed research. Connect with Karin on her website, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
“2015 was my 25-year raw food anniversary,” Karin said. “Back in 1990, when I first learned of raw food, I could not have imagined the impact that it would have on my future life. In the beginning, I was naturally skeptical and thought that eating this way was a little extreme. Nonetheless, I gave raw food a try and was surprised with the results. As my energy increased and general health and well-being improved, my skepticism began to melt away. Today, I am just as excited about raw food as back then, with that early enthusiasm positively tempered by experience, research and education.
“The raw food world was a much smaller place back in 1990; there weren’t nearly as many raw food resources as there are today,” Karen continued. “Back then, there were a small number of raw food books and teachers, and I knew only a handful of raw food enthusiasts. The term ‘enthusiasts’ is well-chosen since those I knew were definitely inspired. The Internet was not as we know it today, and there was no social media. Finding information on raw food and plant-based diets was a bit of an adventure, and I was always happy to find books on the subject that most people would now consider classics. Given the few resources available, a lot of what I learned in those early days was through experience, and I “experienced” many bumps and potholes along the way. There are so many things that I wish that someone had told me when I started with raw food back then. So here I will share with you the top five pieces of information that, had I known, would have made my raw food journey smoother. I am hoping they can be of use to you.”
1. Move at your own pace. When I became interested in raw food, most of the literature I read and my social influences suggested that I had to be 100 percent raw right away. Transitioning was not really discussed, so I did not really see it as an option at first. Raw food seemed like an all-or-nothing endeavor. But I was honest with myself about what was achievable at that time. I found that I needed some time to become familiar with raw plant foods that were available in my area and how to prepare them. At the time, I was living in New England, and it was winter. Availability of raw fruits and vegetables back in 1990 was more limited than today. Fruit choices included bananas, oranges, apples, pears, grapes, dried papaya, raisins and some others. Leafy green choices included three different types of lettuce, spinach and other greens that I had never tried such as kale. I had a basic blender that I used to make “smoothies” that were more lumpy than smooth. A superenthused raw friend of mine used to call my smoothies “chunkies.” These and other day-to-day considerations that one needs to address when getting started with raw food became part of my own self-stylized transition that progressed as I became more educated. Another fellow raw food enthusiast from those days went 100 percent raw overnight. This lasted a few months, and shortly thereafter, she lost interest in healthy eating because maintaining 100 percent raw was, in her own words, “too restrictive.” All too often, I see people leave raw food discouraged for this same reason, so I discuss how to address pitfalls such as this in our classes.
Where am I now? I am regularly between 90 and 100 percent raw, and this percentage has varied over the years, depending on my situation. Percentages differ per person, and I encourage you to find the percentage that works best for you. The most successful long-term raw food enthusiasts understand this idea and tend to be flexible with their approach, depending on their personal needs and situation. What dietary approach gives you the results you are looking for and is sustainable right now? What approach will be sustainable long term? I have found that research, experience and education combined were the best training, and the approach that worked best for me revealed itself in time.
2. Gather information from multiple points of view and sources. It is important to consider differing points of view because you may learn information not acquired if you were looking only for information supporting your current paradigm. Searching for information that supports your current point of view is referred to as confirmation bias. I have been using this term and discussing this idea in our Science of Raw Food Nutrition series of classes for years because I think that awareness of this tendency is so important. Countless times, I have learned valuable information from people with a different point of view, and that information has made a difference in my health, thinking and other aspects of my life.
3. Know your source. Some raw food enthusiasts tend to follow one particular person’s point of view. We all have different experiences, and no one person can know everything about a subject. Very often, I have seen raw food educators change their approach as they learn more. The theme here is that we are all learning, even those of us who have been on this path for many years. The more that I learn about nutrition and how the body works, the more I realize how much I have yet to learn. Even after 25 years, I find myself asking questions and seeking answers. When the need arises, I encourage people to consult with a knowledgeable licensed health-care provider to help with making important health-related decisions.
4. Make changes if or when necessary. Here is my classic example: My introduction to raw food in 1990 was the Natural Hygiene approach. Nowadays, people commonly refer to this approach as LFRV [low-fat raw vegan], HCRV [high-carbohydrate raw vegan], etc. This approach worked very well for me for a while, but as time went on, I refined my approach. The information I learned and the refinements and changes I made ultimately gave me the health results I was seeking.
5. Surround yourself with a supportive community. As a long-term raw food enthusiast, author, clinician and educator, I have learned much on this path and sincerely hope this information can be of use to you. There is still much more that I have to share with you, which is why I have my website blog, YouTube channel, book and classes, so I encourage you to check out these resources.
And if you are wondering, the superenthused raw friend who used to call my smoothies “chunkies” is now my husband, Dr. Rick Dina. Back when we got started with healthy eating, our support system was our group of friends. That made all the difference in that we helped one another stay on track, shared our experiences and research, discussed changes and refinements, challenged raw food dogma and had a lot of fun! We wish you the best on your journey and invite you to share in ours.