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Tarah Millen paints aboard a Sea Shepherd ship

‘Find Peace with Your Food’ When Eating Suboptimal Foods

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The Raw Food Journey with Tarah Millen - Fruit-Powered Magazine

Let me start by saying that I never intended to eat cooked foods. After six years of thriving on a fruit-based raw food lifestyle, I had found my groove. I’ve come to know the exact ratios of fats, carbohydrates, protein, calories, water intake, exercise and amount of sleep I need to feel my absolute best. It’s taken me years of experimenting to decipher what my body requires on a raw food lifestyle. This is why I surprised even myself when I decided to abandon the idea of eating raw foods.

Even though I love living a raw lifestyle, there’s one thing that I love more: working with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I’ve managed to take my raw diet around the world on land-based campaigns with Sea Shepherd in Japan, the Galapagos Islands, Australia and the Faroe Islands. For the most part, on these campaigns, my ocean activism hasn’t impacted my dietary preferences. But there’s a catch—eating all raw is nearly impossible on the Sea Shepherd ships.

Tarah Millen works on top of a Sea Shepherd ship mast
Tarah Millen discovered how challenging it was to be all raw while working with Sea Shepherd. On her recent experience, she chose to eat cooked vegan foods.

I’ll backtrack for a moment here because there’s a chance that you’re wondering, “What’s Sea Shepherd?” For those of you who’ve never heard the name before, Sea Shepherd is an ocean conservation organization dedicated to upholding international conservation law. We directly intervene in the killing of whales, dolphins, turtles, fish and other marine life. We have a fleet of ships and numerous campaigns on land and at sea around the world. Our motto is “Defend, conserve, protect.”

Working on board a Sea Shepherd ship is an incredible experience. At all times, you’re surrounded by passionate activists and have the opportunity to save ocean life while on campaign. Often you can witness firsthand how your actions are making a difference and saving lives.

All the ships serve vegan food exclusively, but unfortunately, raw foods are a bit of a minority on board. A few years back, I gamely attempted to eat 100 percent raw on one of the Sea Shepherd ships. I was dedicated to the lifestyle and thought it would be entirely possible, except that I failed within a few days. Picture this: You’ve worked a long, hard day of physical labour on deck in the hot sun. You’re tired, sore and, when mealtime rolls around, you’re ravenous, ready to eat any food that’s placed in front of you. You have little to no time for preparing meals and nowhere to store personal food. That’s the reality of living and working on a ship. I’m usually the first person to claim that eating an all-raw diet is possible in nearly any situation, but even I’m forced to admit that life at sea isn’t conducive to living raw.

Tarah Millen poses on a Sea Shepherd boat
Tarah Millen says her passion and purpose in life is helping the oceans through volunteering with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Now, you likely won’t find yourself up against the obstacle of attempting to eat raw out at sea, but I’m sure that most can relate to experiencing a situation when eating an all-raw diet seemed like a daunting task. So what do we do when we’re faced with the only decision available to us, eating cooked foods? I’d like to share some wisdom that I received from a friend as well as some of my personal insights about eating cooked foods. Here’s the truth: Eating cooked food doesn’t have to be a shameful experience. There’s no need to feel like a failure if you are not able to eat 100 percent raw all the time or find yourself in a situation where the only foods available are cooked. Instead of berating yourself for eating less optimal foods, find peace with your food using my tips below.

1. Mindfully choose your food. When you’re about to choose your next meal, even if you’re ravenous, stop for a moment and ask yourself how you would like to feel after you’ve eaten. Whether you’re eating raw or cooked foods, this is a habit worth cultivating. Many of us reach for foods because they’re convenient, taste delicious or hold feelings of nostalgia, but rarely do we think about how we would like to feel in our bodies after we’ve finished eating.

2. Be compassionate. It’s no secret that we’re our own worst critics. Often we expect ourselves to have perfect habits in regard to our diets and lifestyles, but what happens when we’re not perfect? We find ways to punish ourselves. We overexercise, criticize, diet and treat ourselves far worse than we would ever treat anyone else. How would it feel if we decided to act in a compassionate and loving way toward ourselves instead? From my own experience, it feels much better to feel love and compassion for my body, to release the idea of perfection and simply do the best I can.

Tarah Millen hoists fruits

3. Bring backup foods. If you don’t feel comfortable with eating cooked foods, being prepared with backup food is one of the most effective ways to stick to your raw food lifestyle. Dried fruits, nuts and seeds are easy to pack in your car, a suitcase or even bring along on a ship. These foods are heavier and more calorically dense than fresh fruits and vegetables, meaning they’ll keep you satiated for a longer period of time. This way, you don’t have to compromise your raw food lifestyle.

4. Chew slowly. Let’s face it, most of us live hectic, fast-paced lives, and the way we eat reflects our lifestyles. Usually, we eat quickly while taking shallow breaths and do not pay the slightest attention to our food. Think about it for a moment: When was the last time you ate slowly, chewing your food thoroughly while appreciating every bite? I know I’m guilty of eating quickly without savouring each bite of food. Try this at your next meal: Before you begin eating, take a deep breath. Feel appreciation and gratitude for the food you’re about to eat. After each bite, check in with your body. How does the food you’re eating make you feel? Try to practice these steps at every meal.

The amount of cooked and raw foods that I choose to include in my lifestyle ebbs and flows depending on my current life circumstances. In an ideal world, I would maintain a 100 percent raw food lifestyle regardless of the circumstance, but simply put, we don’t live in an ideal world. This is why I choose let go of the idea of diet perfection, practice mindful eating and feel compassion toward my body and my food choices.

Watch Tarah Millen Explain Why She Now Eats Cooked Food

Watch Tarah Millen in a Question-and-Answer Video on Her Sea Shepherd Experiences

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