When I first went raw in 2004, I really saw things in black and white. That is, I thought that eating simple raw hygienic was “good” and that anything outside of that was “bad.” I suppose I needed that simplicity in the beginning, a clear line in the sand and a defined place to stand. As time went on, I found that I desired a bit more flexibility and that I wanted to attract others to this lifestyle who didn’t want to eat just fruit and greens or missed their favourite “feast day” or “celebration” meals. This required growing in acceptance as well as forming a new frame of mind around food.
In those early years, I really saw raw food as the cure-all, or the quick fix, thinking that if I could just be “perfect” with my diet, then all the other aspects of my life would fall into place, and I would be on easy street. What I didn’t know was that the raw food lifestyle fostered deeper change in the emotional and social spheres than I was prepared for. For a time, I was fairly reclusive, needing to separate myself from the places that and people who would set old habits and thoughts afire. As time went on, this became less necessary. I can say that I did 100 percent feel better in virtually every respect, better than I could ever imagine, but one day in those first eight months, something happened that sets the stage for this article.
I cheated. That’s right—cheated.
On a skate road trip with friends, one for which I was ill-equipped, having very little money and no idea how to travel as a raw foodist, I snuck off and ate fast food. I didn’t fall off the wagon; I jumped off and was squished under the tires and trampled by my own self-loathing and shame. Just weeks prior, I had declared that I would rather fast for months, possibly to starvation, rather than eat any animal products again. Yet here I was. In my mind, I was a failure, a hypocrite, a loser and certainly wouldn’t attain my goals since I couldn’t do just this one thing “right.” Dying inside but putting on a brave face, I snuck off again the next night, eating more food that I had labeled bad, confirming again that I was “bad” myself.
Although it took a few weeks of simple eating as well as a short fast to “reset” physically from this experience, I can say it took years to let go of the mental and emotional trauma I caused from the disgust and hatred I held for myself. I came to see that emotions, just like food, hold a certain vibration. Ingesting high-vibing foods was definitely key to my personal healing journey, but the next chapter became about thinking high-vibing thoughts and letting go of beliefs and thoughts that didn’t serve me. Seeing this and accepting that I needed to learn new coping mechanisms to foster a shift in my way of thinking took time, but it did come.
They say a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. Well, I can’t say I was a wise man. Instead, I needed to learn it myself, again and again over those first few years. The real breakthrough came when I chose consciously rather than reacted subconsciously. By that, I mean I felt the pull to eat cooked food and told myself, I can have that cooked dish if I want, but I am going to give myself one week of ultimate self-care, self-love and as much delicious raw food as I can eat first. At the end of the week, I still wanted the cooked food, so I let myself have it but with full mindfulness. That is, making a meditation of it. This made all the difference mentally and emotionally. When I was fully present and without judgment, I found I didn’t really enjoy the food, or at least it wasn’t giving me what I thought I was looking for.
From that experience, I came to know that the energy we hold around food as well as the clarity we have on what we are really feeling, needing and seeking makes all the difference. I came to see food choices as neither good nor bad. Rather, they have certain realities and consequences, and that’s OK. What I chose to eat couldn’t possibly change the reality of my being, worth or love of self unless I give it that power. Nothing in this universe runs in a straight line. Rather, it is more akin to a dance. Once I decided to emotionally embrace this dance, to cultivate acceptance and understanding for myself and others on this dance floor of life, in came ease. With that, the thought of “cheating” ceased to exist—it was all choice and experience.
I really believe that our judgment and labeling of food choices as good or bad, black or white traps us in unconscious behaviours and actions that we are doomed to repeat again and again. The key to letting this go comes when we choose to act with mindfulness, acceptance and love rather than simply reacting with shame, guilt, judgment and self-loathing. As experiential beings, those things and behaviours we do not accept keep coming up again and again until we can love and accept them. It is through clear experience and love that we grow.
These experiences led me to want to share and connect with others as a coach and chef to help create ease in others’ transitions and, indeed, in the raw lifestyle itself so that others could benefit. I created my website TheRawAdvantage.com, started offering consultations by donation and wrote my first book, 101 Frickin Rawsome Recipes, made up entirely of simple, hygienic, low-fat and well-combined recipes, with these being my staple. At this time, I also saw a need for simple low-fat raw gourmet cuisine for those who were transitioning or wanted more variety as, at the time, there were only high-fat raw gourmet or supersimple hygienic dishes.
I remember the first time I bought a hot pepper at a grocery store. I had already been a raw vegan for five years and started my website and consulting services, and, besides three major “cheats,” was strictly hygienic, meaning I hadn’t had one onion, piece of garlic or hot pepper. I realized I was nervous and found myself looking around to see if anyone would catch me buying the contraband. Coming to recognize the anxious energy I was holding around my food choices, I chose to let go, to see all as an experiment and opportunity for growth. Playing with various recipes, I only strengthened my experience that simple hygienic cuisine feels best in my body, but I also came to know that I really enjoyed some nonhygienic recipes at times. This was not only OK but came to serve me and help others as well.
Embracing low-fat raw gourmet dishes have led to so much room for creativity as well as a new sense of ease in the lifestyle. Nearly any old favourite dish can be replicated in a way that nourishes and feels way better than their cooked counterparts. As an added bonus, I find that eating low-fat raw gourmet dishes actually leads me back to wanting to eat simpler hygienic raw the vast majority of the time whereas I have found eating cooked food causes most people, myself included, to simply want to eat more and more cooked food, which typically leads to feeling crappier and crappier. Honouring our truth and our needs means enjoying the dance, choosing to grow in self-love and acceptance and to be in gratitude for the experience—all of it. I hope my sharing helps you come to increased ease, compassion and connection to your thoughts, feelings and needs.
Wishing you much PeaceLovenSeasonalFruit,