26 Years and Counting: Karin’s Story
Have you ever had an experience so profound that you knew that there was no turning back? The shift in my health after eating a diet focused on raw plant foods was such an experience for me. This may sound somewhat dramatic, but remembering back over 25 years ago, my first few months after transitioning to a raw food diet were akin to “falling down the rabbit hole” despite my initial skepticism.
My raw story begins back in college, in 1988, when a friend gave me the book Diet for a New America. I found this book to be eye-opening, since it was my introduction to the connection between diet, the environment, health and animal welfare. I was so inspired that I researched and adopted a plant-based diet. Fast forward to February 1990, when my sister, who was also eating a plant-based diet, went to a health food store in our hometown and came home with a handful of raw food books and enthusiastically proclaimed “I am never eating cooked food again.” I asked her why the change, and she said she talked to a couple of guys in a health food store. One she knew from high school, and the other was his brother. When they asked her if she was vegetarian, she said yes. They then asked her if she was vegan, and she again said yes. Then they asked, “Well, are you raw?” She replied, “What’s raw?” Their response was the compelling information she then shared with me about raw food.
I read that handful of raw food books and many more. Back then there weren’t as many resources on raw food diets as there are today, so these books were by the true pioneers of this movement, the modern classics of raw food: Herbert Shelton and Ann Wigmore. The books were fascinating, albeit extreme to me at that time. Even though I was skeptical and had more questions than answers, I gave raw food a try, which has lasted more than 25 years now.
I started to notice changes in my health pretty quickly. I had more energy, and a variety of symptoms I had for years, including fatigue, vanished. I started to look healthier and slept better. I enjoyed exercising, and my digestion improved. I could actually eat fruit without getting a stomachache! Prior to eating a raw diet, I avoided fruit intentionally. On the rare occasion that I ate fruit, it was as a dessert or on top of my cereal in the morning, the digestive results of which were nothing short of undesirable. While learning about raw food, I honestly thought eating this way was unachievable for me until I learned about eating fruit away from other foods and in combinations compatible with my digestive system. Being able to eat fruit without digestive symptoms for the first time in my life was a revelation.
I was so inspired by the health results I was experiencing that I felt compelled to learn more about the inner workings of the human body, nutrition and the diet-health connection. I earned a second undergraduate degree in biology and received doctorate-level education in naturopathic medicine and chiropractic to put everything that I observed into perspective. Over the years, I have refined and revised my approach to raw food and tailored it to my individual needs.
By the way, those guys from the health food store are now my husband and brother-in-law. Never underestimate the power of a chance meeting. A seemingly average day changed the trajectory of my life. I thought for sure that I was going to be an artist, but in a split second, raw food changed that.
29 Years and Counting: Rick’s Story
One day in May 1986, I was looking at myself in my college dorm bathroom mirror. I was 30 pounds overweight as well as looking and feeling tired, sluggish and mentally dull. I had told myself six months earlier that it was time to eat healthier, start exercising and lose my beer belly. But here I still was, where I didn’t want to be. I thought about how different my current experience would be if I had kept my commitment to myself six months earlier. I thought about what would happen if I kept putting off my commitment to better health for all of the upcoming summer, all of my sophomore year or even until I was 30 years old! It finally sunk in on a very deep level that if I kept doing what I was doing, I was going to keep getting the results I was getting. While that may sound very obvious, I think we all realize that doing what you know is often much more challenging than knowing what to do.
Now that my realization gave me incentive to do what I knew, I figured some additional education would be even more helpful to put into good use, beyond just knowing I should eat less junk and move my body more. My younger brother had recently made some dietary changes to improve his cross-country running performance and was fit and lean, so I figured talking to him was a good starting point. I read sports nutrition books, discussing the importance of increasing healthy carbohydrates and decreasing fat. I started eating brown rice instead of white rice, whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta, used 2 percent and then skim milk instead of whole milk, took the skin off chicken, used paper towels to soak up extra grease from pizzas, etc. For that summer break, in addition to my full-time landscaping job, I got a part-time job a few nights per week. That meant less time drinking beer and eating at fast-food restaurants with my friends at night. Over that summer, I lost 15 pounds and felt better than ever. It was a major transformation, and I was very pleased with the results.
From there, I learned a great deal about whole food vegan diets, Natural Hygiene, juicing, fasting, etc. and was all vegan—predominantly raw—by spring 1987. The further I took my nutrition program, the better and better I felt, even overcoming major childhood allergies. I wanted to keep learning as much as I could and even skipped “spring weekend,” an event in which my entire campus was one big party my junior year in college, to attend a Natural Hygiene conference several hours away with my brother. Even though I majored in business and marketing, after college I worked for a chiropractic office, at Hippocrates Health Institute, for the Juiceman company and at a health food store before going back to school to earn my doctorate degree in chiropractic. I was continuously amazed at how much more depth and detail I was able to add to my already very solid foundation while in school, all the while enthusiastically continuing my self-directed education in health and nutrition.
I then spent four years on staff at TrueNorth Health Center, specializing in fasting and largely raw whole food vegan diets, where I learned an incredible amount about the specifics of what can happen by getting out of the body’s way and allowing it to heal itself. I also learned that healing is not always as simple as the philosophers or even the textbooks say, and that it often takes a great deal of education and clinical experience to guide people toward true optimal health given their specific situation, individual biochemistry, etc.
Despite all the time I spent with my formal, scientifically based education as well as practicing logic and good clinical reasoning with patients, we all know that emotions are what really drive our decisions. So I left TrueNorth in 2001 to transform a one-year long-distance relationship into an in-person one. To make a long story short, it ended up working out great, as we were married in 2003. There was some logic to that decision as well. After Karin spent summer 2001 at TrueNorth for a preceptorship program at Bastyr University as part of her naturopathic medical education, the director of TrueNorth told me that by continuing my relationship with Karin that I had made “a good clinical decision.” How romantic!
Our Raw Synergy
When we started our respective raw food journeys, we both had many questions that were unanswered by the raw food information available to us at the time. We were looking for more concrete answers than these resources provided, so when we came together 15 years ago, we were inspired to create raw food resources that would refine and update what we learned early on. Additionally, since we both have science backgrounds, we wanted our information to be grounded in up-to-date physiology, biochemistry, peer-reviewed research and in our own personal and clinical experiences.
We created the Science of Raw Food Nutrition curriculum, which we have been teaching for 10 years at Living Light in Northern California. Our courses are very in-depth and provide answers to common questions about raw food and plant-based diets in a fun and easy-to-understand format. We also have an international nutrition consulting and lab work analysis practice, and we are dedicated to teaching a functional and scientifically sound approach to raw, plant-based diets. Last June, we released our book, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets, which is the book we wish we had when starting with raw food decades ago. In this book, we cover the “Where do you get your” questions, focusing on protein, B12, Vitamin D, omega-3 fats and more. We provide updated science-based information on classic raw food topics such as enzymes, food combining and raw plant sources of important vitamins and minerals. We also discuss the different approaches to a raw food diet and how these diets compare nutritionally with other dietary approaches.
We value education. We have found that the more educated one is, the more confident they feel about what they are doing and the more likely they are to continue with this lifestyle. We would like to see everyone interested in improving their health and performance get as much long-term benefit from a rational, sustainable raw food plant-based diet as we have. We have found our collective raw food paths to be an adventurous journey of discovery and wish you great success on yours.