The Anatomy of Personal Change

April 8th, 2008 by Steve Pavlina

I want to share some thoughts on my recent decision to switch to a raw food diet with respect to how I finally made this change. Although I only made the decision about a week ago, it feels to me like a permanent change, and I have a hard time seeing myself returning to cooked foods again. Since the thoughts behind this change are still fresh in my mind, I think it’s important to share them now instead of waiting for more time to pass along this path. Of course another reason for this article is that it will help me burn the ships behind me. With this article posted, I know I’ll look that much more stupid if I later give up, so this creates some additional accountability.

I first learned about the raw food diet in 1997, shortly after going vegan. Erin and I went to a vegetarian potluck one day, and someone there was eating a completely raw meal. Before then it just never occurred to me to try eating 100% raw. With no background info other than the bare idea, I decided to try eating raw for a while. I lasted only 3 days. I had no clue what I was doing, so I ate mostly salads. I wasn’t getting enough calories and was very hungry by the third day. I put the notion of raw food on the back burner for a few more years.

Down the road I did several other raw food trials with different variations of the diet, ranging from a few days up to 45 days in duration. The most recent was my 30-day trial of the raw food diet in January. I actually got the best health results from my first 30-day raw trial several years ago. That trial was the most balanced and varied one in terms of the types of foods I ate, but it also required the most work to maintain.

Mental Acceptance

I read a great deal about the raw food diet and agreed with the logic behind it. It made sense to me that it was simply healthier to eat food raw vs. cooked. I won’t go into those details here because the info is enough to fill a book. My personal trials backed up my reading, so that gave me further evidence that I should seriously consider going raw. There were only two things stopping me. First, I didn’t know how to make such a diet practical and sustainable. Secondly, I lacked the willpower to push through all the obstacles and make the change permanent. The notion of going raw for life seemed too overwhelming.

Because I could see that eating raw was a more intelligent choice than eating cooked food, I knew that my path of growth would eventually lead me to adopt a 100% raw diet. Five years ago if you asked me if I’d eventually become a raw foodist, I’d probably have said, “Yes, I expect I will at some point.” I didn’t know how long it would take, but I thought I’d eventually discover how to make it work.

Overcoming Obstacles

Little by little I picked away at the obstacles of ignorance and lack of experience. I kept reading and experimenting. I bought raw food cookbooks and tested many different recipes to discover raw meals that were (1) easy to prepare, (2) delicious, and (3) satisfying. I had to learn a whole new set of dietary staples. This was very difficult because it meant abandoning favorite foods I’d been eating for years. While going vegetarian and vegan were significant changes, going from vegan to raw was by far the biggest and most radical change dietary change I’ve ever made.

It took many years to overcome all those obstacles. The biggest step was doing my 30-day trial in January. That was the most restrictive form of the raw diet I ever attempted. I eventually realized that if I could manage to eat like that for 30 days and feel generally better, I should be able to permanently switch to a less severe version of the raw diet. While it wouldn’t be perfect, it would be enough to finally get me across the cooked-raw border.

Dealing with Social Issues

One of the major challenges with dietary change is that the direction of improvement takes you far away from average because the average diet is pure crap. This creates a risk of disconnecting from other people as you continue to grow in order to avoid succumbing to social drag.

Here’s how I look at this situation. If I eat a crappy diet in front of other people, I’m subtly encouraging them to do the same. That does a real disservice to people who share a meal with me. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lowers the standards of everyone I eat with (or who reinforces pre-existing low standards).

If I put myself in the position of eating a healthy diet when I’m with other people, then I subtly influence them to improve their own eating habits as well. I don’t need to discuss what I’m eating to have this effect — I know from experience that it happens automatically. Try it for yourself by sharing a meal with someone whose diet is much healthier than yours, and see if you don’t feel slightly more motivated to make some improvements. We’re all subtly influenced by the people we connect with.

Eating with someone who makes strange comments about my food isn’t a big deal to me. The more important issue is whether I’m serving as a positive example to others. While they might superficially disconnect from me because I eat differently, I know there’s a deeper, more important connection that’s being established beneath the surface. That’s the connection that reminds people they are in fact strong enough to make conscious food choices, even when everyone around them is doing the opposite.

Every time you stretch beyond the social conditioning, risking the rejection of your peers, you simultaneously serve as a powerful example to them. You help other people awaken to the knowledge that they can exceed their current performance levels. I see it as my duty to fill such a role when I can. On the surface people often reject or criticize me for doing things like graduating college in 3 semesters, trying polyphasic sleep, or of course going raw, but I see that as a good step for those people. I know the real reason people attack me for pursuing such goals is that I serve as a reminder that they’ve been settling for less than they’re worth. I had to be reminded of that myself by spending a few days in jail once.

Achieving Readiness

Eventually I reached the point where I was strong enough to finally make the change to a 100% raw diet. I remember the feeling I had was, “I think I’m finally ready to do this. I feel ready to go raw.” There was still some resistance, but it was smaller than my will. I knew I had sufficient knowledge and experience to successfully convert to a raw food diet, not as a temporary trial but as a permanent lifestyle change. I sort of just woke up one morning and realized I’d gone through the doorway.

The key to making this change was something I wrote about in the very first article I posted on this site, The Courage to Live Consciously. I had to remain aware of the change I wanted to make while accepting that I wasn’t yet strong enough to make it. By keeping myself out of denial, I was able to progressively train myself to reach my goal, even though it would take many years to finally reach it.

30-day trials are a terrific vehicle for achieving readiness. Even if your first trial doesn’t result in permanent change, you’ll learn and grow from the experience. This will put you in a position to kick off additional trials in preparation for an eventual permanent change. My previous raw trials were essential stepping stones for me.

Now that I’m finally sticking with a raw diet, I’m not eating exactly like I did during any of my previous raw trials. I’m incorporating the best elements from all of my trials to create a diet that I know will be sustainable for me. Based on my most recent trial, I’m eating mostly fresh fruit, since fruit-based meals are energizing and fast to prepare. I’m also enjoying green smoothies every day, especially banana-spinach. I currently have about 80 bananas in my kitchen, and my fridge is loaded with a variety of my favorite fruits. I feel naturally drawn to eat a lot of fruit now, so I don’t have to force myself to eat this way. On the weekend one of my favorite meals consisted of 18 clementines. It was delicious, and I felt very energized afterwards.

To keep the diet from becoming too monotonous, I’m including a few of my favorite raw gourmet recipes. For example, I made some guacamole this week, which was really satisfying with raw carrots. Occasionally eating these heartier foods makes it easy to continue eating raw. Compared to my previous raw trial, the way I’m eating now feels very abundant. I’m focused on all the delicious foods I get to eat (in ridiculously large quantities). I feel like I’m pigging out every day — you should have seen me at the buffet on Sunday — but I’m losing weight and feeling terrific.

After the Change

I know that I can always eat cooked food again if I ever want to, but presently I simply have no desire to do so. I know that cooked food will only lower my energy levels, so it doesn’t seem like a wise choice anymore.

I feel like I just stepped through the doorway into the experience of being a raw foodist. I feel a bit dorky and uncomfortable wearing that label, but I’m sure I’ll eventually get used to it. Obviously such a label can’t define me as a spiritual being, but it does a fair job of defining my avatar, Steve.

OK, so perhaps I stumbled my way through this particular doorway, and everyone else in the room is staring at me and wondering why it took so long, but it still feels great to have made it through.

My next step is to explore this new role and see how it feels. When I say that this change is permanent, I know I always have the option to turn back, but given what I know up to this point, it’s hard to imagine that happening anytime soon. It seems more likely that I’ll continue experimenting within the scope of raw foods rather than returning to cooked foods. I’ve become more sensitive to the difference between living foods and dead foods, and I don’t like the way dead foods make me feel. It’s hard for me to find such foods attractive anymore. I only want to eat things that are alive. Cooked foods look like they’ve been switched off.

I’ve been through other lifestyle changes, so I know what it feels like to finally cross the threshold of a major change. It’s exhilarating but also a little scary. When you step through such a doorway, you don’t know what to expect on the other side. New experiences and adventures await you. It’s like your character is starting from level one all over again. You have to get used to being a beginner all over again.

This particular change sits well with both my logic and my intuition. My left brain likes it, and so does my right brain. I think my cells like it too.

Big lifestyle changes can be very difficult to navigate. Don’t give up. If you intuitively sense that the change will eventually be an important part of your path of growth, or if you can accept the logic of such a change, keep working at it. Eventually you’ll be ready to make a lasting commitment.

A big “Thank You” to everyone who helped and supported me along the way in achieving this goal!



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