Yet Another Raw Food Diet Update

July 31st, 2008 by Steve Pavlina

Since I keep getting questions about this, here’s a quick update about my ongoing experiences eating a 100% raw food diet.

Mental benefits

The raw food diet has been going wonderfully for me. My thinking is clearer than it’s ever been. Several people have commented that I’ve written some of my best articles ever this month. I’ve definitely felt like my writing has improved as well (at least when I’m trying to write something deep and insightful and not just posting a basic update like this one). I have to credit that improvement to my recent diet change (vegan -> raw). Writing has become less challenging than it used to be, so I can focus more deeply on the core ideas as opposed to figuring out how to express them.

When I sit down to write now, my mind feels clearer and calmer than it used to. Before going raw, I’d get a jumble of ideas racing through my mind, and I’d type furiously to get them all down; then I’d have to organize them into a coherent article. If I ever consumed caffeine, that racing sensation would be amplified. Today the racing sensation is all but gone, and in it’s place there’s this smoother, calmer flow of ideas. When I write it feels like I’m in a light meditative state. It’s emotionally pleasurable (joyful, happy) to sit down and write, so that makes me want to write even more.

It’s interesting that whenever I’ve made improvements to my diet, the mental benefits are always more pronounced than the physical ones. Sure, I feel a bit more energetic, and I’ve seen measurable gains in strength and endurance. But the gains in mental clarity, focus, and depth of concentration are much more precious to me.

Overall I guess the best word to describe the change is that I feel much more mentally clear.

Food choices

I still feel like a newbie on this diet, but I’m doing much better at increasing the variety. I especially enjoy eating many different kinds of fruit. Strawberries and cherries have been among my favorites lately. Building a little experience definitely makes this diet easier. I have a good sense of how much food I need to eat each day.

This diet is much more efficient for me now than it used to be. I make at least two smoothies (especially green smoothies like bananas, spinach, and water) each day because I can consume a lot of calories without investing much time. Each shake I make is about 400-500 calories.

Since I finally have a good quality juicer (Green Power), I make fresh juice a few times a week. I normally use about six carrots and one apple as the base, and then I mix in lots of greens (kale, spinach, parsley, celery, cucumber, etc). I’m gradually trying to make the juices more green and less sweet.

Fat intake

The main improvement I can make next is to reduce the fat. I’m still getting a lot of calories from fat because it’s quick and convenient to eat some nuts, flax crackers and guacamole, pumpkin seeds, etc. This gives me more calories and satiety than fruit and greens, and since fatty foods are denser, I don’t need to eat as much. But the fat also slows digestion and drops my energy level a bit. Currently I’m restricting fatty foods until the end of the day, so I can maintain higher energy while I’m working.

I like that I can eat whatever I want — as long as it’s raw — and not gain weight. My weight loss stalls when I eat more fat, but it’s pretty cool to eat as much fat as I want (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc) and not gain weight. If I ate like this on the cooked food diet, I’d pack on extra pounds pretty fast. I’ve definitely noticed that weight loss seems to accelerate when I keep my fat intake low, even if total calories remain high.

Lasting longer without food

I never used to skip meals on a cooked food diet, but this has happened several times now while eating raw. Sometimes I’ll skip lunch because I’m just not hungry. Other times I simply forget to eat because I’m enjoying such a good flow of getting things done. One day I didn’t eat any food after noon; for some reason I just forgot to eat again. I still wasn’t hungry when I went to bed. My blood sugar stays so even throughout the day that I don’t experience any crashing even when I skip meals or delay them for hours.

Because of this change, I’m not eating at regular times as much as I used to. Sometimes I’ll eat four meals a day. Other days I’ll eat only two meals. I just eat when I’m hungry, but I can’t predict when that will happen, so every day the timing of my meals is different. This may seem a bit chaotic, but I rather like it because I can work for hours at a stretch and not have to break for a meal until I’m ready. The onset of hunger comes about very gradually and can easily be delayed.

This way of eating takes some adjustment. Sometimes it feels like I have an insatiable appetite. For example, yesterday morning I drank two 500-calories shakes for breakfast (about 2 liters total), and I still wanted more fruit after that. After I ate my full, I went about 8 hours before I wanted to eat again, and I’m sure I could have gone 10+ hours with no food easily. I enjoyed high energy and good concentration the whole day.

It definitely feels strange to eat 1000-1500 calories in a short period of time and then go so many hours without eating again. But I guess it makes sense that my body can do this. Human beings couldn’t always secure three square meals a day, so being able to eat my fill and then go most of the day with no food seems reasonable to me. Going an entire workday without needing to eat has definitely helped my productivity. Breaking for lunch at a certain time is no longer so mandatory.

If I ate 1500 calories in a single meal of cooked food, the digestive burden would kill my energy. Either it would put me to sleep, or my concentration and focus would be shot. But when I do this with raw food, the opposite occurs — I get an incredible burst of energy that lasts for hours and then tapers off gracefully.

Before I went raw, I heard other raw foodists reporting that they could go for long periods of time with no food. I thought they were talking about fasting. It isn’t like fasting at all though. There just isn’t any hunger or desire to eat.

Feeling deprived – not at all

Cooked food still looks good to me, but I don’t feel deprived without it. I feel I’d be missing out on so much of what life has to offer if I went back to eating like I used to. I think about everything I’d have to give up to return to my old eating habits — I’d have less energy, I’d be more tired, I’d need more sleep, I’d be physically weaker, my urine would be acidic instead of alkaline, my brain wouldn’t work as well, I couldn’t concentrate as deeply, I have to deal with problems I couldn’t solve as easily, I’d experience more confusion, I’d make more bad decisions, I’d age faster, I’d get sick more often, I’d achieve fewer goals, I’d generate less value, my income would suffer, I’d be a worse writer, I’d be more distracted, life would be harder, I’d experience more negative emotions and fewer positive ones, I’d be more stressed, I’d be more likely to succumb to addictions like caffeine, I wouldn’t help as many people, my contribution would suffer, I’d be a bad example for others, etc. That’s a lot to sacrifice to satisfy a food craving — a craving that eventually goes away. Talk about feeling deprived!

It takes a few months to get comfortable with a new way of eating, but after the initial adjustment period, it isn’t so tough to keep going. It’s just a habit. If you can install the new habit and reach the point where it feels good to maintain it, then you lock in the long-term gains. It’s hard but it’s worth it.

Dietary habits can be among the most difficult to change because they’re reinforced multiple times each day. But the benefits are so great that it’s well worth the effort — more energy, better health, slower aging, being stronger, feeling happier, etc.

There’s really no end to this process. It doesn’t matter where your starting point is. You can always take the next step. You can always experiment to figure out what works better for you. Don’t worry about best — just focus on better.



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