Dancing with Raw

August 15th, 2012 by Steve Pavlina

I went back to eating 100% raw again last week (being going a little over a week so far).

I found the transition pretty easy this time. Since I’ve dabbled in eating raw quite a bit, including going for 6 months at one stretch, I find it pretty easy to reload the associated habits, such as buying a lot more fruit when I go shopping and remembering which recipes I like best.

It’s hard not to notice the benefits of eating this way since they kick in so hard and strong within a few days, and I’m transitioning from a vegan diet that includes lots of raw foods to begin with. I’ve been vegan continuously since 1997.

Some of the benefits I noticed during the first week include:

Energy – The energy boost is undeniable. I have much more physical, mental, and emotional energy. I move faster, write faster, and get more done.

Sleep – I sleep more deeply, and eating raw shaves about 30-60 minutes of my sleep requirements. My dreams become richer and more vivid; they seem longer and more intricate too.

Meditation – It’s easier to concentrate when I meditate, and the experience is noticeably richer.

Exercise – Working out at the gym is easier. My body seems to become more efficient practically overnight. If I do a workout on the elliptical machine at the same setting as before, my heart rate is around 10 beats per minute lower than it was on cooked food, so I have to use a higher setting to create the same intensity. I know from experience that when I go back to cooked food, my heart rate will go back up again for that same exercise. I think one reason for this is that the blood becomes cleaner on raw (raw foods digest more cleanly, with fewer waste products), so it takes less effort to get oxygen to the cells. Cooked food dumps more metabolic waste into the bloodstream, which can gum up the works to some extent.

Alkalinity – If I test the pH of my urine, it’s invariably acidic (< 7.0) on cooked food and alkaline (> 7.0) on raw food. The day before I started transitioning, my pH was 5.8. Yesterday it was somewhere above 8.0 (beyond the range of my test strips). Remember that pH is a logarithmic scale, so going from 5.8 to 8.0+ is a significant difference. If you’re curious to test your own pH, you can get test strips at many vitamin stores, and I’m sure you can find them online too. They’re inexpensive.

Happiness – This is one of my favorite benefits — and one reason I keep coming back to raw foods. Within 3-4 days of going 100% raw, I feel much happier, sometimes euphoric. It’s harder to feel negative emotions when I’m feeling this good. During the first week as my body adapts, my emotions can be all over the place, but once I’m through that initial detox, I normally feel great every day. This also puts me in a more playful mood.

Mental Performance - My mind feels so much clearer, sharper, and faster, as if a fog has lifted. Mental tasks that seemed difficult before suddenly feel much easier. Writing becomes SO much easier. My subconscious does even more of the work for me, so there’s barely any conscious effort involved. When I go back to cooked food, this performance degrades so gradually that I don’t notice it, but when I go back to raw again, the boost returns so quickly that I can’t help but notice it.

Sex – Raw sex is significantly better than cooked food sex. The extra stamina and happy feelings play a role, but the flow of sexual energy through my body is so much stronger. The experience becomes more intense but also smoother. It’s easier to take slow, deep, energizing breaths and really flow into the experience of oneness with someone. I’m looking forward to verifying that tomorrow. :)

Why did I stop eating raw after doing it for 6 months before? I don’t feel that I got tempted. It was a deliberate choice at the time. Mainly I did it because I wanted to do more experimenting with cooked food. Partly I wanted to see if I could integrate cooked and raw and still experience most of the benefits of raw while introducing more flexibility. And there are many cooked foods I enjoy, so I appreciate the extra variety, especially when traveling.

Health-wise, however, these explorations were a bust. Nothing I tried came anywhere close to the benefits I’ve experienced eating 100% raw. The extra flexibility was nice, but it’s hard to say that it was worth it. I feel like I have to give up so much in exchange for a bit more variety. I still love the rich variety of different cooked foods, but that extra variety comes with a hefty price tag. Each time I go raw, it becomes more difficult to go back to cooked, knowing that I’ll be surrendering so many wonderful gains.

Going raw can be quite challenging. But staying raw doesn’t seem that tough once I’ve been at it for a while.

There are many variations on the raw food diet. What works for me is to eat as much fruit as I want and to include plenty of nuts, including combining them together. Some raw foodists say not to do this, but I tend to feel best when I eat this way. If I eat very low fat, like the 80/10/10 diet, I tend to be distracted by hunger and food cravings a lot, and I don’t feel as good about the lifestyle. I also can’t seem to eat 10-15 bananas in a single meal like some people can (even eating 5-6 at once is a stretch).

I get the best energy from eating fruit and combining it with nuts to slow down the digestion and provide more satiety. This gives me a more even flow of energy, and I don’t get hungry as often. I especially love banana-nut shakes — Brazil nuts are my favorite. I also love raw blueberry pie.

I eat plenty of raw veggies too, especially salads, and carrots or celery with guacamole, but my main staples are fresh fruit, smoothies/shakes, and nuts. I feel great when I eat these foods in abundance.

Some people argue that every species has a species-specific ideal diet. I can understand the logic behind this, and we may be able to observe that animals within a certain species tend to eat the same foods. But I’m not sure I buy this argument when it comes to human beings. Humans are spread all over the world, and though we may all have a common ancestor, we evolved for a time to produce visibly different races. Isn’t it possible that we may have partly evolved to eat different foods?

Polar bears and black bears eat different diets, but they’re still bears. They’re different species of course, but that’s a human labeling applied to nature, one that we could have applied to our own variations in size and color. So I think the idea of a species-specific diet for humans is too oversimplified. I suspect the reality is much more complex.

This is why I put so much value in personal testing and individual exploration, not just in terms of diet but in all areas of life, and I encourage you to do the same. If it were up to me, I might classify people with cubicle jobs as belonging to a different species. ;)

I’m not sure how long I’ll stick to 100% raw this time. I’ve gone back and forth enough times that I don’t feel like making any specific commitments. I’m loving it so far — it’s hard not to appreciate the benefits when they show up so quickly and profoundly. My interest in cooked food is already subsiding, and it doesn’t feel difficult to continue. When I eat raw for a while, raw foods tend to look increasingly attractive to me, and cooked foods become less appetizing.

It’s definitely a lot easier to eat raw when you’ve already done it for a significant length of time. It takes a while to learn how to eat this way and to develop the new lifestyle habits that support it. Much of this involves unlearning habits based on eating cooked food. But once you’ve already gone through that transition and stuck with it for a while, it’s pretty easy to get back to it and reload the associated habits.

Eating any particular way is a skill that takes some practice, but it does get easier. Lifestyle changes commonly appear difficult from the outside looking in, seeming to require lots of effort and self-discipline, but once you’re there, it’s often a no-brainer to maintain it. I don’t find it particularly difficult or challenging to eat this way. It’s different but not harder. And often it’s faster and easier since I don’t need to cook anything. Most of my meals take only a few minutes to prep, and some of them are essentially instant, like grabbing a bunch of fruit.

I’m flying to Edmonton tomorrow, but I don’t suspect I’ll have any trouble eating raw while traveling. It requires some lifestyle adjustments to be sure, but I’ve done this before. I was able to see that there’s an organic grocery store just a few blocks from where I’m staying, so finding food won’t be a problem.

Actually travel is one reason I wanted to go back to eating raw. I love traveling so much and have been taking more frequent trips, and I suspect the added health benefits of eating raw will make traveling more enjoyable. I may not be able to sample as wide a variety of ethnic dishes, but having more energy and enthusiasm, feeling smarter (so I can complete my work from the road in less time), and needing less sleep doesn’t seem like such a bad trade-off. Also, if I really want to, I can still eat some cooked food every now and then. It will just come with the price tag of feeling more sluggish for a while. In moderation if I feel the experience is really worth it, I can still do that.

I very much encourage you to conduct your own dietary experiments. Even if you think something is a bit extreme, it’s not so bad to test those extremes with a 30-day trial. Many of my experiments are busts; my results either stay the same or get worse. But every once in a while, I encounter something that’s a quantum leap ahead. Eating raw is one of those solid and undeniable hits; nothing else I’ve tried has come close. Perhaps someday I’ll discover something else that works even better, but for now this seems like a nice path to explore.



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