For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved food. My mother told me that I used to walk into the neighbors’ house and help myself to my favorite cookies in their cupboards! lol But my relationship with food has been “tough love” at best! Ironically, I have a very delicate digestive system. In fact, I was conceived while my dad was dying of stomach cancer. Coincidence you think? Nah, not in my book! In addition to my difficulties digesting certain foods, particularly meat, I also had food allergies; a fact I only came to realize at the end of my 20s. There was a time when I was afraid of eating altogether because of the almost inevitable stomach pains that were sure to come along.
A good way to describe the person I was in what I now think of as ‘my previous life’ would be to say that I was almost completely out of touch with my body, and therefore also my feelings. A close and very intuitive friend of mine, having picked up a slight change in my mood, once asked me how I felt. And you know what? I was unable to answer that! I had no idea how I truly felt inside. It later became apparent that the only way I managed to cope with living in a stressful, toxic city environment was to cut myself off from feeling the many physical and mental discomforts that were plaguing me.
Eventually, in 1995, inspired by my sister’s own dabbling into the vegetarian diet, and no longer being able to ‘stomach’ the way eating meat, poultry and fish made me feel, both physically and psychologically, I became a vegetarian. Even though my new diet did help in some ways, I was still far from thriving.
By 1999 I was in the worst shape I’d ever been in my life. I had quite a few extra pounds and was suffering from a number of health issues. I was extremely irritable and depressed, had chronic vicious mood swings, insomnia, migraine headaches, low energy, constipation, and my digestive problems hadn’t let up. (Pfhew!)
During the last winter I spent in Quebec, I only got the flu 5 times! lol I would barely recover from one virus before I was hit with another. Enough already!
When a naturopath offered to do a reading of my condition with some new and complex computer device, I thought: “What the heck! What do I have to lose?” Even though I was relieved, at some level, to find out what was going on inside my body, the news was far from comforting. It was determined that all of my organs and meridians were totally out of balance (surprise, surprise!), except for my heart (thankfully!) According to the reading, I was also suffering from candida, and had allergies to foods such as corn, gluten and dairy. And, to top it all off, my immune system was completely shot to pieces. It’s amazing that I was still standing! The naturopath basically told me that I might as well be throwing all the good organic foods I was buying straight down the toilet, as my system was too weak to even absorb the nutrients.
As you can imagine, I walked away feeling pretty shaken up, not having a clue as to what to do with this newly found knowledge. Where does one even start, when everything seems to be so out of whack? As it turned out, I had to wait a few more months before I began to find the answers.
The Leap into the Unknown
My first realization was that my general state of unhealth was only the tip of the iceberg. Deep down, I was unhappy and unfulfilled; my life was going in circles and now I knew it. I was 29 and in my Saturn Return – a period of internal upheaval, during which one reconsiders what has been working so far and, most importantly, what hasn’t. And so, I decided to walk away from everything that made up my world at the time, in order to jump into the Unknown. As a result, in the summer of 2000, I left Quebec in the hopes of getting a fresh start on the other side of Canada. I didn’t have a clue where I’d live or what I’d do in British Columbia. All I knew for certain was that I was long overdue for a serious change. Within a very short time though, three major things happened to solve my quandary.
- Landing on Don’s doorstep. Quite literally! I’d been in BC for a grand total of 3 days when in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, I came upon an ad for a room to rent. As I was due to leave the next morning, I made arrangements to check it out on the way to the ferry. After giving me the tour, Don told me: “I think you’ll be happy here!” Boy, was he ever right! We were destined to become platonic life partners and he was destined to be instrumental in my new journey of self- discovery.
- The 14 day Master Cleanser. I decided my body was in dire need of a fast after all the abuse I’d put it through over the years. Doing the cleanse had a powerful impact; it helped me see with greater clarity what bad shape my body was in and how I needed to start taking better care of it. Amongst other things, it prompted me to start doing ‘The Five Tibetans’; a surprisingly simple yet powerful and energizing set of exercises, which I still do almost daily.
- Vipassana Meditation. It also became clear that my mind needed a fast even more badly than my body did! I was fortunate to hear about a type of meditation called Vipassana; a Pali word meaning ‘to observe reality as it is’. Even though this technique was re-discovered by Buddha, it is nevertheless non-sectarian, which helps explain its tremendous appeal to people all over the world, regardless of religious background. On the Vipassana website, it is described as “a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.” What I experienced and learned during those 10 days of silent meditation shook me to the core. It prompted me to focus inside in order to free myself from my fears and cravings. In fact, I still use the Vipassana technique everyday, as I find it incredibly simple and effective.
I was on a roll! And so this all led to my embarking on a journey so profound that it was to completely change my vision of the world.
What About Raw?
Embracing a mostly raw vegan lifestyle came along as part of the inner transformation I was undergoing. Don, for his part, had been experimenting with diet ever since he became a vegetarian in 1980. Shortly thereafter, he ate nothing but raw fruits and nuts for 7 months, which he still considers to be the time when he felt the greatest in his entire life. It’s only later, in 1995, that he was first introduced to living foods through friends who ran a small raw café out of their house. In 2001, both of us gradually started including more and more raw foods into our diets, while at the same time paying close attention to the issue of control. (More on this in the next section.)
If we refused to get caught in ideals and control how we should eat, then how did we manage to change our diet? This is difficult to explain, as it isn’t a linear thing. One way to describe it would be to say that it began with our unbending intent to lead more fulfilling, healthier lives. The improvement in our diets – which has been slow and gradual over the years – has only been a side effect of our process of personal growth. That’s not to say that our diets have been ‘perfect’ (if there is such a thing!) or that we haven’t made so called ‘mistakes’; but the overall trend has been ever improving. Our main approach consists of honoring where we’re at, and this connects to the quantum physics understanding that objectively observing ‘What Is’ (or facing facts) will transform.
When you don’t recognize who’s staring back at you in the mirror!
I’m fascinated by ‘Before and After Raw’ pictures. Don reminds me, though, that everything is a reflection, and therefore it’s my own incredible transformation that I see represented in them. When I visited my family in the summer of 2005 (for the first time in nearly 6 years), they hardly recognized me! It’s difficult for me not to think of who I used to be ‘back then’ as a different person altogether. Hang on a minute; let’s see if I can dig out some old photos somewhere…
In thesefirst three photos I was 20 years old and at my heaviest, 140 pounds. I had just returned from an important but challenging backpacking trip to Europe where I consumed copious amounts of bread, cheese and beer. loooool
The one on the left was taken about 6 months after I became vegetarian in 1996. My weight then hovered around 125. In the right photo I was vegan and my weight had settled at around 120. A few months later I was heading west and embarking on my raw journey.
These two photos were taken in 2005, after 4 1/2 years on a mostly raw food diet. Sorry for the large gap but I couldn’t find any good photos for that period. My weight basically remained the same for the entire time; about 100 pounds in the summertime and 105 in the winter.
The next set of photos were shot after my going 100% raw in the summer of 2006. And yes, I somehow managed to lose a few more pounds.
This last one was taken in the summer of 2010, back on high raw. In the winter of 2009 for various reasons we began to reintroduce some cooked alkaline foods into our diet.
I Feel So Dif-fe-rent (Or The Ongoing Transformation…)
As incredible as it may seem, most of the physical problems I experienced prior to eating more raw foods have disappeared. The constant lethargy that used to overcome me has been mostly replaced by a vitality I never knew was even possible. Other significant changes that I’ve noticed include a dramatic improvement in both my hair and skin, much better digestion and elimination, no more bloating and a stronger immune system (I’ve only had a cold once in 10 years!)
In 2003 I was diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), aka ‘Winter Depression’, a condition I undoubtedly had for many years. I only managed to shake it off after we transitioned to a fully raw lifestyle in 2006. I’m always a little hesitant to give credit for what I might be experiencing, be it at a physical, psychological or energetic level, to any one particular cause. (I mean, how can you REALLY know for sure what has brought changes?) However, making thejump to a fully raw diet does seem to have directly contributed to my on-going transformation. Here are some of the changes I experienced during that time:
- I had no cravings for cooked food (and I mean zero, none, ziltch!)
- I didn’t feel ‘internally’ cold as I did in my 2 previous ‘raw winters’
- My sleep was deeper and more restful
- I was more stable both mentally and emotionally. The pronounced mood swings I used to go through mellowed out dramatically. (Just ask Don, he’ll corroborate! lol) I felt more balanced, not getting so caught in the extremes of feeling like “Everything is hunky-dory!” or “That’s it… I’m doomed!”
- I had virtually no depressive, pessimistic thoughts * I experienced very little conscious fear or anxiety, to speak of
- I didn’t feel the usual lethargy in the wintertime. (In the past, there were days when I could hardly get out of bed…)
At this point, I’m still allergic to certain foods and occasionally get an upset stomach. I also experience carpal tunnel syndrome, which is probably genetic related. One thing that has tremendously helped is that I’ve learned better how to stay in touch with my body and how I’m feeling at any given time.
Don’s story is quite different than mine. For one thing, he has been working on improving his diet for a lot longer than I have. He has also been blessed with one of those ‘cast iron digestive systems’, which changes the picture considerably. His weak spot is his kidneys. When he was still in the Canadian army (yep, you’ve read right! Talk about past lives!) he suffered a massive internal infection from which he never fully recovered. As a result, his kidneys would hurt whenever he consumed any kind of cooked oil. Switching to a mostly raw diet immediately solved the issue. While he has always had a strong constitution, Don’s overall health has nevertheless improved. He certainly doesn’t look or feel like the 62 years old that he is and he continues to enjoy what seems like boundless energy.