It seems that I’m not the only one interested in keeping a raw food habit around here. Not only the twitter reactions I got after publishing my last article on raw food, but even a comment on my blog seem to show quite an interest on this topic. So, I decided to write a post in which I’ll describe the basic requirements for starting a 30 days raw food challenge.
Please keep in mind that I’m not a nutritionist, I’m only sharing my personal experience here, which may or may not apply to your situation. If you are going to start a raw food diet in order to overcome a medical condition I highly recommend you to consult a doctor first. In this post I’m assuming that you are already a moderately healthy person, with a normal emotional balance who’s trying to improve something in his eating habits. This disclaimer in place, let’s get started.
Raw Food Goal
If you’re starting a raw food challenge please make your goal really clear. Not only in terms of duration, but also in terms of raw food / cooked food balance. I am on a 100% raw food diet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have it the same way. Maybe you’ll want a 75% raw – 25% cooked diet, which may be a little easier in the beginning.
The milestones described in this post are for a 30 days challenge on a 100% raw food diet, so feel free to adjust them downward if you’re going to have only 20 days 100% raw, or 30 days on a 75/25 diet.
Having a clear raw food challenge goal is very important. You’ll know every moment how far or close you are from the finish. You will also know how to evaluate the changes.
This goal will include the initial assessment of your situation. This assessment contains a realistic image of your current eating habits (all meat, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, etc) and your current health condition, including your current weight. It will be important to re-evaluate your assessment after the challenge. Take the time to write this in a secure place, even if it will take you an hour or two, it will pay off well in the end.
Raw Food Gear
Eating raw doesn’t mean you don’t process your food. You just don’t cook your food by exposing it to high temperature. But you will cut it, blend it, mix it, whatever. And for that you will need some gear. It’s possible to make it without those modern appliances but it would be quite difficult.
You will need at least one big blender for making smoothies, and a mixer for chopping roots or sauces. I call blender the one with the knife inside the recipient, and mixer the one with the detachable knife and handle. Maybe they have different names in your culture, but I guess you got the idea. You can also use an all-in-one tool, as long as you can chop, blend and mix together fruits, water and vegetables. You will also need a juice maker, but that’s pretty straightforward.
You don’t need to have super professional tools, but keep in mind they will be used a lot so if you don’t have them yet, please buy on the higher price scale. It’s easy to get caught in a “this juicer is broken again, I won’t continue this silly raw food diet, coz I don’t have the tools” pattern, so make yourself a service and buy good stuff.
You will also need a lot of storage space. Eating raw means eating fresh and eating more. I had to bring in another refrigerator after I realized I won’t go back to cooked food, only to accommodate the produce for my own meals. I also conquered around 1 square meter from our kitchen space for storing fruits and gear.
I started my raw food journey beginning of August, when it was pretty easy to find fruits and vegetables. Right now, during the winter, this might be a little difficult. There is a natural seasonal difference in your eating habits. You naturally eat more fruits and vegetables in the spring and summer, and need more fat and calories during fall and winter. So keep in mind that you will need a lot more fat rich produce during winter. And by that I mean seeds or nuts (cashew, almonds, pumpkin seeds, pine buds) and fat rich fruits like avocado.
Here’s how a regular day looked for me in the first month (this is very different from what I’m having now, after I finished the detox process and completely adapted to this new eating routine):
mix of roots and vegetables with water: 1-2 carrots, 1-2 parsley, 1/2 celery root, 1/2 beet root (at least 3 of those ingredients each time) with a glass of water. Blended together until fluid. The quantities were quite important, each morning I made it so I can have at least 1/2, 2 liters of blended food. I had a difficult time making my stomach understand that it has to take that all, but after 7-10 days, you can get over it. It’s difficult but it’s very important to eat a lot of calories in the morning.
brunch / early lunch
around 3-4 apples, or 1 pineapple, or 3-4 pears, or 4-5 bananas. Eating fruits is important because they are rich in sugar and you need a lot of energy in the morning. I assume that you will be in an office at that time, so you will be doing a lot of work. High sugar intake from natural sources is a good energy booster. It’s important not to feel drained during the day.
salads, lots of salads. Sometimes I even ate 2-3 salads of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and lemon juice. Didn’t use oil in the first month, not even olive oil.
usually I had 2 big grapes, or other big fruits, and even more salads, same structure as lunch. I managed to do it in such a way that at dinner time I wasn’t hungry at all. There were evenings in which I didn’t eat at all.
During the day it’s important to have a lot of liquids, either water (1-2 liters) or fruits juice (apples, carrots or oranges). It is a good calorie supplement and it helps with the detox process. As you can see, you will eat a lot more than before, so be prepared for that.
There are several milestones in this challenge and by that I understand specific moments in which you should pay more attention. During this phases you will tend to interrupt the challenge, for various reasons. Keep in mind that during the entire 30 days period you will experience detox symptoms. These symptoms may come in form of a mild cold, headaches, sneezing, excessive sweat and bad smell (from your mouth and / or your entire body). That means that your body is finally able to let go from the toxins he accumulated. These symptoms faded away at some point and completely disappeared after around two months, in my case.
7 days – this is the most important milestone because in my experience this is the moment you’re really tempted to fell off the wagon. It’s relatively easy to keep it for a week, but when the next one is coming, your reflexes are very strong and you’ll be inclined to quit. Please pay attention to this moment.
20 days – this is the time when the detox symptoms will start to become really annoying and you’ll start to ask if this is beneficial to you or not. Maybe you got the discipline to make it through, but the feed-back is still negative, your body is still throwing away toxins and is making you dizzy. It’s temporary, hold on.
30 days – the end of the challenge. Please take the time to re-assess all the information you had in the beginning: your general health condition, your weight, sleeping patterns, overall feeling and so on.
It’s ok to have them, just move on. You will experience a lot of cravings for cooked food, or just familiar tastes, but that’s something natural. I wrote it before: your taste is something that can be educated, just like you learn another language. Maybe in the beginning it’s difficult, but it’s doable, and easier than you think.
The main problem is not physical here, but psychological. It’s in your mind, not in that pizza. If you do eat something cooked, just acknowledge that and move on. Don’t stop this because you ate pizza one evening. In the first month I had a veggie sandwich sometime around the second week, and I just let it go. Didn’t stop the challenge because of that. I acknowledged it, and moved on.
This is why goal establishing from the beginning is so important. If you want to go 100% raw, then the psychological pressure will be bigger. If you plan to be on a 75/25 you’ll be on a much more relaxed territory.
By blogging I understand a place where you should note your day to day challenge progress. It can be your private diary or a public blog. I did it on a private journal and it worked for me. I noted each day my weight and my meals. Helped me notice the progress and also proved to be a good journaling exercise, did it for more than 3 months.
I think it would be a little more difficult if you wouldn’t assess your progress day by day, so prepare a journal for that. If you do it publicly, you may have the surprise to find a lot of support from other people on the same road. If you’re more like an extrovert, you can even join raw food communities or forums, and start posting your day to day experiences there.
In the first three months, keeping a raw food diet is more expensive than a normal diet. Not only in terms of money spent on food, but also in terms of time spent on assessing every new information, in terms of physical wellness (which will be worse in the first 2-3 weeks), and in terms of storage / gear / time consumed on cooking.
From my experience, things are going to relax after 3-4 months. After this period I know exactly what I have to eat, how much to buy and how many times I have to shop per week. Didn’t actually make the calculations but I suppose that now I’m spending less on food than I spent before going raw. But this is after 6 months, so be prepared to spend more in the beginning.
That’s all for now. You only need a little courage to start your journey. You may or may not remain in the raw food realm, but I bet the journey will be very interesting. If you have more questions, or just want to share your experiences with a raw food challenge, feel free to do it in the comments.