I’ve been ruined. Or saved, depending on how you look at it. The enjoyment I got from most of the food I ate pre-raw has been spoiled. What I have eaten still tastes good, but the guilt and obsession that I now choke down with it overwhelms most of the gratification. Sugar is out of the question. The only white sugar I’ve swallowed in the two weeks since we stopped being totally raw is in the one bite of cake I had at a colleague’s going away party. I want the homemade oatmeal cookies sitting on the office file cabinet, but I don’t dare. Blue raw agave and raw honey are the only sweeteners I allow myself. Red meat appears to be a definite no-no. I haven’t had one bite in more than two months now, and although it was never a regular thing for me, I used to enjoy an occasional grilled cheeseburger or steak. The thought now makes me ill. Meat in general gives me the heebies. I’ve had one or two bites of chicken. It seems the only flesh I can stomach is grilled salmon and shrimp, which I’m craving. And what’s that about? I never even liked salmon. Maybe it’s the iodine I need. Dairy seems verboten. I have enjoyed a little cheese, some my boss brought back from Madeira, and some yummy horseradish cheddar. But I can’t bring myself to eat more than a bite or two every couple of days. So far, no eggs (a former favorite), no milk or plain yogurt, all pre-raw staples. The exception to my feelings of guilt: 1/2 cup of coffee, with almond milk as a creamer and sweetened with agave. I had planned to wait for winter to go back to caffeine, but it’s been so damn cold for May, that I gave in on Mother’s Day. It was good. I could feel it coursing through my veins, strengthening my every fiber. What am I eating? Generally, green smoothies for breakfast, or chia seed pudding and fresh squeezed OJ (I’ve had toast twice.) A salad or second smoothie for lunch, or an organic apple with almond butter. For dinner, I’ve been eating another salad, or cooked veggies, lots of them — another craving I don’t understand. I have this need to throw a little olive oil, onion and garlic in a skillet and stir-fry zucchini, mushooms, spinach, peppers, any veggie I can find. Sometimes I wrap a whole-wheat tortilla around them and add some salsa, other times I eat them straight from the pan. I can’t get enough of them. Just the fact that I can remember most of the cooked food I’ve eaten since April 30 is an indication of how little I have had — or how mentally ill I’ve become: spicy black bean soup, veggie Panang curry, a few organic corn tortilla chips with mashed avocado, the above-mentioned seafood and sauteed veggie burritos. I don’t feel sick or tired when I eat cooked food, just guilty. My energy level is still high, I haven’t regained any weight, and apparently I haven’t lost the previously blogged about “glow.” An example of how far around the bend I’ve gone: It’s Mother’s Day. I get up before my family and decide to forgo my smoothie for a single slice of whole-wheat raisin pecan bread. Not toasted, no butter. I work in the yard the rest of the day and forget to eat until we’re at my new favorite Thai restaurant. I order the Panang curry, no meat, no tofu. I eat one quarter of the rice with it, and maybe 1/2 of the veggies and curry broth. When we get home, I start obsessing about the ingredients. I go on the Web. I find out it has coconut milk. Then I find out coconut milk has a whopping 50 grams of SATURATED fat per cup. There must be some mistake. I keep looking on the Internet. Wait. Light coconut milk drops to 12 grams of fat per cup. Surely that’s what I ate. It’s too late to call the restaurant. You see what I mean. Even if I drank an entire cup of the thick coconut milk, I would have still consumed less than 1,000 calories that day. And I worked in the garden for more than nine solid hours. I really need to get a grip — or a therapist. I haven’t obsessed about food like this since I was a college student. For more than 25 years I have railed against women who are obsessed about their appearance and their weight. I don’t think that is what this is about, although I’m forced to admit I don’t want to regain the weight I’ve lost. It has made exercise and dressing so much easier. So what the hell is going on? My best friend says she is not surprised. For more than 30 days, we micromanaged and monitored every morsel that went into our mouths. Hundreds of people were watching us, and still are. There is this blog post, and one more. We’ve been asked to do another television interview. People still want to talk about it. It’s almost like they are waiting for us to start looking and feeling like our pathetic, pre-raw selves. But the aftershock isn’t all bad. Some positives: I am successfully spreading the word on the miracle of chia seeds. I have two (maybe three) of my co-workers eating them, and one of my neighbors, who recently underwent cancer surgery, is extremely grateful for the chia-seed pudding I whipped up for her to help her eliminate (pun intented) the effects of the pain medication she was on. My food bill is a bit lower, even though I am buying as much organic as I can. I think it’s because I’m not buying processed foods (bread and canned items don’t count, although even with those I am buying organic and preservative-free.) Even though they are complaining a bit, my kids are eating better, because the fruits and veggies in the house are the only choice they have. And they don’t mind the homemade cookies, fruit breads and muffins (sweetened with agave) I’m making to feel the void of the processed alternatives. Will I ever revert to my poisonous, pre-raw ways? I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before I get a healthier perspective. Because those oatmeal cookies are still calling to me.
The beauty of a fantasy is that it can change at will. Instead of that lonely tropical island I longed for, I am now on a yacht, sailing warm, calm seas. I am still alone. Well, almost alone. There is a chef on board — a culinary master with unimaginable skills. She knows Thai. She knows Indian, Mexican, Cajun, Asian, Caribbean. And, yes, she knows raw. Tropical green smoothies for breakfast. Luscious salads for lunch. And endless, eclectic delights for dinner. With so many choices in the world, and so little time to enjoy them, why would I settle for just one option? After 30 days of eating exclusively raw foods, I am hungry for variety. That doesn’t mean I won’t carry a lot with me from this experiment. My eating habits definitely have changed permanently. I’m not willing to forgo the extra energy I feel or to regain the small amount of weight I have lost, which makes exercising so much easier. And although this is a healthful way to eat, it’s not the only healthful way, and I don’t see my life taking me down an exclusively raw path — mostly because of its limitations, but also because I am just not an extremist in anything I do. So I won’t be sad to leave this experiment behind, but I won’t be going back to SAD, either. I envision eating salads, smoothies and chia seeds daily. Soaked nuts, almond butter and almond milk are here to stay. Raw agave and honey will be my sweetener of choice. Processed foods are mostly part of my past. But I will be eating dinner with my family and dining out with my friends in moderation. My choices on those occasions will no doubt include more raw, but not exclusively. What I won’t miss? The monotony. Green juices. Multiple trips to Whole Foods. Thinking today about what I’m having for tomorrow’s dinner. And my bathroom. Will I ever eat exclusively raw again? Only if my yacht sinks, my chef drowns and I end up stranded on that island after all.
People keep congratulating us -- like we've done something special.
But people set challenges for themselves all the time, diet or otherwise. They succeed. They fail. They try again.
But they don't do it with hundreds of people watching.
So on this evening, during the last few hours of our little experiment, that's what I'm looking forward to most. Not breakfast, but the choice to choose what I eat without it being so public -- the choice to fail or succeed without letting anyone else down.
Don't get me wrong. I've truly enjoyed most of this, but I'm not sure I could have done it without the pressure of everyone watching.
So I don't feel that I have done anything that challenging or special. The people who are conquering real challenges are the raw foodists who are constantly bombarded with the memory and smells of cooked foods but resist eating them because they believe it is what is best for mind and body.
So I'm happy to be out of the public eye, but I'm willing to let you know what I'm eating for breakfast on the first day of my new semi-raw life:
One piece of sprouted-grain toast with organic butter and raw honey, chia seed and almond milk pudding and organic freshly squeezed oj.
This started out as the hardest weekend of all. So close to the finish line, yet still too far to go.
I'm ready to be finished. So ready. During my trip to the market this weekend, I found myself stuffing my cart with goodies for my family. A horseradish cheddar. Marinated olives. Steaming, creamy lentil and coconut Thai soup. Then it hit me. These weren't foods my family wanted. These were foods I wanted.
I bought it all anyway. I made them eat it.
That was Saturday. Sunday was better.
Great actually. First I got to meet Joann's delightful sister, Donna, our guest blogger, who was kind enough to walk me around the city with Joann for several hours before our dinner at Pure Food and Wine in New York -- 14 "raw foodies" hooking up for a gourmet meal. Everyone was charming and the food was fabulous. We had three courses, and I had my first glass of wine in more than six weeks. I had a mushroom and white asparagus appetizer; white corn tamales with raw cacao mole, marinated mushrooms, salsa verde and avocado as my entree; and the flourless chocolate cake for dessert. The first two courses were tasty, but the dessert was outrageous. In my limited experience, raw desserts are by far the best of the magic that raw food chefs are able to create. (I even caught one member of our party, who shall remain nameless, licking his dish.)
I can't possibly remember everyone's name, but Joann, Eric and I sat with Glen Colello, Lisa Storch and Frank Giglio, a really nice guy aptly named because of his honest and direct answers to my questions (although the mother in me is a little freaked out by his goal to run 100 miles in under 30 hours.)
It was refreshing to hear from him that each person has to to search for what works for her, that trying to live someone else's rigid dogma is a sure way to fail. He's been eating raw for a while now, and I gathered that he's eating really high on the scale, very few nuts and fats. But he's not grossed out by the smells of grilling food, and it did my mother's heart good to hear him say how fondly he remembers the food from his childhood. His understanding of the world's temptations was comforting and went a long way toward easing some the of the guilt I'm feeling about certain things I plan to eat after Tuesday. (Hey, that's tomorrow!)
We didn't get home until 1:30 in the morning, so I'm running on about 4 hours of sleep today. In my pre-raw life, I would have dragged myself out of bed and been dragging myself around the rest of the day, counting the hours until bedtime. But I feel good. Good enough, in fact, that I'm going to the gym tonight. Not bad for the old gal in the group.
Someone recognized me at Whole Foods the other day. Not someone I know. A stranger.
"Aren't you one of those raw food people?"
I don't know, am I?
For now, of course, the answer is yes. But what about on April 30, when we are technically finished with our experiment? How much raw will I have to eat to be considered "one of those raw food people?"
I get the feeling that it has to be a lot. Most of my diet, in fact. What I plan to do is to eat enough raw food to maintain the health and energy benefits I have received this month. Only I will be able to determine that level as I go along.
But a heavy sense of disapproval of cooked foods, dairy, meat, caffeine, etc., from the people we have encountered has made me feel guilty about certain foods I want back in my diet.
Like bread. Eggs. Cheese. And maybe coffee. These are all foods I love. I have no intention of giving them up forever, but I'm wondering if they have been a bit spoiled for me.
I'm looking at a casserole dish with chunks of sweet potatoes, baby carrots, garlic cloves, onions, rosemary and olive oil. All things I'm allowed to eat.
Until I put in in the oven.
I'm having some trouble with that, with believing that the food before me becomes toxic when I cook it. I understand that cooking food causes it to lose some of its nutrients. But toxic? Processed foods, yes. Sugar, yes. Dairy and caffeine, maybe. But a roasted sweet potato or carrot is not good for me? If I were to eat all the foods I'm eating now, but I cooked some of them, would I feel less energetic? Would I be more prone to cancer or other disease? Would I actually stop glowing?
The science on this varies. You can find many a website to support a yes or no answer to my questions. Most of it is complicated and difficult to understand. So I'm going to do what I always do when this experience is over.
I'm going to go with my gut.
Maybe I'm having trouble with this concept because this weekend was the first time I really, really wanted something else to eat. Like Eric, I'm bored. Willpower came heavily into play while preparing food for my family, and I felt hungry for the first time, although I'll admit that was probably more psychological then physical. I kept thinking, "The toast I eat is flourless. It has spouted organic grains, no sugar, no preservatives, nothing bad for me. So why can't I have it?"
I didn't give into temptation, but it's the first thing I'm eating on April 30. With raw honey.