I was a raw foodist – and yes, I called myself that. I sometimes said I was ‘80% raw’ or, on a good day, 95% raw.
I started eating raw food when I was 21 years old during the last year or so of my university course. I had been binge eating compulsively throughout my late teens and I was desperate to do something transformative to my way of eating. I had done WW, and food plans and calorie counting and I felt like I was out of control with my eating.
There was a part of me convinced I was doing the raw food diet (because that’s what it is) for health reasons – but there was another part of me that wanted to be a skinny, tanned, banana eating, beach frolicking gal.
To start with, challenging myself to eat different fruits and vegetables in new ways was actually fun. I’m not going to deny that, because I started off just adding some more veg to my normal way of eating.
But – before long, I delved deeper into the scary world of the RAW FOODISTS! Back in the early 2000s when internet forums were all the rage, I explored pages and pages of people promoting a high raw food way of eating and claimed extreme health-promoting results from it.
It was hard NOT to be drawn into the claims of radical health transformations and the protective nature of all those soaked, activated nuts and seeds.
The thing is, I’m not denying that adding more of these foods into your way of eating can be beneficial; the mindf**k is when this becomes your way of life, your way of eating 100% of the time and makes eating out or visiting people almost impossible and you become obsessed and lost in a world of numbers and counting macros; being frightened of sugar and processed foods.
Because that’s what happened to me – I got lost in that world. I didn’t notice the red flags immediately, but let me point them out to you now with my gift of hindsight.
I would read cooking books and stare longingly at cakes and pastries and all that, but I wouldn’t dare eat them.
If I did eat something that was cooked (shock horror) I would chew it, and then – spit it out. (Oh god).
I would be such a pain in the ar*e when I went visiting people or travelling abroad, and honestly, I cringe so much that people made raw foods for me. I’m so sorry to you if you’re reading this!
And then, I moved into an even scarier and dangerous place in my raw food way of eating. I discovered the work of someone who called himself a doctor – but was in fact an osteopath, but I disregarded that little fact and just focused on the dramatic way that he promoted a more extreme version of the raw food diet. It was called the Low Fat – High Fruit way of eating raw foods. He had a dedicated following (you might have heard of some of the nuttier ones from their banana eating and Island Living YouTube videos) who bragged about their super healthy way of eating! It was natural! It was what our ape ancestors would have eaten – so of course, we should be doing it too!
Okay, I thought – more fruit! This sounds great, I said to myself. I must have been so done with soaking my mung beans and grating my carrots. So – if fruit was now ‘on plan’ then that’s what I would eat. And so I ate. And ate – a LOT of fruit. And only 10 Brazil nuts a day! Yeah – another red flag to add to the list above, if you’re counting your Brazil nuts then you need some help my love.
I’m cautious to say this, but I lost weight – but please, don’t think this was healthy or desirable. My skin sagged under the weight loss, and I have silvery stretch marks on my thighs from then.
I finally had a concerned comment from a co-worker. It was the first concerned comment I’d really had from another person. I had had people commenting on the raw foods, but no one really challenged me on whether it was disordered or not. My lovely co-worker said I didn’t look very well. And looking back, she was right. I had dark circles under my eyes and my hair was really dry and dull – like my skin – which had a greyish tone. Not quite the golden sun-kissed look I had initially wanted for myself.
Oh yeah – that reminds me of another horribly embarrassing and dangerous thing I did when I was lost in this crappy world of raw food – I would go out into the sun with no sun-cream on (the chemicals!) and I would stare into the sun like some Trumpian idiot because sun-bathing like our ape ancestors was recommended and encouraged. So now, in my near 40’s, I don’t thank myself for that with my lovely eye wrinkles!
Anyways. Where was I? Oh yes – my failing health.
I began to have pain in my sides, and my stomach was not very well at all, and my IBS was really flared up. I went to get all this checked out with some unpleasant invasive procedures. First an Ultrasound and then a colonoscopy. Luckily, there was nothing worrying to be found – although they did find some gallstones.
I was still in pain though, and then – my teeth. You’ve probably heard me talk about my teeth if you’ve come to any of my workshops, but I started to notice dark brown patches on top of my teeth. And those patches became bigger and bigger until I realised I was losing my enamel. Enamel that should have been lasting me ALL MY LIFE was disintegrating right in front of me.
I was binge eating my raw fruit. I would eat fruit all day long. It wasn’t just that I was bingeing (because I had never really healed my food relationship), but also: FRUIT DOES NOT FILL YOU UP. Because I wasn’t eating any fat sources, I was starving so I had to eat so much food.
A friend commented at the time, “Wow, your portions are massive.” Like most herbivores out there, you will know that they eat all day long, grazing grass every hour of the day. Well, that was me. Grazing on berries and fruit. And often, if I was rebellious, I’d eat tahini on my fruit which was a (delicious and much needed) fat – but would just stick that sugary fruit right to my teeth and – goodbye enamel.
Man, was I unwell. I can’t tell you enough – this way of eating is NOT GOOD. If you hadn’t got that by now, let me make it plain: Do not follow the raw food diet. Do not count your Brazil nuts and don’t eat just fruit.
So where did it lead me? In a weird way, perhaps it’s what I needed because I had the life-changing realisation around that time when my enamel was wearing away, and that was: Food is not the problem – it was my relationship with it.
Yup, I realised that I had tried to control my food and make it perfect because I did not like who I was. After all, I had set out on this perilous raw food journey because I wanted to be different. A new, better person, which, let’s face it – is what most people do at the start of any diet. And with that mindset, you will get yourself in deep sh*t.
If you don’t like yourself, you will listen to stupid fake internet doctors who claim that seeds are the devil’s food.
If I had liked myself more, I would have realised that what I needed was self-esteem, not a colonic irrigation.
I didn’t know anything about intuitive eating at that time, but that’s what I gently transitioned to.
It actually came about through my work on myself, because I *finally* had that deep understanding that I need to have a better relationship with who I am, and my self-esteem needed serious help.
I got to therapy, I got all the self-help books (and yes, they did help) and I learned how to accept myself. And through those actions, my relationship with food become kinder, and I listened to myself and I allowed myself to eat freely with no restrictions.
Now – it didn’t take long for me to find balance with food, a balance I still have to this day. And when you think about it, that’s very impressive considering I had such a horrendous food relationship from the age of 14 to my mid 20’s. So the fact that I could eat happily after 1 year of deciding to quit dieting is a testament to the fact that you, and your body, know how to find balance.
It is what it is designed to do – you just need to step out of your own goddamn way.
Enough with the unnecessary food rules, enough with the restriction and denial, and enough with counting out stupid food numbers – step back, and listen. You have it within you to eat food and find a happy balance with it.
If you are on any diet, let alone an extreme raw food diet – know that you can leave it and feel good, healthy and balanced. It is possible, but it takes learning how to improve your relationship – not just with food, but with yourself. I’m here to help if you ever need more support.