I learned so much and drew so many lessons from my 100% raw foods trial that writing this post turned out to be far more difficult than I expected. However, instead of writing an exhaustive (and endless) post covering every takeaway from the week, I decided simply to share what I thought were the four most crucial lessons.
[For readers tuning in for the first time, here's the archive page for my entire raw foods trial.]
1) You don't have to go 100% raw to capture most of the benefits of raw foods.
I'm convinced that it would be nearly as effective, and far easier, to apply an 80/20 approach to raw foods rather than going 100% raw. In fact, I'd suggest a trial of eating a raw breakfast and a raw lunch, then perhaps at dinnertime starting with a platter of raw veggies followed by a modest serving of cooked food.
You'll capture most of the benefits of a 100% raw diet (better mental clarity, better nutrition, and a healthy, satisfying diet on a fraction of the calories), with none of the food cravings and detox symptoms that are fixtures of a strict, absolutist raw diet. Moreover, a diet structured this way would save you from becoming a culinary outcast in your own home.
2) Weight loss.
I clearly lost weight and looked noticeably thinner after just one week of eating raw, even though I was already quite thin to begin with. Weight loss is an almost universal result experienced by new raw foodists (for one of the most highly compelling examples, see Angela Stokes' experience). I didn't weigh myself before and after my trial, but I'd guess I lost 3-4 pounds, despite the fact that I literally ate as much as I wanted to all week.
Therefore, if you are above your optimal weight, I strongly encourage you to explore raw foods. The bottom line is this: it takes so much effort to overeat on a raw food diet that it becomes easy to lose weight. If you can stick to a fully- or mostly-raw diet for a meaningful length of time, I'm convinced you will achieve powerful results.
3) Own your food cravings.
This week of raw foods helped me completely reframe how I think about food cravings, and it was by far the most significant (and unexpected) benefit of my raw trial. Normally when I have a food craving, I simply react to it. If I want chocolate, I go into the kitchen and eat some. If I want ice cream or chips and we have them around, I'll just dig in. It goes without saying that responding to food cravings in this way is a deeply unconscious act.
I had all sorts of cravings during my week of raw foods, but I obviously couldn't act on them without ruining the trial. As a result, I essentially spent the week having no choice but to observe these cravings and think about them more consciously and more objectively.
This was an enormous blessing, because it turns out that under conscious and thoughtful observation even the most powerful food cravings shrivel up and become easy to resist. Whenever I took a few moments to think instead of react to my food cravings, I had a far greater ability to consider the nature of the craving and then decide whether to act on it or say no to it. And being forced to do this repeatedly over the course of my week of raw foods helped me deeply grasp that I have much more power over my feelings and food cravings than I ever imagined.
I believe there are important implications here for anyone who wants to control their relationship with food, and I encourage any reader who struggles with unhealthy food cravings to try their own raw foods trial--not just for the opportunity for weight loss, but for the opportunity to experience food cravings on a deeply objective and intellectual level. I believe you will prove to yourself once and for all that your cravings don't own you--you own them.
A final thought: if you really want to appreciate the things in life that make you truly happy, try giving them up for a while. Seriously. This raw trial helped teach me true gratitude for many daily food habits I took entirely for granted--things like my morning coffee, an afternoon snack of dark chocolate, or an evening glass of red wine. I never would have guessed that one of the most powerful lessons of a one week raw foods trial would be to teach me a deep appreciation for a simple life that grants us these seemingly minor things.
Readers, for those of you who have experimented with raw foods, what did you learn? And those of you who are new to raw, are you thinking of doing your own raw trial? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
For any readers who want to go beyond the context of food and pursue further reading on the issues of emotions and cravings, let me recommend four books that helped me significantly:
How To Want What You Have by Timothy Ray Miller
The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin
The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
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