I feel it’s important to tell you about my own raw food journey and why I ended up creating the Eighty Percent Raw approach to eating.
The process started on September 6th, 2001. My husband and I were on a business trip to New York City just 5 days prior to 911. It was just a quick over-nighter, so early the following day we made the long flight back to Portland, Oregon.
Four days later we were on yet another business trip to the east coast, but this time our destination was Tampa, Florida. We arrived late on the evening of September 10th and, as you know, at 8:00am the next morning all hell broke loose. The gravity of our situation quickly sunk in as we realized that we were stranded 3,000 miles away from home and our teenage children were in Portland all by them selves. To make matters worse, I received a phone call from my oldest son in Texas, who had enlisted with the United States Army Reserves, informing me that he was on red alert awaiting orders to report for Basic Training. Needless to say, I was in a high state of anxiety, but doing my best to stay calm and balanced. What a relief it was three days later to learn the airport in Tampa was re-opening sooner than anticipated and we would be able to return home within the week.
Once again in Oregon we tried to adopt an optimistic attitude that life would get back to normal, but like everyone else, the foundation of our reality had been severely shaken. It wasn’t long before I became acutely aware that this experience would not be without its own deep seated repercussions.
Long story short, one month later on October 10th, 2001, I found out for the first time what it feels like to have a spontaneous panic attack. Little did I realize at the time the impact these episodes would have on my life for years to come.
This whole sequence of events began a domino effect that would ultimately lead to the development of Eighty Percent Raw. But at that point in time all I knew was that something inside me had broken and I wanted nothing more than to fix it.
Fortunately I was raised by a mother who taught me at an early age to trust in my own intuition and the wisdom found in nature. We weren’t a family who went to the doctor for every little cough or cold. In fact, I can probably count on two hands the number of times I visited our family physician during my entire childhood and adolescent years. Though I did occasionally take over the counter pain relievers or allergy medications, I was trained to prepare home remedies and concoctions based on natural herbs and healthy food such as lemons, vinegar, honey, garlic, and olive oil for healing whatever might ail me. I was also taught that diet plays a huge role in our overall health and well-being. This training served me well when, later in life, I was confronted with this break down in my body’s immune system.
In retrospect I have to say that, if nothing else, having those panic attacks taught me many valuable lessons about the power of pharmaceutical drugs to harm our bodies, especially when contrasted by the gentle healing properties inherent within whole and living foods. I was astonished that the doctor I visited didn’t even bother asking any questions about my diet or make suggestions regarding what I ate in the hope that this might alter my chemistry in a positive way and potentially heal my miserable condition.
I knew, at an intuitive level, that this was the key to my healing.
It was through this experience that I became more in tune with my own body and its nutritional needs.
I began experimenting with different foods to discover which would improve and which would make the panic symptoms worse. I had a firm belief that “you are what you eat” and possessed first hand knowledge that the food and beverages we consume directly affect the chemical balance in our bodies. Despite the fact that I was still eating much more cooked food than raw at that point, I was beginning to learn about foods that might contribute to a sense of calm and well being, and began incorporating more of these foods into my daily menus. I also investigated foods which might agitate or excite and I avoided these like the plague. It was at this time in my life that I decided to eliminate all processed foods, such as; refined grains, refined white sugar, all dairy products, artificial sweeteners, caffeinated beverages, and other non-whole foods from my diet. And I began to experience a level of healing as a result.
I lost weight and was feeling a significant improvement which sustained me for the next several years.
Fast forward to 2007, and keep in mind that I was observing the slow but steady decline in my father’s health, which not only made me concerned for his well-being, but also fed into fears I was suppressing about what my own future could be looking like if I followed in his footsteps, and we have the setting for my seemingly random introduction to raw foods.
Dad suffered a double heart attack about ten years previous to this time and had subsequently experienced many other health problems, including multiple mini-strokes which were beginning to significantly impact his memory, motor skills, and cognitive abilities.
My father was a brilliant man; an aeronautical engineer by profession, and his intellect was something I had always taken great pride in. So it was very deeply disturbing for me to see such a decline in not only his physical capabilities, but more significantly, his mental health.
Even though mom always tried to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals, we basically consumed the Standard American Diet (SAD). This consisted of mostly cooked foods which contained a considerable amount of wheat flour (mom insisted on baking with only the unbleached kind) and white flour in the form of noodles, tortillas, pizzas, store-bought doughnuts, coffee cakes, cookies and crackers in addition to all of the home-made goodies she baked. We frequently had potato chips, Ritz, and graham crackers in the house to snack on. Breakfast was cold or hot cereal with milk and sugar, pancakes, waffles, or a couple slices of cinnamon toast. Lunches were deli meat and cheese sandwiches or left over casserole or stew from a prior evening’s meal. Dinners were generally a noodle-based casserole, which more often than not was based on a cream and/or cheese sauce and meat of some kind. We also had lots of home-made soups and stews or mashed potatoes with gravy. Vegetables were usually from a can or sometimes the over-cooked frozen kind. Fruit came from a bottle that mom put up herself because she thought this was a healthier option than buying canned fruit from the store. But in reality these fruits were heavily cooked and saturated in sugar syrup. Often times we had home-made muffins or dinner rolls to accompany our evening meal. And most nights we also had dessert of ice cream, home made cake or cookies. The one really raw thing mom always insisted on having along side whatever else was served for dinner was a basic green salad (iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot, sliced radish and scallions) or coleslaw. But it was almost an after thought for the rest of us and we rarely, if ever, ate it.
I’m guessing all of this is sounding very familiar to you…
So, that is the basic diet dad lived on his entire adult life. Add to this the fact that he liked to “treat himself” to jugs full of Flavor-Ade (a Kool-Ade knock-off) prepared with a cupful of white sugar per gallon and cans of Chef Boy-R-Dee ravioli and you can begin to see where this might wreak havoc in his system and very likely led to his ultimate demise.
But we just didn’t know any better in those days. The fact that mom chose not to feed us Wonderbread and checked labels to make sure we weren’t consuming “artificial preservatives” put us (we thought) smack dab in the center of the health-food crowd.
So, raw foods…
In 2007 I was browsing MySpace when I came across a page by a woman who claimed to be a “Raw Foodist”. This label caught my attention because I had never heard the term before. There were lots of links on her page to websites on the subject so I jumped in with both feet! I was very intrigued by this unusual philosophy and lifestyle! When I discovered that the FDA assigns the same nutritional value to both raw and roasted almonds, yet if we took one of each and planted them in the ground only the raw one would sprout and grow, this information really struck a chord with me. I learned that the naturally occurring enzymes found in fresh fruits and vegetables are killed off when heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, and that the enzymes are the “living” part of the food. So when we eat foods that have been cooked, pasteurized or heated to this degree we are consuming essentially nutrient dead foods. A light just went on in my head. I was convinced this was the key to improving my own health and that a huge part of the reason my body had broken down in the first place was due to the fact that I had been feeding it primarily dead food my entire life. My body simply hadn’t been receiving the nutrition it needed to thrive.
I decided to try this lifestyle for myself to find out if it made a difference in my body.
By this time I had also been experiencing pretty extreme dizzy spells off and on, for a few years…mostly when I moved dramatically from a vertical to a horizontal position, or vice versa. And while I’d learned to live with this condition I did wish it would go away.
So, I immediately began following a 98% raw foods lifestyle. For six weeks the only cooked foods I consumed were small amounts of condiments such as traditional soy sauce, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc. I was completely devoted! And…I was rewarded with astonishing results for my efforts! I lost 15 pounds of excess weight and the dizzy spells I had been combating for years completely went away. As a bonus, the dry, flaky skin on my shins and the athlete’s foot on my left foot that had been bothering me for ages “magically” disappeared! My husband and teenagers even commented on how amazing all of this was!
But there was a trade off.
I quickly learned that many of the raw foods I was enjoying were not palatable to the rest of my family. My husband strongly dislikes such core raw food ingredients as; avocados, mushrooms, sea weed, squash, sweet potatoes, and anything that seems “strange” or out of the ordinary to him. As a result, mealtime became a huge challenge. While I was blissfully consuming raw foods that were making me feel fabulous, my husband and teenagers were subsisting on frozen burritos, pizzas, corn dogs, and Hot Pockets. I felt horrible knowing that these foods were not healthy for them and this difference in our eating habits was creating a massive divide in our family meal time. This became a big problem and it quickly became clear that something had to change. Additionally, my 100% raw approach proved to be a problem when we went out to eat, turning what used to be an enjoyable and blissful experience into one of discontent and frustration.
While I was experiencing this difficulty in our personal life, I was also participating in some very active, online raw food communities, message boards and discussion forums. These groups were great for offering new recipe ideas and support…but I began to notice a tendency toward fanaticism that was really starting to bother me. There was such an emphasis on being 100% raw that it teetered on the verge of being religious or dogmatic in attitude, and this, I felt, was unhealthy. Threads about the lack of available options when dining out came up and there were many who expressed a concern that the only menu item appropriate for raw foodists at most restaurants was the side salad, and at that, there were no dressing choices that didn’t more than likely contain some cooked ingredient. To me, this whole discussion was ridiculous. I figured if you were dining out and you chose to eat the salad as your meal, then by damn, eat whatever dressing you like! You’re still far and away ahead of most people who are making less healthy food choices! But not these people…there was talk of carrying your own, home-made, raw dressing in your purse so that you’d have something you knew was 100% raw to put on your bed of salad greens at the restaurant.
All of this, combined with the stress of division over meals in our home life, made me rethink my approach.
And that’s when I began to recognize the benefit of an Eighty Percent Raw approach.
(More to come…)