It was a vegetable feast. The table was set with a green cloth and linen napkins, and in the center there was a large platter filled with colorful sliced vegetables including red, orange and yellow peppers, radishes, sugarsnap peas, and crunchy slices of raw jicama.
There were bowls of sundried tomato tahini, pico de gallo, gaucamole. There was a large bowl of fruit salad with walnuts and raisins.
Nothing had been cooked. Everything was raw, chopped and prepared, or “uncooked,” as my best friend Steph, a talented vegan chef, likes to say (she’s the one on the left, and I’m the redhead in the green).
Raw Like Me
Steph and I have embarked on a “Raw Vegan” challenge for Lent, which we call “RawLent” this year. Eating a raw vegan diet means literally eating no cooked foods, at all. Basically, you subsist on various combinations of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.
I know it sounds like “rabbit food,” but I swear it has actually been pretty tasty, and we have definitely been creative.
You might wonder why one would decide to embark on a diet that included no raw foods. Now, mind you, this is temporary, lasting only for the forty days of Lent. And we plan to return to “normal eating” after that, which for me means a vegetarian diet.
Going raw is supposed to be good for you because the food is “live” and has natural enzymes needed to break down nutrients, as described by writer Jonathan Mead on the blog Zen Habits:
- Live foods. It’s common sense right? A cooked seed won’t grow, but a raw seed will. Heating food over 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys much of the nutrients in your food. Cooking food also diminishes the natural life energy. I’d rather put living food in my body.
- Enzymes. Cooking food destroys much of the natural enzymes (your body can also create enzymes, but can only do so much) in your food that are needed to break down nutrients. Eating raw eliminates this problem.
It is supposed to increase your energy levels, clear up your skin, and help you get a better night’s sleep. I have generally found all three of these to be true although I slept pretty well to begin with, so it’s hard to say if this is making a big difference.
And my energy levels had actually been a little bit lower than usual after a breakup with my boyfriend; yet I do think this has helped balance me out and raise them again.
It is definitely challenging to break the habit of eating cooked food. And being really creative with our meals has meant many hours spent in the kitchen. We eat raw “stir fries,” raw “spaghetti and nutballs,” raw chocolate pudding.
I definitely have craved pastas, pizza, hot soup, and coffee. And do not even mention macaroni and cheese around me; to watch someone eat that favorite comfort food would be food porn for me right now.
That said, I have found the diet to be surprisingly satisfying. I’ve lost a few pounds, which I wanted to do before my upcoming birthday. And I generally feel and look very healthy.
Most people who go “raw” resort after 30 days or so to being 50% to 80% raw. So, for example, you could have a green smoothie for breakfast and a big salad with avocado for lunch, then have a “regular” cooked dinner. I will likely start doing that when Lent is over.
Finally Taking On the Challenge
I thought about trying a raw diet months ago, to serve as a “detox” for my body and to hopefully lose five or so pounds. Yet I’d never committed to diving all the way in until Steph decided she wanted to do it for Lent. With a partner in crime for my “uncooking” adventures, I was off and running.
I also, thanks to the suggestion of another friend, created a group on Facebook for RawLent where people who wanted to join in our little raw food adventure could post recipes, links and photos. More than two dozen people joined the group! I found fun Websites like www.therawdivas.com and www.rawmazing.com
Steph and I decided that our theme song would be the song “Dontcha” by the Pussycat Dolls. “Dontcha wish your girlfriend was HOT like me… Dontcha wish your girlfriend was RAW like me… Dontcha….”
Somehow singing this made all the extra time spent preparing chopped vegetables in the kitchen, and the extra money spent on raw nuts and dried fruits, feel worth it.
Being creative, and making the meals look beautiful in addition to tasting good, helps. We are all about the presentation.
Of course, sharing the adventure with my best friend, and a whole posse of people who have joined in on Facebook, definitely helps.
Making It Fun
For me at least, when I introduce a new habit, I often have to trick myself into making it fun or sexy somehow, beyond really drilling the benefits of it into my mind, in order to adopt it over time. When I first considered doing a raw diet on my own, it sounded like something that would be good for my health, but it also sounded like too much work, and like deprivation.
Taking it on with my best friend, and with a whole Facebook team, and with a theme song, made it so much more palatable.
I have noticed in my life and in those around me that sometimes when we embark on a dream journey, we decide that it’s so important to achieve some goal we have set for ourselves that we work furiously hard and make the whole exercise joyless. Or we fear diving in and procrastinate and avoid it all together.
Aren’t we attempting to live our dreams because we think doing so will make us happier? And because we supposedly enjoy whatever it is we are choosing to do?
Isn’t it supposed to be about the journey, and enjoying it along the way?
Play Is Good For You!
Recent research shows that play is good for adults. It enables us to form deeper and more intimate connections with others more quickly, laugh more often, release aggression and cooperate better. Yet as adults we so often get so busy focusing on work and family and bills and “important stuff to do” that play can get squeezed out of our lives.
The raw journey has become very playful for us, because we experiment with recipes constantly, sometimes failing of course. And we spend a lot of time preparing food together, which involves a lot of girl-time in the kitchen, and a lot of laughs.
I’ve found ways to make my workouts more fun lately as well, because I also decided to ramp up my workout schedule in these weeks before my birthday. I have taken up boxing again, punching one of the big heavy bags, thanks to my ex-boyfriend, who is my personal trainer. I am taking more dancing classes. I signed up for a class at the gym called “Rockbottom.”
In all of the above, a group, teacher or friend helps motivate me to exercise, and makes it more fun.
I’m boxing. I’m shaking my booty at the gym. I’m eating more greens than I have in years. It all feels really good.
Now To Make the Book Fun Again!
I’ve been doing well on my health goals and dreams, and have been moving forward with another dream, which is growing my life coaching business. However, I am definitely procrastinating on one of my big dreams this year, which is finishing my book.
I somehow, miraculously, managed to write a 459-page manuscript last year, which was a dream achieved. Now, however, after diving back in and reading it, and comprehending the amount of work I have left to do to make it a polished manuscript, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed again.
I need to make writing the book feel like fun again. And I need to remind myself of the reasons I want to do this.
I decided to go raw vegan in part because I turn 40 in a few weeks, and want to look and feel my best. I was willing to step up my diet and exercise routines to make this happen.
I am writing this book because I think my journey of overcoming trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and finding inner peace and joy can help others. This is a story that decided it needed to be told. It has also been a lifelong dream to write books, and I love writing in general.
I think part of what makes it feel “not fun” sometimes is my fear of failing, of it not being good enough, of not writing the book I dream of writing. What if I can’t make it match the vision in my head?
Yet I’m committed. So it’s time to make this joyful again.
Making Your Dreams Fun!
If working on a dream currently feels joyless for you, it may be time to revisit the reasons why you want to live this dream, and to also find ways to enjoy the process of working towards the dream again. Here’s what I’m going to do:
- Rediscover the Why of it. Revisit the reasons why you want to accomplish this dream. Write them down! Why did you set this goal in the first place? Find the love and inspiration in it again!
- Find a Dream Buddy or someone to share the process with. I’m going to look into starting a writers’ group here in Troy so I can share my manuscript in progress with others, and enlist “early readers” to give me feedback. Sharing the work and the process helps make it more joyful again.
- Get lost in the flow of living your dream. When I’m deeply involved in my writing, it is really fun. When I “think about writing,” I may not enjoy it so much. When I actually DO it, I have fun!
- When all else fails, come up with a theme song! If you can dance around the kitchen to your “Dream Song,” I swear it’ll give you your mojo back to achieve it. I think my theme song for finishing the book will be, Burning Down the House, which is the current working title and a good thumping song to get me moving again.
Why live your dreams if you’re not enjoying it? Put the joy back in it! Go have some fun!
Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. She is also a lindy hopper, belly dancer and globe-trotter. Her post day is Tuesday.