Thursday, September 23, 2010

Detox time: what it feels like to go RAW

For the most part, I have a very good immune system.  My children and husband will all get sick around me, yet usually I just get a faint hint of the symptoms, or stay completely healthy.  Sometimes though, everything seems to go wrong.  I come down with one thing, and then, like dominoes, I get one annoying malady after another.  Recently I've endured a string of medications for various things, and one medical intervention seems to lead to another.  I decided that at last, I'd had enough.  My body needs a rest, and it needs a chance to heal itself.  To facilitate this, I've challenged myself to a 3-day vegan raw food "fast".

In the beginning, I was pretty certain that I wouldn't make it.  I felt panicky thinking about all of the things I WOULDN'T be able to eat...and realizing how wholly unprepared for this I am -- I don't generally eat almost ANYTHING raw.  Raw food tends to take longer to eat, and is less filling (an apple vs. a muffin?  The muffin wins every time).  With 4 children and an always hungry husband to care for, RAW just sounds like a terrible lifestyle choice.  However, I was getting desperate, so I on Tuesday, I took the plunge.

Added to the raw diet, I also decided to do a detox drink three times a day: 1 tablespoon maple syrup (supposed to be grade B, but I only had the grade A, so that's what I'm using), 2 tablespoons vinegar (the unfiltered kind "with the mother" still in it), a few healthy dashes of cayenne pepper, and a bunch of cold water to bring it all together.

Finally, I chose to cut my coffee consumption by a third. It's not much, but every morning I drink 3/4 cup of cold press coffee cut with 3/4 a cup of milk. It's delicious. I didn't want to go cold turkey and deal with the migraines on top of food cravings, so I decided to just cut my coffee to 1/2 cup of the cold press concentrate, and make up the rest in water (it never occurred to me to use almond or rice milk instead of the water. In retrospect, that would have been a better idea.)

Day 1: I felt hungry, weak, and had a lingering headache.  Oh, and did I mention hungry?  RAVENOUS.   All that I could think about was food...and all of the food that I could not have.  I had a banana for breakfast, and a small coldpress coffee. 

At the gym on my stationary calisthenic machine, it seemed that the only things on TV were commercials for FOODFOODFOOD.  That was a little rough.  For dinner, I made my family tacos, which I can do in my sleep, and according to Greg (since I did not taste it), did a good job of seasoning by eye and by smell.  Score one for me.

I ate several salads throughout the day, the best of which was a cherry tomato, avocado and radish salad with a bit of crushed garlic, extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt.  I didn't feel hungry for about an hour, which was kind of huge.


After a tossed green salad for dinner, I snacked on grapes before bed, but still fell asleep feeling hungry, not even wanting to imagine going through two more days of this.

Day 2: I had ordered a book on raw food from, and it was supposed to come sometime that day.  ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS GETTING THAT BOOK.  I ate yet another banana for breakfast before going to the gym (along with a small cup of cold press coffee cut with water), and this time noticed a good deal of energy. It was like I was burning "clean" fuel instead of feeling my body fight through the digestion of my usual breakfast (2 slices of homemade bread with butter, a coffee with milk). About half-way through the day, the much anticipated book landed at my doorstep:

Raw Food Made Easy For 1 or 2 People

Hope sprang anew! There are beautiful color photographs sprinkled throughout, and I felt like life just might be worth living again. (Have I ever discussed how OBSESSED I am with food? No? Remind me to bring it up sometime.)  Most importantly, this book does not require that you have all sorts of Raw Foodie tools (such as a dehydrator).  Also, the ingredient lists are pretty standard to your average household, so overall this is a great book for beginners in this sort of cuisine.

After making a big pot of garlicky lentils and rice for Greg and the children, I made a warm bowl of Miso soup for myself, from one of the recipes in the Raw Food book. I'm not sure if it counts as a totally raw recipe, since the carrots and spinach are soaked in freshly boiled water for 5 minutes, but MY GOSH it was good to have something hot and filling and NOT SALAD.

As an evening snack, I made a pecan pate and scooped it atop some fresh greens, as one might do with tuna or chicken salad. It was filling, and rather tasty.

Day 3: This morning, once again, I was not super groggy as I woke up. I mean, I felt sleepy and hungry, but not wiped out like I usually do when I roll out of bed. A banana and coffee for breakfast again, and a workout at the gym.

For lunch, I had some leftover pecan pate, so I spread spoonfulls of it on slices of vine-ripened tomato, showered some alfalfa sprouts over it, and lay some slices of black olive on top.

This was a riff on a recipe "Tomato Stacks" from the raw cookbook . I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of this "raw" business...and lunch was pretty filling and delicious. I sprinkled the dish with flaky Maldon sea salt for added texture. It was a thing of beauty.

After lunch, I felt like it was about time that I had something sweet. Using the raw cookbook once again, I followed the recipes for chocolate mousse and vanilla cream (with flecks of vanilla bean), and put it together with some sliced bananas as a parfait.

Daisy ate the chocolate mousse all by itself and kept asking for more.

She could never guess that the creamy body in the dish is actually avocados.

I'll never tell.

(Billy was taking a nap at the time of these pics, but he "helped" me to process these, and kept scooping giant heaping finger-fulls of the mousse into his mouth as I worked. I would call that a success!)

Overall, this has been an eye-opening experience. I feel more energized and healthy, and as long as I drink enough cups of water, have been able to have a pretty good attitude about this whole adventure.

Cons: Raw nuts and seeds are the "meat" of a raw vegan diet, and can get pretty expensive pretty quickly, although the produce side of it really isn't all that pricey. Also, I really, really miss bread. Really. This is not a very filling diet.

However, I think that it might be a good idea for me to continue to incorporate more raw into my normal diet, perhaps eating only raw for breakfast (but supplemented by a little yogurt and such) and mostly raw lunches, and definitely more raw snacks and desserts.

The idea of going completely vegan and completely raw in the next foreseeable future doesn't completely appeal to me, since I really like to eat meat, and also, dinner is a big way that Greg and I like to enjoy life together and connect at the end of the day. If I went totally raw, his cooked meals would get much more boring because I wouldn't be so compelled to try out new interesting things. Plus, it's pretty challenging to properly season something without taking a few tastes of it! I can see the benefits of a raw diet though, so I will continue to work it in where I can, as often as possible.

For now though?  I am REALLY looking forward to a non-vegan breakfast tomorrow.

But don't worry!  I'll break the fast slowly.  Promise.

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