While I was in school for my Holistic Nutrition certification, one of the requirements was to take a raw foods ‘cooking’ class. Newly vegetarian and unsure of how you could possibly ‘cook’ raw foods—without actually cooking them—I was excited to explore what all the hype was about.
I had heard innumerable positive affirmations about incorporating whole, raw vegan foods into your diet—even going as far as to say that they can help heal people from cancer.
I learned that as early as 1930, Dr. Max Gerson had cured thousands of people from a variety of diseases including diabetes, tuberculosis and even cancer, with a plant-based diet of primarily raw foods. This fact stunned me, especially since I had just been faced with my older sister’s cancer diagnosis.
On my first day in class, my teacher challenged us to try strictly eating raw for the duration of the 6-week long course. “Challenge accepted,” I thought to myself. If I ever planned on recommending raw foods to a client, I would have to experience it first hand. For years, I have suffered from crippling migraines and I took this challenge as the perfect experiment to once and for all nip those migraines in the bud.
I can attest that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.
In class, we learned that after digesting food cooked over 118°F your body has a reaction called leukocytosis, which is a spike in white blood cell levels. This spike leads to increased levels of inflammation, which, as a result leads to a higher chance of illness and disease.
Inflammation can contribute to the onset of migraines, so I hypothesized that by sticking to a raw diet for 6 weeks my body’s inflammation, and thus the frequency of my migraines, would decrease.
To put it plainly, the first two weeks were rough. Really rough. I felt sluggish, my stomach constantly yelled at me and I became so irritated with every little thing my boyfriend said or did. What was worse was that I was still getting a headache. Every. Single. Day.
I wanted to cry, but if I did, the headache got worse. One side of myself said, “These are normal detox symptoms girl, relax, you’ll be fine!” The other side screamed, “STOP THIS, EAT SOME GOLDFISH! NO MORE.” I went into class early the following week to have a one-on-one with my teacher; I needed solace from someone I trusted during this massive detox.
When I expressed my lament, he simply put his hand on my shoulder, smiled and said, “Alexandra, you’ll be okay. Get through the rest of this week and see how you feel on Monday. Your body needs to release in order to heal.” I agreed with him, although feeling unhappy with the undeniable truth that I was detoxing—hard.
Week three was a whole different ball game. I woke up feeling energized, my appetite was back in full force and I didn’t want to bite anyone’s head off for simply saying “hello.” I didn’t experience any headaches and for the first time in a long time, I started to believe in the natural healing power of my body.
I became really crafty with the new foods I found at the farmers market & explored any and every kind of raw recipe I could find. I invested in not one, but two types of juicers and even found myself scavenging Craigslist for a dehydrator.
Who was this girl? I felt like a new woman—a superwoman—charged up and ready to take on the world, one recipe at a time.
In the last weeks of my raw foods course, I learned all about different preparation techniques that I had previously been too afraid to even think of trying. I felt jam-packed with information and recipes on being “Raw-some” and wanted to share it with the whole world. I was beginning to consider myself, dare I say it, a Raw-foodie!
My experience with a 6-week-long raw diet was a powerful one, to say the least. It completely changed my views on the necessity of including raw, whole foods in my diet and jumpstarted a long overdue rejuvenation process within my body.
It wasn’t easy at first. I experienced a detoxifying cleanse, unlike any other I had experienced before. I saw my body begin to change dramatically; my migraines ceased, my nails and hair became stronger and more radiant, my energy levels were through the roof, and I was happier.
I am not currently following a 100% raw diet, but I’ve been a vegetarian for over two years now and frequently go on all-raw cleanses to keep up the vitality of my body. Eating in this manner has become a complete lifestyle change for me, not just a diet.
A teacher once said to me, “The most intimate relationship you’ll ever have in life is with your food.” I couldn’t agree more—but shhh—just don’t tell my boyfriend that.
Photo: Mary Hood