My thoughts on the raw vegan diet... if you were wondering
I don't talk about food much on here, although I see food and sewing and home dec and clothing trends and crafty projects as all sort of going together--but maybe that's because they're all interests of mine! But I have a very different diet than most people, and I don't want to weird anyone out.
I've mentioned a few times in other posts that I have a limited diet (like when I shared my exciting VitaMix purchase!). Sometimes I receive emails from people asking me what I mean about the "limited" part, because they're gluten-intolerant or vegan or dieting or whatever else. I don't know if I can be much help to those people, but I did figure I'd might as well tell you what my "weird diet" is. You won't judge me too much, right?
**Warning: looooooong post coming up.
I currently eat an approximately 90% raw vegan diet. Raw vegans don't eat any meat, dairy, eggs, or other animal products, nor do they eat any cooked vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, or anything else that's been heated to about 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit Sounds pretty limited, right?
A brief historyI've been vegetarian since I was 14 or so (except I always ate fish). It worked pretty much fine for me, I thought; I always ate my veggies and fruits and had a balanced diet. I had killer IBS, though, and took Tums all the time and went to a gastroenterologist who said nothing was physically wrong with me. I tried cutting out dairy for a week once in high school to see if it was a lactose intolerance but couldn't keep away from the ice cream and parmesan. I got tested for celiac disease and didn't have that, either.
I also put on a few pounds in grad school and was a little grumpy about it. I slowed down on eating cheese since I wasn't sure, but I didn't think it was healthy, and why would I want to eat something that was bad for me? Oh, and I always used soy milk on my cereal (not knowing the dangerous effects of soy) and never drank actual milk, but ate plenty of fro yo and low fat ice cream and always thought vegans must be weird.
My introduction to raw veganismBut in January of 2010 my then-fiance and I met a new couple who were sometimes raw vegan. Again, the "that sounds weird..." alarm went off in my brain, but I listened, and borrowed some books about the diet. Sounded like it had all kinds of benefits, some more believable than others. Losing weight on it? Sure, I could believe that, but people also said it took away their migraines, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, diabetes, acne, fatigue, etc etc etc! Sounded great. I would love to need less sleep and feel great.
Pretty much immediately I tried the diet--it sounded fun! The recipes sounded delicious. I have a huge sweet tooth so all the delicious desserts made with raw nuts, dates, agave, cocoa power, fresh fruit, and all kinds of good stuff sounded amazing! I went to the store and bought raw ingredients, and didn't buy the normal stuff.
In the beginning...That first week I ate fresh fruit smoothies for breakfast instead of cereal, had a huge salad for lunch instead of stir fry and rice or pasta with veggies or burrito or whatever else I would have had, and made exciting new recipes for dinner. Faves were cabbage wraps, collard green wraps, kale salad, anything with avocados, dried fruit for snacks... I also borrowed my parents' dehydrator and made dehydrated nut crackers that were WAY more delicious than anything Nabisco ever made.
I lost about 20 pounds over the next few months without changing my physical activity at all. And my IBS symptoms all went away immediately. Not since I was a kid have I had such a good... uhhh... digestive situation, if you know what I mean! I used to be constipated for up to 5 days. The grain-free, raw vegan diet totally fixed that. And I was eating all the fresh fruits and veggies and nuts and homemade brownies and fruit cobblers and mousses and chocolate shake smoothies I wanted!
All this was happening at a time in my life when not much else was going on. I was newly engaged and we were living in a small apartment, and I didn't have a great job like I'd hoped I would when I finished grad school 6 months before. I was working part time and had recently started this blog, and was spending a lot of time watching 30 Rock while sewing. Learning new ways to make food was fun and exciting! And when summer came I went crazy picking berries and peaches, and ate LOTS of them.
Two years later...It's been almost two years now, wow! Things have changed a little and I'm not as hard core about the raw vegan-ness of my diet, but I've worked out a system that works for me. I eat a lot of fresh veggies (I've toned it down on the fruit... all that sugar, even though it's natural, not super healthy), snack on nuts, eat the occasional egg, and make amazing salad dressings and raw vegan dips. I'm not vegan for moral reasons, but for health reasons, so I've been known to have a bite of something made with a little cooked or dried milk fat. I've found the things that make me feel bad, and the things that work okay but probably aren't that healthy for me.
What's most important to me now is that I don't eat any grains or dairy. Any--I can't do rice or gluten-free flour products or anything. I also don't want any refined (white) sugar, or any potatoes or corn (so starchy). Oh, or any meat, of course! I make exceptions sometimes for really good dark chocolate, and this one brand of corn chips made in Portland that are SOOOOO good. And I sometimes eat hummus, which is cooked.
Some raw vegans drink wine or distill their own alcohol, but I've never been a big drinker so now I just don't drink at all. I also don't do any caffeine, just cuz... I dunno, it's just easier that way. I love interesting herbal teas!
Eating out and the social aspectsIt's hard to go out to eat, so I don't much (I can eat a few things at sushi track places, I can eat papaya salad at Thai places, and some places have tempting green salads), but I don't like restaurants much, anyway. And we loooove Thai food so when we have date nights we usually do that. I can get a green salad anywhere, hold the chicken, hold the croutons, hold the cheese, hold the whatever else, and only oil and vinegar for dressing on the side, but then it's just a $10 plate of lettuce and dried cranberries, and that hardly seems worth it.
I know everyone is different, so you may think I'm crazy, but honestly, it's not that hard for me to eat this way. I'm really happy with it!
My husband is not raw vegan (he tried it and lasted two weeks--he lost weight but then went to his grandparents' house and ate comfort food and gave up), but he likes everything I make and makes food for/with me. He doesn't eat red meat or much dairy, and only eats chicken or turkey once a week or so. And he's been into the weight loss diet from the 4-Hour Body, wherein you don't eat any grains or dairy or sugar including fruit, so he's limited, too right now.
If you want to know more...I don't recommend raw veganism to anyone because food is such a personal thing, and people won't change unless they really want to. All I can say is, if you have some weird problem that nothing else has helped, try it out and see what happens. Why not, right?
It's been a while since I did a bunch of research on raw vegan tips and getting-started ideas, so I don't have a strong list for you there... but I'm sure you can Google it if you want to know more!
Update: As of Christmas 2012, after 13+ years of vegetarian and vegan eating, I now eat a plant-based, real food diet plus the addition of healthy fats and proteins such as grassfed red meat, fatty fish, pastured pork, and grassfed butter (my personal Paleo diet). My health has significantly improved since I ate an unbalanced raw vegan diet. Post about the change here!