The first and foremost mistake people when they try to "go raw" is to change too quickly. This is very dangerous and very discouraging when attempted. Here is why:
1. Detox Shock
Cooked food, foods that create acidic pH levels (almost all cooked foods, dairy, meat, alcohol and drugs), refined sugars, breads, and pastas thicken the blood. Blood makes up around a sixth of the total fluid within you, the other fluid is lymph fluid. This is the fluid that bathes all the organs and keeps them moist and working correctly. Lymph fluid will build up with toxins over your lifetime, slowly damaging every organ in the body. You, however, don't generally directly feel what is going on in your lymph fluid. You feel what is happening in your blood stream. When you switch to a raw diet, your pH levels become alkaline (because raw fruits and vegetables create a balanced normal alkaline pH level), and your blood thins. This thinning of the blood allows lymph fluid to dump toxins out into the blood. This rush of toxins can make you nauseous, tired, dizzy, etc. This is rapid detoxification. Switching from SAD (Standard American Diet) to a 100% raw diet over night will cause an extreme rapid detox that is a serious shock to the body. I don't recommend it.
Refined sugars, concentrated salts, cooked oil, animal products, hormones put into animals that is present in meat and dairy, mono sodium glutamate, artificial sweeteners, and other food additives are highly addictive. They trigger chemical reactions in the brain that make you crave more of them, and these cravings can be intense and painful. Stopping all consumption of these substances is highly beneficial, but doing so immediately is like having someone quit cocaine, alcohol, cigarettes and heroin all at once. I'm not exaggerating: these "food" substances are truly just as addictive as the latter "drug" substances, and coming off of them rapidly can be just as painful to endure (or even witness) as the "drugs".
In a "natural" world where we wander the Earth gathering as we go, we'd eat all day long, walk most of the day, and spend lots of time in the sunlight.
(I've learned that the best UV protection comes from nutrition, and that sunblock can actually be more harmful than sunlight, but that's another story. Also, it's best to continue to use sunblock and avoid too much sunlight exposure until on a fully raw food diet for six months to a year so that the skin has built up it's own natural protection. Coconut oil and coco-butter are two natural protectors that can be used on the skin for journeys into the sunlight that are not overlong.)
In this "natural" world, herbs and greens are plentiful, the seeds of the fruit we eat is spread and new fruits grow all around us wherever we go. We naturally get a balanced nutrition of natural sugars, chlorophyll, and fats just by eating fruits and vegetables. Healthy fats are present in seeds, meaning that eating an entire plant including its seeds can provide a complete balanced nutrition. Many leaves of the fruits we eat are beneficial, such as raspberry, blueberry and strawberry leaves, and each of these berries has tiny little seeds we consume when we eat the fruit. When you add the leaves to the berry, you get a completely balanced diet that lacks for nothing from a single plant.
We do not, however, live in a "natural" world. The produce at the store has been grown in fields, not in the wild. And we, the humans, are not walking and eating all day long in the sunlight, naturally protected from UV rays by our diet. Instead, we're penned up in unnatural toxin-laden environments and given a mere half an hour break out of an eight hour work day to eat. This is completely unreasonable. To reach maximum health, the average person should eat every two to four hours, and half an hour may not always be sufficient time to prepare and consume a satisfying meal.
To cut to the chase, if one tries to go raw by simply going to the store and picking out the very few things they know how to make raw -- like your boring basic iceberg lettuce salad with bland conventional tasteless tomatoes -- they will wind up not consuming a balanced or complete diet and may begin to suffer all the deficiencies that their friends/family told them they would develop. A fully-realized raw diet will eliminate all deficiencies in minerals, vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, etc, but an amateur one can cause some short term issues that can be quite scary.
4. Lack of Goals
Nobody can maintain the motivation to do anything without clear, outlined, emotionally-invested thoughts of what they deeply desire, and dread. The best first step in any plan of action is to consider carefully what your deeply desire and what you dread. Writing a list of each can help solidify these thoughts. It's hopes and fears that drive us: what we want, and what we don't want.
The question I get asked the most often is: "How do you stay motivated and keep on eating 100% raw?"
I give people the quick answer, "The results are amazing!" But that isn't a complete answer. Here are my lists of Deep Desires (Wants) and Dread (Don't Wants).
I want to...
1. Be inspiring
2. Be sexy, strong, fit and beautiful
3. Be energetic, creative and artistic
4. Publish many books, host many conventions, and reach many people
5. Make the best mother children could wish for (I don't have any children at this time of writing this in 2011)
6. Be the best wife a husband could wish for (I am happily married)
7. Be knowledgeable, wealthy and fun to be around
8. Be "somebody"
I don't want to be...
1. Unhealthy, sickly and ill as I was as a child
2. Overweight as I was as a teen
3. Too tired to create art, writing and poetry
4. Too sick to take care of my family
5. Alone and undesired
6. Addicted to a substance or thing
7. Wholly dependent on one source of vitality
8. Ignorant, stagnant or close-minded
Without focusing on your emotionally-laden desires and dreads, one can not achieve any goal, especially not a goal that will involve going through a detoxification and withdrawal.
The Four Action Steps of Success
1. Reading, Watching & Listening
All problems can be solved by information. It's always a lack of knowledge that causes a disagreement.
I firmly stand by "benefit of the doubt" when you disagree with someone. It's true that they may be completely wrong, but there is a reason why they believe what they believe and there is a reason why you believe what you believe. Until you get to the heart of these beliefs, it is ignorant and rude to judge someone on their beliefs alone. Truth is stranger than fiction -- when you discover the reality behind why someone believes what they do, you are forced to examine your own beliefs and humble yourself.
To avoid becoming deficient in any nutrients, to avoid rapid withdrawal and rapid detoxification, invest your time into learning. Just an hour a week reading about it can make a huge difference. There goes a saying: Read about something an hour a day and within a year you will be the authority on the topic amongst friends and family. Continue to read about that subject an hour a day and within three years you will be a community leader in the topic. Continue for five years and you will become a national authority on the subject. Continue for seven years and you will become an international authority. With an Internet connection, you don't even need to pay for that hour a day of reading, although, I highly advise buying several books, as they tend to be denser in information.
While one still must remember to take things "with a grain of salt," even information from a faulty source can be of value. I've read many good books that contained misspellings, incorrect grammar, cited incorrect information, poor punctuation, flawed logic, biased perspectives and a fair amount of denial from the author. Mistakes do not discredit an entire human being. If you have a loving parent, spouse, child or friend in your family, reflect on them for a moment. How many mistakes of theirs come to mind? Probably plenty. This is fine: it's evidence that they're a human being.
I'm positive that I've written some flawed things in the past, and that much of my current perspective will be replaced and upgraded. This is good. We're all hypocrites, and the more we admit this to ourselves, the better we'll be at not being as hypocritical.
Another reason that education on the topic of nutrition is vital to a raw foodist: When one becomes a "raw foodie" they are constantly bombarded with questions about their diet. The more you know about why raw foodism works, and the more results you personally experience yourself (or witness in a friend or family member), the more confident you can be when the torrent of questions comes.
2. Transition One Meal At A Time
Choose something in your day to day meals that you don't particularly feel attached to. Perhaps it's that baked potato you occasionally have, or the soda you sometimes pick up at the store, or the ramon noodles you eat when everything else is gone. Pick something that is not the staple of your diet, and let it go for good. Realize that your life is not hindered or overturned by letting this one item go.
Replace the item with one delicious raw recipe you've discovered. I've purchased a few raw food recipe books (e-books as well as printed books) as well as scoured the web for interesting raw recipes. Experimenting in the kitchen can be a hit-and-miss procedure. Not everyone who posts a recipe has any idea if the recipe will taste good to most people, or if they've measured things correctly, or if their "raw recipe" is really raw, or if their recipe is actually balanced or healthy.
With much trial and error, I discovered many recipes that worked for me. I made a hobby of it. I highly recommend getting at least one raw recipe book from a source who you have reason to believe is a good source. Getting a printed book is nice in some ways, although in many ways, getting an e-book makes more sense. You get the e-book right away from home, you can print out the recipe you want to try, when you want to try it, and if the sheet you printed gets covered in food it's only a sheet of paper. Whereas, when you buy a lovely book it's a shame when you stain it in the kitchen. I do love printed books, but when it comes to recipes, I think e-book have a few advantages.
Discover some recipes that work for you. There are some simple guidelines that make recipe-inventing and recipe-hunting easier.
Guidelines for Recipe-Hunting:
1. Avoid recipes recommending large amounts of agave, and always substitute out the agave. Use figs or another dried fruit instead of any man-refined powder-sweeteners or syrup-sweeteners.
3. Avoid recipes you are not confident in creating. If the directions don't make sense to you, or the measurements are confusing, then there is a good chance that you will not get the desired result and will be discouraged.
Guidelines for Recipe-Inventing:
1. Use creamy fruits in your smoothies as the main ingredient -- mango, banana, papaya, peach and avocado are "creamy." Note that in the three food groups (fats, fruits and vegetables), avocados are a fat. This does not mean that avocados are bad, but combining fats with sweets is hard on the digestion. Many people who have lived on the standard American diet their entire lives have very weak digestive systems and will need to carefully consider what they combine until their digestion becomes stronger.
2. Use something fairly "bland" as the basis for your salad and something potent to highlight it. Lettuce is very mild, and a great place to start. Use fresh herbs, roots and bulbs to highlight your salad: Fennel, onion, garlic, horseradish, cilantro, basil -- All of these have healing properties, and it doesn't much matter how much you know about each of their properties. What's vital is to consume a wide variety of these powerful plants regularly.
3. Start with something you love and work from there. If you love strawberries, make a strawberry sauce for an otherwise bland salad. Make a strawberry pudding using equal parts strawberry and mango. Make a strawberry smoothie with bananas, strawberries, a dram of water, and a spoonful of vanilla.
For every new "raw" meal you discover, eliminate another "food" that you no longer feel you need. Your body will start rejecting cooked foods, refined sugars, and processed food in general as it begins to get what it's always wanted -- the correct fuel to build healthy cells within your body.
As you begin to heal you will start to associate your "ups" and your "downs" with what you're eating. You realize that the old conventional diet makes you tired, and the "new" (technically ancient) diet makes you feel energetic and happy.
Anyone can tell you that "moderation" is important. While moderation is a good rule of thumb, it's lacking in specifics. The amount of chlorine bleach you can have "in moderation" safely is vastly different than a healthy amount of watermelon "in moderation."
When it comes to raw fruits and vegetables, don't worry about the quantity. Don't count the calories, only consider the quality and diversity of what you're eating. Eat a little bit of everything that is available to you that is in season. If you don't like half of what is in season (which I personally find to be the case), then find ways to disguise vegetables and fruits you don't like with ones that you do. For example, I dislike papaya plain, but I really like a smoothie made from two bananas, one mango, one papaya and spoonful of raw vanilla powder. I find it quite divine in that form. As another example, I dislike the taste of sprouts, but I don't notice them when blended into guacamole made from avocado, garlic, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, onion, and a little fresh hot pepper.
Experiment with trying something you've never tried before as often as possible. Each time you like it, find several ways to eat it that you especially enjoy: in a lettuce wrap, on a salad, in a smoothie, in a nori roll, in a raw dessert, etc. Each time you try something and dislike it, consider how much it would take to overcome the unpleasant flavor and experiment with ways of hiding small amounts in something you've already established as a favorite.
4. Find An Ally
Talk to someone (or several someones) who are interested in health, open minded, and willing to learn. Ideally, find someone who will transition to raw food with you. You'll be able to compare experiences, share discoveries, and make meals together, which makes it much easier to move forward. If no such person is available to you, consider expanding your circle of friends with communities near you in person and communities all over the world online.
Share your goals with your ally. When you share your goals with someone else you become more resolved to make those goals a reality.
Love Of Food
While it may sound overwhelming at first... Consider this: You have nothing to lose but unwanted weight, illness, unhappiness, prescriptions and a life of dependency on the medical conspiracy. You have everything to gain, including clarity of mind, direction, purpose, increased energy and strength, perspective, wisdom, and a wealth of new foods.
If you love food, that's the easiest reason to go raw. Raw foodists can eat as much as they want, eat as often as they want, and share what they make with others without ever foisting something unhealthy on a friend. Your food will never be a source of guilt again, but only happiness, pride and vitality. I believe raw foodies love food more than most, and I can back up that belief with countless encounters. First and foremost, you'll never see such a variety of gourmet-quality food at any other type of potluck anywhere. The dishes are raw potlucks are endlessly creative, satisfying, beautiful to behold, and contain so much more flavor than conventional meals.
You're worth it. You're stronger than you know. The world is vast: you are only as restricted and as chained as you believe you are.