First off, let me clarify: I occasionally eat cooked food. This week Krissi and I had lunch at Qdoba, and I had a vegetarian burrito. It was very, very tasty. And I have paid for it in ways that not everyone would notice . . . but I definitely do. I haven't chosen to eliminate cooked foods from my home because I'm "better than that", nor do I comfort my cravings with a sense of superiority. This wild shift in my food supply is a gift I gave myself, my husband, and my children. It's not something that I believe that can or should be forced on anyone else, at any time. I love to talk about the things I've learned, and help others to understand . . . but I don't EVER expect people to change their lives because of my opinions. All I ask is that we can hold one another in mutual respect -- we have made different choices for different reasons, and we're happy with them.
Okay, second: my children do go to birthday parties. :o) They're given the liberty to choose what they eat there, and only asked gently to be cautious about quantities. They do have to handle their consequences (sometimes that involves coming down with something the next day), and they're learning. We also go to church and community functions that involve food . . . if you see me at a ward dinner with a HUGE bowl of salad and a HUGE fruit plate, don't be shy about coming up to the table. I'm happy to share, and want to be able to spend time with friends and ward members. My choices aren't about exclusion; they provide me with the energy and emotional stability to make friends and feel connected to my social circle and community.
Most importantly, remember this: No worries. I'm a reasonably normal human being, and a VERY normal LDS woman. I love my Savior, I love my family, I love music, I love to teach, I love to learn. I love to craft, I love good design and beauty, I love to garden, to sew, to scrapbook and bead and journal. I love to spend time with friends (no matter what's on their plates), and to get in a good Girls' Night Out on a regular basis. I'm not scary, not off-putting, and not going to talk about the way I eat every time you see me. I'm happy to talk about it, and will mention it, but it doesn't have to be the focus of every conversation I have.
You know, that love of learning is what started all of this. Waaaaay back in the beginning of our family, I started my personal course of study on health. Beginning with eliminating refined sugar (boy did THAT take time and will power!!!) and milk, there has been a slow and steady progression, line upon line, precept upon precept, as I've learned things in the nick of time to help myself and my family. Up until my early 20's, I had relied upon traditional Western medicine, and it hadn't made any true changes in the state of my health. I had been on thyroid medication, anti-depressants, birth control pills, anti-biotics, and various other prescriptions at various stages in my life (not all at once, thank heavens!), but if I stopped taking the pills, my body would show me very clearly that my health was no better than before . . . and often worse.
I wanted healing. Not band-aids on avulsions.
So, I began to educate myself on the use of simple herbs, on eating a health-inducing diet, and eliminating the cultural prejudices and perceived norms which I had picked up along my two decades of life.
Some of the books which have most influenced my understanding of health and wellness are:
The Secure Home, by Joel Skousen
The writings of Dr. John R. Christopher.
Dr. Mom by Sandra K. Livingston Ellis
Every Woman's Herbal, by Cathy Gileadi
12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to End Your Dependency on Cooked Food, by Victoria Boutenko
We've eaten mostly vegetarian (fish, or sometimes free-range chicken or turkey, once or twice a month ;o) since about July of 2001. We've been sugar-free since 1999. (Yes, we have sugar in the house, but it's for the hummingbird feeders. lol) We've been raw-vegan since just before Thanksgiving 2009. (Going through the holidays raw was a baptism by fire, let me tell you.)
Before this radical change in our eating habits, I faced some pretty severe health challenges. Hormonal imbalances (an estrogen dominance is not your friend), adrenal exhaustion, hypoglycemia, and depression (caused by the hypoglycemia) were the most noticeable ones. I was unhappy, tired all the time, and struggling in most areas of my life. My family deserved better than that. For that matter, I deserved better than that!
For some reason, last November the time was ripe for our family to make this huge change. I had tried before, but without the support of Vern and the children, I only made it three days before going back to the way we had been eating before. Lots of whole grains, a few cooked vegetables, fresh fruit, lean fish . . . doesn't sound too bad, does it? But it just wasn't sufficient for my body.
So, we did it. We now live, quite happily most of the time, on delicious smoothies, a wide array of salads, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, sprouted seeds and nuts, dry seeds and nuts, and other raw and living foods. Here's an idea of what we'll eat over a few days:
Smoothies -- Banana/tangerine/pecan/vanilla bean/frozen strawberries/water/a little apple juice/stevia. I'll often add some kale or swiss chard, and while it changes the color, the taste is still fruity and wonderful.
Salads -- Baby greens, romaine ribbons (these are my favorite right now), tomatoes, cucumbers, lentil sprouts (starchy and yummy -- they're a great substitute for noodles in Asian cabbage salad), carrots, sunflower seeds, chopped pecans or walnuts or almonds, alfalfa sprouts, mixed sprouts, bell peppers, avocados, etc. Whatever combo strikes us that meal goes in the bowl . . . everyone can make their own.
Other meals -- Sometimes I'll make a seed cereal that's ground up flaxseed, sesame seeds (higher in calcium than ANY dairy product, and more assimilable to boot), and pumpkin seeds. Toss a handful of whole sunflower seeds on top, sliced bananas or frozen berries, a little rice milk (sometimes home made, usually from the store--not strictly raw), and some stevia or date sugar (dried and ground, whole dates).
Another one we like is fresh, kicky salsa with jicama chips. Slice jicama into strips thick enough not to bend when you dip, and munch away. I also can make some really yummy nut and seed pates, which are about the consistency of cream cheese, or a little softer. They're great for dipping veggies and really satisfying when you need/want a little extra fuel during the wintertime.
There are raw versions of nearly every cooked dish that fairly approximates the taste and mouth feel. They're not the same, but when you're missing something a lot, they can help ease the transition.
Some days are still hard, dietetically-speaking. I'll wish for cornbread, or cornmeal pancakes (I miss corn the most, could you tell? ;o) . . . or brown rice. I rarely crave the sticky, gooey, sugary treats, since it has been so long since I've eaten them. I expect the carb cravings will dissipate over time, as well. I just feel so much better, far more than the 30% usually required for change to stick, that there's no way I'm going back. All it takes is one meal containing cooked food for me to remember what I came from, and why I'm not going back.
Update: As of mid-Februrary 2010, due to morning sickness and personal circumstances, I chose to go back to a diet including cooked food. Here are some of my observations:
1. While morning sick and pregnant, my body wanted to do what it had done before--and not anything else. Due to other circumstances, I chose to go the "easy" route. Health-wise it wasn't as easy, but I managed to get through.
2. Now that the baby is here, I'm dealing with really powerful cravings for raw foods again . . . but they're not "cravings" like you get a craving for sweets or salty things. It's more like a hunger, but without the pangs. I don't know how to describe it, but it's quietly powerful; not quite as urgently compelling as addictive cravings for tasty foods, but far more insistent.
3. I mightily miss the freedom I felt while eating raw. I ate much smaller portions, felt satisfied, and yet never felt the heavy, too-stuffed-to-eat-anymore "full" feeling. My body reached satiation long before my stomach's physical capacity was exceeded, or even met. One of the hardest parts of going back to cooked foods was that I have rarely ever felt satisfied since. For some reason cheese helped, but the baby's just as lactose-intolerant as I am . . . difference being that he spits up when I eat any dairy. I hate cleaning up spit-up, so strictly dairy-free I am.
4. I see a big difference in my children's bodies. They've put on weight (not a lot, but some more than others), and aren't as lean and resilient as before.
5. I really don't like hypoglycemia. Really. It's the P-I-T-S.
It's only a matter of time before I'm back to raw . . . I don't know how many of my family I'll be able to convince to go back with me (especially since it's wintertime and **cold**!), but I'm going to do my best to bring them all along. I just have to wait until the baby is big enough to put into a car seat and take shopping; probably another couple of weeks.