Ok, so, I haven’t been writing much lately and the honest truth is that I am frustrated as hell with diet and my weight. Ugh! So, I guess I”m just going to have to tell the story.
By February 2009 I reached an all-time high weight of 193 pounds. And I decided something had to change. I’d been following a mostly raw foods lifestyle for close to 2 years at that time, but unlike other raw foodists who reported losing tonz of weight, I hadn’t lost the weight I wanted to lose. At 5’9″ tall, I can carry more weight than most, but still, my ideal weight hovers somewhere between 140 and 160 pounds. So, at best I was 30 pounds overweight and I was feeling it. I decided to get serious about the weight loss. And by mid-summer of that year I had lost the 30 pounds and was down to 160. Weight-wise I felt great! I was thin…people were telling me that I was skinny…and I felt good in my clothes.
The unexpected turn in that story is that I began experiencing symptoms. Many of which I would later lean were a result of pre-menopause and hormonal imbalance…but I am quite sure that many of the symptoms were also due to my diet. I had a perpetual deep muscle pain in the back of my left thigh, and I became severely anemic. My energy dropped dramatically and my monthly period was lasting two weeks to a month at a time. I was fatigued and light headed. And during my period I felt a deep pain from my abdomen clear through to my lower back.
And I began having such extreme joint pain in my knees that I believed I would have to live with rheumatoid arthritis for the rest of my life.
I also developed horizontal ridges on my fingernails…a symptom indicative of iron and vitamin B12 deficiency. My husband and I decided it was time to reintroduce more red meat into my diet.
Since that time most of those symptoms have been eliminated…but some new ones have taken their place; I’ve started having nighttime numbness and tingling in my arms and sometimes my legs. I have also experienced pain in the left side of my neck. And had chronic charlie horses in my left toes. And occasionally I have felt a slight flutter or pressure in my chest. These symptoms all freak me out because my dad had a double heart attack, and then more recently, my brother who is my elder by 10 years had a heart attack and was diagnosed with diabetes. I have tried to be so careful about what I eat that it blows my mind to think that I might be pre-diabetic…but I’d be crazy to not consider that this is a strong possibility.
So, my weight…
I have regained almost all of the weight that I lost and kept off for over a year and a half without effort on the high-raw foods diet. But I felt lousy. Lately I have been following a low-carb and then the Weight Watchers program and I have to say that I am no longer experiencing joint pain and the pain in my neck and numbness in my arms has diminished significantly…but it’s become more and more difficult to lose weight now that my hormones have changed. And it frustrates the hell out of me! My body no longer responds to diet the way it used to…and I don’t really know what to do about it. I don’t have the patience to lose 1/2 a pound a week…I want to get back down to that comfortable 160 weight, at a minimum, but don’t really know that best path to do it. I’m in a holding pattern right now while I try to decide what is the best path for my body. Clearly, high-raw with no animal protein does not work for me. But I don’t know that low-carb does either.
I just needed to vent. I would love to hear from anyone else who has gone through menopause and has had this same challenge.
More to come.
For many people Thanksgiving dinner is the single biggest family feast of the year. It represents a time of gathering together, rebuilding bonds of love and friendship, sharing thoughts and feelings of gratitude for blessings received, and the centerpiece is always the meal. Food is an important element in our lives. It can garner memories from childhood that warm us and make us feel nostalgic. Many who cook use their culinary creations as a meaningful show of love and affection for those the food has been prepared for. And when we consume dishes that have been carefully prepared to be especially delicious it makes us feel loved. It is no wonder, then, that we associate so much emotional connection with the Thanksgiving feast!
That being said, however, the traditional Thanksgiving fare most of us are accustomed to eating on this day is usually a far cry from “health food”. Many dishes are heavily prepared with unhealthy fats and saturated with sugars of every kind. The turkey is probably the healthiest part of the meal, since it is essentially pure protein and in that sense, “real” food, without a lot of added ingredients (if we aren’t counting the grain fed diet, antibiotics, and hormones most are raised on). Most of the side dishes, from the mashed potatoes loaded with real butter and heavy cream, to the stuffing…normally white bread cubes with lots of fat and little nutritional value…to the white-flour, milk, and butter dinner rolls, to the candied yams, and normally ending with pies (baked in white flour and hydrogenated vegetable oil shortening – read trans fats – crusts) topped with piles of whipped cream, meringue, or ice cream. I read recently that the typical Thanksgiving dinner for an average adult runs right around 3,500 calories! OUCH!
Sooo…I’d like to challenge you this year! I know it can be a daunting task to want to alter long-held tradition. One which will inevitably be met with substantial resistance from family members. So, rather than try to talk you into doing anything too overly difficult which could result in conflict and contention, I have a more subtle suggestion…try taking baby steps. Especially if you are relatively new to the high-raw foods lifestyle, and particularly if you are the only family member following such a path. Here are some practical application things you can do to make your holiday meal HEALTHIER while still maintaining peace and harmony in your home, all the while offering the same delicious and satisfying, comfort foods your family is used to for this most important meal:
1. Substitute unhealthy sugars, such as white sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup with healthier sweeteners such as stevia, pure maple syrup, dehydrated cane juice sugar, agave nectar, molasses, etc.
2. Substitute unhealthy fats, such as margarine, shortening, and most refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils with healthier fats such as coconut oil (especially for cooking), cold pressed olive oil (mostly for drizzling over warm or cold foods and in dressings but not for cooking), and real butter.
3. Try making pie crusts out of ground nuts and dried fruits such as dates or use coconut flour instead of the traditional refined white wheat flour.
4. Stuffing is delicious using ground almonds or pecans to give substance and body rather than using the traditional bread cubes.
5. If you are going to make rolls, try using whole grains rather than refined white flour. Better yet, go for some of the gluten-free grains such as rice or kamut. Spelt is a great alternative to regular wheat (they are cousins) with a higher protein profile and can be better tolerated by those who have gluten or wheat sensitivities. Coconut flour is an amazing and health-promoting alternative to regular flour. It is loaded with fiber and lots of great, healthy benefits! Just be sure to adjust your recipe accordingly because coconut flour is very dense and a little goes a l-o-n-g way! You can order it (along with fabulous coconut oil and other coconut products) online at Tropical Traditions
6. Make your own cranberry sauce from scratch using natural, healthy sweeteners instead of purchasing the canned version which is full of high fructose corn syrup.
7. And last but certainly not least…add more raw side dishes to fill out the meal with lots of delicious, nutritious selections that will add healthy options and introduce your family and friends to the wonderful variety of decadent foods available in raw form! There are SO MANY amazing dishes that can be prepared from healthy, whole foods and the holidays present a great opportunity to share these foods with your loved ones! Try making a raw dessert from OUR RECIPE SECTION to go along side the other desserts you prepare, or any number of creative choices found here on Eighty Percent Raw.
Remember that making improvements in your health and wellness can come one baby step at a time and it doesn’t need to be a drastic or drama-filled experience. In this way, you can feel good about the foods you are offering your friends and family while preserving the essence of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Now THAT is something to be thankful for!
Blessings to you at this special time of year.
I feel it’s important that I tell you about my own introduction to the raw foods lifestyle and why I ended up developing the Eighty Percent Raw Plan.
The process started on September 6th, 2001. My husband and I were on a business trip to New York City just 5 days prior to 911. It was just a quick over-nighter so early the following day we made the long flight back to Portland.
Four days later we were on yet another business trip to the east coast, but this time our destination was Tampa, Florida. We arrived late on the evening of September 10th and, as you know, at 8:00am the next morning all hell broke loose. The gravity of our situation quickly sunk in as we realized that we were stranded in Tampa, 3,000 miles away from home. Our teenage children were in Portland dealing with the situation all by them selves and we had no idea what to expect next. In addition to all of this, I received a phone call from my oldest son in Texas, who had recently enlisted with the United States Army National Guard Reserves, informing me that he was on red alert awaiting orders to report for Basic Training. Needless to say, I was in a high state of anxiety, but doing my best to stay calm and balanced. What a relief it was three days later to learn the airport in Tampa was re-opening sooner than anticipated and we would be able to return home within the week. Once again in Oregon we tried to adopt an optimistic attitude that life would get back to normal, but like everyone else, the foundation of our reality had been severely shaken. And it wasn’t long before it became glaringly apparent that this experience would not be without its own deep seated repercussions.
Long story short, one month later on October 10th, 2001, I found out for the first time what it feels like to have a spontaneous panic attack. Little did I realize at the time the impact these episodes would have on my life for years to come.
This whole sequence of events began a domino effect that would ultimately lead to the development of my Eighty Percent Raw diet and lifestyle plan. But at that point in time all I knew was that something inside me had broken and I wanted nothing more than to fix it.
Fortunately I was raised by a mother who taught me at an early age to trust in my own intuition and the wisdom found in nature. We weren’t a family who went to the doctor for every little cough or cold that came along. In fact, I can probably count on two hands the number of times I visited our family physician during my childhood and adolescent years. Though I did occasionally take over the counter pain relievers or allergy medications, I was trained to prepare home remedies and concoctions based on natural herbs and foods such as lemon, vinegar, honey, garlic, olive oil and the like for healing whatever might ail me. I was also taught that diet plays a huge role in our overall health and well-being. This training served me well when later in life I was confronted with this break down in my body’s immune system.
In retrospect I have to say that, if nothing else, having those panic attacks taught me many valuable lessons about the power of pharmaceutical drugs to harm our bodies, especially when contrasted by the gentle healing properties inherent within whole and living foods. And I was flat astonished that the doctor I visited didn’t even bother to ask any questions about my diet or make suggestions regarding what I ate in the hope that this might alter my chemistry in a positive way and potentially heal my miserable condition. I knew, at an intuitive level, that this was the key to my healing.
It was through this experience that I became more acutely in tune with my own body and its nutritional needs.
I began experimenting with different foods to discover which might improve and which could exacerbate the panic tendencies in my system. I had a firm belief that “you are what you eat” and possessed first hand knowledge that the food and beverages we consume directly affect the chemical balance in our bodies. Despite the fact that I was still eating much more cooked food than raw at that point, I was beginning to learn about foods that might contribute to a sense of calm and well being, and began incorporating more of these foods into my daily menus. I also investigated foods which might agitate or excite and I avoided these like the plague. It was at this time in my life that I decided to eliminate all processed foods, such as; refined grains, refined white sugar, all dairy products, artificial sweeteners, caffeinated beverages, and other non-whole foods from my diet. And I began to experience a level of healing as a result.
I lost weight and was feeling a significant improvement which sustained me for the next several years.
Fast forward to 2007, and keep in mind that I was observing the slow but steady decline in my father’s health, which not only made me concerned for his well-being, but also fed into fears I was suppressing about what my own future could be looking like if I followed in his footsteps, and we have the setting for my seemingly random introduction to raw foods.
Dad suffered a double heart attack about ten years previous to this time and had subsequently experienced many other health problems, the least of which were not the multiple mini-strokes which were beginning to significantly impact his memory, motor skills, and cognitive abilities.
My father was a brilliant man; an aeronautical engineer by profession, and his intellect was something I had always taken great pride in. So it was very deeply disturbing for me to see such a decline in not only his physical capabilities, but more significantly, in his mental health.
Even though mom always tried to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals, we basically consumed the Standard American Diet (SAD). This consisting of mostly cooked foods which contained a considerable amount of wheat flour (mom insisted on baking with only the unbleached kind) and white flour in the form of noodles, tortillas, pizzas, store-bought doughnuts, coffee cakes, cookies and crackers to supplement the home-made variety. We frequently had potato chips, Ritz and graham crackers in the house to snack on. Breakfast was cold or hot cereal with milk and sugar, pancakes, waffles, or a couple slices of cinnamon toast. Lunches were deli meat and cheese sandwiches or left over casserole or stew from a prior evening’s meal. Dinners were generally a noodle-based casserole, which more often than not was based on a cream and/or cheese sauce and meat of some kind. We also had lots of home-made soups and stews or mashed potatoes with gravy. Vegetables were usually from a can or sometimes the over-cooked frozen kind. Fruit came from a bottle that mom put up herself because she thought this was a healthier option than buying canned fruit from the store – but in reality these fruits were heavily cooked and saturated in sugar syrup. Often times we had home-made muffins or dinner rolls to accompany our evening meal. And most nights we also had dessert of ice cream, home made cake or cookies. The one really raw thing mom always insisted on having along side whatever else was served for dinner was a basic green salad (iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot, sliced radish and scallions) or coleslaw. But it was almost an after thought for the rest of us and we rarely, if ever, ate it.
I’m guessing all of this is sounding very familiar to you…
So, that is the basic diet dad lived on his entire adult life. Add to this the fact that he liked to “treat himself” to jugs full of Flavor-Ade prepared with a cupful of white sugar per gallon and cans of Chef Boy-R-Dee ravioli and you can begin to see where this might wreak havoc in his system and very likely led to his ultimate demise.
But we just didn’t know any better in those days. The fact that mom chose not to feed us Wonderbread and checked labels to make sure we weren’t consuming “artificial preservatives” put us (we thought) smack dab in the center of the health-food crowd.
So, raw foods…
In 2007 I was browsing MySpace when I came across a page by a woman who claimed to be a “Raw Foodist”. This label caught my attention because I had never heard the term before. There were lots of links on her page to websites on the subject so I jumped in with both feet! I was very intrigued by this unusual philosophy and lifestyle! When I discovered that the FDA assigns the same nutritional value to both a raw almond and a roasted almond, yet if we take one of each and plant them in the ground only the raw one will sprout and grow, that information struck a chord with me. Then when I further learned that science teaches that when foods are heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit the naturally occurring enzymes are killed, and that the enzymes are the “living” part of the food, so when we eat foods that have been cooked, pasteurized and heated to this degree we are consuming essentially nutrient dead foods, the light just went on in my head. I was convinced this was the key to improving my own health and that a huge part of the reason my body had broken down in the first place was due to the fact that I had been feeding it primarily dead food my entire life. My body simply hadn’t been receiving the nutrition it needed to thrive.
I decided to try this lifestyle for myself to find out if it made a difference in my body. By this time I had also been experiencing pretty extreme dizzy spells off and on, for a few years…mostly when I moved dramatically from a vertical to a horizontal position, or vice versa. And while I’d learned to live with this condition I did wish it would go away.
So, I immediately began following a 98% raw foods lifestyle. For six weeks the only cooked foods I consumed were small amounts of condiments such as traditional soy sauce, Tobasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc. I was completely devoted! And…I was rewarded with astonishing results for my efforts! I lost 15 pounds of excess weight and the dizzy spells I had been combating for years completely went away. As a bonus, the dry, flakey skin on my shins and the athlete’s foot on my left foot that had been bothering me for ages “magically” went away! My husband and teenagers even commented on how amazing all of this was!
But there was a trade off.
I quickly learned that many of the raw foods I was enjoying were not palatable to the rest of my family. My husband could not tolerate such core raw food ingredients as; avocados, mushrooms, sea weed, squash or sweet potatoes of any kind, or anything that seemed “strange” or out of the ordinary. And as a result mealtime became a huge challenge. While I was blissfully consuming raw foods that were making me feel fabulous, my husband and teenagers were subsisting on frozen burritos, pizzas, corn dogs, and Hot Pockets. I felt horrible knowing that these foods were not healthy for them and at the same time, this difference in our eating habits was creating a massive divide in our family meal time. This became a big problem and it quickly became clear that something had to change. Additionally, my 100% raw approach proved to be a problem when we went out to eat, turning what used to be an enjoyable and blissful experience into one of discontent and frustration.
While I was experiencing this difficulty in our personal life, I was also participating in some very active, online raw food communities, message boards and discussion forums. These groups were great for offering new recipe ideas and support…but I began to notice a tendency toward fanaticism that was really starting to bother me. There was such an emphasis on being 100% raw that it teetered on the verge of being religious or dogmatic in attitude, and this, I felt, was unhealthy. Threads about the lack of available options when dining out came up and there were many who expressed a concern that the only menu item appropriate for raw foodists at most restaurants was the side salad, and at that, there were no dressing choices that didn’t more than likely contain some cooked ingredient. To me, this whole discussion was ridiculous. I figured if you were dining out and you chose to eat the salad as your meal, then by damn, eat whatever dressing you like! You’re still far and away ahead of most people who are making less healthy food choices! But not these people…there was talk of carrying your own, home-made, raw dressing in your purse so that you’d have something you knew was 100% raw to put on your bed of salad greens at the restaurant.
All of this, combined with the stress of division over meals in our home life, made me rethink my approach.
And that’s when I began to recognize the benefit of an Eighty Percent Raw Plan.
(More to come…)
LAST CHANCE TO WIN Ani Phyo’s latest raw cook book: Ani’s Raw Food Essentials. Drawing tonight! Take our survey to enter: http://ow.ly/2xBuA
All my past audio interviews for Eighty Percent Raw now available online: http://ow.ly/2sGVX
Enter Eighty Percent Raw Survey to Win Monthly Give Away! This month: Ani’s Raw Food Essentials! http://ow.ly/2sAST