Thursday, July 24, 2008

Introduction: Chapter One

This is the introduction chapter to my book on raw foods.

“Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am not sure how or why I became interested in healthy living. My upbringing would not have suggested it. The only thing I can think of is that it must have been through reading. During college I began a daily running routine. The first time I ran, barely making a mile, I came home coughing, wheezing, coughing up phlegm.

Several years later, in 1977, Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running came out and I got serious. Eventually I worked up to my current practice of jogging five miles a day. I’ve since added some weight training.

My first experiments in improving my diet involved making a breakfast drink of brewers yeast and milk. In 1987 Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond became a big hit. Based on the principles of Natural Hygiene, which is one of the raw food branches covered in this book, the Diamonds encouraged eating lots of fruit on an empty stomach, eating live high-water content foods, and proper food combining (an example would be not eating a protein and a carbohydrate together in one meal). I read the book and tried to follow its teachings. The end result was that ever since then I have always eaten fruit for breakfast.

Two years later, the Juiceman, Jay Kordich, came through town telling his story of how juicing raw fruits and vegetables saved him from cancer. I heard him on the radio and promptly bought a juice machine. I didn’t stop at one juicer; I kept buying them until I was convinced I had the best one. I juiced carrots everyday for about ten years. (I also forced carrot juice on my kids, with uncertain results, although all three are health-conscious now and my oldest daughter juices for my grandchildren.)

I was getting the message about health everywhere I turned. Still in the late 80’s I met a woman well beyond seventy years old. She looked years younger and told me of her thirty year old boyfriend who could not keep up with her. She said that yoga was her secret. So I started doing yoga. She also told me to read John Robbins’s, Diet for a New America. The book tells of the horrors of the meat and dairy industry and advocates a vegan diet.

So convincing was the book that I became a vegetarian for one year. My daughter Gina became one permanently. I desperately wanted to stop eating animals and dairy products but I did not have the will power. I felt guilty about the slaughtering of animals but my desire for hamburgers was greater. I knew that the animal food industry was a significant polluter of our environment. Still, I couldn’t make myself change my diet.

“Transformation is through the body, not away from it.”

Eckhart Tolle

For nearly twenty years I did not make any more health changes. I ran every day, I ate my fruits and vegetables, I was very conscious of what I put into my mouth. I should have been very healthy. I was doing much better than the average American, I thought. And then I went for a physical and the doctor told me, practically with glee in his voice, that my cholesterol was 242.

How can this be? “Doc, I eat healthy foods, I run.” To which he replied, “It’s probably your genes. If you can’t get your cholesterol down by changing your diet we’ll have to put you on Lipitor.”

Oh my God, you have got to be kidding me. I am not taking a pill. There is no way I am going on a drug. Putting a foreign substance into my body is not natural. Lipitor may make my cholesterol level go down, but will it make me healthier? If I don’t change my diet, have I really made things better or have I just masked the problem? It seems to me that drug companies make a lot of money and all you get is the false sense of security that you have done something when in reality you haven’t. Eliminating the symptom doesn’t get rid of the cause.

Meanwhile, my vegetarian daughter Gina informed me that she and her husband were “going raw.”

“What do you mean? You’re not eating cooked foods anymore? Gina, I’ve always admired you for not eating meat, but this is crazy. What will you eat?” I forget what she said but I walked away thinking that she had gone too far. I knew I shouldn’t have made her drink carrot juice.

A month later I saw her and my son-in-law Stephen—they were literally glowing. I could not believe it. They were radiating health. Now I was interested. I asked her for a book on this raw food stuff (of course, I need a book) and she gave me Victoria Boutenko’s Green for Life. I read the book, fooled around for a bit with green smoothies and salads, but then gave it up. I could not stop eating hamburgers, and French fries, and pizza, and ice cream, and you name it. I’ll live with the high cholesterol. I run five miles a day, there is no way I can have heart disease. I decided to take my chances—but the seed had been planted.

In the spring of 2007 I came down with a cold that just wouldn’t go away. Finally I went to a doctor for an antibiotic to put an end to it. The nurse took my blood pressure. “Your blood pressure is 160 over 100.” She tried my other arm. Just as bad. Now I have high blood pressure along with the cholesterol.

That was it. There was no longer any denying that given all that I was doing for my health I still had problems. Since I refused to start taking pills I decided I had to do something. I began reading and everything I read pointed to “going raw.”
In the beginning it wasn’t even about being raw that got me thinking and motivated. Three books ended up on my desk. They were about how to make changes, how the food industry in America works, and the ethics of eating animals. So before I even began the process of trying to eat raw foods, in all its wisdom, the universe gave me a few tools to turn away from a cooked, animal-based diet and taught me about how to go about making these changes.

Changing For Good, by James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo Diclemente, explained to me that change is a process; it does not come all at once through will power. There are stages of change. We move little by little. Change involves consciousness-raising, finding alternatives to old behaviors, expressing and accessing feelings and emotions, taking action, enjoying the rewards of change, and helping relationships. There is a reasonable way to go about making changes.

And then I found myself reading Michael Pollan’s bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Here I discovered how many of our food attitudes and beliefs are controlled and influenced by big business interests. We as a country suffer from a national eating disorder and it is fueled by the marketing of corporations and their influence over the legislative process through lobbyists. We don’t eat what we would naturally eat, we eat what we have been manipulated into eating.

The book that kicked me over the edge into action was The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. I was confronted with the impact of my food choices and how they affected people, animals, and the planet. Singer and Mason describe the incredible cruelty that factory farming inflicts on the animals we eat. They reveal the lengths that the food industry goes to hide what actually goes on in those farms. Most alarming of all was the destruction to the environment caused by the food industry and the amount of natural resources consumed. (If Americans gave up eating animals the oil saved would be like taking every car in America off the road.) By this time, my emotions had joined what I knew in my head. I was ready to change.

Now I was ready to begin reading and experimenting with the raw food diet. I did more than experiment; I used the skills that I acquired in getting my doctorate to research what was out there on becoming a “raw fooder.” There are numerous people promoting various programs for eating a raw, living-foods diet, and many of them don’t agree. I soon found that I needed to determine who was helpful and who wasn’t. I needed to find out what was scientifically based and what was out there in la-la land.

I read everything I could get my hands on. To me, this was a life and death situation. I wanted the truth. I wanted to discount what was motivated by what people were selling; and people do have products to sell even in the raw food movement. I went to the Raw Spirit Festival in Sedona and saw first hand enough marketing and contradictory approaches to health to make my head hurt. (I had to escape and have a burger late at night when no one was looking.)

Ultimately, I had to write a book so that I could put all that I learned in one place and get my thoughts around what was the best approach to getting my health back. I am totally convinced that eating raw food is the way to go. Does that mean going 100 percent as most advocate? That is something you have to decide. I’ve tried to assemble the best of what is out there in this book. And I’ve tried to point out the best that each person has to offer. The answers to life’s challenges are not black and white. I think an eclectic approach works best; why not take what makes sense to you from everything that is out there. That is what I have done here. I’ve tried to find the common thread that runs through all the approaches to raw food. I hope it works for you.

This book is the result of what I found out as I made a serious commitment to change my diet, to change my thoughts about food, and to change my mind about what it is to live a healthy life. In the following chapters I take from all the many books I read and all the experimenting I did and try to give to you a simple guide to beginning a raw food journey. I’ve tried to inspire and motivate so you don’t have to be on your deathbed saying, “Geez, I really wish I had taken better care of myself.”

Eating more raw foods can save your life, give you more energy than you ever dreamed, and if you learn how to make some of the cacao recipes, you will certainly smile a whole lot more than you ever did. I know I do.

Books to Get You Motivated:

The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. 2006. Rodale (Holtzbrinck Publishers).

Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. 2003. Little, Brown and Company.

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World, by John Robbins. 2001. Conari Press.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan. 2006. The Penguin Press.

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