My adventures in raw foodism

When you're full of food and drink,
an ugly metal statue sits where your spirit should.
-- Rumi --

Let body needs dwindle and soul decisions increase.
Diminish what you give your physical self.
Your spiritual eye will begin to open.
-- Rumi --

My adventures in raw foodism began in 1991 when I first learned about the raw food diet. I was in my mid thirties at the time and working as a reporter at a daily newspaper in Northwest Arkansas. The idea seemed pretty far out. The concept was introduced by fellow Fayettevillian Joe Alexander, who had just authored a book on the subject titled Blatant Raw Foodist Propaganda. Curious about the raw food idea, I called him up and offered to do an article about the book. Joe agreed to an interview, after which he suggested I also interview another local raw foodist. I liked what both of them had to say about the raw food lifestyle: increased energy, vitality, creativity and glowing health, but I wasn't anywhere near ready to adopt the lifestyle for myself. I was still in the process of deciding if I wanted to become a vegetarian. I did stop eating meat the following year, but it would take another decade for me to be ready to approach the raw food lifestyle.

Over the years, I kept running into the idea of raw foodism. Sometimes I would see posters for Joe Alexander's raw food potluck group around town, but I never felt inclined to go. The idea seemed too restrictive and extreme to me. In May 2001, I went to a vegetarian conference in Springfield, Missouri. Arriving shortly after the first workshops had started, I randomly walked into a workshop and sat down. It was a talk on juicing and raw food. Once again, I was presented with the idea that a raw food diet could lead to healing and a much better life. During the talk, we were given 10 simple steps to better health. They were: 1) eat foods as close to nature as possible; 2) eat at least 75 to 85% raw food; 3) take 2 tbsp. of green food called Barley Green daily; 4) drink only distilled water, which helps take the toxins out of your body; 5) avoid drinking water with a meal because it dilutes your digestive juices; 6) eliminate breakfast and have only Barley Green; 7) eliminate dairy and meat from the diet as well as sugar, white flour and table salt (Bragg's Amino can be used to spice up dishes and sea salt is OK); 8) eliminate all products that contain hydrogenated oils; 9) exercise vigorously every day; and 10) breathe deeply. After the talk, we were given the opportunity to drink some fresh carrot juice. It tasted wonderful to me. I knew I wanted to eventually get a juicer and juice my own.

By the time I was at the 2001 workshop, the idea of a raw food diet didn't seem as foreign, though it still didn't seem practical to my way of life. The juicing, however, seemed more do-able, though I wasn't ready to rush out and spend several hundred dollars on a juicer. Once more, the idea of raw foodism was filed away.

Then, in the fall of 2002, it surfaced again. While doing research on the Internet, I came across a raw foods site. I began reading about different types of juicers and found a site where I could buy a Green Star juicer for just under $400. The Green star juicer seemed the best choice for me (see detailed information about Green Star in Juicing section). By this time, the subject of raw foods had been showing up in my life so often I'd begun to feel it was my destiny to migrate toward juicing and a raw food diet. At that time, I said, "If it's meant to be, the money will manifest for me to buy the juicer." Two weeks later, my dad announced he was clearing out his house and wanted to have a giant yard sale. He asked me to organize it and gave me most of the proceeds from the sale, which was more than enough to cover the price of the juicer and a dehydrator. A month or so later, I bought a FreshLife sprouter so I could grow wheatgrass to juice. The juicer arrived around the end of October 2002. I began juicing every day, trying lots of different vegetable combinations. I juiced carrots, beets and beet greens, apples, ginger root, parsley, dandelion greens, fennel, spinach, and parsnips.

The further I got into juicing, the more the idea of a raw food diet appealed to me. I was feeling stronger and more alive with the juicing and I wanted even more of that. At the local library, I found a copy of the Sun Food Diet Success System by David Wolfe and Raw the Uncook Book by Juliano, and began reading up on the raw food diet.

I tried some of the recipes in Juliano's book and felt very clear and sharp eating raw foods, but I just couldn't keep it up. The recipes were tedious to make and required a lot of ingredients I didn't keep on hand. I lapsed after only a week, but this time in my mind I begin moving toward a more realistic approach of incorporating a higher percentage of raw foods into my daily diet.

After reading a book called 12 Steps to Raw Foods by Victoria Boutenko, I began to understand about the importance of enzymes, which are the essence of life and energy. Raw foods contain enzymes. Cooked foods do not. Because cooked food doesn't contain enzymes, our bodies can't really use it. For this reason, our body treats cooked food as a toxin and is only concerned with getting rid of it. I also learned from 12 Steps that my body was addicted to cooked foods because that was what I'd been putting into it, and that in order to change my addiction to cooked foods, I had to change what I was putting into it. In about 60 days, my body would make the adjustment.

About that time, a friend who had been staying with me decided as a result of my interest in raw foods, to do some Internet research. He discovered the founding father of the raw foods movement, Viktoras Kulvinskas, was living in Mount Ida, Arkansas, on a 90-acre wholistic lifestyle retreat called the "All Life Sanctuary." It was a four-hour drive away. At the library, I found an original 1970s edition copy of his book, Survival into the 21st Century, and we both began reading it. Viktoras Kulvinskas, we learned, is an internationally known authority on raw foods, wheatgrass and natural healing and co-founder of the Hippocrates Institute along with Ann Wigmore.

In August, my friend contacted Viktoras and expressed interest in doing a work exchange at his retreat. The work exchange was arranged and I agreed to drive my friend down there. I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting Viktor. I sensed that just by talking with him, I would gain insight into my urgings toward the raw food lifestyle. If the change was in the cards for me, I was ready to make the commitment.

After taking a few wrong turns, we finally arrived at the All-Life Sanctuary on the fall solstice 2003. The sanctuary is in a remote community called Sims, a distance outside Mount Ida, and about an hour from Hot Springs. We were greeted at the door by Viktoras, a thin, yet energetic man in his mid-sixties. His wife, Youkta, a yoga and dance instructor an incredible raw food chef in her own right, was traveling at the time. Their home is very peaceful, filled with plants, aquariums, cats, candles and interesting artifacts they've acquired in their many years together.

During the time I was there, I spent time talking to Viktor, watching him prepare raw meals, and observing his sprouting techniques for buckwheat, sunflower and wheatgrass. He did iridology and palm readings, and advised me what I could do to improve my health and alleviate the enzyme depletion in my digestive system. He gave me a copy of his book, The Lovers Diet, and directed me to some enzymes and recipes that would be most beneficial for me.

I returned home near the end of September and cleaned out my kitchen. I made a list of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains I would need and made a trip to the local health food store. I rounded up my Mason jars and started sprouting lentils, a grain mix, sunflower seeds, and wheatberries. Using Viktor's recipes, I made sauerkraut and rejuvelac, a fermented drink made from soaking wheatberries. Both help put good bacteria into the digestive system.

Even as I began my adventures in raw food-ism, I longed for the company of other like-minded souls. Synchronistically, a week after my return from Viktor's retreat, I discovered there was a local raw food group that held monthly potlucks and organized workshops as well. I began attending the raw food potlucks and in October I went to a workshop by chef Suzanne Alex Ferarra, a gourmet raw food chef from Little Rock, who taught us how to make three gourmet raw food recipes - pizza with pinenut cheese, chili, and lasagna. I also learned numerous techniques that would later enable me to put together other recipes. The workshop greatly expanded my understanding of raw food preparation.

It helped to feel more confident in preparing some tasty raw food dishes and make friends with some supportive fellow raw foodists. But even as I moved into a brighter, more hopeful future, the side effects of the past were still with me. As the weeks wore on, I entered an increasingly intense period of detoxifying. Although I'd been eating a pretty healthy diet and juicing for almost a year, I did go through a time of clearing and cleansing the remnants of my old lifestyle that had included several decades of consuming all types of meats, sugars, junk foods and other types of traditional SAD (standard American diet) fare, as well as periodic bouts of illness that resulted in consuming prescription pharmaceuticals for prolonged periods of time.

For several months, I went through a detoxifying. Though it was winter, I'd have hot flashes that lasted usually a couple of minutes. Their frequency intensified as the fall went on, then lessened and stopped completely after the first of the year. I also experienced diarrhea off and on for most of the fall and winter. I lost 30 lbs. I struggled with (and still struggle with) problems of acidity in my body. Even though I was eating 100% raw, I was eating too much fruit. Victoras told me this several times. Apparently even though some foods themselves are alkaline, the body converts them into acid during the digestive process.

During my most recent visit to Viktoras' retreat (July 24-25, 2004), I was able to attend a two-hour class on how to make several grain dishes. Viktor explained that sprouted grains are the optimal fuel that gives us strength and stamina. The grain dishes he demonstrated included grain milk, soup, cereal, pate, dip and crackers.

I sometimes find it difficult to be 100% raw. It's much easier to be about 90% raw and to occasionally eat something cooked that I find interesting. I feel I still have a lot to learn about food combining and fine-tuning my diet to my body's specific needs. I hope that through the medical intuitive work, I will be able to gain insight into my body's needs and the foods that will create optimal health, as well as any thoughts and emotions that are still having a negative impact on my health.

Even though it's been almost a year since I made the decision to eat a raw food diet, I'm still in a transition period and there will continue to be fluctuations and adjustments as time goes on. Eventually I think I'll be able to stick with my original goal of eating 100 percent raw. In the meantime, I continue to learn and enjoy the many benefits that converting to the raw lifestyle has given me: increased energy, clarity and spiritual connection. My creativity is opening up, my writing and poetry is flowing, and life in general is increasingly a glowing tapestry of synchronicities and possibility.

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