Friday, January 06, 2006

Raw Food and the Compulsive Overeater

Someone posted on that the cleanup after fixing raw foods is frustrating. I had to laugh because one of the benefits rawfoodists often speak of when comparing cooked to raw is easier cleanup. I, too, beg to differ. Sure, if you grab produce and eat it as-is, there is little to worry about except the stems, seeds, pits, skin/peels or cores you toss out at the end. But for those of us who make juice or salsas and even more involved recipes, cleaning up juice, seeds and wet leaves can be time-consuming. And cleaning juicers and blenders is not fun! I don’t even own a juicer anymore but I remember how frustrating it was picking fibers out of the strainer and brushing little machine parts with a toothbrush- and then going through it again when I juiced in the evening. Although not having that equipment now means I can’t make some of the meals people write about, I still have cleanup to do- and not always in the kitchen. Apparently an errant watermelon seed reached the upstairs the other day. How, I don’t know.

In reading that forum post, I realized that although I don’t like cleanup, I do reap a benefit from it. I posted the following response:

“I also hate all the cleanup, but I tell myself that my time in the kitchen is a way to get to know the food I’m eating and a time for meditation (in the sense of just thinking about what I’m doing, living in the moment, etc.) something I never seem to find time to do, or forget to do regularly. Since I have to clean, I have a ready-made opportunity for meditation. When I ate before, I rarely even LOOKED at what I put in my mouth. All I cared about was the taste, the motions of eating, and the anxiety about getting to that last bite! Now I pay attention to my food from the time I take it out of the refrigerator to the last seed I pick up off the floor.”

Moving to a raw lifestyle doesn’t provoke solely physical changes. My old way of eating helped me in the avoidance of reality. Being depressed made me look at reality in a stark, defeatist way. So there I was, depressed because the world seemed bleak, hypocritical and hopeless, and trying to escape from that world through food. I didn’t pay attention to what I ate because that was depressing, too. I just stuffed myself and tossed out the wrappings.

Now that I don’t eat as much or as often, my day isn’t 85% filled with planning to snack, going to the store/restaurant, buying the food, imagining eating it, eating it, then feeling guilty about it. I’m not saying I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about food (after all, I’m just starting a brand new eating style) but there is no more guilt about what I eat, nor time, money and mental energy spent fantasizing about what flavor I might be in the mood for and running off somewhere to get that thing before the craving went away.

While binging and compulsive overeating has helped me to avoid dealing with my depression, the raw food plan is helping to remove that behavior as a barrier to good mental health. My depression isn’t cured just because I’m eating differently now; I merely escape through other means such as reading, listening to my iPod, and exploring the internet. My family would say I’m often not “present” - this is something I really need to deal with (but which I try to avoid because it adds to my negative feelings about myself). I believe that the removal of old eating behaviors which led to my excess weight and unhealthiness should go a long way towards making me feel successful, and therefore feel better about myself. The health improvements should make me more alert and energetic. With more vitality I’ll have more energy to tackle some issues head on. I know things could be much, much worse. I don’t know why I’m not dead- maybe I have good genes. But since I’m still alive, I have time to make things better for myself and for my loved ones who have stuck by me all this time.

So, you can see how a raw food diet is part of an overall, holistic journey back to health. I expect to make enlightening discoveries, meet interesting people and come ever closer to the type of person I want to be for the rest of my life. This is why I call it an odyssey.




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