The weather is finally warming and, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking of shorts and short-sleeved shirts, bikinis and summer dresses.  Or, more importantly, how you’re going to look in them. 

If, like most Americans, you have a ‘widdle around the middle,’ it’s time to get serious about eating raw and living foods.

For starters, there is absolutely no counting calories or “points,” no restricting how much you eat (starving yourself), and no sweatin’ yourself to death to the oldies (remember poor Richard Simmons? He confessed to bulimia and anorexia in his effort to maintain a lower weight, even while hawking exercise videos).

When I first decided to “try raw,” it was actually for the sole purpose of losing weight. I had been struggling for two years to lose an excess of weight I had accumulated, partly due to inactivity and partly due to undiagnosed hormonal issues (auto-immune thyroid disease). These issues came on the heels of several years of other auto-immune issues (Rheumatoid Arthritis, which was diagnosed at age 27, followed by EBV/CFS diagnosed at 36). Auto-immune issues tend to “cluster,” and by the time the thyorid issue popped up, I was well on my way to full-blown Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and desperately searching for answers to my health problems.

To rid myself of the excess weight, I worked out like crazy at the gym five mornings a week, adding aerobic exercise in the evenings, watched what I ate, kept adding this herb or that one, each purported to speed up metabolism and assist with weight loss. I saw a specialist who prescribed thyroid hormone replacement, which made my heart painfully skip beats but didn’t do much to help the way I felt or the extra pounds. It seemed like nothing was working.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that my reasons for trying raw foods were entirely based on wanting to lose thirty pounds. Health should have been my number one priority, but vanity is really what convinced me.

I had first heard about raw foods (also known as ‘living cuisine’) during a retreat in which a recently published author was giving a talk. His newly released book was all about raw foods and I remember not being very impressed. There I sat, Corona in hand, wondering why anyone would proudly boast that they now used their oven as storage. He wasn’t particularly motivating. Sad, really, because I could have been that much further in regaining both my health and my optimal weight had I seen Markus Rothkranz on that day!

One day, while surfing the Net for ideas to try, I stumbled upon a few sites that featured Before and After pages, and it wasn’t long before I was convinced. It started with the Before and After page on Alissa Cohen’s site. Then I discovered the Before and After page on Shazzie’s site! I was hooked by the idea at this point, but it still took me several months to think that I could actually make such a transition! I hadn’t yet seen We Like It Raw’s Before and After page, another really good one, but it would have been singing to the choir by that point anyway.

I showed these pages to a co-worker, who was also amazed, but quickly decided she “liked food much too much” to try it. I was thinking the same thing. Gee… what in the world will I eat? It seemed that there would be only plates of lettuce and carrot sticks in my future. I’m so glad that turned out NOT to be the case! If I had known how delicious raw and living foods can be, I wouldn’t have been to reluctant to try it in the first place. (I’m happy to report that my results were enough for this co-worker to also “go raw,” and she has since lost a good deal of weight and helped her own health issues, too!)

When I did finally decide to give it a try, I started it as an experiment. I gave myself thirty days, knowing that whatever it was that I was attempting, I could surely manage thirty days. I told myself that, at the end of that thirty days, I could reassess and decide what I wanted to do next. I know I like to see pictures… so here’s mine when I started.Me with 30 unwanted pounds
Notice the beer in my hand!

By the end of that first thirty days, I had lost ten pounds and -believe me- I was eating all I wanted. I felt better and had more energy. At day 30, I decided to “treat” myself for having done it and went out to eat at my favorite gourmet pizza place. That night, the back of my neck and shoulders ached beyond belief, and I remembered that I used to have pain there all the time. I had forgotten about it! I also felt bloated and a general feeling of malaise returned. I had forgotten about that, too.

I decided it was time for another thirty days. If I could do it once, I could do it again. Let’s just see how far I can take this, I was thinking.

Thirty days later, another ten pounds had fallen off without much thought, and I decided another thirty was in order. I was on my way to my ideal weight and feeling so much better that I decided to travel to Maine and get training so that I could feel somehow “official” in spreading the message I knew desperately needed to be spread. Others needed to know about this!

This is why I teach it now. I want others to know that the power to change their health is in the palm of their hands.

If you’ve decided to try raw foods for the sole purpose of losing weight, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all of the other changes you’ll experience. Besides losing 30 pounds in three months (while eating all I wanted and without exercise*), my skin gained a more youthful appearance, I had more energy, slept better, and the aches and pains I had once had disappeared. Some of those aches and pains were so long-lived that I didn’t even realize I had them. Once they went away, I forgot all about them until I had a cooked meal. If I wanted to remember them, I needed only have a former favorite cooked meal and they would reappear almost as soon as I set down my fork(!), and I would think to myself Oh! There you are again. I forgot about you! Of course, keeping them from returning was as easy as “staying raw,” which left no doubt in my mind that it had been my choice of food in the first place that had caused so many issues for me, and my choice of food could fix it.

Today, I still allow myself to have a cooked meal from time-to-time. I don’t want anything I’m doing to ever feel like deprivation. Each time I allow this “treat,” I am reminded that it is my choice to feel better or worse. If I eat more than a few cooked meals in a row, the effects are drastic in the way I feel and the way my clothing fits. I remind myself that eating for maximum nutrition and optimal health feels so much better than the fleeting (and I do mean fleeting!) pleasure of a former favorite not-so-good-for-me meal. In the end, raw works. Plain and simple. I can tell in how I look and in how I feel.

It can work for you, too! However, there are some tips that you should keep in mind:

1. Do NOT overeat. It doesn’t matter if what you’re eating is raw, cooked or somewhere in between. Overeating stresses your liver and your system, in general.

2. Drink more pure water. Don’t think that just because what you’re now eating has a higher water content that you can skimp on the hydration.

3. If you really want to lose weight, those transition foods are going to have to go. Lots of nuts and dehydrated foods will slow down the process. You’ll lose weight either way, compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD), but it’s easier without the heavy stuff.

4. Eat more meals during the day. Yes, you heard that right. Just make the portions smaller. Have six (or more) small meals during the day rather than three larger meals. You don’t want your body to think you’re starving or it won’t want to let go of that stored fat.

Keep in mind that this will require that you brush your teeth more often. Many raw foodists complain of issues with their teeth, and at the same time eschew what they should already know about dental health. If you’re brushing twice a day with three meals, how many times should you brush eating six? That number is up to you, but just keep in mind that food left between your teeth, raw or otherwise, is going to cause problems for you if you don’t clean it out.

5. Don’t eat right before bed. That’s standard advice for anyone (like “don’t overeat” and “drink plenty of water”), but for some reason, people don’t seem to remember it. Try to leave at least three hours between your last meal and sleep. Sometimes that’s difficult, I know. If two is the best you can do, then two it is. But, do NOT eat and then go to bed. Bedtime snacks are pound packers.

Also…

*I strongly suggest that exercise be a part of your health regimen, even if it only consists of gentle stretching and slow walks out in fresh air. As you feel better, you can step up the amount and types of exercise you can do, which will further enhance your health and feelings of well-being.

Also, the more weight you have to lose, the faster it will come off initially. My ten-pounds-per month is not the standard. It’s different for each person, but I’ve seen weight just fly off of people who have much more that they want to lose.

Don’t forget to take pictures! What we see in the mirror tends to be distorted by our perception of ourselves (good or bad). You can check your progress a lot easier when it’s documented in a photograph. I especially regret that I did not take official before and after pics.

Find a friend to go raw with you! You can start your new lifestyle program (don’t call it a “diet program” or you’ll automatically rebel) and keep each other motivated and in check. It’s also much easier to make any changes with someone on and at your side.

Keep learning and growing (intellectually!). Take a class! Books and dvds are wonderful, but it’s much easier to see what can be done in person and you can ask those burning questions. Find a raw teacher in your area and sign up! You’ll come away with the knowledge and motivation to keep going. If you’ve taken a class before, take a refresher! Sign up with a friend so that you can remind each other about what you learned and experienced.

Once you start down this path, life gets a lot more interesting! If you haven’t already, I’m urging you to make that first step. What have you got to lose? ;)