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Fanaticism in the Raw Food Movement

Frederic Patenaude

I started my experimentations with the raw diet towards the end of summer of 1996, and since then I can be justly qualified a non-conformist in regards to diet and nutrition. I first went on a strict, but confused, natural hygiene diet, then became a strict raw-foodist, then experimented with almost every type of raw diet there is, then experimented with cooked food, then raw foods again, and ever since I have been trying to fine-tuning my diet.

Right now I follow a mostly raw diet (80% or more). I do not eat 100% raw foods anymore. Even though I have been a 100% raw diet for long periods of time, and will go 100% raw periodically, I no longer feel that it’s necessary for me to be 100% raw.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have touched a piece of bread with a 10-feet pole, but was ready to gorge myself with raw recipes and avocados, just to make sure that I wouldn’t awake my “cooked food cells” and stayed raw. There was a time when I did everything in my power to eat the freshest, best organic raw foods there was, yet was not feeling the vitality or mental clarity I had before I was even a vegetarian. There was a time when I binged on all sorts of cooked foods I had sworn never to eat again — out of the frustration that the raw diet was not working for me, and the shame I had for not having succeeded.

I now write these lines with calm, looking back at these difficult days, realizing that all of this turmoil was unnecessary. I worked things out using the empirical approach — that is to try everything out in order to come to my own conclusions. This is a time-wasting technique, but it did teach me a lot.

In that process, I learned that:

The means is not the end. Being a raw-foodist for example, is not the point. We shouldn’t focus on that.
We have to keep in mind what we’re doing this for. In that search for the perfect diet, we’re doing this to be healthy and enjoy life more — not to achieve an “ideal.”
We have to find a balance, and not struggle for years. If after years of trying to be a raw-foodist we’re still struggling, it means that we’re doing something wrong. We need to look at the situation with calm to find answers.
Willpower is not enough, we need knowledge too. You can have the willpower to climb 10,000 stairs, but why waste this much energy when there’s a lift that will take you there in no time? That lift is proper knowledge.
My Introduction to Rawdom
In 1996, I was 20 year old and quite easily impressed by what appeared to be logical or scientific information. Although the years that have passed since have not made out of me a wise man, I have been able to gain a little wisdom regarding to my subject of predilection — diet. Now it takes me but a few minutes to tell the content of most diet books— they are all the same!

The piece of advice that I came across when I first heard of the concept of raw eating seemed logical, but proved to be quite misleading to myself others. It went like this:

“Eating raw foods is the most natural way to eat. It’s very simple. All that you have to do is follow your instincts, eat as much as you want, as long as you are eating fresh raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.”

Impressed by the simplicity of this systemless-system, I embarqued on a journey that led me through deep nutritional imbalances. But first, the advice worked. I packed my fridge with fruits and vegetables and was eating all day long. I didn’t know about recipes or durian. I ate lots of food and went through a quite intense period of detoxification. I went through it and was feeling mostly good, even though I was still struggling with cravings. My will was as strong as could be and I was ready to be a raw-foodist for life and change the world along the way.The next part of my journey took me to California, where I discovered raw food recipes — an exciting world where all my repressed cravings could express themselves, letting go, now free to eat raw “pizza,” “chocolate cake” and even “pasta.” I also discovered more than 10 new delicious varieties of avocado, and became quickly addicted to them. I ate durian for the first time: the exhilaration was high!

I was eating lots of fat, lots of raw food recipes, lots of fruit, lots of everything. And I was not feeling right.

More Misleading Advice
Two new pieces of raw food lore would prove to be fatal for me. The first was: “Anything raw is better than anything cooked” and the second was “it’s probably detoxification.” So I kept eating and eating and kept saying to myself: “well, it’s raw.” I kept feeling bad and kept saying to myself: “it’s probably detoxification.”

If I did not know the reality — that is, most raw-foodists have gone through the same struggle. We all lacked the knowledge it takes to do it right, so we took the long way — the empirical approach.

The Raw-Food Movement
Since then, the raw-food movement has been shaping itself up, thank God, with a more sold basis. But still, a lot of useless, misleading and confusing advice keeps polluting many books in print.

Many raw food books are still filled with made-up facts, bogus science, anecdotal evidence and useless advice such as: “Just find out what works best for you.” No wonder that most people are in a state of deep confusion. They can’t make sense of it all.

Someone says that eating fruit will make you sick; the other one says that you should only eat fruit. One says that eating oil is bad for you; the other one recommends that you should eat lots of oil. Then there are those who do not take a stance, and just propose that people just “find out what works for them.”

Here are some false statement made by raw-foodists I’d like to clear once and for all.

"Cooked food is toxic.”
This type of bold statement is what weakens our message and puts unnecessary fear into people. Cooking food doesn’t immediately turn it into something toxic. If it were true, no one would be alive. It is true that certain methods of cooking, such as frying and barbecuing create many carcinogenic substances in the process, it is false to say that all cooked foods are “toxic.” This is the type of statement that make people say that raw-foodists are fanatic and make them discredit our message at once. Why not say instead “raw food is superior”?

“Anything raw is better than anything cooked (or as long as it’s raw it’s okay).”

Reality check: Many raw food meals prepared at most raw restaurants do not fall in the category of “healthy food.” You will find most of them to be very high in sodium and fat, and usually contain lots of spices and condiments.

Many people believe that all raw foods are better than all cooked food, and vice-versa. This is a big misconception that often leads to excesses. The fact that a food is raw doesn’t make it necessarily healthy. There is more to a healthy diet plan than just eating raw, and there is more to health than just eating.

“Fruit is bad for you.”
Most raw-foodists are living on such a high-fat diet (often more than 60-70% fat) that they can no longer handle fruit anymore. It has been proven that high-fat diets decrease insulin sensitivity (the effectiveness of insulin in carrying sugar to the cells), and thus raise blood sugar levels . So those living on high-fat diets, that is, most raw-foodists, will inevitably experience more blood sugar swings when they eat fruit.

Thus, the myth has spread now that fruit is not very healthy and that we should all aim at eliminating or reducing the quantity of fruit in our diet. Fruit — definitely the most palatable raw food there is, and one of the healthiest categories of food — is now supposed to be bad for us, according to many authors.

Instead of getting all of our nutritional advice from raw-food books, it would pay off to study a little bit of what other authors have written, as well as general books on nutrition. We would then understand that many statements made by raw-foodists, such as fruit being bad for us, have no serious scientific basis, and when they do, sometimes the results of many researches can be interpreted differently.

So whenever you hear a bold statement that is the contrary of all common sense, such as “fruit is not a healthy food” — don’t take it for cash. Study the facts first.

Raw Food Hype
Now the raw diet has become popular. Celebrities are into it, raw food restaurants are popping up in most major cities, the media are talking about it, articles have been published in many magazines and newspaper, including Times. Raw-foodists rejoice when they hear about another article being published about the raw diet in a major newspaper — when in fact most of those weaken our message. They pass the raw food diet as the latest hype, the latest craze on planet Hollywood — and make it look like the raw diet is about making fake cheeseburgers with almond pâté and seaweed. For them, eating raw is a latest diet, and its proponents are innocent health fanatics who think that they can survive on 800 calories a day.

In these insipid articles, the authors usually start by quoting raw-foodists (mostly out of the context) expressing statements such as “cooked food is poison” or “cooking kills your food,” then they go on to talk about all the movie and pop music stars who are supposedly into it, they mention raw gourmet cuisine and raw-restaurants, and then conclude the article with a few nutritionist bashing and scoffing at the whole theory.

All of this media hype will be forgotten when the next diet mania arrives on the market. The efforts to publicize the benefits of raw foods through the media will not have a long-lasting effect because the media are not about educating people. They’re about entertainment and mind-numbing.

But here I tell you now:

Raw foods are not the latest diet hype (maybe raw restaurants are).
Raw food is not the answer to all of humanity’s problems.
Becoming a raw-foodist will not solve all of your problems.
Yes, you can be unhealthy while eating 100% raw foods.
Some cooked foods are better than some raw foods (i.e. — the fact that it’s raw doesn’t make it automatically healthy.)
Some people fare better on 75% raw than 100% raw.
There are other things to consider when designing a diet than just raw vs. cooked.
The word “cooked” is not a swear word.
Eating raw will not turn you into a super-being.
You cannot live on air or light alone.
“Are you 100% raw?” is not considered to be a pertinent question when being introduced to someone.
Yes, you can be deficient while eating a 100% raw diet.
A raw diet requires some planning, you cannot just “follow your instincts”
A “raw” cheeseburger is not a “cheeseburger” and is not raw either.
It doesn’t matter that Demi Moores went on a raw diet. (i.e. we don’t care)
"Raw” also means: [not processed, purified or refined]
Raw foods are fruits and vegetables in their “natural state” — not dehydrated for hours and turned into crackers, raw cookies, and cakes. The latter could be considered “whole foods” — a much better choice than what’s available on the market, and generally healthy — but is not what eating raw is about. A plate of steamed broccoli is closer to being a natural food than a raw cheeseburger or raw cake sold at a raw restaurant

Eating raw is about filling our bodies with an abundance of natural vitamins, minerals, organic water, fiber, and all the nutrients needed to fill our needs, both for energy and maintenance — in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating raw is making sure that the largest part of the food consumed is in the raw state and that it consists of fresh produce.

Beyond FanaticismIf you are 100% raw and feel wonderful, and someone comes along to tell you that what you are are doing is killing you — don’t loose any time discussing it, just go along with your life and let these fools auto-terminate their annoying attempts at discouraging you.

If you are eating 75% raw and feel great and some annoying raw-foodist comes along and just “can’t believe that you don’t eat 100% raw” — just forget him too. He’s just a passing fanatic.

What are you doing this for anyway? You want to be a raw-foodist? You want to be a vegan? You want to save the world? I think not.

You want to feel great, look great, have lots of energy, and be healthy. Eating raw is not an end in itself — it’s a means to an end. Why let the tree hide the forest?

If there were less fanaticism in the raw-food movement, I think our message would have a much better impact.

(reprinted with permission)

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