I have noticed some recurring themes in emails I receive about eating a raw food diet so I decided to answer them here.
Here's the first question
1. How did you go from intuitive eating to the raw vegan diet?
This is an excellent question. For me, intuitive eating means relearning to eat the way nature intended: realizing that our bodies need and crave healthful foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
We lose our natural desire for these foods when our palates and bodies are blocked or clogged by processed foods. Overeating is only possible when you somehow block the unpleasant feeling of over stuffing your stomach and make eating more an emotional than physical experience.
When I started eating intuitively, it meant I had to really pay attention to what my body was craving, eat that food slowly and deliberately, really tasting and enjoying it, and stopping eating when my body said to, not based on how much was or was not left on the plate. It was a slow process and I really battled with it, not wanting to give up my old habits of overeating, and eating too much refined sugar.
Through this process, I realized that many processed foods do not actually taste good or truly satisfy hunger. There's nothing worse than being full but not satisfied! Also, any eating beyond physical hunger is overeating and causes weight gain. This means you don't make yourself eat A and B so you can have C (dessert). It means recreating your whole way of eating so you eat exactly what you want which also happens to be what is best for your body (whole, natural, organic foods; as close to their original form as possible, and variety to ensure a multitude of nutrients).
Intuitive eating helped me strip my palette back to its natural state. What can be more delicious than perfectly ripe fresh fruit or vegetables? Or unprocessed nuts or seeds? If that doesn't sound desirable to you, I'm guessing you eat a lot of fatty or sugary junk/processed foods or drink a lot of coffee or diet pop/soda. I couldn't begin in earnest until I first stopped drinking Diet Coke (which I now regard as toxic sludge).
As I was working through it, I visualized over and over again what I was doing to my body by putting junk in it. I paid attention to how I felt after eating. Whatever foods made me feel tired or bloated or too full, were gradually dropped from the desirable list. Before you put that donut in your mouth, imagine a surgeon opening up your belly and all that yellow fat stuffed under the skin. Yuck-o-rama. Or think about how fine an artery is and how little it takes to block it with plaque.
Eating is about the whole experience: before (desire), during (pleasure), and after (health and wellness).
Some books on intuitive eating suggest that some people will be fortunate to just master the first step: eating when hungry and stopping when satisfied, without concern for the quality of the food.
As far as I'm concerned, I want to live a long, healthy life. I don't just want to eat in moderation, I want to honour my body. What could affect our health more than what we put in our bodies? I think our culture is in a Big Fat denial about this point. But how do I know it's true? Because my entire list of health complaints diminished when I turned to a raw vegan diet. Problems I feared might require long-term medical care and/or medication all faded away.
So how did I leap from intuitive eating to raw vegan eating? I could see that the intuitive eating idea was absolutely right: our bodies have all the wisdom to know what to eat and when. But emotionally, we can be slow to let go of old, comfortable habits (unconsciously overeating junk food).
I personally felt like I was burning daylight: life is too short to abuse our bodies! I was not feeling very well and it was affecting my quality of life. I could wait and wait for the intentional actions of the intuitive eating methods to kick in, or I could assist the process and jump to the punchline: fresh, uncooked organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are the best foods we can eat.
The proof for me is how much better I looked and felt after just a week or two of eating this way. Occasionally I eat cooked/processed foods at family gatherings and, as much as I sometimes wish it wasn't so, the truth is, it makes me feel unwell for about a week each time. All the old symptoms: headaches, agitation, aches, pains, indigestion, gastric reflux, menstrual cramps...come back.
Life is too short to suffer unnecessarily. If I can feel so much better by eating well, and know that I'm doing the best I can to care for my body: that's as good as it gets.
In short, intuitive eating taught me how to be conscious/aware while eating again, paying attention to the whole eating experience, and switching to a raw, vegan diet fast-forwarded me to the real foods that my body had been wanting and needing.
Today, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, are the centre of my diet. I occasionally enjoy other cooked foods in true moderation. The goal is not to be too strict or a martyr, or dogmatic to other people, but to look and feel great and enjoy great health.