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What is your identity?

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:31pm

This weekend I was interviewed by a researcher who's looking into the religious and spiritual identities of Jain youth in America. Jain Dharma, or Jainism as it's often called, is a spiritual teaching from India that places the primary emphasis on non-violence (Ahimsa). My mom comes from a Jain background and even though I've been very involved in the community, I've never see myself as a "Jain".

"What is your spiritual identity then?" the researcher asked.

(I'm paraphrasing myself), "I feel that one of the things I'm most thankful for is that that I don't need a spiritual identity any more."

Growing up I thought of myself as Hindu Bhramin. Then an atheist. Then an agnostic. Then I wanted to be a Buddhist monk. Finally settling in a place where I felt a label was no longer needed (for me), nor could a label ever describe the depth of what I was experiencing. Instead, when necessary, I'd use pointers like conciseness, universe, spirit and so on.

In my early days my identity defined my thinking. I would call myself something and then always see through that lens. The Hindu lens. the Buddhist Lense, etc. As I grew spiritually, I felt that was no longer needed or helpful so I dropped it.

There not exactly the same, but I've had a similar journey with my dietary identity.

I grew up in an Indian family and was raised as a Vegetarian. After high school I heard Ingrid Newkirk speak about the suffering of dairy cows so I became a Vegan. About a year later is when I ran into Mr. Nature Love and started the journey of being a Raw Foodist.

When I was Vegan the focus was on "anything but animal products". Seeing through those lenses created a very limited view for myself. I basically felt that as long as I wasn't eating any animal products that I was healthy. Being a Raw Foodist was less restrictive, but early on I did feel that as long as something was raw, it had to be good for you. On the flip side I felt if something was cooked, it had to be bad.

As my raw food diet has evolved, and I learned from real world experience, I've let go of limiting beliefs and also the word "Raw Foodist" itself.

First off, "raw foodist" doesn't sound very cool. It actually sounds a little clunky. It doesn't roll off the tongue like "Vegan" or "Vegetarian". A year ago one of my buddies once introduced me as a "raw foodist" to a girl that I thought was pretty at a party. Man, I wish I had a camera at that moment. Her facial expression was a combination of confusion and slight disgust. Obviously she had no idea what he was talking about.

Secondly, but more importantly, I don't think of myself as a "Raw Foodist". I'm just someone who happens to eat a majority raw foods. I do run a raw food website and talk about the power of raw foods, but I don't walk around throughout the day thinking, "Man, it feels great to be a raw foodist!" Raw Food is something that I do, not who I am.

I have no problem with people calling me a raw foodist. And of course it's necessary to have labels for things, especially fresh concepts. It would be hard to teach someone about power of a diet rich in raw foods without a name for it or the people that practice it. That being said, I've noticed myself moving away from calling myself a "raw foodie" or "foodist" and moving towards saying, "I'm into raw food" or "I eat a raw foods".

In the early days a raw foodist was someone who ate 75% or more of their diet raw (not sure how you exactly calculate that). Now it seems that definition is expanding as many more people are starting to identity their diet/lifestyle as raw influenced.

As the raw food community grows I have a feeling that new words and phrases will start to show up that better define what we're up to individually and as a community. I'm not sure what they will be, but I just have a feeling it is coming.

I'm interested to know:

  • What do you call how you eat?
  • How do you see your dietary identity both personally and as a community?
  • Are you a fan of the term"Raw Foodist"?

Bonus: I want to hear a few funny stories about the identity of being a Raw Foodist. Special prize for the person with the funniest one.

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