…before you embark on a 30 Day Raw Challenge.
Eating RAW has challenges that come with the territory. It helps to know about them and decide, ahead of time, what you will do when they arise. Here are some important questions to ask yourself before you begin.
- Why are you choosing to eat RAW? If you don’t have a solid, unchanging answer to this question, then I would strongly suggest that you wait until you do have an answer before making the move. Also, if you cannot embrace the notion that you are “choosing” to eat this way and are not being forced to, then I would wait. Eating RAW is not easy (especially in the beginning). If your “why” isn’t motivating to you, you won’t make it very far.
- Are you willing to feel worse before you feel better? Don’t go into the challenge thinking you are going to suddenly feel like a million bucks and that the feeling will stay with you all 30 days (or however long you’re doing it). Depending on the lifestyle you’re transitioning from, you could have some really rough days. It’s possible that they could even outnumber the good days if the your current diet is SAD (Standard American Diet). You will still have a period of detox, maybe even more than one period of detox, even if you are coming from a cooked vegan diet (this has been the case for me).
- What will your RAW diet look like? This may seem like a weird question but you need some guidelines. With more and more “RAW” snack foods showing up on the market, you’ll need to know if you plan to incorporate those into your plan. Will you eat High Fruit or High Fat? You’ll need to do one or the other in order to get enough calories each day. What about oil or maple syrup? The emphasis in question number three is the word, “your”. This will be your challenge so decide ahead of time what you will choose. Please don’t begin without a plan. You can see mine here.
- Are you prepared to be the minority? I am a raw vegan, living with cooked vegans, in a SAD world. What this means is, I eat differently than most everyone else on the planet, including the people in my own house. Our society bases social interactions around food all the time. Most of the time, that food is not RAW. Unless you plan to lock yourself away for the duration of your challenge, you will encounter this. Will you be willing to press through and continue with your challenge even when everyone around you is eating __________ (fill in your favorite non-raw fare)?
If you still want to move forward with a RAW challenge, here are some other things to consider, with a few tips tossed in:
- Fully rely on God. You are about to turn your food world upside down and inside out. I knew there was no way on earth I would do this without God’s help. The reason each of my daily challenge posts is in the “Brick Removed” category is because God has brought me through the day. Some days He encourages me with His Word. Some days He convicts me on my thought processes (you know, the negative ones). Some days He offers me a shoulder on which to cry, “this is hard.” You will have plenty of opportunities to take thoughts captive to Christ, to turn difficulties over to Him and to rely on Him for the strength to press on toward the prize.
- Detox is not fun. You will go through some kind of detox. This could include fatigue, thickening tongue, smelly breath, aches, pains, headaches, nausea, bowel issues, mood swings… just to name a few. The good news is… it doesn’t last if you press on through it. The bad news is… it makes it more difficult to want to press through.
- Some people won’t understand. It’s highly likely that there will be people in your life (or in passing) who will think you are crazy. They may make negative comments. They may try to tease you with cooked food… or just tease you in general. Try to brush it off. Don’t get upset, they just don’t understand… and that’s ok. They aren’t in the same place on this matter; so, of course they won’t understand. Don’t expect them to. It might help to laugh along like “yep, I’m a fruity kind of gal”. After all, you are what you eat, right? On the flip-side, you’ll also have people in your life who think you’re a rock star because they, as they will put it, “could never do that.”
- Most restaurants don’t cater to RAW foodists. If you are going out to eat with family/friends, eat plenty of food before you go. That way you aren’t hungry. If the restaurant happens to have RAW food, have some – yes, even if you already ate. It’s not like that dinner salad is going to pack on the pounds. This is also a good rule of thumb for parties and other social gatherings. Be pro-active. Don’t expect them to cater to you, do what you must to stay on target and then celebrate when you find some treasured raw food in these situations. Or, when appropriate, bring raw food with you to share 🙂 Maybe you’ll convert some people along the way.
- Decide how you’ll respond when people offer you food. Be positive and upbeat. If you feel and act like a martyr, this will weaken your resolve to finish out the challenge. It does get easier the further you go.
- Don’t cut calories. Be prepared to eat a higher volume of food. The biggest mistake RAW challengers make is to try to “diet” while raw by cutting calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, up your daily exercise, but make sure you are adequately fueling your body. Your body will be going through some changes during the challenge and it needs fuel to do that. If you eat enough then you’ll dramatically cut down on detox times and symptoms. You might also be surprised by how much you can eat and still lose weight. I’ve noticed since being RAW that if my body says I’m hungry… I’m hungry. It isn’t confusing hunger with emotions or thirst like it used to. Ignoring that hunger (or passing it off as something else) is not going to help you in the long run. So, eat!
- Get an accountability partner. Find someone who is supportive of what you’re trying to do and check in with them daily. Also, if you tell people you’re doing a challenge, more than likely they will periodically ask how it’s going. Sometimes knowing that someone might ask is motivation to stay on course.
- Keep a journal. You can keep track of anything you want. In my challenge I have been tracking my food, calories, percentages, symptoms, weight, measurements, fitness and how my body is reacting. Be forewarned though, if you are really pressed for time, it is far more important to plan your meals and focus on eating RAW than it is to write down every little thing. Tracking and blogging the way that I am during my challenge can take me anywhere from 1-2 hours a day. I usually wait till the kids are in bed (or getting ready for bed) to log my food notes and work on my daily posts; However, weighing, measuring and photographing food takes time through the day too. I have days where I wish I hadn’t started the series doing all of that stuff… because quite frankly, sometimes I just want to grab some fruit and not think anything more about it. Don’t over commit, be realistic about what you can accomplish day to day and focus on that. Also, rest assured, something will come up to get in the way (sick kids, appointments, flat tire, late work nights, detox symptoms… etc). Keep it simple.
- Attitude is HUGE. If you find yourself looking at cooked food wishfully, stop yourself. Look back at your “why” and change your perspective immediately. Will eating those other foods help you meet your RAW challenge goals (even if the goal is just to finish)? Probably not. This is one of those prime opportunities for taking thoughts captive to Christ. Allow this process to draw you closer to the Lord and you’ll reap even more benefits.
- Dump your old view of food. Sometimes people have a difficult time with RAW because it doesn’t “look like” the food they are used to. A RAW diet can be so colorful and I even find it quite beautiful. Still, it takes some getting used to. Years of eating cooked foods have ingrained us to believe food should look a certain way (and “stick to our ribs” a certain way). A large bowl of watermelon will never look like a cheeseburger or Grandma’s prize winning chili, it is every bit as filling though. That doesn’t mean you can’t get into some of the raw gourmet foods (Going Raw is a great book), but I don’t recommend attempting much of this if you’re just doing a 30 day challenge. Eating differently is a huge adjustment, so keep it simple in the beginning.
Even with all the planning and preparation in the world, things happen. If you “fall of the wagon”, don’t let it run you over. Forgive yourself and jump right back on. Progress, not perfection, will keep you headed in the right direction. I’ll leave you with a link to a marvelous post I read today by Lysa TerKeurst. It’s called Thanking My Quitter Voice. It is a perfect read for those times when “it’s hard” and we just want to give up (if you’re raw or vegan, ignore the part about the chicken salad :)) Breakthroughs are just around the corner… don’t quit!