It is time to tell the tale of the Raw Vegan Challenge Month that was not to be in its entirety! So what happened, what did I learn, and how I plan to continue to take my eating habits to the next level of exploration and refinement.
The Enticement of A Challenge
I get so much excitement when just thinking about the idea of challenges. Butterflies. Racing heart. Blinking eyes. Gosh, I might as well be a panting puppy. And most of the challenges, funny enough, deprive you of some of life’s pleasures, so no, I cannot explain my behavior. I only know that I get ridiculously excited thinking these thoughts:
Can I do it? Can I pull through? What if I don’t? What does it mean? How will it feel? How far can I go? What is my body and mind able to do if I stretch it?
But it turns out, the most important question of all when it comes to challenges is this:
What is the fine line between overcoming fears to push past your boundaries and recognizing that you have reached a limit in your body, one that you need to respect?
If you can answer that question and do it in such a way that it fulfills your desires and needs, then I’d say you can take on any challenge.
The idea of a raw vegan challenge sounded thrilling. The vegan journey of the past 9 months has been phenomenal for my body and my mood and spirits. It is not the only reason I feel so good but it has attributed to it a great deal. Taking things up an ante is always exciting and I was getting tired of hearing all the buzz about an all-raw-food diet without knowing first hand what it is all about. Besides, with all the buzz I myself generated, our LinkedIn group had quite the little following and I was grateful to have company on this ride.
The Actual Experience of Eating Raw Vegan for 17 Days
It matters to note that my current diet was already heavily based on vegetables, fruits and some nuts and seeds and was at least 50-60% raw. I was already making green juices, green smoothies and tons of salads. My adjustment was not as drastic as it would have been on another diet and yours will vary too when you take into account all that you give up for a raw vegan diet.
Speaking of which, here’s what I allowed myself:
- Raw vegetables and fruits
- Raw nuts, nut creams
- Raisins, dried fruits
- Oolong tea (not gonna give this up!)
- Olive oil, vinegar
- Soaked noodles (twice)
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Lara bars
- Seeds, sesame and chia.
- Raw cacao powder (used once)
- Tahini (used once)
Now, how to make this short list of foods appetizing, fresh, and exciting for the course of the challenge, that becomes the question.
Here’s what you need at a minimum in your kitchen:
- A masticating juicer
- A food processor
- A strong blender
I have to admit, I love to eat constantly. It helps me think and it helps me work better. I love to snack. I never worry about calories because my activity level general takes care of any extra nibbles. I also stay extremely busy so preparing the menus for my raw food diet was the biggest challenge.
You need to prepare and plan in advance every single day for a raw food diet. You need to buy fresh foods and vegetables at least a few times a week. I found that if I did not do this, I would hardly get the nutrition that I need. The idea is not to just stay full and satisfied but to also get the maximum nutrition from the food choices available to you. This is where your creativity comes in and it takes a lot of time and effort to be this creative every day.
My Top 3 Favorite Meals:
I continued to make green juices, fruit juices, green smoothies or regular smoothies. These however stand out as my favorite meals:
- Serious Salads with a wide variety of greens complete with nuts, yellow peppers, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, raisins and sesame seeds.
- Marinated Vegetables, which quickly became a favorite, because I don’t like raw mushrooms, zucchini and squash and marinating them overnight in olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and spices, makes them super soft and delicious. It nearly fools you into thinking it might just be cooked and cooled!
- Raw Hummus with zucchini in place of chickpeas to satisfy my cravings for something creamy.
For snacks, I would eat a handful of raw almonds, or banana with some almond butter, or an apple with blueberries or a Lara bar.
How My Body Felt on the Raw Vegan Diet
The main idea behind doing a raw food or green juice fast is to cleanse and detox the body. To put it more bluntly, you want to eliminate all the waste that does not belong in your digestive system, your colon, your stomach, and everywhere else our body tends to store stuff we put in our mouth. And believe me, it stores it away like a squirrel stores away nuts for the cold winter. And if you go into a juice fast or a raw vegan diet after eating horribly for any length of time, then your body will definitely go into a shock and react accordingly. My body must be in pretty good state because my reaction, if any at all, was minimal in that area. I consider this both good news and somewhat unexciting.
As to my overall state, I did not go hungry once. The olive oil in salads and the fats in nuts and avocado satisfied me. I was full and had no problem staying full. Not sure how much I ate but I cut out my intense cardio workout and weight training during this period. I wanted to take it easy as I went on this diet and wonder now how I would have felt if I had kept the serious workouts.
My cravings were not quenched. I did not crave cooked food so much as I craved something crunchy. I missed some cooked foods but not as much as the crunchy stuff. You would think I eat chips all the time or something! Why did I want something crunchy so badly? I was not about to splurge ridiculous amounts of money at Whole Foods for a tiny bag of kale chips. No, thank you, there is a limit! I had to keep things on some sort of a budget, especially since I left that stupid lucrative job behind!
Why I Stopped the Challenge Before the End
Do you want to know how I really felt after eating raw foods for 17 days? In short, I couldn’t wait to consume massive portions of hot, spicy, and delicious Indian food. Another week and I would have been a complete disaster. And believe it or not, I was even going to declare a 30-Day Indian-Food-Only Challenge but my better senses stopped me.
Seriously, I went into this diet thinking how I wanted to fall in love all over with raw foods as a way of living but ironically, I think that if I stayed on for a whole month, I would have been so turned off of raw foods that I would not have eaten them as a major part of my diet on a regular basis.
The main reason that I stopped the challenge before reaching the end is because I had a general sense of unhappiness. I was not as happy as I usually am. I was not infused with joy and bliss and excitement all day long. I felt something major was missing. I did not feel that jolt of energy everyone raves about on a raw food diet because to begin with, I am usually beyond invigorated.
In fact, if you have not seen what I did since I came off the raw vegan diet, you must check out my 10 Minute Daily Invigorator, a gift of energy and vitality in the span of 10 videos that will energize you in the most natural way in just 10 minutes a day. And I must mention that my killer offer on that collection ends August 19th! (And yes, I can self-promote to my heart’s content, it’s my blog, my business and my product rocks and it can help people on a grand scale … oh you guys, this is just a special message to that misguided troll from Lifehacker!)
So on a fine Tuesday, 17 days into this raw vegan challenge, I woke up and I listened to my body. I know without a shadow of a doubt I could have finished the 30-days. I have done much harder challenges that tested me on deeper levels but I have this deal with myself, you see: If I do not see benefits – yes, some benefits come later but at least one must present itself immediately – and if my mental state goes into an unhappy and dull state, after a good run, I will respect my body and listen, because our bodies know best and if the message is uncluttered and true, you too might want to listen.
After a few days of feasting on yummy (and vegan)! Indian food, I am back to my normal healthy vegan eating style. It works. It makes me happy. It’s beautifully manageable. It includes tons of raw foods, which I loved to begin with and still do. It is what my body needs and if once in a blue moon, I crave something non-vegan, and I salivate at the thought of something with so much desire and energy that it robs me from balance and clarity, you betcha I will listen.
My body, my temple. It is grateful for this experience and it hopes that in sharing it, you have taken some value away after reading this.
Your Turn, Baby!
If you liked what you read or what you saw – all photos by me – then please share it on your favorite social media site!
- What do you think: Did I “chicken out” of the 30-day challenge too soon?
- What is one thought you have when you think of the raw food movements or challenges in general?