The Raw Vegan Challenge Experience

Raw Food with sprouts and olives

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.

Raw Vegetables on a cutting board

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
  • Spices
  • 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

Raw zucchini pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and nuts

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.

Raw Marinated Vegetables

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!

Raw paste with yellow peppers

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.

Raw hummus with carrots

What Now?

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?

Raw fruits and vegetables

  • Brigid | The Inspired Notebook

    Farnoosh, I love raw food and have tried a few times to eat a totally raw or very high raw diet. Unfortunately, like you, it’s just not exactly what my body needs, so I’m still working at finding that balance.
    It’s awesome that you’re so committed to trying out different things with your challenges. I definitely think you did the right thing stopping when you did though. No ‘challenge’ is worth impacting negatively on either your health (Morgan Spurlock may not agree!) or ability to make positive choices about your health, as you suspect it could have if you’d continued.
    It’s so true what you say about the need to respect and listen to our bodies. Ironically, the better we care for our bodies, by eating well and exercising, the easier that becomes to do.
    Wishing you continued health and looking forward to reading more of your inspirational challenges!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi, dear Brigid, I think we are very similar in this aspect. I am always looking for more balance too but it’s good to know that you too felt the same with your body, and that you listened.
      Gosh, so I do not know Morgan Spurlock but according to Google, he is a bit of an extreme :)! And I am doing so much better now that I can eat vegan Indian food!
      It’s so nice to see you here in Prolific Living, Brigid, welcome and thanks so much for your support and thoughts here.

  • Marla

    Chicken! 😉 I kid I kid. I love eating raw vegan. And vegan. And vegetarian. And the occasional steak. Keep it simple and delicious. My juicer is in, so when’s our juice fast? :)

    • Farnoosh

      Too funny on more than one level. And you are very funny, Marla. I love all of those too but no steak for me, thanks. I grew out of that fast and no dairy either. Just the occasional once in a blue moon tandoori chicken, maybe!
      Your juicer finally arrived? How about that! Time to celebrate. I don’t know if we can do a juice fast before my travels. I can’t manage to have detox and crankiness but you know what, we gotta do it before the weather cools. Maybe late September??

  • Melody | Deliberate Receiving

    I think you did exactly the right thing by quitting, Farnoosh. It’s not supposed to be about pummeling yourself into some diet you don’t enjoy. Food is meant to be one of our greatest pleasures. I’m only about 80-90% RAW. The rest is made up of other foods that I occasionally crave. And when I do, I listen. Sometimes I want grilled veggies, sometimes sushi. If I crave a big steak tomorrow, I’ll go and have one. I do think that eating “clean” is beneficial for everyone, that means, no processed or chemical foods. When you’re clean, your body will actually tell you what it needs. But beyond that, eat for pleasure. Eat what makes you feel good. Screw any kind of rules and listen to our body. You are one of the most energetic and happy people I know, so you must be doing something right, no? :)


    • Farnoosh

      Melody, this is totally off-topic but I’ve spent all my time in the car and moving around today listening to you and your voice is buzzing around in my head, telling me exactly what I need to do and you have AMAZING talent and captivating voice with that podcast. I am so hard to please but you have me hooked and you are also teaching me about the law of attraction, which as you know, I was very doubtful about.
      As for this, thank you so so much for the vote of confidence. My body is so so happy, and I am making a concerted effort to eat a lot of raw now that I am not on it 100%. If you are at 80-90%, that’s phenomenal. But I bet, your kindness to yourself in those times of serious craving balances it out and you are able to naturally return to the healthier side of the scale with happiness.
      Thank you so much for your comments, your support and most of all, for all that you offer on your podcast. You must continue!!
      Hugs back to you, Melody.

      • Melody | Deliberate Receiving

        Thanks so much for your wonderful feedback Farnoosh! I’m so glad you like the podcasts. No worries, there will be many more to come. :)


        • Farnoosh

          Very happy to hear it, Melody. :)

  • Gail

    Living a healthy food lifestyle and feeding our bodies the nutrition it needs is key to a vibrant life. I also believe you need to listen to your body and be conscious of what you are consuming. This challenge has educated me more about the raw food lifestyle, yet I too could not be 100% raw .

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Gail, we did have fun with the whole challenge, didn’t we? And amen to that key you spell out here. This challenge taught me a lot too and that’s the best part about challenges – walking away looking differently at something we thought we know so well. At least that’s how it works out for me often. Nice to meet you through all of this. Thank you for your comment and support.

  • Cristina | Positively Beauty

    Farnoosh, I think that stopping the raw vegan challenge before its end was the right thing to do.
    You listened to your body, and acted accordingly: perfect!
    I don’t believe in being extreme in my choices; I’m not vegan, or vegetarian either, but I do listen to my body and try to vary my diet accordingly. For example, during the summer I ate lots of raw food (salads and smoothies), but this morning it’s chillier and I felt I needed to get something warm – so I had porridge with chia seeds, stevia, cinnamon, raspberry & cashew milk -nom!
    Not only we’re all unique and work better on different diets, but we also change with the seasons, and during different phases of our life, so listening to ourselves is vital.
    By the way, we’re going to get a juicer when we’re settled in England (no point buying it now and fill another box for the move!) and I can’t wait to add juices to my diet :)

    • Farnoosh

      Thank you, Cristina, I am so glad to hear your perspective. We have talked about our food journeys before and I also noticed you are on the juicing list. I am pulling that whole campaign together to start it very soon. You know, I am passionate about juicing and think it will really benefit your body and well-being a great deal. And you are *absolutely* right with the change of seasons and our cravings. I feel the changes from hot to cold – that’s why I eat less raw foods in the winter and a lot more soups. Yum! And please, keep me posted on the juicing journey and hope you like the stuff I plan to send out. All the very best and thanks for this comment.

  • Chris Harris

    Hi Farnoosh,

    When I was young- maybe 12 or 13 years old, my parents started the McDougal diet for a year which was pretty fierce veganism- not all raw, but totally lacking in animal proteins of any kind. My experience like yours was unhappiness and losing weight when I was already skinny.

    Your experience with the raw food challenge is what I have seen with other vegans and vegetarians I know or have met. I think the reason for this is we need to strike a balance between raw and cooked as well as quality meat and plants. I know there is a lot of debate about either of those. My personal experiences has settled the debate at least for myself :-)

    I have started a 30 day challenge that is based on Ori Hofmekler’s “The Warrior’s Diet”. In a nutshell it is raw fruits and veggies during the day or intermittent fasting; then the biggest, tastiest cooked meal you can eat in the evening.

    I am three days into my challenge and have already dropped 4.2 pounds and feeling better. I am looking forward to posting my thoughts and experiences on this when I am done. I think I will also write some reviews of his books in depth as I explore this way of eating.

    BTW- if you are ever in the Dallas area, my wife and I would like to take you to a Indian place we like to go to, I think it is some of the best Indian around. When we go we enjoy having the Masala Dosa, very spicy Chicken Tika Masala and Paneer Palak.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Chris,
      I am going to make that flight to Dallas next week now :)! I *LOVE* Indian food and the one you describe sounds more like South Indian.
      I fly through DFW all the time – or used to before I started working so hard this summer – I am Exec Platinum this year again on American and that’s the hub as you know, but we never quite leave the airport. Love to come out and meet you in person.
      That diet sounds very interesting. I am now 8 months into my vegan diet again and while I am very happy, I do miss chicken and meat only on certain and rare occasions like in Indian restaurants and my parents’ Persian cooking. You must have good Persian restaurants in Dallas too – it’s a big city. And maybe, over time, I will adapt to a more balanced diet, especially since in general, I am highly active and that may just be what I need over time. I do love – LOVE – raw foods and green juices and health food in general.
      Fantastic progress (a bit fast too) on your weight loss. I wish you all the best and can’t wait to read about it at Between the Temples!
      Thanks for a fabulous comment here, Chris.

  • Chris Harris

    Hi Farnoosh,

    Please do let us know when you are coming- make sure you have a little time. The place my wife and I like is a bit of a drive from DFW.

    There is a Persian place in Dallas that looks fantastic. I think I will make the next date night there and report back.

    I haven’t gotten to your articles yet about your vegan experience yet. I am glad that is working so well for you. I haven’t really met anyone that has thrived on a vegan diet as well as you are.

    I think some of my weight loss is water at this point. My 30 day challenge also includes avoiding primary food allergens (corn, wheat, dairy and soy) which can can cause systemic inflammation and water retention.

    • Farnoosh

      Well, your wish came true! Eight months of vegan later, this week has been just one insane craving after another so tonight, I gave in and had sushi after a very long time. So far, so good. I think I just really enjoy the extremes sometimes – and that’s why I thought the raw vegan would work out so well but the vegan works out extremely well. It really does. I have learned that for me, dairy is the worst thing. I just don’t do well with dairy at all and cutting that has been one of the best things for my health.
      At the Persian place, don’t just go for Kebab. Have a khoresht – which is the mix of some vegetable/meat/sauce that is served on the side of rice. My husband’s favorite is Fesenjoon, and it is a very well-known and “royal” dish so it may not be on the menu. After that, my favorite, Ghormeh-Sabzi. Yum! Bon appetit, Chris. I’ve really enjoyed this exchange. Best of luck on the rest of your diet.

      • Chris Harris

        LOL! That is so funny. I understand going to extremes at times, we have something in common there.

        I hope the sushi was tasty and sat well with you. I noticed from another post that you like plain yogurt- does that set well with you?

        I ask because I have a problem with dairy as well- its a major allergen and asthma trigger for me…. with an exception. Raw and unpasteurized dairy does very well for me. If I drink the stuff from the store- its pretty bad. Poor digestion, asthma, systemic swelling, etc. But the raw milk straight from the udder of cows grazing peacefully in the pastures is a slice of heaven. You cannot beat the taste or creaminess of what is in the stores. The best raw milk is at the beginning of spring when the grass is green and lush.

        I have had people who had diary issues try the raw milk with great success. I am of the mind that people who have issues with dairy actually have issues with diary that is no longer alive. The stuff at the stores lacks enzymes or the good bacteria to help digest the diary. And the homogenization allows the milk to cross into your blood stream undigested through the small intestine which causes allergy attacks.

        Something to consider if you are inclined. Let me know if I get my wish 😉

        I too have enjoyed our exchange. I took note of the dishes you mentioned and will see if this Persian place I have my eye on has them to try.

        • Farnoosh

          Hi Chris,
          Plain yogurt – sometimes with some onions and cucumbers and dried dill – is a staple of Iranian side-dishes and I love it. Milk, I haven’t had since the age of 16 and I am fine without it. I can’t stand milk, really :)! I don’t miss dairy in pastries and I was never a big cheese fan. I think I am totally fine on a dairy-free life :)
          I try to beg and plead with my mother and mother-in-law to stop drinking milk but do they listen??? NO!
          Have a great time at the Persian restaurant! And thank you for the conversation here.

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