Raw Day 30: That’s a…. Wrap!

Breakfast: ½ cantaloupe

Lunch: Smoothie – 3 frozen bananas; 3 pieces of chocolate

Supper: 1 cucumber; 1 piece of salmon gravlax; 1 chocolate

So it has come down to this. The final day. The big finale. The last hurrah. Okay, first let me just apologize for the pun in the title. I didn’t even have a wrap today…

Welp.

It’s been an adventure all right – from soaring highs, to fierce tummy-troll lows – but I’m proud to say I made it. I used the food processor more than I ever thought I would. I’ve been hungrier than I ever thought I could. And I’ve been happier than I maybe, possibly should. I dreamt of pasta and I salivated over eggs. I stood a little taller and I felt a lot better… I had one heck of a journey. So let me give you the run down:

Energy: It increased throughout, with some very dramatic gains at times. I also felt more excitement before games when it came to sports and greater strength during the games. There were also days when my energy was lower, but it would usually pick up again after I ate.

Confidence: This was a huge area of improvement for me. I felt a lot better about myself and as the days went on, I began to feel more and more like I could do anything. It also helped foster the feeling that I was someone who mattered… even though that really doesn’t seem like something that would be related to food!

Self-Image: This category goes hand-in-hand with confidence. This challenge sky-rocketed my self-image. I felt healthier, I was eating better, and I was proving I could do whatever I put my mind to. Again, I felt important. Even when the image in the mirror didn’t look noticeably different, the process of eating so healthy had the biggest impact on my mental well-being and I felt better about how I looked.

Weight: As is to be expected the needle on the scale dropped. Oh, who am I kidding? This is the 21st century. The digital number on the scale dropped 12.5 pounds in the 30 days with no extra exercise outside of my regular sports commitments.

Mood: Much more light and care-free. I was able to shrug off incidents easier rather than let them weigh on me, although it was not so for the entire process. As with everything, there was a certain amount of fluctuating, but the overall trend was towards greater happiness and general well-being. I would occasionally get little flashes of anger, though they would dissipate very quickly. And when I was hungry (you know the kind… hungry hungry) I could be a feisty little demon, but again, I would recover quickly once I put some food in my empty cavern of a stomach. Overall, my mood got better with each day as I learned how to eat, how to not let myself get out-of-control hungry, and as I succeeded each day.

Hunger: About 2/3 of the way through my body finally figured out what was happening to it and I didn’t have any more monstrous days. I still needed to eat regularly and meal-missing was a definite no-no, but otherwise it wasn’t really a problem by the end.

Cravings: These fluctuated fairly consistently, with the last couple of days being pretty intense. When I take on a challenge and set the parameters I generally don’t think about what else could be and, instead, focus on the task at hand – which allowed me to put most thoughts of cooked food out of my head so the cravings weren’t really too difficult to navigate in the thick of the challenge. The dangerous times were when I was hungry and the smells of delicious cooked food were wafting to my olfactory cells. With the last couple of days, however, I believe it was knowing that I was near the end so I could let myself start thinking about cooked food again… which very nearly did me in!

Despite the general positive vibe all of the above gives off, I don’t want to leave you with any illusions. This was a hard challenge. It took a lot of dedication to see it through to the end, despite all of the benefits I received along the way. I always had to be prepared – to run out of food was disastrous. I had to spend a lot more time in the kitchen. I had to be strong-willed and give up all of my favourite foods (though I now have a few new favourites.) I had to learn how to eat in a new way because, really, it’s still kind of an odd thing to eat 3 bananas in a sitting or an entire cucumber or half a cantaloupe.

Although I may have known that what you eat impacts every aspect of your well-being, I didn’t fully appreciate what that means. Having done this challenge, I can easily say your life will be better if you eat better. Significantly so.

Raw Day 29: Monotony Strikes!

Breakfast: ½ cantaloupe

Lunch: Salad – 1 head of romaine, 1 tomato, ½ red pepper, 1 avocado, 1 c. walnuts, 1 c. sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro,

Supper: 1 piece salmon gravlax; 1 c. of leftover salad; 1 chocolate from V-day

Well, well, well. Here we are on the penultimate day of the Raw 30 Challenge. That clock is ticking down, my stomach is grumbling and there’s a bit of sadness in the air. It feels like I just started this challenge last week and already I’m shutting that door. Oh, how I hate goodbyes…

Now, I will admit that my excitement is waning, but that’s only because I’ve hit a rut of monotony. Will it be the smoothie, salad or gravlax? The odds are good – 1 in 3 chance you’ll guess right! Ah, but seriously, more variation would be wonderful, but that takes time and more expansive ingredient lists. I’ve always been a big fan of simple recipes with few ingredients that don’t take very long to prepare. So that has really made this challenge, well, that much more challenging for me. If I had a chef loitering in my kitchen, willing to make me whatever my heart desired, well then this raw food thing would be a lot more long-term plausible for me.

For those of you who’ve been following along and think you want to embark on this lifestyle of eating raw, there are a few things I’d like to say to you. First, those who eat this way choose it for many reasons. Find what yours are and then adapt it to those reasons. Lots of people who eat raw, don’t do it 100% of the time, so if you’re on a mission to just eat better, don’t let a cooked meal get you down. Some people are hard and fast “only-raw” eaters, some are 2/3 raw, and others just eat however they want. You decide how you want to do it.

Also, there is the idea that raw food means none of the nutrients have been cooked away and, while this may be true, it’s also been said that raw food people generally feel so much healthier not necessarily because of the uncooked aspect, but because of the huge amount of fruits and veggies in their diet. Think about it. If you’re entire diet is made up of 95% fruits and vegetables, then you’re going to be one healthy person!

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to try something if you’re interested in it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone does. (The first time I tried to go vegetarian, I failed after 6 days!) If you need some encouragement, just drop me a note!

~Nikki

Raw Day 28: Fear, Uncertainty, and… Pride

Breakfast: Smoothie – 1 c. spinach, 1 banana, 6 strawberries, 1 c. frozen fruit, 1 c. pineapple

Afternoon: 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds; 1 piece of raw chocolate

Supper: 1 piece of arctic char gravlax, 1 tsp. diced onion; Smoothie – 2 frozen bananas; 1/8 c. cucumber

I’m going to keep the update relatively short today because I have a treat for all of you who have been following along with me. So let’s get down to business. I had a productive day doing half a winter’s worth of recycling and felt pretty good most of the day. Today, I also finally really understood all of those Snickers commercials. You know the ones: You’re not you when you’re hungry. Well, I was pretty hungry having missed lunch and got fairly short-tempered until I finally put some goodness in my belly at supper-time and got back to normal. And now…

You’ve been hearing about my adventure into raw food, but now I want to take a step back and give you the perspective of someone who just dipped their toes in for 1 meal. Below you’ll find my dining companion’s account making that scrumptious meal I had yesterday:

“It began shrouded in fear and uncertainty.

Considering the amount of pleasure I get from eating a good meal, and that V-Day is one of those dipped-in-chocolate holidays, I couldn’t be sure how this year’s day of romance would add up.

While I began referring to my Valentine fondly as ‘my raw Valentine,’ I was doubtful the day would be as cute as that little catch-phrase sounded.

I googled ‘raw food suppers’ in preparation; as much as I dislike adhering to recipes, my creative thinking in the realm of raw food is made up of single words and whole fruits – banana, apple, mango.

I discovered ‘raw food extravaganza pizza.’ Perfect. My valentine’s favourite food as a raw foodie is sun-dried tomatoes, and an entire layer of the four-layer endeavour was sun-dried tomatoes.

It took about an hour-and-a-half, with about a third of that time dedicated to washing and re-washing the food processor, which I have an entirely new level of respect for. What was once essentially a tool for quick garlic crushing, became the Little Loud Machine of Wonder – I watched in awe as it transformed cashews and lemon juice into ‘cheese,’ cashews and basil and salt into a malleable ‘crust’ and pulverized sun-dried tomatoes and raw honey into a sauce that rivals its cooked counterparts.

With each layer spooned onto the next, I felt a little more pride, but the ultimate reward was when I put our plates onto the table and my raw Valentine’s face lit up with happiness.

After eating it, I understood what my valentine keeps referring to as, ‘full, but not full.’

‘Do I need another supper?’ I asked myselt afterwards. I didn’t… for two and a half hours.”

A big thanks to my dining companion for recounting the experience for you all here on Exit Sideways and, of course, another big thank you for the delicious meal I got to scarf down in ecstasy.

Raw Day 26: Rise of the Smoothies

Breakfast: 1 c. pineapple

Mid-morning: Tea; ¾ c. mixed nuts

Lunch: Smoothie – 1.5 c. spinach, 7 strawberries, 1 mango, 1 c. frozen fruit

Supper: Smoothie – 1 piece of salmon gravlax; 1 cucumber

Evening: 2 glasses of wine

The raw dining staples come down to two factions: Salads and Smoothies. Sure, there are some other blocs like the salmon battalion or the lone fruit or veggie renegade, but the core battle for top place in my dining line up belongs to liquefied food and the hodgepodge of mixed greens and veggies.

Early on it was fairly close, but then salads seemed to pull ahead by securing the ultimate position: The supper-time feast. However, lately those smoothies have definitively stolen the upper hand away from the salads. You see, salad takes much longer to prep than the smoothie. I’ve also gotten bored with the salad, but that is my own fault. For me, every salad uses the same ingredients whether they are part of the dressing or just chopped up and are a part of the main bowl of mixed veggies. I will give some big props to the “taco” salad. That thing is majestic. You’ll notice that when I do have salad, that’s basically the only kind I have now.

Ah, but those smoothies. They’re flavourful, they include spinach, you can put anything in there, and they’re almost too easy: peel, pulse, slurp. It’s a wonderful thing.

The lone fruit or veggie has been a little more prominent lately as well. They’re called mono-meals, which is when the entire meal is made up of 1 ingredient. I also like to think that mono-meal is a play on monolithic because I end up devouring a lot of that one ingredient. Sort of like the day where one of my meals was a pound and a half of carrots. Today I also had a piece of salmon, but it was sort of crazy feasting on an entire cucumber. It’s just something you don’t see very often, but hey, I guess I am a bit different.

Raw Day 23: A Dining Hobbit

Breakfast: ½ cantaloupe

Lunch: Smoothie – 2 bananas, 10 strawberries, 1 c. frozen fruit

Mid-Afternoon: 1 apple

Pre-Supper: 14 sun-dried tomatoes

Supper: ½ cucumber, 1 okra; smoothie – 3 frozen bananas

Just look at that line-up. I’m only a second breakfast away from being a hobbit.

I felt great again today. There were no hunger issues and I was in high spirits most of the day. I’m even starting to notice increased energy outside of sports and don’t feel like power-crushing series on Netflix every night (although, that will change February 27th with a full-out House of Cards marathon!)

The increased energy is great since I have to spend half my time in the kitchen now. Okay, that was an exaggeration, but still. If you’re going to give raw a shot, just know that some things are quick – like eating a banana. Just peel and go. Everything else takes time. A simple salad is washing, slicing, dicing, mixing, chopping, food processing, forking, chewing, swallowing… There is no just throw some pasta in a pot of boiling water and open a can of sauce. You have to do it all yourself. Including the dressing. Sometimes I just want food now, but there have also been just as many days where I have completely enjoyed the process of preparing my food.

In a way, that’s kind of spectacular. It takes things back to the beginning when good, healthy food and sustenance was the priority for everyone and brings you closer to your food and respecting it. Sure, it sounds weird, but I would definitely say I do respect my food more since going raw. It’s also much more amazing what I can come up with than what I did before. You spend time with your food. You appreciate the perfect mango – juicy, orange-ish, not too firm, not too soft; you cherish the ripened tomato that hasn’t crossed over to the other side; you sing sweet hallelujah when your romaine leaves don’t wilt and blacken as you take them into the frozen air to carry them home. Oh yes, food matters so much more than it did before.

This might be the first post where I sound like a real raw foodist. Except that I’m still planning on a chicken chow mein feast when the buzzer goes…