Calorie counting is for cooked food; different rules apply to raw food, and a high-raw diet is the quickest and easiest way to sustained weight loss, says Angela Stokes.
How many overweight wild antelope have you ever seen? What about morbidly obese zebras waddling around the savannah? Wild animals don’t deal with overweight or obesity issues. Wild animals don’t usually eat cooked or processed foods. They eat raw foods in their natural state and maintain ideal body weight.
The human body is designed to run on the clean fuel of raw foods too, just like all the other animals. Through our experiments with cooking and processing foods however, we have moved ever further away from simplicity, towards the so-called ‘Franken-foods’ and we pay for it with our health. Our addictions to processed starches, refined sugars and greasy foods lead to widespread obesity, which we then try to ‘fix’ with yet more processed, chemical pills, powders and packet ‘diet’ foods.
The majority of people in the UK and USA are dealing with overweight or obesity issues. The consequences are enormous – from increased illness and medical costs, to lost work days, family tensions and more. The obesity epidemic nfiltrates all aspects of life. Not surprisingly then, the weight loss market is one of the largest industries in the world and growing constantly. Bombarded with slimming plans, pills, powders, and pre-packaged, processed diet foods, slimmers fret about calories, fat grams, low-carb, no-carb and all number of issues. There are literally thousands of different diets available and a huge amount of conflicting information. It can be very confusing to decide how to lose weight.
In contrast, a raw food lifestyle is all about keeping it simple. No more calorie counting or portion controlling – it’s about returning to natural, nutrient-rich foods. Choosing to simply include more raw foods daily, as part of a permanent lifestyle change, can help you lose weight, detox and enjoy much more energy.
Stop counting calories – ENJOY your weight loss…
The effects of going raw are well documented – we look younger, hair and nails strengthen, skin gets clearer, pores tighten, eyes brighten, depression lifts, diseases heal and we feel energised. People undergo ‘raw-markable’ transformations. In addition to all those benefits, swift, sustainable weight loss is one of the primary effects of beginning a diet rich in raw foods. In my first year raw, for example, I lost around 7.5 stone (105lbs). If this lifestyle is sustained, the weight loss is also easily maintaind. I released round 11.5 stone (160lbs) in total and have kept it off for over three years.
This is a completely different approach from ‘dieting’. It’s not about how many calories something contains, the fat grams, or the endorsements on the packaging. It’s about how it feels in your body – do you enjoy it, are you energised by it, are you feeling better?
The raw lifestyle is extremely cleansing. The body goes through an incredible transformation: toxins, including fats that have accumulated over years, are released through massive detox. The body always works towards health, so when it suddenly receives potent enzyme and nutrient-rich food with which to clean and cure itself, it seizes the opportunity to become much healthier, very quickly. In my opinion, eating more raw is easily the most natural, simple and rapid path to sustained weight loss. Most people, however, seem to look towards those unsustainable ‘quick-fix’ solutions for weight loss like dieting, ‘miracle’ powders and pills or even bariatric surgery. These solutions rarely provide satisfactory results in the long-run.
Diets Don’t Work…
The truth is that diets don’t work. Often, people just lose excess water when dieting. They’re thrilled to see a lower number on the scales and soon revert back to previous habits. They then re-gain weight (and often extra), ending up in a ‘yo-yo’ dieting situation. So, how is going raw different? I don’t see this as a temporary patch-up solution, or a diet we go ‘on’, waiting to come ‘off’ again at some point; for me, it’s a genuinely effective and loving lifestyle choice. We adjust to a permanent new abundance of fresh, raw food, which cleanses the body, nourishes and sustains us.
This path doesn’t chain you to endless diet club sessions and expenditures, nor is it funded by any multi-national pharmaceutical company. There is no big business behind raw fruits and vegetables – it is just simple, natural and effective. The great news too is that you don’t have to eat 100% raw to feel the benefits – just eating more raw than cooked food will begin your healing. If you can simultaneously remove the primary ‘nasties’ in your diet – i.e. processed starches, refined sugars and pasteurized dairy – your cleansing and weight loss will progress dramatically.
One definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Yet people come ‘off’ a diet, revert back to previous eating habits and are surprised to find they re-gain weight and feel the same as before. A key aspect to understand is that making committed changes to your lifestyle will bring about complete changes in your body and well-being.
You are what you eat. Did you everwonder what that really means? The foods you eat literally make up your cells. Consider food as messages to your body cells for a moment. The optimal foods for your body are natural things it can easily recognise. Your body can ‘understand the message’ when you eat fresh watermelon for example much more easily than denatured, pre-packaged low-fat ready meals. The body has to work much harder to ‘unpack’ the information in the ready meal. It likely contains any number of preservatives, stabilisers, processed starches, trans-fats and so on – things that simply don’t occur in nature.
There may be all kinds of claims on the box about how it will help you slim down and gain energy, but those aren’t the messages your body receives. With cooked/processed foods, the body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, so it keeps asking for more, which ironically often leads to eating huge amounts of ‘empty’ foods, like pasta, sweets and snack foods. When we eat mainly raw foods, the body gets what it needs – enzymes, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients – in a form that’s easily understandable and useable.
The same principle goes for trying to lose weight permanently and successfully using medicines/pills. The body doesn’t recognize such chemicals – they only complicate matters in the long run. In the short term they may raise your metabolism and help you burn some fat, but in the long-term it is hard to know what damage these chemicals may cause. Making long-term, permanent changes to your food intake is the optimal way to natural weight loss, not ingesting chemical pills alongside a life-less diet. As Hippocrates put it: ‘Let food be thy medicine’.
How do I eat raw for weight loss?
For most people, ‘going raw’ seems like a huge change. I want to re-emphasise that to see real and effective weight loss, there is no demand that you must be 100% raw, now or ever, or indeed do anything that doesn’t feel comfortable to you.
Try starting with baby steps. Ultimately, the most important message here is to EAT MORE RAW – it doesn’t matter if you begin at 50, 60 or 70% raw. As long as you’re eating more raw than you used to, and more raw foods than dead, cooked foods (or at least equal amounts of each), you will start to see results.
In the beginning especially, if you’re coming from a junk food background, like I was, anything is an improvement as you’re moving away from processed foods towards more natural produce. People usually fear that to eat more raw means it’s all carrot sticks and apples from here on. That need not be the case at all.
It’s possible to produce incredibly lavish raw meals, as gourmet as you like. The advantage with raw foods is that even if you eat raw cake all day long in the beginning (not recommended), you would still likely lose weight, because you’re not eating those other toxic foods anymore and you are receiving masses more nutrients. When dieting, people often feel deprived, as they’re calorie counting and weighing foods and these restrictions can feel very un-nurturing. As a result, when the diet ends, they often swing into binge eating. Eating raw can alleviate so much of that pattern.
Just go for it – try it out for a day, a week or even a month and see the difference in your appearance, energy and health. The more raw foods you ingest compared to cooked, the more opportunity you have to release toxins/excess weight and regain health. The choice is yours, but the minimum level I suggest starting at is 50% raw (by weight, not volume of the food) and work up from there. That might mean eating only fruits before lunch, salads with all cooked meals, choosing all raw snacks and so on.
Taking it at YOUR pace…
Remember: this is about long-term, realistic changes, not about ‘magic-bullet’ solutions or being perfect at being raw, so take things at a pace that’s comfortable for you. Be aware that making a huge change from a very unhealthy diet to very high raw can be extremely demanding in terms of detox and you may experience a ‘healing crisis’ if you push too far, too fast. Your body stores many toxins in fatty tissue, so the faster the fat breaks down, the faster the toxins are released and too many toxins released too quickly can cause discomfort. Be sure to incorporate colon cleansing to aid the elimination process. Going 100% raw has many health benefits, including a clearer system, increased assimilation and greater energy and I certainly recommend it in the long-run, but in the beginning, it’s usually beneficial to take your transition gently.
You might find at first that you feel like eating nuts constantly, along with three avocados a day. It’s ok. Avocados won’t make you fat. Fats are an area where people tend to feel confusion and fear. Raw fats are completely different from cooked fats. Whereas cooked fats clog up the body with all kinds of toxins, raw fats such as those from avocados, olives, coconuts, nuts, seeds and oils nourish the body, soften the skin and actually promote weight loss. This is mainly because raw fats still have enzymes intact, especially lipase, which helps to break fat down, whereas with cooked/processed fats, the enzymes have been destroyed.
It is very likely you will eat more food at the start of going raw than you will further along this path, as your nutrient assimilation slowly improves. As you progress therefore, you will likely want to reduce your fat intake, but in the beginning, nuts and avocados are very useful and not to be feared/avoided – you can easily eat plenty of them and still lose weight.
Taking it to the next level – beyond the physical…
Something that really excites me about people going raw for weight loss is that it tends to foster exploration of many other aspects of themselves – not just the physical. Rather than it all just being a ‘weight issue’, people start to examine the emotional suppression underlying those excess pounds. They begin to unfold more and connect with hidden parts of themselves, reaching out to others for support. Far from being a ‘shallow’ process of losing some fat/water, then reverting to old habits, this is about positive, real life feel tough in the short-term, but overall will leave you clearer and less likely to return to self-destructive patterns.
I see going raw as an incredible path for natural weight loss and healing on all levels. If you want to experience genuine, lasting shifts in your health and vitality, I say go for it – EAT MORE RAW – there’s nothing to lose but all that weight.
Top Three Tips for Successful Raw Weight Loss
1. GET YOUR GREENS
Green vegetables alkalise and re-mineralise, which is vital for good health. At least one green drink daily is ideal – try fresh vegetable juice, a green smoothie or simply green powder like spirulina/green superfood mixture with water. Eat greens too, but know that having them as liquids means you can ingest larger quantities, with more assimilable nutrients.
2. AVOID EATING LATE AT NIGHT
Key for losing weight and keeping it off. Try not to eat after around 7-8pm, as digestive power is weaker at night. Avoid going to sleep on a full stomach. Foods eaten late at night ‘stick’ to the body much more.
3. ENJOY YOURSELF
I believe we’re here to enjoy ourselves. Avoid feelings of restriction and ‘deprivation’ by being creative and playful with foods. This is a big lifestyle change for many and if you’re not having fun, it’s not likely you’ll sustain it, so ENJOY.
Raw food author and lifestyle consultant Angela Stokes lost an incredible 11.5 stone (160lbs) with a raw lifestyle, reversing morbid obesity. 28-year-old Angela started eating raw in May 2002 and has spent the last five years exploring and promoting raw foods and natural healthcare for weight loss. Her website, www.rawreform.com shares her own incredible story of recovery, along with guidance and inspiration for others. It includes videos, before/ after pictures and she also blogs her raw adventures almost daily. Angela offers e-books, retreats, consultations and lectures internationally on raw foods. She can be contacted email@example.com.
This article was published in the Summer 2007 issue of Get Fresh!