It has been longer than three decades since I first made the decision to include more raw foods in my diet. As a practitioner, author and lecturer I have had the opportunity to meet many tens of thousands of raw fooders during those decades. Certain character traits have proven predictable, at least to the point of seeming a sure bet. In this article, I will discuss a few of the obvious characteristics that seem to make a person open, and even prone, to going raw. Hopefully, you will see yourself in at least some of these descriptions, and some of the people you wish to influence, as well. Around the world, people care. But somehow, raw fooders seem to care even more than the average person. What do they care about? Well, for starters, they care about other people. Raw fooders really want to influence others for the good. They want to see other people enjoying the benefits of raw food.
Imagine yourself swimming in a pool that was perfect in every way, except for some reason it deceptively looked really cold. When your friends came to swim, they would look at the water and think to themselves, “No way am I going in that.” When you say, “Come on in, the water’s fine,” they come up with a list of excuses. They don’t know what they are missing, really. Raw fooders seem to really care that their friends, family and other loved ones get the best out of life, including the health and other benefits that come with eating raw fruits and vegetables.
Raw fooders tend to be exceptionally caring in a host of other ways as well. Their emotions are not dumbed down, and so they feel, more than the average person. They care about animals, the environment and other people. You don’t see many raw food soldiers. Raw activists tend to use pens rather than swords.
Raw fooders care about all aspects of their health and wellbeing, and are willing to work for a cause. Caring is a quality we find in many people, and not just raw fooders. The point here is that you will likely become even more of a caring person once you go raw, especially when your version of raw includes plenty of fresh produce. If you are already a very caring person, but not committed to eating raw foods, it is fair to say that there is a good chance that you are already on the road to raw, whether you know it or not.
Sick of being sick?
Until only relatively recently, there was only one common main road to eating raw foods – The Standard Western Diet (SWD). People eating the SWD would eventually decide that it was not taking them where they wished to go, and would begin a long and often tortuous, failure-ridden route through a variety of dietary changes. Often, these changes would come very slowly, and were referred to as transitions. Sometimes, they would be more dramatic. Such changes would often be made literally overnight, triggered by a single insight.
From the SWD, people switch to “healthy eating,” (not really much of a change, but the same SWD fare is served in “healthier” versions, such as with lower salt and fewer chemicals). From healthier fare, the vegetarian approach is just a short step. From there, vegan and macrobiotic approaches come next. Along the way, various investigations into superfoods, cleanses, flushes, alternative approaches, supplements and so on are extremely common. For some reason, we remain oblivious to the obvious; whole, fresh, ripe, raw, organic fruits and vegetables are the ultimate health foods.
Sick people are among the most highly motivated people I have ever met. In order to get well, they are often willing to try almost anything. In spite of knowing that drugs make you sick if you are well, they are willing to take drugs in order to get well from being sick. Even though they are aware that chemotherapy makes you sick, they will take it in an effort to get well.
When I was a boy, if someone said the word “radiation” to me, I instantly thought of Hiroshima. But sick people are willing to undergo radiation in the hope of getting well. I call that really motivated. These people will try anything; wacky potions and elixirs, gimmicks of every type, stuff known to do the opposite of the hoped-for results, weird diets, even raw foods. Of course, back when I was in private practice, I had my share of people come to me for care and say, as their opening line, “Doc, I will do anything to get well, anything you say. Just don’t mess with my diet.”
Sick people, the longer they remain sick, become ever more motivated to make dietary changes. They figure, “If what I am doing isn’t working, it is time to try something else. Maybe a change in diet will help me.” Usually, they ask their medical doctors about making diet changes before actually doing so, and are usually assured that, “Diet plays no role in your condition.”
But, since nothing else is working, dietary experiments come to pass. And lo and behold, with each dietary improvement comes concomitant improvement in health. Or, there is no improvement at all. Either way, motivation to take the diet to “the next level” is automatically provided, if that is the way the person views it.
If you care about others and really want to be a force for good in the world, you will have a higher success rate in making raw food converts talking to people that are ill than you will with any other group. Although even then, you may find the efforts frustrating and the results less than you had hoped for.
Every now and then, someone sees the Standard Western Diet for what it really is: a tool of the powers that be, to retain and develop their power. They see the model provided by nature whereby every living creature eats a species-specific raw food diet. They realize that fruits and vegetables have been touted to them as health foods ever since they were children. Eventually, the light bulb lights, the “ah ha” is had, and a raw food experiment begins. If the diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, the experiment will likely be a success, and will become the standard diet for that individual.
When I meet a raw fooder who is not sick, that person is typically smarter than average. These are the two types of people who led the way in the raw food movement. It was the sick and smart that opened the doors, and created the paths for others to follow. The athletes, the beautiful people, the overweight, the radicals, and many other people eventually followed.
Orthorexia and disordered eating
Often, I meet people that have a truly unhealthy relationship with their food. Most of the time, these people also have unhappy relationships with themselves, and with at least a few other people that are significant in their lives. Healing all of this requires a special approach. In over 80% of all cases, whether it is anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, binge eating, rumination syndrome, or any of the other variations on these themes, the principle culprit food group is carbohydrates.
This comes as no surprise when we consider that people eating the Standard Western Diet eat roughly half the carbohydrates their species-specific diet calls for. And it comes as no further surprise – considering that many raw fooders eat only about half the carbs of folks on the SWD – that when raw fooders have “issues” with cooked foods, 99% of the time it is an issue concerning the consumption of cooked carbohydrate foods such as bread, rice, pasta, corn, potatoes or starchy legumes.
Of late, a new medical condition has been noted known as orthorexia. This condition is defined as an obsession with eating healthily. It is important to recognize, I believe, that eating healthily is not by itself a disorder of any kind. In fact, eating healthily is a highly commendable aspect of anyone’s lifestyle. Obsessions, on the other hand, are invariably unhealthy. No one is arguing that point.
Therefore, it is the obsession that is the issue, and in order to overcome this obsession, we must deal with the individual, and discover their reasons for developing this, or any other obsession. But the impression given is that people who choose to eat healthily automatically have an obsession with doing so. This is no more true than it would be true to say that people who eat poorly are obsessed with doing so.
Is the average raw fooder simply more willing to perform personal dietary experiments, or is the raw fooder mentally ill? There is no adequate method of evaluation. Mainstream society determines that which is sick, and that which is well, by methods of majority rule. What the majority does is considered normal, and that which is done by the minority is considered fringe behavior.
As long as no one is hurt, including the raw individual, the majority will “tolerate” the minority, at least in theory. That doesn’t mean that the raw fooder will receive praise and support from friends and family, who may well give even their loved ones a hard time about the strange new diet.
Learning to cope with the social and emotional challenges of eating raw may be easier for some folks than others. It is worth asking yourself if you are willing to be the strong one, going against the mainstream current, or if you are going to take the route that most take, and simply float downstream.
Fit, fat, furious, fortuitous or futuristic?
Motivation comes from a variety of sources, but in the end, you either give yourself motivation or you don’t. Athletes often are motivated to care for themselves to give them an edge over their competition, or just to be the best they can be. Some folks decide that being overweight is just not an option any more, and if that means changing their diet, so be it. Plenty of people are fed up with the system, and all it stands for. They see eating raw foods as a step towards “opting out” – a way of rebelling. They may be correct. When young adults choose this path, it certainly gets their parents’ attention.
Some people are just in the right place at the right time, lucky enough to be influenced towards eating raw in some way or another. Others are gifted genetically. They are gorgeous, work as models, dancers or actors, and want to keep and improve their good looks. Eating raw is a no-brainer for them. Perhaps you are one of those that sees the writing on the wall. You owned an iPod in 2002, and had your own website in 1990. You went raw as soon as you heard of it, and have stayed raw because it is truly the only viable option.
So, what have we learned? We know that raw is the law for all other species. We know that highly motivated people will do what others won’t. And we know that anyone can find motivation, and that people of all ages, from all walks of life, are making the switch to raw foods.
Who is not likely to ever go raw?
Over the years, I have been surprised, again and again, when asking myself this question. Many people that I thought would never go raw have done so, including many members of my own family. And people I thought would certainly give raw a chance, wouldn't. Honestly, I believe that anyone might go raw, if given the right circumstances and opportunities. The thing is, almost everyone requires a unique set of correct circumstances and opportunities in order to be motivated to go raw. I don't recommend pushing the river in this regard. Instead, I strongly urge you to lead by example. Be a shining light. In fact, be the lighthouse itself. When you have what people want, they will come to you for it. Those that don't come, don't come, and there is not more you can do about it. Just keep being the shining example of health and happiness.
Article by Dr. Douglas Graham on behalf of Get Fresh! Magazine.
Dr. Douglas Graham a lifetime athlete and raw fooder since the late 1970s, is an advisor to world-class athletes and trainers from around the globe. He is the author of several books on raw food and health, including The 80/10/10 Diet. For more information see foodnsport.com