Friday, May 14, 2010

A Special Post For A Special Lady (For Sam)

Tomorrow me and my wife, Samantha, will have been married for six years.  In honour of our anniversary I would like to take a break from my story and random posts about the world of raw food and dedicate this post to my best friend and partner, my wife, Samantha.

She has no idea I'm doing this and so I feel I should start by making a confession. The post you are reading will be without the careful, painstakingly, and meticulous editing of my chief editor.  Sam, has read,corrected and edited every word I have ever wrote in my posts, so if you notice a couple of run-on sentences, miss placed commas, and not to meantion, a complete lack of focus; you now know why.

How can I even to begin summing up a woman who has been more than a partner, lover, and friend, in just a few words? Her companionship has been unwavering through even the roughest times. Even when I lead us down a paths that wasted time and brought nothing but pain, she stuck it out and helped me to learn. In my life she is the rock that keeps me well planted with two feet on the ground, while still encouraging my most crazy and ambitious dreams.

She told me I was "hot" even when I was nearly 400 lbs. always making me feel wanted and needed.  She stuck it out with me through every failed dieting attempt, encouraging me all the way, and had grace when I finally found a lifestyle that worked in raw foods, even though to her, an amazing cook (and I'm not just saying that, she really is AMAZING at cooking ), me eating raw was like a stab in the heart.

She's my best friend who can brighten even the worst days with a single look.  She makes me laugh, chuckle, and blush. She knows how to get under my skin and how to settle me down. She is the greatest mother I have ever seen.  The way she is with our daughters humbles me.  I am in awe of how she makes it look effortless.  She is the kind of woman I want my daughters grow to be.

In her I have found an equal. We sharpen each other learning and growing from each other. She holds me to my own standard, always knowing when I try to fake my way through things and she doesn’t have to say anything; she just smiles and I know. She is my mirror, showing me the good, the bad and the ugly, without judgement or condemnation.

Six years have flown by, and it is so easy to be distracted by everyday life. I haven't always been the most attentive husband. I'm easily distracted and get caught up in "the moment" and focus so much on the tasks at hand that I have often neglected the woman who means the world to me. She really is the love of my life and continues to surprise, inspire, and humble me with her love and her actions.  She is a woman worthy of praise, especially from me, who has been so damn lucky to have shared the greatest six years of my life with her: the woman of my dreams.

I love you, Samantha Rose. Happy Anniversary!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I need your help! I’m thinking of answering questions from all of you out there, for a future post. If you have any questions for me I’d love to hear them, and answer them. You can email me at Nothing is off topic and I mean NOTHING! Fire away! I promise I’ll get to it!

My Story- Part IV-The Continuing Saga

Now, two years into this journey, I have to say I am getting bored of my story. And if you’ve been around me for any decent amount of time, you’re probably bored of my story, too. I find myself trying to skip to the end and get more current, but my wife has been the voice of reason, encouraging me to slow down and tell it right, not skipping ahead. So here we go.

After my one month trial had come and gone weeks started to go by like days. Each day I was feeling better and and getting lighter, literally. In just 90 days I lost 100 lbs. It seems crazy to say it because it sounds like an informercial for a get-thin-quick meal-replacement chocolate shake that tastes awful and leaves you so hungry you dream of eating a dozen burger and fries!

You may think that it took a truck load of will power to keep from breaking down to eat “normal”, but the truth is I felt no want, craving or need for anything but raw foods. My whole being felt like a great weight was being removed from me each minute of each day. I even remember going out with friends not long after I went raw, to all-you-can-eat-ribs night at Montana’s, a sacred night for me in the past. I used to love ribs and I mean love! I would devour so much we started to count not by the rack, but by the pig - disgusting, I know. This time, my friends looked on in horror as I ordered a large salad with no dressing, no cheese, no croutons, just the veggies. They taunted me, commenting loudly how great the ribs were, “Look how the meat is just falling off the bones!” I laughed along with them while digging into my tasty bowl of greens. I had brought with me a nut mix that I made at home to add to the salad. A practice that comes in handy when wanting to eat out with friends or family. In the end it was I would had the last laugh. While they were all loosening the notches on their belts and going on about how stuffed they were, I was skipping my way to the cash to pay my $3.99 meal!

To this day, I often forget that most people leave their dinner tables feeling “stuffed”. It has been forever since I have felt that feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about feeling full, but rather, that feeling of debilitating sleepiness, like after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Growing up this was a regular occurrence, after our dinner we would all make our way to the living room to recline and watch TV, often being allowed to skip doing dishes until after our favourite family show, Star Trek: The Next Generation. At home we called this “vegging” after a filling meal and up until I started eating raw, I considered it a normal reaction after eating a meal. In fact, I felt a sense of loss if that “stuffed” feeling was missing.

Going raw did a lot more for me than just help me lose weight. It has challenged me to open my eyes and widen my horizons. In those first few months I did a lot of research so as to best take care of myself. My fears, fueled by almost everyone I knew, were that I would slip away into a malnourished state. As I read up and set my overall diet in order, something occurred to me: no one eating the standard North American diet was really researching what they ate. I didn’t when I was eating that way. I mean, you’d hear things like “carbs are bad”, so the next time you went to the store you’d avoid buying things with carbs in them. When I was growing up, it was the anti-fat fad, sending margarine sales through the roof. Years later another “study” said the opposite and again we had butter on our table. So much of what we know about food is based on hearing half of the information. Medical studies are a bore to read, and are filled with technical jargon that need for you to read other studies to understand. So, in the end, the media takes the bare bones of the message and throw it together into a headline, which is then toted out on 30 second radio and television spots as facts (sometimes, if we are lucky, they point us to the source, which no one actually checks for themselves).

Also, there a number of “studies” being released by doctors and researches who are on the payroll of the meat and dairy lobby. I came upon of of these such studies just a day after the birth of my second daughter, Calico Skye. She was born November 17, 2009, just seven months after I started eating raw. While in the hospital, I would make frequents trips to the kitchenette to fetch water, etc. for my wife. On the wall was a giant poster all about how great milk is for you. It looked really official, with charts and figures, and it even had a FAQ section which dispelled age old myths like milk shouldn’t be consumed when you have a cold. According to them, the vitamin D can help fortify your immune system when you have a cold. Something just didn’t add up. I had been reading a lot of medical studies that contradicted everything I read on that poster. I thought that the government must have published that poster, but upon further look I saw that it was put out by the Dairy Farmers Of Canada, one of the registered lobbies for the dairy industry. The reason it didn’t add up was because their “facts” were coming from them. This reminded me of seeing those old ads with the heading “9 out of 10 doctors smoke camel cigarettes”.

It’s hard for people to know fact from fiction, so they resort back to what they already know. They eat what they want to eat, and what they think is good for them (except when they don’t want to be “good”) and all the special interest groups have to do is put enough reasonable doubt out there, while trying to convince us that they are the “healthy” choice to keep us doing what we will always do: Keep on doing what we already are.

The battle for your plate is a battle of hearts and minds. And as I found out those first few months in my research, the truth wasn’t winning. The though of a juicy, bloody-as-hell steak (my former favourite) seemed to me a foreign concept. Just the idea of eating animal flesh became a harrowing thought; and drinking soda as appealing as drinking Javex. The weird part was that this “enlightenment” came to me after only a short while of living the raw life. It felt kind of like getting out of a toxic environment. I had such an experience after leaving a construction job as a drywall taper. The environment I was in 12 hours a day was a severely toxic one, with shouting and shoving matches a common occurrence. Slowly but surely my joie de vivre was being sucked out of me, even though I felt no different at the time. When I finally left, I could see the difference in myself. Somehow, I had become a jaded pessimist. Upon leaving and moving on I just felt right and was able to slip back into my normal state. I know it may sound like I “drank the kool-aid” and maybe I have, a little, but sitting in that Montana’s watching my friends chow down on ribs didn’t just not temp me, it seemed like a foreign concept. My eyes were open and my body was finally getting what it needed. And as the months went by, and the pounds kept coming off, I felt better than ever and my resolve grew stronger. My life, as I knew it, had changed forever.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why I Don't Believe In Vegans

For most, “vegan” is a word synonymous with activism and extremism.  I have mentioned in past posts that I am not an activist, which is true, but I think I should say that, while I am no champion of animal rights, I do feel good that I don't contribute to the mistreatment of animals or the environmental impact the meat/dairy industry has.  That being said, I do take issue with the meat and dairy lobby's attempts to convince you and I that their products are actually healthy for us; as opposed to the actual scientific findings which show they increase the chances of heart disease, and even cancer.  I know what some of you are thinking: "Why do you gotta be like that? Meat, I can maybe understand but puh-leez leave milk alone! After all, it does the body good, right? RIGHT?!”  Well I won't take this time to ruin your childlike love of the holy-white-liquid that makes your bones strong, especially when this post is dedicated to why I don't believe in vegans, but I will say this: if you want to see it for yourself in black and white and from a more knowledgeable and credible source, then please read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II and The Food Revolution by John Robbins. See for yourself; I dare you!

Firstly, maybe I should backtrack a bit. What is a vegan? A vegan is a vegetarian (no meat) who doesn't eat any other animal byproduct (e.g. eggs and dairy).  There are differing degrees of veganism: some refuse to wear clothes that use leather, some don't even eat honey, so as to not exploit bees (since when is a bee an animal?!) Others won't even "kill" plant food, they wait until the fruit naturally “dies”, falling from the tree.

I take no issue with most vegan extremism. I, as I am sure you've gathered, am a bit of an extremist myself. For most obese people, a goal of just losing weight is more than enough, but for me, I had to take it to the next level and make my goal to go from almost 400 lbs to completing an IronMan (a triathlon: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, than a full marathon 26.2 miles) in five years. A goal I am two years into and still working toward today.  Where I take issue is the general lack of health consciousness in the vegan community and the pushy and/or dangerous antics that keeps groups like PETA in the news.

Firstly, I have something to say that needs to be clarified: VEGAN DOES NOT MEAN HEALTHY! I have known many vegans who eat junk. I mean absolute trash. One guy I knew told me that he and his family were vegan for about ten years when he was growing up. They stopped because his mom was deficient in vitamin B, which is commonly found in red meat. But when I asked him what they ate on a regular basis he admitted they were basically living on McDonald's fries!  Another guy I worked with decided to go vegan because his girlfriend was vegan. When lunch time came he'd make his way to the nearest vending machine and buy a couple of packs of dairy-free dark chocolate bars, full of high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals and a number of other ingredients I can’t even pronounce! And yet he scolded me for my leather shoes!

The problem with eating consciously with only animals in mind is that you often stop looking for what's healthy and just scan ingredients to see if any form of dairy is present, often skipping over much worse offenders like high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oil.  I would sooner rather you eat meat as a part of a meal with whole foods then eat the way most vegans I know are eating.

On the other extreme, there are those vegans who look sickly and pale. I have met quite a few of these people, as well, who scold me, a mostly raw eater, saying I shouldn’t call myself “raw” if I’m not going to be 100% (i.e., I don’t always eat “raw” nuts - instead, I sometimes purchase nuts that have been roasted and I often use maple syrup over blue agave nectar, because it’s so accessible and inexpensive here in the north east.). I have even heard one talking about how fruit today is void of nutrition and modified to be nothing but sugar which our bodies can’t break down properly. They make eating a naval orange sound like eating a deep fried mars bar! Those buzz-kills scare me a little. One such woman I met looked really unhealthy. I found out later that she used to do some modeling and now she looks scarily thin, pale, and weak.

Secondly, I take issue with the antics of Guerilla-Vegans like PETA who go after everyone from clothing lines that use fur to the big meat and dairy industry. Their demonstrations are all over the news, which, in their minds, brings attention to the issues of cruelty to animals. Before I became a “vegan” I belonged to the Facebook group for PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals. To me PETA: People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals were a joke and a nuisance. They alienate people from engaging in the topic they are trying to champion.

I guess by definition I am a vegan, but I don’t think of myself as one. In fact, just last fall I shared a glorious New York City Lombardi’s pizza; fully loaded with bacon, italian sausage and cheese, with my wife, while visiting the Big Apple. Like they say, “when in Rome...” (Don’t get me wrong, it was a special occasion - virtually the only time I have had any meat/dairy product since I started this whole journey.) I try to just think of myself as mostly raw and do my best to keep in line with what I know to be true and is good for me. I know that not all vegans are “that” way, but, in my experience, I have found a lot of people living at either end of that spectrum and, I fear, their extreme antics distract from the issues they want to champion. While I am writing this post about the downfalls of the vegan lifestyle, I agree with veganism in principal: It IS the healthiest way to live (again, read it for yourself) and that the meat and dairy industry is at the center of a lot of problems we face in society and the more people that become educated about it, the closer we will be to a collective understanding on the issues.

My story may be an unique one in that I came to be a “vegan” in an organic way. I believe that if I, a former meat and potato guy, that did in fact make fun of my cousin, Lisa, for years about her being a vegetarian (sorry Lisa!), that we don’t need to resort to extreme methods and antics to make “believers” of everyone. I’m not even sure if that is a realistic goal. People don’t like being told what to do, or what to eat. From my perspective, I think that the most we can expect to accomplish is to help break down the illusion built up around the “health” benefits that the standard North American diet has used to cater to special interest groups like the meat and dairy industry.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Story- Part III- From A One Month Fling, To A Full On Love Affair (With Raw Food)

After two full days of eating nothing but leek soup, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into something crunchy. Like I said before, the reason I decided to go raw had nothing to do with animal activism or even the supposed benefits that raw foodists claim. I was simply looking for a simple and healthy solution to detox my entire system. I woke up on that third day expecting more of the same from those previous two days. Cold sweats, frequent trips running to the bathroom and oil leaking from my skin. To my surprise, the worst had actually past.

Day one of eating raw I could feel my strength return, as if someone had flipped a switch on inside of me. To this day, I’m not sure if that is attributed to eating raw or if the leek soup detox did, in fact, restart my metabolism. Regardless, I was feeling great! That first day, I worked my way through a pound of carrots (still a favourite meal of mine) and a bunch of celery. C’est tout! I know what you are thinking, “I’d die of hunger, if all I ate was just carrots and celery!” Well, most of the time you’d be right, but after two days of a liquid diet, those carrots and celery stalks might as well have been steak and baked potatoes! Going to bed that night, I felt as if I could breathe easy for the first time in a long time. I let go of my worries and fell into a deep, deep sleep.

If day one was a breath of fresh air, then day two was like igniting rocket fuel! I woke up after THE best sleep in over a year and sat up wide awake, ready to raise a little hell! I felt like I was floating on air, moving around with a ease replacing just days-before achey muscles, shell-shocked nerves and general overall exhaustion. I think I got more done on that second day than I had in the previous month. I felt invincible and ready to take on the world. It was that second night, while laying in bed, that the thought first occurred to me: I think I could do this for a lot longer than a month. Maybe, I could do it for good. The thought gave me pause; all that I had come to learn about how I was supposed to eat and live was being challenged, and, yet, I felt peace. I knew then that this was more than just a one month experiment.

The next day, I told my wife. She took it really well but expressed concern. Neither of us knew anyone that was just eating raw food. Neither of us knew if it was a sustainable way to live. So, in the end we decided to do the research and figure it out. We ended up at our favourite book store. I didn’t think there were books dedicated to raw food, and if there were, I thought they would less about the food and more about animal or environmental activism. But to my surprise, there was a fairly large section dedicated to raw eating, all from diverse backgrounds and places. The one I settled on that day was Raw Food Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis (it is still my favourite raw recipe book). This un-cook book really spoke to me. It was more than just a cook book, it was the story of how these two individuals came upon raw food as a way of life, in the heart of Manhattan. Neither of them went raw for activism reasons and they even wrote about how much they used to love meat. On top of all of that, the food spoke for itself. A Manhattan restaurant, beautiful food, entirely guilt-free, blow-your-freaking-mind amazing, and all raw! It was like a little piece of heaven that dropped into my favourite bookstore, then into my heart. And, on a side-note, I have to say, that Sarma is truly one of the most interesting, intelligent, kind, and not to mention, really hot, women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

To write about my favourite recipes from Raw Food Real World would take more time then I am willing to devote to this post, so I’ll say this: if you’re interested, go and buy the book. You won’t be disappointed. Or, if you’re close by, maybe I’ll lend you mine. Or if you don’t have time to prepare the food yourself, you can go visit them in New York City at Pure Food & Wine (54 Irving Place, New York, New York) or the One Lucky Duck Take Out (125 1/2 17th Street Est.) around the corner. I have been fortunate enough to have gone twice and both times were experiences that will go down in history, for me.

The next few weeks I let loose into the vast world of raw food. I had no idea that it could be so difficult. I had no idea about dehydrators, japanese mandolins, let alone the specialized ingredients like young thailand coconuts, agave nectar, stevia, and the list goes on. So, for the most part, I kept my meals simple and wholesome, leaving the more labour intensive recipes for special occasions and weekends. My thoughts weren’t about eating simple as a way of life, but rather as a detox, something more than just obese people should look at doing. The benefits of eating simple are numerous. First, you don’t have to put much thought into your meals. I call this the “if you stalk your fridge with it, you will eat it” effect. This is true of most people. Very few of us, go out of our way to go out and buy something we may be craving in the moment. Most of us will always settle for what we have on hand, even if it’s not exactly what we want. Stalk your fridge with nothing but raw food, get rid of all processed and boxed food and pretty much, you will be a raw vegan.

People still insist to me that I must have an iron-will, because the very thought of eating raw, for even just a month, would be worse than a lifetime in hell. In fact, one girl I worked with, Melanie Tasse, tried it. Her goal was to detox eating nothing but raw foods, for one month. We all took bets to see how long she would last. Her whopping total: Three days. I have come to realize that this way of eating is not easy for everyone. It is sustainable, ridiculously tasty, healthy, and for the most part guilt free, but for some reason, people prefer what they already know. C’est la vie. I used to be on of those people. I was closed minded even though I’d tell you to your face that I was open to eating anything. But when faced with the reality that had I kept going down the road I was on, I would most certainly have numerous health problems and possibly need dangerous surgery which may or may not have increased an already short life expectancy, the “raw” choice didn’t sound all that bad.

If you are out there and like I was (obese or morbidly obese) and you want to try going raw, even as just a detox, here are a few tips which really helped me out when I first began:

Research your food

Almost a year before I decided to go raw, I started reading up on why good food is good for you. I figured that if I knew why the food I was eating was good for me I’d eat more of it. It actually worked really well, that is, until I started working for KFC. Knowing that spinach is a powerhouse of iron, fiber, and vitamin K, not to mention the fact that it’s practically calorie free. Made me want to sit down and eat a bag of spinach like they were potato chips! It may sound ridiculous to you, but as I learned more and more about the good things my food was doing in me, I’d imagine it happening as I ate: picturing the vitamin K taking the calcium in my body and transporting it (in my mind it was in large tall-ship passing through my veins) directly to my bones which then tightened and got stronger, becoming unbreakable, like that of a Shoalin Kung Fu master. And so, to me, eating spinach was like learning Kung Fu. I know this may seem out there to you but trust me, it really helps. When I was looking for information on healthy food, I stumbled across one of my favourite books ever, The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth by Jonny Bowden. It’s incredibly informative, entertaining and in parts funny. It even has a section on healthy meats, poultry, so even if vegetarian, vegan or raw vegan seems to “out there” for you, I’d still recommend it.

Keep a Food Log

This is an amazing way to keep yourself accountable. A girl I used to work with had a food journal/day planner. There was a special margin for meals eaten with the headings breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. At the top of each day was eight glasses, which represented the eight glasses of water everyone is to drink. I, being a total hipster, bought an “App” for my iPhone called Edibles. It is not only a food log but also a calorie calculator, BMI calculator and weight loss log. It’s a bit more work at first but it really does the trick. Whatever works for you is fair game, as long as you are going to use it. My rule on this one, is to log the food before you eat it. This forces you to stop and look back at what you have already eaten and you don’t have to worry about “forgetting” to log if you are in a rush to eat.

Celebrate Successes (Even Little Ones)

This is one of the most important things you can do, celebrate your success. Don’t wait until you’ve lost enough weight for someone to notice, before shouting it from the roof tops! Let it be known and allow yourself to feel pride. Also, find different ways to reward yourself that don’t include “cheating” with food. For me this took on different forms. When I biked 194 km from Ottawa to Montreal (what I would consider a large accomplishment) I treated myself with a nice new jacket from Parasuco. Whereas, when I lost my first 10 lbs I bought myself some young thailand coconuts (only $1.25 each) to make the greatest, guilt-free, chocolate pudding from Raw Food Real World (of course). Even if your goals aren’t focused around losing weight, celebrate your successes. Make it a big deal to you and you will find you get a lot more satisfaction from eating well and in your everyday life.

That first week flew by and, before I knew it, a month had come and gone without notice. My one month experiment was slowly becoming my life as I knew it. I was loosing weight at an astounding rate of 1.25 lbs per day, but still felt great and had more energy than ever. Thinking back, it is a humbling thought to think that had I not made those changes and stuck with them, that I may have gone further down the self destructive path I was on, only to get more unhealthy and unhappy. I feel blessed today to be able to write these experiences. I am no one special, my story could be your story, and if you are struggling, as I was, with obesity, I want to admonish you: you can do it, and you are worth it.