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.


  1. So, as a raw eater, would you eat carpaccio or sashimi? Are you a vegetarian too? Curious :)

  2. Eric , you are amazing!! I have forwarded your blog onto my friends and family, especially my husband who happens to be quite the fan of KFC :) Sarma is the reason I went raw! I saw her on the cover of her book and had to know who she was. She is truly inspiring. Please keep blogging, and post pics!

  3. Eric I truly hope you will continue blogging. You are an inspiration. Congratulations!

  4. Another amazing post, Eric. The other thing I'm dying to know is at a rate of 1.25lbs a day at first, and having lost nearly 200lbs in a mere two years, what's your skin situation like? I know you work out like a madman, but has your it been good to you and shrunk back to where you need it to be, or do you have all sorts of extra loose skin? Just curious :)