Two and a half years ago I was probably at my lowest point health wise. I had just graduated college, moved out on my own, and spent the summer living it up with my roommates. The shock of working full time, white not quite knowing if what I was doing was right for me was often balanced out by eating whatever the hell I wanted.

Constant dieting throughout high school led me to go on a tailspin throughout college and beyond. Around October 2007 my two roommates and I decided that we needed to do a cleanse. We chose to do the Lemonade Diet, also known as the Master Cleanse, for 10 days. I had done this before but found it extremely difficult emotionally.

This time I meant business. I knew that if I didn’t change my ways I would go on feeling the way I did forever. I was lethargic, unmotivated, uninspired, had digestive problems, and was just going through the motions. If “blah” was a feeling, that was how I felt. I needed a drastic change.

I had some detox symptoms during the first three days, but then felt physically fine. As long as I drank the proper amount I wasn’t hungry. Emotionally it was tough at times, but we were all in it together which helped. Mostly, the benefit of the cleanse was that it gave me a chance to evaluate my life and lifestyle and make a decision as to where to go. I had been a vegetarian since I was 16 but had recently been eating chicken.

In fact, part of my “last meal” before the lemonade diet was a buffalo chicken calzone…and onion rings, jalapeno poppers, a milkshake, etc. The list goes on and it was not pretty, but I digress. I knew I wanted to go back to being a vegetarian because that is what always felt right to me. I started googling people who were on the Master Cleanse and saw that many people went on a raw food diet directly after. I had heard about this before and thought it was way too difficult, but this time around I was intrigued.

The benefits boasted were effortless weight loss, digestive health, mental clarity, glowing skin, and many others. This was something I needed to try. I spent the rest of the cleanse setting up my life to be a raw foodist. I told as many people as I had the courage to tell at the time to form a support system. Let it be known that I’m not particularly recommending the Master Cleanse, actually I think there are way healthier, more beneficial ways to fast and cleanse the body, but its importance to me was that it brought to the raw food lifestyle.

Once the cleanse ended, I already felt better. I dove into the raw food diet head first. I was learning so much and was so excited. There I was making green smoothies every morning, food processing, dehydrating, sprouting, and un-cooking up a storm. I was losing weight, but most importantly I was happy, the pure joy kind of happy. I felt lighter physically and emotionally.

I began connecting to myself. I found something that I was passionate about. People were commenting, “You just look…so…HAPPY!”. I was!! I wanted everyone to feel that way. It was then that I learned that it wasn’t just about “dieting”, or the calories, or losing weight and truly connected food to how I felt emotionally, spiritually and physically, it was all the same thing and that realization is something that I will be forever grateful for. I was able to shed so many layers, physically and figuratively and was able to find myself again. I was able to see the baggage that I was carrying around and knew that it didn’t serve me.

That was when my passion for healthy living began, and I knew I wanted to nourish myself and encourage others to nourish themselves in every sense. It wasn’t just about the food, but the food led me there. I went from eating processed junk to eating purely of the earth. While quite drastic, this is was what brought me closer to nature. I saw the connection in all things.

As you can probably tell, I’m no longer a hardcore raw foodist and enjoy my cooked food quite a lot. I’ve had my ups and downs throughout the past two and a half years and it has taken me a while to reach the balance where I am today. Like the lovely Gena, I am quite happy with it. Raw food taught me invaluable lessons that were beyond just the food, but of course I still love my morning green smoothies.

Coming Soon: Part 2: How I Found a Balance

In honor of my raw food journey, I’d like to share with you an Italian Dressing. It can be used on salads, grains, wraps, or as a dip. It’s all raw, too!! And GREEN!

 

Raw Italian Dressing

Ingredients:

1/2 cup basil

1/4 cup Italian parsley

1/4 cup oregano

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp water

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp red onion, chopped finely

1 tbsp garlic paste, or one clove garlic, minced

1 juicy date

1 tsp sea salt

Directions:

Put everything except the oil and onions in a blender. Blend until smooth, then drizzle in oil while blender is still going. Stir in chopped onions.

 

My Road to Health, Part 2: Finding Balance

I spent almost a year being very high raw. Health wise, I think that brought me to a very good place where my body was working as it should. Like I said, it was what was best for me physically, emotionally and spiritually, at that point in time. I have to admit I got a little caught up in the raw world and was convinced it was the best and only way to go. This caused me to have a lot of guilt when I would give into certain cravings that were a “no-no”. It doesn’t matter what you’re eating, when guilt is involved it is not healthy. I still had that mentality that cravings were bad and were due to lack of willpower, or self-sabotage. It was hard to rid myself of the thought pattern I had had my whole life. Everything I ate was either good or bad, right or wrong, within the realm of health or outside it. There was no balance, no allowing my body to want and crave different foods at different points in time.

I knew this mentality wasn’t working for me, there were many different people with all sorts of diets who were healthy and happy! I realized that there must be some sort of reason, aside from willpower, why raw food was no longer working for me, or why I no longer craved it as much as I once had. I opened myself up to read and learn about other ways of eating and realized that no one way is right for everyone. As silly as this sounds, that was a huge revelation for me. I even realized that no one way was right for me and what I needed could change. This was both comforting and freeing. I starting feeding my body what it actually needed, not what I once thought it needed. Whoa, cravings are good! Who knew?! We should pay more attention to them, and really try to see what our bodies are telling us. They know best.

I’m now much happier. The foundation of my diet consists of whole, real, unprocessed food that is sustainably grown, with some fun stuff thrown in. I love and appreciate both raw and cooked food. I now use my stove, I bake things in the OVEN, I dehydrate, I sprout, and most importantly I listen to my body. It’s all good!! Although I don’t particularly like labels, I am a vegan. That is what works for me. For now, anyway.

Balance is key!!