“Your food shall be your remedies, and your remedies shall be your food.” — Hippocrates
“Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s critical to know what it was.” –Texas Bix Bender, “Cowboy Wisdom”
It seems a particularly Western idea that in order to attain a high level of health, it must be something we eat, drink or otherwise ingest. The search for a “magic pill,” fueled by unrelenting pharmaceutical media campaigns, enforces this belief. “Here, take this for your headache, take these to lose that weight, and smear this stuff on your face for everlasting beauty,” yell the pitch men–and we obey, opening our wallets and in many cases ignoring common sense in doing so.
Other cultures focus on such things as yoga, breath, mantras and karma. More archaic societies focused on spirits, gods, ancestor worship, and shamanistic blessings. Of course, these time-intensive alternatives would never do for our breakneck lifestyles where instant gratification is aim of most daily or weekly endeavors.
A fine compromise between these two divergent health strategies is the raw food lifestyle. This month we spoke with raw food advocate, Paul Nison, who was in town on yet another tour of the country touting the true health benefits of eating raw food.
“People are getting interested in it for several reasons,’ observes Paul. “One reason is that they’re sick and they hear that it will cure them. Another reason is it’s a trend, or people think it’s a trend. Hollywood’s picking up on it, so people want to follow what’s in trend. But it’s not really a trend. It’s a diet–it’s a way of eating. People just want to feel better, and they want to avoid disease and illness. They see people who are doing this with such great results, and it makes so much sense, that they figure they’re going to try it.”
Paul was led inadvertently to the raw food lifestyle at age 19 via a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis–one of the most painful of intestinal disorders. “I got colitis flare-ups about six times per year,” says Paul. “Every time I went to the doctor, she told me to stay away from dairy foods until I felt better. Then she increased the dosage of steroids she was giving me. When I felt better after a few weeks, she said it was okay to eat dairy foods again. After that I began to eliminate whatever the doctors told me was okay to eat. Eggs, meat, and sugar to name just a few. I told my doctor I felt better without these foods. She told me food had nothing to do with my condition. After hearing that from her, I knew I was on the right track.”
As Paul continued to eliminate cooked foods from his diet, he also continued to research the lifestyle, being greatly influenced by Dave Klein (Publisher/Editor of Living Nutrition magazine), and David Wolfe, who had books and radio programs circulating. Joining raw food support groups, and networking with other raw fooders, Paul ended up with a 100% raw diet. “Since going 100% raw, I have completely overcome ulcerative colitis. I feel better than ever and have become increasingly inspired about life. I quit my stressful job and began working as a raw food chef in a vegetarian restaurant. I organize raw-food potlucks every month. I have started a raw food support group, and I give lectures on the raw food lifestyle to help others that have gotten their wake-up call.”
One misconception about adopting a raw food diet is that it is time-consuming, and complicated. Paul points out that it is really just a matter of doing the learning curve and being aware and alert to raw opportunities. “It’s the quickest, the easiest, the cheapest, and has the most variety of foods of any type of diet in the world. So any of those reasons alone would be positive reasons why to eat this way,” enthuses Paul.
Paul has written three books. His first, The Raw Life presents practical, easy and smart ways to incorporate raw foods into a cooked diet, and how to transition to 100% raw. He has interviewed dozens of long-time raw foodists, who divulge their strategies and ways of thinking about eating.
Making the transition to raw food also takes some self-reflection and an awareness of habitual patterns. “I find that people eat too much sugar, too much fat, too much protein and too little green food,” says Paul. “Then they switch to a vegetarian diet, but keep doing the same thing, and keep running into the same problems. Then they switch to a raw diet, but continue to eat too much sugar and too much fat and too little green food, and they run into the same health problems.”