Monday, February 1, 2010

One Year Progress Report

Anyone who has ever tried to diet throughout the holidays knows how difficult it can be. But being raw is another story! Throw the emotional stresses of a family health crisis into the mix and it becomes a recipe for disaster.

I am human. I have not made it through the holidays or the crisis at my desired level of raw vegan. In fact, I have completely failed to maintain 100% raw longer than a few days at a time. Fortunately I did have a pretty good routine in place that kept me coming back to what I still believe to be the best diet for me. But, again, like dieters everywhere know, once you cheat, it is so difficult to go back.

It was my intention to get things back on track once the holidays were over, but that hasn’t been very successful either. Dealing with my husband’s cancer has been such an emotional experience that I have found myself going out of my way to find comfort foods on a regular basis. The urge to stuff my feelings has not only been just for comfort but to actually function during this very stressful time. All the nights of no sleep have left me with a need for caffeine to stay awake during a day when I needed to drive and make difficult decisions. The caffeine would then stimulate my appetite and I would soon find myself craving heavier foods. The chemo treatments that are supposed to shrink my husband’s tumor have so far been ineffective and the emotions that have surfaced have been overwhelming. There is such a desire to go back to our old social patterns of eating out and enjoying SAD food to just have some part of our life be “normal” again. Traveling around the city in cold weather has also been a strong pull to eat warm, comfort foods.

Given the nature of things in my household right now, I have decided to give myself a break and just do the best I can with my raw foods. I am still very committed to going back to being 100% raw, I have just reaped too many benefits to go back to a completely SAD diet. But I also have to acknowledge that it takes a lot of time and effort to maintain and it has become increasingly harder to do with all that is happening in my life right now. At some point in the process of caring for my husband, I am hoping that he will agree to eating more raw foods himself. That would certainly help both of us. I am sure that his health would be drastically improved by the raw vegan lifestyle, but that is a decision that only he can make for himself. He isn’t there yet and right now his comfort and satisfaction is my primary goal.

Don’t get me wrong, I still pack pounds of produce, pates, smoothies, and my own trail mix into the oncology center with me each time we go for his chemotherapy. But at some point the desire for comfort foods hits with a vengeance and I am tired of trying to fight the cravings and all my emotions around this circus of events.

Forgive me if I have let you down, but I need to find a way to cope while all this is happening to our family. I will come back when I am more grounded in taking back my raw lifestyle. I still believe that eating a 100% raw vegan diet is the best possible path to good health and happiness.
Thank you to all who have written to me and continue to support me as I travel this path. You don’t know just how much I appreciate, and depend on, your efforts to keep me going. I will be back.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Healing All Around

Last night my dear friends, Diana and Risa, rescued me from my depression by having a raw potluck at Diana's home. It was a wonderful effort that I so appreciated. I go back more than a decade with both of them, so it was easy conversation and lots of raw food. A few other guests were also present and we had such a good time that I really didn't want to come home. My two friends had decided that it would be good for us to do this on a monthly basis and rotate the hostessing duties going forward. This decision came right about the time Joseph was diagnosed with cancer, so I really didn't have much of a part in planning the first event other than to say "great with it!" I threw my hat over the wall and said I would host the next one in January. I have no idea how things will be with my husband by then, but it would be nice to have friends over for New Year's.

Last night's fare included zucchini and spaghetti squash noodles with pesto sauce, collard burritos with a cheesy sauce, kale chips, salsa, crudites with a sunflower seed pate, a kale salad, pomegranate pudding, and raw pumpkin pie with a whipped topping. It was all so good that even the non-raw foodists in the bunch seemed to really enjoy it.

I was so happy to have this diversion as it has been really difficult to maintain a very positive outlook since my husband's cancer diagnosis. This weekend he decided to review the Landmark Forum, an adult educational seminar, to help get himself into a better frame of mind before starting chemotherapy tomorrow. I stayed home so I could process massive amounts of produce through the blender and juicer for him to take with him for the weekend. Shopping and chopping vegetables have been the hallmarks of my weekend until last night. The social activity was very welcome.

Joseph has been struggling with the 100% raw diet. When I realize what he instantly changed in his dietary intake, it is a wonder he has been able to function! He has had caffeine withdrawal, lots of emotional detoxing, all kinds of physical sensations, and cravings galore. The poor man has really given it his best and has finally decided that he needs to go back to a transitional diet. I agree, but we are still trying to sort out just what he needs to be eating right now. We have added some fish and chicken back into his fare along with brown rice, quinoa, lentils and some beans. I believe that having these cooked foods will make things much easier for him. He has already given up coffee, processed starches, refined sugars, all red meat, eggs, and dairy. That is a huge change already.

Last night Diana's mother gave me a well-worn copy of A Cancer Therapy by Max Gerson, M.D. I have been listening to tapes about his treatments and reading his daughter Charlotte's book Healing, The Gerson Way. Much of it seems really radical, especially to someone coming from a standard American diet, but to me, a lot of it seems quite logical. What Joseph has implemented that the book completely supports is juicing. In the interest of not busting the budget completely, we have limited the juices to one quart a day for each of us. It is having a very positive effect on me and I know that at some level, it is healing Joseph. We just don't have the evidence for it yet.

Another healing modality that we have brought back into our lives is the work that Aniel Love and Fred Payne do. Both of these energy workers have been instrumental in restoring complete health and vitality back to Joseph. Again, we don't have the evidence of it, but it is making a huge difference in his daily outlook.

Cancer seems to demand that it's victims take a long, hard look at themselves and how they have been living their lives. It goes from the inside out and back again. We have had so many people tell us of various things to do that it is hard to research every one of them. But the consistent theme among them all is having a positive mental outlook. At this point I can report that we are doing everything we can. I pray it is enough.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Wrecking Ball

Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you will be reading this for the first time and wondering how you didn't know about my new lifestyle. It isn't that I was trying to keep it secret as much as it was to spare you from thinking that "this is Karen's latest diet scheme." On the sidebar you will see my successes with eating a raw, vegan diet. Despite struggling from time to time to maintain this new way of eating and healing my body, what hasn't wavered is how my health has continued to improve. My husband has seen this progress and has tried to go raw himself, with mixed results.

But, if you didn't know before, you are hearing it now because three weeks ago a wrecking ball hit our lives and changed it forever. We have discovered that my Beloved's life is in jeopardy. We have learned that he not only has cancer, but that his is an extremely rare kind and difficult to treat. Right now we are in New York City with appointments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center littering our calendars. Our local doctors have referred us here because so little is known about this particular type of cancer. In fact, there are less than 500 known cases! There are very few doctors who have even seen this type of cancer before, and even fewer who have successfully treated it. One who has, is here in New York City...the closest to our home.

I now realize that everything I have done to improve my own health has only been a practice run for the real race. It is no longer about is about saving my husband's life. The volume has been turned up on the loud speaker, I have now become savvy in medical terminology, and the reading list has grown to include medical publications. There is a stack of information that now consumes my every waking moment. What I once considered to be an "extreme" raw diet is being reviewed for anything that can help my husband fight this battle. The swords are drawn, the shields are ready and the juicer is being put to the test! You can be sure that my husband's nutritional intake during this ordeal will be organic, vegan, and raw as much as possible.

I don't expect the medical community to approve of our approach to his condition, but I don't approve of theirs either! Somehow we are going to have to blaze some new trails if he is to survive. We don't know exactly how we are going to manage his treatment yet, but suggestions and advice are pouring into my inbox at an alarming rate. We clearly have a lot of support from our community!

So, for those of you who have been following this blog, I will say to you that things are going to take a sharp left turn here. I am no longer going to be so casual about how I talk about being raw. This is going to be hard-core from now on. For the rest of you, I am asking for your support...Joseph's life is on the line.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Matt & Angela

This past Monday evening I had the rare privilege of meeting two of my favorite raw food gurus: Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes-Monarch. I have followed the both of them for almost 2 years now and seeing them in the flesh felt to me like seeing old friends again. Of course, they didn't exactly have the same reaction! I knew them...shouldn't they know me?!!!

When I first started talking about going raw, my daughter bought Matt's book Raw Spirit for me. She picked his book because he talked so much about what it was like getting started. The book really prepared me for my journey by letting me know a lot of what I later experienced. I also liked Matt's theory that as long as you are eating raw, your body will eventually find its own balance and you will eat less.

Shortly after reading Matt's book and deciding to move forward in search of other raw foodies who had achieved what I wanted to do....namely lose weight, I found Angela Stokes' blog. I immediately became a huge fan of hers. I loved her down-to-earth approach and the fact that she published what she ate every single day. She has written several books that I have found extremely helpful, namely her latest, Raw Emotions.

When I first started following Matt and Angela, I wondered why Angela kept talking about Matt. Finally I realized that she and Matt were in a relationship. Well now they are newlyweds and touring the United States together...sharing their own experiences and opinions on the raw food lifestyle.

These two are truly hard-core raw foodists. They have years of experience being raw and are relentless in their pursuit of perfect health. While I am not ready for everything they do, I have come a long way because of them. I am very grateful to have had a chance to meet them and speak with them personally. I came away from the evening with the happy feeling that I am on the right path and that I am not alone. Even my husband was inspired by them and he is not an easy sale!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm Baaaaa---aack!

As some of my more gracious friends have pointed out to me, I have really been a slacker on my blog lately...and they are absolutely right. But, I assure you, dear ones, that I am alive, well, and still eating raw foods.

This past summer posed new challenges that had me straying away from my resolve to be 100% raw. At times I dipped down to 50-75% but repeatedly, I renewed my efforts to get back to 100%. There was some strong motivation as I did not feel as well physically or mentally. I was really irritated to see the pounds that had so stubbornly departed my body, come racing back to join the rest of their undesirable crowd. That's where I drew the line. I have not come this far to give up or give in to my middle age blubber.

So, what have I learned while I have been dabbling in the dark arts of SAD cuisine?

1) That see-sawing back and forth between being 100% raw and only half raw is very rough on the body. I can't count the number of times I suffered indigestion, heartburn, constipation and other unpleasantries from eating things I should not have.

2) It is very easy to talk about eating raw when I am 100%. Not so easy when I have my downfalls. No one wants to be a public failure.

I am sure there are other things I could mention, but in the interest of not stalling any longer, I'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Summer Fun, Redefined

Summers in Ohio are supposed to be about fun, travel, amusement parks and the like. However I have found myself on a roller coaster ride that I didn't plan to be on for the past 6 weeks. I have been traveling back and forth across several states in an attempt to get my daughter settled into a comfortable living arrangement for college this fall. After Plan A came to a surprise ending, Plan B took a nosedive, and Plans C, D, and E crashed and burned, we finally found what we thought would be a workable situation for her. Not so. Once she was finally moved into her new home, with her cats, and most of her worldly possessions, she realized just how awful the situation was and how homesick she was. Other circumstances became contributing factors to her misery and we are now planning another trip to bring her back home. She will go back to the college she had been attending, so at least something is still happening with her education.

All this has been a constant strain on my emotional and physical well-being. Trying to stay raw while traveling is difficult enough, but doing it from a hotel room is another story. It doesn't help when everyone else really just wants to sit down in a restaurant for every meal. I don't know how Angela Stokes and Matt Monarch carry on with their nomadic lifestyle, but it certainly is not for me!

I did the best I could with all this turmoil to maintain a healthy raw diet. I spent long hours preparing foods to pack into a cooler on each and every one of these trips. I hauled ice every day down hotel corridors and made countless trips to grocery stores for still more ice and perishables along the way. I definitely built up some strong arm muscles hauling that cooler around!

In the end, I did succumb to several cooked food meals, which led to cravings for more cooked food. Every time I came home, I got myself back on track until the cravings took over again. So it has turned into a real challenge to stay raw.
One thing I want to mention here is that while I believe the Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine is the ultimate food plan, I felt like I was walking a tightrope trying to maintain it during all this chaos. While I would really like to make this a permanent change, I have to admit that I am going to use it as a guide rather than a strict rule. Frankly, I have not been as happy as I was when I was following my own plan. My blood sugars are back under control, so I am going to cautiously add fruits back into my daily intake. Clearly I will need to find a new balance but as long as I continue eating raw, I know my health is improving and that is the real goal.

You will notice that I have posted my results over on the side bar for all to see. For those of you who have written me with your concerns about my diet, I hope that now you will understand some of the benefits that I have enjoyed since embarking on my raw journey. This really does work!
Photos: Top: The Mantis at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio. Bottom: The Tightrope Walker, oil painting by Everett Shinn.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Complete 180

Today was my 180th day of being a raw vegan! I confess that not every one of those days was 100% raw, but darn close. I would say it averages out to be 99.998% raw in all that time. The only times I wasn't completely raw was when I was away from home and had no other choices. But my commitment remains strong.

I have had several people tell me that they are worried about me. This completely baffles me as there has been such a radical improvement in my body, soul and mind since starting down this organic garden path. I have a short list of some of the ailments and conditions that used to plague my a day or so I am going to post them on the side bar for all to see. Hopefully it will quell any doubts or concerns.

But for now I will happily tell you that I have dropped 32 lbs. during this time! That is about 1 and 1/4 lb. per week. A healthy loss...nothing radical at all. Since attempting to go raw back in November, I have shaved off a total of 42 lbs. Not bad, if I do say so myself!
I feel like I have completely turned my life around with this decision...not an easy thing to do for anyone, but the rewards have been well worth it. I will stay this course and see where it takes me next.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back to Business

I have done enough dawdling this's time to get back to blogging!

My Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine plan has been remarkably satisfying. I have not been hungry and have found lots of new recipes that keep things interesting. My eyes are brighter, my skin is clearer, my blood sugars are down and I have dropped a few more pounds. My energy seems to be increasing too. I am very happy with this plan.

I have also had a few strangers come up to me and rave about my skin! One woman in the grocery store insisted that I tell her what creams I use on my skin at night. She kept asking me if I had tried various products. She would not believe me when I told her that being a raw vegan gave me my glow. She followed me around the grocery store and kept asking me questions about my skin. I finally told her that I occasionally use olive or coconut oil. That seemed to be what finally satisfied her as the last I saw her she was looking over jars of coconut oil!

But it is true, my skin has been noticeably clearer and smoother. The woman was quite shocked to learn that I was 16 years older than her! She thought I was 10 years younger than her. You just can't argue with results like that!

My only difficulties with the plan occurred on a recent trip to another city for 4 days. Even though I took lots of food along and located a couple of raw vegan restaurants in the area, I still was not able to maintain the program the way I wanted. I ran out of some things and had no place or time to prepare anything else. One of the restaurants closed early and another was way out of the way, so I never got to either of them. It was very frustrating trying to find something to eat that was not just an iceberg lettuce salad. I finally succumbed to my hunger and ordered regular vegetarian meals from the local restaurants. I was not very happy about the limited choices.

But it was not a problem going back to the plan. In fact, it was a welcome relief to return to what really makes me feel good. My first couple of days back on the plan had me detoxing like a mad woman, but I feel so much better now. I do believe I can stick with this program for the long haul. And that is a very good thing!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Decision Time

As I approach the six-month mark on my raw food journey, I have started to evaluate my progress once again. While I have been very happy with my plan, I have to acknowledge other people are reporting much better results in the same amount of time. While I generally don't compare myself to others, it has been discouraging to realize that many on this path are achieving much more dramatic results. There are some other hard facts that I do need to address that are pushing me to make some changes.

  • I have not dropped as much weight as I had expected or hoped.
  • My energy levels still are not as consistently high as I would like.
  • My blood sugars have been slowly creeping higher.

While I could live with my slow progress over the first two issues, I can not ignore the last one. To date, I am the only person in my family who has not been diagnosed with diabetes and I fully intend to maintain that status. My doctor is not concerned at this point, but my fasting blood sugars have crept into the 110-120 range....up from 90-100 last November.

Before leaving on vacation, I was not aware of my blood sugar situation and had fully intended to try Dr. Doug Graham's 80-10-10 diet when I came home. Those who use his plan eat only fruits, which gives one 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 10% fats. I had tried this plan once before a couple of years ago and dropped 6 lbs. in the first few days, and nothing again for the remaining 2 weeks. During this time, I was badgered constantly by a "coach" about eating more calories. The coaching became rather abusive and I struggled to eat 1200 calories a day. I dropped the program and immediately gained all the weight back in short order.

This time I thought that reading the doctor's book and getting the facts might change the outcome. Again, I saw others having great success with this program and figured I must have been doing something wrong. Reading the book and following it properly should bring a much faster weight loss.

But now that I have tuned into the blood sugar concern, I am reluctant to eat only fruits. Dr. Graham blames excess fat in the diet for diabetes and claims that an all-fruit diet will lower blood sugars to normal levels. I am not convinced. I also know that the diet is so very restrictive. It certainly can not be maintained by average humans for indefinite periods of time. While my plan isn't a rapid weight loss plan, I have been able to maintain it for a long period of time.

So the question remained as to what to do. Should I just do my own plan and cut down or eliminate the fruit? Move to low-glycemic fruits only? Find another solution?

A couple of months ago I saw Dr. Gabriel Cousens' documentary Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days. The subjects of the film took weight off quickly as well as lowered their blood sugars and medications. The program restricts fruit in the first phase of his plan and then only adds back low-glycemic fruits for a maintenance plan. He advocates using high-glycemic fruits only occasionally. Dr. Cousens' plan also encourages a lot of healthy greens, nuts and seeds. It is much closer to what I have been doing but without all the fruit.

This approach seems to fit with what I deem to be good common sense and I have decided to transition over to it. In just the first couple of days of cutting back on the amount of fruits I have been eating, my blood sugars have already started to drop. But things are certainly out of synch with me right now as I have had incredible cravings. Still I am going to try this plan and see how it goes over the next couple of months. I know that I can always return to my own plan and just reduce the fruit if I need to, but if I see good progress, I will be sticking with Dr. Cousens.

I am going to halt my daily food reports at this point. Some of the recipes I will be using from now on are from Dr. Cousens and are more complex. It wouldn't be appropriate to list them here. However, if anyone has questions or comments about what I am doing, feel free to drop me a message at I would love to hear what other people have to say about this too...especially if you have done this program.

Be well!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Detox - Mood Swings

Just about every raw foodist that I have ever read about or met has raved about how much better they felt in every way...physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I have personally experienced a huge change in all these areas. Last year this time, I was extremely depressed and was sure I was about to die. Just switching to a vegan diet made a big difference, but once I began to move towards the raw, vegan diet, my whole outlook began to change to a much more positive view. I generally feel better and am not on any kind of mood-enhancing drugs!

However, I have noticed that as I continue to purge the many toxins polluting my body, that I have occasional mood swings that frequently catch me off guard. They generally range from being absolutely ecstatic to ragingly angry to being rather sad. Not being an especially "moody" person, I have become rather interested in observing these moods as they cross my consciousness.

Now, certainly we all have mood swings, and as all women know, we have more than our fair share....and they aren't all from hormones! But what we do with those moods seem to have an impact on our lives in ways that we might not be aware.

As we detox our bodies, the mind is certainly impacted. Chemicals that have been circulating through our brains might diminish, and as purer blood and oxygen begin to feed and nurture the cells, certain emotions, memories and thoughts begin to emerge. Several people have reported whole new ways of thinking about their lives after they go raw. Others experience a lift of a "brain fog." Some just start to experience their lives in new and different ways. There is a whole rainbow of experiences that others say they have experienced, but most agree that they have gone through some moods in the process.

My personal theory is that as we release toxins from our body and brains, emotions that have been stuffed begin to surface for our review. We could just stuff them back down with more food, or we can start to deal with them. Most people who are overweight have done this stuffing process for a long time to avoid the pain of having to deal with a lot of negative emotions. But if we deal with the emotional pains of the past, we start to get really honest with ourselves about who we really are. We begin to shift our view of life to a much clearer vision.

My personal opinion is that as our world view shifts and changes, and as we get more honest with ourselves, we experience these moods as indicators of emotions we need to pay attention to. Ignoring them could be damaging to our cleansing process as well as burying deep feelings that become issues for us to deal with at a later time. For me, the moods have forced me to deal with issues in my life that I had been ignoring, hoping they would go away or change on their own. The moods have been warning signs that something is happening that I need to pay attention to.

In a society where women's moods are so degraded and dismissed, I have gone along with convention and ignored and/or stuffed my feelings for a very long time. This has cost me my physical and mental health, my intuition, and my natural exuberance for life. I now see my moods as sign posts...showing me what I need to do to lead a healthy, happy life. I will not allow anyone to dismiss or invalidate what I am feeling ever again. There is just too much at stake. I am learning to honor my moods/feelings/emotions in a way that I never have before and my life is the richer for it.

On Monday I ate:
  • Breakfast: Nothing...wasn't hungry.
  • Lunch: Salad with spinach, celery, red bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, lemon juice and olive oil
  • Supper: Corn chowder with fresh corn, red bell pepper, shallots, cashews, garlic, celery.

On Tuesday I ate:

  • Breakfast: Muesli with chia and hemp seeds, goji berries, mulberries, almonds, walnuts, lucuma powder, banana apple, and almond milk.
  • Lunch: Collard burrito with walnuts, tomatoes, red onion, nama shoyu, chili powder, cumin and collards.
  • Supper: Citrus Avocado Salad with arugula, celery, grapefruit, clementines, avocado and a dressing of lemon juice, Dijon mustard, agave nectar, and olive oil.

Photo note: NO, that is not me. If I had a body like that, I wouldn't be writing this blog! But, doesn't her mood just say it all?!!