by Bryan Yamamoto
People come to the raw foods diet because of the promise of vibrant health. Many who engage in the raw foods lifestyle heal their chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. But for every story of success on the raw diet there seems to be ten stories of people who were unable to remain on the diet, either because their health was failing or because they were unable to stay away from cooked foods.
On the raw foods diet we learn that the body heals when we provide the conditions for good health; a nontoxic diet, plenty of rest and sleep, clean water, an environment free of toxins, fresh air, sunshine, exercise, mental and emotional balance, etc. So if we understand the necessary conditions for good health, why isn't it a simple matter of practicing these healthful habits and healing our illnesses?
We could do our homework, discover the diet of other successful raw foodists, eat that exact diet and have problems. Certainly there are issues of detoxification and transition and adaptations to the raw foods, but even if we accounted for all that, we could still fail on the raw foods diet.
Often before the body can heal, there is a spiritual and emotional healing that must first take place. This spiritual healing involves confronting our difficult emotions, releasing behavior patterns that are destructive and drain our energy, and making ourselves whole and complete again.
Part of the problem is that we've become fragmented people. Our minds often act as separate entities from our bodies, disconnected from the body, unable or unwilling to feel. The cooked foods help us avoid feeling our bodies; for example grains like wheat contain opioids that are addictive and sedate us. Many of us learned how to use a pizza to not feel our difficult emotions, or pasta to free us from our emotional pain. When we go to a raw diet, without the grains to sedate our emotions, we find ourselves in emotional crisis as we try to use heavy foods like nuts and avocados to provide the grounding to avoid our emotions. While these high-fat foods are hard to digest and consume a lot of the body's energy, they don't numb us in the same way that wheat does, and for perhaps the first time in our lives we are faced with confronting our emotions.
While some cooked foods serve to sedate us, other foods stimulate us. Everyone knows about the stimulating properties of foods that contain caffeine, like coffee and chocolate, and for this reasons heath-conscious people often avoid these foods. But less understood is the stimulating nature of animal products, spices, and condiments. In fact, any food with toxins in it, whether it is from the process of cooking, external additives or preservatives, or naturally occurring toxins, will have a stimulating effect on the body. As our bodies work extra hard to remove these ingested toxins, we feel a stimulating effect and it feels like these foods give us energy. If we were listening to the needs of our bodies, we would simply sleep instead of providing external stimulation to keep ourselves going. There is a disconnection from the body that prevents us from listening to its demands, which if denied long enough would result in disease.
So when starting on the raw foods diet, we are potentially faced with confronting our emotions and turn to high fat foods to attempt to sedate them. At the same time, we can find ourselves lacking in energy, which in reality is lacking in the stimulation of toxins, and we have to deal with the ramifications of stimulant withdrawal. Many will find this new state of being somewhat abusive and return to cooked foods to relieve the symptoms of a life that isn't working.
Rather than medicate the pain or symptoms away, real healing will come from removing the cause of the pain. The emotions that are stored in our bodies need to be experienced fully without judgment and released. This process requires courage, commitment and patience, to face and experience some potentially unpleasant emotions that have been bottled up inside for years. I find yoga particularly useful in reconnecting to my body, but any movement practice that requires breath consciousness can help. Reconnecting to the body provides a pathway for emotions to be experienced and released. Also useful to me is meditation, which for me is a practice of sitting in silence and focusing the attention on consciousness.
Another part of healing is letting go of that which no longer serves. Things to look at releasing are behavior patterns and thinking patterns that drain our energy. Removing our attachments like judgment, criticism, or having a preference of how the world or other people should be will release sources of our unhappiness and suffering, which should help prevent the draining of energy. Also important is to examine our relationships with people that drain our energy. Are friends and family and coworkers enhancing our lives, or does spending time with these people drain our energy? Getting in touch with the body will help us determine if these relationships are beneficial. When we become sensitive enough, we can actually feel our body become weaker in the presence of people who drain our energy. Some of these relationships may have served in the past, but now are no longer enhancing us, and we may have to let go of the ones that no longer serve.
We turn to stimulants when we believe that we need to do more work or expend more energy than is possible in a typical day. This may come from the demands of the job, responsibility to the family or loved ones, or from our own sense of self worth. The question to ask ourselves is, "What is it about myself that a normal amount of work or energy expenditure is not enough?" Do we think that we are special in some way, and need to work more than is humanly possible? Do we believe that if we don't do all this work, that we won't be loved or be lovable? Do we believe that if we can do all this work, we will prove ourselves good enough for our loved ones? These beliefs need to be examined and discarded. To heal ourselves, surrender is the answer. Because we don't have infinite amounts of time and energy, we must have faith that everything will happen exactly the way it is supposed to happen, and that abuse of our bodies is not an acceptable solution to solving the world's problems.
Healing ourselves involves becoming a whole person again. We must reconnect and make whole these fragmented parts: the separate mind, the suppressed emotions, the numb body, and the disconnected spirit. As we let go of that which no longer serves, what we are left with is the love and perfection that we already are.