si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: September, 2008

‘Raw Foodist’ Or ‘Conscious Eater’?

For a while now, & even though I use it to describe myself, I’ve been bothered by the term ‘raw foodist’.

This breaks down to three main reasons:

  1. It implies that I only eat raw foods (ie, I’m 100% – & possibly militant about it at that)
  2. It misses the whole point of raw (more on that later) – thus treating it as a diet, rather than a lifestyle
  3. It seems to make my friends worry about whether & what they can feed me

I realised recently that if my friends are wasting their brain cycles thinking about what I’m eating, then something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

pic by LeoFagiano

Umm, so to speak..

Having to keep the details of someone else’s diet in your head is a bit tedious, to say the least – particularly since there are so many variants out there, vegetarian, vegan, ovo-lacto-pescatarian, the list goes on. Of course, it’s simple to us, I mean “raw fruit, veges, some nuts & seeds”, what could be simpler? Except it could also be described as “no meat, no dairy, nothing cooked. Yes bread is cooked, so is vinegar, & most herbs, etc etc etc” And from the point of view of a host, 10 people visiting all with different dietary preferences, some of them militant (“Honey? Do you know how many bees died to make that?!?! AND YOU HAVE LEATHER SHOES!!”) it’s enough to make you pull your hair out.

pic by sugarpuss4ever

..or, you know, someone else’s.

The irony here is that raw foodists (with the odd luminous example) are generally the most chilled people I’ve ever met with regard to their food. Which brings me to the second point. Most raw foodists have slightly different diets. Some eat more fats. Some are what’s called raw primal – ie, they include raw animal products, meats etc. Some eat honey or dairy, some don’t. Some are super strict (no herbs, no cooked salad dressings, no chocolate), most aren’t. Few are a super pure 100%.

One of the key reasons for this is that eating raw isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Even in the short time I’ve been on it, what has best suited my body has changed drastically. My tastes have changed enormously. Juice fasting particularly altered my body chemistry markedly – kale used to be way too bitter for me, now I can’t get enough of it.

Eating raw isn’t about eating one specific way. It’s about being conscious of what you’re eating, and how it’s affecting you. The common refrain is “Eat whatever you like, just be aware of why, and how it’s affecting you”. You want to have a coffee? Go right ahead – just watch what it does to you. Feel like pizza? Be my guest. Feel better afterwards or worse? And how? Keep that up long enough, and you’ll naturally settle on foods that make you feel great. Voila, you’re a raw foodist.

pic by dboo

Also, and here’s a little secret about raw food. You want to have one salad a week, eat steak at every other meal & call yourself a raw foodist? Go right ahead. The community will welcome you with open arms. It’s about loving and supporting each other, not about who’s eating what. People want to help you. Want you to succeed. To find your own path. They realise it can be hard, and can take years to find that ideal balance. I know I’ve sure as hell struggled. Yesterday I ate an entire loaf of bread. Yes, by myself. Worse yet, I’m still not really sure why. Is there any guilt about that? No, even though it made me throw up, just curiosity. Adding negative emotion to food-that-is-bad-for-me only exacerbates the situation.

That’s what raw foodism is really about. Going easy on yourself. Being patient, understanding. Paying attention to what’s happening to yourself – being conscious instead of critical. Losing all those negative emotions around food. Instead, surrounding yourself with love, and loving people. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet.

Mostly, eating raw is just about eating what makes you feel good. If you pay really close attention, and honestly feel that eating a specific cooked food makes you feel better, then go right ahead and do it. After all, it’s your body. Eat what you like, just be conscious. Pay attention. Think about what you’re shoving in your cake hole. That’s all that really matters.

If you’re trying to eat as raw as you can, and a friend serves up something that doesn’t match your preferences perfectly (a salad with dressing, fruit with yoghurt, whatever) then go ahead and eat it, if you think you’d enjoy it. Why not? Is the world really a better place for making a huge fuss – particularly if you can see they’ve made an effort, even if they’ve screwed it up a bit around the edges?

I’m not suggesting being a push-over – it is important to have strong boundaries (ie, self respect), and if your ‘friends’ are serving barbecue & getting upset if you bring a salad for yourself, maybe it’s time to question how much those friends really have your best interests at heart. But also, if you’re spending the whole time whinging about their choices, well, maybe you’re it’s time to question how much you have their interests at heart. Everyone is on their own journey, and judging theirs is as wrong as them judging yours.

The best term I’ve found (so far) to describe my choices is a ‘conscious eater’. Eat what I like. Take my own time on my own journey. Respect others’ choices. Do what I like. Just be conscious.

Of course, ‘raw food’ as a phrase has its own uses – it’s a good way for people on a similar journey to identify each other (hello twitter friends!). In terms of self-labelling, it will still have uses, but in terms of how I think of myself, conscious eating is definitely how I’m living.

The amusing part of all this, of course, is that as I said, it’s a journey. Right now, I feel I’m a conscious eater. But in time, who knows? Can someone who’s further down this path shed any light where I might be headed? As always, I’m super curious.


    A Trip To ‘The Nongs’

    Being a busy Thursday, I decided what better to do than bugger off out of town & head to the local mountain/forest range.

    (Some) locals call these “the nongs”, but officially they’re the Dandenong Ranges. It’s about an hours drive east of where I live.

    Anyway, they’re green, and, you know, mountainy. That’s all I care about. Thursday was one of those days where I definitely needed more green.

    So what do they look like? Great question. I’m glad you asked, because I have pictures, nothing but pictures, just for you. Really, just you!


    Before you enter the ranges, there are important notices to pay attention to. Note the picture. I was relieved my arms & legs would still be attached when I’d left. I was less sure about my head.


    There are lots of these. Birds in Australia are very bright, and make particularly unusual sounds. I’m not sure why. Maybe because there are crocodiles (‘crocs’) here. Not the kind you wear on your feet, although they have those too. The kind that eat your feet. If I had neighbours like that, I’d make weird noises too.


    Here’s a tree that utterly captivated me. Bizarre thing is, it’s actually dead (or perhaps just faking it very well). It still managed to be incredibly majestic. The stunning blue sky backdrop helped. There was a natural clearing right next to this which seemed a great place to hang out for an hour, lying in the sun, listening to birds complaining about our intrusion & watching the trees sway in the gentle breeze.


    Here’s what walking through the Dandenongs is like. ’nuff said.


    A peculiarity of Australian trees is that they naturally lose their bark in summer months. This creates a ton of kindling which helps spur bush fires in the undergrowth. If the fires happen regularly enough, then the forests as a whole are spared. How this evolved just boggles my mind, but man, it’s awesome. You can see in the above pics a whole stand of trees where the fires have come through – the trees are still alive, and the burn marks go about 20 feet up the trees.


    Here’s a close up – an alive tree, but the entire inside has burnt out. Crazy, crazy country this.


    I also saw a camo goat.


    & in case you had trouble spotting the goat in the above pic, here’s a close up. You’re welcome.

    So anyway, after walking for, I dunno, 4 or 5 hours, leaving from a town called Sassafras, we ended up in a town called Olinda. Umm. We were trying to go back to Sassafras, honest. Middle of the day, being pretty careful to backtrack as accurately as possible, and still ended up one town over. Sure am glad it wasn’t raining. Or dark. Or full of man eating goats.


    Turns out there’s an award winning pie-ary in Olinda.

    Oh, and if you’re curious (I know you are) a pie floater consists of pea soup, with a meat pie floating in it, all covered in tomato ketchup. It’s a lot tastier than it sounds – I had one once. My Dad used to live on them.

    Not the best choice for a raw foodist, but I figured we were in pie country now.

    I had a salad.


      A Silly Party Game

      I was chatting with my sensei this evening, and he told me about a party game he learned. I’m sure this is as old as the hills, but it was new to me, and I found it more than a little eye opening. So, I thought I’d share it with you.

      First of all, grab a piece of paper (or whatever new fangled gadget passes for paper these days). Write on it:

      1. Your favourite domestic pet
      2. Your favourite wild animal
      3. Your favourite dessert

      And for each, the specific attributes about it that make it your favourite – ie, what appeals so strongly about each.

      Go ahead, I’ll wait. Won’t take you more than a couple of minutes.

      Finished? Ok, good. Well, here’s what I answered:

      Fave pet: a cat – reasons? It’s inquisitive, sassy & elegant

      Fave wild animal: the shark – reasons? It has an efficiency > 1 (until recently thought impossible), it’s fast, incredibly beautiful & a little scary

      Fave dessert: durian – reasons? the sheer perversity of it, it’s exotic, and orgasmic(ally tasty)

      So what does this all mean? Well, there’s a reason I left the explanation till the end – so you could write your answers down (yes yes, I know you’re reading ahead. Stop being cheeky, & jot them down).

      An interesting side note. Almost 20 years ago, I did one of those journeying experiences, where you find your power animal. I’m not totally sure about the practical usefulness of this information, but I’m curious about everything, so I gave it a shot anyway. For me, it turned out to be a hedgehog. I kinda realised, over time, that that was a good representation of myself. Prickly as hell on the outside, squishy on the inside. Also interestingly, my favourite dessert has changed radically over the last couple of years, since I started aggressively on this healing path.

      So, side note aside, here’s the interpretation, I know you’ve been dying for it:

      • The pet is what you look for in a partner
      • The wild animal describes your own attributes
      • The dessert is how you like sex

      .. and I looked at my list, and I thought to myself “You know? That’s a little bit bloody scarily accurate”. I’d guess this also means my power animal has changed (although the implications of this are beyond me).


        Sweat The Small Stuff

        I had a weird dream last night. So, as usual, I tapped on it.

        Thing is, I could feel that while it was helping, it wasn’t really getting to the root of the problem. In my dream, I dunno, I was in this weird war zone – kindof. I had a gun, there were people out to get me – all of them, it seemed. Very odd. When I woke things weren’t very clear, so I was struggling a bit to connect with it.

        So, I did what I often do – pulled up a text editor, cleared my mind, and just started typing. Whatever popped in my head I wrote down – particularly the stupid stuff. Almost like automatic writing, I suppose. Meditating around the subject would do the same thing, but this way I have a record.

        Here’s what popped out:

        WHY IS EVERYONE STILL OUT TO GET ME? [nice big header to keep me focussed]

        • or hurt me
        • or make things difficult for me
        • or trip me up

        And a little lightbulb came on in my head “trip me up”? WtF? That’s.. odd.

        Perhaps unsurprisingly, a very specific incident came to mind. When I was 7, running along in school, some random kid sitting next to the path stuck his foot out & tripped me up – just for laughs, I think. I grazed my hands & got a bit upset.

        On the scale of things, how big is this, I mean. Really? Getting tripped up at school? It’s ridiculous. I know people that have been caught in the middle of mass murders. Killed dozens of people in wars. Been repeatedly raped for years. That’s trauma. Getting tripped up? It’s so trivial it’s laughable.

        And yet.

        I started tapping on this, and the picture started to open out.

        pic by jeaniepaul

        The thing that’s important to remember is this: What’s tiny to an adult is gigantic to a child. Also, at that age, we have very little experience & our brains haven’t even finished developing yet (they don’t until our early 20’s).

        You can pretty much guarantee that we will interpret things in a way that is both wrong, and childish, to our adult brains. However, we never stop & reassess these situations. Even as adults, we take these childish interpretations, and they become our truth. Our core beliefs. The basis for our lives.

        For me, this innocuous situation left me with the beliefs that:

        • I couldn’t trust anyone
        • Everyone was ‘out to get me’

        This trust issue is something that’s been niggling me for years now – and of course caused problems in every relationship, intimate, business, or otherwise, that I’ve ever been in. However, until now, I haven’t really been able to see below the surface.

        Could it all stem from that one silly incident? Now, there was another kid who tripped me up on my birthday once (same school, boy oh boy). But those two incidents combined together? Sure. Definitely.

        It’s ridiculous, looking back as an adult, to see such a forgettable incident causing such long term damage, and yet this sort of thing happens all the time.

        There is no incident too small. Remember, we were children then, we saw things in a childish way. If we’re looking to heal ourselves, it’s important to pay particular attention to the kinds of things that as an adult we now see as trivial. If we still remember them, they’re still in our consciousness, in our awareness. So they’re significant, no matter how they might look now. In fact, a good rule of thumb is – the sillier & more trivial it seems, the more important it really is.

        After all, if an event is really that trivial, why have we bothered to remember it all these years?


          Bacon, Bagels & Noodles

          A week or so ago I got rid of my final cooked food addiction… or so I thought.

          I’d been reading a really interesting thread on Give It To Me Raw about being addicted to cooked food. At the time I was eating all raw.. except for going out for hot chips, ohhh, 2 or 3 times a week.

          *scratches head* What the hell was up with that?

          Well, it turns out that potatoes (and wheat) have a similar effect on the brain to mild opiates – ie, they cause a slight distancing from your current concerns. At the time I had been feeling some heavy emotions coming up, and had been fearful of dealing with them (no, I hadn’t thought about just tapping out the fear *slaps forehead*), so of course I was instinctively gravitating to potatoes in order to quell those emotions & keep myself ‘safe’.

          Keeping me safe, & making me feel good being the primary aim of all these sorts of automatic behaviours – it’s just the “little us” inside, our minds, trying to protect us. The irony, of course, is that typically the behaviours actually worsen the situation, they just feel like they help.

          So, once I tapped out using chips to numb myself, voila! Last cooked food addiction! I am now perfect & worthy of adoration, green smoothies all round!! (for the humour deprived, I’m joking.. oh, except for the smoothies, they rock, please, have one, you’ll feel much better).

          Ok, where was I? Oh yes, hot chips.

          So, that was well and good. Back on the wagon I go, and sure enough, start feeling awesome again, bouncing around the room Russian cossack dancing to Billy Holiday and so on, as I am wont to do.

          If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this food journey, starting way back with that insane juice feast, it’s that a lot (all?) of the time we crave or feel drawn to a specific food – and particularly those we’ve had a lot of in the past – it’s not the food we’re drawn to. It’s the emotional feeling we attach to that food. Occasionally there are biochemical drivers, of course, but emotional attachment is definitely the major one.

          Since the great hot chip realisation of 2008, I’ve had the chance to see this in detail with three more separate foods (the alert readers among you will already have a good idea what they are).

          pic by Bobby Stokes (note the opiate bread+hashbrowns too, always a bonus)

          After a recent mild financial setback, I had a definite desire to go out for a cooked breakfast. Ok, no big deal, being raw (for me, at least) is about eating whatever-the-hell-you-want, but being conscious about why. That’s what’s important, not necessarily what I shove in my gob.

          After a bit of thought, I realised – it wasn’t the rest of the breakfast that mattered, it was really all about the bacon. Why? Well when I was growing up, we didn’t have bacon very often – with 8 kids, that’s a LOT of bacon, and it’s pretty expensive stuff. So, at some level I associated bacon with wealth – it was my ‘wealthy food’, as it were. I’d eat it, and feel wealthy.

          Like so many things, in hindsight, this is both amusing & kinda ridiculous.

          Of course, breaking this connection was as simple as tapping it out (2mins, done). Now I’m still free to enjoy bacon, if I choose, but it won’t be because of some illusory feeling I ascribe to the mythical powers of the fried pig!

          pic by サンドラ (These are the fancy ones, we only dreamt of these)

          I’ve always enjoyed noodles, and even discovered a great little place here in Melbourne that makes their own noodles on the premises. It’s super cool – you can actually watch the chef in the window swinging them around. I just love that kind of thing. Oh, plus it’s super cheap – always an unexpected bonus with great food. Ironically I discovered this place only after I decided to seriously up my raw food intake. Hehe ewps.

          Of course, I do realise that noodles are in the flour+water=glue-in-my-belly food group – not particularly easy to digest & will tend to make me sleepy as my body fights to digest it.

          What’s taken me much longer to realise is the emotional association I had with noodles. I didn’t twig to this until I was in the supermarket downstairs watching a guy building a gargantuan stack of 25c packets of instant noodles.

          This took me back in a flash to a time over a decade ago, living with my little brother Rob in a dilapidated place in the centre of a town described by the CEO of Glaxo Wellcome as “the arse end of the universe” (Glaxo was founded there). We were basically living off the cheapest of the cheap of the horrid little packets of two minute noodles at the time. We used to wait until there was a sale, then go and fill up an entire shopping trolley of the things at discounted prices.

          Ahh, good times.


          Anyway, got rid of THAT connection. Still love my brother, can live without the deep fried flour+god knows what else.

          pic by sionfullana (no, my sister is not Asian, but I do like the size of that bagel)

          Bagels were more interesting. I never ate them until my sister Ruth went to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. She came back and raved to me about how good they were – even just eaten plain.

          So of course there was the association. Hanging out with her, having bagels together. Definitely a positive connection there.

          There was a little more to it though. When I was working in London, at a particularly productive time in my life, I used to have bagels for breakfast every morning – with an orange juice (see? health conscious!). So as well as the association with her, I’d also connected them with being productive. Since I love being productive, if I wanted to feel that way, I would have a bagel.

          This sounds like lunacy, and in a way it is, but this is the way our minds work.

          The result
          So what does breaking these connections achieve? Well, several things:

          1. Eating those foods won’t pump my brain with endorphins or whatever-other-chemicals are created by the emotional connection I’ve made
          2. I don’t feel compelled to eat those foods when what I actually want is the emotional feeling
          3. I’m still completely free to eat them, if I want, and enjoy them for what they are as foods – unclouded by anything else I’ve attached to them.

          Stopping to look at it – what’s more healthy? Missing my sister, and eating a bagel to remind me of good times hanging out together, or missing my sister & picking up the phone to tell her I love her?

          If I really must, I can always eat a bagel while I call her – it won’t be the first time she’s heard me talking with my mouth full. That way she gets the love AND an earful of bagel – the perfect solution!