si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: raw

‘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.


    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!


      My First Durian (aka Stealing Alien Babies From The Mothership)

      I decided a sunny Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to try durian. I’d had a small bite of one before, but was now determined to try the whole thing. Choosing, buying, opening & hopefully having enough nerve to actually eat one. I steeled myself to the distinct possibility of getting part way in & throwing the whole lot in the bin.

      For the unitiated, a durian looks like this:


      This came from ye regular olde supermarket downstairs – so it’s obviously not that bizarre a fruit. It comes in a handy dandy carrier bag, but the checkout girl still eyed it very suspiciously & placed it inside first one, then two plastic bags (which the spikes promptly & happily ripped through).

      It’s difficult to see in the above picture, but there are tiny splits in the shell of the durian. When I bought it, this particular split was about 2″ long. By the next morning it had expanded to this:


      So, after much researching & watching youtube videos on the matter, I discovered that you pry your fingers into these holes, and you can pull the fruit apart, thus:


      This can only be described as.. uhh, vaguely sexual. *cough* anyway, it added to the experience, for me at least (I forgot to ask how the durian felt about it. Guess that’s a guy thing)

      So how big is a durian? Well, I wish I’d got a photo of this, but alas, I didn’t think of it – it’s roughly as big as my head. Instead, here’s a picture of my head:


      Two keys points – 1. See how extremely unconvinced I am by the durian (this was before I started eating it). 2. Note the extensive collection of booze in the background which will now probably never be drunk. If you’d like it, just shout.

      So, once you pry out a section, it starts to look like this:


      And you can see the little fruit sections inside. They have large softish pips in them (which you don’t eat, uhh, I think).

      What do they look like? They look like ALIEN BABIES!!! No, I’m serious. Check it:


      I swear. You’re stealing alien babies from the spikey mothership. This fruit is CRAZY. I kept expecting it to jump out of my hand and suck onto my face.

      Of course, there’s also another *cough* minor detail with durian.

      Ok, let me explain. With most food, it smells more or less like it tastes.

      In geographic terms, durian smells like Oklahoma, but tastes like Nepal. They are NOTHING alike. So, in order to enjoy it, you kind of have to detach the part of your brain that links smell & taste, because your nose & tastebuds will be telling you completely different things. One part of your brain is saying to grab your cowboy hat, the other your prayer beads & pitons. It just doesn’t work.

      The taste is.. hmm. very hard to explain. Remember Charlie & The Chocolate Factory? How there was the chewing gum that had an entire three course meal in it? Well, it’s sort of like that – except that afterwards you don’t blow up to the size of a house. It’s sort of creamy, a bit like custard, sweet, but less sweet than banana. Damn delicious though.

      Also, on the subject of smell, the outside & the inside smell quite different from each other. I tell you, these things are stunningly weird. But ok, while we’re on the subject of alien foods, who the heck invented Daikon?


      Coz I tell you, if that doesn’t look like some kind of insane frilly UFO with massive vertical exhaust fumes, what the hell does?

      Oh, and the durian? I’m offically hooked. I ate the whole thing in a day (probably a bad idea, they’re quite high in fat), & went back for more today. SO GOOD! I am officially a hippie.


        The Upside to Abusing Cacao

        Last night about 9pm I had a fruit salad. It was tasty. What wasn’t so clever was putting raw chocolate sauce on it (cacao powder, coconut oil, raw honey).

        I went to sleep around 1-1:30ish. At 3:30 I woke up, wide awake, and could NOT get back to sleep.

        Ok, so cacao late at night = bad idea. I’ll remember that. I’ve now been awake for 20 odd hours, and it doesn’t show signs of abating.

        One upside though, I got to watch the sunrise. Because of the incredible weather patterns over Melbourne – a combination of sea air, interesting landmass curvature, mountains and many thousand miles of desert air, all combining in one place – I got to see all this in the space of about an hour (click each pic for a bigger version):







        And oddly, after all that, it was actually quite a cloudy day. You can see this starting in the last shot. Amazing.

        I never get tired of watching nature at play.


          Naked Bouldering – Can The Art Get Any Purer?

          Seriously, is there anything more beautiful than this?

          Pic (c) Dean Fidelman

          I’ve always loved bouldering for its simplicity. No ropes, no harnesses, no gear. Just you, your shoes, maybe a chalk bag.. and the rock. Never going high enough that a fall is likely to kill, but still adrenaline & lactic acid pumping hard enough that you can burn yourself out completely in half an hour (I know, I’ve done it on several occasions when there was only enough light for half an hour’s climbing *grin*).

          Turns out there’s a new craze, even purer, simpler, closer to nature. Climbing completely nude. California based climber & photographer Dean Fidelman (who took the photo above) has even released calendars of the climbing in action, called “Stone Nudes.”

          Climbing by itself is such an incredibly beautiful sport. Fluid, graceful motion, intense amounts of power, stunningly intricate technicalities & the pure harmonious blend of mind, body & spirit. To do it completely naked simply captures that beauty perfectly.