Why I went raw in 2000
November 2011 (Updated)
These photos were taken thirteen years apart
Many of you have asked "Why did you go raw" -- well, if only there was a quick answer! It's complex, many things happened and (as ever) it's a bit of a story...
As a child
I wasn't given the best nutritional start in life. As I grew up we were literally fed the same lies as everyone else in our world. My diet consisted mainly of roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, cod and chips and bread and dripping. I remember having salad, meat and chips on a Monday. I didn't like vegetables (who really does like boiled cabbage and carrots?), and I always wanted to eat bananas.
I remember once when I must have only been about five asking my mum for sandwiches with cress in, but I didn't know what cress was exactly called so I kind of mouthed it and she thought I meant crisps, so that's what I got. Bless me for trying to go the sprout way at such a young age!
My mum was worried I wasn't getting enough nutrients as I was so very fussy about my food, so she'd give me this horrible tasting green supplement. And she'd hide baked beans under my Yorkshire puddings to try and get me to eat some by accident. Funny how she thought baked beans were healthy and I was missing out if I didn't eat them.
As a teenager
My diet changed radically in my teens. I felt that I would never want to inflict suffering on another being, especially one who couldn't even defend itself. In 1985, when I was 16, I became a vegetarian. As I stopped eating meat I started eating cheese, cheese and more cheese (as well as crackers and pasta...). Then I realised that although I didn't feel any worse on this diet, it just didn't feel right and I couldn't live on it for long. I didn't know anyone else who was a vegetarian and I wasn't really into books, so I read some magazines and experimented a bit. My family had a restaurant at the time and I persuaded them to sell vegetarian or vegan specials on the menu. No one bought them!
A year later I gave up eggs. I tried to give up milk but soya milk gave me a terrible tummy ache, and the three Shredded Wheat breakfast ritual was my one remaining pleasurable link with my food past. Six months after giving up eggs, I finally managed to give up milk. I desperately wanted to be a vegan but had to overcome the cheese addiction. I managed it two years after first turning vegetarian. So by 1987 I was an alienated vegan who was relieved that I'd removed as much suffering of others from my life as possible.
I heard of raw foodists
After becoming vegan, my diet and my state of mind didn't alter for a few years. I slipped in and out of depression (concealing it very well from those around me), and started putting on a bit of weight. While at college in 1992 I picked up a raw food leaflet. I read about some bloke who lived on fruit. I read how he had lots of energy and that he did a stack of skipping in his spare time. I thought "What a waste of a life, skipping". Interesting though the booklet was, it didn't rattle anything in my head -- although I now realise that was the planting of my raw seed, destined to grow many years later.
I muddled my way through college, leaving early yet still finding some excellent jobs all in the design and corporate identity field. Remembering the many poverty-stricken years before, I ploughed much of my energy into work as I was determined to live a better life. Men came into my life and went again -- they didn't keep me happy for long, because I hadn't learned how to keep myself happy yet. The only real identity I felt I had was being vegan -- Being kind to our Earth through my love of animals. I sometimes felt like leaving this society and living in a community, but I didn't think I'd fit in -- I'd never really fitted in anywhere. In any case, I was so stressed out about having the security of a home and job, because I didn't want to be poor ever again.
As time went on I found myself a social life, did a lot of dancing and started drinking alcohol at the age of 25. Isn't this when people start to think about giving it up? Well, I never did follow convention. My diet remained vegan, but as more vegan convenience foods were being developed (soya cheese, soya meat, burgers, grills etc), my diet became worse. Eventually, most of the food I ate came out of tins or packets.
I met a raw person
My first meeting with John Coleman was in 1996. I went to stay with him and his then girlfriend for a weekend. At that time he was eating a high-raw diet, with the intention of soon eating all-raw. He bought me a book called What Doctors Don't Tell You by Lynne McTaggart. While reading it I nodded my head in agreement that the medical profession is there to mask symptoms, not cure diseases. Even at that time of little confidence, I wouldn't have trusted my life with them. I hadn't taken many tablets in my adult life, because animal experiments on drugs never sat well with me. I'd frequently get bronchitis and cough up blood, but I only went to the doctor once about it, and that didn't do any good. I mostly just suffered, thinking that this was meant to be because I was weak and couldn't change that. Meeting John was like pouring water on my raw seed that was planted several years before. But only a bit of water.
Over the next few years, I started reading some raw stuff on the web -- mainly recipes but the odd fact here and there came up. In those days, there was very little real information on raw food on the web or anywhere else!
As my mental and physical health deteriorated it seemed that it still wasn't the right time for my heart to embrace living foods. I was obviously not prepared for the massive changes it would impose on my life.
These photos were taken ten years apart
Everything started deteriorating
I know I'm not alone in this, but as time went on I just started getting more and more things wrong with me. I'd suffered some of the symptoms for years or or sometimes as long as I can remember. I'd always felt that I was runt-like but I'd started to find survival on a day-to-day basis increasingly difficult.
The health of my family is no better, and whenever I looked at them to see how I'd turn out in 20 years I was truly horrified. Close members of my family suffered heart disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes and all the other diseases that are accepted as normal but unfortunate these days. I didn't want to end up like like that but as I was related to them, what chance did I have? Without radically changing something in my life, I don't think I had much of a chance at all. After all, I was a next generation runt, my illnesses were bound to have been bigger!
So without boring you with everything that was wrong with me, (and there was already a big list building up) here's the abridged version. See how many of these symptoms you recognise in yourself:
- Constantly tired: unable to sleep, but then unable to wake, felt jet-lagged all the time.
- Colds and flu: I had always suffered two week stretches of colds or flu about 4 or 6 times a year.
- Emotionally unbalanced and depressed, feelings of hurt, anger and disappointment, apathetic.
- Difficulty breathing, a really runny nose, cellulite, overweight, whole right hand side aching, cystitis.
- Short attention span (daydreamer), difficulty understanding simple stuff such as left and right and map reading.
- People took my energy and I was powerless to stop it, feeling exhausted by the presence of some. I also felt the pain of others so much it hurt. Leaking my energy and absorbing the energy of others in totally inappropriate ways.
To the outside world I seemed fine -- I could laugh and joke with the lads in the pub all night. But on the inside I was dying. I could feel my life force slipping away. Sometimes I don't know how I got through the day, sometimes I didn't get through the day. I would come home at night and cry and cry and cry. I told my boyfriend at the time that I couldn't cope with the stress of work and wanted to be a housewife but the reality was that I often couldn't stay awake for a whole day -- if I did I was so depressed that I wanted to be asleep. I was living in a vacuum waiting to be sucked away.
I reached rock bottom
The lowest point in my adult life was just around the corner. In 1998 I'd been very stressed for about a year. I was even more tired than usual. Work was taking its toll on me, I was working about 12 hours a day most days and getting no thanks for it. I had a permanent pain in my stomach which I'm sure was an ulcer (but I wouldn't go to the doctor). I always wanted to throw up and most days could only eat boiled rice with vegetables.
After gradually putting on weight over the years, there was now a surprising 11 stone (154lb) of me struggling to fit into size 12 clothes. I flatly refused to ever buy a size 14 -- that would mean I'd been defeated. My thighs looked like two sea lions -- My friend Chef said I had "Cider thighs"! I had a permanent frown, my face was baggy and puffy like a Yorkshire pudding with jowls. In fact, I was puffy and squashy all over. Internally I was no better -- I had a pulse of about 90 and my blood pressure had started creeping up. I wondered how I got like that, and whether it was my destiny. I thought about most other women, and how overweight they are -- and thought maybe that's just what happens to you as you get older. At the age of 29 everything was heading south -- my skin, my chin and my spirits.
One day towards the end of this very stressful year, I think I had a nervous breakdown -- how exactly do you know when you won't go to doctors? I even resigned from my job (which I didn't end up leaving). Nothing was right. Yes, I had a nice house, a lovely boyfriend, a well paid job, some very dear friends and a family who loved me, but nothing was right. Why, when I had so much, did I have so little inside? Why was my heart and spirit so empty? I didn't even understand how these problems were real -- after all, I wasn't in a wheelchair or an asylum, but I truly felt like the world had ended. I couldn't get any lower. One day I was standing in the car park at work crying and my boyfriend at the time said that he couldn't take much more of this, he didn't know how to help me. The truth was, I couldn't take any more either. I gave myself a good talking to: "Either do something about this state of your life or kill yourself. You are not going to continue living like this any longer". Well, I didn't kill myself...
I picked myself up off the floor and picked up a book
Shortly after that time I spotted The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford in a bookshop. I flicked through it and noticed that depression and stress were mentioned. He also seemed to advocate or at least condone a vegan diet, so I bought the book. I read it twice and did the test to see what I was deficient in (the test asks you a long series of questions and from that you work out how deficient you are in certain vitamins, fats and minerals). I wasn't surprised to find out that I was deficient in almost everything. I was on a vegan diet because I didn't want anything to suffer just so I could have a life, but I was suffering so much. I thought about it and realised that I might have been even worse off on an animal-based diet -- I was a runt, remember. It then made sense that my body was puffy -- there was no good stuff holding it together. I decided to change my diet and take mega supplements immediately. I also took St John's Wort to ease the depression. I was determined to get out of this slump. I really wanted to start living.
At work I went on confidence and assertiveness courses. People laughed at me going on these because they didn't distinguish confidence and assertiveness from the aggressiveness and loudness which I'd previously displayed. I also bought tapes on how to deal with difficult people -- I needed these social skills because whenever I got attacked at work I'd attack back which was both unprofessional and unproductive. These positive actions did me so much good. Coupled with the supplements I was taking, I could see an improvement. Also, because I'd reduced my coffee intake to just one cup in the morning, I was sleeping a tiny bit better.
In that year, I also had reflexology, lots of massages, acupuncture and osteopathy. This very tight ball of wool was slowly beginning to be unravelled.
I did think about how unnatural (not to mention expensive) taking supplements was. I'd always tried to look to nature whenever I questioned what humans did but I was now popping pills morning noon and night. In hindsight, it's very odd how the penny still hadn't really dropped about eating natural -- uncooked -- food. I believed that food must be so deficient these days due to modern farming methods that we all had to take supplements. I believed it was an unfortunate modern-day necessity. Of course, that's what authorities would like us to believe, so we can then buy their essential pills and potions and get locked into society. I read a few more of John's raw emails and got turned off soya but then turned on it again when I missed it.
I decided to lose weight
As I'd seen an upturn in my mental state, I decided it was time for me to go a diet ready for Christmas of 1998. I told myself that if I turned 30 and was still fat then I was a failure and must remain fat for the rest of my life -- how horrible are we towards ourselves? I found a vegetarian weight loss diet, which I easily converted to being vegan (I was an absolutely amazing cook by this age!). I went on the diet and lost about a stone (14lb).
That Christmas I got the flu and had to cancel the whole day. I couldn't eat for about a week and questioned why my supplements weren't being as miraculous as they seemed to be at the start. I thought maybe I was so weak that even supplements couldn't help me. I lost another 7lb that Christmas because of the flu. I was down to 9 and a half stone (133lb), and almost happy with that weight.
I started eating fruit, my family got ill
I had no New Year resolutions for 1999 but something inside me pushed me towards eating more fruit. I made loads of salads, too. I cut down the coffee to a half a cup every other day, if that. I was hooked on papayas, tomatoes, avocados and melons. I didn't think too much of it, except I felt even more mentally balanced. Though I was eating more raw food than ever before, I was still very cooked. I ate fried breakfasts every Sunday, and made full use of stews, bread and pasta. About half the time I ate fruit for lunch, the other half I'd have a baguette with hummous and sun-dried tomatoes! Because of my stomach pain, I hadn't eaten breakfast for several years, so my first meal of the day was often fruit while sitting at my computer. But I didn't think I was preparing to go raw, it just made me cope with life and prevented me putting on weight.
I also experimented with wheat products in this year. During the times I stopped eating wheat, my mood was lighter, as were my sleeping patterns. My bloated tummy deflated, too. During this year I was a UK size 10 (but still with womanly thighs!). I naturally bought many new clothes to celebrate!
My then-boyfriend said that for most of this year I talked about raw food and how good it was supposed to be. I bought an uncook book from the States which really didn't inspire me, but I knew I wanted to believe in raw -- I just needed the right words.
Early on in this year my mum was diagnosed with spondylitis, her vertebrae had fused in her neck and she was in agony. She had about 6 months off work. I looked into ways of helping her but she was frightened and confused by what the doctors had told her. My sister also developed back problems. I was concerned about my back (I'd been crashed into a few times and two vertebrae were out of place) -- my osteopath wasn't able to cure my back, and I really didn't want to end up like my mum.
Then one day in 1999 I heard that my lovely uncle Ray had cancer. I'd read and been impressed by The Cure for All Diseases by Hulda Clarke a few months back, and so when I saw The Cure for All Cancers by the same author in a shop in the States I bought him it. But when I went to visit him, I could see the confusion in his face. This wasn't where his head was, and besides that, the surgeons had already butchered him. I thought about these times when I tried to help others with their health issues but I would always find something too radical for them to believe in or trust. Then I thought about me, slowly getting back on my feet but still not feeling anywhere near well or right. I wondered when I'd be shown the way. I wondered when I'd get shown something radical which I could believe in.
I looked at the statistics for cancer in the UK -- something like 1 in 11 women will get breast cancer at some time in their lives. That's too much of a risk. I questioned why so many people get cancer. I looked for information and realised that out of all the scientific research there was one thing standing out head and shoulder above the rest. Only humans have these massive odds stacked against them. This is the same for all diseases: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, obesity -- only humans suffer so much with them. At that time I didn't make the connection (and it hadn't been pointed out to me) that only humans (and their "pets") eat cooked food.
I thought about burning causing toxins -- I wasn't sure how but I thought cooking and cancer were linked. I thought about this feeling, as I'd thought about raw food before and filed it under "Yes, sometime in the future or in another life, maybe". When I was making my "healthy" stir-fries, I'd look at the bright crisp and flavoursome vegetables as I was chopping them, and then I'd see them wilt and wither in the wok and I'd have to add a sauce to replace the flavour that they'd just lost. I wondered "What is cooking doing to these vegetables? It can't be adding any goodness to them".
I imagined what I'd do if I got cancer, then I thought "I don't want cancer. I don't want arthritis. I don't want diabetes." Why should I get these illnesses? Though the odds were stacked against me, I'm not a statistic, and won't be ever counted in this medical charade. I knew I wasn't going to be a victim to anything ever again in my life, I was going to be strong. But I still I didn't really know how. I just felt some real optimism for the first time in my life.
Some time that year my weight started creeping up, only by a couple of pounds. I thought exercise would take care of that in the future as I was too tired to do any now. I'd been a member of a gym for the previous 3 years and hardly ever went due to tiredness and apathy.
Towards the end of this year, I was more or less happy with my life -- some things weren't right, but on the whole I'd had a better year than ever before and was really pleased with my progress. I was standing in light for the first time in my adult life. And I wanted more. I knew I was ready.
A book changed my life
That Christmas, in 1999 my then-boyfriend bought me Nature's First Law: The Raw Food Diet, by Arlin, Dini and Wolfe (now out of print). I read it while we were in Scotland, and as I turned every page I was saying "Blimey!".
Finally the penny had dropped. How long did it take? At last I was reading something that made complete sense to me. It was telling me what I felt but I could never make sense of these feelings.
The one thing that stands out in the book is the final sentence at the end of each chapter: Cooked food is poison. As soon as I saw it, I knew that was it -- I was being poisoned! No wonder I felt like I was dying. I was toxic since before I was even conceived, even since before my mum was conceived! Every cell in my body was made up of substandard material and with these shaky foundations there was no wonder I'd been crumbling.
Finally, I understood why my life had been such a struggle. And I understood about generations degenerating -- I was from weak stock and had been fed dead food since before I was conceived. No wonder I felt like such a runt. I immediately understood the importance of raw mummies and raw daddies making raw babies. I understood that even the most unhealthy people could turn their life around a long way by being raw. I knew I'd never be the fittest, healthiest person in the world, but I could rejuvenate and remove the toxic cells in my body and replace them with healthy raw ones. I knew this raw food natural law was right -- it hit me in the gut as if it were a brick. I understood. I finally understood. I can't begin to say how humbly grateful I was at having this lifesaving book come to me at a time when I felt strong enough to fully digest the information.
I wanted to be raw
This was the key to the door that I'd always found locked, no matter how much I'd batter and kick it. I can't say how relieved I felt just by reading this book -- it also proved to me that I wasn't mad in looking to nature for the right way to live, but I was just so fogged up that I couldn't think or trust myself to look to nature regarding food. As soon as the shops opened after Christmas, I went and bought a load of salads and fruit. I preferred them over the fake turkey dinner which I had a couple of days before, and the soya cheese on biscuits which I'd been eating to pretend like I was having a pigging-out Christmas just like the meat-eaters. I ate my salads and thought about the different tastes, textures and feelings between the raw bits and the cooked bits. I read my golden, beautiful book at every opportunity that holiday. It went everywhere with me. I carried it around as if it was a bible. I tried a whole raw day as soon as I got back home, and wanted to put the raw diet it into practice straight away. However, it was almost the year 2000...
Happy new millennium
We spent New Year in Hull at a house party. There was meat in all the salads! I was trying to eat as much fruit as I could when I was in Hull but the shops were either closed or only sold something like one mouldy apple. I resorted to Pot Noodles and jars of baby food. In hindsight I think I'd probably rather have gone hungry but people question you too much when you don't eat.
I talked to my parents about going raw, and told them why. I remembered back to when I was 16 and my dad thought I'd only be a vegetarian for a year so I expected him to think this was a phase, too. My mum said that I can't just live on raw food: where would I get my protein, my B12, wouldn't I get bored, and can't I just be normal? I just trusted this way of eating, I didn't have any questions myself because it felt right. I didn't think about how many greens I'd need, or how much fat or what type of fruit, I just knew that from now on, while living according to this natural law, I'd be guided and protected. But I also knew that I had to find out all the questions and answers because I'd get bombarded with them --and I had to be prepared for that. I knew that saying "Well, animals don't ask all these questions and they're healthier than most humans" wouldn't satisfy people -- and I wanted people to know this was the only real true way to eat. Before I'd even tried it -- what faith! I knew I'd have to read a fair bit to get that information, yet I knew it would be worth it.
Happy new life
After reading and re-reading my lifesaving book it didn't occur to me that I should gradually go into raw food: 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, then finally 100% raw. If cooked food is poison and I wanted that poison out of me then it was all or nothing. I suppose I'd just had enough of hanging around. I don't know how much raw food I ate the previous year, I was only semiconscious about it. However, that year had been good enough for me to realise life could be OK and I wanted it to be great. I wanted it to be fantastic. I wanted it to be perfect. I wasn't armed with any other raw information except a half-raw recipe book and my old uncook book, but on the 3rd of January 2000 (the first normal day of the year), I stopped taking my supplements and thought I'd try a little experiment -- just to see how I felt...
As I write this final section, it's over a decade since I went raw, and it did change everything. I now have my own raw food TV show! I moved houses several times, I lived in Spain for two years, I have a daughter who was born in 2004. Oh, and I started Europe's most successful raw business, Detox Your World. I look different, I feel different. I'm so glad, so very very glad that the Universe put me on this path.
I'm also glad that I kept notes of how I felt before I went raw, and during, as I had forgotten the deep despair I used to feel. I remember feeling depressed, but that enormous black cloud which used to engulf me had long gone from my memory. It took me a while to recover, and it still seems like a dream that I don't have to sleep in the middle of the day, and my aches and pains are barely there. When I treat myself correctly -- when I get enough sleep, do yoga, meditate and eat lightly -- I feel fantastic. It just takes time and practice to get used to that fantastic feeling.
I can't imagine how I would feel right now if I hadn't gone raw. Everything I've experienced in the last decade has been nothing short of magical. This is a different life. It's real. It has to be experienced...