A question that I often receive from people is, ” How do I begin a raw foods diet? I don’t even know where to start!”
In response to the question, I will tell you about my life’s journey with food. If you want to skip my story and go straight to the steps I took to become a mostly raw vegan, please do.
As you can see in this picture of me eating nachos, I, Josephine Bila, could seriously chow down. I ate that entire plate of nachos all by myself. No, I’m kidding. I ate 3/4 of it, then felt like crap afterwards.
The drink I’m sucking on was a sugary alcoholic beverage. I feel bad for the girl in this picture. I can’t fault her, though. She didn’t know any better.
Neither did her former self who, in 1995 weighed 25 pounds more than she currently does in 2012.
I guess you could say, I never knew when to stop eating. Everything tasted so good! I always wanted more… and more. Food gave me comfort and happiness. I never denied myself the textures and tastes of whatever I desired. Neither did my parents. I would eat helping after helping of food. It became an emotional crutch for me.
Then one day, when I was 15, a little ass hole blond haired boy with a bowl haircut asked me (in front of a group of kids) if I was planning to work as a Macy’s Day Parade balloon that Thanksgiving. I stood there and stared at him as the feeling of shame blanketed over me. My chin dropped to my chest and I whispered, “Nooo.” His little turd friends laughed at me, then they all walked away. That moment changed my life.I decided that I didn’t want to be made fun of anymore. My life was hard enough. I needed help, but knew that no one in my family could point me in the right direction. After all, they were fat too. Fortunately, I realized that I could turn to my longtime best (skinny) friend, Christina, for advice on how to change my diet.
Christina became a vegan on her own at the age of 12. She was very aware that my family used food as a social mechanism for bonding, so she only modified my diet partially. What I mean to say is, she didn’t make me a vegan (or a vegetarian, for that matter). What she did do was write down a meal plan for me to follow. I have no idea what she wrote, but I’m forever grateful for it.
Soon after receiving my diet and learning which foods to eat and which to stay away from, I bought myself an exercise book called “Bottoms Up!,” by Dr. Joyce Vedral. Dr. Vedral’s hair sang to me. Her abs (and her book) told me to dedicate some portion of each day to working out. So I did: 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day. I lost 20 pounds by my 16th birthday.
I continued to learn about food, nutrition and exercise by meeting with nutritionists and physical trainers. I considered myself a “conscious healthy eater” for the most part. My food staples included cottage cheese and fruit, baked fish, side salads, turkey and whole wheat, and sushi.
Holidays and vacations were times when I would allow myself to go nuts and eat whatever the heck I wanted. I thought the only way to properly socialize was to do what everyone else was doing. Eat… and eat… and eat some more.
Fast forward almost 2 decades past my sweet sixteen, to my next life-changing moment: when my cute little puppy, Beans, peed in front of the entrance to my bathroom. I was watching Sex And The City (which I did from time-to-time) and decided that I would run into the bathroom during the commercial break. This makes NO sense, since I had a DVR.
Guess I was being lazy. So, I ran into my completely darkened bedroom, turned right to enter my bathroom when… WHAM! I slipped so quick, I landed directly onto my left elbow and fractured it.
While I was in the hospital, my nurse came into my room and hooked a little bag of fluid into my IV and told me, “Dr. L says he’d like you to be a bit higher in magnesium. You’re not where he’d like you to be. So, he ordered this for you. It’s going to burn a bit.”
I was shocked. Wasn’t I a healthy eater? Do I really have to experience more pain? I became really depressed and wondered if there was something more that I could do to help myself to gain more vitamins and minerals.
My dog seemed to understand that I was uncomfortable. If I groaned in agony as I exercised my arm, he would press his back against my leg. When I cried, he would lick my leg as if to tell me everything would be okay. Something in me started to become aware that he was very conscious of my suffering.
After a few weeks of this, I said to myself, “How can I continue to allow myself to eat animals, when Beans is showing me that animals think and are aware of their surroundings? How can I know that there is such an enormous amount of suffering happening in industrialized farming and still allow myself to accept that as being normal?” I wanted to end my emotional turmoil by going vegan, but had no idea how to get the right nutrients from that type of diet. Where would I get protein and calcium?
That’s when a small miracle started to manifest itself. I turned on Oprah’s network (OWN) and saw a documentary called “Crazy Sexy Cancer,” which was about a woman used raw foods to help her manage her stage four cancer diagnosis. What converted me was the part of the film where they showed her blood sample after eating a raw vegan diet vs eating a macrobiotic diet. The raw diet made her blood cells float without coagulating, where the macrobiotic diet did the opposite. Having a blood disorder myself, I realized this was the answer.
My lifestyle change happened slowly from November 2011 through January 2012. The transition was difficult, because it happened over several big family holidays (i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas).
How to Transition to a Raw Vegan Lifestyle:
I immediately stopped eating all animal products, except for milk and small portions of fish.
Next, I gave up fish.
My morning joe preference was a cappuccino with skim milk. After learning about pH balance and acidity, I decided to give up coffee. I transitioned by switching to a decaf skim cappuccino, then to a decaf soy latte. I then stopped drinking caffeinated beverages altogether.
I bought an Omega juicer (this juicer is just one type of many) and began juicing enough vegetables to make 16 ounces of liquid. I began drinking this 7 days a week, every morning before breakfast (instead of coffee). My favorite juice is made with 4 large carrots, 1 green apple, 1/2 lime, and 1 stalk of celery.
I bought a high speed Vita-Mix blender (this blender is just one type of many) and began inventing soups, salad dressings and smoothies.
I began preparing my own breakfast each morning by blending one apple, 2 TBS flax seeds, and 3 Brazil nuts.
I cut out gluten, because wheat is genetically modified and our bodies cannot digest it well. If I feel like I need bread, I buy gluten free bread (found in the freezer section of health food stores). I also love gluten free wraps. I used to make burritos consisting of non-genetically modified tofu marinated in salsa, cooked in olive oil. I’d put a huge de-stemmed kale leaf on the wrap, then put the mashed tofu and salsa on top of the kale, and top it with avocado. YUM.
I ate meatless products, but phased them out as I began to get used to eating more vegetables. Meatless products are also acidic, because they are highly processed.
The hardest thing for me to give up was pizza. Fortunately, I live in NYC and there are restaurants that serve gluten-free vegan pizza. This helped with the transition. I won’t lie… I still dream about real pizza from time to time. I learned that dairy contains small amounts of opioid — which explains our addiction to it.
I became a fan of Will Tuttle’s “World Peace Diet” and took a series of classes with him. He is a beautiful speaker on animal welfare.
I took an introduction to Raw Foods class with Karen Knowler, U.K.’s Raw Food Coach.
I took a 5 day x 7 hour a day intensive gourmet raw foods class with the owner of NYC’s Quintessence restaurant.
I learned to go easy on garlic and ginger. They are strong when used raw!
I bought all new detergents, soaps, etc. and made sure any new product that I bought was environmentally friendly and organic.
Raw is delicious,
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