Day 5: Eating Raw

I’ve been exploring a raw food diet for the past five days, not for a preplanned reason, but because it seems unexpectedly to be exactly what my body wants right now. I’ve received a number of questions about eating raw and eating mindfully, and I thought that I’d address some of these questions together.

Q: Are raw foods hard to digest?

Raw foods are difficult to digest for those who have weakened digestive systems from not eating enough raw foods. For people who have digestive issues, raw foods can be added back into the diet gradually and mindfully, as the gut is able to slowly repair and restore function. Raw foods are abundant in digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria, which help to restore and maintain the integrity of the gut, and help us to absorb the nutrients from our foods. They are also abundant in fiber, which helps clear the toxins from the intestines. A healthy gut, and consequently fortified immune system, is less vulnerable to salmonella and other food borne bacteria, and more resilient to viral infections as well. The effects of cooked and otherwise highly processed foods, and toxic chemicals used on our food, has so profoundly damaged our digestive systems that the NIH now has major funding initiatives exploring the use of probiotics to help heal our guts and restore digestive functions and health.

Q. Ayervedic and Chinese Medicine practitioners, various medical doctors and nutritionists all have different advice. What should I do?

Yes, Ayervedic medicine would tell us that we “should” eat cooked foods, especially this time of year, and especially us Vatas. My acupuncturist, Jim Pastore at The Mindfulness Center, might also suggest that I “should” eat cooked foods as well.

There are so many dietary “shoulds” out there that it boggles the mind. There are those who say don’t eat meat and then those who say O blood types should; there are those who say don’t eat dairy, and then Sally Fallon and Weston Price who say eat raw dairy in abundance; those who say avoid gluten – when to me it’s the glyphosate used on our wheat that has caused our immune systems to label gluten proteins as dangerous.

To me, mindful eating means clearing my mind of the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts,” and listening for that inner message that knows what it wants. Mindful eating to me is so much more than savoring the raisin. It is both attending to the messages of my gut and my taste buds in choosing what to eat, and then listening to the messages of my entire body after I eat, to be sure that I’ve heard and responded to the “desires” correctly. We feel and sense so that we can respond, so that we can make choices. Mindful eating empowers us to take control of these choices. The reason that we have the capacity to taste many flavors is because we can use these tastes to guide us in our own choices. We have a taste for what we need. (Artificial foods – sweeteners, flavorings – are designed to take advantage of our instinctual desires – to our disadvantage.) When eating becomes a habit, built on the shoulds and should nots of others, we surrender our empowerment to savor exactly what our body needs when it needs it. Mindfulness gives us the capacity for self-regulation and self-control.

Q. What is it like for you eating raw these past five days?

Right now, my body is thriving on raw vegetable and fruits – yes I’m a Vata in the dead of winter! It is not what I would have expected, but after feeling like I was hibernating through December and January, sleeping lots, eating robustly and slowing way down, I now feel like I’m emerging from this slumber, and have a renewed energy and clarity of mind. This morning as I awoke, I noticed the “healing crises” that my body was experiencing. Having rid itself of the burdens of inflammation caused by cooked foods, it was able to focus on specific areas of my body waiting to be healed. My broken toe was throbbing through the healing process. Even my teeth were experiencing a sensation that I noted in my mind as “remineralization from the mineralcorticoids now focused on them.” I have no goals in this process, other than to fully honor my body’s messages. I do not wish to model raw foodism, as much as mindful eating. I will go back to exploring cooked foods, perhaps as the season shifts, the next new moon, or some other shift that I have not foreseen. For now, bring on the raw veges! I’m loving the energy! Mmm.

Debbie Norris

Debbie Norris

Deborah Norris, Ph.D. is author of In the Flow: Bridging the Science and Practice of Mindfulness, and Editor-in-Chief of Dr. Norris is Founder of The Mindfulness Center™, based in Washington, D.C. She is Psychologist-in-Residence and Director of the Psychobiology of Healing Program at American University, and past professor at Georgetown University Medical School. Renowned for her online meditation teacher programs, The Science of Mindful Awareness (SOMA), Dr. Norris is an internationally recognized speaker and educator on mindfulness, yoga, and integrative mind-body therapies. A health scientist with over 40 years of experience ranging from traditional medical and psychotherapeutic practices to integrative therapies and lifestyle practices, she teaches and conducts research in mindfulness, behavioral medicine and other holistic approaches to happiness and well-being.

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