Hi Everyone! It’s been a while since we’ve run a “My Raw Story” feature. So, here’s one from my good friend Chris Paris, who I met and hung out with at the Raw Spirit Festival this past summer. I think you’ll like his take on raw, his before & after pics, and the personal topics he covers such as the role raw foods played in his spirituality. -Jim
To help keep all of you inspired, we’ve asked some
remarkable individuals to share their raw food stories with you. Enjoy!
My raw story. Where to start? Well my raw journey has really only just begun. I started eating raw in February 2009. At that time I was around 240lbs (down probably around 10 lbs. from my heaviest point) and was tired of feeling tired. My joints ached, I had gout and my blood pressure was around 160/120 during my pivotal moment. I’ll go into that shortly, since it was, quite literally, my “wake up call”.
I had been turning the corner emotionally at the time, had started reconnecting with old friends and becoming more active. I had even been working out and was starting to feel better than I had, so I knew that moving and connecting was a good thing for me to do. However, I still felt “old” getting in and out of my truck. I remember that I would grunt sitting down and getting out of the truck. It’s a fairly high truck so it’s not like I was squatting way down into some tiny little car. In fact, it’s a climb up into the truck. My clothes (waist 41, extra large everything) were all tight and clingy even though I had bought them previously because of their function to drape over me and hide my lumps. I was “dressing to hide”.
Anyway, I knew the exercise I was starting was good, I could feel the benefit, but after 2-3 months of it, I was only down 10 lbs, my blood pressure was not down, and I had a sense that I really needed to do more. I meant to be moderate about things this time because I tend to be a “flash in the pan” kind of person when it comes to diet and exercise. Also, it’s not as if I have a sedentary lifestyle. Despite my weight, I have been pretty active. I live on a horse farm and take care of anywhere from 12-18 horses before and after my day job programming and database design. So there’s lots of walking around the farm tending to the critters, fixing things and other odd jobs. However, the tight schedule also lent itself to my hitting drive-throughs for breakfast. Lunch was often taken out with coworkers at one of the many huge-portion restaurants or buffets. Dinner at home was always good, my wife is an awesome vegetarian cook, but sometimes I’d supplement it with other “snacks” like chicken tenders or prepared subs from the grocery store. Even when I cut down on snacks and portion sizes though, my weight really did not change much. I seemed destined to be large and I had made peace with it mentally, I didn’t feel bad about myself, I just wanted to feel better, hence the exercise.
Early one morning, at about 3:00 am I woke up with my heart racing and just not feeling right. I took my blood pressure, laying in bed, and it was 160/120 with a heart rate of around 115 BPM. This troubled me quite a bit because I knew that was not a good sign. I was not ill, didn’t have anything hanging over my head that I knew of, so why did I feel this way? I took an aspirin and went back to bed. Over the next couple of days, I would relax myself and sit there for about 30 min and then take my blood pressure. It was still somewhere in the neighborhood of 140/100 – 160/120. I decided that I needed to change my diet. I had dieted before and my blood pressure responded well to weight loss. For some reason I just had a gut feeling that I needed to do something different than I had in past, so I started researching for diets specifically designed to heal or reverse heart disease.
I found information on Dr. Dean Ornish’s diet and took another look at ketogenic/low carb diets, etc. However, I was leaning towards Ornish’s principles because I knew that even though low carb was great for me to lose weight (had worked in past), I thought putting a whole lot of extra fat and cholesterol into my system wasn’t a good idea. My cholesterol was already 240 or so, I didn’t want that to go higher. I just had this feeling that my plumbing was clogged, I’m not sure how to describe it, but I had a very strong sense of it. I often felt weak, faint, on exertion. I remember taking a camping trip a few years ago, I actually had to stay laying in the tent while my wife and daughter went for a hike because I felt so bad, it just wasn’t fun.
So during that time of researching diets, I remember randomly thinking “hmm.. I wonder what Alanis Morisette is up to these days?” So I Googled her and saw a headline that read “Alanis Morisette loses 20 lbs on Raw Diet”. I remembered reading something about Woody Harrelson talking about eating raw foods, but had dismissed it as celebrity stuff. For whatever reason though, I was more receptive to it this time. So then my thinking shifted and I thought maybe it was something I should look into. A few days later, we were going to the bookstore to get someone a gift or something and my wife said “Hey you still have this gift card from Christmas, you should bring it!” I was like “you can use it to get the gift” and she said “no, it was for you, you should use it for yourself”. I like books, I like CDs, I like DVDs, but at the bookstore, there is so much, I often leave with nothing. But as we were walking around, I remembered the book Alanis had read, Eat to Live, by Dr. Joel Furhman. I looked and they had it!
I read that book in one night, well at least the “idea” content part. There were a lot of recipes and other supporting info, but I read all the testimonies and the premise behind eating more whole, raw, unprocessed, foods. The book advised to read it all before doing anything but I couldn’t wait. I knew I could eat salad and the next day I bought a big tub and started. I also made a few of the vegan, cooked recipes, but after a few days and more reading and re-reading, decided I wanted to try 100% raw.
While doing this, I started looking around on the web for raw food and saw Angela Stokes-Monarch’s story. It was amazing to me how much weight she lost and how she did it. I had been losing weight fast and my body looked so much different to me than it did in my “mind’s eye”. So I found I was amazed and drawn to the before and after pictures. then I started looking at all these before and after pictures from other people on various raw food websites. I just couldn’t get enough. It was like there were these beautiful souls inside these bloated, tired, bodies, just wanting to get out, wanting to manifest physically who they “really were.” I was amazed when I would see differences in their eyes. For me looking at the pictures was like looking at the caterpillar emerging from a cocoon all beautiful form and vibrant colors. It also gave me a good feeling, sort of validated my own experience. I’m not sure why I would need that external validation, maybe because it all seemed so fast and unreal for me. In any case it made me feel good.
As I ate raw, I wanted to eat more and more raw. I discovered some of the things I thought were raw really weren’t, like canned beans, etc. I didn’t obsess over it, still don’t. I try to be pragmatic about eating and eat the best I can with what’s on hand, but I just felt so good that anything I could do to feel even better, I wanted to do. Also, I found it was fun learning the new way of eating and discovering what effects different foods had on me. What was really cool was the longer and more I ate raw, the more feedback I got from my body. It was like “coming alive” for me. I describe it in my blog as like riding on a soft suspension as opposed to a tight, performance suspension. When not raw I was cushioned, the feedback wasn’t there. The more I ate raw, the more I got feedback from my body.
This feedback in turn made me feel more connected, more alive. So before when I was on a SAD diet, I wanted to disconnect, to numb down my pain. Now, I wanted to live, to connect. When I went raw initially aches and pains got worse for me, probably during the detox process. I really wanted to clean up though and I knew that not taking any medicine for a few weeks would not kill me. I had been on ibuprofen 600 – 1200 mg/day for years and years. I also regularly, often daily, took decongestants. I also had some strong Nsaids for when my gout acted up and took aspirin as a preventative. So when I detoxed from all that plus my old foods, I had pretty strong hip pain. The hip was a present I got from one of my motorcycle crashes, it had been getting more and more painful and I took more and more pain killers for it. There was also pain in my feet from being smushed one in one motorcycle accident, the other in another accident. So all these really troubled me during detox, but I decided to feel the pain instead of running from it. It was tough for a few days, hard to sleep. But thankfully I did not have a gout flare up and I was able to just live with the pain by focusing on it experiencing it and then releasing it from my concern. It was a sublime experience for me. It began to transform from a troublesome nagging to a message from my body that I am alive, that all systems are go. When I turned and faced the pain and embraced it as feedback, it hung out for a while letting me know I was alive and then quietly “slipped out the back door when I wasn’t paying attention”.
I still have some bothers from time to time, but nothing like before and I don’t pop a pill or a supplement to dull it, or hide from it. I haven’t been mostly raw long at all, so I don’t have a nailed down “practice” or tip for others in dealing with pain. However, where I think I am headed, is in using pain/discomfort feedback as an indicator that I need to pay more attention to something, to how I am sleeping, to what I am eating, to how I am exercising or not exercising, etc.
Raw Food and Spirituality
Another area of life unexpectedly impacted for me since starting on the raw path is in my spirituality. I totally did not expect anything at all spiritual in going raw. I started out to lower my blood pressure, period. To me, what goes in the mouth passes through the body and comes out the other end. It does not make you spiritually clean or unclean. I still believe that and yet I do think that when you detox, your clarity increases, the feedback gets better as I already mentioned and it gets better in many areas. At least it has for me and from what I have now read, it does for others also. This makes sense to me as I think about it, especially as I reflect on how most spiritual traditions seem to include fasting in one form or another, as a spiritual discipline. It is something I have looked at in the past, but never beyond a quick glance.
As part of my spiritual awakening, I have felt much more connected to others on a raw path and many of them come from traditions and/or philosophies that have traditionally been viewed as opposed to my own Judeo-Christian frame of reference. I have always had this notion that we humans really are all meant to be one big family. This was actually encouraged by my parents and in much of what I learned through my religious practices. However, at some point, it always seems to get twisted, historically, corporately and on a personal level. These walls go up to protect one from being influenced by “unhealthy” ideas/attitudes/beliefs that might distract or drag one from the good path they have found. It starts as a protection of self and then turns into a “looking down the nose” at others. It’s really ironic, at least from my perspective, because all I have read and learned tells me I am supposed to be doing for others, helping others, loving others. Yet if in protecting my beliefs, I look down at others, or fear others, or cut off from others, am I *really* protecting my faith, my beliefs?
No, in that case, they seem to have changed into something else. In Law of Attraction terminology, I have stopped asking/striving for something and started protecting something. I have switched from wanting something to wanting not to lose something. In other philosophies what started out as a high frequency somehow transformed into a low frequency, the positive was turned into a negative. This has caused me to look at this, just as I look at and experience pain and use it to my benefit. Moreover, I am getting this kind of feedback from another place, from the raw movement itself.
Please bear with me here, I am not trying to proselytize, but I am going to speak from my own religious point of view because it is a big part of how I understand things. I think this will contain some valuable things but if you are offended by religion in general or specifically turned off by Christianity, you may want to skip this. Actually I would encourage anyone with a really strong negative reaction to especially read this part because for me strong negative reactions, I am finding, tell me there is something for me to learn about myself. But it has to be something you choose to do, of your own accord, I would not presume to force anything on you, I hate that feeling myself, perhaps something I should look at for me, but there it is.
In my personal spiritual life and practice I have identified legalism as the spiritual phenomena where a person does things to be as good as possible and then somehow the tables get turned and this strict adherence becomes the vehicle not of enlightenment or salvation, but of spiritual downfall. This is what Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisees. They didn’t start out being holier than though, judgmental, I believe it evolved. Modern Christians often read about Jesus and look at the Pharisees as these bad guys, mean people. I think that in fact if Jesus came in this age, many of us would be the Pharisees, even though we pay lip service to keeping Jesus’ teachings, hence followers of Christ, Christians. Anyway, I believe the take home message was that we are supposed to be in relationship with God, not following some prescribed, pre-packaged set of rules to get us entrance into heaven while all the poor sods not knowing the right rules get burned forever. Believe it or not I am going somewhere raw with this I promise!
Now look at the raw food movement. When I first went raw I had this spiritual awakening of a sort. The biggest thing was meeting others on the same raw path but with different philosophies, religions and much like the different gospels giving me a different viewpoints of the same events for a better big picture, I believe that all the different viewpoints on healthy living can join together harmoniously to point out a general direction. I take that *starting point* and go from there, in essence, I enter in to a personal relationship. In spirituality I enter into a personal relationship with God, in health, I enter into or I rejoin a personal relationship with my own body.
On the periphery I see overlaps between my relationship to my body, to self, and to God. Even in my religion the body is referred to as the temple of God. It’s amazing to me how this is all so new to me, at how disconnected I have been, when it has all been there all along. Much of it is still very amorphous to me and yet very exciting because each new straw I grasp at becomes part of the weave and I think the resulting mat is going to be pretty cool.
Anyway, I see very similar things going on in the raw community as I read discussion boards, surf around to different websites, speak to different people. Naturally, as in religion, people approach things in unique ways and different things resonate with different people. Although the path to health may be in a similar direction for many people, some hike, some ride, some boulder, some fly. I see people focusing on the mode of travel, perhaps a little too much, and it seems to fracture things at times. But this need not be so. As in faith, the problems are of our manufacture, it is in our minds (at least they are for me), the problems come from within us as they so often do. But they need not be problems, each path adhered to can be a slightly different point of view giving the big picture better overall resolution, more dimension, a richer tapestry of colors. This so closely parallels what happens in religion that, to me, it is exciting, because I see all these beautiful people seeking, seeking health, joy, happiness. So to me when I see contention in the movement, when things are heated, it means there is movement going on, progress, it is a good thing.
But perhaps most exciting to me is that I see this food/body/spirit overlap, that we are going somewhere, it is exciting. We each do well to consult with the more experienced, glean as much as we can, but in the end each of our journey’s is our own. To be truly healthy we each have to own our own choices, chart our own path, blaze our own trails, make our own decisions. We need to have our own personal relationship, chosen of our own free will. The choice has always been ours and always will be.
So for me, becoming more and more raw has awakened a sense of connectedness in many areas of my life, has awakened the sense that taking my health into my hands, far from being the burden I thought it would be, is actually empowering and the resulting energy it gives me allows me to easily do more. This has been reinforced by the physical transformation that has already occurred in me. It has reawakened the sense I had when much younger, that life is an adventure, that walls are not needed, that things are going to be OK, in fact, they are going to be fantastic!
You can learn more about and connect with Chris by visiting the following links:
Thanks for sharing, Chris! Here’s another shot, from RSF East this summer!