Food & Fitness

Re-Cap of the Raw Food Challenge: Part Two

Be sure to check out Part One of the Raw Food Re-Cap if you haven’t already! In it, I address: 1) Emotions and mood, 2) Sleep, 3) Cognitive abilities, 4) Energy levels, and 5) Financial Expenses.

6. Body changes (weight and body fat percentage):

Generally my weight stays the same. It may move up or down by 1 lbs, but that’s it. Over the first three weeks, my weight fluctuated back and forth 3-4 lbs. It appears to have leveled off in the past week, however: I lost 2.8 lbs and 1% body fat from January 1st to February 1st. I’m now at the same place where I was before I gained those few stubborn pounds last summer, so I’m rather pleased about that. It’s almost difficult to not lose weight on a raw diet, but some people lose a lot of weight within a very short time period (such as 10 lbs in a week and that sort of thing). Losing that much weight is going to be water-weight, but in any case it’s not healthy to lose so much in a short time span: you’ll lose valuable muscle in addition to fat and your body won’t be able to adjust appropriately to keep the weight off in the long term. I wouldn’t recommend eating raw as a way to lose weight, although it is likely to be a side effect of the diet.

7. Detox symptoms:

“Detoxification” is the notion that you’re ridding your body of all toxins. Many raw foodists consider the typical detox symptoms that people undergo to be a good thing because it means that the raw food is “cleansing” your system. I have mixed feelings about this; I think that, in a sense, our bodies are trying to flush out the bad stuff (if we’ve been eating unhealthily), but at the same time the body is likely in shock from the drastic change in eating patterns.

From everything that I’ve read about transitioning to a raw diet- particularly a 100% raw diet- the detox symptoms are horrible. Headaches, nausea, the works. People seem to have these symptoms within a few days of starting their raw diet, and they can last from anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. Luckily, I didn’t experience any of that. There was maybe two days when I had a sore tummy, which I believe was because I was consuming a very high amount of raw nuts that I had not pre-soaked (and apparently if you don’t soak raw nuts, it can be incredibly hard on your digestive system. I didn’t learn that until after I had a sore tummy), and therefore it wasn’t related to detoxification at all. Other than that, the only “detox symptom” I seemed to get was that I slept a lot for the first couple weeks. Best detox symptom ever πŸ˜‰ The reason for this may have been that I was already eating quite healthy so my body wasn’t put into too much shock and it didn’t need to flush out any toxins.

8. Preparation and clean-up:

One of the turn-offs that people seem to have with eating raw is that it takes hours to prepare food. Well, technically it takes hours to prepare food if you count vegetables in the dehydrator sitting there all day, but you don’t even have to be at home for them to “cook”! It takes no more time to chop and dice and slice ingredients for a salad than it does to throw together any other meal. And if you’re making something in the food processor or in the blender, it’s even faster.

As far as clean-up goes, it’s the same as with any other appliance: if you clean it right away, it’s a non-issue. The juicer, blender, and food processor were actually often easier to clean than most pots, because I always cleaned them immediately after I used them. It took no time at all (normally my pots wind up hanging out on the stove for hours on end, resulting in the necessity of scrubbing them half to death). Except for my disastrous attempt with the chocolate pudding, in which avocado and chocolate covered the walls of my kitchen, cleaning was pretty much a breeze.

9. Cravings:

It’s rare that I eat a burger. Maybe once every few months, if that. And when I do eat burgers, it’s always a locally raised bison burger or else a healthy veggie burger (or a homemade one). Yet for some curious reason, I had massive cravings for a burger for the first couple weeks! I also really missed popcorn, eggs on toast, pita chips with hummus, wine, and banana bread, among about a dozen other foods. A few times I really craved milk and cheese- and I can’t remember the last time my body wanted either of those things- which I believe meant that I wasn’t getting enough calcium.

I really missed basic food. I couldn’t get into the juicing and there were a lot of raw dishes which didn’t quite cut it for me (such as the zucchini pasta, mashed cauliflower, and raw hummus). Cravings were tricky to deal with- but not impossible. Often it was the texture or the warmth of food that I was really craving.

10. Raw in the long term:

As you may have guessed, if you’ve been following along this challenge throughout the entire month, I will not be adopting a raw food diet for the long term. I can see that there are a lot of benefits to this way of eating (because seeds, sprouts, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are of course incredibly nutritious), but I also strongly believe that there are many benefits to cooked foods, too (the nutrient content and our ability to absorb the nutrients changes when the chemical composition of the food changes). I also believe that while some people do very well on a high raw diet, others do not. The main benefit that I see from eating high raw is that you are forced to only eat real, whole food, with nothing processed. And that is why I have constructed a plan to keep myself on track and healthy and mindful of what I eat: I want to experiment with going on a high raw diet (not 100% raw, as I did in January), for four to seven days every four to six weeks.

By adopting this technique, it will be flexible enough that I can adjust when I eat “high raw” (with just one meal cooked each day throughout the week-long period, for example), but it will also enforce very healthy eating patterns in case life gets hectic and I start to fall by the wayside. Eating high raw for about a week every one to two months will also be a really useful reminder for the importance of simplicity; the fact that eating healthy and being healthy in body and mind can be reduced to a very simple and easy level. In about a month, when I try this experiment for the first time, I will absolutely be sure to document it and let you all know how it goes.

If you’re interested in reading about what I eat on a daily basis when I’m not in the mist of a nutrition challenge, I’ve started up a little side project blog called Health Writer Eats. I always write down what I eat in a notebook anyways, so I decided to just start recording it all electronically to share with others rather than keeping a private notebook with my daily eats (I may also have a mild blogging addiction. Shhhh). If you need ideas for how to eat healthy, be sure to check out that blog!

Questions? Thoughts? You know where to leave them!


  1. asithi

    I can understand the craving for a burger. I have the same problem. When I’ve been eating really healthy for a while I crave a burger, but under normal conditions I rare have them. It almost seems like the ultimate symbol of artery clogging fast food and sometimes I just need a fix. Weird. It is like my mind needs to rebel against a salad a few times out of a year.

    I been toying with the idea of another blog as well. But I keep reminding myself that I do not even write every day for my health blog, how am I going to find the motivation to juggle two blogs? So it is still in the back burner for me.

  2. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman

    Sagan, I’m so impressed you stuck to the raw food diet for the entire month. With freezing weather, I always crave warm foods. I can’t imagine how hard it was to eat only raw foods during January! So, what’s the first thing you ate once the raw food month was over? I bet I would have given in to that burger craving on Feb. 1.

  3. Holly

    This was very interesting, Sagan! While I could never go raw for various reasons, it was interesting to see what foods you tried and the effects it had on your body. Especially the sleep! (I take melatonin a few times a week to help me sleep). I really fear that I would constantly crave the warmth of food more than anything. However, I am trying to eat more raw foods as snacks – raw almonds, fruits and veggies, and I’ve even tried some raw flax crackers that are yummy.

    I’m glad for you, though, that you can have your popcorn! πŸ™‚

  4. Sagan Morrow

    Asithi- Health Writer Eats brings my total count to three blogs: this one, Living Rhetorically in the Real World, and Health Writer Eats. Someones going to start an intervention for me soon… hehe.

    Tracey- OATMEAL! I had steel cut oats with banana, PB2, almond butter, piles of cinnamon, and unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze: It was heaven πŸ˜€

    Holly- Popcorn is one of the greatest inventions ever. I’m a happy girl when I have a bowl of popcorn in front of me!

  5. Margaret

    Hi Sagan,
    I am one of two Manitoba Mom’s iwho have launched a veggie snack called Yumpeez – and guess what? As of this week they are now at the U of Winnipeg. The snack is locally grown and made, organic, vegan, high in protein, fibre and iron, low in fat and trasfat free. Yumpeez are minimally roasted split peas with an added organic spice. The are tasty, crunchy – and low glycemic index. No, they are not raw – but they can be the healthy snack that substitutes for those high in fat other things. Oh and they are also gluten-free, nut;free, lactose-free and soy-free. Dill pickle is my favourite on a salad.
    Thanks for listening. Hope I haven’t overstepped blog etiquite by sending you this info.

  6. charlotte

    I know I’ve said this before but reading about your raw experience this month has been SO interesting!! Thanks again for doing all the leg work on this one! And thanks for busting the time myth – I’ve often heard that one.

  7. sophia

    That was quite a fascinating journey, Sagan. Man, you’re just one brave, adventurous soul. Thanks for sharing it all with us, I could never have done that, but it’s just SO COOL to hear from the experiences of someone! Funny that you were craving a burger…haha, for some reason I can’t imagine you craving red meat!

  8. westwood

    Good to hear! This was super informative. I love reading your blog. But you know that. YOu’re better than Julie & Julia.

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on ‘detoxifying’. The more I hear about it, the more I believe it’s a PR construct and not a real thing. The vast majority of ‘toxins’ in our blood stream come from synthetic soaps, shampoos, petroleum based toys, objects, inks, and paints, as only to a small degree from pesticides in foods. I might’ve given you a podcast on it, I can’t recall. But I find detoxifying mystifying, especially since it inevitably leads to a ‘cleanse’, which typically, requires purchasing something. I mean, it’s not as if trans fats are TOXIC, they are just an altered micro form. I find the terminology around it confusing and misleading.

  9. Heather Eats Almond Butter

    Again, I love reading your thoughts regarding your high raw experiment. Definitely not the way of eating for everyone (I actually gained weigh after eating high raw for about 2 months. I think it was from all the fruit, and my weight went back down after I cut out the fructose). There are definitely some benefits, and I like your plan of eating this way for a week every month or so. That way you can still eat your toast and eggs…one of my favorite combos. πŸ™‚

  10. Sagan Morrow

    Margaret- Thanks for letting me know! I hadn’t heard of these snacks before.

    Charlotte- Eating raw was a cinch when it came to time. Not an issue at all!

    Sophia- This made me giggle: “for some reason I can’t imagine you craving red meat!”. When I was little, my family used to refer to me as “the carnivore”. Oh how the times change πŸ™‚

    Westwood- I heart you muchly. I’m intrigued by what you’ve said about “detoxifying”; I’m going to do some more research into it and get back to you on that one. Although I disagree with your stance on trans fats. They ARE toxic, if we’re saying that they are poisonous and could result in injury or death. I feel VERY strongly that trans fats are toxic. “Just an altered micro form”… but you KNOW how powerful an altered micro form can be!

    Heather- That’s interesting that you gained weight from it! I’ve gained back a pound since finishing the raw food challenge, heh. Although I’m not too surprised about that. Ah well. I haven’t had toast and eggs yet; I still need to go out and buy bread but oh MAN I can’t wait to eat that combo!

  11. bhealthier

    I don’t think you will take offense to this and I certainly do not mean to convey offense… I am all about balance , duh my blog is “being healthier in body mind soul” .

    I have been eager to try an actual “detox” trendy diet because logic (and my $80,000 in my education for a master’s in nutrition) lead me to believe that they are crap. However, I know when you change what you eat, you change how you feel. That is why I think I love metabolism so much, our bodies are truly fascinating if we would stop to learn about all the pathways that occur when we injest something. First, our body automatically releases enzymes to digest- whether its a simple refined carbohydrate or an unsaturated fat- our bodies are designed to break those down, and then in the small intestine everything gets further broken down and absorbed in all kinds of ways for transport to the liver – where the liver (and kidneys) filter everything. That is what they are designed to do- our livers are our “detoxifiers”…. so going on a “detox” diet is kinda silly because we are designed with our very own detox organs to do that for us!! Similarly, we are designed to release enzymes automatically for digestion- so I think raw foods are a great incorporation because they offer nutrients, and phytochemicals, and probiotics, etc. that are things we should consume as part of a healthy diet.. However, I don’t think people understand that “detox” from a raw food diet isn’t exactly detox, our liver is responsible for that…. so the change in feelings is a result of changing your consumption, taking charge of your food, THINKING about what you are putting into your body vs. shoving down a big mac… That effort, the choosing of the raw foods, the searching and understanding- those will most certainly change you feel mentally , thus physically as well, because we gain ownership in what we are consuming. On top of that, your body does appreciate healthy foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unrefined, unprocessed, whole foods- so those are just the basic foods we should be eating anyway… they don’t need to be their own entire diet.

    oh i could rant for hours… πŸ™‚ So happy you are writing another blog! And the BlogHer2010, I would love to go but I assume BlogHer has to invite you?

  12. westwood

    Although I agree that trans fats are bad for us, they aren’t a toxin. A toxin is, effectively, a poisonous substance and is often to have an acute effect and direct effect on health, rather than a secondary chronic one. So while trans fats are certainly not ideal and have an impact on health, they aren’t poisonous.

    Well actually be technical, a toxin is biological… think snake venom, alcohol, poisonous tree sap, carbon monoxide, the like. An anthropogenically produced toxin is also called a ‘toxicant’ although you often hear ‘toxics’ (although I hate it and think it sounds dumb). These include things like pesticides, solvents, artificial cleaners, bindering agents, etc… and it is these that enter our bloodstream. Because of synergistic effects, the long-term health effects of trace amounts of these is not known (except in some documented cases, ie: asbestos), however short-term acute exposure to high doses does cause ill effects and possibly fatality (think drinking a container of bleach).

    So basically, the whole ‘toxic cleanse’ thing is a misnomer, designed to scare people into making a purchase, or so I am convinced. Basically all cleanse diets do, as far as I can see, is temporarily stop people’s intake of macromolecules with long-term negative health effects. But this neither means that they will be removed in the system (many retain in fatty tissues) nor that the cleanse diet is healther (it may be lacking in the materials needed to engage in healthy metabolic activity which is necessary to metabolize the ‘bad’ macromolecules).

    Anyway, that’s just my take on it.

  13. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    Very interesting! It certainly seems to have been an experiment worth having undertaken. I’ve never done a challenge as “drastic” as this one, but in trying things here and there over the past few years, I’ve learned that the body will definitely tell us what it truly needs and wants in order to function well. We just have to listen. πŸ™‚

  14. Biz

    Loved the last part of the recap – I agree, there are just too many foods that you have to give up – I still give you kudos for lasting as long as you did!

    Red wine, and eggs on toast are two things that come to mind! πŸ˜€

    Also, if you cook the zucchini pasta with a touch of better and Parmesan cheese its to die for!

  15. Sagan Morrow

    Dr. J- I try πŸ˜‰

    BHealthier- Not offended in the least! I LOVE hearing everyone’s perspective and strongly encourage any kind of feedback. And for the record, I do completely agree with you. I didn’t do this challenge as a “detoxification diet”, nor do I agree with the perspective of raw food as a way to “detoxify”. I was simply using the term “detox symptoms” because that is what they are referred to in the raw community; it would appear that nearly everyone who adopts a high raw diet suffers from illness almost immediately after beginning it. Raw foodists say this is their body cleansing itself; I think that it’s because the body is in shock and the only way the body can handle it is to get sick (immune system is overworked)- but that’s just my $0.02! And yes, the liver IS fantastic, but I WOULD argue that it DOES need the help of eating healthier foods. Otherwise it can be very overworked if we constantly eat junk and guzzle booze and that sort of thing. Our livers can take a serious hit of damage, so there’s no sense in making it do all the work of cleansing our systems.

    About BlogHer: EVERYONE is welcome to go! You don’t have to be invited and you don’t even have to be female. So you should definitely come πŸ˜€

    Westwood- “toxin is, effectively, a poisonous substance and is often to have an acute effect and direct effect on health, rather than a secondary chronic one.” Trans fats do the former. They have a very direct impact on our health. No, it’s not necessarily immediate, but there are certainly poisons out there that SLOWLY kill us, and that essentially is what trans fats do. 30,000 people prematurely die each year (one death every fifteen minutes!) because of the amount of trans fats in their diet. Yes, it does this by raising the risk of heart disease and by increasing LDL cholesterol levels, but that’s the same as any poison: poisons alter chemicals in the body and cause serious illness or death.

    I think that the definition of if it’s biological or man-made is a moot point; plenty of poisons are considered toxic that are man-made. And, lastly, I think that your reading of “detoxification” is somewhat different from the “cleanse” that you’re referring to. I don’t think that the SYMPTOMS of detoxification are a myth- many people certainly get ill and headaches etc- but I believe that it’s a result of a drastic shock to the system because of the sudden change in diet, rather than because the body is “cleansing” itself. So I think that one is just a matter of how people interpret the terminology.

    Missicat- The simplicity of eggs on toast cannot be beaten. Bliss.

    Yum Yucky- GIGGLING. Definitely an unintentional pun. But you know I love it and am all about the pun-age πŸ˜‰

    Cammy- Precisely. All of our bodies are different so we can’t just do whatever works for someone else- we’ve got to listen to ourSELVES.

    Biz- ANYTHING with a bit of butter and cheese is automatically ten times better. Hehe.

  16. Pubsgal

    Hi Sagan! Just had to chime in and say, “Wow!!!” I’m so impressed (but not surprised) that you completed the challenge, and I enjoyed reading your recap. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. While it’s not something I would follow completely, I could definitely stand to get more raw foods in my diet, especially vegetables.

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