One of the most common questions I get asked, especially at this time of year, is “How do you stay raw in winter? I just can’t imagine not eating anything hot when it’s so cold. How can I do it?”
Well, I have to begin by saying that from what I have seen in others and experienced myself, it entirely depends on how new you are to raw foods. Eating raw in winter is a bit like training for a marathon – you can’t expect to run the whole way first time out; your body has to adjust and it has to adjust incrementally over a period of time.
I think the best way I can teach you about staying raw in winter is to share my own story with you. Through doing this you’ll be able to get an idea of the lengths of time involved, what to do and what not to do, and also why it’s important to see the raw food journey as something that has hills and valleys just like any other journey in life – sometimes you just have to accept what’s real and deal with it, so that you can press on and enjoy what lays over the other side!
My story begins in 1993 when I first discovered raw foods. I’d been dabbling since the spring of that year and doing really well on it. By the time it got to winter, naturally I felt colder than before and the thought of eating salads and tropical fruits throughout the winter wasn’t quite as attractive as it had been some months before! Bear in mind, however, that at this stage I was eating high raw and not all raw, so “staying raw” wasn’t the issue for me, just knowing how to keep warm without being tempted back into chips (fries) and greasy veggie-burgers and other more junky foods was my first and immediate challenge.
Well, those first few winters – about four of them – I approached the issue as I have done with all aspects of my raw eating: If it feels good do it, if it doesn’t – don’t. Yes, I wanted to eat as much raw food as possible, but if my body was freaking out about it, then there was no way I was going to force it on myself; that would be completely contra to everything I was aspiring to, which, besides eating raw, was a sense of greater wholeness, peace around eating and a better relationship with myself and my body.
So during those first four or so years I did the best I could. I ate as much raw as possible, but if I wanted porridge I ate it (but cooked it with water rather than milk and threw in lots of fresh banana, raisins and a big blob of honey). If I wanted a plate of chips with my salad I ate them (but they weren’t deep fried as they were years previously, they changed to oven baked, low fat, veg oil only). Jacket potatoes with mashed avocado, wholegrain rice or pasta with fresh wholesome sauces, or boiled potatoes swirled in olive oil, fresh garlic, chopped basil and lemon juice became my winter time staples. By eating these with salads I could happily stay high raw and get the heat I needed from those cooked foods while still keeping “with the program”.
By around year five I remember that I had moved into a cold, tiny, pretty drab flat for a short while and I can remember looking out of the kitchen window one day at the snow falling outside. I was about 6 months into what I considered to be my “100% raw forever if I can” phase and although I wanted to continue it, I said to myself “If I want cooked food this winter I shall have it, but if I don’t then I’ll just take it day by day and see what happens.” As it turned out, I had got so used to eating raw food having been doing it to such a high degree for so long that actually my body no longer wanted it. And so it was that I went through the whole winter not just cooked-food-free, but I didn’t even feel drawn to drinking herbal teas. That was pretty surprising, but it felt completely right. Cooked and hot foods no longer felt “right” at all and my desire for them had disappeared completely.
And this continued for the next five years in fact, where I didn’t eat any cooked food at all, apart from three weeks during pregnancy and that was in the February of 2002 and had nothing to do with the temperature outside!
What I learned from all of this is the following:
1) It takes time to go through a UK winter on all raw foods without feeling seriously deprived.
2) It probably can be done if you have a will of iron, but personally, because I am such a fan of the “whole person” approach, I do not recommend you forcing it until you feel genuinely ready, and this may take years (is there a hurry anyway?).
3) When I finally did stay raw throughout winter it became apparent to me that some of the previous cooked food longings during the colder months had been physiological for sure – the body does have to adjust – but I also became aware that a lot of it is also psychological, meaning that a lot of it is about habit and belief that hot food is necessary and this also has to be overcome to go all the way.
Although this has been my own experience I do need to add one final thing. Over the recent years I’ve become more interested in body types and blood types. While I’m no expert on either, what I have observed is that more “sturdy” types like me (I am slim now but certainly not skinny), seem to fare better on raw food all of the time, and those who have always been naturally lean can struggle more.
Personally I think the most important aspect to all of this is to look on wintertime as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and intimacy you have with yourself and your body even further. Yes, there will be a tendency (just like there is in pregnancy!) to say “what the hell!” and eat whatever you want because the pulls to do so are stronger than normal, but I’d like to invite you to actually turn this inclination on its head and ask yourself, “How can I use the darkness, coldness and mystery of the winter to nourish myself at a deeper level via my food choices, my lifestyle habits and the way I utilise this special time of year to reflect on who I am and who I am becoming?”
Winter time may be cold, dark and even lonely in some regards, but unlike any other season it gives us the opportunity to turn inwards and see what’s real, what needs addressing and to take a look at how we can feed ourselves optimally now so that when spring comes around again we can awaken, ground, aspire, grow and blossom even more brightly next year than we have done during this. In this regard, winter becomes a gift, and a time of opportunity rather than challenge.
Choose to look on it this way and your winter in the raw will be a pleasure, especially when you know that a few months from now you can feel stronger, leaner and lighter in every regard than you currently do now, and that can only be a good thing!
© 2006 Karen Knowler
WOULD YOU LIKE TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR ON YOUR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at www.TheRawFoodCoach.com.