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Raw Power: The Ups and Downs of Raw Foodism and Raw Food Diets - Part Two

Raw Power: The Ups and Downs of Raw Foodism and Raw Food Diets - Part Two


Read part one of my raw food diet experience.

Fun House: How the Raw Food Diet Ended

By day 11, I felt numb all over and faint. I had to take a short nap in the morning after waking up, I was so tired. I felt miserable (more so than previous days). I had a handful of almonds, a handful of sunflower seeds, a banana, and an apple. Still felt faint. I drank water, lots of it. I tried to get some work done, but it was too difficult to concentrate. It was as if everything around me was draped in an impenetrable fog. I had a tangerine and a spinach and banana smoothie. Still the fog. I couldn't read more than a few sentences at a time without shaking the cobwebs from my head.

Was it B12 deficiency? Maybe, though I was drinking this cold, bottled tea with B12 in it. (The tea tasted like fermented battery acid with a hint of pomegranate.) A craving for bread? Could have been.

I couldn't go on. I was Popeye, pre-spinach. This physical and mental fatigue was too much for me to take. Keep in mind, throughout this entire 11 days I was doing my usual exercise regimen of jogging and caveman exercises, and I still stayed up relatively late to read. That may have contributed to the strain. But I just couldn't go on.

I walked to the local pizza place. The pies were lovely, more so than usual. The colors so wonderful: the rich violet of a kalamata olive; the lush greens of a pesto sauce; the red, red, red of glistening pepperonis; the alabaster of fresh-sliced slabs of mozzarella; the sunset orange of hot grease. Even the crusts looked like something only fools would discard, even if they were a little burnt.

I ordered the least healthy slice I could: chicken cutlet, crumbled bacon, mozzarella. On that slice they use ranch dressing for sauce. They bagged it up. I paid. I speed walked back to my apartment. It felt so good in my hand, so warm.

The first bite was like tasting food for the first time. I had taken so many flavors for granted, and now they all stood out. The bacon was so savory, the cheese and ranch like cream, and the chicken, even if it was dry, seemed so moist and wonderful and flavorful in my mouth. I would never take flavors for granted again, even flavors as simple and common as the ones on that slice.

If I ever had a spiritual or religious experience due to raw veganism, it was the moment I stopped being a raw vegan. And yea, it was good.

The Weirdness: Raw Foods and New Age Strangeness at The New Life Expo

Since John Stossel's 20/20 report featured a bit at The New Life Expo, I figured that I might as well attend, especially since bull-goose looney Viktoras Kulvinskas, one of the most prominent figures in raw foodism, would be in attendance.

The New Life Expo is a three-day convention dedicated to new age beliefs and new ways of living. For me, it was like a big carnival. Given, there was a lot of good material there. I sat in a raw food panel early in the morning about a sensible raw diet (e.g., incorporating raw foods into a non-raw diet somehow; snacking on raw fruits, vegetables, or nuts). There was a high-speed, high-powered blender demo on the floor. I considered buying one until I found out the price tag was more than $500. They had new age/psychedelic artist Alex Grey in attendance, a calming and soothing presence perhaps best known for his work with the band Tool.

But apart from that, the outing was a weird one.

I had an aura/chakra photo taken. I had my palm read. I was given "essential oils" to rub on my hands and I smelled like I'd just been on a date with the prettiest girl at the Pine Sol factory. I browsed through a batch of DVDs that covered everything from Atlantis to the Illuminati to 9/11 conspiracies to tantric sex. I flipped through books on healing crystals, magic, meditation, raw recipes, and Aleister Crowley. At the same expo bookstore, I noticed several copies of the distinctly non-new age Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle, whose satirical novel The Bear Went Over the Mountain is a personal favorite.

At one panel, the speaker claimed that mastery of paranormal martial arts was essential to defending yourself from cross-continental and extraterrestrial hexes and ghosts. At another panel, the speaker claimed that she was abducted by aliens as a child and replaced on Earth by a double until she returned years later. She also explained that the Mayan Doomsday Calendar was thrown off by two thousand years because the people of Atlantis fired their laser weapon into the center of the Earth in order to defeat subterranean creatures they (mistakenly) believed were hostile. Odder still were the crowds at these panels. They rubbed their chins and squinted, seriously considering each claim. They nodded approvingly. Some mouthed "ah" or "yes" as if something had suddenly become clear to them. I felt like H. L. Mencken among the knuckleheads at the Scopes trial.

The Viktoras Kulvinskas panel was the last one I attended that day. Kulvinskas spoke too close to the mic, giving his voice the quality of a clock radio on full blast. For the first few minutes of panel, one of his friends played flute while he spoke, which proved more distracting than spiritually enlivening. It was hard to pay attention to what he was saying. I was too distracted by the oppressive sound of his voice and his appearance: his cheekbones look like they would break through his skin at any moment. He mentioned that he used to be a bulimic and used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day. He still looked the part. One of his claims that stood out was of an oncoming plague in 2012 that would claim everyone save for the vegans and raw foodists. It made me wonder if Atlantis would eventually be blamed for the pandemic.

What struck me about the expo was that it was mostly attended by the middle aged and the elderly. Sure, there were healthy-looking people and thirtysomething yuppies there, and the people not associated with the fringe panels all looked like they were having a good time. Yet the older folks always stuck out. Some looked infirm or sickly. Some were overweight. It was almost as if these people had come for the fountain of youth, a route to wellness, a shot at prolonging life. I wondered if, when they left, they felt disappointed or encouraged by all that they'd heard.

Lust for Life: Living Smart, Living Healthy

I can't be a raw vegan. It's a lot of work, maybe too much work for me--a guy who's got an okay palate but is not discriminating when it comes to good and quick eats. I enjoy all kinds of foods too much to give them up. I could potentially go vegetarian and even vegan, sure, but 100 percent raw vegan? No, no thank you. Just 11 days of it made me feel like I was running on fumes, even after a lot of naps. I also can't see this as a viable dietary option for everyone given the time constraints and the economic realities people face on a day to day basis.

And yet while I hated going 100 percent raw, this little stunt has given me something I hadn't expected: a greater appreciation for food, all foods, cooked or not.

I need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts, and so I will. I need to think about what I'm eating and its health benefits, and so I will. I need to make more food for myself to save money, whether that means guacamole or hummus, and so I will. I need to go to the store this week to buy more pears, and so I will.

I love bacon as much as I love Bosc pears. It's a healthy addiction. Bacon and Bosc pears are the measure of all things.

I am a content omnivore.

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