Carlson is one of those long-term raw foodists which, if you have a
chance to meet, you can learn a lot of from. Steve has been raw since
1987 and his approach to the raw food lifestyle has been very sensible.
Far from being dogmatic, he explains his views on veganism and various
issues related to health and nutrition precisely and with conviction.
Steve is very clear about the fact that it may not always be easy to
lead a healthy lifestyle, but it is all worth it. He once said:
"It's not easy being different. And it's not easy trying to be healthy in an unhealthy world. But the payoff (internally and externally), in terms of self- satisfaction, self-pride, self-respect, etc., etc., etc. is enormous. When taking that into consideration, there is no downside to healthy living, in my mind."
In this interview, Steve talks candidly about his personal experiences with raw foods and shares several tips. However, the topics discussed here go well beyond the diet. Steve emphasizes the strong connection between all aspects of health and talks in depth about issues such as emotional healing, mental health, personal growth and integrity. Interviewing Steve has been a very stimulating and uplifting experience for me and I hope that you will enjoy it too.
Gosia: Hello Steve! I have been looking forward to this conversation and I am glad that you accepted my invitation. I would like to say that I often read with great interest your posts on www.rawfoodsupport forum. Many times what you were saying was in me on some level, and reading it helped me bring it to a more conscious level. Anyway, I am interested about the significance of year 1987 in your life. How did you learn about raw veganism? Why did you decide to change your previous lifestyle? What did you expect from the new one? How long did it take you to transition to raw foods? How much support did you receive from others during this initial time? Did you observe any positive changes in your overall health after this transition?
(I bombarded Steve with questions. He answered them one at a time.)
Q: How did you learn about raw veganism?
I didn't actually learn about it. I made it up. Or at least thought I was making it up, at the time. I didn't know anyone else had ever heard of it, or was doing it. (And maybe back in 1987, there weren't many people.) It came about simply as an apprehension (an understanding on my part) that animals in nature do not cook their foods. So why should humans need to do so, I asked myself? And I couldn't come up with an answer for cooking that would satisfy me. Also, I noticed that real, authentic foods (those that have not been processed or altered in any way) had more flavour; and I already knew that they were healthy to consume. Thus, in my mind, eating raw food seemed to be the most normal, natural, rational, and healthy way to eat.
Q: Why did you decide to change your previous lifestyle?
In my case, I was simply committed to living a growth-oriented, healthier lifestyle. (I was already a whole-foods-eating vegan at time, with about 30% of raw food in my diet at the time.) Eating more raw foods simply offered me a way, in my mind, to be even healthier.
Q: What did you expect from the new one?
I expected better health, and I got that, to be sure.
Q: How long did it take you to transition to raw foods?
It took only a few weeks, initially. Though, I think it's easy, at first, to change an old habit - at least for a short period of time. Then, as one's old habits seep back into the picture, you realize (sometimes) how hard old habits can be to break. And this, often, is one of the challenges of healthier living: to overcome the internal and external obstacles in your way, that undermine healthier, happier living.
Q: How much support did you receive from others during this initial time?
I can't say that I received any support from anyone. But this was 1987, and most people I knew thought vegetarians were animals in the wilderness that ate grass and leaves, and vegetarians certainly weren't human beings. I think vegetarianism has become better known since then. However, I don't think this diminishes the fact that healthier living is much easier when there are people around you that are supportive of your lifestyle.
Q: Did you observe any positive changes in your overall health after this transition?
My health problems were not particularly bothersome; largely, I think because I was relatively young and I had been living a whole-foods vegan lifestyle for 2 1/2 years prior to switching to a raw-based lifestyle. Nevertheless, I experienced the following health improvements in the areas of: better vision (allowing me to throw away my contact lenses); clearer, more radiant skin; less body odour; whiter, brighter teeth; clearer sinuses; healthier hair; and (most importantly) a sunnier disposition.
Gosia: Throwing away your contact lenses sounds amazing! This is not the first time that I hear of people improving their eyesight through raw foods. For example, Kristin , who suffered from keratoconous, which is considered to be a genetic condition, significantly improved her eyesight. Very recently, on one raw food forum, I read a story by a woman reporting the fact that cysts from her breasts disappeared after following the raw food lifestyle for some time. I also read stories about people healing themselves from acne, asthma, and even breast cancer. Have you ever come across some similar amazing healing stories? Have you ever witnessed someone healing from a disease through raw foods?
Q. Have you ever come across some similar amazing healing stories?
You can meet people at just about every single major raw food event that have overcome serious health issues while on a raw diet; that run the entire gamut, all the way to cancer.
I personally don't think raw food "heals" anything, but rather a raw diet helps free the body up to heal itself; whereas more conventional diets toxify and burden the body. Another side benefit to a raw diet is weight loss. I've seen pictures of dozens of people that have lost 100 lbs. (or more) and kept it off while on a raw-based diet.
Q. Have you ever witnessed someone healing from a disease through raw foods?
About one year ago, I met a man, James, in Minneapolis. He is 57 years old, and he had Type II diabetes, which is a pretty serious health condition. He heard about a raw diet and decided to try it for 100 days.
His transformation while on a raw diet was amazing. His condition had reversed itself and he was entirely off all his medication. And it was also terrific to see how his attitude about life and health changed as well. By the time his 100 days was up, he was a new man; and he's been committed to a raw-based lifestyle ever since.
Gosia: Thank you for the reminder that it is the body that heals itself! I wonder how one can deal with emotional issues that might emerge during this healing process. Does one need to do a little bit more than just eat healthily and exercise in order to heal on an emotional level?
Steve: Yes, one does need to do more than eat healthfully and exercise to heal and grow on an emotional level. A person's deep-seated emotional issues are not caused entirely by one's past eating and exercise habits, so they aren't going to be resolved simply by eating well and exercising. Though I would say that healthy eating and exercise are both important components of healthy living.
But so is mental health, which is created by the way we think, feel, and act. One's past emotional problems are typically caused by some form of self-alienation; which is the extent a person's internal "self" has been cut off from reality in some way, to varying degrees; intellectually and emotionally.
This may have happened for a variety of reasons, and it is the result of one's past ineffective ways of coping with painful and anxiety-producing issues. This may be due to some past trauma, such as extensive physical and/or verbal abuse; or it may simply have been the end result of poor, long-term choices, and the internal consequences of such; leading to an inadequately developed sense of self, over time.
Why does this happen? It happens when people deal with anxiety ineffectively; when to reduce anxiety, they create internal defense values as a means of emotional survival. That is, we each teach ourselves reality-avoiding (coping) strategies to avoid pain. But, in essence, these strategies ultimately do not serve us very well in the long run, as a means to deal with painful, anxiety-producing situations.
Why are these defense values ineffective? Because problems are solved not by avoiding reality, but rather, by confronting it; and by making healthy, sound, rational, and respectful choices within a given context.
Whereas coping strategies that avoid reality may have helped one survive, for example, a traumatic childhood - as adults, we often carry (within us) the same poorly-chosen emotional strategies and emotional baggage from our pasts. (I call these "The Ghosts of Childhood.") These are a detriment, as adults, to our emotional well-being in the here and now. And these past coping strategies will continue to haunt us until we learn healthier and more effective ways to cope with, and manage, our emotional life.
Fortunately, as with physical health, we can heal and grow on an emotional level. And the key to better emotional health is similar to that of physical health: remove the cause and replace it with healthy living. That is accomplished with healthy thoughts and actions.
Physical health and emotional health are interrelated; and to do either of them very well, one must experience the same basic underlying root: authenticity. That is, we get healthier by getting closer to the true nature of our existence, in accordance with reality itself. By that, I mean, to the extent we think and act in accordance with reality, we become stronger and healthier; both physically and emotionally.
With physical health, reality dictates a lifestyle of eating foods of our biological adaptation: raw foods. As well as with meeting our other physiological needs: consumption of adequate amounts of pure water; adequate fresh air; adequate sunshine; adequate rest; and so forth. They all are physiological requirements, in accordance with reality.
For emotional health, reality dictates virtuous living: a life filled with self-awareness, self-acceptance (of such things as weaknesses and mistakes), integrity, self-respect, self-honesty, self-responsibility, etc. Such healthy thoughts and actions need to take place not just in our inner world, but also within such external contexts as productive work; healthy interpersonal relationships; and mentally-stimulating interests, activities, and hobbies. Healthy thoughts and actions create a healthy emotional world, as a consequence. (Whereas, unhealthy thoughts and actions create the exact opposite effect.)
Certainly, healthy eating and exercise are part of having a healthy emotional life, but one must still live an authentic, virtuous life (in thoughts and actions) in more contexts than just with eating and exercising; to truly experience appreciable degrees of emotional healing and growth. And to live a life filled with utter joy and happiness.
One thing many people discover, as they begin the journey toward healthier living, is that past emotional issues begin to surface; as the new, the difficult, the challenging and the unfamiliar cause anxiety in people as they attempt to change for the better; as their unhealthy emotional world begins fighting for its very survival. And, as we probably all know, these painful emotions do not want to go down without a fight.
I think this can be a good thing, providing us with valuable feedback about our inner world. It shows you're making progress. However, I would also say that these past emotional issues that surface are usually the very thing that stops people from making continual progress toward a healthier, happier life; simply because those feelings are too painful to face.
When these issues surface (and they likely will if you're trying to replace that which is unhealthy with something healthy), it's important to welcome these painful feelings, to be accepting of them (even if you don't like them and/or the way they make you feel), and attempt to understand what's really going on inside of you.
We probably all know that many people try to break unwanted habits again and again and again and again; failing each time. Why? Because they feel threatened by the unpleasant emotional responses that surface; and they run away from [avoid] those painful emotions that surface when they attempt to live a healthier, happier life; by resorting to the old self-destructive, yet the comfortable and familiar, habits that cause them problems in the first place.
But the fact is that dealing honestly and rationally with emotions that arise will further your growth; whereas avoiding them will not. And, the truth is, these same emotional issues will always hamper your growth to the extent you never confront them. They don't go away mysteriously. Change for the better is not impossible. We can change any thought, feeling, or action we choose; if we have the will, or develop the will, to do so.
So the good news is that we all can get past these emotional issues that stunt our emotional growth. And by learning to successfully deal with our painful emotions, by being authentic, they lose their power over us; and eventually dissipate! We call this process of maturation "growth."
Awareness of, and acceptance of (what is in the here and now), regarding our emotions, including our mistakes and weaknesses, are the first steps toward dealing successfully with past emotional issues. Allowing yourself to fully feel what you're feeling; and accept that this is where you're at, right now (and that it's not where you'll always be), will greatly aid in the process of growth.
How difficult and painful this process might be depends largely upon the individual and the emotions involved; as well as how well or poorly a person has previously managed his or her emotional world in the past; as well as one's current level of commitment to be authentic and growth-oriented.
We are all different in that each of us has different unresolved emotional issues, to varying degrees. But we are all the same in that effectively dealing with our emotional world is vital to our well-being, happiness, and continual growth; resulting in a more satisfying inner life; as well as a happier, healthier external world of more fulfilling relationships with such things as our work, friendships, romantic love relationships, child-rearing, and even with food. And that, in my mind, is a good thing.
Gosia: What comes to my mind is the fact that the denial of emotions is such a prevailing norm in our society. Parents are more likely to ask their children to be quiet rather than to encourage them to express their feelings. Crying is perceived as inappropriate, un-cool behaviour, and a crying child/adult is usually discouraged from such emotional release. Boys are perhaps being repressed the most, as there is a pressure on them to become ‘real’ men. Consequently, they lose the awareness of their emotional needs and the ability to express their emotions, and become frustrated, unhappy adults.
After a lifetime of avoidance and denial, it may be difficult to release repressed emotions. Especially, if a person has very little insight in this process or some very painful emotions are involved. Perhaps, it may be beneficial for one to involve an experienced (say) healer who could facilitate this process? Perhaps, therapies such as rebirthing or Janov's primal therapy could help? One of my friends mentioned to me that she developed some of her own methods of other forms of powerful emotional release, practicing it on past boyfriends & friends to help them in their releases. For example, she refused to meet with her boyfriends in their offices, but had them go with me out to the desert instead for her sessions (What a great idea!). What is your perspective on conventional/unconventional "emotional-release" therapies and do you have a favourite one?
Steve: I think the things that are most helpful to people are those techniques that allow the individual to not only experience and understand the rationale behind his/her emotional world, but also to fully feel and experience the release of long-pent up emotions.
For example, I could tell a person by looking as his behaviour that his life of is full of fear, but what does that really mean, to him? However, if he apprehends his fear himself; if he fully understands and comes to the realization that fear is one of the sources of his ongoing problems; then he is able to do something (if he chooses) about that particular emotional response, each time he is aware of it.
Without the experience of knowing his fear, firsthand, and accepting that this is what is (at that moment), he won't truly be able to make changes to his fear responses in healthier, more productive ways.
As I've said previously, awareness and acceptance of what is, are the first two steps toward healthy growth. Of course, this also entails taking full responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions; and our levels of awareness and acceptance of them.
If, for example, we continually say to ourselves, "I take full responsibility for [fill in the the thought/ feeling/action]," I think you'll find that it's much more difficult to avoid knowing what's really going on inside of yourself; as well as to continue to do unhealthy things.
This is because unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and actions are typically, in part, a result of NOT taking an active sense of responsibility for them. (And this is, in part, why people start blaming everything under the Sun [but themselves] for their current plight and/or state of mind: they don't take active responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and actions.)
So what is one technique that I'd recommend, above and beyond merely stating, "I take full responsibility for..."?
One thing that comes to mind is a simple one; used by psychotherapists, whereby the therapist gives a client an impartial beginning sentence and the client finishes the sentence, with a different ending each time; 8-12 endings (or more). In the process of giving those answers, the client is often able to make profound insights about his own beliefs, motivations, and emotional responses; and begin to understand the impact each has on his life. (At least 8 endings for each starter sentence is thought to be necessary for one to begin to make valuable insights about oneself. The more ending one can elicit for each starter sentence, the deeper the insights tend to be.)
For example, let's take the starter sentence, "I love..." The exercise, and my answers to it, would go like this: I love: knowledge I love: this life I love: the way I look at the world I love: how I'm feeling right now I love: my answers to this impartial sentence I love: the sound of my heart beating I love: the way I process information I love: the peace and quiet of this moment
That's what came right off the top of my head. And I rattled off those responses to the starter sentence.
There are no right or wrong answers, as the responses are unique to each individual. The reason for doing them is that there is intrinsic value (to the individual) in the context of the internal-mental processing that one experiences by virtue of the answers one gives. (Of course, ideally, a particular beginning sentence is best suited to something relevant, and related, to furthering one's inner growth.)
Now you could read the answers I just rattled off and they probably mean nothing to you. But to me, there was some value in doing that exercise; in what I learned about myself simply by quickly giving those answers. (I would like to stress that it is very important to do these exercises be done quickly, without any attempt at conscious thought/analyzing; because you're trying to tap into the subconscious mind for the answers. This is because we're seeking to discover those answers/insights that are often hidden below the surface of our normal conscious awareness. It's not totally unlike the creative process, which requires relaxation and a mind largely unfettered by conscious- mind ramblings. Do these exercises rapidly, without judgment, with the answers you're giving.)
And, obviously, the more of these types of exercises we do, the more there is to be gained. Simply providing answers to one sentence, alone, is not likely going to have much impact. The more one does, and the more one wants to understand, the greater the value.
No doubt, these exercises can get much more in depth; allowing one to uncover years, even decades-worth of pent-up feelings and previously unexplored reactions and hostilities - that still reside within. (If one chose to take these exercises that far.)
8-12 endings (or more) for something as simple as "One thing I am angry about is..." may result in an outpouring of long repressed emotional experiences from decades ago. (I'd recommend that a person have plenty of kleenex tissue paper on hand if you attempt to delve into that one...) Follow it up with 8-12 endings for "One reason I am so angry is..." And see what you come up with.
Or try endings for this: "One thing I am afraid of is..." You could then follow that up with endings for: "I cope with my fear by..." Then follow that up with endings for, "The answers I just gave help me to understand..."; or "I am now beginning to understand..."
Believe me, the answers about ourselves really do reside within us. And this technique is a simple, yet powerful, one for helping to unearth our true self; as well as for allowing ourselves to begin to express, experience, and process long-repressed emotional responses that are still there, within us, and affect us in the here and now. (Even when it seems as if there is nothing to say about something, the answers are there, inside of ourselves, if we're willing to dig deep enough for them. When you're stuck, a starter sentence could be, "If I knew the answer it would be...")
It's really hard to begin to imagine how your childhood experiences still affects you, decades later, until you do these types of exercises. Then you can begin to realize just how much of your past still resides within you.
Such sentences, with endings completed by the individual, such as: "One thing Mother taught me was..." Or "One thing I learned from my Father was...," can bring about dramatic insights about the way one lives his/her life now; decades after leaving the home. Or try endings for, "One thing Mother did that made me angry was..." Or, "One thing Father did that made me angry was..."
Or how about 8-12 endings for this, "One thing I pretend that isn't true is..." Followed by "Knowing this causes me to feel..." Followed by "I am beginning to understand..."
Ideally, our mental processing of our answers to these starter sentences is similar to what a good therapist does: he/she guides us to the point whereby we can more accurately see/understand ourselves. In both cases, the answers we give can only be as good as those aspects about ourselves that we're willing to look at.
Of course, therapy might be necessary for some deep-seated problems, but for most psychological issues, these types of exercises don't have to be done in the context of therapy. One can do these exercises alone; in a quiet, relaxed state of mind. And preferably written on paper, or spoken into a tape recorder, so you're actually doing the exercises; and experiencing what's going on inside of you during that process. (Again, it's in the process of doing, not necessarily the answers themselves, that results in the most profound affects. For it is in the doing that allows us to fully experience, and feel, our reactions to our answers - while we're doing the exercises.)
There is no limit to the things one can ask himself/ herself. In a matter of moments, one can (if he chooses) learn a lot about himself/herself. And, as we grow, the answers to these starter sentences will change; reflecting our growth.
Another important thing these exercises do is that they help one to begin to realize just how much control we have over our lives. And how, ultimately, we are responsible for our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Without doing exercises such as these, most of us never truly come to that conclusion.
Gosia: Once we have become aware of an underlying feeling and expressed it, will the pattern that we were unconsciously repeating before, automatically change? Or, do we need to work on overcoming it a little bit more? Perhaps this further work involves our effort to be always in the present, being an observer who does not dwell on the past, or worries about the future, but is totally focused on the current experience? Then, we can see our thoughts from the perspective of an observer and let them go, instead of unconsciously reacting to them and so repeating the pattern. What are your thoughts about this?
Steve: Awareness certainly makes change possible. And while I think we need to be mindful of both the past and what we want for the future, our primary focus needs to be on the present; otherwise, the past and/or future can rule our lives. (Preoccupation with the past or the future keeps us from living effectively, and happily, in the present.) Obviously, we can only actually live life in the present, in the moment.
However, awareness of our past patterns is no guarantee that we will change for the better. Yes, awareness is a precondition of change, but one must still take appropriate action to remedy past behavioural patterns. Simply put, awareness alone is not a guarantee we will take action. We may know what do, we may know what is healthy and/or appropriate (in a given context), but that still doesn't necessarily ensure we will take appropriate action. As with any behaviour, we must have the will to do it.
I think the ideal is to learn from the past, and be mindful of what we want for ourselves in the future; all while living our lives in the present, by attempting to act in a manner that is both beneficial to ourselves - as well as to others. This happens not automatically (in a given context), but with practice; and, as a consequence of making meaningful and purposeful choices, our lives change for the better.
Change is not necessarily easy nor without growing pains, at first. However, as you get better at something, change does become easy. I think we can all probably look at something from our past that we once did not do well, and now we can see that same thing is now simple to us. I think this can happen with just about any aspect of our lives.
Awareness is the first step to a better, happier life. From there, we can take appropriate action and transform our lives into the life of our dreams. And that is a glorious thing.
Gosia: Would you say that awareness is as important in our physical as in our emotional healing? Do we need to make a conscious effort to transition to and then stay with raw foods and why?
Steve: Yes. I think that awareness is an essential component in every aspect of healthy living: physical, emotional, intellectual. They're all interrelated, inexorably linked with one another. It's virtually impossible to be truly good at one without being good at the others. So it's important, if one seeks physical or emotional well-being, to strive for awareness in those three major aspects of our lives.
Certainly, a diet of primarily raw foods is part and parcel with living an overall healthy lifestyle. One aspect of healthy living is integrity. And to the extent we eat a diet of raw foods, we have an appreciable degree of integrity; within a physical context. Of course, the ideal is to attempt to have integrity (as well as all other virtues) in all areas of lives. That's something that's rational to strive for; and it's a process that never ends, if one seeks to be increasingly rational and emotionally healthy. Which ultimately translates into increased happiness, satisfaction, and joy in one's life. The bottom line is that it's entirely rational and FUN to want be healthy and happy!
I think it's important to understand this key concept: that which builds health in one context, builds it in the others. By that, I mean, healthy thoughts, feelings, and actions in one context (physical, emotional, intellectual) tend to have a reciprocal effect; affecting the other areas of our life to varying degrees. For example, as we know more intellectually (i.e. we have correct knowledge), we tend to want to get healthier emotionally, and we tend to want to get physically healthier as well. (By "awareness," I'm referring only to true, reality-based "correct knowledge." False/incorrect knowledge, on the other hand, tends to do a lot more harm than good. It has the opposite effect of that which is true, when integrated.)
The more we are able to integrate correct knowledge into our lives, the more we facilitate the growth/maturation process in all areas and contexts of our lives (including work, family, friendships, sex/romantic love, ethics/politics, spirituality, hobbies/interests, artistic expressions, etc.). The more healthy our values and beliefs, the more profound, positive, meaningful, and purposeful our thoughts and actions tend to be. And vice versa (if you're wondering why emotionally immature people consistently do self-destructive things in all contexts).
Is a raw-based diet really that important to mental health? I think it's extremely important. I say this because I don't think we can be unhealthy in our dietary practices, and realistically think that the same thought/emotional processes that go into (a consistent, habitual pattern of) unhealthy health choices, somehow doesn't dramatically affect most other areas of our lives in self-destructive ways.
Now I'm not suggesting a person be perfect with a raw food diet, because that's pretty hard to do over the long-term. I also think one must be very disciplined and very emotionally healthy (and truly want to be "100% raw," for rational reasons) to eat nothing but raw food. (I bring this up because some people eat raw food as a perverse attempt to be "perfect." It's as though, in their minds, if they eat healthy, they're a good/ worthy person. And that's just not a rational reason to eat a healthy, raw-based diet. Whereas, a rational reason to eat more raw food is because it helps promote physical and emotional well-being; just as anything rational and healthy tends to do. Which, over time, helps to improve your physical and inner/ emotional life; and thus, your interpersonal relationships.) In my mind, there are no drawbacks to rational, healthy living. I say this because the effects of true, healthy living are all positive and beneficial.
And I'm not suggesting that eating raw food alone will necessarily make you an emotionally healthy person. But I am saying that (by and large) eating healthy is one very important part of being an emotionally healthy person. Again, I think it's important to understand that the physical, emotional, and intellectual aspects of life/ourselves are all interrelated; they're all connected with one another. Building upon one, tends to build upon the others. And as we get better and stronger in one area of our life, we tend to get stronger in the other areas as well. And that is a good thing.
Gosia: Another issue that I would like you to discuss is the extent to which one should adopt the advice of other (say) more experienced raw foodists. On one hand, it may be very helpful to learn from others who might have had many years of experience in this lifestyle. On the other hand, those long-term raw vegans might not be immune to making mistakes. If one considers the fact that two well known long-term raw foodists (Gabriel Cousens and Doug Graham) give completely contradicting advice, it is possible that either one of them is wrong or both are right, depending on which part of your raw journey you are on. I mean that transitioning to raw foods is a gradual and individual process, so our diet may evolve over time and be different at different stages of that evolution. So, perhaps instead of blindly following someone's advice, one should try to find the answers within oneself? Isn't it what awarness is about? But, how can one achieve that? How do you, Steve, decide what is right for you? And, do you think that what is right for you, is right for everyone else?
Steve: This is a good question. Because there isn't a consensus among raw-food enthusiasts, as to what the ideal raw diet might be. I do think we can listen to others' advice, and possibly implement some of it. But ultimately, each of us must make decisions for ourselves based upon paying attention to our own bodies.
We now have such technologies as live blood cell analysis, and internal cameras, that can literally show how our bodies react to certain foods; and help prove that raw food is an ideal diet. And I think these technologies can help an individual determine what foods might be right for him/her. However, not everyone has access to cutting-edge technology.
I know in my case, I started on a raw path without any knowledge that anyone else on the entire planet was trying to live this way. My journey to raw food was intuitive in nature. It largely involved me comparing human nutrition to that of animals in nature (esp. primates): and realizing that they do not cook food nor typically eat high-fat, highly-processed, highly-refined foods; they do not take drugs or vaccines and call them "medicines"; nor wear glasses; nor have canes and/or walkers; etc. And, at the same time, animals in nature seemingly enjoy mostly good health; free from cancer, arthritis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, etc.
I determined that a raw food diet was the best diet for me. And that's really what "awareness" entails: getting closer to reality; and the never-ending process of discovering and integrating correct knowledge.
But awareness alone is not enough to live a fully-functioning life. We also need, as I've discovered, other human virtues: honesty, integrity, rationality, reason, self-respect, self-responsibility, etc. These virtues do not exist in a vacuum, but rather they work in conjunction with one another, and build upon one another. For example, we all know that tactless, so-called 'brutal honesty" is hurtful to others. So for "honesty" to be purposeful, it must also entail other virtues, especially those of respect and dignity.
Why am I telling you this, and what does it have to do with eating raw food? Because it's difficult to do all the needed research ourselves, regarding raw food nutrition. Who has the time? It's hard enough to find time just to shop and prepare foods. At the same time, I do think we need to engage in autonomous, independent thinking based on the information we come across. That means we can benefit from the work and experiences of others for information and advice, but I don't recommend we take any one person's advice as the gospel truth, without comparing it to what others (with different opinions) are saying; as well as pay attention to the feedback our body is giving us. The more we are able to see the "whole picture" the better off we will be. That is true in any context.
In the case of raw food, I think it's more advisable to take advice from people that are thriving on a raw food diet; especially from those that are friendly and accessible, and promote consistency and simplicity. Such persons are not touting costly products and services above and beyond eating raw food. The raw lifestyle does not require a huge financial investment.
On the other hand, there are so-called "experts" of raw food, of whom I will not mention, that are largely inaccessible as individuals; unless you're throwing a lot of money their way. Then they're all too happy to pretend to like you. But the moment your money dries up, they won't give you the time of day. Also, their philosophy for health is not consistent with other human virtues. Sure, they may be touting the benefits of raw food, but at the same time, they're also constantly trying to sell you something way beyond information and simple raw foods. They've got lots of non-raw food products, supplements, potions, powders, etc., etc., etc. many of which have very little to do with health; and a lot to do with them lining their own pockets. They want you dependent upon them for your health.
Such people also often claim to be "scientists," but many of their beliefs stem from vague, incoherent, and supernaturalistic viewpoints; all from indefensible sources and philosophical arguments. Hence, their beliefs and methods are diametrically opposed to all human virtues.
Therefore, I can't stress enough the importance to seek out philosophies that are easy to follow, consistent with all human virtues (in practice - not in lip service), and, over time, facilitate a person to build in each of these universal human virtues (honesty, integrity, respect, awareness, acceptance, autonomy, etc.); not become less of them.
Philosophy is something very important in our lives. We need a truthful, consistent, and reliably predictable philosophy for direction and guidance. For when we have a consistent and reliable guide to follow, it's much easier to have confidence in our own judgments and decisions.
I do, in general, think that what is true/right for one is true/right for another, but it does seem as though some people have different raw physiological needs at various times during the course of their path toward healthier living. Whether these differences are related to their current state of health or blood type or whatever, it seems these differences do exist. This is why it's important to not blindly and entirely take anyone's advice, but to make independent decisions of your own; based upon the feedback your body gives you about the lifestyle choices you make. And be advised that what seemingly works for you at one point may not work as well at a later time.
It does seem, in general, that most people report that their diet becomes increasingly more simplified and less fattening as they progress with raw foods.
While I do suggest people listen to what others are saying, ultimately, the decision to be healthy and the choices you make regarding health, need to be your own independent ones.
Gosia: How has your diet evolved since 1987? Which patterns have changed and which have not?
Steve: The foods I eat are essentially the same. (I started simple, and that's essentially where I am now. Back then, simple was about the only way to do a "raw" diet.)
I eat fruits until later in the day, maybe 4 pm. And then vegetables (salad) and more concentrated foods after that. I try not to eat after 8 pm, to give my body a chance to process food, rather than have it try to do that during sleep.
I had been a vegan for about 2 1/2 years prior to starting a raw diet, so I didn't make a great change in my diet; other than eating more fruit later into the day, and less cooked foods.
The biggest change has been that I have more control over food choices, as a process of maturation. By that, I mean, a meal of less-than-ideal food does not start me down a path (that might go on for weeks or months) of eating worse and worse. At one time, it did. Not anymore.
The change has come about with greater emotional awareness and practice of healthy living.
Gosia: I would like to hear some more details about your diet, if you do not mind, please. For example, what types of fruit/vegetables/concentrated foods do you eat? Are there any types of raw foods that are not on your menu? What do you drink? Do you make juices, smoothies or blended soups? Do you eat fermented foods? Also, what about supplements, superfoods, dehydrated foods, spices, olive oil, celtic salt and vinegar? What about honey and algae?
Steve: Over the past 20 years, I have eaten almost anything vegan, but preferably whole foods. As, typically, I try to stay away from what are called "fractionated" foods: white bread, white rice, sugar/corn syrup, highly-refined soy products, etc.; because of they are acidic in metabolic reaction, and these types of foods contribute to metabolic problems - i.e. the body strips minerals from our bones in the process of metabolizing them. These substances, along with other refined foods, tend to be very toxic to the bloodstream. (And having healthy/pure blood is the key to good physical health.)
I try to eat mostly high-water, high-alkaline raw foods of human biological adaptation; which are fresh fruits and vegetables. I also eat nuts, and even though they are acidic in metabolic reaction, it seems we need some acidic foods in our diet (some say as much as 20% of our calories should come from acidic sources). I think it's probably closer 10-15% for most people. But many people new to raw foods might have trouble sticking to that (either emotionally or possibly physiologically - as in they won't feel well), so I try to encourage people to make this lifestyle one about having fun and not about perfection, nor about strictly following specific percentages of any one food type. (And certainly, there is disagreement about those percentages in the raw food community given the health and physiological variations amongst individuals.)
Another routine I follow is one of what is known as "food combining." That is a practice whereby you eat foods to maximize the body's digestive capabilities. I have found this to be immensely beneficial to health. It consists of eating fruits alone (or with one another) on an empty stomach (so they can quickly pass through the stomach and into the intestines and immediately go to work as energy).
Food combining also entails never eating starches and proteins together, because they require different digestive mediums. Simultaneous consumption of them greatly retards/neutralizes the digestive process. (Vegetables, on the other hand, digest in the stomach in both an alkaline digestive medium [necessary to digest starches] and an acid digestive medium [necessary to digest proteins]). Food combining also entails not drinking liquids with or after eating; as liquids dilute, "water-down" the digestive process.
Also, starches with other starches, while not ideal, is a much easier digestive task for the body than is one protein with different proteins (unless it's with the same type of protein such as one type of nut with another). But steak and eggs (two different types of protein), for example, is an extremely difficult digestive task for the body.
Many people say food combining is "too complicated," but it's merely the act of giving a little more thought to one's food choices - and reaping the enormous benefits (in terms of increased energy and better health) in the process.
Over my years of being a vegan, I have eaten (and I still sometimes do in social settings) eat plenty of whole cooked foods, such as brown rice, corn, potatoes, beans, and the like. I don't prefer the taste of these foods to raw foods, nor do I like the health consequences (i.e. I don't feel as well, physically or emotionally, after eating these types) of cooked foods. And I find I'm having significantly less of these foods as I get older, and more experienced, with the joys of a raw food lifestyle. To experience relatively good health, I recommend people eat a diet of 80% (or more) raw foods.
As for drinks, I typically don't drink anything beyond fruit smoothies, which consist of bananas, fresh dates, and other fruits (and a small amount of added water). I'm not against drinking, per se, but I get plenty of liquids in my diet. (Even here in hot, Sun-saturated Arizona.) I'm not against drinking raw juices, but its time-consuming to prepare them and clean up afterwards. If, for some reason, I don't get enough water through food consumption, I'll drink some pure or distilled water. I also rarely drink alcohol anymore, including so-called "raw" wines. And I try to minimize alcohol consumption as I get older; because of its effects on me (headaches), even with small amounts of it, is not something I find particularly enjoyable.
I do occasionally eat "raw gourmet" foods, which may include using ingredients such as olive oil, garlic, onions, and dehydrated foods. I do not consider any of those things particularly health-promoting; but I do think they're a lot better than eating most highly cooked/processed/refined foods. Raw-food enthusiasts typically call these raw gourmet delights "transition foods." These people seem to realize that going from conventional eating to more simple, raw-based eating is not an overnight success story.
I do not consume supplements or algae, as I think they are recognized by the body as foreign matter; and hence, not health-promoting. The few times I have had these things over the years, I have been unable to sleep on those nights after taking them. Which suggests, to me, that these substances are stimulants; and not health- promoting. (Though I realize a number of "leaders" in the raw community are making a small fortune touting the benefits of so-called "raw" supplements, and thus, I don't see the popularity of them dying out any time soon.)
I also do not add such things as salt or vinegar to foods; as I think there are health problems associated with those substances. The same goes for fermented foods and frozen foods. Some of these foods are probably much better for you than processed foods, but they're not ideal for us to eat in large quantities (unlike fresh food). So I suggest people try to minimize their consumption of non-fresh foods to 20% or less of their diet.
Ideally, I try to stick to philosophy, at least in terms of the ideal diet: trying to eat mostly foods of biological adaptation (fruits, vegetables, and small amounts of nuts), properly combined. From the research I've done and the experiences I've had, human physiological biochemistry and genetic structure, reflects that as the ideal diet.
However, I don't think small amounts of just about any foodstuff is going to cause major health problems. But typically, people consume too much of too many of those things that deplete health. Ultimately, the choice to live healthfully, and to what extent, is up to each individual.
I recommend people try to maximize consumption of those foods that promote health and minimize those that do not. And, I think, over time, a person can get better at that, if he (or she) is committed to it getting better - and healthier.
Good Health (in all its forms), is a process, not an overnight success story.
Gosia: Thank you for these guidelines for the raw foods diet! I like in particular your advice to have fun, instead of focusing too much on perfection. I must admit that reading this gives me a sense of relief, because I am guilty of being too much of a perfectionist. Furthermore, being a raw foodist can be a real balancing act at times. On one hand, I do not want to eat cooked foods, because they make me feel lethargic, constipated and give me pimples. On the other hand, avoiding cooked foods can be really hard at times when it does not spontaneously come from within. So, your message that, if there is motivation, things will get better over time, is particularly uplifting for me. I suppose that many could relate to this.
My final question: Which aspects of being a raw foodist do you enjoy the most?
Steve: There are so many positives to eating a raw-based diet that it's hard to pick just one or two as a personal favourite. Besides the incredible, delectable taste of raw foods, and the energized feeling you get from raw foods, and watching the raw food movement grow from a couple of dozen people worldwide (when I started) to thousands and thousands worldwide (and tasting the unbelievably creative food concoctions come out of that growth), and connecting with people all over the globe that are excited about raw food, and understanding the psychological impact of eating raw foods, etc. I think the thing that is most important to me is knowing that I'm in control of my health. That's exciting to me.
Here in the United States, health care costs are rising to a rate whereby health care expenditures could be as high as 1/4 of the then entire consumer spending within the next 10-15 years. That's a lot of money; upwards of what could be $5 Trillion a year by then. A lot of wasted money if you ask me; on ineffectual treatments that merely mask symptoms of people's ailments. And don't make them any healthier in the process.
With raw foods, your health is entirely in your hands. You're not dependent on "The System" and the so-called "health care professionals" to take care of you; as they dispense their modalities and advice - at the expense of your health.
I just received notice from an old friend of mine that his eight-year-old son has cancer and is receiving medical care. Cancer! At eight years old! It's crazy.
Your body will take care of you if you take care of it. It's not hard: Eat mostly raw food. And reap the amazing health benefits. Just having that peace of mind, knowing that my health is in my hands, and no one else's, is psychologically freeing. And, to me, that's the best part.
But it's all good. There is no down side to healthy living, other than raw food treats cannot be found everywhere. Yet. They're coming.
And that's a good thing.
Gosia: Thank you very much for letting me interview you, Steve. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on healthy living. In particular, thank you for the detailed advice and, best of all, inspiration!
Steve: Gosia, thank you for all your efforts in creating your website, for helping to promote healthy living, and for interviewing me.
Why is it important to try to live a healthy, raw-based lifestyle? I think it's important because happiness is at stake. I say that because health and happiness are interrelated. They are inexorably linked with one another. They go together.
In my mind, doing healthy things facilitates both mental and physical health; which helps to make a person emotionally stronger; and thus, better equipped to meet one’s needs and the challenges of life.
Now healthy living may not always be easy, and rarely is it an overnight success story. Instead, it's a process of growth. A process that I think is worth one's efforts. Eating more raw food is part of that process.
Healthy living leads to happiness. This happens as a consequence of one's healthy, virtuous, positive, productive thoughts and actions. (And it certainly is more fun to be a happy person; it certainly is more enjoyable for others to be around a happy person; and the world is certainly a better place when happy people live in it.) The better one gets at doing healthy things, the easier finding happiness becomes.