A few weeks ago, Team UNITED (so, just me) took up a raw vegan challenge – basically five days of eating in line with a raw vegan lifestyle. According to the internet, “raw veganism” is also sometimes referred to as “absolutely awful”, which we found to be more accurate.
The back-story is that when it comes to food and nutrition, about the only things I am confident in are broccoli and water. Everything else seems to be the most amazing thing ever, and dangerous, at the same time depending on who is telling the story. With this in mind, for me, the only truth is in trial and error. Here is what we learnt.
I couldn’t do it
The best I could deliver was having one not raw-vegan meal every two days. As a vegetarian, it was still meatless, but the non raw-vegan meal would include any combination of heat, pasta, eggs, and/or pizza, obviously ruling me out.
I imagined that eating cold salads everyday was never going to work for me so I tried to hack the challenge by going on a smoothie frenzy. This worked to some degree but still failed to get the job done.
I am not a scheduled, regular or choosey eater. I perform fine when I am hungry (unlike Mrs UNITED – mmmmeltdown!), I don’t really care what I eat most days (though I mostly choose nutritious options), and there are times when I will get busy and my first meal may not be until late afternoon or evening. Particularly during the day, my eating habits are based on what I need rather than what I feel like.
With this in mind, one of the most difficult elements to this challenge was actually eating enough. If I ate when I was hungry, it was too late. I couldn’t eat enough, and not being a food planner, this happened a lot. Accordingly, I would have stages of poor concentration and very little energy (which was risky given that in my spare time I like to test drive heavy machinery on public roads). I am sure it gets easier but I suspect that raw vegans schedule eating in order to stay energised.
It’s not just eating
As our tens and tens of readers will know, we have undertaken random food challenges previously, and despite them being uncomfortable, we dominated. But not this time, and here is why: raw veganism isn’t just eating. It’s a lifestyle.
Motivation goes well beyond health and diet – a passion for the environment, a willingness to minimise one’s impact on the world, and a belief in nurturing naturally. It’s not just eating cold plants, it’s being a low impact human being. (Now that I read those words on a screen, I wonder why it is less common than it is and feel more letdown at failing.)
As we all know, it is much easier to commit to something when we can be passionate about it, regardless of how insane it is, for example, CrossFit, scientology, and keeping Mexicans out of the USA.
We have stated previously that food today is not how food should be. Today, food is about entertainment, convenience, and price. Nutrition will come from medicine. The food side of raw veganism demonstrated very clearly how far away we are from fundamental nutrition.
It was hard and joyless. But should eating be a joyous occasion? I know our culture facilitates and encourages joyful eating, but if we find joy in other elements of our lives (community, relationships, stylish well-priced shorts), does food have to be more joyous than it is nutritious and environmentally friendly?
Having reread this article, I am starting to wonder if my perspective on food has been hijacked by advertising, “professional” opinion, and social expectation. That certainly wasn’t the point of the challenge or the purpose of this document, but I keep coming back to “it’s not just eating cold plants, it’s being a low impact human being”. It is certainly not for everyone, and you certainly won’t hear me banging the drum, but I’ve suddenly become very motivated to try again…