Does a 100 Percent Raw Vegan Diet Work?

February 9th, 2010

Does a 100 Percent Raw Vegan Diet Work?

I received this email recently:

Some raw food leaders are "coming out" that they are a little non vegan here and there or a bit "cooked" during the winter. I have been trying this too. I am very happy with the couple of needed pounds I put on and with my new level of energy. I would be interested to hear if you have treated this ground as well, Tonya. I will still love you if you have!

My correspondent seems to be doing very well. Yet, I'm aware that some of you have grown disappointed and confused as a result of following leaders who have in some ways altered their own 100 percent raw paths to address their immediate, individual needs. Good, this confusion will lead to further learning. Very good! This is the time to re-evaluate your position. You should not have followed anyone in the first place. I've written about this in my books, and I want to repeat it again here: Learn from everyone, but follow no one.

Please, keep this in mind while reading what comes next.

Since the summer of 1997, not once knowingly did I consume cooked food. After some adjustments, and even some step retracing, I've developed a raw food plan that works very well for me.

I believe the raw food lifestyle is the best for shedding unwanted pounds.

With every passing year I've gotten trimmer. During the twelve years I've been following the raw foods lifestyle, I had to resize my wardrobe downward and get alterations done three times! After an initial loss of about 30 pounds, it's surprising I've been quite stable all along since then at about 110 pounds. But due to practicing hot yoga, my weight and muscles are continually being redistributed more effectively. When I stand next to healthy 18 year-olds of my height in hot yoga class, I have similar body proportions.

The raw vegan lifestyle has been working for me. That said, I have no dogma and no religious zeal when it comes to a 100 percent raw vegan diet. The adjustments a person makes for his or her own circumstances will be--must be--completely individual. Those adjustments may also be temporary. In addressing a deficiency, you may try one method, and then abandon it in favor of something else if you find that works better.

There are people leading raw food lifestyles who have to make adjustments if they develop a deficiency or find they're simply not experiencing the full measure of vibrant health they know is possible. This doesn't happen to everyone. It hasn't happened to me. But it does happen to some, and for a variety of reasons.

Deficiencies or imbalances may occur if someone starts out with a severely compromised digestive system. I've found this to be one of the main reasons people develop deficiencies over the long term. In this case, a person's digestive system might never--even on the best diet in the world--be able operate to perfect capacity without a little extra help.

Some people with digestive issues have a hard time absorbing nutrients. They may make a personal choice to augment probiotics, animal products, or other dietary additions that give them what they need, whether these additions be raw...vegan...or even outside the vegetarian camp altogether.

I have perfect digestion. I never use any digestive aids. My problem is different. I have hips that were seriously damaged at birth. I experimented with many methods until I found my ace in the hole--Bikram yoga--and that works for me. I embarked on a 60-month challenge of doing hot yoga 1½ - 3 hours every day. This, in my estimation, is what was needed to make my hips "normal" again. Do you have to emulate this "out there" practice? No. Absurd. To keep your body flexible and fit, all you'd likely need is three or four 90-minute sessions per week.

During our trip to Russia this summer, my mom (who hadn't seen me in ten years) told me, "You look as if you have taken a mold and reshaped and sculpted yourself!" No mold required, I assure you. Your body, when optimally nourished, is the best architect available. It can make some pretty fabulous improvements all by itself--if you give it the right materials to work with.

Personally, even for gaining weight, I would not go for cooked grains and stir-fried vegetables. If you are having a difficult time with the 100 percent raw vegan diet, consider an alternative that I discuss in great detail in my book Raw Food and Hot Yoga. If you need to rekindle your passion for raw foods, read or re-read my books. I stand behind every argument I made there.

If incorporating some cooked foods works for someone, who am I to throw stones? For myself, I can't imagine it. Not an option for me. But it may be just the thing to bring someone else back into balance. And once again I say: So be it! The point is to be creative in our approach to health...always willing to learn...to adapt...to try new things as our needs evolve. So long as we have free will...and so long as our needs, goals, ambitions--not to mention our bodies--are individual...so are our choices. May you make yours wisely!

Here is an email I've just received and felt compelled to share with you:

Dear Tonya, I'm glad you're addressing the matter of 100 % raw. I find cooked food so wildly unaesthetic and ruined, I never want it. ...It's so important to understand that doctors don't study health. They study medicine. Would a patient continue to visit his doctor if the doctor had taught him how to be healthy? I'm so grateful to be living free of doctors and their tests for the past 40 vegan years.

Amazing rejuvenation has happened since I no longer eat at night since last February. It's been a whole year. I'm more secure than ever in the knowledge that healing happens if we just give it a chance instead of eating and digesting at all hours as I used to do. And I used to think that if it was raw, that was good enough. Exclusively raw during the day is a thousand times better.