A few weeks ago, I went to a press conference for a new detox offered by Balnea Spa called “The Cure”. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting those few hours to convince me to make any drastic changes in my life, let alone forgo cooked foods entirely. But somehow, this cheeseburger-eating, beef tartare-loving, pasta and pizza-addicted vegan virgin became a raw foodist. Somewhere in between raw food chef Naïby Jacques dropping knowledge bomb after statistic, after value-shaking fact about the benefits of eating raw and the detriments of the typical North American diet (did you know that the molecules in cow milk are actually too large for the human body to absorb? And that we’re the only species that consumes another species’ milk?) and naturopath Claudel Hamel qualifying the putrification left over in our bodies by meat, dairy and processed foods as “garbage filling up your house,” I found myself committing to not only informing our readers about this detox but to actually doing it myself. Plus, it seemed like a good opportunity to do a litmus test on my level of discipline.
So the next day, I promptly removed meat, dairy and wheat from my diet (and thoughts) and said goodbye to my stove for the next three weeks. For those wondering what a raw food diet involves (which included myself three weeks ago, when I posed a tweet asking whether someone on a raw food diet can consume alcohol), it basically means consuming only what comes from the earth, and is untouched by any form of processing. In other words, no meat, no gluten, no dairy, no grains, no canned goods, no sugar and nothing packaged or processed, which leaves raw fruits, raw vegetables, seeds and sprouts. Sounds like fun, right?
As the standard North American eater would understand, this switchover makes for a rather shocking jolt to the system. My first few detox days came with their fair share of headaches – literally. I was weak, tired, forgetful, and my head felt like it was on a permanent Six Flags roller-coaster. A few days in, I was able to add breakouts to that lovely list of side effects. But after 25 years of consuming toxin-packed foods, this part made perfect sense. All of those pent up toxins were coursing through my system and to be quite honest, all I wanted was a cupcake. Or six. Speaking of cupcakes, there were cheat days in this three week period – two, to be exact. Full disclosure, there was one night of drinking, and one unavoidable press event held by Le Chop (which I have to say, was worth the guilt that ensued). But to be fair, Balnea’s plan calls for a diet of only 70% raw foods, which lessened my Jewish guilt some. (Thanks, mom!)
There was a light at the end of this dark, queasy tunnel though. After about a week and a half, the headaches started to fade, the cravings disappeared almost entirely, and I felt better than I had in a long, long time. All of the stomach sensitivities I had suffered from pre-detox were gone, which is especially interesting since the number one comment I heard from family and friends was “but that will be so hard on your stomach!” The other finger that tends to be pointed at the raw diet? Cost. Sure, my wallet took a pounding in the first few days from investing in staples like sprouted lentils, chia seeds, gluten-free soy sauce, etc. However, buying groceries for the rest of the month was no more expensive than my normal trips to Loblaws were. The difference was that instead of Loblaws, I was shopping at Rachelle-Béry, and instead of buying bread, frozen foods, meat, fish, and dairy products, I was only buying fruits, vegetables, and non-dairy alternatives. More frequent (2-3 times per week), but no more expensive. Plus, this diet almost entirely rules out restaurant eating, so that $30 spent on sushi weekly was restored to my budget, too.
The main challenge was staying interested in the food I was eating. After the first week, once kale and avocado had lost their allure, I started to feel like I was taking the same five ingredients and just moulding them into different shapes – salad, lettuce wraps, cabbage cups… I won’t lie, by week three I wanted to throw my carefully crafted salads out of my 3rd story window. But all things considered, this is a pretty minor downside, and sites like Detoxinista and Rawesome helped, as did Crudessence for take-out and Righteously Raw Maca Bar for [inevitable] chocolate cravings. My digestion was way better, I had more energy, my skin looked brighter – oh, and I lost those five pounds that had found me over the holidays. I think it’s safe to say the benefits far outweighed the detriments of this detox. Just one bit of advice: if you do decide to try your own raw food detox, spare yourself the masochism and stay far away from Instagram, Foodspotting and other food porn hubs. You will thank me later.
Browse our gallery for some yummy raw recipe ideas.