Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How to define "Normal"

Boy, wouldn't everyone like that definition!  Actually, what I'm getting at is how our beliefs are the foundations for our decisions.  Everything we chose gets put through our internal scales with plus and minus pebbles getting dropped in the decisions making pans. 

Some decisions are a snap because one of the belief pebbles is more like a boulder and would require some heavy chiseling to make it less important so to have less weight.  Say you are a firmly devout person to your religion and you've been asked to break a covenant of your faith?  Your mind will instantaneously return "no" as your answer.  To break with your firm faith would require more than a one-step request to change.  

Other decisions are so evenly balanced that making them requires tremendous mental anguish and effort to come to a conclusion; or with close balance sometimes we don't really care one way or another, like when chosing what's for dinner some nights with no strong cravings in place.  

Examples that come to mind on hard decisions are the mental games we play with food.  Looking down a menu, we see food we should eat that is healthy and good for our bodies, food we shouldn't eat but tastes wonderful to us, and food that is a compromise, that has some good and some not so good for us ingredients in it, like those darn Pecan Chicken Salads where they bascially serve you fried chicken without the bone on lettuce and other lovely vegetables drown in dressing.  Tasty, and it's "a salad" but devistating to the waistline.

The hard balance come when our convictions about what we are eating waivers.  Cravings step in, and then our mental justifications step in.  We become the most amazing sales people on the face of the planet, selling ourselves on the large pizza or double-stuffed hamburger so it would fit into our eating plan (though it really wouldn't).  Or, we play the balancing game of food swapping, a healthy dinner so I can have a big, bad dessert even though I'm not supposed to have sugar or I won't get the cheese stuffed-crust meatza pizza, just a regular pepperoni.  Marketers and menu makers are a clever species that knows how to have off-thescale offerings that make the not-so-good choices look OK in comparison.

So how does all this tie into defining normal?  People tend to be self-centric.  When we think, it is most always about how things impact us.  Will she like me?  Does this suit me?  Am I right?  and so on.  And when we ask these self-centric questions, we base our answers on our beliefs.  We develop our beliefs to create baseline rules to structure our world.  These baselines are what defines "normal" for us, because we all know each of us is quite balanced and normal through and through.
What I'm asking from today's post is to start questioning your definition of "normal" in connection to food.  I had to ask myself that question when I approached the idea of following a raw food diet.  To me, and most of the world, cooked food is "normal".  It is how you prepare most food.  I could hear the pebbles hitting the "belief in cooking food" pan like rain hitting a rooftop.  But, then I stopped.  I realized that my belief was based on what I grew up with and what most of society considered "normal", which is a cooked food diet with meat, vegetables, eggs, dairy/cheeses, fruits, wheat, soy, yeasts, and nuts/seeds.  Why is that normal?  Is there something that could not be normal about eating foods in their natural state?  Why couldn't that be "normal"?  In fact, wouldn't that be more "normal" than cooking food?

Some of the proponents of raw food cite our great, great ancestors and their food ways as the basis on why the body accepts raw foods better than cooked foods.  Before we became an agricultural society, we hunted and gathered with an emphasis on gathering.  Most food was gathered up each day.  Very little was stored for long periods of time because nature did a better job of keeping it fresh on the vine, in the tree or in the ground.  Most was eaten in its natural form because pots, pans, water supply, fire, a safe and stable place to cook, having time to cook it, those things just didn't exist.  Nomadic and in preservation-mode from all other beasties, humans truly ate "fast food".  They had to gather and eat while protecting themselves from predators.  They needed something that could go up the tree with them easily, yet keep them nourished, and it better not need cooking! 

For tens of thousands of years, this is how humans ate.  Our genetic fitness was reproduced by those who could survive and thrive on raw, natural state foods.  It wasn't until full domestication of people into agriculture that cooking and meat became more common.  When we didn't have to hunt for a cow, beef appeared on the table more often and grains for breads became standard "staff of life" food because humans were in one place for a whole season to raise and protect the grain. These foods were rare for our ancient ancestors who's bodies had been honed to be good extractors of nutrients from uncooked, natural foods. 

In today's world, all food for most people comes a domesticated source.  It is the rare person who hunts and gathers their food, and they are often seen as way out of the norm.  In this world of domesticated food, we have seen diseases take over our bodies.  Not just opportunistic disease by bacteria and viruses, but self-creating disease like autoimmune disease where the body actually attacks itself; the anti-thesis of what the body's self-preservation and healing mechanisms are designed to do.  In the industrialized world, humans have become so detached from food sources and its purpose to the body that our physicians first seek chemical medications to cure our ills over returning to the body's time-ingrained program of how it extracts nutrients and the  way to feed it, as well as what happens to food's nutrients that alter when we plunge them into heat.  It is labeled "not normal" in society if we return to eating food in their natural state, that may be a means to permit the body to do what its programmed to do, self-preserve and heal itself. 

For years, I've been reluctant to accept food as a method of medicine, primarily because I experimented and never saw it work or had the results that I've seen by following a drastic change, such as a raw diet.  I, like many other people who have weight to lose, tried the most popular, mainstream, MD based programs.  I followed Zone, Adkins, South Beach, and others.  These all re-portion or remove parts of a normal cooked diet.  The one thing I had never tried, in large quantity, was to remove the chemistry in the food process; that is remove the heating and the processing factors in the food I eat. 

After reaching these conclusions, I needed re-define "normal" for me in regard to food.  In my prior posting about Drastic vs. Subtle Change, this was a drastic change.  I would be required to turn my back on what American society and most of the world saw as the "normal" way to eat.  But, it is society that create that "normal" and it is my choice to change "normal" for me.

When faced with the Elimination Diet for Allergies two years ago, I found it difficult to stay with it for the 4 weeks required to cleanse the body before testing food groups for allergic reaction or sensitivity.  I'd sit at the table where my family was eating all the "normal" food, and I was eating off a very, very finite list of foods, though cooked, often did not look, feel or taste like theirs.  I felt restricted.  I felt negated from things I wanted and were "normal" to have.  Somehow, this sense of negation changed when I understood the raw foods concepts.

When I took on raw food June 1st, I also started developing a new definition of "normal" for me.  What happened is that instead of looking at the table and thinking, "That is my way of eating and I should be able to have anything in the category of my way of eating food", I could look at the table and say, "that's nice and good smelling stuff, but its not food for me.  It will not heal me or keep me well".  When I considered and thought of myself as a person who ate cooked foods all the time, elimination was deprivation.  Out of 100% of the cooked foods possible to eat, I was not permitted to eat 40-50% of them.  I could not partake of what others were so joyously partaking.

When I shifted my beliefs to say "eating food in it's natural state, uncooked, is my way of eating" it made almost all of foods not permitted, but it also became my medicine.  To not eat raw foods is like not taking my prescribed medications as agreed upon with my physicians.  To have my health fail for the sole reason of not taking those medications is my fault.  To not eat raw, which has shown to take away my need of diabetic medications, would be like turning my back on a medication that has the power to heal me. 

As discussed above, humans have an amazing ability to justify, but we have thresholds on where we'll draw a line. The closer the line is to the waffling point, the easier it is to justify a bad choice. As with drastic change, it is easier to tell yourself something is not possible because it is 99.9% against your beliefs in place of 40%.   We all have 1% cravings. :)

 It is harder to say no to something that is just on the other side of the prohibited line (pancakes are carbs, I'll just eat less of other carbs today...one step justification), in place of saying no to something that is 10 steps away and requires justifications to take each step towards the bad choice (pancakes are 1) cooked ingredients - not a raw food, 2) wheat - not elimination allergy diet, 3) dairy, ditto - not EAD, 4) egg, - ditto, 5) syrup - need we say more!).  

The proverbial raw fudge icing on the hazelnut chocolate cake is when food must be medicine.  It is much easier to list the 10 steps and see how bad the choice would be to my health against the instant gratification of pancakes.  Are pancakes worth dying for?  I don't think so, anymore.

Within a few day after June 1st and my diabetes started improving so quickly, my "normal" - my conviction toward raw food - became a boulder, not a pebble.  I could see direct, immediate impact of drastically changing how my food was prepared to how my health changed.  Fourteen days after making this change, I no longer need diabetic medications to manage my blood sugars, this while taking in more carbs than I have in years.  By committing to eliminate almost all cooked food, and I received the gift I wanted...better health.

Could this experiment fail in the long run?  Yes.  Is it too soon to know if my diabetes with adjust and flare up on a raw diet too?  Yes, it is possible.  But for now, I'm going to follow the plan because I physically feel stronger and healthier, more satisfied after I eat, and have the additional benefit of not taking diabetic medications for as long as this may last.  My hope is it will only increase and I'll get to kiss the prednisone, the Cogan's, the daily bad health good-bye until the end of life as I know it!


  1. Hey, back from Vegas. I see where you are coming from in the new foods -> new diseases but I do not know if that is fully true. I mean back in the day of raw humans didnt really have the ability to know what diseases they had and their life expectancy was so much shorter than it is today. Obviously since we live much longer now then we used to our bodies are going to go through different changes. I do not disagree that some of the chemicals that are put into food today could easily be a reason or at least a helping cause for some diseases.

    It is great to see that you are doing so well. I keep wondering, how is all this food calorie wise? Are you having a hard time tracking it now?

  2. Good point. I think from the reading, the writer is noting the changes from recent escalations (such as since the industrial age). But even then, you point is true that we'll never know fully the severity of anything in the past in comparison to what we know today with undiagnosed or unidentified illness.

    The calories are very good. I've been the lowest registered since I started MFD. These days I'm pushing 1100 to 1200 where I would eat back all my cal's to keep it to 1600 before. I feel very content food wise and know I have room to eat more if I need it.

    One of the points about raw foodism and foodist, as they call them, is that they understand 100% is very rare. People can't sustain it and have a social life. Anyone who politics for raw seeks only to have friends and family, etc. add more raw foods to their diet. Make one meal a day raw food, preferable a juice or a blended drink (better access to the nutrient, supposedly). I can give you a few fruit and veggie combinations if you have a blender at home. You can try them in the privacy of the humble hovel and see if you like it. They are mostly low cal, unless you get a highly sweet fruit involved. Let me know if you'd like some and I'll post them on my MFD blog for you to pick up!