August 25, 2020

I Went Raw Vegan & I’m not a “Dirty Hippie.”

Melissa Steussy

When I say raw vegan, what’s the first image that pops into your head?

I picture a guy sitting under a coconut tree, maybe with dreadlocks, wearing dirty clothes.

He may have a certain aroma and possibly hasn’t bathed in a long while.

I am a 40-something-year-old woman. I am a professional woman. I am a mother. I bathe regularly and live in the suburbs.

My journey to raw veganism came slowly, but then pretty wildly abrupt at the same time.

About 15 years ago, I heard a friend mention they were going to only eat raw foods. I was like, “What? What do you mean?”

He said he was going to live off of fruit, vegetables, avocados, and raw nuts. It literally blew my mind!

That interaction stuck with me.

Years before, I had read a book by Marilu Henner (from “Taxi“) of all people, called Total Health Makeover. This was in 1999, and I just birthed a baby boy. I was reading all about attachment parenting, and breastfeeding, and trying to decipher what I felt was right, versus all of the advice I was getting from well-intentioned friends and family.

My baby boy was getting one ear infection after another, and while reading this book, it was revealed to me the dangers and harmfulness of dairy, namely cow’s milk.

I was breastfeeding exclusively and asked my pediatrician if I should stop consuming milk. She laughed it off and said it wouldn’t make a difference. I followed my gut and quit dairy and miraculously, he never got another ear infection from sixth months on. He grew up not drinking cow’s milk and turned into a happy, healthy (now) adult. 

I lived in Seattle and loved getting latte’s (and this was before dairy-free milks were available), so I would definitely partake in fancy coffees made with dairy and really didn’t think twice about it throughout my 20s.

In my 30s, I took some classes in college that opened my eyes to the meat and dairy industry. Through books and documentaries, namely “Forks over Knives” and “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” I gave up meat and dairy. I began juicing and learning more about the effects of meat and dairy on our bodies’ health and longevity.

I looked at my genes. I had a mom who had died at 55 of alcoholism and type 1 diabetes. I had a father who died at 59 of cancer. My grandparents died early due to alcoholism, cancer, and heart disease.

How could I break these chains?

My whole family lived for meat and dairy. My mom lived on fast food. I knew I had to break a cycle.

I had stopped drinking alcohol at 21. I had ventured in and out of “healthy eating,” but what could I really do to heal all of the damage that had already been done to my body?

I had given up fast food already, and had switched from red meat to ground turkey, but I didn’t have hard lines drawn. I was easily swayed into eating something that didn’t align with my new values.

I had switched to a pescatarian diet in 2012 and was steadily aiming toward veganism. I had books about raw foods and juicing, but it was more of a once in a while type diet that would fade as soon as I saw something delicious I wanted or craved.

I transitioned to veganism in 2017, after gaining 30 pounds and feeling pretty scared about my weight and lifestyle. I was having dairy on pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese, cheese sticks, and eating eggs and fish. I desperately wanted to take dairy out of my diet, but thought I couldn’t possibly give it up.

I did a cross country move. Where I had previously lived, there were Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and people were more health-conscious.

I felt better somehow about doing my part as a pescatarian. When I moved to the Midwest in the literal middle of nowhere, I started attending family gatherings where there was an actual pig at a barbecue. Everyone was drinking soda and eating so much processed food.

I started to get lazy about my ethics and eating habits. I still felt better than those around me. I ate a hot dog over the fire on a camping trip and then had another.

Something in me woke up. I was just disgusted. I quit. I once and for all quit meat and dairy that day—August 28, 2017.

I lived in a tiny town with no vegan options, and I made it. I now live in a more suburban area with loads of options, which sometimes may not be better.

Having no vegan options or restaurants forced me to be more mindful of making myself something before heading out to a gathering or to run errands. I couldn’t just grab something while I was out. It was awkward and uncomfortable showing up with my own food to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but I did it.

Now, being where there are a lot of vegan options in restaurants and at my grocery store, I had to try everything. The last two years, I have spent devouring the best vegan pizza, burgers, tacos—and just all of it.

It has been a blast, but it recently felt like it was time to make a change.

I took my own raw vegan challenge this summer and am almost a month in. Do I miss cooked food? I have had a craving for a big ol’ cooked sweet potato and some lentils, and so I might oblige after August, but I am truly learning so much about my body and my cravings. Did you know that toxins are stored in our fat cells? And there are parasites eating the food (sugars and starches) in our bellies?

That has just made me want to starve those guys by giving up all rice, grains, tortillas, breads, chips, and pizza.

I have had more energy. I have been more conscientious about what I am choosing to put into my one God-given body. I have been more thoughtful and more aware of my surroundings. It’s like I’m fasting and am more connected to my creator.

I have made new “online” raw vegan friends and found some great recipes and inspiring raw foodists—hello Mimi Kirk, you 81-year-old raw goddess!

I truly have been enjoying fixing my meals.

Right now, my favorite thing is to spiralize some zucchini and add tomatoes and an avocado with some Himalayan pink salt and some lemon juice, and just go to town on it.

I enjoy waking up and eating a melon or having a green smoothie. I love not limiting how much fruit I eat. I am learning about food combinations and how to get the best possible elimination (check out the Bristol stool chart).

It feels natural to me to be eating food from the earth. I love how easy it is to just pack up some fruit, veggies, nuts, and seeds and to head out for the day. I am thankful I am able to buy produce locally and enjoy the wonderful bounty that summer brings.

I am thankful to my body for carrying me this long and for the journey.

I am detoxing my body and mind, and I believe it has a ripple effect on the planet and our future generations.

Have you ever thought about partaking in a raw food diet? What has held you back from starting? I would love to know.


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