Full disclosure: I’ve never gone on a diet before. Ever. I’ve always said that I love food too much to limit what I can eat and when. But then for some unfathomable reason, a few weeks ago I got it into my head that it would be a fun experiment to go on a raw food diet for a week. It just couldn’t be that hard.
I’ve never been more wrong in my entire life. I don’t know if I’d gone too far down the Pinterest rabbit hole or been influenced by the Whole Foods less than a tenth of a mile from my dorm room, but the idea of going on a raw food diet took hold. Part of me thought I would find some new favorite foods, and another part of me wanted to prove that fad diets didn’t really work.
For weeks I simultaneously planned to take the plunge and put off diving in. As I pinned countless recipes, I was also pushing the diet further and further into the future. First it was a club lacrosse tournament, then it was the Duke-UNC basketball game. Why did I think a basketball game would interfere with a diet? I have no idea.
When I finally settled on a week for this challenge, I told myself that I wouldn’t let anything stop me. I began assembling supporters/witnesses. Two friends had tried raw diets a few weeks earlier, so I tried to con them into joining me again with no luck.
The best summary of their raw food diets was eating a plain avocado with a spoon at 2 am on a Thursday because they needed energy to study but didn’t have the time to make anything. That’s one of the things nobody tells you about eating raw—the amount of time you spend preparing food is staggering.
Somehow, I managed to delude a few other girls on my club lacrosse team into thinking that we could tackle the raw food diet. Not only is our lacrosse team also known as an eating team, but one of the friends who agreed to it is probably the biggest carnivore I know. She orders steak like her dad, who tells the waitress to “walk it through a warm room” before she brings it out.
After rallying friends to join me in my challenge, I gathered my wits and supplies about me. There was a GroupMe to keep us accountable, a Pinterest board full of recipes, a Google Doc with a meal plan and an exhaustive grocery list.
Some of the things needed for the recipes I had pinned were unreasonable for me to buy—a dehydrator? A noodle spiralizer? Does anybody besides a food blogger or somebody with a serious foodstagram own these things?
After a long and tiring trip to Target and Whole Foods, I was nearly ready. Looking at my stocked fridge, I was starting to get nervous, and then I binged on everything I knew that I couldn’t eat on the diet. Which, in retrospect, entirely negates the purpose of it.
The next morning, a Monday, things couldn’t have started off worse. I woke up feeling sick, and after a trip to Urgent Care (long story short, the next day I came down with the flu), I managed to whip up a smoothie. In a dorm room, however, you can’t really whip much of anything up.
First, I had to go to the bathroom sink to wash my fruit, then I had to go back to my room to blend it in my food processor and then I had to wash the food processor in the bathroom again. Since this was all done in the name of journalism, I had to wait for my lovely photographer to get a good shot of my smoothie—and then I could drink my half-melted smoothie out of the photogenic mason jar that didn’t hold nearly as much smoothie as I would have liked.
Smoothies were good—I like smoothies. But just a few hours after eating my breakfast, I was hungry again. When I tried to snack on a few almonds and dried cranberries, my friend and photographer Sydney took both foods away from me; the almonds were pasteurized, which isn’t technically raw, and the dried cranberries had added sugar. I think that this was the universe’s early indicator of how incompatible I am with a raw food diet.
When it came to lunch time, I was actually excited. We made a delicious tomato, cucumber, pear and avocado salad. I waited patiently for Sydney to return from class, she snapped a few photos and I happily ate my meal. This was a meal I would eat again, except I would probably also add some goat cheese—forbidden on a raw diet.
Later in the day, when I wanted another snack, Sydney gave me these things called “tiger nuts” to try. Hesitantly, I reached into the package that proclaimed the wonders of the nuts of our ancestors and bit down, almost undoing thousands of dollars of dental work in the process. These things looked like deer poop and tasted like what I imagine the tree bark to taste like.
It was helpfully suggested that we try soaking them in some water. Little did I know, soaking food is essential to the raw experience. Hours later, we tried the tiger nuts again. They had improved slightly in both taste and texture, but an improvement upon awful doesn’t mean much. Safe to say, we never ate tiger nuts again and instead took to hiding them in each other’s rooms as a game.
At this point in the day, I decided to attack raw “lasagna” for dinner. Those quotes around the word lasagna are completely necessary. The “noodles” were zucchini, the “cheese” was made of cashews and the “meat” was ground up walnuts. The only real-ish things in this lasagna were the sauce and the pesto, but even those somehow tasted off, despite having all of the ingredients they were supposed to have.
I diligently soaked all of the things I was supposed to, from sun-dried tomatoes to walnuts. Raw “cooking” means you can’t use any heat, so in order to make things palatable, hours of soaking are sometimes required. This leaves food feeling slightly soggy, which I wouldn’t necessarily describe as a pleasant experience.
I got to making the cashew cheese and I gave up. I straight up threw in the towel, called it quits and phoned home. It looked and tasted nothing like cheese. It turns out that I don’t like cashews, and I like real cheese too much to accept a bad substitute.
I didn’t end up eating the “lasagna,” and instead cut up some fruit, threw a cup of Easy Mac in the microwave and called it a day. I made it less than 20 hours…12 if you count the time I spent sleeping.
Now, a few weeks later, I have (mostly) recovered and resolved that I’m never going on a diet again. What did I learn from my short (and certainly not sweet) venture? I affirmed my love for avocado and was not surprised to find out that I’m not a huge fan of raw zucchini. In fact, I’m not really a huge fan of any uncooked vegetable unless it’s being dipped in hummus or cheese fondue.
My one day experience supported my problem with fad diets—changing your routine for a small amount of time doesn’t mean anything in the long run. Restrictive diets aren’t helpful if you binge eat forbidden foods before and after the diet. Real health comes with a lifestyle change. It is, however, a good way to kickstart some healthy eating habits and get you used to eating with discipline (something I clearly receive a failing grade in).
The only lasting negative effect of my brief dip into the world of raw food is that my suggested pins on Pinterest are all of insanely healthy food, instead of my preferred brownies, cake balls and chocolate chip cookies.
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