Typically, on the raw food diet, about 75 to 80 percent of what you eat each day will be plant-based foods never heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sometimes it’s denial that causes unfortunate decisions. Throughout my medical journey, there have been many options for treatment. Soon those options faded, leaving only treatments unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration. These treatments were diets, which we often find appealing because they make us want to look, feel and simply be better. In many cases, diets are necessary – and the one thing that can save an individual from painstaking medical experiences. Hundreds of diets are on the market, and many come with catchy appeals. When a diet can save someone, is it worth a try?
It all began one day when we were running out of allopathic treatment options. I have ulcerative colitis, and my disease was becoming more and more active by the day. Our final option was to get a colectomy (full removal of the colon). This was a defeating option because there is no “colon transplant,” so once it’s gone, it’s gone. My mother called a homeopathic (natural-based healing) office, and thus began our adventure to solve my unsolvable disease. The homeopathic doctor – who I’ll call Dr. Smith to preserve her privacy – told us of all her great adventures treating patients and supposedly curing their problems. She was in shock that I hadn’t tried diets seriously, and as a result, I was prescribed numerous diets that would hopefully cure my disease, if not put me into remission.
“Sugar,” I recall her saying. “This supplemental drink you’re having right now has 19 grams of sugar. Sugar is inflammatory, and you’ll be regulating your sugar intake with natural sugars only from now on.”
I didn’t complain because, after years of drinking supplemental drinks, they caused me to have more nausea than a pregnant woman. But then she went on.
“Gluten is also not going to be part of your diet because it will ultimately roll up into a ball and sit in your stomach, and that’s not good for your ulcers,” Dr. Smith said. “You’ll also need to refrain from excessive salt and oil for the next couple months.”
My mother was all up for it, and I walked out of the office with my jaw on the ground. I couldn’t believe such a diet could even be remotely possible! This experience foreshadowed what was to come in the next couple years. My mother and I went to the nearest nutrition store and bought everything from cardboard to plain plastic and I ate it, simply horrified. So the diet began, and I was craving food I wouldn’t have even considered prior to being introduced to the diets. I was on numerous diets at once, but refraining from certain foods was making me feel crazy.
The gluten-free diet was flaky and tasteless, and it nearly brought me to insanity by the end of the second month. Combined with additional restrictions, I lost weight quickly. I didn’t have an appetite then anyway, and having to refrain from essential taste-bud pleasers made me choose to skip meals instead. When my weight continued dropping and my health didn’t improve, we stopped the diet. We went back to Dr. Smith once more to get her opinion. She talked about a no-processed food diet, which was manageable, although not ideal.
“I will also be prescribing you homeopathic medicine that will help on top of the no-processed food diet,” she said convincingly. “You see, processed foods contain chemicals that alter the body system.”
We tried it, and unsurprisingly, nothing had happened after a few months. At the same time, I was still on allopathic medications. Unfortunately, my parents and I were in severe denial that I needed to get my colon removed, and we were going to try anything to save it. We stopped going to Dr. Smith, and my mom searched online for anything that could revive my body. She finally came across a renowned raw food diet blog, which ended up leading to a year and a half of pure misery and resentment. The raw food diet is a drastic option that, my mom told me, has brought many people into remission.
At one point, I remember asking, a bit sarcastically, if I could get some real food to eat. “I washed some peaches and plums,” my mom said. I ate them, and they were actually really delicious, but then I was presented with steamed sweet potatoes and avocados – and no salt, which prompted my complaints. The next day, I was given fiber-free vegetables and fruits, and they were all in raw forms only. No baking, just steaming or freshly sliced. During this period, my mother frequently found me sneaking in the cabinet to have a gluten-free pretzel or two. We were terrified about what would happen if this diet didn’t work.
Eventually, my mom and I went to a health center in California that offered natural-based healing. We made the extreme decision to visit this center because the allopathic treatments had failed me, and there was nothing left to try before the permanent, final option. At the health center, I would eat a simple diet consisting of no salt, sugar or overly cooked items. The facility was mostly based on the raw food diet, but there were also slightly cooked meals for patients like me who couldn’t tolerate uncooked vegetables.
Soon after my arrival, while exploring the neighborhood, I remember stealing cookies from an open house because I was so desperate for food.
Every day while I was at the center, the doctor took vitals such as blood pressure and measured my weight. Each day I lost weight, and each day we became increasingly nervous. When I arrived at the health center, I weighed a little over 6o pounds, and by the end of the second week, I was 57 pounds – far too little for a 13-year-old either-grader.
The weight loss became a concern for my dad, a doctor, who was trying to monitor my health long distance, as well as my doctor at Riley Hospital for Children, who wasn’t overly supportive of this extreme natural food diet but thought it was OK to try. I had to keep myself extremely mentally strong because my body was going through a withdrawal stage of all the chemicals and “bad stuff” in processed foods. But still we continued to wonder – and hope: Was it too late to reverse my disease? Could it even be reversed?
During a class at the center, I remember one physician saying: “No salt. No sugar. No oil. No processing. All natural.”
I thought to myself: Do I want to live like this for the rest of my life?
Ultimately, it became clear that the raw food diet wouldn’t control my disease, and my mom and I left the health center earlier than expected.
My weight was too low at the time – 57 pounds was beyond unacceptable. Before we headed out of California, we went to a restaurant and I had a buttery, salty grilled cheese sandwich that couldn’t have tasted any better.
Trying these diets took two years, but it did give my family a sense of comfort; we knew we had tried everything before deciding to have my colon removed. Plus, we learned a lot about the amount of processed foods that surround us and how natural diets are proven to keep people considerably healthier. Something good always comes out of a negative situation. And even though this diet was just buying time, I learned important information about food intake that’s impacted my food choices to this day. I’m still grateful to have tried the raw food diet and encourage anyone to try their last options before deciding to undergo their final option – be it a colectomy surgery, like me, or something else.