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Reflections on Being Raw and Vegan

(after reading Raw Freedom by Frederic Patenaude)

Guest Writer, Joanna Slodownik –

I’ve just received the Raw Freedom package, and – after I’ve been reading through the chapters that caught my attention – I’d like to share a few thoughts with you.

First, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’ve followed Frederic’s career for many years now. I found him after I read the 80/10/10 diet and I was searching for more information about the high fruit, low fat raw food diet. Over the years, I really enjoyed reading his blog, and I appreciated his honesty and directness. Also, I’m passionate about living an internet lifestyle doing what I love, so I’ve been following his advice in this area– writing ebooks, building audience, etc. (I recommend Frederic’s course “How to write your ebook” – if you’ve been stuck and overwhelmed, it will surely get you going).

Although I’ve been interested in raw foods and the benefits of eating a high-raw diet for health, I’ve never been 100% raw. After I discovered green smoothies, I’ve been drinking them religiously every day – and lots of them, but other than that I’ve been eating a pretty average diet (although, definitely on the healthy side, when compared to the American standard).

I’ve been trying to reduce the cooked foods, experimenting with raw recipes, but in the end, I decided it’s not practical or feasible – especially if you have kids and a husband who wants to eat “normal” food. So, I’m very much in agreement with Frederic about incorporating cooked foods in a healthy diet.

Where I somewhat disagree with Frederic is on the issue of veganism. Let me explain.

Reflections On Being Vegan

I’d been debating the issue of eating meat for many years. I’d been curious about being vegetarian and tried several times to go off meat completely, but it just never happened. The idea of being vegan was not even on my radar until I started experimenting with raw foods – it just seemed too hard, complicated, and even…weird. Because of the pressure of those around me, as well as the lack of strong motivation – I always succumbed to the temptation of a piece of meat, a slice of pizza, or a bowl of ice cream.

However, I kept digging deeper and deeper. I really needed some definitive answers; for myself and my readers, as people started to come to me for advice on what to eat.

After lots of research and soul searching, here is the conclusion that I reached.

Framing the issue only in terms of health, taste and convenience, is why a lot of people are still stuck in the “animal food” mode, even if they may be ready to make a shift to more compassionate living and eating.

I know, because I was stuck for 46 years. Deep down, I knew there was enormous suffering associated with animal foods, but I was dismissing this issue, blocking it from entering my consciousness. After all, this is what everyone else is eating. Not eating these foods is inconvenient and makes you different.

But then, something began to shift. I started reading more about the environmental impact of raising animals for food, as well as the terrible conditions that most of these animals have to endure their entire lives. I still wasn’t convinced. I started buying “humanely raised” animal products and organic dairy. Then I read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Fowler and that was it. I mastered the courage to watch some of the footage on the websites of Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, and Meet Your Meat. That is also when I found the inspiring podcast “Vegetarian Food For Thought” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, The Compassionate Cook (highly recommended!).

Even though I’ve been vegan for only a year (and some of you may dismiss me as a “new vegan,” and say, that I’ll probably go back to eating meat soon); there is no going back for me. It’s been such an incredible experience, spiritually uplifting and transforming all the areas of my life and how I view the world and the animals that share this world with us.

I too believed that the change is hard. I too was doubtful about the safety of this diet. I too read about people who failed on vegan diet and went back to eating meat. I was afraid to even try. I didn’t believe I could make it work.

But I’m doing it, and it’s so worth it.

For those of you who are still debating the issue, I want to offer the following points to consider:
Vegan diet is a healthy diet for humans. As you’ll read in Frederic’s book, this diet is sustainable and health promoting. Even the American Dietetic Association says so, and this is not an institution that supports “fad” diets. Our bodies don’t require animal foods to get the nutrients we need. And if we need to take a few supplements, that’s fine too. (Ever wonder, where do cows who are not fed on grass get their calcium? They get it from supplements, because otherwise their milk would be deficient in this important nutrient. So why not skip the “middle cow” and go right to the source – plant foods. Or simply take the supplement, and leave the cows alone.)

Meat is not unhealthy (if eaten in moderation); however, to frame the issue in terms of personal choice or personal preference is not enough. It implies that there is no “other” being hurt for our culinary pleasure or convenience.

Animals are not here for us to exploit them. They feel pain and suffering, just as we do, and they want to live. Even the so-called humanely raised animals, still suffer. (Do you know what happens to the male chicks on egg farms, whether organic or conventional? They are either milled alive, or left to suffocate in garbage bags.)

The fact that there has never been a vegan culture in the world (Frederic talks about it in his Raw Freedom – as plant foods are not available year-round in many places), is indisputable, but it doesn’t mean that we cannot make it work in the modern world. We have the resources and technology. I mean, I’m drinking green smoothies with bananas, berries and greens year round, and I’m in New Jersey, US. There are no banana trees here or berries in the winter.

You don’t have to sacrifice your deepest values of compassion to stay healthy. You also don’t have to sacrifice taste. (Although you may have to sacrifice convenience a bit.) Eating a diet of mostly raw, as well as cooked vegetables, greens, fruits, mushrooms, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains provides enough calories, micro-nutrients, as well as variety – that making compassionate choices is easy. These days, you can find vegan cheeses, meats, burgers, ice-creams and cupcakes – not the healthiest foods, but much more compassionate choices, if you want them. (I’m not loving vegan meats or cheeses, but the cherry-chocolate soy based ice-cream I buy at Trader Joe’s is to die for).

If there are health issues that arise, it’s now possible to find a health practitioner who understands plant-based nutrition enough, to be able to help us in a way that would not sacrifice our values. I highly recommend books by Dr. Joel Fuhrman if you want a doctor-prescribed diet.

Change is slow and unpopular. There are many examples throughout the history. Just a few hundred years ago, slavery was viewed as normal. It does take time and determination, but as more as more people make the switch, the choices will only increase, making it easier for everybody else.

As Frederic says in his book: “Would be vegans and raw foodists have never had it better. But they should consider themselves pioneers and experimenters, and remember how unusual our modern food situation is in the historical context.”

We are so proud of our progress in other areas, so why not put compassion back into the equation. Once we know better, we can do better, so let’s!

About Joanna. Joanna is a green smoothie enthusiast and the founder of website, dedicated to spreading the message about how healthy and compassionate food choices can help heal our body and the planet.

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets.