Archive for the ‘Raw Food Challenge’ Category

This post is an update on how I’ve been feeling since the raw food challenge and eliminating my medication. It’s lengthy, and personal, so I won’t be offended if you don’t read it. Feel free to check out some brownies or cake instead!

It’s been six months since I began the Raw Food Healing Challenge and I can’t believe how much my life has changed since then.

I’ll bet you’re wondering if I’m still eating mostly raw. No, I’m not. I was following a raw diet at the height of summer’s bounty, which made eating effortless and enjoyable. And while the raw food diet was an incredible challenge that allowed me to experiment out of my comfort zone, Jenn and I thought that it might not suit my constitution all year long.

I’m still having my green smoothies for breakfast, and eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables for snacks, but my lunches and dinners are typically cooked. Now that the weather has turned cold, I find myself turning to soups and stews on a regular basis.

What about the medication?

When the 28-day raw food challenge finished, I didn’t quite feel ready to stop taking medication. I felt I needed more time. By the end of the summer, I was confident enough to begin tapering off the meds.

Throughout the fall, I slowly lowered my dose and by November, I finished taking medication altogether. It’s been almost two months since I’ve swallowed my last pill.

So, how do I feel?

That’s a complicated question.

When I decided to try going without immunosuppressive medication, I was excited but also terrified. Would I end up in the hospital again? Would I become malnourished? Would I spend my days running to the bathroom?

Thankfully, most of these things haven’t happened (except for the hospital thing, where I ended up again after a school potluck that involved poor food combining and a lack of chewing on my part. Once again, a painful reminder to chew my food).

Mostly, though, my digestion seems to be chugging along quite nicely. It’s not perfect, but things haven’t changed for the worse.

What I wasn’t expecting was the repercussions of releasing my immune system from its longtime slumber. I was so focused on my gut it didn’t occur to me that there might be any other consequences.

Friends, I have had a cold since September that I can’t seem to shake. It sucks. Until November, my sinuses were so fogged I could barely think. My nose is always running. I cough all the time.

I have tried every natural healing method for the common cold. Problem is, there isn’t actually an infection there – I could lick your face and you wouldn’t get sick. My body is reacting to nothing. I’m like a child again, learning to distinguish between the innocuous  and harmful germs in daily life. Seventy percent of our immune system is in our digestive tract. And my gut, while on its way to healing, is still damaged.

The upside of all of this is my digestive system is rallying, it’s rising to meet the task. And what this has taught me is I need more patience, which has never been my strong suit.

And then the plot thickens…

As I began to taper my medication, I noticed I was developing a dysfunctional relationship with food.

I felt guilty about eating, even if it was something healthy.

I felt an immense pressure to eat perfectly.

I felt like no food was good enough – surely, I thought, there must be a healthier choice I should be making.

I worried that my ability to help people as a holistic nutritionist was dependent solely upon my ability to heal myself from Crohn’s disease. If I couldn’t do that, I was a fraud.

So I visited my medical doctor, who also happens to be a medical intuitive and is very knowledgeable about alternative therapies. She referred me to an energy healer. Now, if you had told me a year ago that I would be seeing an energy healer I would have snickered at you. But the experience was transformative.

As I worked with Georgie, we began to unravel that my obsession with food wasn’t really about food. It was about not feeling good enough. It was about my Type A personality and my relentless crusade to excel at everything. It was about my drive to succeed, which led me to two university degrees and a unfulfilling career.

Over the past year, I have tried to assimilate what I’ve learned at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition through my usual lens of logic, intellect, practicality and reason. And while much of my nutrition education has been evidence-based and scientific, an enormous part of this field is about being intuitive, emotional, sensitive and open. These are all qualities I have not developed, which is why I have been struggling.

What happens next?

Like many afflictions, an important first step is even acknowledging that you have a problem.

Now that I’ve done that, I feel an immense sense of peace. I feel far less stressed about my life and where it is headed, since I have more trust that I will end up where I need to be.

It seems ridiculously simple, but much of my emotional healing has come from actually calling attention to the negative, fearful, self-conscious thoughts that have consumed me. I ask myself, what am I trying to prove? Who am I trying to prove it to? The answer is never about pleasing others. It’s about not believing in myself.

I am now finished my studies at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. A requirement to graduate is a professional co-op placement. I am incredibly excited to be returning to my hometown of Toronto for three months, where I’ll intern with the team at Meghan Telpner Inc. Meghan is a holistic nutritionist who runs a successful cooking school, blog, online store and retreats. She’s also a popular television personality.

I haven’t spent longer than two weeks in Toronto for almost 10 years, and visits are always a whirlwind. Perhaps the most exciting part about returning home, aside from the internship, is the opportunity to reconnect with family and share all that I’ve learned in the last year with them. I can’t wait to cook for everyone! (If you’re in the neighbourhood – want to come over for dinner?)

Then, when I return to Vancouver in the spring, I’ll ramp up my freelance writing career and work on developing my nutrition business.

For the first time in many months, I am excited about what the future will bring. That doesn’t mean that the future is not scary for me, with plenty of unknowns. But I am more willing to live in the moment, be grateful for what I have and appreciate the opportunity to pursue my passions.

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? How do you handle it?


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I am responsible for the creation of my health. I, therefore, participated at some level in the creation of this illness.

Well, I made it.

Last week I completed one full month of eating (mostly) raw in the 28-Day Raw Food Healing Challenge.

It’s certainly been an interesting time – full of challenges and setbacks, but also significant personal growth and understanding.

How I feel

Although I’m a practical gal, a part of me thought after only a month I would experience some sort of Eureka ‘I’m cured!’ moment. Of course, that didn’t happen.

I will say that I’ve noticed a huge difference in my digestion after eating raw for four weeks, as compared to when I eat cooked food all the time. Usually after meals I experience some degree of bloating, stomach churning, indigestion and gas. With raw food, that rarely happened – unless I ate too much of it!

One thing I’ve realized is how I don’t eat mindfully, which has contributed to my digestive distress in the past. For example, I’ll often settle on the couch after supper to watch TV or a movie with my husband. Then I snack away on cashews or dried fruit and before I know it half the bag is gone and I’m left with a stomachache that makes it difficult to sleep.

Now, I’m paying far more attention to whether I’m actually hungry, or if I’m eating for some other reason. I give my stomach time to relax and digest – and that makes a huge difference.

The Highlights

Meal planning. I’ve never done any meal planning before and now I see how beneficial it is. Although I altered the plans slightly after I visited the hospital, for the most part I wasn’t standing in front of the fridge trying to cobble a meal together at the last minute. I shopped with a grocery list and when mealtimes arrived, plenty of healthy ingredients I needed were already in the fridge.

Raw food is easy. Raw food always seemed so mystical and magical to me. In reality, it’s super simple, and far easier than cooking or baking in many ways. And I appreciate not being a slave to the stove, especially when it’s warm out.

Salad isn’t so bad. I’ve always hated salad. But salad doesn’t have to be boring – there are plenty of ways to make it more interesting. You just need a little imagination. And preparing a salad without thinking you’re going to hate it helps, too.

Green smoothies are awesome. I start each day with one of these. Historically, I have never been on board with the green smoothies. Don’t get me wrong – I love my greens, I just didn’t have a hankering to drink them. After experimenting with different recipes, I found a few combinations that taste great and now, I can’t imagine giving them up.

The Challenges

The small bowel obstruction. My visit to the hospital was a huge blow, both physically and mentally. It disrupted my digestion, my energy levels, my positive outlook, my schoolwork and my blogging. Now, I’m feeling much better. The best I can do is move forward and hope that it never happens again.

Chewing. My small bowel obstruction was a very difficult, but effective, lesson in the importance of chewing my food. The obstruction was completely and utterly a mechanical issue – a chunk of food was too big to pass through my intestines, so it got stuck. Chewing is important, folks. It’s the first link in a sequence of events and if chewing isn’t done properly, nothing else will happen as it should, either.

Patience. I want to be off medication now. I want to be cured of Crohn’s now. Um, it doesn’t magically happen that way because that’s what I want. And that’s a difficult realization. It took me a long time to get where I am, and it will take me a long time to get where I want to be.  But I know that I’m doing all the right things that will lead me to healing.

Adjusting expectations. I had big plans for this blog during the challenge. Lots of mouth-watering,  spectacular recipes I wanted to experiment with and share with you (like these raw ice cream sandwiches, or this raw veggie quiche). And because of my post-hospital diet, I didn’t have the opportunity to make them. I guess that’s something to look forward to…

Where do I go from here?

So, do I feel comfortable enough to eliminate my medication?

To be honest, I don’t. Not right now. My experience at the hospital has shaken me and it was a wake-up call that more work needs to be done.

But I’m definitely on my way to dropping the meds. I feel like I need a few more weeks of solid time to continue healing before I begin tapering off my pills.

I’m going to keep this raw food diet up for the next month and I am confident that I will be ready to eliminate medication in August.

In the coming month, I need to make some important changes to my supplement regime. For the last umpteen years, I have been taking extra nutrients to support my deficiencies (calcium, iron, multivitamins, etc).

But with my imperfect gut, how much of these nutrients am I truly absorbing? Probably not very much.

What I need is to supplement with products that will heal my digestive tract, so I can get the full benefits of what I’m consuming.

Thank you for your support

I would like to genuinely thank each and every one of you for reading about my raw food challenge. Thank you for your kind words of support and for sharing your ideas, tips and suggestions. I sincerely hope that you were able to learn from my experiences, too, and can apply some nugget of what you’ve read to your own lives.

I do hope you’ll keep reading this blog and contributing your thoughts.

Of course, I owe a great big thank you to my nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin, who was the mastermind behind this whole challenge! She was utterly generous with her time, her delicious recipes, her knowledge and her concern. (And she was liberal with the Twitter links, too).

My journey to healing isn’t done. I’m just at the beginning of the trip.


Missed a post in the raw food challenge? Check out the archives here.

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Is it possible to eat healthfully without breaking the bank?

This is a difficult question, and one that I’ve been preoccupied with since I began studying at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I’m the one who’s putting her hand up in class to ask, “But what do you do if you can’t afford that?”

Flax oil, coconut water, raw nuts, kelp noodles and the like are nifty, but my experience in the non-profit sector has shown me that not everyone has the choice of eating quality food.

The choices I’ve made

I’m fortunate that I have a choice, though over the years I have made many adjustments so I can have that choice. I don’t own a car. I have an old, hand-me-down cellphone. I wear my shoes until the soles wear down, and then I try to get them fixed at the cobbler. I buy simple, non-trendy clothing that will last. We eat at home a lot.

I’ve made these choices so I can afford to walk into a grocery store or go to the farmers market and buy nourishing, healthy food.

I’ve approached this raw food challenge with guns a-blazing. I’ve treated myself to luxuries like lucuma, gogi berries and vanilla powder. I want off these meds, and I’m willing to pay the price for food that will heal me.

The cost of disease

Besides, how much money have I spent on medication and health premiums? This year, after I left my job, I shelled out nearly $1,000 for health coverage, which doesn’t even cover 100% percent of the cost of my azathioprine. I still pay around $40 each time I fill a prescription.

I was going to calculate how much I’ve spent on pills and premiums over the last twelve and a half years, but I didn’t want to bum myself out. I’m sure the amount is obscene.

Six ways to eat raw without going broke

I’m glad that Jen understands the difficulty of buying organic, raw food. I believe in supporting local farmers and eating in season as much as possible, and she shares my values. When she put my meal plan together, it wasn’t mandatory to buy plenty of fancy ingredients or expensive tools. It was just simple, raw foods.

While eating the way I’ve been won’t necessarily save you money, there are ways to eat raw without spending an exorbitant amount. Here are some tricks that have been helpful for me:

1. Shop around. I visit several stores in my neighbourhood and buy items where I know they’ll be cheaper, rather than going to the shop that is most convenient. Does this take more time? Sure. But there can be huge price variances in the same items, even in stores that are down the street from one another.

2. Visit farmers markets. A recent US study showed that prices at farmers markets were lower than prices for conventional items at supermarkets. And organic items were 40% cheaper at farmers markets than at neighbouring supermarkets. I do most of my shopping at the local farmers market here in Vancouver, especially in the summertime, and my food bills stay steady.

I wouldn’t say that organic food is 40% cheaper at farmers markets than at regular stores, since Vancouver is an extremely pricey place to live. But it’s definitely less expensive.

3. Prepare meals at home. Buying ready-to-eat organic meals is expensive and it adds up. For example, a pre-prepared organic chickpea salad will probably cost you $5 or more, when you could make the same item at home for half the price.

4. Buy sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Organic nuts and seeds are often a raw foodie’s biggest expense. I can buy sunflower or pumpkin seeds for $7.99 a pound, whereas most other raw, organic nuts are twice that.

5. Eat in season. I used to buy fruit like grapes and berries all year long. Do I really need to eat berries in February? No, probably not. By eating in season, I save myself the expense, plus it makes berry season something wonderful to look forward to.

6. Eat simply. There are lots of ways to make delicious, gourmet raw food using exotic ingredients. But it doesn’t have to be like that. As I learned at the RAW Foundation, mouth-watering raw food doesn’t have to be complicated. You can use five ingredients and make a meal in five minutes. Besides, the less time you spend fixing meals, the more time you’ll have for other things.

How about you? What tips or tricks have you learned to eat healthy on a budget?

This post is part of a month-long series about exploring the raw food lifestyle. With the help of holistic nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin, I’m doing a 28-day raw food healing challenge to improve my Crohn’s disease. At the end of the month, I hope to transition off my medication, which I have been taking since I was 18.

Click here if you’d like to check out other posts in the series. And if you don’t want to miss a post, please consider subscribing to my blog, either my email (at the top right of this page) or in a reader.

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It’s almost July and we’re still waiting for summer here in Vancouver, BC.

Consequently, I’m channeling the tropics in my kitchen with this lovely piňa-vocado smoothie. Perhaps if I blend it, summer will come…?

This drink has got a lot going for it – with healthy fats from the avocado, potassium from the banana, abundant vitamin C from the orange and a little extra something from the pineapple called bromelain.

The bromelain found in pineapple is extremely anti-inflammatory and helps heal the digestive tract. I chopped up my pineapple with the core included, as this is where higher concentrations of bromelain are found. When taken in supplement form, bromelain has shown to offer a wide range of benefits like reducing excessive inflammation, decreasing blood coagulation and prohibiting tumour growth.

All of the fruits here are also high in fibre, which keeps our bowels regular, assists in weight loss and helps maintain normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Plus, they all contain Vitamin B6, a key vitamin involved in many enzyme reactions in the body.

This smoothie was amazing – very tropical, quite thick and delightfully creamy (you might want to use a spoon to eat it). I threw in a couple of chunks of frozen mango, too, since I’ve been on a bit of a mango kick lately. If you’re concerned about the avocado, you can’t even taste it – so if you have children this might be a good way to sneak in some extra nutrients.

Has summer arrived where you live? How do you create a summery atmosphere when the weather isn’t cooperating?

This post is part of a month-long series about exploring the raw food lifestyle. With the help of holistic nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin, I’m doing a 28-day raw food healing challenge to improve my Crohn’s disease. At the end of the month, I hope to transition off my medication, which I have been taking since I was 18.

Click here if you’d like to check out other posts in the series. And if you don’t want to miss a post, please consider subscribing to my blog, either my email (at the top right of this page) or in a reader.

Piňa-vocado Smoothie
From Cookie and Kate

½ cup orange juice
½ cup frozen pineapple
½ of an avocado
½ of a frozen banana
Water, as needed (you could also use almond or coconut milk)

Blend and enjoy! Serves one. Garnish with unsweetened coconut flakes and a lime wedge, if desired.

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Chances are if you’ve ever been on a diet, have an allergy or choose an alternative food lifestyle, you already know social situations that revolve around food can get a little awkward.

I often feel apologetic, and a little embarrassed, about my food habits. Sometimes I think I’m going to get pelted with chicken wings and crusty French bread for being difficult.

Over the years, my diet has strayed far from the norm and I understand how this can be mystifying, foreign and even crazy to some people. First I was simply vegetarian, which in retrospect was a cakewalk to explain to others. Then I eliminated gluten, dairy and refined sugars. Now I’ve added raw and organic into the mix.

I’m tough to feed. I get it.

Even a year ago, I would have thought eating like this was crazy, too.

And yet it’s worth it, because deviating from the standard North American diet has led me to healing.

I’m grateful that I have a very understanding network of friends and family who are supportive and interested in what’s best for my health. Still, social situations can be tough.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to eat raw and have a social life:

Offer to bring a dish to a party. This ensures you’ll have something to eat, but it’s also an opportunity to share the pleasure of raw food with others – and maybe demystify eating raw, too. (It helps if you bring a raw dessert. Who can say no to raw brownies that are good for you?).

When eating out, ask for a special meal. If there’s nothing on the menu for you, it doesn’t hurt to ask the chef to prepare you something else. I’ve done this plenty of times when eating vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free, and restaurants are usually happy to oblige. Check out this great post on the process of calling ahead.

Suggest a raw food restaurant. This one might be a tough sell to some people, I know. I’m fortunate that I live in a health-conscious city, so there are a number of delicious options here. If that’s the case in your city, too, invite your friends to go on an adventure and explore raw food cuisine.

Participate in social activities that don’t focus on food. There are plenty of things you can do with your friends that don’t involve eating. See a movie, watch a play, enjoy a hike, attend a concert, go dancing, play sports, shop at a craft fair, chat over a cup of tea, etc. You and your friends likely have more in common than just food, anyway, so finding other things to do shouldn’t be a big issue.

Be flexible. If I don’t eat 100% raw, I won’t die of anaphylactic shock. I want to enjoy food, not become militant or dogmatic. As long as my food is chock full of vegetables and free of meat, gluten and dairy, I’m okay with eating it cooked once in awhile.

What advice do you have for socializing when you have dietary restrictions? Please share in the comments!

This post is part of a month-long series about exploring the raw food lifestyle. With the help of holistic nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin, I’m doing a 28-day raw food healing challenge to improve my Crohn’s disease. At the end of the month, I hope to transition off my medication, which I have been taking since I was 18.

Click here if you’d like to check out other posts in the series. And if you don’t want to miss a post, please consider subscribing to my blog, either my email (at the top right of this page) or in a reader.

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Since I began the raw food healing challenge, I’ve been burning through lemons like never before.

Each morning, I begin my day with a glass of lemon water to stimulate digestion and kickstart liver detoxification. And I’ve been using it in plenty of sauces, dressings and snacks.

Lemons are very high in Vitamin C, but I’m mainly interested in them due to their alkaline-forming effects in the body.

While lemons are quite acidic on their own, once metabolized they leave alkalizing minerals in their wake. Lots of other foods are alkaline, too – mainly fruits and vegetables, as well as some nuts and seeds.

So why is it important to consume lots of alkaline-forming foods?

With the over-consumption of processed foods, refined sugars and flours, factory farmed animal products and bad fats, our bodies have become extremely acidic. To buffer this acidity, the body pulls alkaline minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium from its pool of resources.

An acidic environment places stress on the body, which can leave us vulnerable to disease. However, we don’t want our bodies to be too alkaline, either – as that produces another host of health issues.

What I want is to bring my body back to neutral. I want to be in balance, so I can promote the healing of my gut.

Which is why I’ve become a lemon fiend.

These little bites are packed with alkalizing foods like lemon juice, seeds, coconut and raisins. They also offer plenty of protein, which makes them a satisfying, filling snack.

What do you make of the whole acid-alkaline thing? Do you believe it’s a valid theory, or do you think it’s hogwash?

This post is part of a month-long series about exploring the raw food lifestyle. With the help of holistic nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin, I’m doing a 28-day raw food healing challenge to improve my Crohn’s disease. At the end of the month, I hope to transition off my medication, which I have been taking since I was 18.

Click here if you’d like to check out other posts in the series. And if you don’t want to miss a post, please consider subscribing to my blog, either my email (at the top right of this page) or in a reader.

Lemon Poppy Seed Energy Bites
From My Edible Advice

1 cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup shredded coconut
4 tsp poppy seeds
¼ tsp allspice or cinnamon
2/3 cup raisins
3 tbsp lemon juice
grated zest from half of a lemon

Process all seeds, coconut and spices until the seeds are well ground. Set aside two tablespoons of the processed mixture in a small bowl to coat finished bites.

Add raisins, lemon juice and zest to the food processor. Process until all of the raisins are small and the mixture starts to clump together.

Squeeze and roll the mixture into balls. Coat with the seed mixture and store in the fridge.

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I spent months deliberating when would be the ‘right time’ to begin eliminating my medication. I was fearful that a major health change might negatively impact my studies, and wondered if the risk of relapse was too high. Was it better to wait until I finished school?

In the end, I decided that waiting another six to eight months to heal myself was far too long.  There was never going to be an optimal time to make this dramatic change. What could be a higher priority than addressing my own physical well-being, as comprehensively as I can, right now?

Also, how could I suggest my future clients use food to heal health issues, when I hadn’t fully gone down that road myself?

Our health is important. And yes, it takes time. But if we don’t make the time for our health now, we’ll undoubtedly have to make time later for diseases.

That being said, a healthy raw food lifestyle doesn’t mean being a slave to food preparation. Un-cooking shouldn’t take more time than cooking with heat. Plus, unless you’re dehydrating, you can eat the results right away – instead of waiting for a dish to be cooked.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to save time in the kitchen:

1. Prepare in advance as much as possible. Raw food is living food. You can’t make two weeks worth and stash it in the freezer. However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time fixing meals every day. Most raw food will last for a few days, so if you prepare a bunch of meals at once, you’ll only need to carve out prep time two days a week.

2. Make simple dishes with whole foods. As I learned at the RAW Foundation and Organic Lives, raw food doesn’t have to be complicated. Changing up the spices can yield drastic results, so you can make meals without a lot of ingredients, work, or fuss. And when using whole foods, you don’t need to do lot of processing – you simply create new textures and flavours.

3. Patés are your friends. Nut and vegetable patés are fantastic because the instructions for most of them read, ‘Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth’. It doesn’t get much easier or quicker than that! Plus, patés are completely versatile – they can be spread in wraps or sushi, dolloped atop salads or used as a dip for crackers and vegetables.

4. Dehydrate in large batches. If you have a food dehydrator, think big. Whether you’re drying soaked nuts and seeds, crackers, granola or chips, make lots and keep them stored in glass jars. Since they’re dry, they’ll last awhile, and you’ll be able to grab ingredients as you need them.

5. Plan ahead. I hadn’t used a meal plan before Jen designed one for me, and let me tell you it’s the greatest thing ever. I’m not sitting in front of the fridge wondering what I can cobble together for dinner. With a menu plan, I’ve got the ingredients I need for the week – all I need to do is actually prepare the food.

What would you add to this list?

This post is part of a month-long series about exploring the raw food lifestyle. With the help of holistic nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin, I’m doing a 28-day raw food healing challenge to improve my Crohn’s disease. At the end of the month, I hope to transition off my medication, which I have been taking since I was 18.

Click here if you’d like to check out other posts in the series. And if you don’t want to miss a post, please consider subscribing to my blog, either my email (at the top right of this page) or in a reader.

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