40 Day Vegan & Raw Challenge: Week 6

It’s been 6 weeks, which means days 37-40 and the end of the 40 day Challenge.  We failed last week / the week before last and so the end of the challenge was technically then.  I was hoping for a come back or recovery but it wasn’t to be!

Reasons we failed:

1.  No Plan- If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

And that’s exactly what we did.  The 7 day juice fast was easy because we had a book to guide us with a daily menu and a shopping list and we also had the necessary equipment namely the juicer and a hand blender.

Deciding to go raw and vegan as a challenge on a whim meant not having all the adequate, necessary equipment, no meal plans, no menu, no shopping list.   This meant hours in front of the computer searching for recipes that we could make with our limited equipment and multiple trips to the shops for ingredients.

We coped with this but it did take up a lot of time!

2.  Over enthusiasm without analysing the risk – Jumping into an unknown body of water without testing the depth of the water first can lead to fun or disaster!

We broke the raw & vegan during the challenge (our exceptions) specifically for certain events planned prior to our deciding to go on the challenge.  We were vegan then we weren’t, then we were, then we weren’t, then we were, then we got sick.  No research went into what would happen if we did this, we just did it and faced the consequences.

We stayed up making and preparing food (washing, soaking, marinating, cutting, slicing, blending, packing) that we could so Tony could take it to work the next day.  Then woke up early so we could make the juices fresh for Tony to take to work.   We thought this was dedication.  It was more like madness.  We were getting more and more tired by the day and just not getting enough sleep which I’m sure added to getting sick.

We chose a 40 day challenge which is 6 times longer than our previous food related challenge.  We could have just increased it to 3 times or 2 times as long (and succeeded) especially since we’d never eaten all raw before but no, we chose a really long time for unfamiliar territory.

3.  Continuously changing the rules of the game – blurred lines.

We set the rules of the game at the beginning – only raw, only vegan EXCEPT for tea and the specific meals at the events we had planned prior to choosing to go on the challenge.

Then we found a recipe which required miso paste, nori sheets and enoki mushrooms by a raw food “expert”.  We went to purchase said ingredients and found a warning sign on the enoki package to say “do not eat raw”, we found out that all soy based products are cooked first before going through the fermenting process and that 90% of nori sheets you will find in the shops are toasted or roasted ie they’re not raw!!!

Why is a raw food chef telling us to use cooked items in our raw food?  Since we had all the ingredients, we ate them but did that mean we didn’t eat raw and would have to make it up later?  According to our rules, yes.  However this was a huge blow because we were making such an effort and it also meant the days we needed to make up were starting to pile up.  It was starting to look like a 45-50 day challenge!

This is when the rules of the game started to change.  We started looking into more ingredients and realised being 100% raw is difficult when you haven’t eased yourself into it and that even raw food people use cooked ingredients sometimes. For example, sugar cane juice is evaporated in order to make sugar (even for “unrefined” sugar, the juice must be boiled to stop it from going rancid) ie it’s cooked!  Another example is Stevia, to extract the sweetness from the stevia leaf, you must first boil the leaf in water (cooked), the water then gets removed and the dried crystals are what’s left.  A raw sweetener would be honey but that’s not vegan.

And on and on this went until we started doing this:  “Well, since the nori is cooked anyway, we might as well cook the mushrooms, that’s better for us than eating it raw.”

Which then led to: “Since we’re eating cooked mushrooms anyway, I guess we can just add rice…. at least it’s vegan.”

Which then led to:  “Since we have to make this day up now that we’ve eaten cooked food, we might as well just add fish….”

ba baow…… FAIL!!!

4.  No enjoyment – there is no need to do something if you’re not enjoying it and it’s making you sick!

After doing the raw & vegan thing for a couple of weeks, we were not finding it enjoyable anymore.  It became more about what we were missing out on (cooked food, vegetables that you had to cook because you can’t eat them raw eg. eggplant, potatoes, rice) and how crabby we were feeling.  We were cold all the time, tired a lot of the time, we got sick and weren’t recovering as quickly, we were weak and dizzy in yoga classes.

We just wanted to feel good again instead of putting ourselves through the wringer for another 2-3 weeks and so we started eating cooked food.

So what would we change for next time or recommend to others for higher chances of success?  

a) Plan the menu so it fits in with the work, yoga and sleep!

b) Plan a shopping list in 3 day chunks so we can find the ingredients well in advance instead of wandering around to different stores and revisiting daily because they’re not available or out of stock and then not being able to make the planned meal.  Learn what we can use as alternatives.

c)  Challenge ourselves for 7-14 days only with the option to extend if we’re enjoying the challenge rather than setting such a long time frame with goal posts that keep moving and then having to endure a self imposed torture experiment!

d)  Stick to the rules which should be easier to do with planning beforehand!

e)  Find a book or guide of a successful raw food challenge we can follow when we first start off.

f)  Get all the necessary equipment before starting.

g) If we fail, then fail and call it quits there and then (rather than prolonging the agony).  Just regroup and start again when we’re ready.

 What we’ve learned over the last 6 weeks:

1.  We like cooked food so for the meantime, a majority raw food diet is out of the question.  We also felt better after eating cooked food – it’s amazing how much energy you have when you eat starch (rice and potatoes)!

2.  You can actually get full on a meal of vegetables.  You just need a lot of them and can increase your vegetable intake by juicing them.

3.  You can get your fat  from avocados and coconuts.  You can get your calcium  from broccoli, oranges, spinach, okra, sesame seeds, and soy among many other fruit and veg.  You can get your probiotics from water kefir, your Omega 3 fatty acids from walnuts  and you can get lots of protein from hemp and spirulina!

4.  Becoming a smarter consumer is important, some labeling leads you to make assumptions which may not be correct and at the end of the day we are ultimately responsible for what we put in our own mouths.  Food knowledge is so important!

5.  The more vegetables we’ve eaten, the calmer we’ve become.

This challenge has definitely sparked a lot of questions for us around food and health.  It’s only been 6 weeks but it has changed our eating habits for sure!

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