Saturday, September 26, 2009

Go For "The Raw Burn!" By Karen Knowler

FlameImage by Samuelraj-back on flickr via Flickr

It is not uncommon for me to hear people say, "I do feel better on raw food, but I don't feel quite as amazing as I expected to feel. Where is all this energy I'm supposed to have?"

There can, of course, be a multitude of reasons for not feeling as good as you could, and way more than we can go into in one article, but today I'm going to discuss one of the most common: Over-eating.

Whether we eat cooked foods or raw - or a mixture of both, eating more food than we need quite simply overtaxes the body. Digestion takes more energy than any other activity we do - in fact sometimes it can even exhaust us completely (think Christmas Dinner, and your half-comatose relatives asleep in the chair!). It's incredible that food can make or break our energy in this way, but it really does, and sometimes this can be subtly undermining (which all adds up) and other times blatantly obvious.

When we eat raw foods, generally speaking, our digestive demands lessen. Our foods are more simple, we are eating enzymes rather than needing to find them from our existing stores, and, unless our diet is fat-dense (i.e. eating lots of nuts and seeds) then typically our load is much lighter and much faster to transit through than the average diet.

It is estimated that one in three people in the doctor's waiting room is there for a colon-related issue. A shocking statistic don't you think? But hardly surprising when we consider what passes for "food" today and what extremes some people will go to in terms of diversity, quantity and frequency. Of course, most people in this bracket don't necessarily eat in a way we could consider to be healthy, but there's so much more to it than just what we eat...

So how is it that some people on raw foods don't get the amazing energy that myself or others rave about? Especially if you are eating low-fat?

As far as I can see, a lot of it comes down to making sure that when you eat you are genuinely hungry.

My own research over hundreds of clients shows that at least 95% of people I survey either do not know what true hunger feels like and/or do not wait until they are hungry to eat.

What this means is this:

If you are eating when you're not hungry then you are essentially putting in more food than your body needs. When this is the case, your body will use its precious energy to digest (or "burn" as I like to call it) your food rather than have the energy available to use for something more productive (like feeling good!).

One of my greatest lessons on my own food journey has been to wait until I am truly hungry before I eat. This doesn't, by the way, mean that I wait until I feel "starving", just that I know that even if a plain bowl of lettuce leaves was placed in front of me, then I would eat them and genuinely enjoy them because I am that ready to consume.

Why this example?

Because of all the things that we can eat on this planet, green leaves are the least addictive foods of all, and the among the most nutritious for us... and if we feel drawn to eating them un-dressed and unaccompanied then that's a great sign that we really are hungry - because as you know our taste buds and bodies can appear so fickle and easily persuaded!

It took me many years to get to the point where I only when hungry, but I have to say it really is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the way I eat/ live my life. There is nothing more gratifying than going to eat a meal that you are really and truly ready for. I'm sure I love my food ten times more because of this. It tastes and feels so much better! In fact, I really do find that now if someone places food in front of me or offers me something - even if it's just a single piece of fruit - if I'm not hungry I get very strong signals from my body not to eat it and I find myself actually physically repulsed by it. Now that's incredible!

Considering my extensive junk food background, I really do believe that if I can reach this place then anyone can, although I appreciate we all have different issues to overcome in order to get to here.

I call this place of genuine hunger the place of "The Clean Burn". That's because I know that when I'm in this place I feel as if whatever I eat is really enjoyed from the moment I start preparing it to the moment it starts its journey down my throat and into my stomach. From this moment on I feel as if the food is being digested and utilized immediately. No hanging around waiting for breakfast to pass through or "falling" on top of last night's supper and - wait for it - fermenting and rotting. Eugh! It feels as if it is being welcomed with open arms and that my entire body is ready for it and loving it. Now that's worth waiting for!

It's rather ironic that throughout our entire childhood and typically, adulthood, we are never taught how to eat properly. Whether we use a knife and fork from an early age seems to be of more importance than whether we are actually ready to eat! It's no wonder we have the weight issues that we do - a lean body is often a clean body, and a clean body is one that really knows and experiences the feeling of The Clean Burn on a regular basis.

As I sit here writing this article it is 12:33pm. Today so far all I have consumed is one pint of watermelon juice, which I had as soon as I felt some hunger around about 10:00am. I am just starting to get that Clean Burn feeling now, but I know I'm not quite there yet, so I will wait a little longer before I go downstairs to eat. There is an art in detecting what stage you're at, and after years of practice and awareness I know now that although what I'm feeling right now would be considered "really hungry" by some people, to me it is a sign that, if I were away from home, I should start looking for food in order to secure it, but if I already have it to not yet eat it as the Clean Burn is not yet fully upon me!

Are these the words of a closet anorexic? No, I can assure you they're not! I am most definitely not into deprivation at any price, and least of all when it comes to food! No, what I describe here is a way of feeling and being around food that feels quite the opposite to deprivation - if I were to eat now before I got fully hungry and could fully appreciate every ounce of my meal - now THAT would feel like deprivation.

On that note I'm going to ask that you really pay attention to your hunger signals over the next few days and see how far you can go with this. This means ignoring the clock, getting all the "shoulds" out of your head about what, when and how you "should" be eating, and really paying attention to the different degrees of hunger as they unfurl. And yes, of course, waiting until you are FULLY hungry before you begin.

Yes, I know this may sound or feel like advanced stuff and even a little scary for some people, but if you can start to put even a little of this into practice in your daily life then I'd be very surprised if you didn't start to lose any excess weight you have, gain a lot more energy overall and generally start falling in love with your food - and your body - even more than you ever thought possible.

Oh yes, and did I mention that your food bills may very well go down?!

Enjoy the pursuit of The Clean Burn, a few more minutes wait for your food is a VERY small price to pay for such huge and multifaceted rewards, believe me!

About the author: Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at

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