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by Tom Billings

Following a raw or living foods diet can be difficult, given the general stress of living in modern times, and the prevalence of junk food and cooked food. One is often tempted to take the path of least resistance, which is usually junk or processed foods.  Additionally, raw and living foods are cleansing diets, which means the body is slowly cleansing itself of toxins, which can cause cravings for inappropriate foods previously eaten. Also, other physical symptoms of detox, like headache, stomach pains, can make the dietary transition uncomfortable, which may (indirectly) enhance cravings for the temporary "comforts" of inappropriate foods.

Listed below are some things one can do to avoid backsliding. Others are invited to comment on this list and make additional suggestions.

A. Direct Actions

1. Avoid temptation:
Avoid temptations whenever possible. If you are going to the store for produce and you feel a craving for candy, then stay away from the candy section! Don't read, watch, or listen to anything that tempts you to eat inappropriate food (to the extent possible).

2. Think of the consequences:
If you are feeling cravings or being tempted to eat something bad, stop and think about the negative effect the bad food will have on your health, and your peace of mind.   Often you will conclude that the bad food tastes good, but it's not worth the discomfort or suffering that will follow if you eat it.  A relevant suggestion here, esp. for those who maintain a journal or diary: when you backslide, write down the negative side effects, then re-read those sections when you feel cravings. This approach works best after you have been on raw  foods for some time.

3. Substitute good raw foods for cravings:
If you are feeling cravings for bad foods, eat snacks of natural foods instead. If you are hungry for sweet food, eat fruit instead; dried fruit is a substitute for candy. If you are hungry for salty foods, you can eat sea vegetables or  drink celery juice instead (celery juice with a little bit of lemon/lime juice added is delicious and soothing) or eat raw tomatoes, provided you find them agreeable.  Cravings for inappropriate fatty foods can be resolved with avocados or soaked/sprouted nuts (also raw sesame tahini). One caution here - when one eats good foods as a response to cravings, there are risks: overeating, psychological dependency, and, in the case of dried fruit, sugar addiction. Substitution may be a good short-term strategy, but is less attractive in the long term.

4. Consider modifying your diet if you have long-term cravings: If you have an extremely restricted diet (e.g., mostly fruit), and cravings are a long term problem for you, then you should seriously consider changing your diet, to one that is more diverse. High fruit diets are notorious for their associated sugar (and salt) cravings. Consider adding more veggies, sprouts, nuts, to your diet. After all, if you have cravings all the time, can you honestly say that your "perfect" diet really works well for you?

B. Indirect Support Actions

5. Eat sensibly - moderately, at regular times, and don't overeat. This is standard common sense, and it can reduce opportunities for cravings.

6. Eat mindfully, slowly, with no distractions. Food that is eaten this way will remove hunger and be more satisfying (reducing cravings), than food eaten in a hurry, under stress, or while distracted (TV, reading, etc.)

7. Seek the company of other raw fooders when possible. Join or start a local support group for raw fooders in your area. Starting a group is easier said than done - running SF-LiFE, our local group, is a big effort for those involved. However, a small group that meets at homes, is much less work to set up. SF-LiFE actually encourages small, special interest groups, in the form of meal clubs, which meet in member's homes.

8. Have a regular exercise program that is appropriate and suitable for you. Exercise reduces stress, improves your health, is cleansing, and helps reduce cravings.  Hatha yoga is an excellent form of exercise; it has considerable healing power. The meditative forms of tai chi can be very helpful also. However, yoga or tai chi won't help if you don't do them, so choose an exercise program that appeals to you, and that you can follow.

9. Positive affirmations and meditation may help you develop a positive mental attitude which can make you significantly more resistant to cravings.

10. Be careful about fasting. Fasting is very healing and cleansing, and is one of nature's most powerful curatives. Through its cleansing power, fasting can (eventually) reduce food cravings. However, fasting can also cause a psychological sense of deprivation, which may lead the faster to overeating and/or binge eating after the fast is over. If your reaction to fasting is a cycle of overeating-fasting, then it is not doing you any good! Those fasting "experts" who suggest very long fasts, often ignore this problem.

11. Develop a spiritual or ethical foundation. For the religious, this means being fully "grounded" in your religion. The non-religious (including atheists and agnostics) can adopt or develop a guiding philosophy of life, or a system of ethics. The benefits of this are in stress reduction, which makes one more resistant to cravings.

If you do backslide and eat something bad, simply resolve to avoid the mistake next time. Learn from your mistakes, but don't dwell on them unnecessarily, as guilt is a negative emotion. A tiny amount of guilt, if used only to motivate you to avoid backsliding, is OK. A large amount of guilt is bad for you as it is negative, and negative emotions are harmful to your body and mind.

Cravings can be a major problem during the transition to a raw/living foods diet, and may take more than a year to dissipate. After you have been on such a diet long enough, the cravings will usually dissipate. However, if you are 75+% raw, and are having severe problems with cravings in the long term, then you should evaluate your diet - raw and cooked portions, to see whether changes are appropriate. Although the goal of 100% raw is advocated by some raw-fooders, the reality is that raw food diets are not for everyone. Be kind to your self - do what is best for your body, whether the diet you follow conforms to raw- fooder dogma or not.

I invite others to add their ideas to the above list of ways to avoid backsliding; comments and suggestions are welcome!



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