Top photo: The author at the age of 35, modeling organic hemp and linen clothing for Rawganique.com, the sustainable website he co-founded in 2000.
Disclaimer: Please understand that what I'm describing here is my personal experience. It is by no means a recommendation of what you should do in your situation. Everyone's circumstance is different. When I'm researching something, I always prefer anecdotal experiences of others than instructional literature that tells me what to do. With anecdotal accounts, I feel as if I were in that person's shoes. I might decide to do something different than what that person has chosen to do; the choice is up to me. With instructional stuff, you are told what to do; what who is this person that's telling you what to do? Does s/he have the bases covered? Has s/he experienced everything there is to experience on this issue? Or is s/he an armchair type of person who compiles research results and write about them? Time and time again, I read about something that I know from my experience is either false or not wholly true. Now I've learned to see through this type of stuff and sift through to find the actual message minus the propaganda. I've learned to trust my own judgment and my own experience.
So, the more anecdotes the better; that way, I get a broader perspective of human experience. I'm not a medical doctor, and am not I in the profession of dispensing advice, nor do I wish to be. I felt so free and happy the day I decided to take my own health and well-being into my own hands; I now firmly believe that we should all take responsibility for our health. We know our bodies better than anyone, so why shouldn't we? Haven't you had difficulty trying to explain to someone exactly what you're feeling right now? Or what that sensation is that you have in your stomach or near your liver? Well, trying to tell the doctor your symptoms belongs in the same category; that's why everyday you hear stories of misdiagnoses that at best are unfortunate and at worst fatal. It's not always the doctor's fault; it's often our inability to describe exactly what we feel is going on inside our bodies. Ever since I turned my life around when I was 20 (I'm now 36), I've discovered over and over the joy of discovery, the limitless opportunities of finding out just about anything I wish to know. I hope your journey of discovery will be a joyful, healthful, and loving one, too.
The beginning: vegetarianism and veganism
I was 20 years old, a junior at Bennington College in Vermont. I had been working my way towards health for a little over a year. When I was a child, I was very thin. When I was 9, my mother, upon the recommendation of her doctor, put me on cod liver oil. I began to grow a big appetite and started to gain weight rapidly, to the point where I was chubby. This made everyone around me happy. But this was also the time when a host of problems came. I started having asthma symptoms, pimples (whereas before my skin was clear), and severe skin rashes. Somehow I got through my teenage years living with these discomforts.
Having grown up in Thailand, I came to the US at age 14. I was completely in awe of the vast array of goods that I saw all around me, especially the brightly colored foodstuffs. I gained even more weight that at my heftiest, I weighed 150 pounds (I was about 5' 7" at the time). For someone with my build, that was quite a lot of weight. My mother had always practiced yoga since I could remember. At about this time, I too started doing yoga seriously, which helped my conditions somewhat, but the asthma attacks didn't let up. I also had frequent colds. In college, I became interested in alternative diets to the omnivorous eat-anything-that-tastes-good diet that most people are on. I started with vegetarianism, then moved on to veganism, and macrobiotic diet. I felt much better, but not that much better. I still had acne that felt devastating to my self-image. But since I felt better than I used to, I kept up with the macrobiotic diet of organic brown rice and sea vegetables and miso soup. I frequented the local health food store in Bennginton, Vermont, quite a bit, happily foregoing the standard meat fare offered at the cafeteria. As a poor student, I made the choice to support organically grown foods and went without unnecessary things like walkmans and the latest sports shoes instead.
Then came the greatest turning point in my life: December of 1992. John, the guy who worked at the health food store noticed that I was always looking through the small bookshelf in the store and struck up a conversation with me. I told him I was searching for a better diet, that I was sick and tired of being sick. He said there was a customer who came in very rarely to place bulk orders for cases of organic fruits and sometimes vegetables. Wayne was his name. John said Wayne didn't look a day older than 20 but he was actually in his mid-forties. I was intrigued. The vegetarians I knew didn't look much healthier or better than the regular population. I knew I didn't. If anything, I knew many obese vegetarians. John said that as far as he knew, Wayne only ate fruits and vegetables in their raw, natural state and has been doing so for many years. I gave John my number to pass on to Wayne when he came into the store.
I was all needles and pins. I couldn't sleep. Looking back, I don't know why I would have been so excited about this encounter with John, but I was. I could hardly go to sleep that night.
I didn't have to wait long. Two days later, Wayne called me at 10 PM. He said he was a factory worker and worked the graveyard shift. He would be able to meet me the next night at 9:30 PM on his way to work.
I didn't know what to expect after having created an superhuman image of him from hearing John's account of Wayne. When the door bell rang and I rushed to open the door, what I was met with was a very sweet man with glowing skin and a shining smile. He said he could stay and talk for half an hour. I don't think I gave him much time to talk that night for I was firing questions at him at breakneck speed. He really didn't look a day older than 20. He was in fact 46. His skin was smooth, supple, and wrinkle-free. He had such a glow on his face that bespoke of youth louder than any other telltale sign, and a healthy, vigorous youth in his prime at that.
I learned that 20 years prior, his father was dying of cancer. Wayne then did a lot of research and came across Natural Hygiene, a branch of holistic practice that had been around for 160 years. Sylvester Graham was one of the founders; the very same Graham of the Graham crackers fame. Wayne changed his lifestyle and got amazing results, and he tried to convince his father to do the same. It involved eating only fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts, taking in fresh air and sunshine as a matter of course, exercising regularly, and taking care to get adequate sleep each night. His father laughed at this and said to Wayne, "I'd rather die than eat rabbit food." Sooner after he did. But Wayne kept up with his newfound lifestyle. His mother even went on the same diet eventually. Wayne said he had lots of energy to spare all the time. Working nights didn't bother him one bit. He was poor, just a factory worker, but he was very happy and grateful to be alive and healthy. He'd never had a cold since and never been sick of any other illness, either.
That night, I threw away my pots and pans and put a cover on my stove. Next morning, I went to the health food store and bought a case each of organic oranges and organic grapefruits and a big bag of organic juice carrots. For a few days, I ate lemons and grapefruits out of hand (I loved sour stuff, the more sour the better), and drank gallons of carrot juice. Of course, I branched into other fruits and vegetables in time.
I was happy and feeling like I'd discovered something of major importance to my health. I didn't need rhyme or reason to do what I was doing. All I needed was Wayne's image of health and vitality. This all happened during Bennington College's 3-month long winter recess called Field Work Term, where you were supposed to intern somewhere. I had chosen instead to do research on campus, so it fit in beautifully with my new diet change because in two weeks' time, I got so sick I couldn't get out of bed. My skin had sprouted enough pimples, big pussy ones, to cover my whole face. My nose ran constantly. I had a fever, a splitting headache, and a diarrhea. Luckily at about this time, I came across Joe Alexander's book The Raw Foodist Propaganda, so I was familiar with the concept of detoxification. If I didn't believe that I was going through a dramatic detox, I'd probably freak out at the turn of events. I couldn't bear to look at myself in the mirror, but I also couldn't resist. The changes happening to my body was a thrilling experience.
Being sick didn't much bother me; it was as if I was watching myself from the outside. My excitement and enthusiasm saw me through the first four weeks of cold-turkey switch to the raw food diet. I went from 145 pounds to 105 in 3 weeks. The pimples dried up on their own after 3 weeks, and the coughing, sneezing, and other bodily discomforts all disappeared before the four weeks was over. I began to feel light. The feeling of lighting was indescribable. It was as if someone took a chisel to my old body and sculpted out a newer, better version of me. I could feel muscles under my skin, whereas before it was fat and lumpy in places like the buttocks and lower back. My eyes became clear and shining. My hair became soft and glossy. My skin, my skin!, was clear and glowing. I really was a different person to myself. The acnes I had been fighting for years with ointments and medication had completely disappeared without leaving a trace. I was so excited I ran to the passport photo shop and had 4 photos taken of myself. I mailed two to my parents. A week later, they called in horror, thinking that I surely developed a fatal disease, because I had lost so much weight.
It took three more months for my weight to bounce back to 130 pounds, where it has stayed, give or take 4 pounds, ever since. When recess was over and classes resumed in the spring, I gained notoriety for having changed my appearance so drastically. In my fervent desire to spread the good message, I'm afraid I came across as a bit of a lunatic. I was excited and constantly talking about my new lifestyle, but my friends and professors had other things on their mind. In time, I quieted down somewhat and resumed my life, albeit my totally new life. I had so much energy and needed only 5–6 hours of sleep, so I enrolled for 6 classes instead of the usual 4 that semester and all the semesters following. I took up 4 foreign languages and churned out a lengthy dissertation for my degree. So that was my first couple of years. Now I'll tell you about my current life as a raw foodist homesteader, but not before I'm done telling you about the...
The intervening years
I spent several years living in city after my transformation to a raw foodist. While I was doing my graduate degree in literature at Princeton University, I lived in Manhattan and commuted to class. I was soaking up the cultural offerings of New York City. I loved them all. I went to broadway shows and the off- and off-off broadway shows, I went to classical concerts at Carnegie Hall, operas at the Met, and ballets at the City. It was a whirlwind of discovery on every sensory level for me. The sights, the sounds were all alluring.
I was finding it hard to keep to my simple raw food diet and I made modifications here and there, but always in line with the guidelines described in the Diamonds' Fit For Life. This was the time I began to have serious cravings for stuff I used to life, cravings that I didn't have during the first two years. Mine was a high-pressure life. I had so many dreams and ambitions. I was playing catchup with my childhood years where I was more adult than child.
Then I became sated with the excesses of New York City. I moved to Stockholm, Sweden, for a change of pace. It was a beautiful city but very homogenous and I grew tired of it quickly. After a year, I longed to return to the openness of North America and I picked Vancouver was my destination. I'd heard that the climate was very mild, the beaches gorgeous, and the city very livable. I lived in an apartment next to Stanley Park, a huge green park that's right on the downtown waterfront, and loved it.
But then I seriously started to long for solitude, the country, and the simple life, thanks to the writings of my favorite authors that extolled the virtues of the simple life in the country. I had made up my mind to acquire a cheap old country farm in Prince Edward Island, when one day I read an article in the Georgia Strait (a Village Voice-like weekly published for the Vancouver area) about a bunch of activists fighting loggers on a small island off the coast of the Strait of Georgia. I did some quick research on the internet and found that Denman Island was a quiet little island of about 500 households. Quirky, artsy folks live there. It sounded like the perfect place for us.
One sunny August day we found ourselves on the shores of Denman Island after a 4-hour trip. We fell in love on the spot and decided to move there.
By Halloween, we were all moved with all our worldly possessions which included 2 dogs.
All my friends and family thought I was crazy to go backward in human progress, but to be honest, I've never regretted a single day in the country. I've never missed the beat of New York, Stockholm, or Vancouver. I am happy and at home here in my garden and cabin. Now I'll tell you about the many books and people who have provided me with the strength, determination, and inspiration, but not before I've told you about the
I now know exactly what to eat, how much to sleep, take in the sun, fresh air, and how much to exercise. It feels great to not have to ask anyone anymore about how to live my own life. It's so liberating and free. I don't feel helpless anymore.
After 16 years of painful back-and-forths, learning, and observing, I have come up with a routine that works very well for me.
This is what I usually eat in the day. Bear in mind that it's taken me 16 long years to get here.
I have been able to reach this point in my life thanks to meditation. When you are emotionally full and psychologically sated, then fulfilling the needs of the body like nourishment, sunshine, fresh air, and rest become second nature. Before, when I was looking outside myself for confirmation, affirmation, and whatnot, I was empty inside. Now that I've taken care to feed myself emotionally with love, happiness, and an "enough" and "modest is beautiful" mentality, all the thoughts of competing and making sure that I was this or that have simply fallen away to reveal a life of peace and tranquility and happiness.
Successful Traveling as a Raw Foodist
Traveling can be a challenge for raw foodist. I now pack my own food for a flight, making sure I have all I need and a little more in case of a layover or other unforeseen circumstances, instead of relying on the airline to provide with with non-organic lower quality food. It happened a few times that the special all-fruit meal I requested simply didn't get transmitted and I was left with the unpleasant situation in which I had to go without food the entire flight or compromise by eating a spare vegan food that the attendant was able to locate for me.
Packing for traveling is easy. I hedge for spoilage or bruising by packing different kinds of food; this way, I can be sure of having something to eat. For the most recent flight, I packed the following into my hemp backpack:
It may sound like a lot of work packing your own food, but it worked out really well and I was assured of high quality and high water-content meals throughout my flight. I arrived in much better shape than I usually did. I wasn't as dehydrated and there was no feeling of post-flight "heaviness." I had some people ogling my special meal and a bunch of concerned flight attendants who were alarmed that I turned down their frequent offers of food. In the end, it really was worth it to have the supply of food with me. It wasn't all that heavy, and I only had to carry it to the airport, as by the time I landed after a 20-hour trip, all the food was gone and I found myself traveling ultra-light. :)
OK, now I'll tell you about
I've evolved into this kind of lifestyle with the help of equal parts books and equal parts observation, experience, experiment, and determination. Over the years, I've come across many people who were on a similar quest to a healthy lifestyle and I've learned a lot from them. It's sad that most people who are serious about their health are the ones who've already lost theirs. I had issues at age 20 when I began my journey, but none of them as serious as some of the folks I've come across, so I'm grateful that I'm still on this path by choice rather than by necessity. I just hate feeling helpless. The fear and uncertainty of being sick add an unwelcome dimension of stress that nobody needs.
I've already told you about Wayne. Wayne, wherever you are, thank you, thank you, thank you. Since then, I've come across the following people whose works have really inspired me and taught me a lot about life and health.
These are the people whose books I re-read often and whose words I savor. I've found that integrating their different visions and adding some of my own have kept me in great shape intellectually, physically, and emotionally. I don't know why they didn't each see past their unique vision to encompass those of the others on the list. I guess being a guru comes with it certain responsibilities and expectations. If you're known for something, you have to stick to that and somehow, for lack of a better word, defend it in light of all the other theories and visions. That's why I never want to be famous or a guru, because I don't want to be confined, to be kept from discovering new things either on my own or in the work of others, for then I'd never be able to heartily embrace additional things to what I'm famous for. I see this happen over and over again. Once you've become famous, you are pegged into a guru role and people look up to you, come to you for advice. I've always resisted it, even when I took my sick mother to a health institute and the other people there could see that I was thriving with vitality and health. They'd come to me for advice. I'd tell them what I'd do but that I wasn't in the position to recommend anything to them. Until you have faith in your own body and nature, you'll always feel like you're alone in the vast unfriendly open sea and cling to whatever is floating nearby. Since it's floating it must be better off than you who are drowning, right? This "thing" could be floating log or an actual island. No matter, it's still clinging, putting your hopes in someone else other than yourself. Sooner or later, disillusion will set in. I know this because I was the clingy type, too. When I was young, I lived in perpetual...
Fear and what it does to you
I was the type to doubt myself constantly, to always look outside of myself for validation, confirmation, affirmation, you name it. I was fatally afraid of disease, a true hypochondriac. If I read about symptoms of a disease, I was sure I had all of them and hence the disease. The fear was curiously taken away when I went on a raw diet, and completely when...
My mother had cancer.
My mother, who ate but one meal a day and who practiced yoga religiously for 2 hours every morning since she was 35. My mother was 61 when she had pancreatic cancer. Stress. Environmental pollution. Chemicals. Cleaning products. Pesticides to kill ants, termites, and tics. People would say oh my garden is organic, unaware that the stuff the exterminators who come weekly to saturate their soil with is far more toxic than any pesticide or fertilizer they could put in their garden. And I mean saturate. I've seen it with my own eyes, over and over, throughout my childhood. They just soak the soil with it, and all corners of the buildings and walls, too. This traumatic event made me determined to spread...
The message of vibrant health and unlimited vitality with the world.
We started Rawganique.com as a direct result of my mother's death from cancer. I didn't want more people to die of cancer. Then people wrote in and ask where they could get this and where they could get that, and Rawganique.com the ecommerce website was born. We started with essentials and now 9 years later, we're still in essentials, We don't follow fashion. Instead, we aim to provide basics in all aspects of life: simple, elegant, and most importantly pure and sustainable.
Instead, you should always feel
I was enraptured.
till working on this section. Coming soon!
I became a raw foodist in 1993, when I was 21 years old.
Written by Touch Jamikorn
The author, at the ripe age of 32 when the photo was taken
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