It's been about a week and a half now since I started my 30-day raw food program. I view it as a learning experience. Instead of focusing on limitations, temptations and frustrations, I choose to think of this experience in terms of explorations, discoveries and learning opportunities. I believe that the mindset is really important when it comes to any kind of change, and sometimes, being able to adjust your perspective on things can do wonders for you. I want to share some of my observations so far in the hope that it may help you maintain the positive attitude when you want to adopt a new behavior. Here are a few things I learned:
Creativity. When I started the program, the little voice of self-doubt tried to plant some limiting concepts in my head. For example, I feared that avoiding cooked foods meant my choices were very limited. It took some critical thinking to get rid of this notion. I looked at my regular diet and realized that the bulk of it consisted of the same cooked foods, such as rice, pasta, fish, chicken, turkey, etc. in various combinations. There was no reason I couldn’t combine raw foods in the same way creating varied menus. I decided to focus on creativity when it came to menu planning. I learned to make tasty green smoothies that combined fruit and vegetables for optimum taste and nutrition. The celery, cucumber and romaine lettuce mix tasting like mango and bananas is easier to enjoy, and I don't have to eat salads every day.
Discovery. For each food item I had to give up, I decided to come up with a new item that I could try. My additions include persimmons, papaya, agave nectar, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and the list will continue to grow. My trips to the grocery store are like mini-explorations now that I hunt for vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds that I have not tried for a while (or at all).
Balance between planning and flexibility. I need to plan for the upcoming weeks so that I have enough food around to keep me on the program. At the same time, I realized I liked it better when I didn't have each day's menu planned. I now go day by day and eat what my body wants at the moment. I listen to my body more and learn to recognize its messages.
Re-assessment. When you do the same thing the same way over and over again, you don't feel the need to stop and ask if what you do still makes sense or whether there is a better approach. A change forces you to take a second look at your habits and routines. My raw food program made me realize that I unnecessarily overcooked many fruits and vegetables, depleting them of their nutrients. For example, from now on, when I need to cook broccoli, I will boil water, take it off the heat, and then add the broccoli. There is no need to boil it even for a few minutes. Hot water will break it down a bit, but it will still be full of flavor, and crunch, and all those things that are good for you. Also, now when I cook my baby's oatmeal, I add frozen blueberries after I take it off the heat. They will thaw and cool the oatmeal faster. Simple things like these, I would not have noticed without my raw diet.
The benefit of firm boundaries. I still have cupcakes and cookies in the house as the rest of my household is not ready for the raw diet yet. However, making a firm decision not to eat them took away the doubts, hesitations, and all of that back-and-forth dialogue and guilt trip that I would have otherwise had in my head: "I really shouldn't eat…or maybe, just one...I hate my sweet tooth…will it help if I eat just one…was it that good?" Firm boundaries stop unproductive thoughts.
Support. Identifying and using your sources of support is very important. Internet and Web 2.0 offer great opportunities in this regard. I visited raw food blogs and websites for tips and recipes, watched motivational interviews on YouTube, wrote about my experiment publicly – all of which strengthened my commitment. It is good to have those resources lined up before the going gets tougher.
We can all learn from our challenges. Take time to think about what you are learning and how it can help you in the future. What did you learn from your challenges?