It Begins

April 1, 2011

Rachael,
Normally I don’t have too much to say about what you are doing. Radically changing your diet doesn’t sound good to me. Why fix what isn’t broke? You are mentally and physically super. You are a college champion in your freshman year running. Did you accomplish all the things you have on a poor diet? One of your emails mentioned how much you like and how well you run on banana, peanut butter, & oatmeal. You have been very successful as a student, musician, and athlete.
I have been strong & healthy all my life. I am not going to make such a radical change in what I fuel my body and mind. I just would like you to try the diet this summer or after graduation or never. Give it some thought. Do you want to fix what is not broken? You are so special. I hope you don’t mind me giving you my opinion. And that is all it is – my opinion. Have a good, healthy, productive day.
-Dave
This was no April Fools joke. I was about to start a diet of only raw food.
I felt as if I had come to my breaking point. How could I continue eating the way I was eating for the past year? People around me told me what I was doing was working well enough for my running. I was racing the best times of my life—but I couldn’t agree. I was sick of what I was doing to my body. I hated the food routine I was in.

I went day in and day out counting calories, trying to cut back, feeling guilty about eating over the amount I deemed “right.” Raw food would allow me to eat as much as I want and feel full. That’s what I read in the books.
I had always had a high belief in fiber–it was magic to me. That was the key to feeling full. I ate mounds and mounds of vegetables in the cafeteria alongside my measly portions of chicken. I opted for vegetarian meals most of the time to reduce calories. I only ate some meat to get in the necessary protein for the sport, but any other time I opted for vegetables. I tried to leave out any trace of fat. I would sneak a napkin and wipe off any sauce or oil from the food they served in the cafeteria at my school.
Raw food gave me the chance to not feel like I had to consume dairy and meat, a reason to get rid of those high-calorie food options and not feel the need to “have” to have them to be healthy. I could eat lots of fruits and vegetables and feel full all the time, knowing I was still getting in the necessary nutrients without meat and dairy products. I would be able to eat all the fiber I wanted and feel full on the lowest calories possible.
So after researching raw food for a freshman research project, I decided to do it. It would be a risk, but I was at the end of my rope. If I wanted to continue losing weight each year, I could not continue the way I was going already. The binging had already begun—I was reaching for food I wouldn’t normally eat, food I could often resist in the past. I remember buying poptarts and eating them in the laundry room in the dorms, hiding from any onlookers. I jumped with fear when the door into the room swung open and a girl found me eating them. Honestly I don’t think she cared, but the shame I felt in her catching me in the act felt awful.
Something had to give. Raw food would help me to lose more weight and still feel full. I could finally feel content.
In my journal entries over the summer going into my freshman year of college I had written down constantly how “I can’t stop thinking about food. I want it to stop” and “God, please help me to stop thinking about food. I don’t know what’s wrong.” I didn’t realize that behind those words there was more going on. I wanted to stop weighing myself twice a day, to stop feeling guilty about eating the “wrong” things, to stop calorie counting and measuring and falling into something that was controlling me more than I was controlling it. I never thought that I might be falling into an eating disorder. Don’t “those people” hate food? I loved food.
I replied to Dave:
I know it will be a radical change for me, but I’m going to take it slow. For now I’m going to stick with my normal breakfast of oatmeal and everything, but I want to eat more raw vegetables and get more fruit in throughout the day. I don’t plan on fully transitioning until summer, where I can take some time to experiment for a week or two. I figure that if I feel better than normal, or if everything just goes well, I might try it out longer. But if I’m not happy with it, there’s nothing that says I can’t turn back to what I feel is right.
From what I’ve researched, the information I’ve gained makes sense to me. And I don’t want to look back someday wishing I would’ve tried this–sometimes I feel that it’s worth it to take a little risk. I know that it may not turn out like I think it will, but if it doesn’t work, then I am happy to eat “normal” again too.
I feel it’s best to try it early-on–sophomore year in the summer, out of season. I think it’s better than doing it my junior or senior year of college, which are the years most important to me.
I truly appreciate your input–its good to get different opinions. I agree with much of what you’re saying, and I’ll keep your words in mind. Thanks again for giving me your thoughts!
-Rachael

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.

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6 Responses to It Begins

  1. Tamara Steil says:

    It takes guts to share such personal musings re food – so proud of you for sharing – will most likely help others with the same issues. Amazing journey.

  2. Sharon says:

    Totally agree with your mom. The way you write this you had my eyes glued to the screen and my heart glued to your story. Way to have guts! Keep it up baby girl.

  3. Chris says:

    Following this with much interest, Rachael. Love you, proud of you. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

  4. Pingback: Raw Food Journal Entries 94 & 95: Fruit Freedom | Running in Silence

  5. Giovana Barreto says:

    It was both admirable of you to stick to your guns in wanting to try the raw food diet and also scary because you were willing to change your food routine in order to feel comfortable in your own skin. I can only imagine how sick you were of feeling unhappy with your body and wanting to make a huge step into the unknown world of dieting. I understand what it’s like to feel out of control and wanting so badly to fix yourself. I don’t blame you for wanting to follow through with this.

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