Why Did You Do It? The Raw Truth

I wanted to start answering questions posed in the comments section a while back. Please feel free to ask more questions if any come up.
One of the biggest questions asked was why I felt the need to do the raw food diet. For those of you who think it is the most strange, absurd decision anyone could make, I can guarantee you’ve probably made a crazy decision or two in your life that I would think is absurd. It all depends on perspective, what is important to us, and who we are as people. Nutrition happens to be important to me. It has always been a large focus in my life, probably because I had a focus on health as a runner since the age of five. But once the eating disorder made its home in my mind, raw food was enticing. Since my obsession with weight had escalated (to the point where I felt mostly food and weight mattered in making me a better runner) I went into the raw food diet with the wrong intentions.

running at houseman

I’ve been running for a LONG time :)

It’s funny to think that after my year and a half of restriction, I started to see the restrictions let up a little. I remember coming to a point where I realized I would never let my weight go out of control. After a Christmas of bingeing on desserts, I had gained five pounds but it was easy to drop it all again—I just told myself it would be done, and I did it. It made me feel even more in control. And once I gained the confidence, I didn’t worry about weight as much anymore. Oh sure, I still weighed myself. I kept tabs on calories. But I felt my stress levels about food go down and I ate food in a more relaxed manner. After all, I was running great, wasn’t I? I figured I must’ve been doing things right…and I reasoned that I had to be okay with the weight I was at because I was planning on dropping it lower and lower each year. If I dropped it any lower right then, it would make it even harder to drop later. I might as well indulge a little while I can, I thought.
Then the raw food diet came.
I hadn’t intended to start the raw food diet. I felt it wasn’t ideal for runners, that I wouldn’t get enough protein, that I would somehow become deficient and injured. But as I kept researching the raw food diet for my college research project (we could choose any topic), I found it scarier and scarier to eat cooked food (ah, ignorance is bliss…). My doubts about raw food began to vanish. Maybe this was the way to eat. I didn’t know how I could go on eating what I was used to eating, because now I had all these other ideas in my head. Raw food had become some sort of “lifesaver.” I could lose weight while eating as much raw food as I want? I could finally have an excuse to give up the meat and run okay, if not better? I could give a “good” excuse and reasoning for only wanting the lowest-calorie foods and have the confidence to know I wouldn’t be deficient in minerals (according to the raw food gurus)? It was a dream come-true. I didn’t have to seem weird or strange anymore for limiting my foods. I didn’t have to hide my insecurities as much. I could mask them with the raw food diet. Even though my diet would seem abnormal to others, at least I had a name for who I was, at least I felt I had discovered who I was really meant to be without pointing to “eating disorder.” To admit that maybe I did have a problem with food would be embarrassing. Raw food seemed to make my strange habits and obsession with healthy food more “acceptable.” I was meant to embrace this new girl, this stronger, controlled woman—enter, Rawchael.
For a while I binged on my roommate’s snacks in our dorm room once in a while, feeling out of control, embarrassed, and surprised at myself, but besides that I felt I could eat a little more “normally.” After all the bingeing, I figured raw food had to be the answer. “We overeat because we are not getting sufficient nutrients from cooked food.” Yes, cooked food was poison. That had to be the reason for my bingeing. Maybe raw food was the answer. Maybe I was deficient in nutrients. Maybe cooked food was destroying me. And maybe I would never have to restrict again.
So why did I do raw food? I wanted to eat with abandon. I wanted to have an excuse to eat the safest, lowest-calorie foods without looking ridiculous. I knew I could never go back to cooked food after what I had learned about it. And all of this only set me up for a rollercoaster of different diets, for a realization that I my odd relationship with food was called an eating disorder, that I definitely had something more to fix than food itself.

This Is Where Your Story Comes In

It’s important for all of us to learn “why we need to do” certain things. We can ask what brought me to the raw food diet. But the deeper, most insightful question to ask is, what is it about ourselves and our past that causes us to make destructive decisions?
This answer takes exploration. It’s not easy, and it takes time (it took me years) but the puzzle pieces will fall into place if you do enough persistent introspection. You may think you have the answer, only to realize that was just a small piece of the whole picture. I just explained why the eating disorder part of me decided to do the diet. Why I really did the diet—what happened in my childhood, what my internal intentions were—will be explored in more detail  in the book, as there is too much to explain here. It took me years to figure it out but when I came to the conclusion, I felt as if I had revealed the answer to a murder mystery. Who or what destroyed Rachael? How do I find her again?
My story isn’t as interesting as your own. You will find your own past, your own introspection perhaps the most fascinating of all. My own story is interesting to me because it’s my own and it’s intriguing to find out more about my own personality. I feel like a good analogy is our fascination with the deepest part of our oceans here on earth. I think most of us may find it more fascinating than what could be found in outer space, just because the oceans are a part of us, are a part of our planet. There are untapped creatures and depths to be discovered, right here on our own planet! And to think, you have something like that inside of yourself.
I only hope you can learn from my story to work on your own—whether it be with your own eating disorder, or with another addiction or destructive habit or difficulty you are trying to overcome, try to look deeper. What caused you to fall into it? Now, after inspecting that, what about you as a person and your past really made you susceptible to this habit or choice?
For me, the raw food diet was the persistent scratch on an open wound. Recognizing my eating disorder was a band-aid. Introspection was what helped to cure me.
No matter what your problem is, no matter the outermost “why” you do it, there is a deeper level to dig into. Keep digging, keep peeling back the layers, keep questioning yourself and looking into your past and your personality. The real you is in there; you just have to corner the disorder or difficulty that has murdered a part of you and raise that person, that true “you” from the dead.

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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