For the first time ever, I’m doing back-to-back one-year challenges. Yesterday I completed my one-year daily blogging challenge (and wrote a retrospective of the experience on the final day). Today I’m rolling into Day 1 of an entirely different kind of challenge, which is to be a raw foodist for the 2021 year.

While 30-day challenges can be good for building self-discipline, I don’t normally think of one-year challenges like that. The framing tends to be different. There may be some discipline involved for the first few weeks to get into a good rhythm, but once you’ve established the new habits, it doesn’t feel like a discipline challenge, especially when you’re a few months in.

I tend to see 365-day challenges as experiential deep dives that focus on exploring and deepening my relationship with some part of life. I regard them as having more to do with the Truth and Love principles of personal growth rather than the Power principle. They’re action-based, but the daily actions become easy and natural after a while. So once you’re into the second or third month, it’s really about the exploration and the ongoing relationship.

With this raw foods challenge, I want to explore my relationship with eating raw and how it affects me. I may have some cooked food cravings during the first few weeks, but those will likely go away after a while, and it should feel pretty natural to keep eating raw throughout the year.

In fact, part of the exploration of a one-year challenge is to make sure to get the relationship right, so it doesn’t feel like a discipline-based slog – that would be exhausting. The point isn’t to wear yourself down with an extra layer of struggle for a whole year.

I’ve eaten all raw for hundreds of days of my life, including for six months in a row before, so I have a lot of experience with this way of eating already. I’ve also been vegan for 24 years, and I normally include lots of raw foods like smoothies and salads in my diet. But it’s been a while since I’ve really invested in my relationship with raw foods, other than some additional 30-day stretches. The last time I was really into this way of eating was in 2008 and 2009.

I’ve been thinking about getting back into raw foods for a while now, and framing this as a one-year commitment feels good to me. I like the idea of taking a whole year to more deeply explore this relationship. That feels abundant to me.

It’s almost like giving myself permission to play video games for 1-2 hours every day for a year – you probably won’t see that as a struggle but rather as an interesting kind of exploration if you like games. While you could play games anytime, there’s something more meaningful about committing to one-year deep dive into gaming. You might be inclined to think more carefully about which games you’ll play during that year and why. If you do it right, you could really enjoy the experience, and you may appreciate the memories of that year of gaming for a long time afterwards.

I’m not concerned about having the ability to complete the year. That part seems relatively easy since I have a lot of experience eating raw already.

I want to see how a longer stretch of continuous raw eating will affect me. It’s possible that I’ll go longer than a year, but a year seems like a good minimum to really explore this as I’d like.

For me this deep dive actually seems relaxing. I love how I feel on raw foods. It does give me less flexibility when eating out, but with the pandemic still ongoing, it seems like a good lifestyle fit for at least the first half of the year.

While Rachelle isn’t doing this particular challenge with me on a daily basis, she enjoys making and eating raw meals too. She’s the better chef between us, so it will be nice to enjoy some of her raw creations throughout the year. I’m also looking forward to making some new raw creations myself, such as those in the new raw food cookbook Rachelle gave me for Christmas. Having her support makes this challenge seem even easier.

I’m normally a happy person, but I tend to feel significantly happier and even more optimistic while eating raw. So you may notice some shifts in the emotional tone of my work this year because of that. I expect this will be a good year for me emotionally.

On the other hand, eating raw also makes me more sensitive emotionally. I especially want to explore this aspect of my relationship with raw foods. I found this aspect hard to handle in the past, and I want to see if I can improve in this area.

I once tried to eat all raw during a 3-day workshop many years ago, figuring that it would give me the best energy. My physical and mental energy were great. The overall experience was rough though. During our workshops, the people in the room go through all sorts of transformations. Some are facing tough decisions like whether to quit their job or break up with a relationship partner. Some people in the room are processing deep emotions, even when they appear to be stone-faced. I know this from talking to them afterwards, and they tell me how the workshop has been affecting them. When I crank up my sensitivity by eating raw, I feel the flood of their emotions streaming into me while I’m trying to deliver the material. It feels overwhelming sometimes, like I just want to get off the stage and go hug them and cry with them.

Consequently, after that experience I favored eating heavier foods during live events like pasta, which had a very grounding effect. Just being vegan keeps me sensitive enough to stay in tune with what people are feeling, but cooked food gives me enough emotional padding to stay focused on the material and the overall energy in the room without feeling flooded by people’s strong emotions. I’ve been wondering if there’s a better way to handle this though. Can I handle more sensitivity to other people’s emotions without being knocked off balance by it so much?

One way I can explore this is on our group coaching calls in Conscious Growth Club, which we do 3x per month. I’ve done more than 100 of these calls, so I have a good baseline for what to expect. I can see how eating raw affects my emotional sensitivity and what effect that has on the coaching. I think this will be an especially good year for coaching in CGC because of that. The coaching is done with one person at a time, and it’s over Zoom, so it’s unlikely to be emotionally overpowering. I think more sensitivity and awareness will be beneficial in this context.

I also tend to be way more intuitive when eating raw, so that will be nice to explore more deeply as well. I’m especially curious as to what new personal growth insights and business ideas I might generate this year. My mind is clearer and sharper while eating raw, like I have about 30% more mental RAM for thinking.

My life is also in a very different place than it was when I was last really into raw foods. Back then I was in my first marriage. Eating raw for a significant stretch raised my sensitivity and awareness to the point where long-term issues had to be dealt with. I went through a period of major changes, leading to the end of that marriage and getting into a beautiful new relationship with Rachelle. I had some wicked misalignments to deal with back then. Eating raw helped me find aligned solutions in a way that nothing else did.

Today I’m not feeling the presence of major misalignments. Even given the pandemic situation, I like my lifestyle. I’m super happy in my marriage with Rachelle. I enjoy my work and the way it’s flowing so nicely. I love connecting with people in CGC each day. So eating raw doesn’t seem like it would turn my life upside down like it did in the past. I’m glad for those transitions, but it was a lot of change to go through in a relatively short period of time.

Given how my life is now, eating raw seems like it will be more of a gift. I’ll feel better and will have more energy. Exercise will be easier. I’ll feel happier. This will probably be one of the best years of my life.

Sex feels significantly better too when eating raw. It’s more pleasurable. The sensations are stronger, richer, and more nuanced. The emotional connection is stronger, so it’s like pleasure and love woven together. I definitely enjoy that aspect of being a raw foodist.

With a one-year challenge, I like to give myself a decent amount of flexibility. Some wiggle room is good but not too much. If there’s too much, you could wiggle your way out of the challenge. But the right amount of wiggle room can improve your relationship with the challenge by making the experience feel more casual and relaxed, so you don’t feel too boxed in.

I let myself do batch blogging in advance last year, so I could take some days off from writing when I wanted to. I committed to publishing every day but not to writing every day. Then if my mind ever started to think, “I could really use a day off of writing,” I could say in response, “You can have one. Just write an extra post today, and queue it up to publish tomorrow.” Most of the time I didn’t do that, but just knowing that I could was like a pressure release valve. It kept me from feeling trapped by the challenge. I didn’t want to feel trapped at any point since that would mess up my relationship with the challenge.

I don’t want to feel trapped by my raw foods challenge either. I know I can do it strictly because I’ve done that before, including sharing photos of everything I ate for 30 days in a row back in January 2008, but that was my least favorite way of eating raw. For a whole year I don’t want to have an overly strict relationship with raw foods. I want to have a little bit of wiggle room, enough that I can feel good about my relationship with this challenge throughout the whole year.

Part of my intention for this challenge is to see what it’s like to eat raw as my baseline way of eating. So my default way of thinking will be to eat raw vegan food for every meal. After I’ve been doing that for a while, eating a meal of cooked foods isn’t going to feel good. It will probably make me sick. I’ve tested that in the past. So as long as I stick with raw as my baseline for the year, I’m unlikely to be tempted to sneak a meal of cooked food from time to time. It’s not going to be a very pleasant experience.

However, I do like the idea of giving myself a little bit of wiggle room for emotional reasons. Suppose Rachelle makes a really nice cooked food meal for herself one night, and I would love a little taste of it. I might have a small nibble, which would probably be plenty to satisfy me emotionally, and then go back to my big salad or raw soup. I don’t expect that I’d actually want to do this too often, but I like having the option.

In fact, this is an aspect of a raw food lifestyle I’d like to explore in more detail this year. What wiggle room would I appreciate that would actually improve my relationship with this lifestyle? Where do I appreciate having some flexibility but not too much? In my case I expect such wiggle room to be bite-sized, not meal-sized, and definitely not a daily thing.

Another thing I would like to test at some point during the year is whether it feels good to include some lightly steamed veggies now and then. Some raw foodists think it’s better to incorporate such foods, especially if it means eating less raw fat. I’m not sure sure if I’d feel good eating a cup of steamed zucchini with a salad from time to time. But I may want to test it during the year to see how it feels. I’d also like to devise more small experiments to test the boundaries around eating raw as my baseline. I want to discover what feels good and what creates negative effects. I want to fill in some gaps in my knowledge and experience.

So my intention for the year isn’t to be 100% purist as a raw foodist. Few long-term raw foodists are like that. There are a lot of different ways to eat a raw foods diet, and many include some wiggle room. A little bit of flexibility can go a long way with this lifestyle.

My framing for this year’s challenge is really about the experience and what I’ll learn and discover as I go. I’m not thinking of this as a succeed or fail type of challenge. I know I can trust myself to stay aligned with the purpose as I go through the year. There’s a sort of lock-in that occurs as I get into eating raw foods, where cooked foods seem lifeless and unappealing after a while, and I just naturally want to keep eating raw. It takes a deliberate decision to push me back to cooked foods and to overcome the raw inertia, so I don’t see there being a significant risk of that happening by accident or mistake.

Mostly I’m going to begin by reloading the way I’ve eaten raw in the past. That seems like a good place to start. Then I can experiment around that baseline. I like that a year gives me a feeling of time abundance for exploring my relationship with this lifestyle. It doesn’t feel stressful, and even though I might call it a challenge, it doesn’t seem challenging. It feels like I’ve allocated an abundant stretch of time to explore something that fascinates me.

I also see this as a gift for my future self. I want him to know what it’s like to eat raw for a full year. I want him to understand this diet and lifestyle even better than I do now. I want him to have the memory of delving into this relationship for all of 2021, so he can make wiser decisions regarding his diet and lifestyle going forward.

Today I began with a green smoothie, which I’ve been sipping on while writing this. This will be an interesting year. 🙂