Getting raw with food

March 28, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

WILLIAMSPORT - Everything was going fine until Tanya Crawley, 33, of Williamsport, tried on the wedding gown at the dress shop and looked at herself in the three-way mirror.

The woman staring back at her, Crawley said, was carrying 165 pounds on her 5-foot-1-inch frame and had a double chin, flabby arms and a pudgy stomach.

She didn't like what she saw.

Her decision: Stop eating cooked food and meat.

"I feel like this is the fountain of youth," said Crawley, who went from a size 14 to a size 5 by sticking to a strict raw-food, vegan diet. "I didn't have to take a pill or go on a diet that made me feel hungry."

Raw-food dieting has many variations, but generally, raw-foodists are vegetarian and advocate eating organic foods. The premise of the diet, according to the American Dietetics Association, is to cook foods at temperatures below 160 degrees so that food enzymes remain intact.


The raw food diet began to gain popularity a few years ago after celebrities such as Demi Moore, a svelte 40-something, began singing its praises.

Critics of the raw-food diet

Raw-foodists say enzymes and other nutrients are better absorbed in the body when food remains uncooked.

But critics say that raw-foodists might be missing out on essential nutrients, such as vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids, and warn that the diet is not based on science.

Critics also say the body already makes the enzymes required to digest and absorb cooked food.

"While plant-based diets are the way to go, there should be a balance between raw and cooked foods," said Andrea Giancoli, spokeswoman for the ADA.

Giancoli, a dietitian and a nutrition consultant, was featured in a November 2006 episode of the Bravo reality show "Top Chef."

In many cases, cooking destroys nutrients found in plant-based food, Giancoli said. But then there's the tomato.

"Cooking tomatoes actually helps release its lycopene," she said of the antioxidant found in tomatoes and other fruits.

Crawley said part of the reason she thinks there isn't more scientific research on the raw-food diet is because, "for the past 60 years in America, we've been on ... the standard American diet, that is eating anything that comes in a box, bag or can."

She said she initially had difficulty finding other raw-food fans in the area, one of the reasons she decided to become a certified raw-food chef and now offers lessons in raw-food preparation at her home.

For information on the diet, Crawley said she looked to the Internet and raw-foodist authors David Wolfe and Dr. Gabriel Cousens.

She said she gets her fatty acids from hemp seed and takes a vitamin supplement for vitamin B-12. She also takes a multivitamin.

Why Crawley chose the diet

For Crawley, what began as a quick way to drop weight before her wedding turned into a complete lifestyle change.

That change came in September 2006, when Crawley was trying on wedding dresses. Crawley and her fianc Eliud Ortiz plan to marry in June 2007.

"I cried," Crawley said, of when she tried on that dress. "I did not want people to see me looking like that on my wedding day."

For years, Crawley said she accepted her weight as "genetic."

But she said seeing herself in the wedding dress was like seeing herself for the first time. She was determined to lose weight.

It wasn't until after trying several diets, exercising and even consulting a plastic surgeon, that Crawley came across the raw-food diet on the Internet and decided to give it a try.

It wasn't easy at first.

"I remember going to the grocery store and for the first time, looking at those fruits and vegetables, and feeling like a (fish) out of water," Crawley said. "I thought it was only salads."

But the more she learned about the diet, the more she learned to love it.

"I knew I was onto something when I got down to a size 8," she said.

But she's moved beyond salads. Crawley, who soon will be offering courses in Falling Waters, W.Va., said she teaches her students how to prepare raw tacos from leafy collard greens and pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and mock salmon pt from walnuts, celery and red pepper.

For dessert, it's brownies and carob cookies - of course using cacao, the uncooked bean from which chocolate is made.

"Who wouldn't want to eat brownies all the time?" Crawley said. "Now, I stay in the kitchen all the time, for hours now. I can actually eat the things I enjoy."

To learn more about Crawley, go to here Web site,

More about raw-food dieting

Here's a list of books compiled by the American Dietetic Association:

· "The Raw Life: Becoming Natural in an Unnatural World," by Paul Nison

Nison is a raw-foodist and chef who has authored many books on spirituality and health. According to his Web site, this 352-page book is a "must have" for anyone new to the raw food diet.

· "Raw: The Uncook Book," by Juliano Brotman and Erika Lenkert

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