Ah, the raw food diet: holy grail for dieters, vegans and Guardian readers everywhere. I spent a week on a raw food diet whilst traveling in Costa Rica and survived to tell the tale, but not without stark realisations about my own relationship with food…

Food confession #1: fear of hunger

I have a confession to make: I’m scared of being hungry. I think many people have this same fear but haven’t yet admitted it to themselves. Even though I was committing to a raw food diet, not a fast, I knew I had a high dependence on a diet loaded with starchy carbohydrates, refined sugar, lots of meaty protein, all laced together with lashings of caffeine. I feared under-nourishment, and I feared the consequences. Going raw meant going hungry, as far as I was concerned.

Look at it like this: if we’re under-nourished, even temporarily, we might be physically and mentally weakened, we would then become vulnerable, we might lose a little control, and then who knows what might happen. Perhaps it’s just a primal fear, perhaps it’s conditioning to highly-evolved (and increasingly addictive) modern food stuffs, but fear of tummy-rumbles is a gnarly first world problem which needs our attention.

Raw food: peppers stuffed with hummus, beans and other goodies with a delicious green salad

For Weekly Challenge #15 I chose to take one small step down the path of confronting hunger, deciding to shelve my usual diet and eat nothing but raw food for one week. I also chose to undertake a hunger-inducing activity throughout this week in the form of surfing. So, by trying a raw food diet for a week, not only would I be risking going hungry but my body would also be crying out for nourishment after physical exercise. This was going to be a difficult week…

Food confession #2: no food, bad mood

I have a second confession to make: when I don’t eat enough, I get in a terrible mood. Come on now, don’t tell me I’m alone in this?!

When I chose to embark upon My Year In Flux I dispensed with most of my everyday habits and routines. I stopped working, left home, got rid of most of my stuff and became a backpacker. The eye-watering thing about stepping away from your habits is that the resulting void throws your personal flaws (and attributes) into sharp relief. I think we generally choose habits to protect ourselves from our deepest fears. Going to bed consistently at 10pm, for example, is a great way to avoid sleep deprivation, and cleaning your teeth is a positive step away from toothache. The older we get, the larger our protectionist wall of habits becomes. But when you lead the nomadic existence of a traveler, that wall comes tumbling down. I found myself making many new choices every day about familiar old problems. I began sleeping because I was tired, and, estranged from the familiar comforts of home, I found myself worrying where the next meal was coming from and frequently getting in a terrible mood when hungry.

For me, these realisations were humbling: whatever age we are, however highly evolved we may think we are, when everything else is stripped away, it still comes down to the most basic of human needs: nourishment, shelter, love.

Realising that I had a complicated relationship with food was a lightbulb moment I never would have had without this Raw Food Diet Weekly Challenge. I’d been back to the most basic of habits and reassessed it. Yet again, I’m left preaching this same point to anyone who will listen: It’s worth dismissing your habits once in a while just to be reminded of these facts. It can make life feel a lot simpler.

I’m going to post another piece shortly about how the raw food week went from an ‘operational’ point of view.