I went vegan when I was still just a kid. I spent part of my childhood growing up in the wide-open prairie of Colorado, yet I never really fit in there. I used to climb out my bedroom window onto the roof of our house and stare out at the big sky expanding beyond the beautiful bluish, snow-capped Rocky Mountain backdrop, and I’d wonder what was beyond it. I wanted to fly away somehow.
It was an era and culture of white bread, margarine, roast beef dinners in winter, and BBQ and hamburgers in summer. Maybe there was a tiny sprinkling of vegans around the nation, but I certainly knew none. There was no Internet. No information. No role models.
Growing up, I’d always loved animals and felt deeply connected to them. When my dearly departed dad, who at that time worked swing shifts in the Air Force, brought home used copies of LIFE Magazine, I’d read them with great interest. Doorways to other worlds, pathways to that wide-open sky of possibilities, information that sparked something in me. One issue of LIFE contained an expose on factory farming. My big, green, innocent child’s eyes read every word with unmitigated concern. I sobbed looking at the photos of the crated, miserable animals. I ran my little fingertips coated with chipped pink polish over each image and poured tears, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
A few years later, having solidified the connection between my love for animals and the food on my plate, I announced to my parents that I would be going vegan. They had no idea what to feed me, plus, I think they had their hands full working and keeping a roof over our heads. Fighting with a stubborn, little Natalie wasn’t going to go anywhere productive, so, God bless them, they just stepped out of the way and let me be me.
I withstood the daily ridicule at school, dealt with the ignorant remarks with grit, determination. It was a good training ground for me, leading me to become fearless in living a lifestyle both misunderstood and unsupported by my peers as well as the authority figures in my life at the time. I got very comfortable being a bit of a lone wolf and have remained that way, making it quite easy for me to live as a raw vegan for the past decade, going very much against the grain of mainstream veganism and often dealing with harsh criticism from even my fellow vegans. But I digress.
The story of my journey, leading ultimately to my raw vegan reboot, is why I’m able to thrive and finally live a healthier life thanks to raw plants. In the late 1990s, I bought into the cooked starch version of veganism so strongly promoted by the self-appointed leaders of that era. They’d written books and were considered experts. Eat all the potatoes and rice and bread and pasta you want, they said. Okay, sounded great to me! By then I’d accepted that I was a “big girl” and wore size 14, with size 12 being a thrill for me. I was a runner, albeit a slow one. I thought I knew who I was. I also thought the constant cravings I experienced as a vegan were just part of the lifestyle.
Those cravings eventually led to very dark chapters in my life. Low-fat cooked starches never filled me and consequently, I often pigged out and felt like garbage. I was perpetually bloated, undernourished, and would sometimes cave in to my cravings by indulging in all the “fake” vegan fare such as vegan meats and cheeses, vegan ice creams, and so on. This was a never-ending cycle. The ideological underpinnings of veganism still made sense to me, but I was intensely frustrated with implementing them into my daily life. It felt so unfair that such a seemingly healthy diet would cause me to be overweight, and lethargic. But I was still young, hopeful, and hadn’t hit rock bottom. Yet.
Fast forward to motherhood, and veganism pretty much came crashing down on me. My cravings were out of control, and I gained over 100 pounds with each pregnancy, spiraling into a deep depression as well as enduring serious physical problems. This was perhaps the darkest chapter of my life.
Darkness can beget desperation, a desperation that can make you question whether perhaps veganism is sustainable. You might have noticed how often people will claim that “a vegan diet failed” for them, then they conclude there’s something fundamentally unsound about it from a nutritional perspective. In my case, living as a vegan had never led me to thrive in terms of health or joy. I’d simply white-knuckled it for decades because I believed in it so strongly. But it was killing me. I was ready to give up. I considered transitioning back to eating meat. I was lost.
In one particularly dark moment, I was in my home office feeling like I would rather die than face one more day living in an obese, unhealthy body. Broken, I dropped to the floor into child’s pose and just prayed. I spoke to God and said, “I know this wasn’t the life you intended for me. Please show me how to get out of this place. Please, God. If you show me the way, I will do what you ask of me.” That’s a rather intimate thing to share, but we get one life, and if my story touches or finds the right people and helps in some way, then the risk of being so openly vulnerable here is worth it.
Mere days following that rock bottom point, a friend told me about raw foods. I thought it sounded bizarre, but I tried it. In future articles, I’ll go into more detail about how to transition to raw foods and I will share more recipes, but here I’ll give a much more abbreviated version.
A New Life, a New Chapter in Veganism
I dropped all the excess weight and then some. At 5’11” tall, I now wear between a size 2-4 depending on the brand, and I am the fittest and the happiest I have ever been. I trail run, distance run, practice getting faster, lift weights, do HIIT training, and more. I’m currently finishing up getting my spinning certification so that I can have a blast teaching spin class! I have become, and I am becoming, more than I ever thought possible for decades prior.
My mind is also calmer and clearer, and life has improved beyond anything I was able to envision before. In the legal profession, one tends to deal with a high amount of conflict and stress, but I feel extremely centered and calm amidst even the greatest challenges. Simply put, I could not do what I do without the power of raw foods. I thank raw veganism daily for empowering me to be my best, and to be able to then turn around and do the most good in this world that needs us all at our best!
I’m here to share my story in the hopes that anyone out there wanting to reboot their own vegan journey might derive inspiration knowing that the addition of raw plants can make all the difference. It might be the missing piece of the puzzle for you. And thank goodness we have wonderful publications like VegWorld connecting us to share this kind of information, to make each other stronger, and help one another.
If you have been struggling with making vegan nutrition work in your real life, you aren’t alone, and now you’ve got a tireless advocate and supporter: Me!
Living the raw vegan lifestyle is the easiest, most delicious, and empowering lifestyle I’ve ever experienced. Food prep is fast and it’s nearly impossible to goof up a recipe. Cleanup is a breeze, too. Just rinse and go on with your day!
I’m proud and honored to be an ongoing contributor to VegWorld and pleased to have joined with its new editorial team to be able to share the raw vegan lifestyle with all of you. Please do reach out to me and be sure to visit my website at www.natalienorman.com for recipes and additional support. You can also find me on Instagram @rawnatalie and on Twitter @natalienorman. I look forward to connecting with you!