At 6 years old, it all made perfect sense to me. I was happy to eat what mama provided and save my animal friends some pain. My whole family of four smoothly adjusted to a vegan diet and, though I don’t remember feeling different, both of my parents were losing weight and gaining energy. My mom said my brother and I both had multiple ear infections growing up, but neither of us remember much because after going vegan, we never had them again.
A year later, mom discovered the next level of health for the family, and raw food was introduced to my world. Overnight, the tofu was gone, replaced with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. My family never seems to think too much before trying something seemingly extreme, and we never do things in halves. I’ve grown to be grateful for that! At once, our stove became a pantry, and the microwave was traded in for a dehydrator.
This was a pivotal moment in my young life, a point at which I started to realize the responsibility and power I had over my own physical health. I also took on a new identity to others, both peers and elders. I was officially the weirdest kid in school, and kids would actually come up to me out of nowhere and ask me, “Aren’t you the girl that only eats fruits and vegetables?” To which I proudly responded, “Sure am!” From early on, I was given an opportunity to appreciate myself for being different, whether others thought I was crazy or not. Plenty of people thought we were crazy, and Missouri (The Show Me State) is not known for forward thinking. Friends, family and strangers were asking us to show them we weren’t out of our minds and on a path to malnutrition and disease. So we showed them. 🙂
In the first month of eating raw foods, my dad lost 30 pounds of excess fat and water, while my mom easily lost 15 pounds. The normal headaches, indigestion and acid reflux, restless sleep, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue and creaky bones vanished. Just looking at the two of them, with 10 years erased from their faces and a new glow to their skin, convinced most of our friends and family that what we were doing was working for us. Now, if we could just get them to see that it could work for them, too … .
Those who required furthermore hard scientific proof were not disappointed either. Another pretty bad car accident brought my mom back to a hospital for another full-body X-ray. With the first car accident, which she had suffered several years earlier, the doctors commented that her back was riddled with arthritis and pre-arthritic deposits. This time, the doctor with the results was shocked to find no traces of arthritis whatsoever. Both of my parents also participated in a study conducted on vegetarian, vegan and raw vegans. Their blood results were excellent, and the doctor couldn’t stop saying that their arteries were “Just absolutely beautiful!”
For a long time, we thought we had found the answer in raw foods. Ours, however, was a diet high in fat, salt and excitotoxins, and at about the seven-year mark, we started notching symptoms of disease. As a young teen beginning puberty, I started to gain unwanted weight. My period came heavily and painfully, usually putting me in bed for two days. A dissatisfaction with myself led to depression and demotivation. We were also told that everyone in my family suffered from candida overgrowth and that we would have to stop eating any form of carbohydrates and stick to a regime of low-calorie vegetables and fats. I remember being devastated at the thought of missing out on some of my favorite fruity treats. Something in my mom knew this wasn’t the answer, and that’s when she stumbled upon the book The 80/10/10 Diet by Dr. Douglas Graham. She was blown away by the concept of a low-fat raw approach, free of salt, oils and overstimulating substances. Her intuition told her it was the best thing she had come across so far, but this time she would have a tough time convincing the rest of the family to put down the bottle of olive oil.
Smiling now, I look back on the following few years as the dark ages of my health. Things were getting progressively worse, and I started to lose faith in raw foods. Though what my mom had read in The 80/10/10 Diet made sense to her, she was not applying it to her life. For a time, it fell out of our focus, and we started doing some “cheating,” or, as we put it, “saying goodbye.” We started going to restaurants and eating cooked foods that we had once loved as if we might heal some wound through re-experiencing Subway sandwiches. Trust me, there’s no durian at the end of that tunnel, though I believe it was important for me to experiment and gain a better understanding of what healthy and unhealthy really feels like.
This downward spiral continued, until the winter of the year that I turned 16. My mom decided to take a trip to Costa Rica to fast with Dr. Graham himself and regain her sense of health. I was still pretty sure that the 80/10/10 diet thing was not something I was willing to try and became even more depressed when my mom left. Eating became my coping mechanism, so I began to overeat on junky raw and vegan foods.
One day, I was so low that I started to feel panic. “This can’t go on like this,” I remember thinking. “Something has to change.” I decided that I would try telling myself that Ioved myself, even if I didn’t feel it. Every day, I looked at myself in a mirror and said, “I love you exactly as you are.” That was not easy, but I know it did more for me than I’ll ever understand and led me to the next chapter in my life.
The day my mom returned from Costa Rica was a turn of the page for me. I took one look at her walking through the baggage claim, and my jaw dropped. Was this the woman who had left me a month prior or was this an angel sent to earth to shed light on my life? Then again, mom always has been an angel to me. At once, I knew what I would do. I felt a shift in my consciousness, a lightbulb illuminating my path. I would do, not try, to love myself, and I would not look back.
The next day, I ate my first mono fruit meal and, for the first time in my life, went out to purposefully exercise. That mile felt like 12 miles to me then, and it took me at least 12 minutes to run it, but I did it. After a week of this routine, I felt like an entirely new being. Three months later and 10 pounds lighter, I could not wait to wake up in the morning to a road to run on and fruits to eat! I started finding that my body loved to move, and I started taking Zumba classes, watching old fitness videos and doing yoga and Pilates at home. I just kept running farther and farther until, one day, I realized that I was running 9 miles and felt like I could keep running! I did not miss the cooked foods, salt or fats, to which I had once been so attracted. I did not miss my painful periods, skin rashes and the feeling of being weighed down and tired either.
The years since that fateful day in February have been, for lack of a better word, epic. When I was 18, my parents took a flying leap of faith and chose to relocate to a newly forming low-fat raw vegan community in Hawaii. The journey there is a whole story of its own but, in short, moving to a tropical climate was an adventure with some very sweet and juicy rewards. I have learned so much at Kanekiki about cultivating fruit, relationships and love for oneself.
The same winter we moved to Hawaii, I went to Costa Rica myself to be an intern at Doug Graham’s fasting retreat. I remember being nervous to meet the man who had been the catalyst for a total turnaround in my life. I now know him as a boss man, a mentor and a friend. I found I learned so much from the event in Costa Rica that I began to travel from one FoodnSport event to the next, making connections with health-minded people all along the way. After attending and working so many events, I was hired as a chef and enjoyed creating simply delicious meals for FoodnSport in Costa Rica, Washington and other fruit kitchens in places as far as the United Kingdom.
Twenty-three years in, every day feels like the best day of my life. My days are full of spontaneity and play, authentic communication and valuable learning opportunities. This year, I lived for six months in Hawaii on the farm, picking fruit and turning it into “nice” cream at the Hilo farmers’ market. I am currently working with an incredible family in Michigan who are interested in learning a low-fat raw approach. After this, my plans are to return to Hawaii and earn money to pursue an unexplored dream of mine.
From a young age, I was constantly singing and dancing. Anytime there was a camera, I was there soaking up the limelight. I have always known deep in my core that I will somehow inspire the world to love. Lately, I’ve developed an undeniable love for aerial silks, partner acrobatics and hand-balancing, all of which are circus arts. For a long time, there’s been a voice in my head saying that I was silly for wanting to perform amazing feats and that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do what it takes. I’m radiating as I type; I am no longer believing that voice! Even if what it says is true, I’ll never know until I try! So I’m on the lookout for good circus programs in the USA, and my aim is to be in training by the end of next year.
Where this will lead me, I am unsure, but I am sure that I have nothing to lose. In fact, that is why I am excited for life, because I know that when I love myself and do what is good for me, there is no failure. By taking full responsibility for my health, by accepting and loving myself, I feel that I have freed myself to experience a full, fruitful, real and powerful life. The best part is that I get to share it!