‘As a Couple and As Business Partners, We Truly Make a Great Team Because We Dig out the Best in Each Other and Complement Each Other with Our Differences.’
Lori Weiss (left, in top image) and Nicole Gregg are the duo behind Rawthenticity and set off on their raw vegan journeys together on July 4, 2015, with the goal of freeing themselves of digestive challenges. What they found, however, is a markedly improved level of wellness and an ambition to want to help others discover health and happiness.
The couple had already become vegans, but Lori, 31, originally from West Orange, New Jersey, said she instinctively knew her worsening digestion, leading to irritable bowel syndrome, couldn’t be connected solely to her vegan diet. “So I started going to doctors, including a gastroenterologist, and taking endless tests, which were all coming back normal,” said Lori, who spent nine years living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and then Santa Monica, California, for four years before returning to New Jersey, where she lives with Nicole in Manasquan. “When the doctor told me my next test would cost $2,000, I decided to take matters into my own hands. It had particularly troubled me that during the entire time I was going to the doctor for stomach problems, I had never been asked what I was eating. I knew that something about what I was eating was causing my problems.”
Nicole, 27, who was born on Staten Island, New York, and has called New Jersey home since she was about 12, had learned about fruitarianism by a stranger she met at an airport in February 2015 when she was at “rock bottom,” suffering from digestion issues, yeast infections and brain fog. Nicole had experienced these digestion issues all her life and, she admits, had unhealthy eating habits, comprising mostly fast and processed foods such as popcorn chicken and mac and cheese.
“I never cared about my health and was never educated on how to make healthy choices with my food,” she said. “If I was educated, my mind was completely closed off. I’d say that my increased awareness came from a developed sense of self-love and an interest in feeling more alive—and generally just taking better care of myself.”
At the time they went raw, Lori was living in Santa Monica and Nicole, in New Jersey, but the couple traded notes. After Nicole started introducing more fruits and vegetables into her diet, they set off for Mango Island, eating nothing but mangos for about 10 days.
“The amount of food that is instructed to eat on an 80/10/10 lifestyle gave me a lot of anxiety,” Nicole said. “It was definitely a step-by-step process for me.”
Lori said: “I was living in the L.A. area without a car, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to get lots and lots of mangos from the store and transport them to my apartment. I decided to take my largest suitcase with me to Whole Foods to see how many I could fit. Over the course of our 10 days or so on Mango Island, I recall taking at least three suitcase trips to and from Whole Foods to stock up on mangos. For the next year, that was how I ended up transporting my fruit home.”
Support was key to her success, Nicole said. “I didn’t succeed until Lori and I followed the lifestyle together and supported each other,” she said. “I cried through the resistance of trying to swallow even my second mango of the day. If I could give my past self some advice during transition, I would have told myself to take it easy, graze and stop paying attention to how much I am eating and just make sure to drink lots of water.”
Lori and Nicole experienced diarrhea while on Mango Island, but this cleansing effect eased as the pair introduced additional fresh fruits into their diets. After also adding tomatoes, leafy greens and zucchini into her diet, Lori was ecstatic to discover that her skin cleared up after having suffered from acne, which birth control medication did not eliminate, for many years. Lori stopped taking these pills when she went raw.
Nicole stuck to just fruits and, while enjoying a monomeal of grapes, craved tomatoes. She had never craved any fruit or vegetable before. “The next day, I had a strong craving for celery. I am aware now that my body was seeking sodium, but I was so excited that my cravings were shifting and changing. I felt really proud and happy that I had stuck it out and followed this lifestyle even when it was really hard. It was so worth the challenge, and eating a raw diet has enhanced my life in every way shape and form,” said Nicole, adding that her digestive system has healed and yeast infections, vanished.
On a fruit-based raw vegan diet, Lori said she’s noticed that her muscles have grown significantly faster compared with when she was on other diets. “I never had great muscle tone anywhere in my body except for my arms before,” said Lori, adding that her energy for workouts is improved. “Now I see muscle growth more rapidly and dramatically all over my body.”
Lori’s favorite benefit of being raw is that she gets to enjoy sweet fruit all the time. “I always had a crazy sweet tooth,” she said. “People knew me as the candy girl or the cupcake girl. Now I can appease my sweet tooth and not feel guilty about it!”
Nicole said she’s grateful to receive a boost in intuition while leading this diet. “It helped me to understand not only the needs of my body but my mind and soul,” she said. “I feel balanced often and, if I don’t, there is usually a simple intuitive answer within reach to guide me back to feeling balanced.”
Finally, Nicole enjoys the soaring energy she’s felt while leading a low-fat raw food diet. “I, without a doubt, have more energy, and sometimes I only realize it when I have a really hard time being lazy,” she said. “I always used to want to lay down and would have a hard time getting up energetically. Sometimes, my mind still gets lazy, but my body can’t take me sitting around and being lazy for too long.”
Lori loves to move as well. As a certified personal trainer, she’s passionate about exercise, with her routine these days centered on weightlifting and yoga. She lifts weights every morning after meditating and practices yoga two days a week. Lori also walks, jogs and dances, noting that her workouts evolve, with her getting back into a gym for weightlifting only recently after about a half-year focusing on jogging and yoga.
Nicole takes an intuitive approach to physical activity. “I communicate with my body and use the energy that I feel is available,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a mix of walking and jogging, sometimes it’s dancing, sometimes it’s yoga. I am a certified yoga teacher and really benefit from having the intention to exercise physically and meditatively simultaneously. Keeping my routines light and fun keeps me in a state of joy. I am not one who likes to follow structure or routine because I feel that, when I do, I block out intuitive communication by attaching to instructions. Intuition over instruction is my motto.”
Lori and Nicole have experimented with eating greater amounts of fat and high-carbohydrate cooked meals but have settled in to leading a wholly low-fat raw food diet. Lori’s recent six-day water fast gave her closure on her wanting to commit to an all-raw diet. “I had reached peace of mind regarding the lifestyle,” she said. “I wanted to commit to it because I knew I would feel my best eating fully raw.”
Cooked foods such as carb-rich vegan pizza and pasta tempted Lori when she included them in her diet. “I started to feel what I term ‘assaulted,’ or ‘a-salted,’” she said. “I am really sensitive to salt and sodium, and I felt like my body was oversalted from these restaurant foods. Now, as a fully raw vegan, I am also practicing mindful eating, intuitive eating and listening to my body more closely. So my meals change every single day for me.”
Nicole sometimes goes days or a week without eating any overt fats. Lately, avocado and coconut comprise the bulk of her fatty foods, with sesame and chia seeds and Brazil nuts sometimes included for nutrient purposes. “I feel my absolute best when my fat intake is low,” she said. “1,400 calories seems to work well for me, but I never count. Every day is different depending on my activity level.”
On a recent “graze day,” Nicole ate 1½ bags of grapes, another cup of grapes, a pound of strawberries, a tomato, a cucumber, a zucchini, a head of romaine lettuce with a sun-dried tomato-mango sauce and then four bananas as banana-based “ice cream,” a favorite recipe. On a day with more dietary structure, Nicole ate a pair of cantaloupes at noon, a bag of grapes at 3 p.m. and, two hours later, four apples followed by a salad of romaine lettuce, mangos, tomatoes and lime juice.
Nicole’s favorite fruits are jackfruit, persimmons and grapes. She also enjoys cauliflower.
One day, Lori might enjoy half a large watermelon at 11 a.m., another fruit meal at 1 p.m. and a fruit snack at 4 or 5 p.m. followed by a savory dish of fruity salad or zucchini noodles with romaine lettuce. Another day, she might start eating banana-based “ice cream” at noon and then have a fruit appetizer at 4 p.m., with another savory dinner at 5 p.m. Her favorite fruits are jackfruit and persimmons.
“I seriously love everything about jackfruit,” Lori said. “I love how animalistic it is to eat; I love the sweet, juicy, tropical flavor; and I love how it’s so large and encourages sharing.”
Lori’s favorite variety of greens is romaine lettuce, with Nicole adding that she “love[s] the flavor of it.” “Nicole and I try to eat at least one head of romaine a day, as it contains 30 percent of our daily recommended nutrients,” Lori said, adding that she keeps her intake of overt fats low and that they both supplement with Vitamin B12. These days, she eats avocado, coconut, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts as sources of overtly fatty foods.
Lori and Nicole met at a Lesbians Who Tech gathering in Los Angeles while Nicole was visiting a mutual friend. They ignited a long-distance relationship, with Nicole moving to Santa Monica a year later.
“We had been fruitarian for two months at that point,” Lori said, “and knew that we wanted to spread our message about health and happiness through fruit and other lifestyle changes. We had recently come up with the name Rawthenticity after brainstorming names for what we wanted to share on Instagram. We knew that we wanted to share our message but needed some type of certification, so the day Nicole moved in with me, we made the impulse decision to study at Living Light Institute and become certified raw food nutrition specialists through Drs. Rick and Karin Dina’s program.”
Nicole said: “As a couple and as business partners, we truly make a great team because we dig out the best in each other and complement each other with our differences. For example, I was able to teach Lori how to quiet her mind, and she taught me how to be more confident. It feels perfectly aligned that we would do this together because being together has allowed us to blossom into who we truly are. Hence, the word “rawthenticity” makes lots of sense.
Rawthenticity aspires to build a like-minded community and offer a support system, so instrumental in the founders’ health and life journeys. “It has simply been a journey of our lives and passions,” Lori said. “It has been just a natural evolution of who we are and what we want to share with the world.”
Lori and Nicole also broadcast videos from YouTube, serving viewers with new themed selections such as Spirit Sunday, with Nicole sharing insights on her spiritualism and Wellness Wednesday, with either woman providing wellness tips and insight as well as highlighting the foods she enjoyed that day.
Lori and Nicole now aim to put out videos Sundays through Thursdays, with discussion on the videos as well as supplemental material carrying over to their Facebook group through LiveChat. Additionally, as part of the themed day Thankful Thursday, a winner will be announced weekly who’ll receive an hour of health coaching with the Rawthenticity creators for offering positive participation during the week. Explore Rawthenticity’s community.
“Our business started gaining momentum when we created the online Facebook live group,” Nicole said. “The momentum came from us feeling so clear and connected to using this platform, where not only can we teach and share our message online, but people have the space to ask questions, connect with one another and stay in consistent communication with us as facilitators as well as like-minded people in the group. With all of our differences, Lori and I know what it feels like to be isolated, so it makes me happy to be able to create a space where people can evolve on whatever health and happiness path feels true to them with 100 percent support and encouragement.”
Laughter is something Lori recommends for transitioning raw fooders. “When I first went raw, I thought it was hilarious how much fruit I was eating,” she said. “I joked about it with my friends. It made the whole process of going raw not seem so serious or scary. … My humorous and positive spirit about it really helped to make the transition easy.”
Lori also advises those new to the diet to focus on themselves, not on what others think about the lifestyle. “It is your journey—not theirs,” she said. “You deserve health and happiness. There will naturally be ups and downs in the transition to raw. Don’t be so hard on yourself and simply enjoy each moment. Don’t let other people deter you from experiencing joy in the process.”
Nicole suggests fledgling raw fooders take their long journeys to raw bliss one step at a time. “Seek out someone who can guide you through it if you feel overwhelmed,” she said. “I know that if I spoke to certain leaders about my trouble in swallowing down 600 to 800 calories of fruit in one sitting, almost all of them would have told me to work my way up to eating more and to let go of the anxiety. It would have really helped for me to hear: ‘It is a process. You will get there, and everything will be OK.’”
Finally, Lori highlights the importance of a support system in achieving success on a raw diet. “I was so fortunate to have Nicole simultaneously transitioning to raw with me,” she said. “Whether you constantly watch YouTube videos on the subject, read about it, find local fruitlucks or anything else to create a support system, having resources around you is the easiest way to transition. Find someone to go raw with you. Find Facebook groups that encourage you. Find YouTubers who motivate you. Find local raw foodies. Find online resources that answer your questions. Do whatever you need to do to feel supported in the process.”