I guess you could say that I have been on the road toward seeking health and balance within my body for a very long time. My health challenges started early. It was around the age of 8 that I began suffering from persistent, unexplainable intestinal problems. I would often miss the school bus because I was struggling with severe cramps, pain and diarrhea. These ongoing "stomach problems" created tremendous stress for me on many levels. The doctors performed lots of tests, but there was never a diagnosis.
Throughout my adolescence and into adulthood these symptoms continued, especially when I ate certain foods or was under stress. Without knowing what was wrong, I would spend many nights lying in my bed, curled up in pain, unable to do anything but pray. My prayers usually consisted of nothing more than simple cries for help.
As the years passed I learned to manage my "little problem".... that is how my friends would refer to "it". I learned not to accept invitations to any function where I would not have ready access to a bathroom. I always made sure I drove my own car wherever I went. And out of fear that another attack might happen, I made certain not to eat hardly anything when I was traveling. I actually lived with the constant fear that I would end up doubled over in pain or lose control of my bowels. In my early twenties, I learned that my problem was called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and it was treatable, but the medications I was prescribed over the years had side effects that were not much more appealing than the problem itself. And they did not take my IBS away; they merely helped to mask the symptoms a bit.
In my late thirties, with a life that most people would consider to be a "perfect little world," I recognized that my life was actually spiraling out of control.
While reflecting upon all that God had blessed me with: a beautiful, healthy daughter, a wonderful marriage and a thriving professional life, and a deep, rich faith, I still somehow found myself at the unhealthiest time of my life. My IBS was relentless and debilitating, my weight was soaring to new levels and my use of alcohol to numb my symptoms had become a daily crutch that I used to medicate myself. I was in a depression and felt a real sense of hopelessness for the first time in my life. I was doing a good job of putting on a game face each morning for work and for the family but things inside were falling apart.
While preparing for a family vacation in August of 2005, I happened to stop into the local Barnes & Noble bookstore to pick up a few magazines for the trip when a bookon display caught my eye. It had the beautiful Carol Alt on the cover. Carol was the first REAL super model and I had her flawless posters plastered on my bedroom walls when I was a teenager. So, being nostalgic and satisfying my curiosity, I purchased a copy along with my magazines.
Once I was settled in a lounge chair in the sun, I opened Carol's book, Eating in the Raw, and began reading. I practically devoured it in a few hours. I kept reading parts of it aloud to my husband as the children played at the water park. I could tell he found it as intriguing as I did. The words seemed to penetrate not only my mind but my heart as well. I asked myself this question: could it be that the lack of healthy, raw, alive, enzyme-rich foods was the source of all my problems for all these years? I began noticing my surroundings. There were innumerous, gigantic, nearly disabled swimmers waddling before my eyes, Unhealthy parents and children jiggling their way back and forth from funnel cake hut to Dippin' Dots kiosk. I counted five men who clearly had fairly recent open-heart surgeries, all overweight, noshing on junk food. Oh my God, I thought, I'm surrounded by sick food, sick people and I am sitting right here in the middle of a living hell!
Well, my husband Gordon and I decided right then and there to start eating a raw food diet. What was there to lose? I felt as though I had tried everything else, so I might as well take Carol's advice and eat in a way that would enable me to live my life fully alive and not just eat for fleeting pleasures or to simply survive.
We immediately began eating almost completely raw. Within the first week all of my lifelong irritable bowel syndrome symptoms were gone. Within 8 weeks I lost fifteen unwanted pounds and I had not reduced the amount of food I was eating at all. In fact, I finally felt free to eat and enjoyed delicious fresh, ripe and raw foods as I never had before. We ate and ate as much as we wanted and the weight still kept falling off.
Of course the journey hasn't always been simple. I had to relearn everything about preparing food for myself and my family. Living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there were no raw restaurants to go to. I knew it would be up to me to figure out how to make this work if I were going to stay raw. So I read everything I could find on this subject. I totally reworked my kitchen. I learned how to shop all over again. I got into the groove of meal planning and food preparation. I tried recipes, and I began to create my own. Now, after a year and a half, I am as at home with raw food as I was with cooked.
To be completely honest, I have experimented with my diet since I first went 100% raw. I have had periods where I have overindulged in cooked food here and there. During those times I notice tremendous and negative changes in my symptoms, my moods and my weight. I simply don't feel or look as good when I eat cooked food. Now, I try to always choose as wisely as I can and be prepared. If I am going to be faced with a situation that I cannot avoid cooked foods, I take digestive enzymes. I have finally arrived at a place that when I am given the choice, I always choose raw. People often tell me that I don't look my age, and I certainly don't feel it. In fact, I can truthfully say that I have never felt this good in my life. There is a freedom, lightness and a glow that only comes when one's body is in balance.
Because of my experiences and those of many others who blazed this trail before me, I deeply believe that a raw food diet is that healthiest and most perfect diet for humanity. However, I refuse to become a raw food nazi regardling this lifestyle. There are some in this community who tend towards mania or are zealous to the point of obsession and preach that one should never allow cooked foods to touch your lips. Although I applaud their fierce dedication and conviction, I pray that you'll not hear me condemning anyone else's choices. I believe each person has to choose what is right for them and how they can begin to make positive, healthful choices that they can live with. It is a journey and I hope that the lessons that I have learned will be able to help, encourage or motivate others. I am a real person with a real life, but what I have come to realize is that I really do like everything better when it's raw.