Since I was a small child I and my family have been overweight, mostly on the female side of our family. Mum and Dad raised us on home made foods and we even grew some of our own vegetables over the years, but meals were large and full of the standard ‘meat and two veg’ or pastas dripping in sauces. There were always vegetables on the plate, but I did not really like them – I have memories of the dreaded frozen spinach and boiled cabbage which really put me off anything ‘green’! I loved pizza and chips, eggs and bacon, huge sandwiches and fried anything…salads were not on the menu at all.
I began to develop an unhealthy attitude to food when going through some tough times in my early teens, and began binge eating on crisps and chocolate bars – I could eat a 12 pack of Wotsits in one go and not think anything of it. Food became comfort to me at an early age, and it helped me to stop thinking and feeling.
My Dad, Dave, died when I was 16 and my brother was only 6 – dad was 37 – he had spent a few years previously having a series of heart attacks which led to a triple bypass operation. It was a massive shock to us all, loosing him so young. I think it was then that I began to spiral deeper into unhealthy relationships – food, alcohol and boyfriends.
Leaving school, going off to Art college and then taking a placement as a student groom in a stables in Hertfordshire took me away from family stability and guidance and my eating habits became erratic and often non-existent! Back then in the 1980’s we had £30 a week to live on being YTS students, and most of my money went on nights out. I lived on baked beans and pot noodles for at least a year! Working with horses meant I lost a lot of weight over time, but it also deepened my food issues and soon led me into an eating disorder where I would often go 2 -3 days without eating, just to make sure my weight stayed off. Then I would go out and binge for a day, feeling terrible again. I was also taking diet pills – a never ending cycle of self abuse, just to keep light enough to do the job I loved!
It was my beloved mum who made me see sense when she said that if I didn’t stop and eat something I would be too ill to work, and then I began to start eating ‘normal’ meals again.
Unfortunately I was still drinking more than I ought to and my meals were far from ideal – slim fast meal replacements and Weight Watchers frozen meals were my main diet!
In 1988 I had a serious accident while working a very difficult horse, and even though no-one suspected at the time, the damage caused to my pelvis would cause health issues for the following 15 years. Due to the amount of pain I became addicted to strong pain killers, just to get through the days work, and I lost a lot of confidence in riding the competition horses that my job revolved around. Every fall re-opened the tears in my muscles and ligaments, as did moving the heavy jump equipment and mucking out 10 plus horses a day! In the end, whilst lying prone on the floor at the end of a day, I rang the local Doctor who worked with the race trainers near my yard. He examined me and told me that I had to stop working with horses or I would cause even more damage.
Talk about a bombshell hitting home! Ever stubborn, I thought I knew better so carried on for another year or so, until, once again, another fall put me in hospital – then I woke up and realised my mortality. Leaving the love of my life – horses – was a big step, but it had to happen.
After stopping all that hard work I began putting weight back on and loosing the muscle. Eating really badly increased as did drinking far too much. General life stresses and boring office jobs meant I was sedentary for the first time in almost a decade. Weight gain led to more comfort eating, and so the cycle went on.
I would put on a few stones, then go and join a slimming group, loose the weight, stop going and put it all on again. Each time a little more went on too.
Before I knew it I weighed over 14 stone. I was working in a pub at this time, and after one relationship broke down I met a man who I eventually married. However, this relationship was the most destructive one in my life. To cut a long story short, the man I married was a manipulative alcoholic, and the following 13 years was spent trying to keep him sober and me sane. At least it made me stop drinking though!
Even though my weight increased much more during this period I fell in love with gardening, and began growing herbs at home, and a few salad leaves and tomatoes. We had 3 big dogs too which kept me busy walking for hours, so I got a bit of my fitness back, even though I was far too heavy. If I knew then what I know about food now – boy what a difference it could of made! My garden became my sanctuary from life and I became more and more interested in growing organic foods and healing therapies, training as a Reiki practitioner to Master level and studying herbal medicine as a vocation. We could not afford to buy land in the UK so we ended up moving to France in 1999. I took up a volunteer job as an organic gardener and Reiki therapist at a retreat centre – this was the turning point for me. I learned much more than I ever thought possible from the years in France. The main enlightenment was that I did not want to be married any longer. The relationship went from bad to horrendous – booze is so cheap over there – and I had to leave before I lost all of my soul.
Returning home to the UK stronger and more focussed than I had ever been in my life – I set about ‘sorting myself out’. The divorce was messy but quick. I lost everything, but that was a blessing. One last shock fell the first week home at mums – my beloved dog Ella had bone cancer. We lost her 3 months later. To this day we miss her and love her. Goddess Bless you little Ella xx
So, I am home with my family, almost 19 stones and very depressed. What was I to do? Well, shake myself off and get my self healthy. A few hiccups along the way in the first few months, but I was on the path finally. Slimming groups just do not do it for me, but I had to keep trying. Food was still controlling me on every level – when I was feeling good I would eat well and lots of salads and veggies – feeling down and the cake, pies, chocolate and crisps took over.
At this stage I met a man called Ant. He is now my husband and the most adorable, loving, gentle man I have ever met. My life became HAPPY, CONTENT AND LOVED. My relationship with people changed - 6 years later I finally began understanding my relationship with food.
In the last six years our eating habits changed slowly. We first made the conscious decision to become vegetarian. Ant did eat meat but was never comfortable buying or handling it, and I ate lots of meat, did all the cooking, but just started to feel that I was ready to stop supporting the cruel farming practices widespread in meat and dairy production. So we went veggie. In came all the TVP, Quorn and tofu, plus lots of soya milk, desserts etc…We did increase our fruit and vegetables and grew lots of our own on our allotments, but this was far from ideal – especially the after effects of all that soya!
I had lost a good few stone by now and was approaching a much healthier 14 stones again. I had built up a few gardening jobs locally, so was loving life, doing work I loved, a nice home, studying permaculture and herbalism – perfect.
Then I began feeling ill. I was sore all over, my hair began falling out, I had little or no energy, could not concentrate, was always freezing cold, fell asleep in the afternoons. This was so not right. So I went to the Doctor and had a blood test. A week later the results came in – under performing thyroid gland. Yes, the medication was given, and for the next 3 years altered every few months to get it at the right level. At the same time I began seeing a friend who is a kinesiologist and Vortex healer (and colonic hydro therapist – Oh the joy!). She found that the issue lay with the hypothalamus and not the thyroid on the whole and so supported the medication with natural remedies. I also have mercury toxicity due to amalgam fillings, so I began taking chlorella daily to assist in the elimination of toxins.
Eventually I was able to function again, but all my garden work had to be let go – I just could not do the work. But we did still have the allotment so we continued growing our own foods. We both have a real passion for living as natural a life as we can, close to nature. For a good 3 years we lived almost constantly outdoors, in our van and our amazing Mongolian Yurt! My interest in nutrition started to deepen too. It was not until 2009 that I discovered the issue of soya in the human diet, and we stopped eating any soya products at all. (put link here). This was also the year we were living in Glastonbury, Somerset and we met people following raw food diets. A good friend of ours lent us The Raw Family by Victoria Boutenko, and I must have read it in 2 days! This book set my mind alight with new ideas to look into. At the time I was addicted to coffee, so much so that my body was highly acidic – which led to my joints being so painful I could not walk at the end of the day. SOMETHING had to change.
Little did I realise, from the moment I read that book, I began to transition to a raw food diet.
WHAT I DID RIGHT AND WRONG ON THE ROAD TO NOW
For me the best thing has been to take every day at a time, often one meal at a time, to allow the changes to come in at a steady pace. Some people can go 100% raw over night, and that is fantastic, but often it is easier to take it slowly. One of the reasons is that, although detoxing takes longer it is also some what less painful. Our daily lives can be so full that to go ‘cold turkey’ from our standard diet could be almost impossible.
I never thought of being 100% raw in the first year – it sounds great, but I did not want to put that amount of pressure on myself too early. When I commit to something I need to know what is going to happen and analyze it all, inside and out, but the other side of me likes to just go “you know what…give it to me and I will accept it!”
So, in came smoothies every day – fruit with organic yoghurt at first, but in a matter of a week or so I just dropped the yoghurt and have never touched it since! We still ate cooked foods most days, but my body was saying it wanted more RAW.
There is so much information on raw food lifestyles out there – in books, on the internet forums and online communities – it really is an amazing resource. But, there is much confusion too – what kind of foods to eat, what kind of equipment do I need? How much raw should I be…and the rest! I must have read so much my head almost burst!
Whilst subconsciously transitioning I decided to start my own micro-business, which coincided with our returning home to Northamptonshire.
We returned to care for Ant’s father Tom, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer in the August of 2009 – it was easier for us to return home and be his carer’s as Ant’s brother Colin and his family work full time. So, not to want to sit back we made a home here again and whilst looking after dad, built a solid foundation to work with, and Raw Alchemy was born.
For the past year I thought I was doing great on my raw food quest ~ eating lots of raw salads, green smoothies, juicing every few days, making lots of dehydrated and gourmet dishes, rich in nuts and avocadoes and coconut butter, plus all that Chocolate! Oh how yummy life was.
But, although my health improved tremendously and my energy levels soared, creativity through the roof and lots of other benefits that I had never imagined, my weight did not seem to want to shift much more than a half stone or so. I was still addicted to cooked foods, especially potatoes in any form and often bread and coffee.
What was I to do?
I wanted to make a deeper commitment to myself so I signed up for not one but two initiatives. The first was my dear friend Tracy Partridge- Johnsons 80% Raw 30 day challenge. The second was a 30 day Vegan Pledge with the Vegan Society. These ran at the same time and it was a great benefit. Out went all the dairy, honey, potatoes, eggs etc. In came more green smoothies, salads and green leafy vegetables plus more juices! It was not easy at first and the detoxing from dairy was horrendous – I never even saw it coming, but it had me feeling so sore and ill for 3 days, but as in all the detoxes, I allowed it and accepted it as a temporary period that would leave me feeling so much better once it had passed.
At the end of the month I had shed 7lbs and felt great. BUT…as soon as it was over some of the ‘banned’ food came back in. Not the dairy however – that is gone – gone – gone!
At around the same time, I decided to come off the thyroid medication. On reflection now I should have done so gradually with the supervision of my Doctor, but hey, I did it my way. I would never advise anyone else to come off ANY medication without their doctor’s guidance though!
To ensure that my body was getting the right support I began taking some herbal supplements; spirulina, chlorella, kelp and maca, building them up each dose until I was taking about a teaspoon of each most days – it is important not to let your body get used to the same supplements on the whole, or there may be slight tolerance build ups.
One of the most beneficial things I did last year was to sign up for David Wolfe’s Raw Nutrition Course with the Canadian Body Mind Institute – this is a year long course in raw living foods and is totally amazing. Check it out for yourself – I signed up for their Affiliate scheme too as the courses are just great.
This course gave me such a deep understanding of so many aspects of living a raw life that would have taken me so much longer had I just read books about it.
It also sparked my interest in Superfoods and eating much closer to nature. In turn, taking many more of these healing foods has increased my health ten fold in the latter half of 2010.
By now I was becoming a little more restless at my lack of ability or will power to shed both the cooked foods and my excess ‘pain waste’, and I was starting to feel some of the old thyroid symptoms surface again, so at the end of last year I made a little pledge to my soul that, by May 2011 I would embrace 100% raw, at least for the warmer months of the year. On January 3rd, with over 100 others online, led by SHAZZIE, I went on my first ever juice feast for 7 days! Wow, I never thought it would be so easy – to juice fully for a whole week ~ in Winter! I loved it so much, and the support of other people taking part made is so much better.
I also went and had that long over due appointment with my Doctor, and got another blood work done. He was fine with my decision to come off meds, so long as I was happy with how I was feeling, but the blood work gave some results that were not great. Of course my TSH and Free T3 levels are not as they should be so more work needed there, but my kidney function reads low for my age – here goes work to improve that area. Also my iron levels are not as good as they could be, what with all the greens I eat – so there is some improvement in my digestion and absorption needed. The great thing is that my B12 levels are fantastic as are my Vitamin and Mineral levels and hormone levels are good too – must be doing SOMETHING right!
Since then I have gone from strength to strength, finally transitioning to 98% raw well before my goal of May 1st. I honestly can’t say I am 100% raw as I do drink hot herbal teas and elixirs, but the rest of my diet is whole and raw!
How did this happen? Well, more research and inspiration from other raw food dudes online led me to invest in 80-10-10 by Doug Graham. Until reading this book I had been restricting my fruit intake greatly, to the point that I believed if I ate more than one banana a day I would never be able to get healthy, and that a fruitarian diet is only for athletes and active people – yeah my mind sucks!
But, I read the book from cover to cover, digested it all, threw out some of the bits that just did not resonate with me on a core level, and started out on the path to where I’m at right now.
I’m seeing great improvements almost daily in my general well being – including the reduction of those thyroid symptoms. Energy levels are increasing again and my food cravings are gone! With the increase of fruit in my diet I am now no longer hungry at all and have found going deeper into raw so much more simple – just by upping the fruit. All the cravings for potatoes and other cooked foods just fell away, virtually over night. I also no longer tell myself that I will enjoy that cup of posh coffee! I feel that I am eating such a decadent diet – full of fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, salad fruits and leaves, herbs and fruity dressings – LUSH.
Now, as I do have quite a bit more healing to do, I must say that I do not eat anywhere near as much fruit as the 80-10-10 book advises – I actually could not eat 11 bananas in one smoothie! But to bring balance to this totally awesome way of eating (for it really is awesome), I try to eat around 45% sweet fruits – 45% green leafy vegetables and non sweet fruits like cucumbers and celery – 10% fats in my daily intake. This, to me is optimum for the time I need to fully heal and complete the detoxification process.
At this point I must mention the most inspirational resource that helps thousands of people into a healthy raw life, and that is RAW FOOD REHAB – this online community, guided by the very lovely Penni Shelton, is there waiting to welcome you with open arms and lots of love. I have been a member (it’s free) for a year, but only just really got involved last month – joining one of their amazing initiatives to really boost health and connection to raw.
Well, this brings us up to today…it is some read I know, but I hope you find my journey so far of some help and insight as to the life of transitioning to raw.
There will be plenty of recipes coming up on the site and I look forward to chatting to you and sharing some ideas and inspirations.
Love, peace & faery dust
This is my personal experience and as such please bear in mind that I do not seek to provide individual medical or nutritional advice and ask that if you choose to embark on your own RAW adventure (which I hope that you do) that you seek the advice of your own medical practitioner or Holistic Health consultant.
To Dad & Tom
The most influential men in my life
Love and miss you both.Huge love and thanks to Ant, for being my rock and for testing out all the recipes xx