Tell us a bit about your approach to health and nutrition and what led you down this path.
In the beginning I set out on this journey just to heal. I didn't intend on becoming a raw foodist or vegan, I just desperately wanted to heal my Ulcerative Colitis, which stole two years of my life. I tried every diet. If the Paleo diet or AIP diet or anything else worked I would have stuck to it, but nothing did, not even the medications. One thing led to another and I came across a vegan diet consisting of fresh juices and raw fruits and vegetables. It made so much sense to me and seemed so freeing at the same time. I tried it and immediately started to feel better, and ended up becoming a part of a community of people who exposed me to all the other benefits the diet and lifestyle have to offer.
What is Ulcerative Colitis and what advice do you have for someone looking to heal?
Ulcerative Colitis is an inflamed and ulcerated colon, which occurs when there is an overload of toxicity in the system. The symptoms are scary and painful and I feel for anybody going through it right now. In terms of healing I’m all about taking small steps in the right direction when it comes to diet and not getting too extreme too quickly. On the other hand, if you’re in a flare and extremely uncomfortable, you really need to cut out all the toxic foods you are consuming right away because you’re stressing out your digestive system. You need to give your colon/digestive system a chance to heal, which can happen in a matter of weeks if you cut out the foods contributing to the inflammation. When a person has a broken arm or leg and they want it to heal, they rest the limb; the same goes for a broken colon or digestive system. The body can heal on its own if we get out of the way. Pick a few simple smoothies and juices that you like, have a bowl of steamed vegetables for dinner, and just go with that until you get some relief.
How do you start the day?
I always start my day with a bottle of room-temperature water, followed either by a juice or blended watermelon.
Food combining can be confusing. What tips do you have for properly combining meals and why is this important?
This is such an underrated tool and easy entry point because you don't need to commit to a vegan or raw diet right away to start food combining properly and see and feel the benefits. Always have greens as the foundation of your meal and then choose either a protein or carb as your side dish. If you’re going to have animal protein, don’t have it with potatoes or rice, have it with a salad. The next night enjoy a carb (rice or potatoes) with your salad. Also, try to avoid having fruit with anything heavy or cooked. I even suggest waiting until the next day to have fruit if you’re eating cooked foods during the day. It is so normal in our culture to enjoy fruit as a dessert after a big meal, but then people don't feel well and blame the fruit. In reality, the sugar from the fruit is fermenting on the pasta you just had and that can certainly cause an upset stomach.
What's your go-to breakfast?
At around 11:00AM I have a smoothie made of 6-8 bananas, a handful of greens, berries and cacao nibs. It’s delicious!
Are you raw vegan? if so, why raw?
I’m not 100% raw but I’m pretty close. I eat steamed potatoes and broccoli. I try to maintain as close to a raw diet as I possibly can, mostly to keep my body clean so I never have to endure another Colitis flare. Raw sounds intimidating but it's not as extreme as people think. It mainly means eating salads for almost every meal! I also genuinely love the raw food community and the aesthetics of it. A kitchen counter filled with fruits and a fridge full of greens just looks so beautiful. What I don’t love are the cravings I get whenever I eat something cooked. I have been sober for five years and the craving and obsession sparked by cooked food (to have more cooked food) reminds me of how I would obsess over drugs and alcohol. When I'm eating a raw diet and feel full, I just stop. When I eat cooked food I just obsess over the next meal. I know it sounds extreme but it works for me. As for eliminating cooked foods, I see it like people who wear a uniform. Like Steve Jobs with his black turtlenecks. It just takes a lot of decision making out of the equation. I’m lucky to have such a great community of people. Taking on this diet and lifestyle commitment has been so much easier because of them. Their inspiration is so helpful.Andy Warhol, Bananas, 1978
We know you're a big fan of mono meals. Tell us what this means and why you love them?
Love mono meals! A mono meal is basically a meal of only one type of fruit; a bowl of grapes or tangerines is the ideal and most efficiently digested. This is not something that you need to do long term, it’s just a tool. It also can be used as a cleanse if a juice fast is too much for you. A full day of mono meals or a few days is great! It’s a nice reset. Feeling full from fruit is a very different feeling from being full from cooked foods. It’s a fun thing to experience.
Juice vs smoothies. What's the difference and when to choose one over the other?
Both are equally important and great. When I talk about smoothies I am talking about fruits and vegetables thrown in the blender, not the concoctions with nut milks and powders, etc. Smoothies are ‘pre-digested’, blended up and therefore easier to integrate into your body. But your body still needs to work through it. Smoothies are a good entry point to replacing breakfast because most people have a blender and they can be very filling.
Juices are a whole different thing. They are immensely cleansing! If you get to a place where you are starting each day with a juice, you will feel the health benefits on so many levels. Buying a juicer is expensive and getting over that hurdle can be tough for some. But it’s totally worth it. And shopping for your pantry becomes so much more fulfilling; a fridge full of produce and fruits are so much more beautiful than anything else.
Do you have a favorite juice combination?
The best juice for me is the one that gets me to the bathroom in the morning and is easiest to prep and clean. So I keep it simple: Kale/Apple, Celery/Apple, Celery/Grape.
Who are your favorite doctors, nutritionists and/or healers?
So many people have inspired me in so many ways but in terms of healers or where someone should go to really get better I recommend Mike Perrine, Dr. Bisci, Paul Nison and Aris Lathem. I know these are all men, which isn’t intentional. There are incredible women in this space too. But I’ve really come to trust these guys in my personal healing process.
Thoughts on supplements?
They look great on the shelf but I always forget to take them. When I do they are OK but they aren’t integral to my life.
We’ve heard you say “readers are healers” and we couldn’t agree more. What are some of your favorite books on health and nutrition? Was there one book that changed everything for you?
The book that changed everything for me is Arnold Ehret's ‘The Mucusless Diet Healing System.’ Anyone interested in cleansing or health should read it to really understand what takes place in our bodies once we start removing processed foods, but it’s a bit antiquated so the practical tips and recipes may not be for everyone.
The best health book that you can read, one where you can start applying everything in it to your daily life safely, is Dr. Fred Bisci’s 'Your Healthy Journey' most books on the raw food diet are full of the same information, just presented differently, so it’s really about whose voice you vibe with.
Herbert Shelton is also good for theory. The reading keeps me inspired and the raw food, fruitarian or Natural Hygiene theory is nice to aspire to and think about even if it’s not practical for me at the moment to implement. Also, through reading you realize that you are part of something bigger and even though this way of life is trending now, it’s been around. We are part of a long tradition of health seekers!
What are your thoughts on fasting?
I think fasting is a great thing to do sometimes. If you are going to do a water fast for a prolonged period of time, it should be done under professional guidance. But a juice fast or going on a blended foods diet for a few days is a really nice reset. I do intermittent fasting everyday and a few times a year I do a fast for a couple days. The Jewish calendar requires me to fast throughout the year on certain holidays and sometimes I will prolong the fast if I’m feeling energized and up for it. I do strongly believe, however, that you can heal without fasting. If it's something acute that you need to deal with fasting under pro care may speed it up. But going for a day or so on juices is great. There is something very peaceful about ending your day and going to sleep with nothing in your system.
What 3 things can everyone do to improve digestion?
Chew your food well, try not to eat late at night and eat greens with every meal.
What other practices do you have that support you feeling your best?
I pause what I’m doing and pray four times each day (morning, afternoon, evening and right before bed). This is tremendously important to me and really helps me with clarity and an overall sense of feeling good.
What’s always on your grocery shopping list?
Bananas, I go through about 10 a day!
How do you end the day?
After I put all the kids to bed, I always end my day with an evening prayer. Then I prepare my juice and fill up my water bottle for the morning. "Nature Boys" in Topanga Canyon, August 1948