I took an interest in nutrition out of necessity, when I gained 50 lbs in my first 2 years at Penn State, even though I was working out 6 days a week for 2 hours per day. I was eating all the wrong foods (high carb, low fat), in the wrong quantities, at the wrong times, and in the wrong combinations…not to mention drinking liberally!
At my heaviest with my sister during college.
Over the next 2 years, calorie counting led to minimal weight loss, and by the time I had graduated from college, I was fed-up and ready to make a major change. Having graduated with a double major in Japanese and East Asian Studies, it was a no brainer to head to Japan and work on improving my Japanese. But living in Japan put a spotlight on my weight, since I felt so much bigger than everyone around me. My sister, Angi, sent me a care package that included a book on veganism and fasting. The next day, I started a 6-day juice fast. After completing the fast, I went vegetarian. Over the next several months, I lost about 10 lbs. Seeing the number budge on the scale made me feel a little bit better, but I still felt heavy and frustrated. When I returned to the US after 1 year of teaching English, I moved in with Angi. She was neck deep in following a raw vegan diet, and when she invited me to join her, I was fully prepared to take on the challenge.
A candid shot of me eating veggies as I started on the raw vegan path.
We ate about 75% raw vegan for 1 year, with the remaining 25% made up of cooked vegan foods like bean burgers, steamed veggies, and whole grain bread. I remember juice fasting on homemade juices for 3-5 days every couple of months. The weight loss was telling. In 1 year, not only had I lost an additional 25 lbs, my seasonal allergies went away, I was sleeping better, and my mood improved. That was also the year I convinced my sister to return to Japan with me.
We moved to Tokyo with a couple hundred dollars and a place to stay for 1 month using the connections I had made the previous year. A month later we had teaching jobs, cell phones, and a nice 2 bedroom apartment about 30 minutes outside of downtown Tokyo.
Me and Angi in Tokyo with our parents during a visit, out and about in the city, and with our students.
That first year, our diet reverted to everything and anything. We wanted to experience Japanese cuisine without limitations. Our taste buds were on board, but our bodies did not agree. Within a year, we were back to eating a high raw vegan diet, and by the following year, we were at 99-100%. We were more like fruitarians at this point.
It wasn’t hard. It happened naturally over time. Physically speaking, the extra weight was gone, my dry skin went away entirely, and Angi no longer snored. Other cool benefits: I didn’t sneeze once in all the years I was raw vegan; I didn’t break out at all unless I “cheated” with alcohol or fried foods; for a short while, I only needed 4 hours of sleep to feel completely rested; there was absolutely no gas/bloating, and our poo smelled sweet!!!! But even more exciting was the deep emotional/spiritual connection we felt with the world and everyone in it, and our intense desire to do something to help the world become a better place. It’s like when you take away the “burden” of heavy food (aka detox), you clear a path to who you really are and your true self comes bursting forth…and you realize that your true self is meant to feel good and do good all the gosh darn time. Hmmm..could that be why fasting/vegetarianism is commonly utilized in various religious cultures..?? I learned that what I put in my mouth truly goes hand in hand with feeling connected to something bigger than myself and feeling a deeper sense of purpose in my life. Of course, this is not the only way to achieve this connection, but it happened to be my way.
It was at this time that Angi and I started Nama Kiss (now called nuFudge), our raw vegan dessert company, and Lucina Live Fruitfully, a healthy events company.
Various Nama Kiss desserts.
We also started the Tokyo Raw Vegan Meetup Group to make friends and have an outlet to hold health events and sell our sweets. Within a few months, we had met a Japanese couple who would become our future business partners. In 2009, the 4 of us opened Manna Raw Vegan Restaurant where Angi and I prepared full course meals and desserts made from fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds.
Various pictures of Manna and the menu items.
Running the cafe while teaching ESL was extremely fun, but exhausting. By 2011, I was feeling strongly like I wanted to come home. I missed my family, my friends, and my home culture. Quite unexpectedly, I was starting to have negative side effects of my diet: bruising, extreme tooth sensitivity (I found out in 2013 that 14 cavities had appeared, after having no cavities up to that point. This is a common problem among long term raw vegans), and an aversion to raw foods. I hadn’t gotten my period in years (!!!), and I was gaining weight for no reason. I was literally dreaming about eating eggs on a nightly basis. While the benefits of a raw vegan diet were many, I had been too strict for too long, and I knew I had to rethink my lifestyle choices. I returned to the US in Feb 2011. On my first trip to the supermarket, I bought organic eggs. I ate one (cooked, of course!). I felt amazing. I ate another.
I was determined from that point forward to learn more about nutrition and help others understand what their bodies need to thrive. I have since become certified as a holistic health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (NYC, 2012) and have worked with about 100 clients. I received my master's degree in Nutrition Science and Policy from Tufts University (Boston, 2016) and worked for 1 year in Tufts' Energy Metabolism Laboratory doing human research. I currently work as a independent Nutrition and Lifestyle Consultant and run my organic dessert company, nuFudge (previously called Nama Kiss). Life is good :)
MY PHILOSOPHY ON FOOD & LIFE
I am often asked what I eat. Since eating that egg in 2011, I have not been able to cut animal foods back out of my life completely. I added them in slowly over the years. There are negative implications to eating some animal foods, especially low quality ones in large quantities. However, I believe (and science supports this) that most people should not completely eliminate animal foods from their diet. More importantly, finding the right amount for your body and choosing high quality sources is key (organic, free-range, hormone/antibiotic free, wild-caught, etc.) I try to maintain a healthy, mostly organic and well-sourced diet which includes: fruits, raw and cooked veggies, nuts/seeds, cold pressed oils, some whole grains, eggs, seafood, poultry, and very little pork. I also include medicinal mushrooms, adaptogens, and other superfood powders in my smoothies to improve the smoothie’s nutritional profile and give a boost to my immune system. My vices are ice cream (FOMU is off the charts for being dairy free) and kettle cooked potato chips. I do not eat red meat because it makes me sick. I try to stay away from processed foods, beans, dairy, gluten, and non-fermented soy products.
My life revolves around living every area of my life to the fullest extent possible. I believe human beings have the power and responsibility to create healthy and happy lives for themselves. Depending on the path chosen, it takes energy, work, time, money, growth, learning, therapy, support from others, and the list goes on…but the power is in our hands. It is no one else’s job to do the work necessary for me to achieve great health and long-lasting happiness.
My life has taken many twists and turns, but in my quest to create my own healthy and happy life, I have found a common theme: whenever I truly follow my intuition, I thrive; whenever I base my decisions on fear or the expectations of others, I struggle. Something in my gut told me to study Japanese at PSU even though everyone around me thought I was crazy. I didn’t base this decision on future income potential or a 10 year plan. I based it on a deep intuitive knowing that I was doing it for a reason greater than I could see or understand. I trusted my intuition to study Japanese, move to Japan, eat a crazy extreme diet, stop eating that diet, move to Boston…and each decision led to self growth and experiences I couldn’t have imagined even in my wildest dreams.
Through my blog posts and programs, I hope to show how interrelated our daily food, activity, and lifestyle choices are to our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. When all of these are in sync, we are more likely to achieve superior health and longterm happiness. Using what you learn, I hope you feel encouraged and motivated to find your intuitive inner voice and listen to it. We are all unique – what works for one will not work for another – but inside us all is a voice telling us what we need to do to improve our lives. Grab a yummy snack, tap into your intuition, and go find your calling.
At my Nama Kiss debut party in Boston.
On a rooftop overlooking Fenway Stadium in Boston.
Prepping for an early morning bikeride during the bitter Boston winter.
Angi visiting me in Boston.
Angi helping me in the Nama Kiss kitchen during her Boston visit.