Author of The SimplyRaw Kitchen, Natasha Kyssa presents Let Food Be Thy Medicine at TEDxOttawa…
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Let Food Be Thy Medicine by Natasha Kyssa at TEDxOttawa
25 years, exactly half my life ago, I looked a very different world. It had its exciting moments: jet-setting around the world; globetrotting between Tokyo and New York City, London, Munich and so on; working on location in exotic, faraway lands, and getting paid ridiculous amounts of money to look good and wear the latest fashion; and, of course, the socializing, hobnobbing with artists, musicians, actors, eccentric barons and other beautiful people; living the glamorous life. It’s every girl and her mother’s dream, right?
But modeling came with a price, a personal price. Did you know that the average model weighs 23% less than the average woman? Or that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses? The pressures to look thin, young, and beautiful, having to lie about our age and weight at auditions, “cattle calls” we called them. Fresh stock lining up in front of middle-aged clients, mostly men. Our portfolios scrutinized, our bodies ripped apart with criticism as if our feelings didn’t count. As if – and of course, being told to lose those 10 pounds, day after day after day.
Living — on black coffee, sugarless gum, strong cigarettes, uppers, and other stimulants, including the occasional line of cocaine in the dressing room, desperate to squeeze into that model sample size — that’s a size 0, ladies. And before I knew what hit, I was catapulted into a less glamorous place, one filled with loneliness, depression and shame, anorexia and bulimia, as if one eating disorder wasn’t complex enough. Oscillating between starving myself for months at a time, hmm, until I hit 85 pounds and then, of course, the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction, bingeing completely and utterly out of control.
And if it wasn’t for the handfuls of laxatives and the use for my middle finger thrust down my throat to purge the copious amounts of food, the anger — hmm — and humiliation I had stuffed down, I would have been obese. But I was too vain for that.
And for 7 years I struggled with the vicious cycle of bingeing, purging and starving myself, landing in and out of hospitals and treatment centers, doctors, therapists, shrinks, all stupefied with my condition, unable to help me with my core issues. Instead, the solution was to prescribe the latest drug out on the market. And there were a lot of them.
My collection of pills grew, as I spiraled downward through a drug-induced haze and hitting my rock bottom. Waking up one morning to the smell of my own vomit, barely able to recognize myself in the bathroom mirror, I realized just how synthetic my life had become. Looking down at the diet soda bottles, the chocolate Ex-Lax wrappers, candy wrappers, antidepressant, Valium, I decided right then and there to remove all the chemicals from my life, starting with the more lethal ones, pharmaceuticals that my doctors, my drug-pushers had prescribed me.
I followed my mother and the wholesome diet that I’d been raised on. My Austrian mom made everything from scratch, always using natural ingredients. We didn’t have junk food at home, we didn’t own a microwave, and we were the only family on the block that didn’t eat sliced white bread. Instead we had dark rye with our meals, and dessert wasn’t apple pie and ice cream, but fresh fruit. When we were sick, we were given natural remedies, chamomile tea for stomach aches, ginger and garlic for colds and flus, and buckwheat honey for sore throats.
Thinking about my childhood at that moment, something in me shifted. I finally recognized that it was up to me, and only me, to take responsibility of my health. So, I went on a cleaning rampage, clearing out all the low-cal this, no-fat that, so-called food items I had been existing on, and replacing them with whole, fresh, unprocessed foods. It wasn’t easy, believe me, there was an ongoing battle. Addictions are hard to break, especially five at once. It was pure hell at times, but I pushed through it, never giving up.
Without realizing it, I became a raw foodist, nourishing my body, not depriving it, with nutrient-dense plant foods. Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. I’d done a lot of damage to my body those 7 years, but one thing was for certain, the closer I ate to nature, the better I felt. It was that simple. I had more energy, my depression diminished naturally, my weight stabilized, and so did my eating patterns. I even began to like myself, and accepted my body. I became passionate about life and about life-giving foods. I felt better on every level.
So, why don’t the doctors tell us this? I’m not here to bash the medical industry, however, my doctors treated me only with drugs, yet it was a natural lifestyle that saved me. Have you ever taken a good long look at the supermarkets lately? 95% of the foods on our shelves come in a box, can, jar or bag. In other words, they’re processed, highly processed.
Meanwhile, the produce section is tiny, including at the health food stores. We’re living in a fast-paced society, where everyone wants everything quick, easy and delicious, and convenient. Who has time to prepare meals any more? Anyone? Unfortunately, the majority of us today are living on processed foods laced with chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, food colorings, sodium, saturated fat, etc, etc. These foods, if we can call them that, come from a factory and are completely devoid of nutrients.
Do we even know what we’re eating anymore? Can we actually pronounce the long list of chemicals that we’re putting into our bodies? Or how these chemicals affect our health? What’s for lunch mom? What’s wrong with this picture? We are a very sick nation, with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and childhood obesity, all on the rapid increase. These are, for the most part, lifestyle diseases that can be prevented and reversed through dietary changes. Not with refined junk foods, but with fresh, whole, unprocessed foods found in nature.
Real foods, rich in the essential vitamins and minerals required by our bodies for optimal health. They come with no preservatives or additives, nor do they come in fancy, cleverly marketed packages — fresh whole unprocessed foods. Fresh, whole unprocessed foods, repeat after me. Fresh, whole unprocessed foods, these are the foods that healed my body and saved my life.
In 1995, after the birth of my son, I began to study at various natural health institutes, where I met hundreds and hundreds of people, from all walks of life, with remarkable stories of healing, reversing incurable diseases, including various forms of cancer, purely by adopting a healthier lifestyle.
One woman I met from France had such crippling arthritis that she could not open her fist. After only 6 weeks of cleansing and nourishing her body, with fresh alkaline plant foods, her hands began to open, her acute pain diminished, and she was able to drive a car for the first time in 10 years. I promised myself that, should I ever fully recover, I would continue to help others. I’ve since written a book, and launched my business, Simply Raw, helping hundreds and hundreds of people around the world improve their health one meal at a time. The transformations of my clients are truly rewarding, and help keep me on my path.
Now, 25 and half years later, still doing covers, but in the raw, reflecting on my journey, I’ve come to realize that the body is resilient and forgiving. The human body is also self-regenerating, we only need to give it what it needs. So, when you’re planning for your next meal, please think about where your food is really coming from. Are you mindlessly grabbing for some boxed meal off the shelf that was fabricated in some factory years ago? Or are you consciously choosing to nourish your body with nutrient dense plant food, the same foods that our grandparents ate, grown in a field by a farmer?
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.