Today I have an awesome interview for you with a very educational and inspiring raw vegan person online: Melissa Raimondi of Lissa’s Raw Food Romance:
I met her in the online mecca of the “vegan fruitarians” group on facebook, and she just glows with health and kindness, and her recipes and youtube channel videos really make a lot of common sense. She makes being raw vegan seem really doable.
A lot of people in the healthy vegan community online seem to have moved on from “raw vegan” to “whole foods vegan”, and that’s what I call myself now even though I still eat a ton of fruit, but I guess I’m kind of still stuck on this idea of raw vegan. If you have ever gone raw vegan and seen yourself change, and watched how people stare at you in amazement and ask, “what is different about you, you look like a teenager again”, or felt how your energy levels change and you just desire to run and how when you run you feel like flying, or seen your health problems miraculously dissapear….you can’t forget. Well, that was just me. But the problem is it’s not easy to be raw. At least until you figure it out for yourself.
One of the things I really loved about Melissa’s story was how she failed so many times trying to be raw in the past before. She said her husband probably was rolling his eyes when she said she was going raw for the millionth time, but she finally succeeded.
She is almost raw one year now and you will see from the amazing transformation pics in this post, something major has happened and she has changed.
In her own words from a recent fb post:
I used to think I felt okay. I used to use the word “moderation” to justify eating things I knew I shouldn’t – but everyone does it right? I thought things were just “normal” signs of aging like sore joints and bad sleep. …When people tell me “at least I am happy” I remember when I used to say that and when I look back, I really wasn’t happy at all– not even close. I’m so happy now!! Happier than I could ever imagine. No pizza, no chip, no candy, no soda, no pasta, no animal product will ever make me happier than I am in true health. Raw vegan is where my love is and I wish I’d realized it sooner. I am finally free.
So without further ado:
10 Questions for Raw Vegan Melissa Raimondi
1. To begin with, could you please say a little about yourself, whatever comes to mind is perfect.
I am Lissa!! I eat raw food. I love smoked paprika, even if it isn’t legally “raw”. I am obsessed with tomatoes and cucumbers. I have two cats and a husband. The husband is also vegan and mostly raw– I love that. I am a photographer by day, raw vegan youtube personality by night. I love helping people with their health and in fact worked in the natural health industry for 12 years. I however didn’t always take my own advice! My dream is to one day own a piece of land in BC Canada and plant a fruit garden.
2. How did you begin your health journey and what was your motivation? Were you searching for a long time before you hit on raw food and 80/10/10? Can you describe a bit of your journey to health and what it took to find your answers.
I learned about raw food about 10 years ago from David Wolfe. I did his style of raw vegan and felt great but could never stick to it longer than a few weeks. I found Markus Rothkranz and FullyRaw Kristina a few years later but always thought that the 80/10/10 style was way too extreme. I was always being pushed “healthy fats” and “paleo” style eating at the health store, and was really confused, even if I felt amazing while eating raw vegan foods. I also didn’t get the whole vegan part as some were promoting raw meats.
It was a confusing time and all I remember is wishing I could just eat raw foods and wondered why I couldn’t stick to it. That’s why I assumed I needed animal products and never fully understood the depth of being a vegan. I tried again countless times through those 10 years to be raw only to fail due to cravings and hunger (I was doing high fat which causes insulin resistance and cravings, and low calorie because I thought I needed to restrict to lose weight. I was hungry because I wasn’t eating enough and eating too many healthy fats).
In 2013 I went on a 2 month paleo style diet with extreme exercise to try and win a weight loss challenge. I was eating the cleanest I had eaten (or so I thought) in my whole life. No grains, just lean meats, healthy fats, veggies and limiting fruit. I worked out tirelessly with super low energy (not enough carbs) 1-2 hours a day with a personal trainer for most sessions. I only lost 15 lbs and was disappointed because my skin was worse (bad acne) and my health was declining fast. I was getting flus often and not having any energy to do anything. My sleeping was so bad and my joints always ached.
After the challenge I binged because I had been calorie restricting for two months and my body wanted everything and anything. I ate my way up to 190 lbs at my highest over the next 6-8 months. One day in September of 2014 I cracked. I was headed towards diabetes and heart disease. I was addicted to energy drinks, junk food, candy, pasta, meat and cheese. I only ate the rare vegetable out of guilt and I knew better!
So that day I watched Cowspiracy, Earthlings and Forks over Knives all in one day. I then indulged myself in videos from my old gurus–Kristina and Markus and I found some new ones like TannyRaw and Jack Albritton. I decided that I wanted to try the 80/10/10 low fat high calorie version of raw vegan and because of the documentaries I finally had the shock I needed to be a vegan for life. I though, what better time to start eating raw foods! I bought the 80/10/10 book and devoured it. I was raw vegan the next day and never looked back.
3. I learned from your youtube channel you tried to go raw many times throughout the years but like many of us, were struggling to stick to it. How was it different this last time around, and what do you think did the trick finally?
As I mentioned in the previous answer, I believe it was high fat and not enough calories that was causing me to crave and cave every time I would try to do raw. I would go hours without eating and I would just get whatever and say, “I’ll do it again tomorrow” and tomorrow never happened. The low fat was so critical for me. Once I got used to the low fat diet with high calories from fruit and vegetables, my cravings disappeared.
The movies also helped me to shut the door on animal products forever. I won’t ever say I will never eat cooked food (I may do steamed vegetables in extreme emergencies) but I would rather starve than eat something with animal products. Eat eat eat! If I feel like I need something, I just eat fruit. It has saved my life.
4. What were the first positive changes you noticed when you first went raw and did some changes take a few months of being raw to achieve?
Yes!! Immediately I started to feel better of course from cutting out all the junk, stimulants like the energy drinks and coffee and all animal products. I did have gas and bloating as my digestion got used to the high intake of fibre, but that dissipated after a few months of being on raw.
The first thing I noticed was more energy and after a month, my cravings were pretty much non existent. My sleep slowly improved and my joint pain was going away. My skin completely cleared up after about 4 months and my hormones have balanced out at around the 7 month mark. I lost weight slowly, about 1 lb a week, but it was never about weight loss because my health was getting so bad that I had to do something!
5. You have such an amazing transformation. Though you were always beautiful, you are radiant now, and furthermore, it looks like you are literally a victoria’s secret model. If you feel comfortable speaking about this subject, I am curious what it was like for you to see your own body undergo such a rapid radical transformation and seemingly wake up like a supermodel. Was it hard to adjust to the way you look now? Do people react to you differently on the street? Do you feel different in your skin now?
Awww thank you so so much! I do feel incredible now. It is definitely an interesting experience. I was small like this when I got married (my longest raw food try of 2 months before the wedding that got me down to 130 lbs which is my current weight), but I gained weight quite quickly after that and had very hard time losing it. I haven’t seen this weight since the day I got married.
It’s interesting. I have some friends that don’t compliment me now, and I do feel like my weight loss bothers them in some way. Not that I care about the compliments, I do enjoy them of course anyone would, but I noticed that I have stopped receiving some from certain people and it’s interesting to watch.
My husband says way more people look at me and I do feel sexier and am wearing tighter clothes because I like how they look on my body now. I am not trying to be overly obvious but I am quite proud of where I am. I realized that by loving my body when I was bigger and feeding it loving foods, it would naturally get to where it was a happy weight.
I feel comfortable now. I don’t feel like I am in my own way. There are also many times I am walking by a window or a mirror out at the mall and forget for half a second that I lost all the weight.
I sort of expect to see the old me but am pleasantly surprised when I see myself. I also love photos of myself now. I know that sounds vain, but I never used to like taking photos and now I do.
People do treat me differently though. It’s just different, not in a bad way and not in a good way. I get more attention from men, which is also interesting but I also get the cold “I wish I looked like you” from women. It also doesn’t really seem to matter what weight you are, you will be judged by someone. I don’t need to impress anyone but myself but if my transformation can help people to make the jump towards compassionate eating choices by going vegan, then I am happy to put myself out there!
6. How have your friends and family reacted to the new you and to your new lifestyle. Have they been supportive or not. Also, what is your husband like, what does he think about your decision to be raw vegan and how has he reacted to your transformation.
My husband is so so proud of me. I know this last time I told him I was doing raw vegan… again… I know he rolled his eyes for the hundredth time. This time however he said he would do it with me. We watched the movies together and he understands why we are eating vegan which is so awesome to me. I treasure that. My immediate family is also very health conscious and some are trying hard to be raw vegan as well, namely my mother and sister. Although some are not going to change, we still love and respect each other.
My friends are supportive. Some are quieter than others. They all know that I will say no to anything non raw vegan that they make so there is no problems there either. I put up boundaries and explained where I am coming from. I have a huge amount of new friends that I have met online that are incredible. I am so blessed to have so many amazing people in my life now and love to see so many people making better choices for the animals, the planet and their health. I do get people with the same old protein questions and bacon comments, but I just say that I’ve done my research and I am healthier today than ever in my life so I think I’ll stick to this!
7. Can you describe what you felt like before you were a raw vegan on a daily basis and what you feel like now.
Oh! I was an addict!! Right before I was raw vegan I was drinking 1-2 energy drinks a day and living on Doritos, fried chicken, potato wedges with a 1/2 cup of ranch dip…. then some kind of meat and pasta for dinner with a token vegetable out of guilt. I always felt guilty over what I ate, but I ate it all anyways. My skin was so bad I felt like a meth addict in public. I was sluggish all the time and had no energy. I had a sharp bitter mood and snapped at so many people (that I seriously regret now).
I used to wake up in the middle of the night EVERY single night with my heart pounding and beating so fast I thought I was having a heart attack. I didn’t enjoy sleep. I was always scared I would have a heart attack in my sleep. I never felt rested. I snored every night and my husband would wake me up a lot in the night to roll over but that didn’t help.
So many things! I was depressed and all I could do was stuff my face. Now is completely opposite. I sleep like a rock and I have lovely dreams every night. I wake up refreshed early and happy. I am happy! For no reason! I can run a half marathon now because of fruit. My skin is healed up. It’s so nice now I want to cry happy tears.
My adrenals are so balanced and my female hormones too. I feel so in tune with the earth and life. I feel compassionate and peaceful. I crave my salads. I am also forgetting what those old foods even tasted like. I love where I am and the feeling of health is so dramatic I never want to even test a cooked meal. I can’t imagine going back to where I was. No wonder I didn’t like myself, I felt like a zombie.
8. Do you think there is a big difference between 100% raw and mostly raw.
I do think there is a huge difference making that last leap from mostly raw to all raw. There are still a few things that I eat that wouldn’t be considered true raw. Such as smoked paprika (my other obsession), cashews, and nutritional yeast. It’s very rare to get someone who is a true legit 100% raw eater. There will always be something but aside from those small amounts of foods, I do call myself a full raw vegan.
That said, there were three incidences that I had cooked vegan meals. Once was back in December I wanted to see if I could do a “raw till 4” style day just out of curiosity not craving. I was raw until 4 and for dinner I had a potato and steamed veggie dish. That night there was a rock in my stomach, my digestion slowed right down, I got a few acne break outs the next morning and honestly the old me would have loved that dish but the new me wished she had another salad instead.
The other two times were in January out of emergency. I went to a friend’s wedding in Mexico and their wedding dinner was all cooked with a small salad. The next night every single salad had fish in it and I was repulsed so I stuck to the steamed zucchini and carrots. Again same reaction. Rock in stomach, slow digestion, lethargy and acne. So I just avoid it now.
Some people can get away with cooked. But the real benefit is all raw. I also can’t do fully dehydrated foods like raw crackers, breads and kale chips. They are way too dehydrating on my colon. I attribute my wrinkle fading to the fact that I no longer eat cooked or fully dehydrated foods and replaced them with hydrating living foods.
9. Have you always been the kind of person who goes against the grain, is a free thinker and does what she wants? How would you describe your personality and what are some of your other passions in life?
Oh yes!! I worked in natural health for 12 years so I was exposed to a lot of interesting things. I am a very open person when it comes to that. My friends like to joke that I wear a tin foil hat, but I don’t mind. I want to change the world. I am doing my own little part that I can and hopefully create a ripple effect to induce change in others. My mother was always “crunchy” as well, eating all organic and low processed foods. It’s funny how addicting they are. All the knowledge I had and I still ate a whole bag of Doritos watching TV.
10. Who are your inspirations (on youtube, the net, authors, etc) in this often quite solitary lifestyle, and who do you look to for guidance and support when you need it.
I have so many!!! First up–Abbey Lee and Natalie Lenka from the Vegan Fruitarians group on Facebook. My loves. I am so happy I found them and they are so lovely. They inspire me incredibly! Markus Rothkranz, Fully Raw Kristina, Jack Albritton, and Tanny Raw are my favourite YouTubers.
I also LOVE all of Dr. Michael Greger’s videos for www.nutritionfacts.org. I do also follow Gary Yourofsky and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau for good vegan messages.
I listen to Freelee and Durianrider for entertainment (though I don’t care for the amount of cooked food they eat, or sometimes getting involved with drama–I enjoy their enthusiasm for veganism).
There are also many other YouTube channels I enjoy too such as Cookie from Reach4Raw, Brianna Jackfruitson, BananaTV, and Vegan Gains. There are so many out there, I can’t even think of them all so if I missed any, apologies!
I also love Storm Talifero from The Garden Diet who I discovered long ago and I am intrigued by the teachings of Professor Arnold Ehret who wrote The Mucusless Diet Healing System and I try to follow that as well, keeping mucus forming foods to a minimum if I can.
Please feel free to add anything else you would like to inform others of or add. Thank you so much Melissa.
Aww I was having fun! I do wish I started my YouTube channel at the beginning of my journey but better late than never! I want to write a recipe book. I started Raw Food Romance as a way to combine my love for photography with my love for raw foods.
I am on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Two Grand all as @rawfoodromance. Looking forward to the future, toning up my muscles and doing more videos. Hoping to help the animals, the planet and all you lovely fine people looking for a positive change in their lives! xo