As many of you know, sometime last year we started holding monthly classes on raw foods, taught by local musician and raw foods aficionado Abby Cahn-Anton. We have one coming up this weekend, as a matter of fact. What you don’t know is – who is Abby Cahn-Anton? What is she all about?
I had the opportunity to find out in the following never-before done interview. What are raw foods all about, what made her change her lifestyle to raw? Has she ever “cheated?” Find out all that and more: Abby Cahn-Anton: Interview with a Raw Foodie.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I consider myself very lucky. My mother made sure I ate healthy food and stayed away from so-called “junk food.” Only small amounts of soda, chips, candy and other heavily processed foods passed my lips during my childhood. I ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as whole grain bread. Nonetheless, the way I ate as a kid was a far cry from what I now consider to be healthy and I had my fair share of other-than-perfect health. Yet the seeds of wisdom were planted. I knew that what I ate was an important part of being healthy.
When I was in my 20s and out on my own for the first time, I became a vegetarian. I noticed pretty quickly that I stopped getting the usual “seasonal” colds and viruses. Now that I’m well into what might be termed “middle age,” I’m able to see that my life has been shaped by a passion for eating consciously. I’m continually upgrading my diet and health practices. Every step of the way I’ve experienced significant improvements in my life. And naturally, other people have been drawn towards me to find out what has worked. After many years of informally helping friends and family I’m now going public, so to speak.
Can you describe what “raw foods” are to someone who has never heard of them before?
I like to think in terms of nature’s design. When a plant is growing, what temperature range is it normally subjected to? On the rare occasions that it gets into the low 100’s here on the East Coast, many plants, especially food crops, become a little challenged. However, in the desert southwest, plants thrive under those conditions. The general rule of thumb is to keep a plant within the temperature range that supports its life. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables are full of life and vibrancy. It would stand to reason that to support our optimal wellness we would choose to eat plants that are in their prime. Nuts and seeds, on the other hand, are designed by nature to be dormant and hold their potential until they have a good location to grow. So they can be stored for longer periods of time before being eaten. However, they have their own particular type of fragility, especially after they have been shelled, so it’s important to store them properly. Another idea to keep in mind is that humans and their domesticated animals are the only animals on the planet that eat cooked foods! When we really start to look at that and question why and how we came to do this, it tends to alter our perception of whether or not cooking is a good idea. Ultimately, in my opinion, the closer we eat to “straight out of the ground or straight off of a tree,” to the point of picking something and eating it right away, the better.
What led you to “go raw?” How long have you been living the raw foods lifestyle?
I suppose you could say it was providence. Actually, Dean was the catalyst. When he opened his first store in Ocean in 1995, I was motivated to upgrade from a longtime vegetarian diet to eating almost exclusively organic and vegan. Within a few months he introduced me to a drummer who at that time had been eating raw for about ten years, which was practically unheard of back then. My band needed a drummer and he was a great fit. So, that’s how I first learned about a raw food diet. It took me a few years to get my head around the idea. By 1999, when raw food maverick David Wolfe came to the former Second Nature in Red Bank on a book tour, I was ready. I went to see his presentation, read his first book and started my transition to an all-raw diet.
Was it an overnight “cold turkey” transformation or did you do it gradually?
I crafted my own plan, which was very successful. I started with two non-consecutive days per week of eating 100% raw. Within a few weeks I bumped it up to three days per week. By the six month mark, I was close to eating all raw. I also drank freshly made green juice nearly every day for the first few years. In mid-2004, after being introduced to the highly respected raw food pioneer and healer, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MD, I became committed to a 100% raw, organic, vegan, low-glycemic diet.
Was it difficult? Were you tempted?
Probably the most difficult part for me was navigating the social aspects of eating. And, yes, some foods were challenging to give up from an emotional perspective. But the health results were so profound, I found myself to be highly motivated to succeed. Like anything new, it took some time, some research and some experimentation. In fact, I’m still trying new things. My body is constantly changing, so I’ll get into a routine for a while and then I’ll change it up a bit. Great health is not a destination, it’s a path.
How have you have been affected and changed by eating raw?
The most obvious changes are how I look and feel. Many of the health improvements happened within days and weeks. My menstrual periods went from being exceedingly painful to my feeling “normal.” My skin got clear and vibrant. My mental clarity went from morning brain fog and forgetfulness to sharp, clear, insightful thinking and excellent memory. I went from being tired and sluggish and having a hard time waking up to needing less sleep, waking up bright and early with lots of energy and a great attitude and feeling energetic all day. My athletic performance improved – I was running and racing quite a bit at the time and definitely noticed the difference. Since going raw I almost never get any kind of cold or flu symptoms. On the rare occasions that I get a touch of something, it passes very quickly. My biological age markers have reversed (or “youthened” as we like to say in the raw food world.) People who don’t know me well regularly assume that I am ten to twenty years younger than my chronological age. This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The biggest and most profound changes have been emotional and spiritual. The mind expansion and calm, centered grounding that are deepening in my life on a daily basis – these are the best gifts that I continually receive from staying on the path.
A lot of people probably wonder – do you ever cheat and eat something not raw?
That’s a great question. In the beginning, my transition was consciously tempered, as I mentioned earlier. However, five years into it, I made a decision to go 100%. I was ready and I had excellent guidance. To the best of my knowledge, since September 2004, I have remained steadfast. That being said, for most people, 80% raw is an excellent balance point. The key is to eat mostly fresh, raw, organic, vegan foods with a little bit of cooked vegan food on a consistent basis.
You’ve shared some amazing recipes at your classes here at Dean’s – how do you come up with them? Is it tough to keep a variety in your everyday diet?
Most of the time I have a pretty regular routine with my diet. I include a lot of superfoods which are packed with a broad spectrum of important nutrients. After my morning water – usually two quarts – I drink about a pint of a superfood drink made of SunFire Super Foods Chocolate Bliss and Vanilla Agave Nectar blended with water. I make it by the gallon every few days and keep it in the fridge to save time. I’m on a low-glycemic diet and the SunFire brand is the only agave nectar that I trust to be low-glycemic (and I can feel the difference). After my Chocolate Bliss I eat a concoction that I call “Green Melange.” (You can find the recipe on SuperSimpleSuperFoods.com/recipes.) That’s my breakfast. I call it “front-loading my day,” because it’s so packed with nutrients that I’m really satisfied and the rest of the day is easy.
About an hour after breakfast, I start drinking more water, usually another quart before the next meal. For lunch, I eat a simple salad (or I blend my salad, making a raw soup), with an emphasis on dark leafy greens, again adding superfoods to really increase the nutritional content and flavor. I usually sprinkle a superfood blend called Fiesta Molé on top along with some spirulina and blue green algae flakes. I also like to include sea vegetables in my salads. Dulse is one of my favorites. Nori is great, too. Sprouts are a wonderful, vibrant food and a great salad addition. I also eat nuts and seeds, which I “activate” by soaking for several hours and then rinsing. Dinner is usually just a light snack, maybe a small quantity of vegetables and a handful of nuts, a little dulse or some chia pudding. I also like some of the raw crackers that are on the market – when I have time I make my own crackers in the dehydrator.
Just a note about the water I drink, because a lot of people ask me: I like to distill mine and add in a little SunFire salt to remineralize and add structure. I also send loving thoughts to it, because water is a receiver and transmitter of vibration. When it’s freshly distilled it is a blank slate, so I instill it with my thoughts of love and gratitude.
As for the recipes, in the beginning of my raw food adventure, having lots of interesting concoctions that mimicked the cooked foods I had come to know and love was very important to my success. I started by experimenting. I also had one raw food recipe book – one of the few that existed at the time. Most of those recipes were complicated with lots of unusual ingredients, so I picked one or two recipes that I could handle and started from there. And then I figured out how to mimic a lot of cooked foods. Since I was passionate and eager, I found tips and tidbits here and there. Gradually I added a few more recipe books to my library. Mostly, though, the easiest and tastiest foods are the simplest. An apple and a handful of almonds is a great light meal or snack. Nature makes the perfect “fast food.”
What’s your best advice to someone looking to make the change?
First of all, assess where you are now. Get clear on your starting point. Then get clear on your ideal outcome in terms of the results you are choosing to experience: what does vibrant health look and feel like to you? Write it down. Be specific and creative. Go for the gold in your vision of your highest self. Now, here’s the real key: take some time every day, preferably the same time every day – make it a ritual; five minutes is enough. Envision already having and experiencing your outcome. What does it look like…what do you look like? How do you feel? What people and circumstances are in your life? Come up with your own list of questions. Notice which ones spark deeply positive internal answers/vibrational shifts so you feel like you already have your outcome. The idea is to give yourself the gift of this feeling, right here, right now, regardless of outer “factual” evidence. This practice, when done regularly, will easily bring you the information, tools, circumstances, people, etc. for your highest success.
That being said, find yourself a teacher, someone who is already experiencing the results you would like to have. Read. Two of my favorite books are “Conscious Eating,” by Gabriel Cousens, MD and “Superfoods,” by David Wolfe. Those two will take you a long way on the path of vibrant health. Make a point to spend time in the company of others who have lifestyles and values similar to your ideal. Pick one upgrade – whatever your next step is (make it an easy one) and begin to consciously pattern it into your life on a daily basis. And remember to breathe! (And exercise and get outdoors…)
If you’d like to have a supportive group of wonderful people, join us at the Jersey Shore Raw Foods & Wellness Community. We have raw potlucks, classes, speakers and other events that will help you on your journey. You can find us online at Meetup.com/Jersey-Shore-Raw-Foods-Wellness.
Thank you, Abby! Come meet Abby and experience her class for yourself this Sunday, February 26, 12pm in our Shrewsbury location and 3pm in Ocean. It’s free, just call store of your choice to register.