How to Lose 100 lbs and Reclaim Your Joy with Vegan Iron Chef Champion Lisa Books-Williams
Welcome to Raw Food Magazine in another exclusive presentation. My name is Sara Grove. Today, I have the special honor of having as our guest chef extraordinaire Lisa Books Williams.
Lisa was the winner of last year’s 2013 Vegan Iron Chef America being the only contestant to present the judges with an entirely raw food menu.
Besides being a completely talented chef, Lisa runs her own catering company, counsels with clients and has helped developed a food therapy program for Kaiser Permanente, one of America’s largest healthcare providers, working alongside vegan medical doctors to really help people reclaim their health, heal their body and spread the message of joyful eating.
We are so excited to have her here today and hear a little bit about her past and her work. But more than that, we’re here to hear her story of how she overcame childhood trauma, food addictions, and overeating using raw and living foods to be where she is today and lose over 100 pounds.
We get to get an insight of the threefold program that she has used to reach her health and weight loss goals and that she also helps apply to her clients.
After all that, stick around and we’re going to dive in a little bit deeper because even as a master chef, Lisa understands that while fun, gourmet raw is not that practical for everyday life.
We’re going to get to look at what Lisa actually eats on a day to day basis that helps her stay energetic, on-the-go, not waste too much time and maintain and reach her weight loss goals without ever feeling deprived. She is here today to teach us how we can do the same thing.
And so we are very excited to have here today. And without further adieu, we’d like to welcome Chef Lisa Books Williams. Welcome to Raw Food Magazine. Feel free to jump right in and tell us a little bit about where your story begins.
Chef Lisa: Hello. Sure! I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. Growing up there, it was just like your typical dysfunctional family and everything. In Pennsylvania, you were on a farm. There’s a lot of farm county. And so it wasn’t uncommon to go to the dairy all the time for your milk and to buy a half of a cow. We had very bad winters and so a lot of the vegetables that we had were brussel sprouts and things like that. The only salad we would have would be iceberg lettuce. You’d put tons of dressing on that and everything.
Sara: …and cheese and bacon bits.
Chef Lisa: Exactly, that whole thing. I grew up with a morbidly obese father and he loved eating a lot of unhealthy foods. For example, he would get a salad bowl, you know, like one of those mixing bowls that you would mix cake in.
Chef Lisa: It’s one of those types of bowls. He would pour cereal in that bowl and then pour milk on it and then put sugar on top of the regular sugar-coated cereal and he would eat stuff like that.
And, so, we were trained to eat horribly from a young age. We didn’t really know any better. All of our vegetables that we were eating were creamed. There was cream and butter and sugar added to the corn, to the peas. If we had spinach, we’d have cheese on it. So I really didn’t know how to eat well from a young age.
I never really learned until I had some traumas in my life and I used food to comfort me because of the traumas I went through as a child and because of not knowing any better. At a young age, I developed an addiction to sugar.
It kind of created inside me this feeling like, “I’m just meant to be like a lesser member of society.”
When you’re a kid, you can’t really do too much to help yourself. So what I learned was just to eat. That’s one of the things that I did.
I wasn’t very fat as a child, but I was a little bit chubby – but not fat. When I was in 9th grade, the whole crave was Jordache jeans. I saved my paper route money so I could buy a pair of Jordache jeans. I was at 5”5, 145 lbs. and I came to school wearing my Jordache jeans.
On top of everything, I had a really bad speech impediment, so kids would make fun of me because of my speech impediment and everything like that.
I was excited because all the cool kids had their Jordache jeans and so I worn mine to school. Then, I heard some kids snickering and laughing and pointing. I didn’t really understand because I was wearing Jordache jeans like everybody else.
Sara: Right. You felt so cool.
Chef Lisa: Yeah, I felt so great. So then one of the kids said, “They’re laughing because they think you look like a stuffed whale.” All my confidence just drained through my body and fell out my feet.
I can’t really explain. There was something inside me that just felt like everybody picked on me because of my speech impediment and everybody just – you know … I was not going to be a successful member of society. I just started using more food to comfort me because I hadn’t dealt with the traumas that happened to me as a child plus kids were mean to me. It created inside me this feeling like, “I’m just meant to be like a lesser member of society.” It was like a mental twist that can sometimes happen to you.
I believed that a lot of women who have gone through traumas as children or in their life where they have been violated in some way, they just want to try to find something to soothe that pain inside them. For me, it was using food and then later, it was alcohol until I really came to grips with not being a victim anymore and being a victor.
Sara: You were just caught in that downward spiral of trying to comfort yourself and then feeling badly about the ways you’re trying to comfort yourself and just nothing felt uplifting.
Chef Lisa: Exactly. Exactly. I had some other issues that happened when I was in college where another situation happened where I was violated. And so, then, your self-esteem gets even lower. It becomes even lower.
I hadn’t really wanted to deal with those issues because of the shame involved in it, so I was just using food and alcohol. When I was able to stop with the drinking– Because there’s so much sugar in alcohol, when you stop the drinking you use whatever you can to try to make yourself feel better.
Sara: Right. Your body is searching for that glucose. It needs it.
Chef Lisa: …that glucose. And so I would be the type of person that couldn’t just eat one LifeSaver. I would have to eat the whole roll. I couldn’t just have one bite of cake. I want the whole slice or maybe two.
I would be out working at different facilities. My master’s degree is in therapeutic recreation. I’ve worked in care homes, psychiatric facilities and day treatment programs, working with people who have gone through traumas in their life and people with disabilities. So that’s my master’s. It’s what my professional background is in, working with veterans and all of that.
So I’d be working with them, which could also be very stressful when you’re working with people with mental illness issues or addiction issues or whatever, and I never really thought of myself like them because they’re institutionalized. “Those people are really messed up.”
But then I realized, “Hey, I’m really messed up. I’m using sugar as a tool to make me feel better and to get through life. Something has got to change.”
I became a vegetarian in 2004 because I had a lumpectomy in 2001. I had a huge family history of cancer. Everybody in my family get cancer at least once. My younger brother and sister have had cancer twice. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. My father died of colon cancer – my aunt, my cousins, everybody. I just thought, “Well hey, I’m going to probably die of cancer, too.”
Sara: You felt that it was inevitable.
Chef Lisa: It’s this fatalistic attitude that it’s just an inevitable thing that’s going to happen. I had the lumpectomy in 2001 and I was just like, “Well, I’m probably going to end up having a double mastectomy at some time in my life because I’m screwed.”
I felt hopeless. I felt hopeless because of things that happened to me and because physically, I have had surgeries, all these different surgeries for different things that were wrong in my body … I just felt like “I’m just screwed in life.”
Sara: It can become that self-fulfilling prophecy of, “You know, that’s where it’s going to end up. It doesn’t matter what I do. It’s happened to everyone else.”
Chef Lisa: Exactly. That self-fulfilling… I’m screwed.
Sara: So, what prompted that change or that decision to become a vegetarian? How did you find that oomph to start doing something about it.
Chef Lisa: Sure. Here’s the victory part. In 2004, I attended a lecture called Reduce Your Risk of Cancer. It was put on by the Marin Vegetarian Society. Marin is a county here in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s Marin county. It’s right north of San Francisco.
I went to one of their events and I like curious because they said, “Reduce your risk of Cancer.” I thought maybe it was a cure, maybe it was a shot, maybe it was something. I didn’t know what to expect.
Before I went into the meeting, I ate like chicken nachos–some really shitty food because I didn’t know what to expect.
So I went in and there were all these sophisticated-looking people. There was a panel. It was a panel table of people. There were dietitians. There were scientists. There were educated people there on the panel that were speaking. They said the number one way to reduce your risk of cancer is to eliminate meat and dairy from your diet.
I was expecting them to say something more profound, something more profound than that. Something in me shifted by hearing that. I thought to myself, “Wow! Is that really all it’s going to take, just changing what I’m eating? Not a pill, not a surgery, not thousands of dollars in medical treatments or something like that?” It was at that moment I made the decision to be vegetarian.
And another thing convinced me happened a few months that actually. I was at a VegSource Conference. My friend begged me to go with her to down in Southern California to VegSource. While I was there, John Robbins was speaking. I didn’t really know how famous he was until later.
One of the things that he said was, “How can you call one animal food and the other animal your pet?” I don’t have any children but my dogs are like my children. I had never, ever thought of it like that before. I had never really thought of having one animal that you love and the other animal that you kill and eat.
And so in February 2004, that was when I became veg. Being veg, though, I was eating a lot of carbs. I was still eating a lot of the pastas and all these different foods and a lot of the processed “veggie” meats and all of that stuff.
I was just getting a little bit fatter because I could eat as many potatoes as I wanted. And then I put a lot of the oil on it, the fake butters and all that stuff. I was like, “I should be getting healthier, but I’m getting fatter.” Something doesn’t feel right in my body.
I had taken some classes with Chef Dina Knight of Greenivore. She had a program where she taught raw foods and emphasized greens. I took a series of classes with her and got certified as a green chef instructor and learned more about the power of greens in that greens are the most important thing that we need to have in our body.
I saw how Chef Dina had gone from morbid obesity to a healthy, vibrant person and I was like, “I want to do that for myself.” But, I didn’t want to give up pasta and stuff like that yet.
And so what happened is– Remember what I said in the beginning of the interview, how sometimes things happen in our life to shift us medically?
Chef Lisa: I was not feeling good. I wasn’t feeling good at all. I was eating more vegetables, but I was still eating lots of pasta, lots of bread … I went and had some blood tests done and my doctor referred me to an endocrinologist. They said there were problems with my blood work.
I found out that I had Hashimoto’s and I also had a Celiac, gluten intolerance. I didn’t know why I was so sick and inflamed all the time.
I went to the endocrinologist who confirmed that. He said to me, “I want you to go to a Paleo diet.” I said, “But I’m vegetarian!” I was vegan at this time. He said, “Well, the people that have the most success with these diseases go on a Paleo diet.” I said, “I just can’t do that.” He says, “If you can’t do that, you absolutely have to give up the gluten. You have to. You have to give it up because it’s keeping your body in a constant state of inflammation.”
So, as I started getting off of the gluten, I started putting more greens into my body. I had been taking in greens before, but they couldn’t be absorbed because my body was so inflamed.
Sara: So inflamed…
Chef Lisa: …from all the – you know what I mean?
Sara: Yeah, absolutely. I’m so glad to hear that your endocrinologist suggested a diet change that’s not something that we hear a lot. Often, they suggest a drug or medication.
Chef Lisa: Well, he wanted to put me on the synthetic medication. I said, “I refuse that,” that synthetic medication. So he gave me a non-synthetic medication and said to me, “Go one hundred percent off of the gluten.” He was skeptical. He said, “We’ll check your blood, but if it’s not working, you’re going to have to take the synthetic medication because the inflammation will do damage to all the organs in your body. He said, “Let’s see if you can do this, if this is going to work for you doing this gluten-free vegan thing.” And I said, “I will do it.”
I got off of the synthetic things that I was taking. I was having lots of greens and being gluten-free. And when you’re gluten-free, you obviously are having more raw foods in your life.
Sara: Right. Just by default.
Chef Lisa: Exactly! By default. I also got off of the caffeine and I had gotten off of the sugar and the white flour. I was like, “I need to just make these changes or I’m going to ruin my organs. I’m probably going to get cancer again.”
Sara: Was the transition difficult? I mean, you left the office and he said, “You must one hundred percent just give up gluten.” That’s a significant change. Did you find that you were having cravings? What sort of things did you replace it with? How did you make that transition?
Chef Lisa: One of the things with Chef Dina – I started teaching plant-based cooking in community centers in 2005, but it wasn’t like the healthy stuff that I’m doing now. It was like vegan food – vegan food like oil, pasta, stuff like that.
So I started getting creative and I started like, “Today, I think I’m going to make a vegan muffin using gluten-free oats and pumpkin.” I put the pumpkin and I mashed up some banana with some gluten-free oats and some apples and some raisins and I made that. I was like, “Ooh… hey! That’s not bad.”
And then I was like, “Okay, I’m going to make my own little raw, little nugget.” And so then I took some cashews, I ground them up. And then I shredded some apples. And then I put some almonds and some raisins in it. I made it into a little bowl and then I dehydrated them. I was like, “Hey, that’s not bad. I love that.”
And then I took some buckwheat and I’d soak it. And then I’d stop the buckwheat and then I’d sprinkle some pumpkin spice on it or whatever. And then I dehydrate it. And then I have it with some almond milk and some blueberries. I was like, “Hey, that’s great.”
Sara: That’s really great. So you were able to have fun with the process! Were there any moments where you felt like you were on a diet?
Chef Lisa: No. Because what happened was I had to make a shift. When you decide to make a shift, if you just do it physically, I truly believe that you will not succeed because your shift has to be total in your body.
Somebody said something to me. They said to me, “Lisa, it hurts us that you keep hurting yourself with the way you’ve been eating.” I said, “I want to get better. I want to love myself.”
When you have those traumas that happen to you, you feel a lot of shame. You hold on to a lot of shame. It’s kind of like you hate what happened to you, but you also hate yourself because you feel guilt. I can’t explain it. It’s like a shame, a guilt that you got perpetuated. You had somebody perpetuate their sickness on you.
I found a group, a support group of people who had gone through trauma. They were working on healing themselves. They said to me, “Let us love so you can love yourself.” I realized that was the crux of everything. I needed to love myself enough to not put health-defeating calories in my body anymore.
I’ve realized there’s health-promoting calories and health-defeating calories. I needed to make the right choice and just put the health-promoting calories in my body because I wanted to love myself and not be a victim anymore. I wanted to be a victor.
So it was that spiritual shift of learning to love myself and putting the good food in my body because my body rewarded me for loving it. It started to have more energy. My inflammation went down.
You are a valuable, beautiful person and you are loved. I love you. If you can’t love yourself, I’ll love you from afar.
I would feel this anxiety if I didn’t get sugar – or this irritability, these negative feelings. Once I started putting the good stuff in my body through smoothies and salads and healthy gluten-free foods, I didn’t have that anxiety. I wasn’t constantly ruminating or thinking about the food anymore. “When am I going to get the sugar? When am I going to get this… when am I going to get that…?” I felt a serenity and a peace come over me.
And, as I started losing weight, I realized I needed to let go of fear. One of the biggest fears that I had in my life was moving. When you’re 289 ½ lbs., you don’t want to move because it hurts, first of all. And you don’t want people to make fun of you. I was just so afraid.
If I go to the gym, people are going to say, “Oh, my God! What’s that slob doing there?” They’re going to see the fat through my workout clothes. When you’re really big, you want to hide. You don’t want people to see you.
Also, when you’ve gone through trauma, you want to protect yourself because you don’t want people to hurt you again. You know what I mean? That whole thing.
I said, “I am going to go and I’m not going to care what other people think.”
Somebody said to me, “It’s none of my business what other people think of me.” I thought about that and I was like, “That’s right. If people think I’m gross being at the gym, then that’s on them. I’m there for me.”
And so I would play uplifting music on my phone, I would get on the elliptical and I would smile and I’d do it. I started doing it and getting better every day at being at the gym and going on my walks. My body started feeling so much better as I started moving and as I started releasing my fear.
I was just afraid of everything. I did a spiritual practice of keeping a gratitude journal and writing ten things that I was grateful for every day. I replaced gratitude, joy and love to take away the fear.
Sara: Yes. I love that. I love to highlight that for a moment because – and I hope we do an article on it in the future. There’s actually so much research on the power of gratitude and I think that, to me, is enormous and powerful.
Chef Lisa: That’s so important. I realized that I had allowed the predators or whatever you want to call them – the sickos, I guess – the people who had victimized me, I had allowed them to steal my joy. I had allowed them to steal my joy and love. I wasn’t going to give them that power anymore.
And, I said that I want to share joyful eating with the world. When you’re eating the gross food, the processed food, the sugar, the garbage food, that destroys your body, but it also utterly destroys your spirit.
Joyful eating is the motto of my business now. I want to teach people to eat the foods that will love their body back.
Sara: I love that.
Chef Lisa: I’m starting to cry a little bit. That was the key for me. That was the turning point and the shift. I’m going to love myself. I’m not going to dwell on the past and then shame. I would have to talk to myself every single day. I would have to look at myself in the mirror.
Louise Hay, also, she has some really powerful about redoing your life through the power of affirmation and self-love. Her writing really helped me a lot, too. I’d say I’m going to stay in the present and not think about what’s happened in the past because I can’t do anything to change that. I can just live my best life. I pray that I can be of maximum service to the most people possible and to share the message of joyful eating with as many people as possible.
I have had the opportunity to go and present all over the Bay Area. I presented at the Raw Living Expo in Sedona last year. Every opportunity that I have to vegucate – I call it ‘vegucating’ because I’m teaching them how to prepare food and I’m teaching them about the benefit of plant-based food. I say it’s ‘vegucating’.
Any opportunity that I have, I will go there and I will do that. And if you just really love yourself, you’re going to do what’s right for you.
I believe that a lot of people have apathy where they just don’t care anymore. I know because I was there. It’s not just a diet. It’s a spiritual shift and an eating program. It’s what I truly believe.
And with raw foods, because you’re getting so many nutrients – like Dr. Joel Fuhrman said, “health equals nutrients divided by calories. So you want to eat that nutrient-dense, organic plant food so that you can feed yourself.
What happens is when you feed yourself properly, you help your brain. Whatever funk or sadness or past traumas or whatever you’ve been going through, you’re helping your mood, you’re helping your spirit and you’re helping your body. That’s really what I feel is important.
I had somebody say to me, “Lisa, you do raw foods…” – and I also do cooked vegan food, but I do a lot of raw foods. Raw foods is my favorite, but I do cooked vegan, too. They said to me, “Lisa, to appeal to the raw food community, you should make your hair green.”
Chef Lisa: Get a big ear piercing thing.
Sara: Oh, that’s funny!
Chef Lisa: You know those piercing that make your ear hole big? For one minute, I thought about it, but that’s not really me. I’m not really a make-up-y person. I’m not going to make my hair green. That’s not my style. I do have two tattoos, but I’m not a “hippie raw.” That’s not me.
Sara: That’s too funny.
Chef Lisa: That’s not my style. I don’t walk around in a bikini and stuff like that. That’s not me.
Sara: That’s not the goal either. The goal, like you’ve been saying, is just loving you for you and letting that take center stage.
Chef Lisa: Right. Exactly! What’s happened is I’ve been through a lot of events. I’ve seen people present and I’ve talked with them afterwards. When I’ve talked with certain people who have written books and people who are presenting, I’ll say to them, “What is your goal? What is the goal of you doing this?” and I’ll hear them say, “I want to be on TV” or I’ll hear them say, “I want to make a lot of money” or, “I want to sell products” or, “I want to do this or that.”
I’ve never really thought about that. I just want to reach as many people as possible to help them to have a better life through plant-based foods.
I know that I can’t get everybody to go vegan. I know that. But, I can help them to get more plant-based foods in their life with delicious recipes. I’ve been teaching at Kaiser Permanente, the largest medical system in the country. I’ve been teaching and helped develop the plant-based diet program for them with a vegan doctor, an MD. We started in 2012 and our program has been going successfully ever since.
We’re having patients come to us with diabetes, congestive heart failure, obesity, high blood pressure, all kinds of co-morbidities. We’re helping them see that what is at the end of your fork is so much more important than what’s at the bottom of the pill bottle.
Chef Lisa: I teach two sessions. So, they get four hours with me and then they get four hours with a dietitian or a doctor in this class and the patients are loving it. They’re so excited. Every day, I’m getting emails from them: “Lisa, I’ve lost all these weight. I’m taking less medication. I’m not constipated anymore.” Some of them has never even had kale before or a date or different delicious foods.
I had this one gentleman who said he didn’t eat fruit for 30 years. He was a chapel priest and he didn’t eat fruit. So now, he’s eating a lot of fruits every day. It’s just exciting.
And, in my care homes where I consult for special needs community, I’ve introduced green smoothies and juices. The staff and the consumers at my care homes now love making and consuming green smoothies.
Sara: Oh, that’s so wonderful. I think that sounds so fun. Really exciting work. And at the end, I would love to have you give us your contact info so anyone that’s listening that might be interested in enrolling in a program or attending one of your classes could get in contact with you. But, I’d like to backtrack for just a second because we left off mid-story.
You’ve just seen your endocrinologist. You started making these changes and it just snowballed into who you are now and what you’re doing today. I’d like to get a little bit more into the nitty-gritty of that.
When did you start noticing these changes? Was it pretty instant or did it take a while before those cravings subsided before you started feeling energized? How did that process work for you?
Chef Lisa: So, what happened was the first step that I did was I got off the sugar and the processed white flour.
Sara: Was that just cold turkey?
Chef Lisa: I ended up doing it cold turkey, yes. I ended up doing it cold turkey. But, then I was still eating like a lot of the junk, the processed meat, “veggie” meats, which are full of wheat, and different wraps because I was like, “Oh, whole wheat would be okay. I could do whole wheat. I won’t get regular wheat, but I’ll do whole wheat,” which is like this crazy thing.
Sara: What advice would you give someone else that’s trying to give up sugar and gluten for the first time? Did you purge your kitchen of all those items? How would you approach it?
Chef Lisa: Well, my husband, he uses a half a teaspoon of sugar in his coffee every morning, so I had to leave some in the house. But other stuff, I just kind of said, “It’s always going to be around me, so it has to be a mental decision.” You can always have it, but I did clear a lot of junk out of my house. When I went veg, I gave all my meat away to somebody that I knew. There are always people that will take your stuff.
My advice to people is to develop a threefold program where you have a spiritual gratitude practice, you’re eating the foods (of course, you’re staying away from the sugar and the flour, the gluten) and then aiming for a pound of cooked and a pound of raw vegetables a day if you can. But definitely, the pound or raw vegetables. The raw is definitely better than the cooked.
For some people, because of digestive issues, it’s a little easier for them at first with the cooked vegetables, especially a lot of the people that I’m seeing in the medical community.
And also, to make sure you get off of caffeine because the caffeine stimulates your appetite.
Third, being able to get fresh air and sunshine every single day and movement.
If you can go on a walk every day and get some fresh air and sunshine, that’s great. If you can’t get outside, at least do some dancing in your house or do some kind of movement every single day, some kind of movement. It doesn’t have to be intense, but something.
You want to get your blood flowing. You want to get those endorphins in your brain. All those things working together will help you on your journey to weight loss and be loving to yourself.
I think that that’s really important. It’s going to take time. For myself, like I had mentioned, I started eating healthier, but I was still having the whole wheat pasta and the whole wheat bread and everything like that. When I got off of the gluten (especially for me because I’m allergic to it) and the inflammation went down, that’s when the weight started coming off.
And so I had lost over a hundred pounds…
Chef Lisa: Oh, thank you so much. I still have a little more to go. I’m so much better than where I was because I was fat. I was sick. I was sad. I was fearful. I was miserable and I felt hopeless.
But now, I feel joyful. I feel powerful. I have a lot of self-love. I feel nurtured and I feel that this method is just so important that I’ll go to the ends of the earth to vegucate anybody who wants to be.
Sara: Thank you for sharing. It is so inspiring.
Chef Lisa: Awww…
Sara: And just to see you … where you’ve come – I’d love to backtrack again. I know you mentioned how difficult it can be when you’re at a size that you feel ashamed of and unhealthy to start moving and to start making those changes and talking about changes and feeling that shame and that guilt. I love and I want to re-emphasize what you said that what other people think of you is none of your business.
Chef Lisa: That’s right. What other people think of you is none of your business.
Sara: And I also think that we surprisingly overestimate the amount that other people are actually thinking about and analyzing us.
Chef Lisa: Oh, yeah. When you think about it, it’s not much, yeah.
Sara: Most people are so caught up thinking about themselves. I know that it can be such a pesky fear: “Oh, if I go out there and run, people are going to laugh. People are going to be like, ‘What is she doing?’” When on the flipside…
Chef Lisa: People don’t care.
Sara: Yeah! I think when I have gotten back…
Chef Lisa: They care about themselves.
Sara: Absolutely. And they think so often it’s actually the polar opposite. At a healthy size, it’s so hard for me sometimes to find the motivation to go running. But when I see someone that’s out there running and jogging and slogging it out that’s twice my size, I have this deep respect and admiration for them. “Man! If they’re out there doing it, what am I complaining about?”
Chef Lisa: Yeah, yeah.
Sara: It’s an inspiring thing to see someone really putting themselves out there.
Chef Lisa: Oh, yeah. Nike has that saying, “Just do it.” When you pass the bakery or whatever and you see that whatever, that unhealthy stuff, you make a decision. You make a decision. That’s why I like to be prepared having food with me.
If I’m feeling like a little bit of temptation, I’m going to have a healthy snack with me like my raw Snicker balls. I’d be glad to give you that recipe. I showed that recipe to a lot of my classes and I say, “Instead of a Snickers, eat this.” It’s so amazing how delicious raw almonds and dates and vanilla and a little bit of cacao can be and how satisfying that is. The students and clients and employees that take the classes, they’re like, “That’s amazing!”
Simplicity is delicious. I mean, what compares to eating a mango, a fresh mango? I like taking a cantaloupe and just sprinkling a little bit of black pepper on it and it’s so delicious. It’s just so wonderful how delicious nature can be.
Sara: And, just learning how to enjoy those foods and really taste them–sometimes for the first time in people’s lives!
Chef Lisa: Oh, exactly. And, after this interview, I’m going to work with a young man who has a mild intellectual disability. He wants to be a chef. He wants to learn about plant-based food because he has come to my events with his mom.
So, I’m going to be showing him how to prepare raw dessert. He wanted to hire me to learn. Isn’t that wonderful?
Sara: That’s so wonderful.
Chef Lisa: And so he wants to be a chef and he got scholarship to do that. The scholarship, they’ve approved for him to learn from me about plant-based foods and how to prepare them.
Sara: That is so neat. Wow!
Chef Lisa: It is so great.
Sara: I’m just so excited that he’s my newest client. He’s my newest client and I really love helping out in the institutions and with the special needs community because I believe that the people that are in facilities, in institutions, the lower socioeconomic contingencies, they’re the ones that need this food the most. A lot of them, they’re getting their food from fast food or from local storage or whatever.
We need to be taking this message of joyful eating everywhere. I just believe as long as I’m willing that the universe will be taking me to places where people need to hear this message and providing opportunities and funding for that to happen.
I just tell people, “Don’t close yourself off from the possibilities because vegetables and fruits will never let you down.” They will l never let you down!
Sara: That’s true. Everyone can benefit by having more raw fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Chef Lisa: Absolutely. An apple is not going to hurt you. It’s not going to let you down. It will not hurt you. I tell people, “Don’t fear the fiber.” So many people are like, “Fiber upsets my stomach” and they’d rather take Metamucil than eat an apple.
It’s just amazing how the most popular over-the-counter items sold are antacids and laxatives – antacids and laxatives! And the number one prescription…
Sara: Just to regulate your basic digestion.
Chef Lisa: Yes! And the number one prescription medication for women are anti-depressants and the number one prescription medication for men are erectile dysfunction drugs.
What I hear from my classes is that the body rewards them with better moods, with better digestion, with better bowel health, with better sexuality when the eat better. So eat better!
Sara: Eat better. Let’s be honest here. No one of us are perfect. And so how do you deal with those times (and maybe you are the one and only, maybe you are perfect, I’m not one to judge), but when you do eat something that maybe afterwards, you’re not feeling so great about your choice. Do you have a mental process or a physical process? What do you do when you “fall off the bandwagon” so to speak?
Chef Lisa: Well, last night, I had a piece of gluten-free banana bread – not that it’s a bad thing, but I had one piece of it. And then this morning, I just had a lot of fruit to compensate. In the older days, if I ate something, I felt like, “To hell with it… I’m just going to keep eating. I’m just going to…” So now I’m just like, “Okay, I’m not a bad person first of all because I had something.”
But I don’t eat Snickers anymore and stuff like that. The piece of gluten-free banana bread, it was not bad, but it was not something you want to have all the time. It was just like a little something. And so I don’t see myself as doing something bad for having it, but I just treat myself to more fruit and veggies the next day.
That’s what’s really important for people. If you do make a mistake and you’re eating – and I don’t want to say ‘screw up’ because that has a negative connotation – if you eat foods that you shouldn’t be eating, just realize that you get an opportunity with your next meal to do better.
Chef Lisa: You get an opportunity. Don’t hate yourself or beat yourself up because your mind will try to make you feel bad about yourself and make you give up. Don’t give up. Don’t because you are worth the effort it takes to have good health. You are worth it. You deserve it.
You are a valuable, beautiful person and you are loved. I love you. If you can’t love yourself, I’ll love you from afar for you to be able to do it.
I like doing gourmet raw, but you don’t eat gourmet raw every day. That’s not realistic.
Sara: That’s a great… what would you say is realistic? How do you eat in any given day when you’re busy teaching and running around San Francisco Bay and just generally rocking it?
Chef Lisa: Sure. Well, it’s great to start off your day with a green smoothie. And then I like to have either a gluten-free vegan (no sugar, no oil) muffin or oatmeal or porridge–a buckwheat porridge or something like that.
And then, lunch for me is always a big salad. If I don’t have nuts or seeds on my salad, then sometimes, I will have a little bit of non-GMO organic tofu or beans on the salad.
I have a dressing, usually of fruit-based dressing. And sometimes, my dressing – one of the dressings that I make – is comprised of tomatoes and pistachios and a little bit of lemon and garlic. I make another dressing where I’ve used strawberries and pine nuts. And I have another dressing where I’m using tangerines and macadamia nuts. It just depends.
Sara: So the salad does not have to be boring.
Chef Lisa: It just depends. Yeah, salads do NOT have to be boring. That’s for sure.
And then dinner – my dinner tonight, I’ll tell you, it might not thrill you, but it thrills me. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s leftovers.
Sara: Leftovers always thrill me. Any time I can spend less time in the kitchen!
Chef Lisa: It’s eggplants and tomatoes and shallots and garlic and zucchini and yellow squash – all of those together with Italian seasoning and black pepper.
Sara: It sounds delicious.
Chef Lisa: The great thing is that I’m getting my mushroom, my onions, the squash and all of these great things together. And then I can eat that over some steamed quinoa or some brown rice. I’m not sure which one I’m going to have tonight. I’m on the go tonight, so I’m not sure which one I’m going to have. I’m going to be eating the meal with my friend. So whatever she prefers, quinoa or brown rice to go with that.
Sara: Oh, that sounds delicious.
Chef Lisa: Yes. That sounds great and it’s easy.
Sara: The best combo – easy delicious and healthy.
Chef Lisa: And fruit of course. And fruit I use to snack on throughout the day. I’ve got these beautiful blood oranges. I’ve got these – oh, man! These blood oranges are so great. I have this wonderful apple. I’ve been kind of on a cherimoya kick for a while, so I don’t know. They’re expensive, I don’t know if I’m going to eat another one today, but I like them. That’s my favorite.
Sara: Oh, I know, they’re so delicious.
Chef Lisa: Yeah, that’s my favorite. And then, maybe there might be a little treat. I might have a raw snicker ball.
Sara: Raw Snicker balls, yum.
Chef Lisa: I might have a little Snicker ball. Sometimes, I might have a tiny piece of raw chocolate. I only like the raw chocolate that’s sweetened with dates – you know the Stirs the SOUL? It’s an excellent brand. Some of the chocolates, they have too much sugar in them and I don’t like that.
Sara: Uh-huh. That sounds so good. Chocolate sweetened with dates.
Chef Lisa: So a little one – or the UliMana. The UliMana truffles are really wonderful. I find that some days, I just want one. The goji cherry is really good.
Sara: Yeah. [laughter] Some days, you just want one. You just want a chocolate.
Chef Lisa: Yeah, because it’s so delicious. You don’t really have to have anything really complicated. The food in its simple state is the most delicious. I really feel that way. In its natural state, it’s at its best.
Sara: Yeah, that’s best. I just love that. You are definitely living proof that you can turn your health and mental and emotional state around without feeling deprived. You’ve lost over a 100 lbs. Your mood is better. Your energy is better. You’ve just completely re-invented yourself.
Chef Lisa: Oh, thank you. It’s kind of like you’re redoing you. I’m going to redo myself. That’s important for me, to be able to re-do myself. It was just a lesson that I had to learn. That our bodies, they can rebuild and regenerate themselves and that’s what’s amazing.
Our bodies forgive us, so why can’t we forgive ourselves? I have to really forgive myself for what I had been to myself. You know what I mean?
Sara: Before you can move on and change.
Chef Lisa: So you can move on.
Sara: …the way you treat yourself.
Chef Lisa: Exactly. And the thing, too, is taking responsibility. I had to look at myself in the mirror and own what I had done to myself, what I had allowed my body to morph into. I owned it and I apologized to myself. I started doing the right thing and my body forgave me. Your body will forgive you, too. Just own what you’ve done. We put the fork in our mouth. We put it in there.
Sara: Yeah, nobody is force feeding us.
Chef Lisa: Yes, yes. “Oh, my husband divorced me… my blah-blah-blah-blah-blah…” You can come up with so many excuses to why I’m doing this or why. I just realized I got to stop this. I got to stop this self-destructive pattern.
Sara: Lisa, do you have any kind piece of advice that somebody could start incorporating immediately tomorrow? They wake up and they’ve really decided they want to make a change, what is the one thing you want them to keep on top of their mind?
Chef Lisa: Oh, my gosh. Okay.
Sara: Maybe something that comes up in your coaching over and over again.
Chef Lisa: The first thing is when you wake up, you say, “Good morning, world. Thank you, God” and say, “I’m going to treat myself lovingly today.” You wake up with gratitude, joy and commitment to treat yourself well.
And then go have a glass of water and make a green smoothie. Make your green smoothie. I like a little bit of reading from gratitude book or whatever motivational book that you have. And then, I’ll have my oatmeal or my muffin or whatever.
And then you get ready to embrace the day. You have a mindset that, “Now I’m going to have my food ready. I’m going to have my food ready for me. I’m going to take some snacks with me. I’m prepared to go. I’m going to have pure water with me at all times.
I’m going to embrace the day. No matter what, I’m going to take care of me today. I’m going to take care of me. I’m going to love me. I’m going to be good to me. It all starts with what I put in my mind and what I put in my body.”
Sara: Thank you. I absolutely love that. And so for everyone listening, we can do that today. Whatever we did this morning or last night or yesterday or the whole rest of our lives that we’ve already lived, we can wake up today and treat ourselves lovingly and do good by ourselves and that is the best thing we can do.
Chef Lisa: Yeah, exactly. There’s this saying that I really liked. “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” It’s really a simple thing. “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” but I really think about that, too, and I’m like, “Well, if I want to lose weight, I can’t just sit here and pray it off. I can’t just sit here and wish it off. I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to do something about it.”
That’s what I want people to see. It’s like, “I’ve got to do something about it.” It’s more than just will power. When your will-powering it, you’re white knuckling it. You’re like, “I’m not going to eat that,” but if you’re not spiritually free, when it comes from a deep place within you where you like surrender to the process, you’re like, “I’m going to do whatever it takes. I’m only going to put this good stuff in me. I’m going to have that gratitude. I’m going to be full of love and joy today and not let things steal that away.” It becomes almost effortless. You know what I mean?
Sara: That’s what we strive for, really feeling like we’re not trying to conform to any set of rules of like, “Oh, I have to eat that. I can’t eat that,” but feeling empowered to feel, “This is what I want… this is what I want for myself.” So it doesn’t sound so daunting.
Chef Lisa: Yes. This is good for me.
Chef Lisa: “This is good for me. This is how I love myself today.” And every day, you do something good for you. It can be as basic as having that green smoothie, having that healthy food. Every single day, you’re doing something to show yourself that you’re valuable, that you are worth it.
Today, I’m going with a friend. I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself l that I’ve mentioned with my support group getting over the traumas that have happened to me in my life. Being able to be with people that support you and love you and getting the toxic people out of your life is also a very important part of your self-healing journey.
Sara: Yeah, and you’ve been such a great example of that, too, because you, if I’m not mistaken, founded your own vegetarian society in the area where you lived. So I think that’s a great testament to people.
I mean, we have so many great resources, Meetups.com and you can network with bloggers. There’s so many resources for finding like-minded people around you. But if there’s not, you can always be the one to take the initiative to create that community. Having a support group is so important.
Chef Lisa: Right, right. And so I found this support group of people that were going through the same things I was going through and then maybe other people that have other things that they’re trying to – whatever. But I got involved with a group of people that are all working on making themselves better or healing from their past or whatever, issues like that.
So I started working on me, but not just at that component, but also the eating, the self-love, the spirituality and all of that. They all work together. I really, truly believe that people who only try to focus on the food and not work on themselves, it’s not enough.
Sara: It won’t be sustainable.
Chef Lisa: It’s not going to be sustainable. I do applaud people that just lose weight by white knuckling it, but I needed it to be more for it to be sustainable. That’s what I believe as the key.
I’m working on my book. I have all of my recipes and I’m hoping to find a publisher. So that’s my thing right now. I’m trying to find a publisher so that through my book, people will be able to know a little bit of my story, but they’ll also know not focusing on all of that, but focusing on how we’re going to prepare these foods that are going to help me and with some steps that they can take too to have a better life and get over the pain of their food addictions or their past. That’s what I want to be able to share.
Sara: That’s so great. Everybody, if there’s anyone in the audience that knows or a network knows a publisher, publish this woman’s book. The world is waiting for it!
Chef Lisa: Awww… you’re so cute. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, Sara, thank you for all that you do too with Raw Food Magazine and for being a beautiful light in your community. We’re all a family too. We all support each other in our effort. I’m grateful for what you do and getting the word out about this loving food that helps people to heal themselves and also help them to find joy.
I really do believe once you get the junk food out, then it makes more room for joy to fill you up. Absolutely.
Sara: Well, thank you.
Chef Lisa: Thank you for what you do.
Sara: Thank you so much, Lisa for being with us today and sharing your light and your soul and your story with us.
Chef Lisa: And I do offer coaching services, classes and events. People can contact me by e-mail or on Facebook. I would love to hear from you!
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-your rfm team