We all have difficulties in our lives. Sometimes our problems may seem small in comparison to others, but ultimately, they are a large part of what defines us. Our personal story has great potential value to us if we can learn and grow from it. Sometimes it can be of value to others as well. I hope that my story can be of value to you. I am telling it to you as a way of explaining why the issue of health has always been important to me and why I moved to a whole food, plant-based diet.
Like many people, my early experience of sickness drew me to discovering all I could about
health. From a very young age, I struggled with so many ailments: tonsillitis, adenoids inflammation, chronic constipation, hives, gallstones, and later in life, PMS and infertility. I say this not out of any wish for sympathy or feelings of self-pity but as a framework for what I have discovered and what I hold to be of value. Compared with many, I have had a very blessed life.
If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?
My greatest gift in life has been my family. I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. My mum and dad had the challenge of raising seven children on a meagre budget. What we lacked in money was made up for in love. We walked everywhere, which I’m sure served me well later in life. We never had a lunch at school. Every day we came home for a hot lunch prepared by my mum. Mum and Dad were even our main source of entertainment. Our house was filled with song, dance, and games, and with nine mouths to feed, there was always lots of cooking.
As a youngster I didn’t like meat but ate lots of dairy foods—milk, butter, cheese, yogurts—and eggs. I loved helping mum in the kitchen and really became interested in food.
I even pleaded with the local fruit, vegetable, and grain shop to let me work there. He didn’t hire me until I was twelve years old because I wasn’t tall enough to reach all the shelves. I loved to work there among the grains, beans, and vegetables. I guess 50 years ago my future was already making itself known to me.
My interest in health started early: at school, I adored biology and chemistry, much to the disdain of my friends. Mum always said I would make a great doctor, but that never appealed to me. As a youngster, my friends would tease me about my “quirkiness” given the fact I would rather drink water than fizzy drinks, didn’t like meat, loved sports, and always had my head in a book in the library. As the years passed, I continued to suffer health setbacks. In my early teens, the constipation I had suffered with for years worsened, and my doctor diagnosed me as having a lazy bowel. He prescribed laxatives to assist with this chronic condition. I didn’t take them, and sometimes it would be five days before I had a bowel movement. This eventually led to appendicitis. My appendix burst, and I nearly died with peritonitis.
As I continued to suffer with other health setbacks in my teens, I eventually had my tonsils and adenoids removed, and years later, painful gallstones led to the removal of my gallbladder. Those experiences inspired me to find out on my own about being healthy. I was the lone teenager joining Glasgow’s first health club, The Olympic, at the age of 15.
My studies on anatomy and nutrition began in that first health club, and I became a part-time personal trainer (alongside my day job in marketing). Years later, I started studying yoga, t’ai chi and traditional Chinese medicine. All my studies pointed to the fact that food was the key to health.
Food should taste great, provide us with optimal health, and satisfy our appetite. I do believe that food can be our best medicine—hence my unfailing desire to teach everyone who crosses my path that health and healing truly start in your kitchen. My students often laugh when I say that most people think they have a kitchen because it came with the house. However, it’s no joke, and we can all see what has happened since the food industry took over the work of cooking for us.
My passion to demonstrate that making delicious and nourishing food is
achievable has been my life’s work over these past decades. I find it exciting to create new recipes and to train chefs and home cooks in macrobiotic principles that incorporate the five tastes and seasonal menus.
When I stopped eating dairy and moved to a whole food, plant-based diet, I had no more hives, no more constipation and no more allergies. I truly believe that the body is a self-healing organism and that what we eat creates our blood that makes our cells that create our tissue that makes our organs. As I learned more and more about plant-based nutrition and the power of grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, I wanted to focus on a mineral rich diet that would help strengthen my blood. In teaching others about the disease caused by animal products, and in my case, cutting out dairy has been my mission. I also advise everyone to cut added sugar, because the body uses stored minerals to metabolize sugar, which can lead to deficiencies.
I know that we all want to be happy and enjoy the wonderful world we live in. When we are drowned in emotional or physical pain, we lose our compass. I have designed many courses and written books to share what I have learned about the energy of life and how the mind and body are connected. As far as I can tell, life is more about learning than anything else, and I continue to learn every day. I wish I had known what I know now when I was that 12-year-old working in the fruit, vegetable, and grain store.
One thing I have learned through my study and experience is that principles of health are not complicated. There are shelves full of books that break things down scientifically, offering impressively detailed and complex explanations of biological processes, but the conclusions are pretty much the same. The problem is that it all gets compartmentalized. Health is not one thing, but everything—everything from what we eat for breakfast to how we think about life.
There is energy, a life force that runs through us all. When we are healthy, that force bubbles up in us and connects us with each other. We have all experienced that feeling of deep connection with people we love, with nature. That’s what health is really about.
Beyond the theories and the science and the surveys and studies, it all boils down to that. Health gives us the freedom to be who we really are. Life has a rhythm. There are times in our lives when we feel uplifted and times when we feel down. There comes a time when we must make a decision to make less of our life or more. Since I began living a fully whole food, plant-based, vegan life these past decades, I have enjoyed better health and more vitality—I feel better at 62 than I did in my 20’s.
What I have come to believe is that the problems of creating a healthy society do not hinge on some new scientific discovery. The causes of the epidemic of degenerative disease in the world are well known, and the solutions are at hand. Just imagine the benefit to everyone if heart disease, cancer, and diabetes were wiped out. Think of the grief spared, the lives saved, and the money used for more pressing matters. It is possible to do it with committed health workers and most importantly a critical mass of the population who are willing to take action. The catalyst for all this is having the message communicated in a way that hits home with the general public.
Over the past 40 to 50 years, with all the developments in the treatment of disease, there has been little movement toward prevention. Dedicated professionals in the whole food, plant-based movement have made the greatest strides toward a healthy society. Grassroots movements have promoted better nutrition, the importance of exercise, the mind/body connection, low impact alternative treatments, and the anti-smoking movement. Thank goodness no one is giving up, and the movement grows daily.
I have experienced sickness and depression and come out the other side with a huge gratitude for life still intact. I am not bogged down with some overriding “theory” to prove. For me, there is no dogma. I teach what I do and have an open mind. When I teach, the most common sound in the room is laughter, from myself and my students. My desire to help others is as genuine as my no-nonsense approach to what works. You will enjoy the huge benefits of living a life stuffed from head to toes with plants. The information is simple, direct, and effective. If you follow my advice you will be better for it. I guarantee it.
My favourite saying: If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?
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