Beautiful on Raw

INTERVIEW from Tonya Zavasta’s  book, Beautiful on Raw

My first summer job, as a teenager, was in a fresh raw juice bar in downtown Los Angeles. As I worked at the bar, serving fresh juices and smoothies, I got to talk to the people who came in and I realized that a whole world of information existed that I hadn’t previously understood. I started making a connection between the food that we put into our bodies and the profound effect that it could have upon us. People with ulcers came in to the juice bar for the cabbage juice. Others with kidney disease were taking home watermelon juice, and still others depended on a combination high in potassium, which consisted of carrot, celery, cucumber, spinach and parsley juices. Directly across from the juice bar, on the opposite side, was a small health food store. All day long I would serve juices and smoothies, and between customers, I would look across at this fascinating store with its intriguing books and strange products. Every week, when I collected my paycheck, I strolled across to the other side and bought books. I don’t think I actually took home much money that summer, but I did take books! Some of the books I bought were by Dr. Ann Wigmore. That is how I was introduced to the raw food diet. I wish I could say that after discovering this wonderful information, I immediately converted to a raw lifestyle, but in those days, there was absolutely no support for it. During my early years, I went back and forth between raw and cooked food. I knew that raw was better, because I felt better when I ate it; but I was young, experimenting and learning.

Years later, after a traumatic experience, I gained a lot of weight from using food unwisely to try to tamp down my emotions. Eighty-eight extra pounds heavier, I realized that I had to get control of myself. Finally, I went on a fresh raw juice fast, with lots of exercise, and lost the weight.

A powerful incentive had been provided by my sweetheart (life partner), who booked me at a club, where I used to work as a singer, before I gained weight. The booking was six weeks away and it helped me to focus on losing the weight. Of course, I didn’t lose all the weight before the gig started, but I did lose half of it. Afterward, I just kept going. I have been a dedicated raw food enthusiast since 1987.

As for changes in my appearance, my skin, which was always good, got even better. I never get pimples anymore. It’s easier to maintain my weight. I come from a Latin background, and in my family, the women tend to carry extra weight. I’ve been able to maintain a normal weight more easily, since converting to a raw food diet. During childhood, I had two serious cavities in my teeth. As an adult, I lost those two teeth. However, since I went on the raw food diet, my teeth have stabilized and I have had no further cavities or any other problems with my teeth.

I feel good about my appearance. I echo David Wolfe’s words, from his book, Eating for Beauty, where he stated that the human body is a beautiful work of art in progress. I was not considered beautiful until I reached my teen years. At least I never heard anyone call me beautiful. During my growing up years, I used to hear – “she’s pretty” or “she’s cute.” But in my teens, when I discovered boys. . . and they discovered me. . . then I heard the word beautiful.

As a work in progress, I don’t feel that I’ve seen my best self yet, but I do feel good about where I am most of the time. What can shake my confidence temporarily is when people compare me unfavorably to the models in magazines who, though they are attractive, are very, very slender. Most of them are really underweight. As a singer in show business circles, sometimes I am made to feel inadequate because I am not so slender. I look too robust.

I like to look healthy and robust, but some people don’t view me that way; rather they compare me to the images that are presented in the media as normal/favorable. Because of this, there were times when my confidence wavered, but soon afterward, I recaptured my good sense and again valued myself for my own unique look and individuality.

The best thing that you can do for the facial skin is to freeze it everyday. Ice cold water is very, very toning to the skin. I have read that Marilyn Monroe used to sit in a bathtub full of ice cubes! I don’t go that far, but I do use ice water on my face. In order to do so comfortably, you have to get a pair of thick rubber gloves from the hardware store; the object is to freeze your face, not your hands. Put four or five trays of ice cubes into a large bowl, fill the bowl with water and, using a washcloth, splash your face for five minutes with the ice water. Now, some people with very delicate skin might have to use caution, but I have found that ice water tones the skin like nothing else. After splashing, just let the water air-dry naturally on the skin.

I also carry a small plastic spray bottle filled with filtered water in my purse and I use it to spray my facial and neck skin several times a day. I do this because water is what holds moisture in the skin, while living in our polluted cities dehydrates our skin. It’s like the difference between a fresh apricot full of water and a dried apricot, devoid of water. Drinking lots of water throughout the day is also essential.

A very good technique for drawing blood up to nourish the face is to stand on your head or hang upside down. There is a piece of equipment available that allows you to hang upside down. Another simple practice involves using fruits and vegetables on the outside of the body as well as the inside. For example, you could use fresh grape or apple juice as a moisturizer. They are both excellent for the skin, as well as very economical. Some of these beauty rituals are probably not for everyone, but they are effective.

I believe in the value of cosmetics to enhance a woman’s appearance, and I do wear make-up. I find for myself, however, that less is more, so my complete make-up takes only 5 minutes. On a special occasion I might take more time. I use only a light powder on my skin, no base. Most of the make-up I use is for enhancing my eyes, which I think are one of my best features.

If I have a style, I’ve been unmindful of it up to this point. Now, finally, I am actually putting in some effort by experimenting more with clothing and hairstyles. I’m going to shoot some videos soon, so I figured I’d better get with it. I love having long hair, which I’ve been told is not very fashionable. I don’t get my hair layered, so there’s only so much one can do with it. I want to have waist length hair; I’m a couple of inches short of my goal. For me, long hair feels very romantic.

The raw food lifestyle will make anyone look more youthful – there is absolutely no doubt or question about it at all. And when you think about it, it makes so much sense. Everything you put into your body comes sun-blessed from Nature; there is nothing better that you can do for yourself, except to grow your own. And that is the next step in my raw evolution — growing my own, at least part of the year, here in New York State.

I love looking younger than I am, and previous bitter experiences now help me appreciate how wonderful this feels. When I was in my overweight phase, someone once asked if I was my boyfriend’s mother. I cried for days – and after my tears dried, I did something about it.

I agree with Patricia Bragg about age. When people ask my age, I say that I’m an “adult, ageless.” I believe that in today’s world, people carry very negative attitudes towards aging. And they can usually point to the proof of their convictions. They would be very surprised to discover that many people, unhampered by foregone patterns and conclusions, can maintain youth into so-called old age.

To combat the prevalent negative impression of aging, I don’t really associate any number of years with myself. People may put a number to me, but I don’t do it myself, unless I’m compelled to in a legal situation or something. Human souls are ageless in that they may have lived many thousands of lifetimes anyway. So in the long view, we truly are ageless, and passage of time is just an artificial construct that humans have created here on earth. You can either buy into this outworn, non-serving construct or joyfully forge out as a pioneer in a new way of thinking and feeling. Future generations will benefit from inheriting the new model that we are setting in motion.

I’ve had many amusing experiences regarding age. Once, a policeman stopped me while I was driving and he refused to believe that my license was actually my license. He was kind of hostile at first, until I started telling him about my healthy food choices. Another time, at my birthday celebration, a small group of friends was standing around when my son came in with a friend. After greetings, my son’s friend asked him where his mother was and when my son pointed to me, he was shocked! That was one of my best birthday presents and it made me feel good.

One of my favorite recipes is also a prescription for beauty, inside and out.

Marinated Greens with Avocado

1 bunch collard greens

1 bunch Swiss chard

1 bunch Lacinto kale

3-4 tbsps. olive and flaxseed oil mixed

juice of 2 lemons (or more)

2-4 garlic cloves (pressed)

1/2 tsp. Celtic sea salt

1 avocado

1. Cut out the stems or ribs from all the greens and save for another use. (They are good for juicing and then using the juice as a base for a blender soup.)

2. Lay the large leaves on top of each other and then put the smaller kale leaves on top. (Do this in two batches, as there are too many leaves for one stack.) Fold the leaves in half and then roll the whole bunch into a tight roll. Starting at one end of the roll, cut into very thin slivers. Put the resulting ribbons into a large bowl.

3. Make a marinade of the oil, lemon, garlic and Celtic sea salt. Toss the green ribbons with the marinade until well coated. Put the greens into a bowl and on top of the greens place 3 heavy plates to weigh them down. Then place the bowl into the refrigerator overnight. The weight helps the marinade penetrate into the leaves.

4. Next day, before serving the greens, mash the avocado and, with your clean hands, massage the avocado into the greens. At this time, you might want to adjust the flavor by adding more lemon, or Celtic sea salt, etc.

Without the avocado, the greens keep for 3 days in the refrigerator. After adding the avocado, serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

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