I first met Michelle Shulman, head chef of Arnolds Way Raw Food Cafe a little over a year and a half ago. She shared with me her incredible story of how eating raw foods was allowing her to be free from the day to day agonizing health problems she once suffered from. Michelle just got back from Raw Union, Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes wedding where she was invited to sing opera style for the ceremony. I've been wanting to do an interview with her for some time now and thought this would be the perfect opportunity.
What got you interested in raw foods?
For years I had been hearing about raw foods from a spiritual teacher, the founder of the Foundation of Human Understanding, Roy Masters. Roy wrote a book on raw food called "Eat No Evil." I had read this years ago. He proclaimed that God gave us raw unadulterated foods to live from and man corrupted them. People with obesity problems and problems controlling food were advised by him to eat raw. Roy planted the seed. Then, about 10 years ago a girlfriend told me about a raw food retreat called "optimum health institute" or O.H.I. in San Diego because she knew I had always struggled with my weight and also struggled terribly with binge and compulsive eating, and she thought this retreat would help me, as a friend of hers had gone there and lost a lot of weight quickly. At the time, the retreat was also very inexpensive, so I decided to go for 4 weeks and I'd meet my friend there. As it turned out, she never showed up, she was unable to come, but the retreat left an indelible mark as the raw diet indeed freed me from feelings of compulsion with food as Roy had suggested would happen. I also really felt drawn to the vegan aspect of raw foodism as I had been interested in the blood type diet "Eat Right For Your Type." I am an A Negative blood type and according to Dr. D'Amato, A Negatives are 'supposed' to be vegans. Curiously, my whole life I have had an absolute obsession with meat and could never get enough of it. After getting "off" of meat, I am so glad to no longer crave it, what a relief! Often we crave what is worst for us. I've since returned to O.H.I., actually worked there for nearly 8 months and after my last stay 2 1/2 years ago and became a committed raw foodist.
What was your lifestyle/health prior to discovering raw? Tell us your story.
Prior to committing to raw 2 1/2 years ago, my health was going for worse to deplorable. I had reached 425 lbs, I had severe sleep apnea, chronic snoring, allergies, chronic asthmatic bronchitis, severe reflux (GERD), acne, and chronic lower back pains so bad that I could hardly walk. Worse than all of that, was the fact that I was absolutely hopelessly addicted to food, specifically to fast food, and I couldn't stop binge eating. I was taking in between 7-10,000 calories a day sometimes. It was a living hell.
How has this lifestyle change impacted your life?
After 4 days of raw when i got to O.H.I again 2 1/2 years ago, my back pains completely disappeared. It was a radical impact. I also noticed that my cravings were disappearing the longer and longer I stayed raw. The sleep apnea disappeared, I no longer snore or have reflux or acne. I've lost 175 lbs. I work as a raw chef and really feel like this lifestyle is my 'savior.' I am no longer driven by intense cravings and out of control hunger for food. I eat when I'm hungry! I feel free!
Did you go to a school to learn how to prepare raw?
I didn't, but at the raw food retreat, I worked in the kitchen, and also as a guide in the raw food prep classes. The other workers and I also frequented the raw restaurants and would return back to the retreat and recreate the dishes we had just eaten. It was an amazing time of discovery. The biggest impact on my knowledge of raw food cooking came from a raw food prep video done by Victoria Boutenko. After watched that video, I understood the basic elements of raw food prep and felt as if the 'heavens opened' for me. It was an instantaneous understanding.
How long have you been the head chef at Arnolds?
It's nearing going on 2 years this August of 2009. How time flies! When I came back home from the raw retreat I KNEW I needed support to stay raw and approached Arnold asking for a job. The timing was right and the rest is history!
What would be the best advice you would give to someone struggling with their health and wanting to make changes but not knowing where to start?
Contemplating raw can be so overwhelming. Questions arise such as 'how do I do it right?' At Arnolds Way, we teach a basic principle to 'ADD', not 'SUBTRACT'. That means: Add raw foods to your diet. Don't tell yourself, 'I'll never eat meat or bread again.' Just start adding raw foods IN. The easiest way to do that is to start your day with a green smoothie. Green smoothies are fruit smoothies with added greens. Your getting an alkalizing drink with tons of fiber and soon your body will CRAVE more and more raw foods. We have seen customers improve their health significantly by just this one small change: drinking green smoothies for breakfast. They not only get better, they FEEL better. Feeling better motivates their decision to eat MORE raw foods. This is THE best way to do it, because it's your own BODY giving you feedback instead of some person just saying, 'you SHOULD do this.' Nobody ever sticks to anything because they 'should'. They stick to something because it has meaning and purpose for them.
Can you contribute a personal favorite recipe of yours for others to try at home?
Since we're on the topic of green smoothies, a personal favorite is mango, strawberry, parsley. Into a Vita-mix or a strong blender, add a few bananas, frozen or unfrozen, 1/2 cup strawberries, 2 mangoes cut up, 1 oz of agave, juice of 2 oranges, a handful of parsley, some ice if desired and enough liquid to get the blender going. This is yummy!
Do you offer classes and/or consultations?
I periodically run food prep classes or raw dinners at Arnolds Way, so everyone should get on Arnold's mailing list. You can sign up at www.arnoldsway.com. But I also go to people's homes and un-cook for them or give them raw food prep instruction or lead raw food prep 'parties' at their home. I also specifically help heavyset people who have a hard time losing weight on the more traditional mainstream raw 'gourmet' diets, and guide them to weight loss with a low fat, no salt, low glycemic raw vegan diet. I sometimes offer support groups in this vein, as well. I'm currently blogging daily about my weight loss and the low fat raw program I am on. http://purerawjoy.blogspot.com and I can be contacted at LaSoprana@aol.com
What's your next event coming up?
I have a few things in the works, but no dates set as of yet. I'd like to do another raw dinner, and since I sing opera as well, I'd like to sing at this dinner. The last few opera dinners were really successful and people not only loved the food but the music. I also would like to do another traditional raw gourmet cooking class, and another catered to the diet I am currently favoring, the low fat/low salt/low glycemic raw diet. Anyone can email me to find out about classes and they should definitely sign up for Arnolds weekly email at www.arnoldsway.com!!
How can people contact you for more information?
They can email me at LaSoprana@aol.com, visit my blog, or webpage.
xoxo Michelle Joy Shulman
Michelle also has a stunning voice being a classically trained opera singer. Check her out in action here!