(This article was published in Herword.com last September 23, 2010)
Does one really need to be a chef in order to prepare raw food? How difficult could it be to mix together a few leafy greens, sliced veggies, and vinaigrette? There’s actually more to raw food and its preparation than putting together a simple salad. Vegan raw food chef and health coach, Cheloy Ignacio, can actually whip up your favorite comfort food using all raw ingredients. She has been doing so for years now, ever since she became a raw food advocate. Her passion for it has led to opening her own raw food restaurant aptly called RawVolution—Cheloy’s Living Food Cuisine.
Chef Cheloy did not always live on raw food. In fact, she used to own one of the most successful ensaymada businesses out there. And when she was younger, she used to indulge on very fatty foods such as bacon and aligue (crab fat). She says, back then, she could finish two kilos of prawns in one sitting, and that her favorite part of the shrimp was its head with all its fatty goodness. But that is all in the past now. Nowadays, she is happy and content on living on fresh fruits, vegetables, and everything else that would be suitable to her raw food lifestyle.
The defining moment
The raw food diet is not the first diet she has tried. She has experimented with practically all kinds of diets before, but none really worked. For her, a diet is not only a means to change her physical appearance; she actually wanted to overhaul her health. At the young age of 19, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia while she was pregnant with her first child. The fluctuation in her blood pressure and sugar level had a negative—and ultimately, fatal—effect on her baby. The baby passed away a couple of days before the actual due date. But going through that traumatic situation did not change Cheloy’s lifestyle. Her unhealthy way of life put her in and out of the hospital. Her blood pressure even reached as high as 280/110, and at the age of 23, she suffered a mild stroke.
From that time on, until she was about in her midforties, she became a regular visitor to hospitals and also became very dependent on medication. She experienced so many different ailments that her application for health insurance was not approved. For years, she survived on her medications, until one day, she had the strength to say to herself that enough is enough. Her will to live free from any sickness was so strong that she was able to find a way to do so.
In her quest for good health, she came across some information about raw food diet and became so passionate with it that she gave up her successful ensaymada business for it. Her interest in it led her to the U.S. where raw food is all the rage. She went to Boston and studied raw food preparation under Alissa Cohen. Now she is a certified health coach and raw food chef, and she is putting both to good use in her restaurant. When Cheloy is not preparing some seaweed salad or some other dish, she is teaching raw and vegetarian food preparation.
A lifestyle change
For Cheloy, the raw food diet is not just a craze; it has become part of her daily life. Since she has integrated this diet in her life in 2006, she never took maintenance medicines like she had to before. Her general health has greatly improved, and most especially, her zest for life. Her priorities have changed, too. Cheloy honestly admitted she used to be so vain that she would spend thousands of pesos on cosmetic products, and burn more money on her other indulgences. As her perception changed, she learned to give up those luxuries and prioritized her health instead. Now, she would rather spend more on updating her restaurant’s kitchen equipment rather than adding another coveted beauty product to her cosmetic collection.
Health is her number one priority now. She cringes every time she thinks about what happened in the past. She enjoys living healthy now and even confessed that she does not have cravings for normal cooked foods anymore. She would rather prepare a fresh banana shake in the morning rather than go back to her old lifestyle where she had her daily dose of maintenance medicines. She found healing through her raw food diet. Aside from providing the necessary nutrition she needs, eating raw food helped eliminate the toxins in her body. Since raw food is high in fiber but low in cholesterol and sugar, it showed a great improvement in her blood pressure, blood circulation and other body functions. Cheloy also lost about five pounds within three days of getting into the raw food diet. She hopes to inspire others to try eating raw food and living a healthier life. Cheloy happily shares that, “This is my lifestyle and this is my choice.”