Maryanne, 2009, age 46
From 2003 to 2010, I was eating a very high raw diet. I was interviewed by Jenni for a blog in Finland. I thought it would be fun to revisit the interview and photograph. Note, I am no longer a raw foodist; just eating clean, whole foods.
This is the English translation.
Interview: Mary Anne
Dear readers of my blog. I had the honor and pleasure to interview an American friend of mine, Mary Anne, about raw foods and her diet.
Hello Mary Anne and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by me! First things first, please tell my readers more about yourself? Hello, my name is Mary Anne Christiano. I’m 46-years-old and living in Union County, New Jersey, USA, with my boyfriend and our kitties. I run my own home-based business editing books, doing research projects and some artist representation.
When did you first change your diet and why? I first changed my diet to high raw the summer of 2003. I had just turned 40 and wasn’t feeling right. I asked my mom how she felt in her 40s and she said, “I felt great in my 40s!” So I knew something was wrong. I kept getting sick. I had insomnia. I was too hyper and irritable. I had stomach issues.
What kind of stomach issues did you have? Constipation and stomach aches. So after intensive internet research, I decided to give up foods with artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, preservatives, chemicals and also coffee, breads, pastas, and sugar. I started concentrating on a high raw food diet. Within weeks I felt better, but it took a few years to tweak the diet to perfection.
When did you become interested in raw foods and what motivated you to try the raw food diet? I think the first time I heard of raw foods was a few years earlier. It didn’t appeal to me, as I loved cooked foods: pastas, Indian foods, gourmet vegetarian food like vegetarian chili and lasagna. But I kept coming across articles and after reading all the positives, I figured I’d give it a shot.
Have you ever been 100% raw? Yes, I’ve been 100 percent raw, but not for very long. Maybe 10 or 12 days at the most.
Where did you find information about raw foods? Everything off the internet. It was hard to find raw food books and when I did, they were very expensive and most were just recipes to make with a dehydrator. I never liked dehydrated food. It was always too heavy for me. When I think of raw food, I think of a fantastic salad mixed with all sorts of goodies, or fresh fruit. The dehydrator isn’t the way to go. The only raw book I really liked anyway was “Raw Knowledge” by Paul Nison. He interviewed 25 raw foodists and they all had different approaches to the raw lifestyle.
Did you get to know other raw foodists? I’ve met quite a few, but no one I am close with. I think many of them are too fanatical about the lifestyle, making it seem cult-like.
Have you ever met any celebrity raw foodists? I’ve interviewed Carol Alt over the phone for an article. She’s definitely an inspiration because she does it her way. She’s not a vegan and she said she goes off the raw food diet during hockey season. I like the way she thinks because she keeps it real.
That’s interesting, because in Finland a lot of people automatically think think that raw food means VEGAN raw food. Have you eaten any raw animal foods during your raw food journey and if so, what kind of products? The raw animal foods I ate were: organic raw eggs, raw fish and raw milk cheese.
Any criticism about the raw food movement in America? I find most of the criticism comes from people who don’t understand it. People would see me eating an entire pineapple and say, “Wow, you can eat all that?” Yet the same people will eat 3 or 4 slices of pizza and not think anything of it.
And the positive stuff? The positive stuff is that everything you put into your body, you get back ten-fold. I stay thin without over-exercising or counting calories. I rarely get sick anymore. I have a ton of energy. My blood work is excellent.
Tell me about Raw Food restaurants you’ve been to! Any particular restaurants you recommend for traveling Finns? The best raw food restaurant is Pure Food and Wine in NYC. It’s pricey and you’ll get a five-star treatment. The waiters are the best. The food is absolutely amazing. They also have vegan wines and unpasteurized sake. So a great place for a celebration. They also have a nice garden you can dine in if the weather is nice. There is another raw restaurant in NYC that is cafeteria style, called Bonobos. They have durian “ice cream” (which is just pure frozen durian!)
Where do you usually shop food and why? I shop for food everywhere. It takes about five stores to buy everything I want. There is no perfect store that has everything. But I do like to support the smaller health food stores rather than supermarket chains, so I do that as much as possible.
What’s your take on vitamin supplements? I feel supplements are over-rated, but they do have a purpose. I don’t take a multi-vitamin, but rather concentrate on what I need: Vitamin D and B-12 are very important for me because I’m a vegetarian. I recently had a bone mass test and I am nowhere near having any bone loss. That is pretty impressive considering women start losing bone mass at age 35.
What are some of the strangest things you’ve eaten since you discovered raw foods Well I’m always finding bizarre fruits, but the strangest of all is one called “Monstera.” You have to wait for the fruit to shed it’s outer layer before you can eat it. It’s ugly as all hell! It looks like a prehistoric monster!
Your favorite raw food ever? Definitely the durian!
Can you tell my readers what IS durian, where do you buy it, what it tastes like and how to eat it! A durian is a fruit from Thailand. It has a spiky outside and inside it’s a pudding. It tastes like a combination of hazelnut and vanilla with a touch of garlic. It can be bought in most Asian markets.
Do you eat any of the so called superfoods and how do you eat them? I’ve tried all the super foods. I think they are over-priced and over-rated. For awhile I loved gogi berries and cacao and put them in smoothies. I got burnt on them. If I never eat another gogi berry for the rest of my life that’s fine with me!
Have you noticed raw foods changing your psychological well being? Raw foods made me more calm and patient. But prior to discovering the lifestyle I’ve always been true to who I am and happy about it.
Does diet cure everything? How important part does diet play in health and do you believe there other other aspects that are equally important? I’m not sure. Diet can help a lot, but I believe there are other factors that contribute to good health: lifestyle, environment, exercise, love, music, having pets, doing something you love for a living … But when people say things like, “Oh you eat so healthy, but you’ll probably get run over by a truck” I just laugh … Having a long life would be a bonus, but while I am here I want to feel the best I could. I’d rather feel good, not worry about my weight and have a lot of energy eating like I do than eating crappy food and feeling like I have a hangover! I know one cancer patient who is doing extremely well with a high raw diet. She’s definitely a success story and most of her cancer cells shrunk. I wish we could hear more stories like that. But I don’t think it’s that simple. I may sound cynical, but I’ve seen too much of people really taking care of their health, yet dying way too soon!
The Raw food movement is very young in Finland and there is a growing interest in superfoods. People talk about raw cacao, coconut water, maca powder ja goji berries. What would you want to tell someone who is getting into raw foods, just starting to change their diet and eating superfoods? Any warnings or advice? My advice is one size does not fit all. The raw food lifestyle may or may not fit for you. Eating as raw as possible is good for your body, but it may or may not be good to be 100 percent raw. Listen to your body, to how you feel. Don’t be a victim of raw dogma. Also, think about what you are adding to your diet, not what you are giving up. Instead of saying, “I can’t eat sugar anymore” say, “Wow, I can try all these wonderful fruits and vegetables!” A warning would be: don’t go crazy with dried fruits. They are very bad for your teeth.
Can you describe your current diet? Currently I am eating about 60 percent raw and low acid foods. I am a vegetarian, but not vegan. For breakfast I’ll have rennetless cottage cheese with organic blueberries; and a green smoothie (mixed organic greens blended with banana and chlorella). Lunch will be a big salad mixed with lots of organic vegetables and include seaweed for good hair. Dinner will either be an entire honeydew, watermelon and maybe a sweet potato. I started adding pastas back into my diet. I’ll sometimes eat brown rice pasta or I will have a low-acid sugar or carb treat like chips or a pastry.
Any favorite recipe you want to share? I like to shred beets, garlic and carrots in a blender, then add apple cider vinegar and flaxseed oil and wrap the mixture in nori. I call this Mary Anne’s Beet Goes On Salad!
Thank you, Mary Anne, so much for this wonderful interview and may you live long and prosper!
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is a two-time author, award-winning journalist and a public speaker. She’s available to speak at libraries, schools, senior centers, JCC’s, etc. For availability and pricing, contact Maryanne at: firstname.lastname@example.org
photos: Mary Anne Christiano’s personal archive
Interview and translation: Jenni / Hunajataivas, hunajameri