Recovery, and now a business, because of the raw food diet
Photo courtesy of Stacy Stowers
In 2007, Stacy Stowers realized a remarkable recovery from the debilitating effects of fibromyalgia and chronic pain, thanks to a switch to a raw food diet. Ms. Stowers says that before she — reluctantly — experimented with the diet, "I couldn't get out of bed or get dressed. I was on all kinds of pain medication and sleeping pills. I was using coffee and alcohol every day for the pain. Eventually my teeth started to fall out."
Ms. Stowers had been been struggling with chronic pain for 16 years, ever since she was stricken at 22 with valley fever, a fungal infection that attacks the body's immune system. Amazed that after 10 days on raw foods, she had not only gotten out of bed for the first time in months, but she felt so energized that she took a long walk through her home town of Chicago, she decided she would spread the word. Three years later, Ms. Stowers sold everything and took to the road on a one-year mission of sharing her discovery of the healing powers of raw foods.
The tour was so successful that people started asking her for one-on-one instruction. She developed a business in which she lives with a family for a week, introduces them to a variety of raw food preparations, cooks for them, and teaches them to rethink the way they eat.
Now, from her home base of New York City, Ms. Stowers travels to several areas, including the Vineyard, providing this one-week, full-immersion experience. And, she says, "Not once have I left a house at the end of a week where people didn't feel the difference. One thing I'm definitely sure of is, if there's a reluctant person in the household, they're always won over."
The secret is that she has discovered creative ways to turn raw food ingredients into dishes that are not only palatable, but delicious. Ms. Stowers notes that she was skeptical herself the first time someone tried to turn her on to raw foods. "People were drinking these green smoothies. They tasted like lawn clippings."
With a good deal of experimentation, she managed to devise a recipe that turns that green drink into something she describes as tasting just like chocolate soft-serve ice cream. Ms. Stowers recently gave a lesson at the Vineyard Haven Library in creating this Happy Shake, with handfuls of spinach as its primary ingredient.
Ms. Stowers works with families to try to find a way to make the transition to raw foods as easy as possible. She keeps most of the recipes simple and makes an effort to replicate the tastes her clients love. For one family, she created a vegetarian hamburger, using cashew nuts. For another family, she made a raw foods version of Cheetos.
Ms. Stowers explains the twofold benefits of eschewing cooked and processed foods and meat (she does eat seared fish), "There are two basic reasons why raw food heals," she says. "One is the live enzymes. Our body has all these metabolic enzymes that keep us young, and digestive enzymes that you find in raw real foods. When we kill the natural digestive enzymes with cooking, our metabolic enzymes that are healing us and keeping our skin healthful have to stop what they're doing and work on digestion.
"The other issue is the acid/alkaline balance — the Ph level. If we have a highly acidic body, that's where disease and illness will set in. Too much acidity comes from stress, pollution, coffee, meat, sodas, white flour, etc. When the body gets too acidic, it wants to save us. It will take all these extra acids and store them in fat. The acids also go to your bones and teeth and try to draw out minerals."
Though many of Ms. Stowers recipes can be prepared with everyday ingredients using commonplace techniques, others require a little more commitment. She often uses a dehydrator, which heats foods to a temperature no higher than 118 degrees, the point at which foods start breaking down. She also employs vitamineral powder and other specialty ingredients, most of which can be purchased at health food stores.
However, she notes that anyone can get started on a raw food diet without much effort. "I show people how really simple it is and how to utilize leftovers. How to build a meal out of what's in your refrigerator."
Ms. Stowers says that the people she works with notice an increase in energy, healthier skin, and myriad other positive changes after making the switch. Some find the diet a painless way to lose weight.
"I don't believe in fasting," she says. "Raw food is so easy and tastes wonderful."
For a woman who, not so long ago, couldn't even get out of bed, Ms. Stowers, at 43, is vibrant and full of energy.
"I wanted to give back and share with people this amazing thing that saved my life," she explained. "It's like my heart burned, and I had to share that with people."
Recipe for George Washington Ice Cream Bars:
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup raw soaked cashews (soak 2 hours and with clean clean water)
1 Tbs. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder
1 Tbs. raw honey
always a pinch of pink sea salt
1.Blend in your blender and pour into icecream bar molds. Fill the molds, leaving room to add in your sliced frozen cherries, berries, peaches, bananas, the
options here are endless.
3. Once your bars are frozen, remove and drizzle on your simple chocolate sauce. I used a spoon. Return to freezer.