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Welcome! I am just thrilled and honored that I get to share this journey with you as you discover your highest level of beauty and health.
I know how confusing it can be to navigate the numerous conflicting and ever-changing health philosophies that are out there. Fruit is healthy. No, fruit has too much sugar! Be sure to count fat grams. No, wait. Make that to count carbs! The conflicting advice used to always make me wonder if I was doing something wrong. What are we supposed to believe, and where do we turn for the answers?
Well, it really doesn't have to be that complicated. The goal of my book is to show you fundamental principles that will teach you how to unlock your highest potential beauty and achieve optimal health. As you'll find, it is actually very simple. And in our ever-progressing, complicated world, simplicity is a beautiful thing. We need not get swept up in the chaos of gimmicky new diets and worry if we are missing out on the Holy Grail of instant weight loss and wrinkle freedom. The truth is, it doesn't exist in the hot new diet. But there is an answer, and the exciting news is that it is right in front of you.
I want you to know right off the bat that this book is not about restriction in any sense. We will not be counting calories or grams of carbs, and we will not be restricted to eating in one particular way to fit into one dietary category. You can discover your ultimate health and beauty whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist, pescatarian or omnivore. The broad concepts I outline in this book will work for everyone, and you will see and feel results, whatever your current diet. There is a phase, or eating plan, that works for everyone—regardless of lifestyle, budget or personal tastes.
Once we get rid of restriction and embrace the idea of consuming an abundance of the right foods, we free ourselves up to understand, internalize and apply the true tenets of health and beauty. With just a few simple changes, you will look and feel better than you ever have before. That is my promise to you!
And the best part? You'll have all these benefits without counting calories or obsessing over tiny portion sizes or eating bland microwaved foods! You will be feasting on fresh, delicious and filling foods that will nourish every cell in your body so that a deeply healthful, radiant glow permeates from within. Your skin will become brighter, your hair shinier and your body more toned. Belly fat will drop off, and your eyes will sparkle with newfound energy. You can achieve true health and beauty naturally with food. This diet is that powerful.
I believe the word "health" is synonymous with the word "beauty." A healthy body is a beautiful body. Healthy skin, which is a reflection of our internal health, is beautiful skin. My definition of beauty is that it should be deep, lasting and magnetic, and grow from the inside out. The key to this kind of vibrant beauty is ongoing cleansing. When your cells and blood are clean and detoxified, your body is able to function optimally and you are able to maximize the use of plentiful minerals in your food. Your skin will radiate from the inside out, excess pounds will melt away and your body will achieve its perfect weight. We've all seen the kind of beauty I'm talking about. A woman who just glows. Now you, too, can sparkle with true beauty.
I wrote this book to help free you from wasting time and energy struggling with debilitating new diets and cleanses, wearing layers and layers of concealer and foundation to hide dulled, flawed skin and, yes, squeezing into your "fat" jeans. I promise you that it is possible to achieve your most beautiful self and your perfect weight—while eating abundantly! And once you stop wasting time and energy worrying about your skin and weight, you can focus on your real goals and dreams.
Believe me, I have had my own share of weight and beauty battles. I struggled for years to control my weight as a superthin, calorie- and fat-gram-counting marathon runner. I was always swallowing a gnawing hunger, and at five foot five I was barely one hundred pounds, with hair as coarse as steel wool. Then I went in the totally opposite direction (yes, I admit it!). After graduating from college, I moved to Sydney, Australia, where I landed my first job. For my job, I was mingling with the A-list celebrity crowd, riding yachts and constantly eating out at fancy dinners and, yes, drinking expensive wine and partying.
I was spending all my time involved in activities I thought were so glamorous. Hey, you're relaxing, I told myself. Have another glass. Well, what I thought was healthy food—soy burgers, fat-free milk, pretzels, yogurt, sushi and grilled veggie and mozzarella sandwiches—added over thirty pounds to my small frame! My skin was a dull, zit-covered mess, and I believe that I looked older than I do now. I stopped working out regularly because I just didn't have the energy. Instead I turned to soy milk cappuccinos and Diet Coke to give me periodic "boosts" throughout the day.
When I developed a roll of fat on my once flat-as-a-board belly, I looked in the mirror and decided that I couldn't take it anymore. It was at that point that a new and highly influential person came into my life: an Australian holistic nutritionist who ran a nutritional detox center in Sydney. By chance (since I went so infrequently) I saw a small flyer of hers at the gym.
I had never before tried to do anything remotely detox related, but I was desperate for something to help and decided to give it a shot. This gorgeous, blond forty-something-year-old with sharp green eyes assessed my bumpy skin, my dull hair and the ridges in my nails and gave me a knowing look. She shook her head when she saw the thick coating of mucus on my tongue. The first questions she asked me were, "How often do you go to the bathroom?" and "Do you get bloated and gassy often?"
To which I replied, "What? Who cares about that stuff? I want to lose weight and make my skin look better!"
She smiled. "That stuff is what it is all about, my dear."
I was put on a stern detox program, cutting out dairy and refined carbs, like pretzels and white rice, from my diet immediately. This Aussie guru also made me concoctions for my liver with nineteen medicinal plants, my first introduction to the bounty of herbs in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. She also made her own face and body creams, and she forever changed the way I thought about my skin. She helped me see that the skin is our largest organ and functions like a mirror of what's going on inside the body: it offers us a direct reflection of the health achievements we make and the obstacles with which we struggle. My skin held all the answers, and all I had to do was pay attention to what it was telling me. Likewise, I learned that from 60 to 70 percent of what we put on our skin is absorbed through the skin into our bloodstream and liver. That certainly changed the way I thought of beauty products for good!
She jolted something awake in me and inspired my voracious passion for both natural health and skin care. I stopped partying and going out to dinner parties every night and read all the information and books the nutritionist gave me. I spent a lot of time with her, shopping at health stores, sipping herbal tea, and walking along Bondi Beach, where we both lived, having health discussions for hours. We became very close friends! The more I followed her advice, the better I looked and felt. The weight I'd gained melted off, and my skin started to clear up. I had so much energy that any thought of "needing" a coffee got banished from my mind! The results were incredible.
I knew I had to make a complete break from my current path in life. I didn't want to simply change the way I ate; I wanted to profoundly change the way I lived. Learning about natural health and skin care and the natural healing properties of plants made me jittery inside. I was so excited! Even though I still had no idea how this new interest would fit into my life, I was thrilled about the unknown possibilities. I could no longer ignore the dull ache in my heart telling me that I was on the wrong career path, in a corporate field that was not my real passion. I had found something I was incredibly passionate about: learning more and more about how food itself is medicine and a powerful tool for achieving our highest beauty.
Once I came to realize what I truly wanted, the flame was lit and inspiration shifted into action. I was in a serious long-distance relationship with someone back home, but I knew deep down that it wasn't right. Within one week I quit my job, declined law school for the following fall, broke my apartment lease on Bondi Beach and dumped my boyfriend. There was no turning back now!
I walked into an STA travel office and, with a few thousand dollars saved from working, bought an around-the-world ticket with fifteen stops across five continents. At first I thought I might travel for two or three weeks, but once I started out, I could not stop. The more I learned and saw, the more I wanted to explore…so I ended up traveling for a total of about three years to very remote communities, for dollars a day. I stayed in guesthouses, ashrams, my tent (for many months across Africa), bungalows, on floors (even a few times on the floors of Asian Laundromats), and sometimes in bus and train stations with my backpack strapped to my body. I started out alone but sporadically met up with old friends and constantly met new people along the way as I weaved my way through Laos, China, Mongolia, Nepal, India, Swaziland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Croatia, Peru, Malaysia, Botswana…over fifty countries in all.
My adventures were at times rough, dirty and even dangerous (though nothing really bad ever happened), but the truth is that I gleaned an incredible education from my three-year around-the-world journey. All these diverse countries had one thing in common: they had their own secrets to health and beauty. Each had an impact on my perspective on health, and in each country I deepened my understanding of true beauty and learned powerful beauty tips I still treasure today.
Thailand was the first country I ventured to after I left Australia, and it marked my initial immersion in the wonderful world of ancient and beautifying Asian fruits, especially the legendary durian. I feasted on the abundance of local fruit, and it composed a good 70 percent of my diet. It was then that I began my lifelong obsession with young coconuts, eating them every day, and like many Thais, I began using coconut oil on my hair and my body. Acquainting myself with all the culturally important fruits made me feel closely connected to the earth there, as well as to the warm, friendly and deeply Buddhist Thai people. When I came back to the United States, I continued to study coconuts and discovered that coconut oil is amazingly beautifying: it is cholesterol free and rich in medium-chain good fats that nourish the skin.
Hunan Province, tucked away in southwest China and home to many hill-tribe villages, is another one of my favorite parts of the world. I spent several weeks bicycling across rice paddies and sleeping on the floor of rooms in guesthouses, covered by mosquito nets. I noticed that the women with beautiful, glowing skin there consumed goji berries, no dairy, very small portions of meat and lots of local vegetables. I became fascinated with the depth of natural health knowledge so prevalent in China's culture, including its focus on ancient medicinal herbs and ways to enhance the chi (or life force) of the body by treating it as a holistic unit, rather than treating only one organ at a time.
My time in the Himalayas, which included months in Nepal, Kashmir and other parts of northern India, was simply magical. It was there that I first discovered yoga, which would have a lifelong impact on me. I also enjoyed greater exposure to Ayurvedic teachings and, in particular, became fascinated with the spice turmeric, which was first given to me by a tiny elderly woman as wrinkled as a raisin who ran an Ayurvedic healing center in a mountain nook. The turmeric really helped give my skin a vibrant glow. I was thrilled to discover other natural plants that can truly clean the blood and enhance the skin. I loved the spirit of the people of India, and to this day it remains one of my favorite countries.
When I finally made my way to Africa, I was mesmerized by the gorgeous, velvety skin of African women. From teenagers to women well into their sixties, they had poreless and perfectly moisturized complexions, without a zit or wrinkle in sight. I discovered that in countries like Ethiopia they use raw shea butter on their skin, which comes from a native nut and is scraped out fresh. It furthered my belief that pure and natural moisturizers are far superior to synthetic, petroleum-based ones, which most women in the Western world use. Diet issues aside, I realized that with our plethora of eye creams, serums, sunscreens and thick, heavy night creams, American women are suffocating their skin. I decided right then that I would take the cue from African women and use natural skin products that truly nourish the skin and allow it to breathe.
When I came back from my world journey, it was not easy for me to integrate back into American life. I was trying to put it all together and figure out how to combine my passion for skin care, health and nutrition. The first thing I did was get a job at one of the biggest beauty companies in the world. I wanted an inside glimpse into the beauty world to see if I could use my experiences there. But big corporate beauty was definitely not for me. I did, however, get a great education about the industry, and I learned some tricks of the trade that provided me with a foundation from which to make my dream of running my own company a reality.