THE BLOG
10/25/2013 10:54 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Becoming Raw Changed My Life

At the age of 52, I'm in the best shape of my life, and I'm healthier than ever. It wasn't always that way, though. In fact, when I was in my 30s, everything seemed to be coming undone. I experienced health problems, gained weight and my career was unraveling. I grew up in a close, loving, humble family in College Point Queens, N.Y. I am the daughter of a fireman and amazing mother.

In my teens, I ate wheat, gluten, sugar, basically the normal SAD (Standard American Diet). My dietary staples were breads, muffins, baked goods, hamburgers, Chinese food, spaghetti, pizza. If it was junk food, I ate it.

By the time I was 16, I had already worked for three years in a bakery. What a way to start the day -- with a delicious hot cinnamon bun right out of the oven! No, not healthy, but, boy, did they ever taste good. When I started modeling I was told I needed to lose 15 pounds. Being so young, I thought it would be as easy to lose weight and decided to just not eat for a while. Well it wasn't as easy (or healthy, as I later learned) as I imagined, and I managed to starve myself into fainting on the set right into Kelly Emberg's arms!

You would think this was a wake-up call, but it didn't end there.

Unfortunately, it was ingrained in my brain that I was fat (lose 15 pounds?) and I ate like I thought I was. I was so afraid that if I put anything in my mouth I would gain weight, so I hardly ate anything. My body started getting used to a small amount of food. I was working so hard every day that I didn't even realize I was not eating. Then, at one point in my career, while filming a documentary, I overheard one of the producers tell my manager, "She is not in bathing suit condition." I can tell you from experience that is really not something any model wants to hear. But, as a woman it was even more devastating. I was mortified and went to hide out in my hotel room -- that was the beginning of the unraveling.

I decided to get away from it all and disappear into the Palm Springs Desert. The whole time I was there I wished I knew what was wrong with me. Why did I lose that "it" factor I once had? I used to be a vibrant young woman but turned into just a blob. I felt like I was dying. There were no health websites or TV shows in those days. I call them the "Dark Health Ages" because we had absolutely no clue about what was good for us.

So when my friend Steve called to tell me that he had this amazing miracle doctor, to this day I do not know why I didn't run and pick up the phone to call him. Well, actually, maybe I do -- I was so tired of people trying to sell me snake oil, that I didn't believe that anything could work. In fact I kind of rolled my eyes and pretended to take down his number. Clearly I did not understand the ways of the universe. The universe had conspired to bring me what I needed, when I needed it most.

What I needed was information. When I finally did pick up the phone to call the doctor, it was the best move I ever made. I had never heard the things that he told me or maybe I had just never heard it in the way that he told it to me. Becoming raw not only saved my life but gave me back a quality of life that I had not experienced since I was a kid.

It was actually really easy for me to transition into eating raw. For the first time in years I was eating a lot of food, and more importantly the right kind of food. I felt wonderful, and it reflected in every area of my life -- physically, mentally, career, relationships, etc. As much as I'm sure people love their spaghetti, or their chicken, I have to believe that like me, they love their life more.

Eating out is so easy too! Every restaurant has something raw, whether it's tartare, carpaccio, bresaola, prosciutto, salad or fresh fruits. I never worry about gaining weight.
Here's why I believe so much in raw:

  • Enzymes and nutrients: Our body only manufactures so many enzymes, and they're used primarily for digestion. That means there's no surplus to fight illness and aging. Raw food is loaded with them, so you now have a surplus of these little body defenders
  • Alkaline vs acid: You want to keep your blood PH balanced. When you eat raw, you're usually consuming a lot of fruit and vegetables; most are alkaline.

It's easy! I'm not saying eat raw 100 percent of the time -- just eat mostly raw.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Cancer Schmancer Movement. CSM, founded by Fran Drescher, is embarking on a major prevention program through healthy lifestyle. In this series, five well-known celebrities will discuss their journey and struggles with various health issues and how a preventative lifestyle factors in as a solution. To see all the posts in the series, click here. To learn more about the Cancer Schmancer Movement, click here.