In the 80’s…. I received formal education from The University of Georgia, then later graduated as a naturopathic doctor from Trinity School of Natural Health in 2012.
Growing up close to nature, I woke most mornings to my mother doing yoga. We grew vegetables, foraged for food in the forest – picked Polk salad from the fields and watercress from the creeks – while collecting spring water from the mountainside. A pioneer woman, my mother was my first teacher.
How I became vegan…. Even though my mother attempted bringing vegetarianism into our home, I was a defiant meat eater growing up. I became vegetarian “by mistake” at 23 while traveling in Guatemala. To buy a chicken, I would go to the farmer and witness its neck being wrung. To buy beef, at the local market, an entire cow hung from hooks in tropical weather. It had only been stripped of skin. Headless, with hoofs intact, flies swarmed over the blue flesh that would later become someones meal. Even a committed meat-eater like me, wouldn’t eat that.
This was the first time I had witnessed where meat comes from, rather than buying it in a package, or prepared in a restaurant. I was shocked and horrified to discover the unnatural treatment of factory-farmed animals. This, combined with not being able to digest meat anymore, after not eating it for 6 months, made vegetarianism easy.
I began studying, researching, and finally had a mission: to heal my body. This lead to the greatest of gifts, which eventually also included the healing of my mind – and my long lost soul.
Unbeknownst to me until later in life, by the time I was 15, I was infertile. By 28, I had experienced 3 ectopic pregnancies. Pharmaceuticals and surgeries saved my life, which I’m eternally grateful for - but they also wiped out my immune system, leading to a myriad of health issues.
Massive candida, parasites, marijuana abuse, a reckless lifestyle, and feeling utterly lost and hopeless followed. My then 25-year-old body felt like that of an sick old person. Running into walls, I couldn’t think straight for an intense foggy head. My skin was broken out like crazy. My belly was super bloated, as if i was 6 months pregnant, and I had zero energy. I could sleep for long, long periods. Emotional instability and insecurity was already the norm, yet the worst of all my symptoms was the vaginal pain. Unable to sit down, I knew I knew something had to change, and quick.
At the beginning of seeking help, I went to a few conventional doctors who told me there was nothing wrong with me. They said my tests were normal. Not knowing what to do, it was clear I’d have to figure out my health mystery on my own – and why my body was so broken, and my mind so fuzzy.
After seeing a naturopath, I was diagnosed with a bad case of candida (yeast overgrowth). He said: “great you’re vegetarian, now you need to stop eating dairy.” At that point, I was willing to try almost anything – except more drugs. Though thankful to be alive, the damage they had done to my immune system was literally causing my body to compost. I felt like a part of me was dying. Until I started to truly heal with food as medicine.
In my late 20’s I met David Wolfe, the well-known raw food leader – before he was famous.
Witnessing the brightness of his shine, I finally had an example of what was possible. Though cooked veganism helped a lot, raw veganism was a whole new level. It gave me the direction I long searched for deeper healing.
At 45 I was much stronger and more healthy than my lowest point of 25 years old. I felt myself growing younger and full of vitality. By this time I had coached thousands of people and was a raw food and fasting leader.
Leaving my successful teaching and client practice in New York City, in 2009 I moved to Bali. It was time to get out of the polluted big city. In Bali, my career exploded. Crafting my unique raw food and detox approach specific to healing candida and what doctors don’t find cures for, my Bali retreats were a huge success. In Bali, I met my amazing husband, Anthony Abbagnano, and co-founded The Ark Retreat Center with him.
A rebel at heart, in 2015 I felt limited and trapped by a raw foodist label. I felt “there must be more to me.” Essentially I needed to rediscover my truth – beyond what had become a brand.
One thing I’ve learned in my 29 years being veg., 27 years vegan, and 23 raw and fasting… I feel best eating light vibrant food. And only eating when truly hungry – and not too much of it! I naturally practiced intermittent fasting before it had a name, starting about 25 years ago. I love fasting regularly in general, with each season, and as needed.
I also love humanity, healing, art, beauty, and living a life of love – and being of massive service to others… it’s super important to me. I’m also a writer, performer, and singer – and currently writing a series of online Go Vegan programs, and The Vegan Book Series. I’m also writing a musical based on integrating “sex, drugs, & rock n’roll” – as a path of enlightenment.
Anthony and I live in Tuscany, Italy – with Luna the Labrador and our 2 kitties. We’ve recently bought a retreat center in southern Tuscany, and we’re generating it and the 4,000 person village it’s a part of – to create a safe haven, and community center – for those we serve.