Natasha Kyssa has been eating raw for more than 20 years.
Former model, raw life style coach and author of the Canadian bestseller The SimplyRaw Living Foods Detox Manual, Kyssa once found her cure and salvation in raw eating; she now helps many others seek their remedies in a natural lifestyle.
Before, Natasha Kyssa’s world was far from natural. One day, a 25-year-old government worker at Transport Canada was stopped on the street by a photographer who complemented her on her black volumes of curls; he wondered if she could pose for a hair product ad. She agreed.
Shortly after, Kyssa became the face of different brands and labels. It was all exciting in the beginning: from monotonous work in the cubicles to fashion promenades around the world – Kyssa did not regret her choice. Yet, several years later, one morning, when she looked up at the mirror, she could barely recognize herself.
In the reflection was a skinny woman with an emaciated face and a painfully thin body. By that time, Kyssa struggled with anorexia and bulimia. She fell into a depression as she was always humiliated and pressured by criticism to lose weight, to look good – the world of fashion had no compassion. Kyssa also felt alone. She was surrounded by 16-year-old girls who were suffering from eating disorders, and were engaged in a “vicious circle” of addictions.
Kyssa did not abuse alcohol or narcotics. Yet, addiction still found her in another form. Doctors prescribed medications to treat her depression and anorexia, but Kyssa ended up using them recreationally.
May years later her younger brother, who was also suffering from depression, took his life. Like in her case, Kyssa says, doctors found it easier and less time-consuming to prescribe her brother heavy doses of antidepressants and sleeping pills, never bothering to look at the core of depression, at emotional and mental issues.
Raw Eating 101: Benefits and Challenges
Kyssa closed doors on fashion, abandoned antidepressants and returned to her roots. She grew up in an Eastern European family. Her mother always cooked all their meals, and on the family table you would always find whole grain bread, vegetables and small portions of meals.
She started with family traditions, then she turned into a vegan, and later into a raw eater. Kyssa says the closer the food she ate was to its natural state, the better she felt. Soon, her depression lifted and her mental attitude improved: she felt happier, more confident and positive. This is how she describes her lifestyle now.
“I am focusing on foods in their natural state – foods that are raw. I don’t eat cooked food. I eat everything fresh, organic and minimally processed, so nothing from animals: no dairy or eggs, no fish, no chicken, no yogurt. And at 52, I feel healthier than I did in my twenties.”
Before Kyssa became a prominent speaker and an advocate for raw eating, she extended her research and education. The former model attended the Ann Wigmore Institute, the Hippocrates Health Institute, Optimum Health Institute and the Gerson Institute. She explains why she advocates a raw diet.
“When you are heating food – you are destroying 100 percent of the enzymes, antioxidants, and a lot of heat-sensitive minerals and vitamins. Plus, the fiber is rendered soft and does not work as efficiently in the body. When you eat foods in their natural raw state, you are getting more nutrition from your food.”
Even though, Kyssa says, she has been on a raw diet for more than 22 years; she doesn’t advocate a 100 percent raw diet for other people, unless they are struggling with serious health conditions. Plus, in a cold climate like in Canada, it is unsustainable and challenging, she says.
“My focus is not being 100 percent raw; my focus is being 100 percent healthy and plant-based.”
Kyssa says she has never preached the benefits of raw eating to other people; rather, she introduced the change slowly, simply by cooking and sharing meals with her family and friends.
“I learned over the years that you have to just lead by example. This is the best thing you can do. People will come around, especially when they see changes within you.”
Over the years, more and more people started seeking help and advice from Kyssa. She helped thousands of people with their diets. In 2012, she consulted 500 people from Canada and abroad. Among them were cancer-stricken people, people with diabetes, mental illnesses, digestive issues, and arthritis; professional athletes who wanted to improve their performance; women who wanted to look healthier and better – all were looking for answers in what they ate. Kyssa tried to help them all.
Kyssa says: “I worked with people who had cancer. Alkalizing their bodies with nutrients and plant food, and especially raw leafy greens and juices had amazing results, and their cancer actually went into remission. I had people with chronic arthritis, where they could not open up their hands, and after changing their diets, alkalizing and nurturing [their body], they had less pain and much more flexibility in their fingers.”
Science can explain it all, the dietician says. A raw, plant-based diet is very cleansing and nourishing to the body. It can help the body move away from an acidic environment – which is a habitat for various health conditions and diseases.
Unfortunately, the modern diets of most people are acidic, Kyssa says. Due to lack of information and time, people sacrifice their health every day by eating fast food or simply reserving themselves to frozen, half-cooked meals that supermarkets are flooded with.
“Sometimes, I go to the supermarket, and I am shocked at what people are eating. Their carts are loaded with processed food [that in turn are] loaded with food coloring, preservatives, sodium, refined sugar – I mean it’s just appalling. Very few people are getting fresh meals. No wonder we are such a sick nation.”
However, there has been a shift in awareness: more and more people are starting to recognize a correlation between their nutrition and health.
According to Kyssa, to see bigger changes in food culture, one must admit the issues our society faces. She says people are simply addicted to junk food.
“Food addiction is the biggest addiction, especially processed food and all chemically laden food; sugar is very addictive, dairy is addictive.”
Moreover, food consumption is strongly tied to social life. Everything revolves around food, Kyssa says, and if a person doesn’t partake, he is not a part of a group because it makes everyone around him uncomfortable.
Over two decades, for Kyssa, those challenges have never been an obstacle to lead her lifestyle. For every challenge, she found a solution. She says she was able to have a raw meal wherever she went, even on her honeymoon. While hiking in Vermont, the newlyweds stopped at a Mexican restaurant.
“We ordered guacamole, and I asked if they could make (instead of chips) a raw platter with different peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. They made such a beautiful creative design that we even ordered two!”
Natasha says her husband Mark and 17-year-old son Mischa are both vegans.
For Francine Chan, meeting Kyssa has become a life-changing experience. Once a very stressed hairdresser, Chan turned for help to Kyssa in the hope of feeling better.
“I was very impressed with Natasha,” Chan says. “She is a great inspiration. The education background she has is enormous. I am still learning. She has integrity, is very honest and sincere. The compassion she has for people is tremendous.”
Kyssa helped Chan set up a raw diet with a 20-percent ratio of cooked meals. Chan says she has never felt better.
“You are calmer,” Chan explains. “You see things in a different light. Your body is healthy. Your mind is clear and you get excited. It’s very liberating.”
Last summer, when Breanne Gibson moved to Ottawa, she came across Kyssa’s book on living foods. Breanne had already been a vegan, but raw eating was for her a true revelation.
“Reading her book was the first time I read about the living foods lifestyle, developed by Dr. Ann Wigmore, which is incorporated in the SimplyRaw program, and the more I read, the more I loved what I was learning,” Gibson says.
Like Chan, Gibson says the most important lesson she has learned from Natasha is: when it comes to food, keep it simple and natural.
Whoever she helps, Natasha Kyssa always reminds them only one thing: “You have to be gentle with yourself. It’s all about loving yourself. We are given only one body, and we really need to nurture it and take care of it with these wonderful nutrient-dense foods.”
In 2012, Kyssa and her husband opened SimplyRaw Express – a raw vegan juice bar and takeaway in Ottawa. Find out more here.
Kyssa’s second book with raw recipes – The SimplyRaw Kitchen – is in the post-production phase, and will be released later this year. Kyssa’s 85-year old mother contributed 20 cooked-plant-based Eastern European recipes.