Hello and welcome to my blog!
My name is Andrea Baines and I’m a certified Raw Food Coach & Teacher living in Dublin, Ireland.
I started educating myself about healthy eating after I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), when I was 35.
It was pretty miserable for the following 4 years. I put on weight that I couldn’t seem to lose because my energy levels were so low, and I found it incredibly hard to muster up any incentive to exercise. I would fall asleep during the day, my concentration was poor and I had these horrible irrational mood swings!
I had to take medication during this time, which my doctor said I would need for the rest of my life. Although it was a relief to find out what was going on, I was devastated that I had to take medication because I always believed in healing the body in natural ways.
Up until that point I always thought I was in pretty good shape. I ate a vegetarian diet, had always exercised regularly and lived a fairly balanced and modest lifestyle. But I did have a serious sweet tooth and would also fill up on processed foods, and lots cheese and soy products, believing it was the best way to get my protein and calcium.
Things have changed so much since then, thankfully! But it was down to a seious health scare that made me take a fresh look at the way I was eating.
After first being diagnosed I tried the Blood Type Diet, which meant I had to start eating meat again and eliminate wheat and dairy from my diet. I started to feel much better and had more energy, which looking back now I would say was largely due to the reduction in gluten. But I was still taking medication, which gave me a constant “fuzzy” head, I couldn’t lose the weight and my moods were still unstable.
It seems ironic, but it was actually because of my chocolate addiction that I first got introduced to raw food back in early 2010. It was a delicious raw chocolate cake by Natasha’s Raw & Living Foods that turned things around for me!
I’ll never forget that moment because it was the first time I had even heard of the concept of raw foods. This was an amazing life-changing moment for me. A new, healthier way to eat chocolate that tasted this good?! Bring it on!
That soft, rich, dark velvety cake was a dream come true. I was gobsmacked that it didn’t contain any refined sugars, wheat or dairy, and was made completely from whole foods. And little did I know it was going to shape my health and my life from that moment on.
Straight away I started looking into the raw foods lifestyle, trying to learn all I could. I bought a cheap blender and food processor and spent a lot of time in the kitchen learning how to use them! I was stunned with what I could achieve with just a few simple, raw ingredients. I began to stock up on essentials, gradually swapping out any processed foods for more interesting ingredients.
At the time I had to shop around various health stores and online for special ingredients, but thankfully these days most of these items are available nearly everywhere due to the huge increase in demand for healthy, whole foods. I would conjur up amazingly fresh and tasty meals, snacks and desserts in no time at all because the cooking process was completely elimiated.
The biggest thing to learn with this way of eating is to always be prepared and organised. Having a stock of essential ingredients in your store cupboard makes for a much more successful raw food diet. Healthy snacks can be thrown together very quickly when you know how!
This way of preparing food made so much sense to me. All these years I had been cooking the life-force out of lovely, fresh fruits and vegetables and losing most of the nutrients!
From that moment I began a whole new relationship with food and how I was eating.
I learn about the damaging effects of eating too much processed food, refined sugar, salt, wheat and dairy, and how easy it is to use plant-based whole foods in their place to make incredibly tasty meals, snacks and desserts.
I began by introducing delicious green smoothies for breakfast, raw soups and sprouted salads for lunch, and experimented with eating some raw in the evenings. I soon got into juicing and growing wheatgrass which I found incredibly healing to my body. Raw snacks are incredible too, and if you’re a regular sneaky snacker you’ll love some of the tasty alternatives to chocolate bars and crisps!
Within only a few short weeks of starting to eat more raw I was surprisingly feeling so much better, I lost weight and my energy levels had shot back up. But that wasn’t all. The acne rosacea that I’d experienced for the past year had cleared and my skin started to feel soft and supple again. Even some of the fine lines seemed to fade from around my eyes! The excruciating menstrual pain and PMS that I’d suffered since a teenager was practically gone, which was nothing short of a miracle!
After 4 years of being on thyroid medication I was able to wean off it within a couple of months of going high raw, and no longer had to take prescription pain killers for period pain. Yes, my doctor was amazed that I was healing my body through food, and I guess he expected me to return with symptoms of low thyroid again. But that was 5 years ago, at time of writing (June 2015) and I still remain symptom free.
Now, approaching my mid-forties I look and feel so much younger than I did a few years ago. I love what I eat, and I eat what I fancy, which for the most part happens to be healthy, whole, juicy and delicious!
I don’t diet. I don’t count calories or worry about fat. I just eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy oils. I exercise regularly and never experience energy lulls or sleepiness during the day.
After about a year of going raw people started asking questions because I was looking so much better. They wanted to know what I was doing and asked if I could show them how to prepare some raw meals. That’s how I started teaching raw food preparation to others, with just a couple of people in the kitchen at home, which has now extended to larger groups of people.
In 2014 I signed up to the internationally renowned Karen Knowler’s Raw Coach Training and qualifed as a Raw Food Coach. I launched my first “Fresh Start on Raw” 6 week raw food course in March 2015.
I’m also very proud to regularly collaborate with Irish company Green Valu and present beginners workshops at their premises in Dublin.
One of the things I love most about raw food is this. It’s not a “diet”. It is, quite simply, just a natural way of eating food – clean, simple, uncooked and whole – the way they were always consumed for thousands of years, and always meant to be consumed.
We are the only animals on the planet who cook our food and add chemicals to it to “improve” it. And yet we are the most unhealthy, inbalanced and overweight. We are becomming weaker as a species and this is reflected by in our hospitals which are bursting at the seams with sickness.
I’m not a trained chef with any fancy knife skills, and I’m not a nutritionist. In fact I come from a medical secretarial background, having spent most of my past working life in GP surgeries and hospitals. But this lifestyle is about common sense.
I spend a lot of time in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, or teaching others how to make delicious, healthy and satisfying meals.
I’m a vegetarian again, and most of my diet these days is made up of raw vegan, plant based foods.
I like to keep my recipes simple and mainstream. Most of all they have to blend well with a part-cooked lifestyle and, of course, have to be absolutely delicious!
This lifestyle extends to more than just what I eat. Wherever possible I try not to use chemicals on my body and around my home, preferring now to use gentler (and yet just as effective) substances that don’t have damaging, long-term effects on my body or the environment.
These days my diet consists of around 75-80% raw and living foods, depending on the seasons. The rest is cooked and as healthy and whole as I can make it, but I’m not perfect. I do the best I can in any circumstance and don’t worry if it’s not always the way I’d like it to be. And yes, I do let my hair down sometimes when I’m out and about. Eating healthy and raw is a conscious choice, but sometimes I have to gratefully and graciously eat what’s in front of me.
Striving for perfection can sometimes be stressful and I’ve learned that, for me, it makes for a much simpler and happier life by not being puritanical in my approach – without jeopardising the bigger picture of course!
If at anytime I feel my body is off balance, I do some research and reassess what I’m eating. It could be that my body needs more of a particular nutrient at that time so I do what I can through food and plant-based supplementation when necessary.
I will be forever grateful for having discovered the healing powers of raw and living foods, which has lead me to become an ambassador for this lifestyle.
My general ethos is to help bridge the gap between what is considered unconventional and extreme, that which is accepted as mainstream; to help dispel myths and false assumptions about eating raw foods; and to have fun by keeping it simple!
I hope you enjoy reading my blog and trying some of the recipes!
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