I want to admit something to all of you: Sometimes I still cry because of how people treated me when I was obese. Because I stuffed all of my "negative" emotions deep inside my entire life, it's going to take some time to fully release them. I'm working on it, however, and making tremendous progress with healing myself on all levels. I'm not telling you these things so you'll feel sorry for me, however. I'm telling you because I am thankful for all the pain I endured. It shaped me (in more ways than just my physical appearance) into the person I am today.

Even though it sounds strange, and somehow wrong to feel this way, I'm thankful that I was obese. I'm thankful for all of the experiences during my life, even the extremely painful, traumatic ones. Maybe if I was a different kind of person I would wish that those things didn't happen to me. However, I am using those experiences in positive ways. They've helped me understand people even better, and to understand myself on a deeper level, as well. When people reach out to me it's not only because I'm an approachable person, it's because they sense that I understand them--and they're right. I DO understand them. I understand you. My experiences, coupled with my gift of empathy, help me relate to you in a way that maybe not everyone else is able to do.

Do you need to be 100% raw to release excess weight and regain your health There's no difinitive answer for that question because we are all unique. Sure, our bodies function pretty much the same way, but there are still enough differences that make it difficult to answer a question like that for it to be true for every single individual.

Most of us have heard of, or know, someone who doesn't eat a healthy diet, who smokes cigarettes and/or drinks alcohol, doesn't get enough rest, and also lives a stressful life---yet that person still has a healthy body and is over 80 years old. People like that seem to have resiliency built into their genes. Sure, who knows how long a person with such resilient genes could live or how vibrant a life that person could enjoy with a healtheir lifestyle. But, the fact remains that it seems no matter what a person's lifestyle is like, if you are born with resilient genes you are pretty much invincible to most illnesses.

A majority of the population isn't born with such impressively hardy genes, however. Most bodies can withstand the stresses of an unhealthy lifestyle until middle age. At that point, however, the body begins to show signs of ill health (excess weight gain, aches and pains, and the start of many diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure). For a majority of those individuals, some healthy lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. Many individuals regain their health simply by changing their diets to include less fat and more vegetables, and by increasing their amount of exercise. Sure, it's a bit of work to make such changes, but if many people are committed to improving their health those simple changes can make a drastic difference in their lives.

After leaving the windy area of Prescott Valley, AZ, Wendi and KDcat headed up to Sedona. Today is part one of their Sedona visit, focusing on their visit with raw chocolatier, Kelly Johnson. We'll pick up with Wendi's travelogue, where we last left off:

It was great driving to Sedona, since I have a fond place in my heart for this magical spot. I'll talk more about that later, though. When we arrived, went directly to a raw restaurant I remembered visiting a few years ago. The name had changed, and there was a lot more going on there.

KDcat and I placed an order for some food to go (we wanted to have a picnic, rather than be inside when there was so much beauty around), and then met the lovely Kelly Johnson. Kelly is one of the owners of the raw restaurant and he agreed to do a quick interview to tell us about the restaurant and what had changed since the last time I was in Sedona.

Hey everyone!? What a wonderful Thursday we have going here... After all, it's nearly 3:30 p.m. where I am, which means that the day is nearly over and it'll soon be Friday! Time sure does fly... Right now, it's still a beautiful fall here (in Pennsylvania, with the gorgeous leaves nearly at their changing peak) but, in seemingly no time, we'll be looking at winter in these parts.

When I announced Wendi's leave of absence a while back, I invited people to send in any questions that I might answer here on the blog. Fellow raw foodie Joanna Steven asked me on Facebook -- I'm at Facebook.com/Rawfood -- what our routine is for transitioning into winter. Well, I think she already did a fine job of covering that topic, here. But, I'll offer my own two cents here, as well, as I find it interesting.

Ketchup

1 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked for one hour

3 small fresh tomatoes

We're going to be running the above banner for a few days as we bring you highlights of the raw food scene in the beautiful Florida Keys.

Prior to heading into the Keys proper, we wanted to load up on some fresh organic foods for our weeklong stay. We posted a question on one of our favorite online raw communities, Give It to Me Raw, asking for information on sources for organic produce in southern Florida. That's when we learned about Glaser Organic Farms.

Today, and every day, I am thankful for lovely Mother Earth. Where would we be without Mother? May we always care for her in a gentle and loving way.

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Jim here... Wow, we haven't posted in a few days. That calls for some action! Hmmm... how about taking a look at some delicious mini pizzas Wendi whipped up the other day:

We went absolutely nuts for these little "pizzas." They were both tasty and fun. If memory serves, I believe she made them by taking slices of firm roma tomatoes, spooning on some improvised pesto sauce that she whipped up, sprinkling on some chopped basil leaves, sprinkling on some "cheese" that she made with ground Brazil nuts, garlic, and salt, and then topping each "pizza slice" off with a half cherry tomato. No recipes necessary here; just take a look at the picture & go try it!

Here's some coconutty video footage from our Florida Keys excursion. First up is some footage of Randesh, from www.TheGuana.com, who obtains fresh coconuts for Charlie Wilson's Key West restaurant, Help Yourself (see yesterday's blog post).Notice that Randesh uses a proper piece of equipment -- a large machete (or cutlass) -- which makes short, easy work of opening these precious gifts of nature! In the video footage following that, you'll see how comically difficult it is to open a young coconut when you lack the proper equipment. We actually went out looking for a machete, but could only find a large chef's knife at a local K-Mart. Yep, they were sold out of machetes! (Ironically, the chef's knife -- the heaviest one the store had -- cost about $17, while plain old machetes run just $10 or so at most hardware stores. Next time we'll keep looking...)

Today is the beginning of the second three-day focus on the attributes of a different Goddess who is most worshiped during the Hindu celebration of Navratri. She is Goddess Lakshmi, bringer of wealth and good luck. Let's focus on the idea of wealth. When we first hear the word, many of us think about monetary wealth. However, there is a much deeper meaning ... that of abundance. Feminine energy has the ability to bring forth, to birth, abundance that is beyond the imagination, in every aspect of our lives. Female energy is fertile, able to create a beautiful life and future, shine forth and bring wisdom into view, all with grace and beauty. All of these are attributes of Goddess Lakshmi, qualities we all have within us. Qualities I celebrate within myself and within all of you (male and female, alike).

End of Day 3:

A while ago, I received an email asking whether I had any thoughts on how old or young a person needs to be in order to benefit from a raw food diet. Yes. Yes, I do have thoughts on that! Lots of thoughts! ... Here goes:

The easy answer, of course, is that people of ALL ages can (and should) benefit from raw foods. I can assert with confidence that, for most people, increasing your intake of raw fruits and vegetables will likely bring about positive changes to your health, regardless of your age, dietary habits, or current state of health. (Naturally, reducing or eliminating the "bad" things is also paramount.)