And I’ve Never Felt or Looked Better
By Rosanne Ponchick
We’ve all heard the old adage “you are what you eat,” but I had always believed that I could eat just about anything if I exercised regularly. Although I had constant colds and allergies, I considered myself active and healthy in my teens, and participated in hockey, soccer, running, lacrosse and tennis. In college, I was an avid jogger and I never missed a day of working out. In my 20s and 30s, my career as an elementary school teacher kept me so busy that my self-care routine was on autopilot. But once I hit my 40s, I found myself lethargic and overweight, and I didn’t know what to do to feel better.
One day, I stumbled into a conversation about nutrition with a gentleman named James Smith who was employed as a janitor at my school. Mr. Smith was born in Jamaica and raised close to the land, subsisting on a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables and natural herbs such as hibiscus, ginger, aloe vera and kelp. Mr. Smith was a kind, soft-spoken man, and although he never admonished me or criticized my devotion to the Standard American Diet, he gently instructed me in the principles of good health that he had successfully practiced for many years.
Gradually, I reduced my intake of chicken, fish and red meat, and eventually eliminated them from my diet altogether. I began supplementing my daily regimen with Noni juice, an elixir from a tree which grows in Southeast Asia, and is prized for its antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antitumor and anti-inflammatory properties. I also became a proponent of natural herbal teas such as Peppermint, Rose Hip, Chamomile and Rooibos. To this day, many of my friends and family refer to me as the Tea Lady because of my enthusiasm for a warm brew.
During my eleven years of tutelage with Mr. Smith, my weight dropped and my vitality soared as I became devoted to a vegan lifestyle. In 2014, to celebrate my retirement (after 48 years of teaching), I embarked upon the Holistic Holiday Vegan Cruise which featured fresh, delicious meals, yoga and meditation classes and wellness lectures. It was there that I became introduced to the work of plant-based educators such as Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and Dr. Michael Greger. They were instrumental in teaching me the benefits of plant based foods as well as the risks associated with processed foods, even those that contain no animal products. We often assume that everything in the vegan aisle at the grocery store is good for you, but that’s simply not the case.
When I returned to New Jersey after the vegan cruise, I eliminated salt, oil and sugar from my diet, and began exploring the benefits of raw food to enhance my vegan lifestyle. I discovered raw food author Karen Ranzi, and enrolled in her nutritional coaching class. To this day, I constantly seek out more information about health and wellness in books, magazines, lectures and documentary films.
Now my days begin with yoga breathing and a glass of lemon water followed by a brisk 30 minute walk. Then I pull out my Vitamix and blend a green smoothie supplemented with “Amla” (a powder made from Indian gooseberries which are 70 percent Vitamin C). Lunch and dinner consist of a variety of vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, chia seeds, and a sprinkling of turmeric.
We’ve all heard the adage that “you can’t teach old dog new tricks.” But I’ve found that the key to a healthy and satisfying life is constantly learning and trying new things. This year, I will turn 75, and unlike many of my peers, I don’t take a single pill for any chronic age-related ailments. My daily medicine consists of Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D3. I am energetic, enthusiastic, and totally in love with life.