The saying goes “you are what you eat” – which, when looking at Mimi Kirk, makes perfect sense. Vibrant, fresh, colorful – she emanates wellness. You see, Mimi is a 78 year old (yes, you heard that correctly) raw vegan, chef, and author of Live Raw. Her primarily raw, fully plant based diet has worked wonders on her health & wellness, physical existence, spirituality, and so much more. We had the opportunity to capture her in the kitchen and learn about her raw journey and all of the amazing benefits that have come along with it.
How long have you been a raw vegan?
I’ve been a vegetarian/vegan for the better part of 40 years, going off at times for short periods. I became a raw vegan nine years ago.
You’re a chef and an author now – have you always worked in these areas or did it evolve with your health journey?
I was always a good cook, but being a trained chef and author happened after I turned 70 and won PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50 contest.
As a whole, what does wellness mean to you?
Everything. At my age not being on prescription medication, traveling the world carrying my own suitcase, independence, feeling decades younger than my age just can’t be beat.
I’ve heard you say that, although you’re 78 now (which is incredible, by the way!), you’re just getting younger – can you elaborate on that feeling?
Because of my good health I feel my mental attitude is very positive. I am happy waking up every day. Actually I never think of my age until I pass a mirror, and still I can enjoy the person I see and the face I grew to accept just the way it is. Self-love definitely plays a roll in the passing of time.
Speaking of getting younger…do you have any youth secrets you can share with us? What are the best reverse aging things we can and should be doing?
First is to not worry about aging. Take it from me; it’s nothing to be fearful of. Quite the opposite, as there are so many wonderful things about the process. One good thing is you stop worrying about every little thing. You recognize your strengths, and make peace with your weaknesses. So what if you have a few lines on your face and gravity is letting you know that time is passing. Health is what’s important. Love is what’s important, and loving yourself enough to give up foods that do not add to your liveliness. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits. Organic is best. Don’t let age stand in the way of anything you want to do. Feel ageless and think ageless. Don’t hold grudges, stop stressing and show love and compassion for all living things. Life is exactly what you make of it. The mind and body are connected. If you say and think negative things, you become a magnet to negativity. If you say and think positive things you become a magnet to positive energy in your life. It’s all up to you.
How does the food you eat directly correlate to your physical aspects – hair, nails, skin, etc. ?
Many people my age are dealing with thinning hair. Mine is still thick and new hair is growing in constantly. My nails are really strong and grow so quickly I can hardly believe it. Because I’m a chef I prefer having very short nails and one week after they are trimmed they are sprouting up again. I never have breakouts and my skin feels hydrated and soft.
Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing – was health and wellness always important to you?
My mom was an average cook and believed we should have meat at every meal. My favorite food was mashed potatoes and vegetables. I was always happy when summer came around and we had lots of fruit in the house. When frozen food entered the markets, my mom thought the little aluminum trays with proportioned compartments was the perfect meal and we had that once a week. Most meals were repeated week after week with the exact same vegetables. Peas were always served with salmon patties. Corn was served with chicken, and string beans served with meat. I became aware of health when my children were born, as I wanted to make sure they had the best food. At this time I started reading about the subject and started a holistic approach towards wellness.
What was the turning point in your life that made you realize you wanted to go raw?
I met my long time boyfriend and started cooking what he liked to eat…the standard American diet. I soon began to eat what I prepared for him and in a couple years gained twenty-two pounds. I wasn’t feeling well and went for my annual check up. My doctor handed me a prescription for high blood pressure and cholesterol. I had been feeling some arthritis pains in my joints for several months as well. Since my family’s health history is not very good, I started to research what I could do naturally to cure these issues. Raw food kept coming up in my research. I love to cook and love to eat so raw food did not sound like something I would enjoy, but for my health sake I decide to give it a try. Six months later back to my doctor and everything was normal without taking medicine. I lost the gained weight, my blood pressure remains the same and I haven’t had an arthritic pain since. Now my boyfriend eats pretty much like I do.
What was the process of shifting to this lifestyle? Was it an “all at once” transition or more gradual? What was the first thing you did?
It was an all at once transition. I was working on correcting my health issues so I didn’t feel I had time to wait or move slowly. I fell for raw food and I’ve never looked back.
I’ve noticed a bit of a stigma around a raw / vegan lifestyle in that people tend to think you miss out on animal based foods that we’re so used to eating. The food you make and eat seems, on the contrary, to be very abundant – can you talk a little about abundance and fulfillment in this lifestyle?
Once you learn to prepare raw food you can make anything your taste buds desire. Breads, cheese, crackers, sweets, pizza, lasagna and just about any food can be altered to a raw recipe. It all tastes amazing and makes me feel nourished so I have no desire for other foods. I like the idea that I can have such delicious food and not worry about diet and counting calories and I know I’m getting all the nutrients my body needs. On occasion I will eat a cooked vegan meal.
Other than animal products, what’s the biggest thing we should avoid for overall health and wellness?
Processed foods, excess sugar, carbonated sodas, anger, resentment and fear.
Do you have any habits or rituals you maintain?
Lemon and water on arising. Green juice almost daily, turmeric and ginger daily and walking at least 40 minutes every day. I floss and wash my face every night. I’m a big fan of coconut oil and slather my body with it after my bath. I try to oil pull for my teeth and gums a couple times a week.
How does your diet translate to other aspects of your life? Beauty routine, social life, etc.
I use products not tested on animals and chemical free. My social life is filled with the most amazing people who are conscious about the world and mindful about what they eat. I have an enormous amount of vegan and organic friends around the world including many raw vegans. I also have friends not so conscious about what they eat, but I love them for who they are.
What role does balance play in your diet and lifestyle? What is the key to maintaining it?
Balance is a tightrope walk. I always say, it’s not what you do some of the time, it’s what you do most of the time that counts. Balance is important but life is like flying a plane. You are always making adjustments to keep on course. Don’t be hard on yourself if you happen to get off course, just make a little adjustment and you are flying straight again for a little while. Balance is about constant adjusting.
Does spirituality play any role in your life? – If so, how has shifting to a raw vegan impacted your spirituality?
It’s because of my spiritually I became a vegan. I started meditating at age 30 shortly after I was widowed. It opened up something I never experienced before and that was my soul connection. I felt in meditation that everything was connected and everything was energy. One day I realized eating animals was not what I was meant to do. It felt barbaric, like it would feel eating my domesticated animal. Since then I’ve met all kinds of animals that are loving beings, they all have feelings and love to be petted and scratched. The abuse they go through is so unnecessary since a plant-based diet is actually the healthiest way to eat.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned through living this particular way?
I’m peaceful in my heart knowing that I don’t have to kill to eat. I feel like a very strong woman, but a gentle person at the same time. Killing, war, hate, and bigotry is not the way I want to live my life and I hope some day the world will understand that these actions are not the answers to peace.
What has this lifestyle taught you about yourself?
That I’m here for something more than myself. I believe I’m here to make a difference in the lives of others.
What would you tell someone considering changing their lifestyle to a mostly raw, plant based diet?
Unless you are ill, you can transition slowly. Start with a green juice daily, get rid of everything in your pantry that is processed or contain chemicals. Buy fresh organic fruits and vegetables and learn to make a few go to raw vegan meals. Maybe start with a raw breakfast and lunch and have a cooked vegan dinner. Then you will see how good raw food makes you feel and it will be an easy transformation.
Thank you Mimi!
Photos Marianna Jamadi