My interview with Raw Food & Detox Retreat Queen Leisa Wheeler on business, success, life… and food!
My own story: I first discovered the world of raw and living foods in 2007. At the time, I was following a strict vegan diet so the idea of forgoing meat and dairy didn’t faze me. What I was more concerned about was the dilemma of what a ‘raw foodie’ would eat if they didn’t eat beans, legumes and soy products (which I was consuming a great deal of at the time).
Intrigued by the promises of glowing skin, bright eyes and an abundance of energy and vitality, I decided to see what the fuss was all about.
Over the course of the months ahead, I immersed myself in learning whatever I could about this new way of eating. I read like a crazy lady and attended lectures given by some of the world’s best experts in living foods. It was at a Fred Bisci event on the Gold Coast that I met Leisa Wheeler and expressed my desire to work in the raw kitchen of her acclaimed Embracing Life! retreats. Almost 3 years later, in between working, travelling and studying, I’ve been lucky enough to work at 10 of Leisa’s retreats in three different states across Australia so far.
Naturopath, businesswomen, Health Coach and soon to be published author, Leisa Wheeler is the Founder and Director of Embracing Health! Here’s an excerpt of my interview with Leisa.
BP: After you qualified as a Naturopath, you worked at Hippocrates Retreat on the Gold Coast. How did your Embracing Health! Retreats evolve from there?
LW: I worked at the Hippocrates Health Centre (a very strict raw vegan detoxification retreat) for five years and was privileged to be a part of guiding the guests through the program and witnessing the most incredible results. I saw autoimmune diseases and cancer heal under the program. It really impressed upon me the power of food as medicine and detoxification practices in healing. After a few years, when the owners decided to retire and close the centre down, it prompted me to find my own way and find out what I wanted to do with regards to my career. I realised that one of my passions was working with groups of people and guiding them through an experience where they gained improvements not only in their physical health but also insights and awareness into themselves that could change their lives.
“It really impressed upon me the power of food as medicine and detoxification practices in healing.”
BP: How many retreats have you run so far? And please tell me more about your recent foray into Bali.
LW: To date, I’ve run 25 Embracing Health! retreats in various locations around Australia and now Bali as well. It was after my first holiday in Bali that I absolutely fell in love with the place and I just knew it would be so perfect to run a retreat there. Bali, to me, is such a beautiful and spiritual place and visiting another culture adds a whole new dimension to the retreat experience.
BP: You initiated a business relationship, and now friendship, with wellness expert, David Wolfe and you are now the Australian Coordinator for his (best ever) tours Down Under. How did that come about?
LW: This was just synchronicity and manifesting at its best! I truly believe that when you’re living on purpose and doing what you love, the most amazing coincidences happen to support your journey and that’s what happened with David. I was running a retreat at Uki, near Mount Warning in NSW and I was with a group of guests and we were discussing which raw food teachers had inspired us the most; with David getting the most mentions! So we sat talking about how fantastic it would be to invite him to Australia and to run a retreat with him in Uki AND climb Mount Warning together! A few months later, I heard through my network that David had expressed a desire to visit Australia and run a retreat. I immediately jumped on e-mail and put together a proposal to jointly run a retreat at that very resort. I got a reply straight back and 3 days later the retreat was locked in. We’ve since run two national tours and David is set to be back Down Under in 2013 and we’re going to do it all again! And yes, we did climb Mount warning together!
Details of David’s tour can be found here: www.davidwolfeaustraliantour.com
“I truly believe that when you’re living on purpose and doing what you love, the most amazing coincidences happen to support your journey.”
BP: Your mantra is that “healing is a journey… not just a raw food diet.” What else do you advocate as equally important aspects needed to facilitate a person’s healing and recovery if it’s not just raw food?
LW: I think we can get too caught up in the philosophy that food is everything and one of my core philosophies is that it isn’t. So coming from a background of utilising whole, raw, organic and living foods as healing tools, I’ve also come to learn that food is not the only determining factor in health. There’s many key aspects to living a quality life and feeling vital, alive and abundant in all areas is health to me. I’m passionate about creating holistic wellness which is about encompassing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects as well as looking at areas like money, success, relationships and living a purposeful life. One of the key elements for me is working on the emotional aspects and liberating ourselves from limiting belief patterns that we might hold, negative thoughts, the baggage from old wounds and traumas and moving past those to live in a place of optimism and possibility, joy and gratitude.
BP: For raw food beginners who may be intimidated at the prospect of going 100% raw, what small changes could they make to get their journey underway and start feeling the benefits straight away?
LW: Of course it can feel daunting to radically change your diet, which it would be for anyone going 100% raw for a period of time from their normal diet. Often, it’s not about taking anything out of the diet initially; it’s about adding in. So what I’d normally recommend to people is to get started on a green smoothie every day, which is blending a combination of green leafy vegetables, fruit and water in a high speed blender until it’s creamy. About a litre per day is a great start. The fruit makes it taste sweet and the fibre in the greens slows the absorption of the natural sugars for a more sustained release of energy. In clinic it’s the one thing that has consistently gotten amazing results. It’s often a natural progression from there, so you might add in a big raw salad with every meal and eat that first. Then it’s about looking at the worst things in your diet like sugar, coffee, bread and pasta and removing them one at a time and replacing with a different (healthier) option. I find that if people take things out of their diet and don’t have an option to replace it with, there’s a vacuum and if there’s no alternative, they go straight back to their old ways of eating. It’s not about being on a diet that’s going to end, it’s about creating a lifestyle for yourself.
“It’s not about being on a diet that’s going to end, it’s about creating a lifestyle for yourself.”
BP: What is your stance on super foods – hype or not?
LW: There is definitely a place for them in a healthy diet. Today, because we are faced with more stress, toxicity, processed foods and chemicals in our environment that we’ve ever had to face in our history before , for me it’s not just about eating good quality organic food , its about giving the body an absolute abundance of good nutrition so we give our bodies every chance of combating and dealing with these issues. Super foods are those foods that are dense in nutrition but low in calories so we get more out of them that regular foods. Most often, we don’t need a lot of them so you can go overboard. The ones I use on a regular basis will be spirulina, maca, bee pollen, goji and acai berries, pomegranates and raw cacao.
BP: Last year was an enormously successful year for you and this year is set to be even bigger. What exciting things are in the pipeline for 2012?
LW: I’ll be running 6 retreats this year, 5 of my own Embracing Health! Retreats in Australia and Bali and one as a joint venture in Bali called “The Millionaires retreat”. This one coincides with the launch of “Health and Wellbeing Millionaires”, a book in which I was invited to appear. The Bali retreat in March is being filmed for a television travel show called ‘Retreat Me’ so that should be a lot of fun. And I hope to be launching my own book later this year.
BP: What do you love most about the work you do?
LW: Some of the big things would be finding answers for people’s health concerns especially when they’ve had an issue for decades. With the retreats, it always amazes me the experiences that people have and the changes they make within themselves and to be facilitator for those experiences is always a privilege. There’s also the added benefit that I get to travel a fair bit and I get to walk my talk everyday so I get to live what I teach and I get to meet, host and work with some motivated, inspired and dynamic people.
BP: Your top 3 books or people who have inspired you or impacted your life in a profound way?
LW: I’m an avid reader and I own hundreds of book that have inspired me. In 1986 I read a life-changing book called ‘Affirmations’ by Stewart Wilde and I later saw him speak live. On the spiritual realm there were a couple of books by Oriah Mountain Dreamer which read like poetry but had such a practical aspect. Marianne Williamson’s book ‘A Women’s Worth’ was also great. In the success field, Anthony Robbins had a huge impact and I love his attitude and the way he looks at success. James L Wilson also wrote a book called ‘Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st century stress syndrome’ .His book covered the issue so well and I highly recommend it to anyone who has adrenal disorders.
BP: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had and where was it?
LW: Last August I went to lunch at The Five Elements resort (in Ubud, Bali) which ended up lasting 5 hours! It’s a completely gourmet, raw, vegan restaurant and the food is absolutely magical. We started with a juice and then our next course was a super food smoothie. That was followed by the entrée, then main, then dessert and then tea and chocolates to finish. The service was impeccable and with every course, the waitresses served us our food by name.
BP: What are your secrets to success ?
LW: I think success comes from a lot of factors coming together at the right time so I think it’s having a passion and drive in a certain area, loving what you do, the willingness to learn the skills you need for the success of your business and then having a faith on your ability to make it happen, which I think holds a lot of people back. Having your own business can be really hard work but if you love what you do and are motivated and inspired every day then that’s what makes it easy to be persistent and do what needs to be done. So I also believe that’s success is a natural state when your work is an outward expression of who you are and reflects your integrity and values in life because then you are consistent and its who are you in all areas of your life. I get excited about my business every day.
To find out more about Leisa’s retreats or to order your copy of “Health and Wellbeing Millionaires, visit her web page here: http://embracinghealth.com.au/
BP: What diet paradigm or food philosophy do you personally subscribe to?
LW: I don’t subscribe to 100% anything! I find that I don’t want to limit myself to 100% rules. I find that they can create a lot of stress which can then throw you into the fear, guilt, and obsession type of thinking if you give yourself such strict rules. I describe myself as mostly raw, mostly vegan, mostly organic. I don’t eat any processed or junk food and I eat as cleanly and as possible and as much organic food as I can. I also throw in some super foods and herbs as well. At the retreats, I talk about tuning into our bodies own wisdom and re-connecting with our instincts around food and that’s much easier to do after a cleanse. There’s a big role to play in letting food be food, not making it about wether you’ve been good or bad. So it’s about learning about what good quality food really is and then eating an abundance of those.
BP: So you’ve had hundreds of people of varying ages and backgrounds attend your retreats. What have been some of the memorable transformations or healings that you’ve personally witnessed?
LW: There’s been so many! Everyone goes home feeling better than they arrived, but there is one particular lady who comes to mind. She had type II diabetes and was being treated with quite a few medications so a part of the retreat involved us frequently monitoring her blood sugar levels. By the end of the week, her levels were back in the normal range when she woke in the morning. This was a fantastic result as it meant she was healing and didn’t necessarily need her medication. The only problem was that she couldn’t quite believe that the program had worked so quickly and effectively so when she measured her blood sugar and saw a normal reading, she’d take her medication anyway. Then her blood sugar would get really low, so she’d have to eat something to get it back up again! It seemed that her medication was her security blanket, but the numbers don’t lie and her blood sugars had normalised and she didn’t need her medication by the end of the retreat. We sent her back to her Doctor to get her weaned off the medication properly and she’s been off it ever since.
Find out about Leisa here: www.embracinghealth.com.au