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Healing Food Stories At first, Lisa Rae Rosenberg was skeptical of the extremes of a raw vegan diet cooked food, no dairy, no meat not so thrilled by the prospect of giving up glazed doughnuts and chicken fried steak. But in a last ditch attempt to curb her rising cholesterol, she stifled her doubts and resolved to try it for 7 days. "After that week, I felt so much better that I decided to add another week, and after about a month, I felt like I had superpowers," she says. She dropped 20 pounds, and her total cholesterol plunged 60 points in 8 months. "People started telling me I looked radiant instead of telling me how tired I looked," she says. "My skin is clearer and my eyes are brighter. "I wanted to show people it not hard, and you can do this," she says. "You can feel better." Maria Gordon was 23 when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and told she needed daily medication. In 2013, after 3 years of dependence on the drugs, she started to feel trapped. "I talked to my doctor about maybe getting off them, and he told me he wasn sure I could completely," she says. Maria took this sobering news as a message that she had to do something fast. She started by nixing her go to vices, like frozen TV dinners, chips, and cookies, in exchange for whole wheat bread, tofu, and almond milk. She slowly increased her intake of fruits and vegetables until they made up about 80% of her diet. At the same time, she scaled back on eating meat and started cooking her own meals, taking walks, and drinking more water. Each change was small, but the combined effects Maria dogged dedication off in a jaw dropping way: In just over a year, she lost more than 100 pounds and reversed her diabetes so effectively that she now needs no drugs at all. But those two massive changes weren even the most gratifying part. It was the rebirth of her self confidence. "I was in the background for most of my life, being overweight and then being sick," she says. "But I not afraid anymore to get out there and be noticed." Samantha Yeager didn think much about a rash when it first showed up on her stomach 2 years ago. She assumed it was standard irritation, a pesky memento of a recent tropical vacation. But when it started to spread and then covered her body from chest to ankles, she needed a diagnosis. Five months later, she got it: lichen planus, an autoimmune condition that has no cure but would likely clear up on its own in, oh, a couple of years. "I just couldn accept that had to look for my own solution," she says. She found one randomly, on a trip to Costco: the book Clean Gut, by physician Alejandro Junger. He promises big improvements for irritated skin if readers take on a monthlong cleanse without dairy, gluten, added sugars, soy, coffee, or certain other food groups. It was extreme then again, so was the maddening itch. A few days into the cleanse, the changes started. "The itching was subsiding, the bumps were less inflamed, and I became less irritable," she says. Samantha continued to avoid gluten, dairy, and added sugars after the month was behind her, and the symptoms stayed away. Today, a year since the itch ended, she has lost 55 pounds and shaved 10 points from her BMI. Emboldened by her transformation, she has decided to study to become a registered holistic nutritionist. "I have a new passion for healing that food awakened in me," she says. For years she battled headaches, achy joints, and severe seasonal allergies, only to be told to "eat better" and exercise. Then, in 2004, she saw a nutritionist who told her she was allergic to gluten and dairy. "It was dramatic how much my body responded to not eating them," she says. "The headaches went away, the joint pain went away the allergies went away." Eight months later, without exercising or even consciously trying, Andrea had lost 50 pounds. She began to teach herself how to cook without gluten and dairy, and before long, she had decided to leave her job in publishing to pursue one as a chef at the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute, where she honed traditional French techniques along with modern nutritional know how. After graduation, Andrea launched her private chef service, Holistic Chef, for others with food allergies and sensitivities. Today she has a thriving business and a new perspective on life without gluten and dairy. "Being healthy is about eating as many unprocessed foods as possible. Eating real food you make at home and from scratch," she says. Allergy friendly cooking demands a pantry well stocked with alternative grains and legumes that can sub in for wheat and the countless packaged products that contain it. Andrea prepares clients meals with the help of quinoa, a protein rich staple for many vegans; sorghum, a fiber rich cereal grain popular in gluten free baking; millet, an ancient Asian seed rich in magnesium and manganese; lima beans, which lend a starchy thickness to dishes; and green lentils, which have more protein than black beans or chickpeas.