Stephanie Jeffs used to work in a stressful job, which often meant working late and then going for drinks with colleagues. She was overweight, feeling ‘toxic’ and suffering with polycystic ovary syndrome. I first featured Stephanie’s story back in February when she was featured in the UK newspaper, The Daily Mail. Now Stephanie (who runs EXPLORE RAW and is known as ‘the go-to girl for raw’) is back for a quick interview.
Natural Juice Junkie: When did you first start juicing and how did you first learn about the idea?
Stephanie Jeffs: I first learned about ‘juicing’ from a book by Carol Vordreman that I picked up in a charity shop! I dabbled around with it for a while but I wasn’t quite ready for it. Over a period of time a few friends ‘got into juicing’ and I thought they were going a bit crazy. But the results were speaking for themselves! I had a juicer that I hardly used (how common is THAT!) and eventually flicked the dust off and began to play with it as I had been given the book 7lbs in 7 days by Jason Vale as a gift.
“I just KNEW that juicing was the way forward for me”
Neil Martin: What made you decide to start juicing?
Stephanie Jeffs: I just KNEW that juicing was the way forward for me. It was instinctive. I was out of shape and lots of things in my life needed to change. I had PCOS and with that came some very difficult symptoms; weight gain, difficult and irregular periods, mood swings to name a few.
Juicing and cleaning up my act went hand in hand. My first ‘proper’ stint of juicing came when I went to my first juicing retreat.
I remember reading at the back of Jason Vales book about his ‘juicing and yoga reteat in Turkey’ and I wondered to myself – wouldn’t it be great to be thin and bendy enough to go on that! I just really wanted to go. So even though I was out of shape and not juicing I booked it. There were lots of people there like me – who didn’t have a clue what they were doing because it was all so new. I haven’t looked back and I go to Jason’s retreat at least once a year.
I am still not thin or that bendy but none of that matters!
“I have to create rules and boundaries for myself – so that I can be playful within those boundaries”
Neil Martin: Did you follow a specific program, if so which one?
Stephanie Jeffs: Yes I did. When I first started out I followed Jason’s 7lbs in 7 days programme and it was great!
I kept messing it up. Missing juices. Doubling up. Getting the recipes a bit wrong. Running out of supplies. Eating the apples. I got it all wrong! But it didn’t really matter. Because I was now ENGAGING with juicing.
I am still not very good at following plans very well which is why I need strict discipline personally when I am ‘on a detox’. I have to create rules and boundaries for myself – so that I can be playful within those boundaries if that makes sense.
When I went ‘100% raw’ my rules were that: I could eat ANYTHING I wanted WHENEVER I wanted it as long as it was raw. And I was on a ‘detox’ not a diet and I was doing it for ‘charity’ not because I was fat.
“Without telling myself that I COULDN’T have these things they left my life of their own accord”
This set-up gave me the right mindset to explore raw and juicing within strict boundaries. I allowed myself chocolate – as long as it was raw. Now I make all my own! I allowed myself cake – as long as it was raw! Although making a 16 slice cheesecake when you are on a detox doesn’t really work either so now I save my gourmet raw dishes for special occasions.
Over time I have learned to keep it simple. During my Raw365 year (100% raw) I allowed myself alcohol – big mistake – my ability to drink has just left the room. I now find it a pointless waste of time and money. So – without telling myself that I COULDN’T have these things they left my life of their own accord. There was just no room for it.
Neil Martin: Did you have any medical conditions prior to juicing?
Stephanie Jeffs: Yes. I had PCOS. Big style.
Neil Martin: Since juicing, how much weight have you lost?
Stephanie Jeffs: I have lost 9 stone (126 pounds) since I was at my heaviest! Hard to be totally accurate as I stopped weighing myself – firstly because I think I went off the scale on my scale! And also because I was in denial.
I looked at the scales and just blamed someone else – ‘they weren’t making scales like they used to!’ I never PLANNED to lose weight (I didn’t plan on putting it on either) or set up EXPLORE RAW or do all of the things I am doing now. Otherwise I might have been more structured about it and kept more detailed accounts of my weight loss and transition.
I remember weighing myself and I was over 22 stone (I was wearing a size 26 dress at the time!) and thinking – oh well – at least it’s not 23! Strange thing is I thought it was a bit of a secret that I was that heavy. I didn’t tell anyone how heavy I was so I thought that no-one knew. Just me. It eventually did become 23, and more. I just threw the scales out.
When I then started to lose weight I really didn’t notice at first. I was out buying some clothes (a dress or something) and I asked for my size 24 and it just hung like a rag on me. I was in disbelief! I thought they were making the clothes the wrong size again – I had no idea that it was me that had shrunk! I remember buying my first size 18 in years and I was literally tripping!
Neil Martin: What have you found to be the biggest changes / benefits you’ve experienced since you started juicing?
Stephanie Jeffs: There is nowhere to start with this question! Ok so let me choose 3 top benefits:
The biggest bonus for me is that I no longer have PCOS. I no longer have a chronic disease that literally ruled so much of what I did. Not only do I now have a regular cycle, ultrasounds and blood tests show that I now show NO signs of PCOS, scarring, cysts and all my hormone levels are normal. I cannot tell you how massive this is for me! It is literally life changing.
Ok, so I have also lost some weight which is great – and some still to go – and I have loads more energy and focus. I would say these are the top 3 of my gazillion benefits of juicing.
“If you want something enough and your mind is in the right place NOTHING gets in your way”
Neil Martin: Since you started juicing what have you found most challenging and how did you deal with this challenge?
Stephanie Jeffs: If you want something enough and your mind is in the right place NOTHING gets in your way. You don’t see obstacles as challenges.
I no longer keep toasters and pans in the kitchen taking up valuable juicer space, so my kitchen is ready for raw and juicing.
It takes longer to make a cup of tea in my house than make a juice so time is not an issue. I have a cool bag with handles on so if I am on the move I take my juicer with me if I need it.
I guess the biggest barrier has been how other people react to my new passions.
I have found that being a ‘born again juicer’ can irritate the hell out of people. I just don’t care too much about that so I don’t see other peoples reactions as a barrier anymore whereas comments from friends and relatives used to really touch me. Over time they see your results and that speaks for itself.
“If you got juicing you got health. And there’s nothing that can compete with that”
Neil Martin: How has juicing changed your life?
Stephanie Jeffs: The answer here is limitless. It has changed everything. I can’t answer the question without getting philosophical.
For me that’s like answering a question ‘how has falling in love changed your life?’ It’s the lens that changes everything. That might sound evangelical for some but it’s true. If you got juicing you got health. And there’s nothing that can compete with that.
Neil Martin: What has been your biggest juicing mistake and why?
Stephanie Jeffs: Not being prepared. I am not a structured person by nature – which is why I rely on a multitude of spreadsheets to get things done! So if I am in the house hungry and I am pacing the kitchen (rummaging for snacks that just aren’t there) that can be stressful.
I have learned now that a couple of apples doesn’t cut it. If I have a fridge full of fresh fruit and veg then I always have something to eat.
A few healthy snacks and raw treats. I also used to shout at myself if I ‘fell off the healthy eating wagon’. Now I see that as pointless – I consider that there isn’t a wagon anymore. I just make better decisions at the next opportunity.
Neil Martin: Any juicing tips you have picked up along the way?
Stephanie Jeffs: Yes I would say – make fresh every day. I hate frozen juices made the night before. They lose more punch and taste than anything and they don’t get you out of the ‘fast food’ mindset.
Freezing works for some but I think it tastes like mush. Take time to make your juices fresh.
It really doesn’t take that long. The irony of how we will sweat for hours in a kitchen to make a cooked dinner then argue over who is going to do the dishes is lost on me. Make juice. Clean juicer. Simples.
Neil Martin: Which do you think is more essential to health and wellbeing, exercise or diet and nutrition?
Stephanie Jeffs: Can you separate the two? You HAVE to move your body but I am a firm believer that diet and nutrition play the biggest role. Particularly if you are very overweight.
I hate it when bigger people are told ‘just move your body’ when you are that heavy you don’t know how. You have to lose a chunk first. Then just do what you can. Start gently and take if from there.
I am always needing a kick up the backside about my exercise! I RARELY wake up thinking – yeee harr!! let’s go for a run! It takes time to get to that place. Which is one of the reasons I set up Raw Juice Camp. To give myself a public kick up the backside to get moving.
Neil Martin: How much and what kinds of exercise do you regularly do?
Stephanie Jeffs: As little as I can get away with which is scary! LOL
I AIM for yoga 3 times a week and a daily walk or run. It doesn’t always work out that way. I’m more random. I will sign up for a 30 day bikram yoga challenge then not do any for months.
“The secret is not having any crap in the fridge”
Neil Martin: What do you eat / drink on a typical day?
Stephanie Jeffs: There’s no typical day! But I ALWAYS start the day with green waters (powdered blends of dried algaes like spirulina, wheatgrass etc mixed with filtered water) followed by a green juice.
Lots of water.
Probably some raw creations for lunch including smoothies, raw pastas, salads depends if I have been having some kitchen playtime.
Sometimes the fridge is full or raw cakes and biscuits – particularly if I have been developing recipes or photographing them. I don’t feel guilty ‘doing a Nigella’ and standing at the fridge eating a plateful.
The secret is not having any crap in the fridge in the first place! I am not 100% raw anymore so dinner could be accompanied by home made roasties or a raw curry with rice.
Neil Martin: Is your diet completely vegetarian / vegan?
Stephanie Jeffs: I am always vegetarian. Mostly vegan (I have honey and the odd bit of yoghurt when I can’t get my hands on coconut yogurt) and I am very high raw.
Neil Martin: What are your thoughts on caffeine and alcohol?
Stephanie Jeffs: I was driving through some country lanes once (actually on my way to Glastonbury festival with some friends) and we stopped at Starbucks for some ‘refreshments’. I thought I would ‘treat’ myself to a soya latte.
I slurped it up and reminisced about office life and then carried on driving.
Very shortly I had to pull over. I was having a coffee rush! I couldn’t drive and had to take some serious time out. It then dawned on me how much of a stimulant coffee is! I also felt a bit crap from the soya milk. I am sure I am the only Glastonbury festival goer who was high as a kite BEFORE they got to the festival and on JUST a coffee! LOL
I now have the occasional coffee (not when I am driving) with home made almond milk. I love the taste of it and everything in moderation.
“I have also seen how alcohol can destroy people”
As for alcohol I just can’t do it anymore. A couple of sips and I am a gonner.
I now see it as a complete waste of time and money. I still have the rare glass of white wine. I haven’t banned it from my life. But it plays no significant role – whereas before it was a very social thing.
I would always have a few good bottles of wine in under the stairs. I used to work in Poland and became an expert vodka drinker. And I am talking A LOT!
I have also seen how alcohol can destroy people. My life experience has shown me how tragedy and misery can result from alcohol dependence. It really isn’t pleasant watching someone go through anything like that.
In summary, caffeine and alcohol? Each to their own. And if you are trying to give these things up I would say – make the best decision possible in that moment. If it works for you, you enjoy it and you don’t suffer as a result then go for it. Personally, there is little room for caffeine or alcohol in my life on a regular basis.
“Trust the process”
Neil Martin: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about adding juicing to their life?
Stephanie Jeffs: Just do it. Don’t panic. Do your research and do everything possible to make it work for you. Trust the process. And listen to the stories of others who are juicing and what changes they made to their lives.
The health benefits of juicing are truly undeniable!
Neil Martin: If you were stuck on a desert island with a working juicer and blender and an unlimited supply of just 6 ingredients, what would those ingredients be?
Stephanie Jeffs: Ok, now we’re talking. My favourite juice is melon and cucumber so that’s a no brainer.
As for the other 4 – would have to be ginger (because it’s good for almost EVERYTHING!) – apples (so versatile) kale (who wouldn’t?) and avocados (for ultimate survival. Plus I can make face packs).
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