Most people can’t believe that the stylish and youthful Karyn Calabrese is 63 years old. But what’s even more noteworthy for the celebrated raw foodist, given her family history, is that she’s alive. “I started my journey because all the women in my family died young and overweight,” she explains. “As a teenager and young adult I had every allergy known to man, had terrible skin, and was tired all the time. I saw myself going down a bad road. Changing my diet, learning about raw foods, and detoxification changed my life.”
A vegan for more than 25 years, Calabrese not only wanted to share her healthy lifestyle with others, she wanted to change the hippie, tree-hugger image often associated with vegetarians. “People think that everyone who eats this way also looks, feels, and acts a certain way. This perception sometimes keeps people from making a change toward healthy eating. I want to show people that you can be a raw foodist or vegan or vegetarian and live in the ‘real world.’ You can live a mainstream life while making better choices for your body.”
As a result, Calabrese, whose businesses (www.karynraw.com) are based in Chicago, has launched a complete line of products (vitamins and beauty items), services (spa, chiropractic, and acupuncture treatments), and restaurants. The 15-year-old Karyn’s Fresh Corner is considered the oldest raw food restaurant in Chicago. Karyn’s Cooked offers a wide range of cooked and raw international vegetarian dishes that range from Thai skewers to pizza. Her latest, Karyn’s on Green (www.karynsongreen.com), is a multilevel restaurant, bar, and lounge that opened in January. It features interpretations of American fare that include potato leek soup, coconut curried cauliflower, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and shepherd’s pie. The bar serves a range of craft beer, organic wines, as well as mixed non-alcoholic drinks.
As passionate as Calabrese is about her lifestyle, she does not impose her level of enthusiasm on others. “People need to find a comfortable place for themselves,” she says. “It starts with education and making the choices that work in an individual’s life. Detoxing the body is a great way to bring balance and jump-start a healthier lifestyle. The most important thing, though, is to make changes at your own pace. I always tell people you can’t go from A to Z overnight, it’s a process. I’ve seen so many people try to completely change their lives overnight only to fall off the wagon soon after. You must make it practical to keep it in practice.”