Hi I’m Vicky, your healthy living guru, and welcome to The Kitchen Heals! I dedicate my life’s work to helping people live healthier and happier, and I couldn’t be more passionate about my job. I started this blog as a way to spread the knowledge, tips, and tricks I’ve learned over the years about living a beautiful, natural, healthy, full-of-energy kind of life! Although I’ve been living the healthy life for decades, it was nine years ago that one strange twist spurred my career in health…
Growing up in Greece
I grew up in Athens, Greece. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents who were so wonderful. My grandmother was the most amazing cook, and I have so many memories of delicious, home-cooked meals packed with fresh herbs and spices. I ate things like dandelion greens regularly. I remember visiting the village where my grandparents grew up, where my great aunt was living at the time. She raised her own chickens and the eggs she made tasted so different from store-bought eggs. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this delicious “Mediterranean diet” that I grew up on was so healthy because it was fresh, whole, and natural. There are actually islands in Greece that are considered “Blue Zones,” or areas where there are a high percentage of centenarians, and so the nature of their diet and lifestyle have been studied for years.
At age 19, I moved to the United States.
Busy and on a budget, but always healthy
I married an army officer and we first lived in Monterey, CA. The cost of living there was high and I was cognizant about budgeting. To stay healthy I realized I needed to be organized, buy only what I needed, and not waste any food. So I started creating what I call “menus.” I love to cook and had lots of recipes and cookbooks. I would peruse through my recipes, assemble my meal plan for the week, and write out the grocery list. I did this every week. I noticed I was eating a lot healthier than most people but spent less money on food, thanks to my healthy and organized menus. I bought veggies and beans and grains over pricey steak or prepared foods. We drank water instead of spending money on soda and other beverages.
Before I move on, I should explain something about myself. I like things to be perfect, the best it can be. If I can make it myself, figure it out myself, or do it myself, I will! This includes everything from getting the healthiest bang for my grocery budget to home beauty treatments to floral arrangements. Ok, of course I conveniently mention floral arrangements so that I can tell you a story. I threw a gathering at my house once. I called a floral shop in town and ordered three arrangements. The bill came out to a whopping $785! The flowers were pretty, but never again. After that I went to a bookstore and picked up a few books on floral design. I purchased the hooks, wire, foam, etc., per instructions in the book, and I practiced floral arrangement to the point of looking professional without breaking the bank. You’ll notice that The Kitchen Heals is full of these crafty, do-it-yourself type posts, so I hope I can help you cut some expensive corners, too!
A new meaning of health
When I was pregnant with my first son, Ray, I read a book on preservatives and what they do to the fetus. I read a LOT of books on healthy babies but this one truly changed my life. Let me tell you, I was shocked. I led a pretty healthy life up until that point, but I was still eating things like typical grocery store cereal and I wasn’t familiar with the concept of preservatives and chemicals in food. I remember reading in this book that BHT had been known to cause deaths in England and was banned. Next thing you know I was throwing out all of my cereals and chicken stock and bread and anything that had chemicals listed in the ingredient label. Never again did I look back and to this day I keep up with as much information about chemicals in food as I can.
I breastfed and made all of my own baby food. I had this whole assembly line going in the kitchen to prep food at the beginning of each week. I made my sons’ lunches every day until they went off to college. We were that house with no white bread, dried fruit as candy, and never ever a trip to McDonald’s. When they were in high school, even for the three years that I organized football team dinners for 110 players and coaches, no way was I making the bag of frozen meatballs the school provided! I made fresh meatballs, fresh garlic bread and the like, and got pretty rave reviews! Chemicals were completely out of my life and my family’s life.
So as a new mother of two, business woman, and home chef, what kept me sane and organized? My menus! I’m telling you! They were and still are today a lifesaver.
It was August of 2004. I was running a construction company in New Jersey and oversaw various public works projects such as high schools, libraries, and police stations. I was also still reading and researching about health nonstop because I was so fascinated by it. I needed to know what it was about an avocado that made it so healthy, or what exactly caused diabetes. Well one morning I sat down at my kitchen counter with my daily newspapers. When I opened up the first one, it looked blurry. I opened up the next one, and that looked blurry as well. I thought, These newspapers messed up the print today. But soon enough, I realized that something was very wrong with my eyesight.
It took months of doctors testing me for brain tumors, macular degeneration, and a slew of other diseases before they were able to diagnose me correctly. Was it diabetes? Was it multiple sclerosis, glaucoma? I was tested for everything. It turns out I had the most severe form of Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a rare genetic disease that causes abrupt blindness. My eyes are actually 20/20 and in great condition, but LHON causes optic nerve damage, something that apparently cannot be reversed.
I began to lose my eyesight at a rapid pace. It got to the point where anything within one foot of me looked like fuzzy silhouettes, and beyond that there was nothing. Doctors told me that there was no cure for LHON and that I would continue to lose my sight until I was completely blind. Understandably, they suggested that I learn braille and move into a facility that teaches people to live in blindness.
The thing is – and you need to know this about me – I am a very positive person. I strongly believe in the power of positive thinking and that where there’s a will there’s a way. I believe that lifestyle and environment (which are to a large extent in our control), not genetics, is the driver of our health. So in response to my diagnoses, I said no. I told doctors I would heal myself, and I set out on a course for recovery through extremely healthy living and plenty of faith.
Healing my eyesight…
I took all my knowledge of what was healthy, especially for the optic nerve, and took it to the extreme. With the belief that proper nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle would heal my eyes, I made sure I was getting plenty of nutrition from my diet and natural supplements. I brewed what I call Lion Tea and drank it daily. I continued to exercise and stay active every day. My faith had always been important to me, and now it became an especially big part of my life. I also started using visualization. I was hearing so many negative things about my condition that I turned my attention to healing, not giving up. And so I would literally visualize doctors working on my optic nerve and successfully repairing it.
To the amazement of doctors, over the course of a year and a half I regained much of my eyesight. I can move about a room without you knowing I’m legally blind, and I can see who’s showing up on my phone. I can enjoy the movies and even, as of recently, read books with the help of some special glasses! It was this summer that I met a wonderful low-vision specialist in Greece who has been supportive in my quest to heal my eyes further. It was she who created these special glasses for me so that I could do hours of reading exercises and even some TV therapy to recognize faces from farther away. My eyesight continues to improve today and I cannot wait to see my two sons’ faces clearly.
…and healing my sons’ eyesight
My oldest son, Ray, was in college and called me one morning. He told me he was driving and pulled over, because all of a sudden he couldn’t see. It was truly the worst day of my life. My youngest son came to bring him home and I made a doctor’s appointment immediately. And as you can guess, with even more
determination than when I was healing myself, I put him on the same regimen of sight-supporting tea, supplements, and foods that had helped my eyesight. By the next morning at the doctor’s, miraculously Ray’s vision was almost back to normal, but the doctor diagnosed him with LHON and said he would be blind in a matter of weeks. Of course despite the diagnoses we continued to fight the disease, and I am proud to say that Ray can see better than most people we know today. My youngest son had a similar but less severe episode of blurry vision and was also diagnosed with LHON, which we quickly worked to get his vision back to normal and prevent any further symptoms. I believe that I went through what I did so that I could help my sons defeat this disease.
My diet evolution
I gave up meat and dairy many years ago, and this past year I gave up fish and eggs to become 100% vegan. 80% of what I eat is greens, veggies, and fruits (most of which are raw), and the other 20% is grains, nuts, and beans. However, my friends and family can attest that I still cook delicious meats and fish! I understand that most people don’t eat the way I do, not even my immediate family, and I don’t think you have to be a vegan to be healthy. My number one rule for living healthy is living clean and staying away from chemicals and toxins. Whether I’m coaching someone through heart-health issues, obesity, skin problems, cancer, diabetes, lack of energy, the list goes on – my number one rule always applies and always helps alleviate the ailment.
What I do today!
Some years after regaining much of my eyesight, I opened up a health and fitness studio in NJ calledStudio V Health. From organizing spin classes to health seminars to health coaching, I was loving my new career! Before long it had dawned on me that what had kept me so healthy, organized, and economical all my life were my menus! I knew it would absolutely help others as well, especially those with busy schedules. Soon enough I partnered with my oldest son and fellow health nut, Ray, to take my menus online so that I could make it as easy and affordable as possible for anyone, anywhere to live healthy. This is known today as my V Well Health program.
V Well Health contains menus for all types of lifestyles and preferences, meat-eaters and vegans alike. I even learned all about gourmet cooking from some friends that had restaurants in NYC, to make sure I knew all the tricks when creating menus for V Well Health. While I learned how to make anything and everything gourmet, I also got better and better at figuring out how to “healthify” any dish while keeping it delectable. Each V Well Health menu comes with a shopping list that people can take right with them to the grocery store, just as I did. Exercise has always been an important part of my life, and so the V Well Health program also includes fun, fat-busting workout plans and videos that are convenient for both gym-goers or at-home workouts.
What is my motivation for what I do? First and foremost, God and my sons. And knowing that I am helping people live happier and healthier. Thank you to all of my readers for being a part of my life. I’m honored to be taking this journey of healthy living with you.
Peace and blessings,
Note: The statements in this blog have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. As always, consult your doctor before introducing new items to your diet, especially those that may interact with any medication(s) or supplement(s) you are currently taking. Be sure to read all food and supplement labels, especially if you have any food sensitivities or allergies. These are the opinions of V Well Health.