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Karyn Calabrese wants to take you on the most important journey of your life—the journey to health.

By nature, from childhood, the holistic healer gravitated towards healthier foods. And, after watching both her grandmother and mother succumb to illness at young ages, she realized how much of longevity depends on not only eating nourishing foods, but also cleansing the body of toxins that have built up over time. A single mother of two, she set out with a wheatgrass juicer and a new perspective.

Today, the 74-year-old is a model of clean living and the founder of Chicago’s holistic therapy center, Karyn's Inner Beauty, where she applies her knowledge to helping others through the intersection of food and the body and detoxification practices.

Here, she shares why she prioritizes balance over perfection:

LIVE THE PROCESS: Growing up, what was  your understanding of food and nutrition?

KARYN CALABRESE: People didn’t talk about health at that time. We had three meals a day and canned peas with every one. I was forced to eat; I just didn’t like to eat meat. I always found ways to get rid of the food on my plate because we could not get up from the table until our plates were cleared. I was always the last one at the dinner table, which is when I would give my food to the dog or wrap it up in napkins and hide it in different places. But, oh, boy, when I would get caught! My family made ongoing jokes about me, that I was the first anorexic African American. They’d say that if they put me on a desert island with lettuce and oranges, I would be happy. 

LTP: What opened your eyes to this idea of taking care of your body through food?

KC: When I was 27, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She turned to natural alternatives to try and heal her body, but the herbs and juices she tried could not overpower the effects of the chemotherapy. I juiced with my mother and adopted a vegetarian diet and started to notice my skin clearing and my allergies going away. I never started out planning to be a raw foodist, but, after meeting Dr. Ann Wigmore, the founder of the raw foods movement and of improved detox methods, my body started to naturally gravitate towards raw foods.

LTP: Can you talk about the concept of detoxification, which seems so core to your philosophy?

KC: Health is not just about eating well; it is also about cleansing the body and ridding ourselves of the waste and toxicity that we have accumulated over years or decades. I have created a world where you can cleanse, heal and improve your inner and outer beauty. I can’t pick just one thing that everyone loves because everyone does what works for them. Listen to your body. We all intuitively know what is best for us. Do some research and see what works for you. Some of therapies I offer at my day spa are colon hydrotherapy, ozone bathing and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, to name a few.

LTP: This January, at Live The Process, we’re talking about this concept of the reset. How is that different than making intense resolutions that are hard to keep?

KC: I think that the mistake people make is looking for perfection. I allow the flow of my life to manifest what it will. Sometimes I am very strong in the physical, sometimes in the spiritual, sometimes in detoxing and eating right. I allow the ebb and flow of life to happen and have learned to be comfortable with whatever comes my way. Looking for balance instead of perfection is a key factor. Also, as I teach in my classes, it’s important to make yourself number one and everything else will fall into place. You’ll have more energy for your family, more focus in your business and more health and happiness in your life.

LTP: What does happiness look like to you? 

KC: Helping people with what I have mastered over the years. No matter your place in life, as long as you have your health, you have it all. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how many books you write; if you don’t have your health, none of it matters.

LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?

KC: More than any other time in history, we are bombarded with stress, toxins, chemicals and radiation in all areas of our lives. There’s so much we can’t control, but we can choose to take care of our bodies by eating healthier foods. Like anything in life, this is a process; and you can’t expect to go from A to Z overnight. Take your time, make better choices bit by bit and don’t beat yourself up if there are bumps along the way. This is the most important journey you’ll take in your life—make it a joyful one! 

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