Health Entrepreneurs to Watch: EatForBeautyDC
EatForBeautyDC is an online platform that promotes a healthy lifestyle through sharing wellness knowledge and beautifully captured, colorful photos of homemade vegan dishes.
Meet the Founders.
Kaylah: 26 years old
"I grew up in D.C. in a Dominican, Cuban and Colombian home. Coached by “Moana” and “Pocahontas”; writer and singer for a Go-Go band; co-founder of EatforbeautyDC; real estate agent in D.C. with a focus on sustainable development; yoga studio assistant at The Studio D.C. I enjoy mathematics, dancing, fashion design and app development."
Melan: 20 years old
"I’ve moved about 10 times but D.C is one place I call home. I’m a student at American University (Majoring in Communication with a focus on Media & Society, Minoring in International Studies), EatforbeautyDC co-founder, childcare supervisor, jewelry & stationery designer, poet and overall self love & holistic healing advocate. I love to give love and create/curate beautiful things."
Kaylah and Melan offer a unique perspective on health and wellness. They both have extensive knowledge of alternative health practices from various cultures which makes the health knowledge they share all the more interesting. Their presentation of their homemade dishes on Instagram is inspiring, but their vibrant personalities that are revealed through each of their Instagram posts are what inspired me to interview them. Their passion for health is rooted in their unique life experiences and beliefs which they express throughout the interview. I'm happy to share with you the passion for health that Kaylah and Melan have shared with me.
When and how did you both come together to create EatForBeautyDC?
We both got involved with eating raw when working at "The Center for Living With Nature" (our mentor’s organization) in Honolulu, Hawaii. This was a sacred space where we gathered each Sunday to volunteer and learn about organic planting, composting, and overall caring for land. We both had our own growth in becoming more in tune with nature and bonded over the phenomenon of having a reciprocal relationship with the Earth, especially in the way of food. We began to study together and exchange self care practices that we obtained through previous individual challenges. For example, Kaylah would come to Melan’s house with smoothies and tonics to clear skin, increase energy and aid digestion. Melan brought more ritualistic elements into the workspace to provide a calming yet uplifting energy: she set time to make her space beautiful before she started her work with incense, oils, tea, yoga and meditation. The medicinal and the gentle came together. We realized that our overall health goals paralleled and in 2017 while both residing in D.C., we decided to build something concrete to combine our knowledge and efforts towards higher health, with the shared aspiration of one day embodying a fully raw vegan lifestyle.
What is Eat for Beauty DC’s mission?
“Eat For Beauty D.C.” is an online platform where we document our journey towards raw veganism and our overall relationship with food as women of color, environmentally conscious feminists, Washington, D.C. locals, and vegans striving to eat as 100% raw, organic and plant based as possible. It is a virtual food diary and medium to promote healthy plant based lifestyles within communities of color, while also highlighting the differing levels of health (mental, emotional, spiritual, physical) and how they are inherently interconnected. Our name “Eat For Beauty” challenges the norm of how “beauty” is obtained and upholds the idea that how we live and eat can make us feel and even look more beautiful. We obtain beauty by striving for harmony in our bodies and our overall lives. We are focused on being beautiful on the cell level and we believe that translates into the physical, and that how we live changes how we feel, therefore enhancing our beauty, self love & acceptance, and feelings of overall abundance and health.
Being that we are also relatively young food activists one of our main goals is to show millennials in D.C. how they can incorporate more raw food into their diets and where to go to start (communal connections and resources, local organizations and businesses, farmer’s markets). We want to show that contrary to a range of personal or socio-economic barriers, the raw vegan diet can be accessible when approached with creativity combined with community outreach and building.
Our mission is to collaborate whether it be through lifestyle coaching, meal planning, food preparation, forming relationships with local brands & organizations, and eventually constructing an eco-village/community within the DMV area that will sustain our lifestyle and be a hub of knowledge, growth and healing. Today our mission is to use our friendship to power a collaboration that secures a strong stream of vitalizing meals made with beauty, love, and compassion for each other and our loved ones.
When and why did you transition to a raw vegan diet? What motivates you to continue?
Melan: If I had to answer this in one sentence I would say that the motivation is the feeling of being fed and full beyond satisfying hunger or craving, but feeling full on my entire level of being. Part of my faith in a higher power is due to experiencing what we call the “life force energy” that lives within natural food, that is uncooked and unadulterated. To me raw food revolutionizes the concept of “soul food” as absorbing the energy from food that is straight from the source. This has given me the most magical and high vibrational feelings that I can’t quite compare to anything else. It’s as if I’ve felt the pure & unconditional love Mother Earth has for us through the life force and all I want is to soak in more of it.
Kaylah: Freshman year in college, in January 2010, my body was depleted of vitality physically and spiritually. It was so cosmic the way everything was happening that I knew something greater had a hand in my revitalization process. I started rearranging my food, juicing and getting colonics in Hawai’i. I went through a putrid phase in Hawai’i where I was purging and cleansing on every level; I juiced, did colonics, called everyone I’ve ever lied to, wrote and meditated. As a birthday gift from my mom, I visited Suzanne, a holistic doctor, now our mentor, in October 2012 where the first thing we talked about were my emotions. I volunteered for her for the first time in April 2013, began interning in August 2013 and went back every Sunday for her love, food, acceptance and guidance and went vegan July 2014 via a 2 week juice cleanse. Since then, I’ve been gradually transitioning into a fully raw vegan diet as I feel it’s the diet that keeps my bio-chemistry at peace. Enzymes that are present in live foods provide the force to give the body its own harmony and be at a calm and auto-cleansing homeostasis. When I’m abundant in enzymes, my mind and life have the same peace as my body.
How does your diet affect how you feel and function daily?
Melan: I’m a firm believer in the popular proverb “You are what you eat.” If I’m eating foods that are heavy in soy, sodium, sugar, carbs, fat or have little nutrients and life force I will most likely feel heavy and ultimately uneasy which affects my mood, energy, mindset and how I interact with the day. Each day I like to aim for a manageable and realistic balance of foods that satisfy my mental and emotional desires, but also aim to fulfill what I feel my body needs to be in a state of optimal health. This is where meal planning comes into play. I have an overall goal of eating 80% raw throughout the week, unless I don’t have the means or energy to support that goal. I like to do a “body-scan” where I ask my body what she wants before I indulge. Now that we both keep a personal food diary to record what we eat each day it’s easier to trace the internal or external symptoms directly to our diets. (really recommend this practice) If I’m not feeling well on any level the first thing I’ll ask myself is “What did I eat today?”.
Kaylah: I feel like I have a lot of energy and my days are more focused and aggressive. The diet requires that I have food ready to go before hand. Having my food ready makes me feel really secure as I move about my day. I actually feel like my mental health is safer and I trust myself more. After a juice or something live, I feel the energy introducing itself. I know what I want quicker and get things done a lot faster while on the diet because I have so much energy. Conversely, when I’m feeling down or doubtful, most likely, I didn’t properly feed myself.
Where do you purchase your food? How are the costs?
Melan: Kaylah and I are both very keen on shopping around and knowing who is good for what, like who’s the “plug” on this, or who's good for that. With a combination of being mindful of where the best deals are and how convenient they are to access, I think we end up feeling pretty solid within the process of acquiring affordable food. There's a sort of formula to it. I’m all about thrifting and cheap stuff in general but also really value quality and specifically all organic produce and products. They don’t have Trader Joe’s in Hawai’i which is pretty ironic due to their dedicated use of Hawaiian prints in their branding, but when I came back to D.C. and went to Trader Joe’s I was literally in awe while examining all the prices. They’ve really got it all but as of lately Whole Foods has some pretty good bargains as well as a result of their Amazon endorsement. I’ll occasionally go to Safeway for certain sales. I go to Yes! Organic when I’m on 14th Street or if I’m trying to treat myself (I love their green juice).
Kaylah: Right now my produce comes from Yes! Organic Market, Whole Foods and Friends That Grow; while I get nuts and seeds from SunOrganic farms in California. My favorite grocery store in D.C. is the Takoma Park Coop because they refrigerate their nuts to prevent the oils from going rancid; I really appreciate that. Plus they have a large bulk selection and they're fully stocked. It's easier to shop here but it is a bit pricey. All together, I spend about $80 a week on food not including water that my family buys from West Virginia for $8/5 gallons. Really it's knowing what I want and having an updated list of who is growing what, what nourishes their soil and when and where they’re going to be grown. Having the (meal) plan down pact is currently our most important goal.
What’s one food or dish that you incorporate into your diet frequently and how is it beneficial to your health?
Melan: I’m pretty indecisive so it’s tough for me to choose just one dish but if I could highlight one type of food it would be foods that are green. For me the color green equates to being a symbol of health, if it’s natural of course. It’s also the color that correlates with the heart chakra which happens to be a vital focus within my healing and spiritual practice. Green foods give me grounding, comfort and a boost of energy.
Kaylah: I’ve been keeping kelp noodles in my bag a lot because they digest well, are portable, versatile, cheap and filling. They cost about $3 a serving and I throw them in rice paper or dehydrated veggie wraps, salads or I'll make an herby sauce and just have them as noodles. I don’t think they are fully raw or full of chi but they have calcium, iron and it’s another way to get my kelp into balance my thyroid and take out any parasites I may have from my prior diet. I add sprouts and/or sauerkraut for the chi when I eat them.
How do you acquire new nutrition information?
Melan: Right now I’m taking a “Chemistry of Cooking” class so that’s really giving me more in depth information about the science and nutrition behind food. It’s pretty cool to learn about what is really going on chemically when meals are created and how the proteins, carbs, fats and other chemical components interact to create a range of flavors, nutrients and textures.
The majority of the food knowledge I have today is from Kaylah and Suzanne as they both have really shown me how to treat food like medicine and become more aware of specifically what my body wants or needs based on my specific health. More recently, I’m also getting good nutrition information from Calabash Tea spot by the Shaw Metro station. Each of their items is specifically geared towards soothing certain symptoms, due to being run by a holistic & naturopathic healer Dr. Sunnyatta. Lastly, a major gem for me is the book entitled “Absolute Beauty: Radiant Skin and Inner Harmony Through the Ancient Secrets of Ayurveda” by Dr. Pratima Raichur. It’s a pretty big book, currently on Amazon and a wonderful beauty guide that goes very in depth into how the external physical body is a reflection of whatever is going on inside of the body.
Kaylah: I learned alot from Suzanne. Suzanne went in depth about how chi is a primordial energy that sustains life and how all ailments can be healed by adding more chi. I also read recommended books. Currently I’m reading “Conscious Eating” by Gabriel Cousins from Suzanne and on que is, “There Are No Incurable Diseases” by Dr. Richard Schulze and “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth which Oprah put me onto that goes in on our psychology with food. Grocery staff at health food stores are underrated; some truly have a wealth of info and most make great conversations. Farmers. Conversations with people on their own health journeys that I find at health centric events like farmer’s markets. I look up indigenous, Japanese and Chinese remedies online. Mothers and their healing practices, D.C. moms, Hawai’ian moms and IG moms, any mom.
Why do you think it’s important to share your nutritional knowledge with others?
Melan: Food serves as a common denominator for humans pretty much cause we all got to eat. Food is where our cultures and livelihoods converge. I think there are many angles to approach caring for oneself but the plant based, vegetarian, and vegan diets have become more popularized because they seem more attainable or even glamorous (and there are many benefits to this) but this era of health and eco-consciousness also seems to be a reflection of the potential planetary shift in consciousness that we are apart of. It is important for me to share what I know about health because we as a species are undeniably connected. Living in my truth and investing in my body & being is the best thing I can do for myself but it also the best thing I can do for my generation, community, family, environment and beyond.
Kaylah: Having a rich relationship with your self, down to the cellular level, makes way for deeply fulfilling work and we have the effect on people, that thriving foods have on us- we can come in and leave behind gifts that we’re abundant in, but will truly uplift the next person. I’m eager to experience more passionate ideas and more innovative solutions when everyone has moved beyond healing and collecting chi to discover more of what they can do. As more people become richer in chi, the same effect happens on a global level, we resolve the deficits and focus on more discovery and begin to honor all nations.
Thank you Kaylah and Melan, and thank you for reading!