Penni Shelton Podcast


The raw food experience is often a healing journey for many, some only physically and yet others mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our guest for episode 2 falls into the latter category.

Joining us is my good friend Penni Shelton. Penni is the incredible woman behind Real Food Rehab (originally Raw Food Rehab). We met in Oklahoma City while both working at The Raw Food Academy, and we’ve been friends and colleagues ever since.

On today’s show you’ll hear how she started out by helped 66 people with a raw food cleanse via a book deal, how that initiative became her community site Raw Food Rehab, and how she became the focus of intense Internet bullying and shaming that caused her to go into seclusion and the healing journey that resulted.

Penni is an amazing woman who has been integral to my raw food journey, I couldn’t wait to have her here as a guest and share her wisdom with you. Sit back, relax and enjoy this second edition of The Raw Chef.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • How did her first blog, Real Food Tulsa, get its start?
  • How a surprise book proposal led to a 20,000 member web site!
  • What synchronicity led Penni to spend a day with Carol Alt in New York City?
  • Why did she change her community’s name to Real Food Rehab?
  • What happens physiologically when you eat food and feel guilty about that food?
  • And so much more!

More About This Show

I brought Penni on the show because she’s had a fascinating journey with eating, and healing through raw foods. She explains how it all began when she came across the book Fit For Life in in her early 20s. That book planted a seed that would later blossom!

But it wasn’t until 2005 that it all came together. She was in a bookstore with her daughter and was picking up a book that had fallen onto the floor: Carol Alt’s first book, Eating In The Raw. Penni took it home and read it in two days. She was struck by the simplicity of eating food in its natural state; it seemed like a no-brainer to her so overnight she gave herself a crash course in eating raw!

Quickly she became a convert and gave up eating all cooked foods, even though she knew her friends thought she was crazy. It wasn’t easy to find people on her same path because she lived (and still lives) in Oklahoma, the land of meat and potatoes.

But she knew she was on to something because within a few days of her raw food switch, all of her symptoms had disappeared after decades of suffering. On this episode, she recalls her earliest memory of IBS was at 8 years of age. So for her symptoms to be gone within days was a miracle for Penni, she couldn’t stop talking about it and sharing with her friends.

But her friends got tired of hearing about her new passion, so she started a blog in 2006 called Real Food Tulsa.

That blog really got things rolling for her in new and unexpected ways. She became friends with Dhrumil Purohit of Give It To Me Raw, and his blog called We Like It Raw. First they became online friends, but soon met in real life when she had chance to fly to New York and spend time with him and his friends.

One day he called her out of the blue and asked if she wanted to write a book on raw food. He explained that some of his friends from a publishing house in Berkeley asked him if he’d be interested in writing a book on raw food. He told them he wasn’t, but he thought Penni might be.

Even though it wasn’t on her radar, she said sure and submitted a book proposal. Within a few months she received a packet accepting her book proposal and a check attached to help her get started. Penni was excited and made a YouTube video asking people to volunteer to eat raw only for 11 weeks.

Before she knew it she had over 300 people sign up! They all did the 11 week journey together in an online forum that she kept private. By the end of the journey, 66 were left. Each of those people had some type of transformation: some lost weight, others didn’t need blood pressure medications any longer, others had their sex life come back!

All of them were super fired up, and wanted to keep going. So she decided to open up the private forum to the public and invite others to join them. In 2009 she named the community Raw Food Rehab, and what started with 66 people has grown to around 20,000 today!

Tweetable: “Everyone has to find their own path.”Penni Shelton

For three years Penni did everything for that community: daily videos, responded to comments, emails, etc. The demands grew so big it took over her life and her body suffered as a result. She found many of the raw food benefits were being replaced by stress-related issues. About the same time her father, who she was extremely close to, was diagnosed with leukemia.

That diagnosis stopped her in her tracks. She got back on YouTube and told her community she needed to watch over and care for him for awhile, that was her new mission. She was with him for the next 18 months, including the last four months of his life when he lived with her and she was his caretaker 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In his last few months he didn’t want green smoothies, raw foods, etc. He wanted comfort food and his doctors said to feed him whatever he wanted so Penni did. She went from being nearly 100% raw to channeling her inner Paula Dean! It shifted her perspective, it was a labor of love and she has no regrets.

After he passed away, Penni went on her own healing journey. She had gained weight, her blood pressure increased, and other symptoms had shown up from the stress of being a full-time caregiver. In an effort to be transparent, she came out of the closet and about what had happened: she had added a bit of animal product back into her diet in order to rebalance her health. She shared this on a post on her Facebook page that was followed by 40,000 plus people.

That first week of her share was fine, a lot of people had compassion even if they were vegan. They appreciated that she was being honest with them. But then a hardcore raw vegan group picked up the story and took it back to their community. They began an Internet spectacle of severe bullying and shaming. In fact, she got two death threats from this group.

When the second one came in she pulled the plug on the entire Facebook page losing 40,000+ followers; she went into seclusion. She took a time out to ponder who she was at her core, and if she was really meant to be a leader in the health food movement.

That pause took two years, but it led to her own metamorphosis of healing that went beyond diet to her spiritual and emotional well-being. She discovered who she is at her core, she came into her own and realized it is not the opinions of others that defines her but her opinion of herself that matters most.

As a result she is primarily plant-based today, but isn’t rigid about. She says if someone invites her to their home for dinner and they prepared something for her with ingredients she doesn’t normally eat she will eat it because she knows it has been lovingly prepared for her. Penni has found a gentler way to love herself and others, and a more peaceful approach to life. Listen in to hear more on that during episode 2 of The Raw Chef with Penni Shelton!

Tweetable: “I think we are always growing and evolving.” Penni Shelton