Bif Naked’s Search for Food and Fulfillment

While her breast cancer had lasting effects on her lifestyle, Bif Naked's recent health problems have made her more focused than ever on healthy living, as showcased in a CBC documentary on inspirational Vancouverites

Bif Naked is dedicated to a simple, healthy lifestyle

Despite her early life and on-going health challenges, Bif Naked is dedicated to a simple, healthy lifestyle

Vancouverite and multi-platinum record selling musician Bif Naked is a spirited and spiritually-minded vegan who has beaten more than one life-threatening illness through her dedication to a healthy lifestyle

Although Bif Naked has a successful singing career – her single “Spaceman” is considered the highest-spun independent song in Canadian history; she’s toured with top names from Chrissie Hynde to Nickelback; she’s completed a new album Bif Naked Forever: Acoustic Hits and Other Delights; and has a CBC documentary special called Bif Naked: More Than Skin Deep airing on July 13 – she is becoming just as well-known as a health advocate.

“Twenty-five years ago, I realized that in order to give my career 100 per cent, I would have to give up drinking, drugs, smoking, meat, dairy and cooked food,” Naked said. “At first, being vegan was more about not wanting to eat animals. As I matured and gained experience, I learned how my own participation in those real, deliberate decisions affected the environment, meaning the immediate external environment, my own internal environment, and the planet’s environment.”

Living the Simple Life

When Naked is not on tour, she chooses to live a conscious, simple lifestyle in both Paris (where she spends half the year) and in Vancouver. A raw food vegan, she makes everything from scratch. She says, “I really like the philosophy that says, ‘As is the food, so is the body. As is the body, so is the mind.'”

She loves to cook vegetarian dinners for friends, but for herself, prepares meals that might include “spaghetti” from zucchini spirals and Thai sauce from creamed cashews. This is served on the only substantial piece of furniture in her Vancouver condo, a dining table that seats 16.

She recently added a bed to the home, but before that, slept on a mat. She meditates and does Ashtanga yoga daily. “I believe in moving my body every day. I work out by myself, and use it to do my own mental housekeeping.”

Naked composts, shops farmers’ markets, considers reusing before recycling (such as storing all food in glass containers used over and over), doesn’t own a TV, is a conscientious electricity conserver, and uses walking as a form of transportation.

She admits, “I have been accused of being an environmental elitist, but I disagree, and feel that this is simply the way people should be living.”

Naked’s Health Challenges

Naked’s yearning for simplicity is perhaps because she has experienced a complicated life. She was born in New Delhi, India, by two teens; was found and adopted by American missionaries who travelled a lot; and had a turbulent early adulthood.

Then, in her 30s, two weeks after being married, she was diagnosed with breast cancer; and not long after, the marriage ended. Now, in her early 40s, she has just undergone both heart and kidney surgery. But she continues to land on two feet, with strength and spiritual chutzpah.

Her health has created challenges. She admits, “My cancer diagnosis wasn’t as much of a crisis as the kidney failure, presumed to be caused by a blood clot, and the heart surgery, due to a hole in my heart, which occurred last year. Doctors felt that the two were related so repaired both. Science is amazing. It was a very interesting experience to be able to remain awake throughout heart surgery, and be able to live to talk about it, especially to patients. Did you know that they operate through your leg, not your heart?”

Breast Cancer’s Effects

Bif Naked’s commitment to clean eating proved difficult while she was on tour (Image: Flickr/Miss 604)

Naked’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2008 was much more widely publicized, and had lasting effects on her lifestyle and goals. “I believe that I got cancer because of a predisposition – I was diagnosed at 36 – but I didn’t have much body fat at the time, often starving when touring because I wouldn’t eat what was being offered in other countries: in Bratislava, for example, there was only boiled beef, dumplings and beer.”

She remembers, “A major part of my life then seemed to be my struggle to find food.” Even if there were vegetarian restaurants in the cities she went to, between media interviews, sound checks and daily 90-minute performances, she wouldn’t have time to find them. Now, she says she can’t go more than a few hours without eating a balanced meal.

The Struggle to Find Healthy Food

It was difficult to hunt down organic produce, too, which she was used to buying in Vancouver, yet she found that if she didn’t start introducing conventionally grown (rather than organic) into her diet a week before she went on tour, she would become ill. “I believe there is something to be said about eating too clean.”

There were positive aspects to her cancer experience: it launched a creative spurt with her recording an album and touring during the most difficult periods of chemotherapy treatment; and she also discovered volunteer work, which she became passionate about. Naked continues to volunteer within patient advocacy at the BC Cancer Agency, and is on the Women’s Advisory Committee for the City of Vancouver, which discusses how policies – on food, transportation, safety issues – affect women.

Despite her feisty image, Naked is actually quite soft spoken, introspective, and very interested in personal growth. “I am quite religious compared to many people. I’ve read books on Buddhism, Daoism, Judaism, Krishna, the Koran, and by cross-referencing, I feel that all paths lead to the same God. And the universal higher power won’t mind if you borrow a little from each.”

Naked continues to remain positive. “I feel grateful about where I am in life right now. I have different coping skills than I did when younger; after 40, you become better equipped mentally and emotionally. I am entering the best years because now I can live my life, and leave behind the preconceived notions and projections. It’s about self-acceptance and peace.”