BIF NAKED: Her History, Home Life and Health Challenges

Canadian rock musician Bif Naked discusses being a vegan, home life, and life after cancer, and two other major operations

 

Born in New Delhi, India by two teens, adopted by American missionaries, then moved to Minneapolis, Kentucky, and Winnipeg, Bif Naked may have had a turbulent beginning, but she has landed on two feet. In 1995, after a rebellious youth and a successful career launch, she gave up the road that leads nowhere – smoking, drinking, drugs and bad food – and began her quest for a supremely healthy lifestyle. Today the Vancouver-BC based multi-platinum record selling musician Bif Naked isn’t afraid to stretch limits. She feels equally at home as a poet, actress, cartoonist and motivational speaker is she does as a rock singer. She has also lived through breast cancer, and more recently, kidney surgery and heart surgery.

 CAROL: How long have you been interested in healthy eating?

BIF NAKED: I have been a vegetarian for about 15 years and was a strict raw food vegan for three, but now eat some cooked food, too.

 CAROL: How do you manage that when touring?

BIF NAKED: A major part of my life while touring seems to be my struggle to find food. (She sings) “There ain’t no shade in Texas and there ain’t no tofu.” Even if there are vegetarian restaurants in the cities I go to, between radio interviews, sound checks and shows, I won’t find them. Access to organic produce where I live in Vancouver is phenomenal, but hunting down that one organic grocer in Ottawa or Philadelphia means hoping I can get there from the venue, hoping the taxi driver knows where it’s located, and hoping I have time to get there and back. Yet I find that if I don’t start introducing conventionally grown food (rather than organic) into my diet a week before I go on tour I’ll get sick. I believe there is something to be said about eating too clean. 

CAROL: So when do you buy groceries to whip up a salad?

 BIF NAKED: I didn’t used to. I would eat a bell pepper like it’s an apple and a cucumber like it’s a hot dog. There just was not time. Protein was always a problem since I rarely get a refrigerator in hotel rooms and most needs to be refrigerated. The concert promoter provided celery and carrot sticks for me and pizza, beer and chips for my band, so I did the best I could but often went without. I now try to eat more balanced.

CAROL: Didn’t you need that fuel for a performance?

BIF NAKED: I always have energy but a few years ago I became too thin. My schedule had taken us on back to back tours of Europe, Canada and the US, doing 90 minute rock concerts every day, which is like a tough cardio workout. I was grateful for the generosity of a promoter in Eastern Europe who provided us with a meal of boiled meat, dumplings and beer but since I don’t eat wheat or meat and don’t drink, I would fast. I don’t want anyone to have to do anything extra for me because I’m responsible for myself. I started getting protein from good hemp powders including Living Harvest, Mum’s and Vega. I gained the weight back using these and eating dates and figs. I truly feel that all of our ills can be cured by good nutrition, and I believe in the body’s abilities to heal from within.

CAROL: Why did you start this?

BIF NAKED: I realized I couldn’t continue to do the best I could 100 percent of the time if I didn’t change. I first quit drinking, drugs and smoking, then I quit meat, then dairy, and it kept evolving. I educated myself. Ghandi’s health guide was an integral book for me, and Brendan Brazier’s Thrive book.

CAROL: Any vices?

BIF NAKED: I love café Americanos and bubble gum.

CAROL: You obviously work out a lot.

 BIF NAKED: I resistance (weight) train and do Ashtanga yoga, and believe in moving my body every day. I work out by myself since it’s very meditative and use it to do my own mental housing-keeping.

CAROL: You had surgery due to kidney failure and heart surgery within the past year.

BIF NAKED: My cancer diagnosis wasn’t as much of a health crisis as these two incidences. I had a blood clot in my kidney, and I had a hole in my heart that the doctors felt was related to the kidney problem so they repaired both. I was horrified, but am grateful to advancements in surgery. What a wonderful, interesting experience to be able to go through that heart procedure, which you are awake throughout, and be able to live to talk about it, especially to other patients.

CAROL: You have a spiritual side, which must add to your healthy outlook.

BIF NAKED: I am very religious compared to many people. I’ve read books on Buddhism, Daoism, Judaism, the Koran, and by cross-referencing, feel that all paths lead to the same God — Krishna is Christ, and even atheists can be Buddhists. And the universal higher power wouldn’t mind if you borrowed from each. Those who aren’t accepting of others’ faiths are often the ones who are also not nutritionally, physically and emotionally healthy. I really like the philosophy that says, “As is the food, so is the body. As is the body, so is the mind.”

CAROL: You were born in New Delhi, India by two teens, and found and adopted by American missionaries who brought you to the US. What are your memories of that?

BIF NAKED: After finding my older sister in an orphanage, my adoptive parents heard of my birth and planned to adopt me if no one else wanted me. I am grateful to them and have many good memories. But they were away a lot because they travelled to help those in third world countries.

CAROL: Your single “Spaceman” was number one on national charts in 1999, and number two on Billboard’s international charts, making it the highest-spun independent song in Canadian history. Were you a punk rocker before that?

BIF NAKED: I don’t know if I ever became a punk rocker; we just happened to listen to punk and thrash bands like D.O.A., ride skateboards, and dress funny. After being in a couple of punk bands, my manager introduced me to an indie record label producer.  

CAROL: You had kidney failure and heart surgery within the past year. 

BIF NAKED: My cancer diagnosis wasn’t as much of a health crisis as these two incidences. I had a blood clot in my kidney, and I had a hole in my heart that the doctors felt was related to the kidney problem so they repaired both. I was horrified, but am grateful to advancements in surgery. What a wonderful, interesting experience to be able to go through that heart procedure, which you are awake throughout, and be able to live to talk about it, especially to other patients.

CAROL: In 2008 you were diagnosed with breast cancer and insisted on recording your album The Promise throughout treatments. You said your bald head couldn’t hold the studio headphones on, but you persevered?

BIF NAKED: I tried to outrun cancer and the feelings surrounding it. So I would put on makeup and a wig, and leave my house every day to make records.

CAROL: You have become a cancer care advocate, volunteering for medical studies and speaking at conferences and universities about your cancer story.

BIF NAKED: I love all of the patients and their families that I’m privileged to meet. I believe in the power that people have through combined compassion and effort.

CAROL: You were married for a short time.

BIF NAKED: We’d known each less than a year, and had to get to know each other through the context of our coping skills since I was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after we were married. But when it comes to matters of the heart, I would jump in quickly again tomorrow. I believe that love is the answer… every time. 

CAROL: But it was tough, and your music shows it. 

BIF NAKED: Every time I do a record, I swear I’ll never do another one because the songs are so laden with heartache, and I think that there is not one more way that I can adequately describe this feeling.

CAROL: You meditate and do yoga daily. How do you feel about religion? “I was told I couldn’t embrace what I liked from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hare Krishna and Christianity. Why not? After cross-referencing, I believe that all paths lead to God, and the universal higher power wouldn’t mind if you borrowed from each.

CAROL: At 42, how do you feel about aging?

BIF NAKED: I look to emulate women I can identify with like Betsey Johnson and Chrissie Hynde who are aging gracefully and beautifully without needing to hide it. I hadn’t considered being single in my 40’s, but feel I’m entering the best years because now I can live my life, and leave behind the preconceived notions, self-identification and projections. It’s about self-acceptance and peace.

 CAROL: Your living situation is interesting.

BIF NAKED: I bought my condo in 2006 in Yaletown. I have always been a bit of a hippy, and also had a dog which had six spinal surgeries, so own very little furniture that is more than a few inches high (so the dog couldn’t jump on it). I used to sleep on a tatami mat (but have since bought a bed) and had pillows to sit on; the décor is primarily Moroccan and Rajasthani in chili reds, turmeric and paprika with East Indian furniture and accessories like Indian carpets and Persian tapestries. The living area looks like a shrine with many deities and statues within a sanctuary that has healing energy.

I don’t have a TV and didn’t even own a computer until I got a hand-be-down three years ago. I listen to music; in the mornings it’s Indian and in the afternoon I’m a big fan of CBC Radio.  The living and dining area features the home’s only large piece of furniture: a 16-person wood dining table from Chintz and Co. with two long teak dining benches and two large end chairs upholstered in velvet.

CAROL: You like to cook?

BIF NAKED: Although I am mostly a raw food vegan, I love cooking for others.

CAROL: What is your favourite room?

 BIF NAKED: The kitchen is my favourite space. I spend the most time there, preparing food from scratch or washing dishes. I have always cooked for others, even for my dogs that are vegetarian. I sometimes cook others my mother’s Indian butter chicken recipe, but being vegan works for my body and spirit, and when friends come for dinner, they know they will be eating mostly vegetarian recipes. I like the kitchen so much that I bring my laptop there to write a book I am completing about my experiences in childhood, touring as a musician, and my cancer process, and to keep up with my website’s Twitter and Facebook.

 CAROL: What can’t you live without in your home? 

BIF NAKED: I’m a voracious reader and own over 2,000 books, from vintage dental surgery and Merck veterinary manuals to obscure theology books (my favourite subject) and the colloquial Turkish language. 

In my efforts to evolve into a being that is nonattached to material objects, I find that I’m really attached to my books. I also love my Spiralizer. I use it all of the time. It is like a pasta maker that peels all vegetables into noodles. It’s from Organic Lives, a raw food restaurant and cooking school in Vancouver. I do zucchini spaghetti and add tomato basil or Thai cashew sauce, and use it to decorate salads with cucumber, beet and sweet potato curls. 

 

 

By Carol Crenna, featured in VISTA Magazine, September 2005 AND half featured in Canada Wide Media’s BC Home Magazine, March 20011.

 

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