Published Sunday, May 21, 2000, in the Miami Herald
No cooked foods, no meat, and an 18-inch-waist at 58
BY BEA L. HINES
Wearing high-heeled red boots and skin-tight red pants and shirt, Annette Larkins strolls into the room, totally aware that she is stopping traffic. At 58, Larkins has a stunning figure (waist: 18 inches) and flawless complexion, and seems to glow with health.
She attributes her healthy good looks to the way she eats, and has written and published an inspirational booklet that shares her story and philosophy.
Called Journey to Health, it tells how her life changed when she stopped eating meat 38 years ago. And how it changed even more 15 years ago when she stopped eating cooked food. Her diet now consists of raw fruits and vegetables (including juices), nuts, grains and sprouts.
``This isn't a lifestyle that I encourage people to jump into,'' says Larkins, who lives in South Miami-Dade's Richmond Heights. ``It is something that most people have to gradually get into. Not everyone can quit eating meat the way I did. But they can start by adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet and eliminating red meat.''
Born in Asheville, N.C., Larkins was reared in Detroit and moved with her family to Miami in her early teens. She was 16 and a student at Carver High School when she married Amos Larkins. Two years later, their first son, Amos II, was born; their second, Anthony, followed 10 months later.
``They were so close together, it was like having twins,'' she says.
When the boys were 10 and 11, Larkins became a professional jazz singer, and was featured at a Miami Beach nightclub for a time. She gave up show business for education, graduating with honors from Miami-Dade Community College and teaching Spanish. Her resume also lists insurance agent and computer whiz (she has built six personal computers). And when a grandson was having trouble learning to read, she wrote and self-published a textbook, using him as the star character.
What makes this grandmother of six run?
``I have always been passionate about motivating individuals to make changes that will enrich their lives.''
Larkins certainly knows about change; when she became a vegetarian, her husband was a butcher.
``Every morning I'd cook a big breakfast, complete with grits, eggs, toast and two meats, usually bacon and ham or sausage,'' she says.
But one day in 1962, after just such as breakfast, she went to the freezer to take out pork chops for the evening meal, ``and just the sight of those chops made me sick,'' she says. ``That breakfast was the last meal I had that included meat. My whole life changed between morning and mid-day.''
A family history of diet-related illness -- her grandmother died at 36 and her mother at 47, both of cancer, and an aunt died of diabetes -- may have motivated her.
``Having knowledge of this history, I probably subconsciously wanted to do something about it.''
Although she continued cooking meat for her husband and sons, she never ate another piece. ``I didn't want to push my lifestyle on my family,'' she says.
Amos Larkins breaks into smiles when he talks about his wife.
``I wish I'd joined her eating routine back when she started,'' he says. ``Just look at her. . . . We can't go anywhere that people don't follow her around and ask her questions. They think she is a celebrity. And she is so kind, she will take however long it takes to talk to anyone. There is no such thing as a short trip to the grocery store for her.''
Larkins cautions: ``Don't try to be me. You go where you can. . . . Old habits are hard to break. But determine your goal and learn the necessary steps to achieve it. . . . The main thing is to stay focused.''