On a particularly warm autumn afternoon, 23-year-old Emily Keaty sits in the sidewalk seating area of a Los Feliz restaurant, lunching on a bowl of organic lemon-barley soup while presenting an engaging, meandering dialogue on the medicinal powers of food and the collective consciousness of Los Angeles, the city where she’s lived most of her life and which she still finds inspiring despite a certain brand of conservatism.

“I don’t think people realize how conservative it is,” the doll-eyed brunette says, in a voice that frequently dips into a slight whisper.

“Like in Paris, on the train, it’s really sexy, lots of eye contact .?.?. the train moving and bopping along .?.?. sexual energy crawling over everybody. We don’t have that same interaction here. L.A. is one of the most unsexual places,” she says, pushing her thick, straight mane behind her shoulders. “There is a void of sexuality. Even walking up my street, I try to say ‘Good morning’ and no one will even look me in the eye. Eye contact is what, I believe, brings on that connection, that sexuality.”

The slim Californian spent most of her childhood shuttling back and forth between two family homes: one in Hancock Park and the other in New Orleans. She briefly studied at London’s British American Drama Academy after dropping out of pre-med, and is currently enrolled in a nutritional studies course, which finds her commuting monthly to New York. Yet no matter where she travels, she’s always thrilled at the thought of returning home.

“I definitely always miss L.A.,” she explains. “Every time I touch down on the runway I get excited, in my heart. The neighborhoods that look so dingy, and the freeways are, all of a sudden, really romantic. I just got back from Japan where they have a gadget for everything, and looking out of the cab on our way home, L.A. looked disgusting compared to where we had been. But the next day I was totally psyched.”

It’s precisely what Keaty calls “taco-truck romanticism” that keeps her firmly rooted in the city, no matter how unsexy it may be.

“I was reading about the history of L.A. and this is kind of a wild place,” she continues, sipping from a glass of filtered water. “When the movie industry first started out here it was lawless. And even though the law is very apparent now — the police are everywhere — there is a certain vitality here that is freeing. There is a certain openness of mind, like anything is possible.”

Certainly Keaty knows about “openness of mind.” She has experimented with all sorts of dietary philosophies and, like many one might meet at a health food store, she’s read most of the popular books that focus on the topic of nutrition. She sees a Chinese herbalist, has done week-long wheatgrass colonic retreats, and regularly ingests tonics from Erewhon’s popular elixir bar. Currently, she eats a modified version of the Body Ecology Diet — the diet du jour, which promises to rid the body of yeast and disease through proper food combining, fermented foods and the absence of sugars and dairy.

None of these practices compare, however, to the far-out five months she spent following a radical and obscure raw-food diet called GeneFit Nutrition. Conceived of by a married couple, who currently live on a boat in Honduras, GeneFit encourages its followers to develop their sense of smell and eat only what smells good to them. Essentially, Keaty says, it’s “eating like a monkey.”

After an initial adjustment period, practitioners bypass the intellect entirely and begin eating things that would seem illogical to most. But, it is then that they begin to tap into the body’s instinctive knowledge of what it needs to regenerate and detoxify.

While on GeneFit, Keaty says she felt so alive she could feel her cells vibrating, and the only adjective she could find to describe the sensation is “invisible.” This was a time that she binged on foods ranging from giant spider crabs to tangelos. She once even ate a raw antelope heart.

“I have never done drugs,” she confesses sincerely. “But I certainly know what it feels like to have my body chemistry change so much that my thoughts are actually different than they were before. That is true euphoria. Where you put something in your body and become hyper-aware. I ate this antelope heart and there was this rapid exchange of this new pure protein. I felt the exchange happen, my body tossed out the old protein and immediately assimilated the new. All of my cells were really excited and vibrating. My entire entity was in full communication with this food I was eating. I didn’t need to eat exotic foods to have that exotic experience. It was about the right foods at the right time. I literally felt doors open in my third eye from eating this carrot.”

Keaty is no longer on the GeneFit program. She says the diet worked when she was eating with the couple who created the regimen, but she eventually found herself isolated from her other friends and loved ones. Now she continues to study nutrition and believes people should eat what they feel works best for them. She cites, as an example, one summer in the 1970s when her mother wore nothing but a bathing suit and ate only sherbet and Diet 7-Up. She says her mother claims to have never felt better.

“It’s about being high, right?” Keaty says with a smile. “We all want to be on a higher level and whatever gets you there is totally fine. However you feel right, within reason.”?

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