Last week, I met Sabha Comerford, aka The Raw Mum, who describes herself on Instagram as a “Raw Food Coach, Historian, Mother of 5, Educator and Champagne Socialist”. To some, this may seem like a lot, but within moments of meeting her, it was clear these titles were a mere drop in an ocean brimming with knowledge, experience and enthusiasm.
Sabha arrived at the Knapton Wright office bursting with energy, eager to explore and meet everyone before starting our interview. One question I planned on asking her was how accurately she believed her increasingly popular Instagram account reflected her personality in real life, but this became immediately redundant within moments of her arrival.
Sat, leaning enthusiastically forward telling me about her thoughts on Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jordan Peterson while eyeing an easy peeler perched atop the fruit bowl between us; there was no mistaking that this was the motivational and inspiring raw food lover The Raw Mum’s online followers love her to be.
What was initially planned as a discussion about the Raw Lifestyle, in which you diet mostly, or in some cases wholly, on 100% organic, uncooked foods, turned out to be a fascinating expression of philosophy, martial arts, psychology, motherhood, womanhood, and life.
The Raw Mum is simply not someone who can be summarised in a character limited social media bio or even a #KnapChat Q&A – I have no doubt she would have been delighted to converse for hours if not for her dedication to seeing her son perform at the local church.
For now, enjoy the wonderful musings and insights of Sabha Comerford, “Raw Food Coach, Historian, Mother of 5, Educator”… and much more.
KW: Hey Sabha, talk us through becoming The Raw Mum…
Sabha: I was potentially going to be The Raw Me or The Raw Sabha, but I put the ‘Mum’ part into it because it wasn’t just about raw food. It was about trying to build raw food into the busy lifestyle of somebody who has children, and how much the raw lifestyle helped me through motherhood.
Some of my journalist and author friends advised me to omit the Mum part as they feared it may be ‘limiting’, but I kept it in as I believe there is space to be whatever type of mum blogger you want to be.
KW: What has been your journey with the raw lifestyle?
Sabha: I’ve travelled a very academic route: completing my first degree in economics and then studying another in History at Cambridge. I then went to Italy and learned Italian before studying French on an internship in Brussels. I was always studying, but had a long-standing interest in healthy food, yoga, Pilates and that sort of thing.
I’d read bits and pieces about raw food and then I met this Raw Food Coach, went to a few of his clinics and was like: ‘Oh my god, I need to know more about this!’
If you think about it in evolutionary and biological terms, it makes perfect sense for the majority of our diet to be completely raw. If you’re having as much organic food as possible while avoiding GMO, it’s going to be better for your body.
I got really into it and completed my Raw Food Certification, which qualifies you to prepare raw food and teach people about it. I then went a year-and-a-half 100% raw – it was amazing.
KW: So, why did you stop being 100% raw?
Sabha: To go 100% raw, you need to be earning a lot of money and have no responsibilities other than work. In real people’s lives, that’s not going to happen. That’s why, with The Raw Mum thing, it was about saying: ‘However much raw food you put into your diet is going to be good for you. If you can go completely raw, wonderful, but don’t get into this fascist approach to food.’
I can’t stand people counting calories and that sort of thing; it removes the pleasure from food. I don’t think people stick to things like that as it’s an ideology being foisted on you, rather than it making sense, feeling good and making it work.
KW: What are the main benefits of going 100% raw?
Sabha: I’m usually a complete night-owl – I stay up late and can survive on 4 hours sleep if I have to – but when I was 100% raw, I was waking up at 5am without an alarm and full of energy. I was like: ‘I either need to go on a run or do something before I go to work’, because I was literally buzzing with energy.
The year I went raw was a blur because I was so busy learning all of these cool new skills. I was doing teacher training at an all-boys school in London, which was great, but really stressful. Because I was 100% raw, I was working late, running the drama and comedy club and getting home very late, but still waking up at 5am raring to go!
KW: What sort of things were you eating?
Sabha: The best thing I would have would be raw, soaked porridge oats with coconut or soy milk.
I also have the raw smoothies: a 2-litre jug with 500g of kale, water, fruit, lettuce and cucumber. These are amazing. When else are you ever going to get that hit of nutrients? Imagine sitting down and trying to eat 500g of raw kale!
KW: So how did The Raw Mum Instagram journey start?
Sabha: I joined Instagram in September 2017 and it has been an interesting space for me as it marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Before then, I hadn’t really explored much mum stuff.
Being a good mum was always really important for me: I’d given up career aspirations to be at home with my five children. Creating my Instagram account coincided with my youngest starting nursery. At that point, I suddenly had all of my children in school and therefore more time.
Upon joining, I connected with people I knew in the real world: friends in the raw/vegan health space, as well as those I’d met at various baby groups. Instagram was a good place for all of us to connect and share things.
KW: Why is it important for mothers to share their journeys online?
Sabha: Social media can be used really positively in motherhood, especially with the way the nuclear family has developed. Fifty or sixty years ago, you had the extended family as a definite, as well as more of a community focus on raising children. Now, you may not even know your neighbours.
People are a lot more atomised in parenthood these days. I’m originally a Londoner but I moved to Lincolnshire before I had my children. When you live in quiet, rural places, it can be quite isolating, especially if you’re used to a city.
It’s nice to be a source of daily inspiration for the people who follow you, in the same way that I’m inspired by those I follow. Wherever you are, you can connect with other mums.
KW: Who are some of the best people you follow?
Sabha: It’s been fantastic to see The Happy Pear’s journey unfold on Instagram. I’ve been good friends with them for about 14 years and they have just started their own vegan cafe.
What they’re doing is so inspiring as their message is not just about the health stuff, it’s about community.
They’ve built up this really great group in Greystones, Ireland, where they all wake up and swim in the sea at sunrise. They go every single day of the year, even when it’s pouring down with rain. You should follow them, they’re full of positivity!
Someone else I love on Instagram is Body Posi Panda. She is so awesome and positive and one of those people who you just know are making the world better.
KW: Speaking of recommendations, we hear you’re a big fan of podcasts. Which is your favourite at the moment?
Sabha: I love Under The Skin by Russell Brand; that man is verging on being a genius. I like how honest and comfortable he is with his background and where he’s come from.
Russell Brand is a big star who clearly has a larger-than-life personality, as most entertainers do, but he’s humble and knows when he’s in the presence of someone who knows more about a certain subject.
KW: Instagram, among other social media networks, has been criticised in the past for being damaging towards mental health. What can we, as a society, be doing better to create the communities that you yourself have created?
Sabha: I love that question! I get most inspired and excited when I find a new person to follow who’s just nice towards people and is encouraging positivity. I simply try to connect with other people like me.
You have the social media prism, where you think you know someone through social media and then you meet them and realise their profile is only 1% of who they actually are. It’s scarily easy to do.
However, you do meet people whose personas you’ve seen online and you realise, “oh you are that crazy!” I don’t think people are surprised when they meet me.
KW: Do you make a conscious effort to ensure your content is an accurate reflection of your true self?
Sabha: None of it is conscious – not even this interview! Instagram was a great place to explore what interested me, again with no pressure. I never thought about these questions; I just started documenting things I found interesting.
KW: So what were the initial aims of The Raw Mum, and where do you see it going?
Sabha: The aim in the beginning was to share and therein make sense of what motherhood was to me and how it was starting to change. I’d done a fairly dramatic form of motherhood as I’d gone to university and worked in my twenties and then made this radical decision to just stay at home with my children.
The Raw Mum was about me saying: ‘Right, I’ve done all those years having children, breastfeeding, toddlers and training (which I wanted to do), and now I had this free time to explore what womanhood and my career meant to me, without impinging on the kids.
KW: What does motherhood mean to you?
Sabha: Motherhood means many things, and it’s evolving. It is the most important job I’ve done and will ever do and I believe that, if you’re open to change and don’t get stuck in any one phase, you can be really good at it especially if you’re open to learning from your children, I love the concept of ‘Raising our children as equal to Raising Ourselves’.
KW: When building your wonderful community of followers, do you do any checks to ensure each of them fit the right mould?
Sabha: What I like about Instagram is that it’s much more superficial than the likes of Twitter. Because it’s so visual, you can connect a lot quicker: you can see a photo and get someone’s vibe straight away, as opposed to having to scroll through a history of tweets.
I set my profile to private, which instantly makes you a bit safer online, and when someone does request to follow me, I do a bit of due diligence to make sure they’re legitimate: checking their followers and who they’re following and that sort of thing, simply because Ive had some worrying online incidents.
What tends to happen is you find a few people you want to connect with through a shared interest and once you get little enclaves of people, you suggest people to them and them to you.
KW: Do you find it important to take a step back from social media every now and again?
Sabha: A part of me has actually taken a little step back from social media recently, but I’ve come back and it’s exactly the same. I posted for the first time in three weeks yesterday and everyone has been so supportive. The wheel just turns. Social media is just… there.
It’s definitely good to take a step back, I’ve been celebrating my birthday for the last few weeks and it’s been so nice to be in the real world without the continual voice of “Oh this would make a great shot” or the need to document it. Social media is a lovely mode of expression but it doesn’t beat being in the real world.
Many things that Sabha said really stood out for me as I listened avidly to her stories, theories and ideas, but I think the moment that strikes the biggest chord is when she says “None of it is conscious”.
When gliding through her ever popular Instagram feed, those five words say more about her as a person than her bio ever could. You may have noticed that I still asked her whether she believed her social media was an accurate reflection of her personality (despite saying I wouldn’t in the introduction to this blog). I already knew the answer before she could respond, but the fact that she confirmed she rarely stops to consciously consider her content shows just how naturally compelling and inspirational Sabha really is.
“Social media is a lovely mode of expression but it doesn’t beat being in the real world,” she says, and you know what? I couldn’t agree more.