We all love food. Eating has been most people’s go-to comfort on every episode in their life, like celebrations or when they’re stressed, feeling down, or even when there’s just nothing to do. The pleasure it brings can be too deceiving as the unhealthy side of it creeps up to us, taking toll of our health. Skinny Chef Jennifer Iserloh has fallen on this pit, having been raised in a family who practices such guilty pleasures. Amazingly, eating is also what changed her life. Learn how she was able to miraculously turn her health around by forging a better love relationship with her food practice, causing not just her body to heal but her mind and soul as well.
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Food, Body, And Soul Alchemy with Celebrity Chef Jennifer Iserloh
We have a very special guest, Celebrity Chef Jennifer Iserloh. She is a professionally trained chef, author, emotional healer and leader of promoting healthy, vibrant lifestyles through healthy, delicious eating paired with spiritual practices. She is a classically trained chef, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, working in the homes of exclusive clientele such as Annie Leibovitz, Susan Sontag and Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld. She’s a wealth of knowledge on integrative medicine. She’s changed her life through eating. It’s impressive. You’ve written so many books on all the diets. It’s such an honor to have you on the show.
I’m so thrilled to be here, Dr. Pecca. Thank you so much for having me.
Jennifer, where are you from originally?
I’m from Pittsburgh.
What was life like growing up in Pittsburgh?
It was good. We were into food but unfortunately, my family was very unhealthy. Most of my family members have passed away from obesity-related diseases. I grew up in a family where we were super passionate about food. We love to cook. I started cooking at the age of eight. We ate too much. We ate all the wrong things. Growing up in this household, I realized that something was off, especially when I got to college. I had a fierce sugar addiction. I struggled with emotional eating big time. It pretty much ruled my life. That’s why had a lot of gut issues too. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, which is not a diagnosis. It’s like dermatitis, like there’s something wrong with your skin. There’s something wrong with your stomach, we don’t know what it is. It was like a searing pain. I was sick. I had to know where the toilet was at all times. I was in my twenties so it stunk because I was dating. I remember I was dating my husband at the time. My husband is my college sweetheart and he wanted to go to a Penguins game. I was like, “If I go to this game and something happens with my stomach, what if there are no bathrooms?” I struggled with food issues even though I had this deep passion for it. It’s like a love-hate relationship with food.
When did you realize that it started to become a serious problem and you need to do something about this to get healthy and get better?
It was in my twenties. We moved to New York. My husband worked at Sloan Kettering Cancer Research. He had a PhD in chemistry at the time. I was working in business. This was way before I became a chef. I was scared to move to New York because I’m a small-town girl. I was like, “New York, the pressure.” We moved to Manhattan. I was here maybe three months and I fell in love. There was so much to do. I enrolled in my first yoga class. I was like, “What’s this yoga stuff all about?” I had this fabulous teacher. She started to teach us right away about the mind-body connection. That’s where I got the inkling that I was like, “Something’s weird,” because every time I’d feel stressed, my stomach was tense and I would eat when I wasn’t hungry. I was like, “This is weird. What would happen if I relax my body? What would happen to the thoughts?” I noticed that a lot of those thoughts to go to the fridge or the candy. The Snickers bar was always a trigger.
That urge to eat when I wasn’t hungry would vanish. Also, I started to get turned off on junk food because in New York, people are healthy. There’s a fruit stand on every corner. The more I went into my yoga practice and the deeper I got into mindfulness and meditation, the more I realized it wasn’t emotional eating that was holding me back. I had this massive amount of fear around my creativity. I had always wanted to do something creative, but I was afraid to do it because my parents were like, “No, be a doctor, be a lawyer.” I was like, “Oh.” I failed math. I was terrible at all the things you have to be good at to get into those careers. My husband is like, “What’s going on with you? You seemed different.” I was like, “I want to follow my dream to become a chef.” He was like, “What?” I enrolled in culinary school, I was 30. My whole world exploded. It was like trial by fire every step of the way. It’s been exciting sixteen years since that day.
It’s pretty amazing how all these things lined up for you once you went for your dream. You’ve met certain people that put you on a trajectory that is almost unexplainable.
This idea about miracles and the title of your podcast. I was like, “I feel like my whole life has been a miracle.” I came from a place of, I don’t talk about it a lot, but there’s a lot of alcoholism in my family. I totally related to your story about your dad when I was listening to that because when I was sixteen, I had a very similar. My dad’s pancreas exploded. When the ambulance came, he died. They resuscitated him. I went through so much trauma. Coming out of that I’m like, “How did I even have the courage to go to culinary school, do all the crazy stuff?” It’s about healing your body and healing your mind at the same time.
It’s got to be hand-in-hand and let that mindset work. I went to culinary school. It was scary because I had a massive amount of anxiety. Part of that was growing up the way I did and what happened with my dad and my family, but also a part of that was my gut issues. A lot of people don’t understand if you have IBS or you have undiagnosed sensitivities or allergies, your brain is a mess too. It causes anxiety. What people, a lot of times think is depression or anxiety or fear, is your diet, which is crazy. Once I got into the coronary business, it was still pretty hard. I still had a lot of anxiety. I got rid of a lot of my fear through yoga. I started cooking in all these New York City restaurants. I was the only girl there. It was tough. I worked with some tough customers.
Is it as hectic as it looks?
Without the camera, it’s probably even more hectic.
There’s one chef I used to work with. If you get into his area, he’d slop hot oil onto you. It was way tougher than what they show. It was interesting because once I started working in kitchens, all these other fabulous opportunities, it felt mystical too.
Can you go into that because when you were telling me that, it’s like you were meant to do this?
It did feel like that and a lot of people know that’s saying follow your bliss. It’s Dr. Joseph Campbell, who’s been a huge inspiration in my life. He did The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers. I feel like every integrative, functional medicine practitioner, every healer out there knows what I’m talking about because they’ve usually come through tough times to follow their dreams that you feel like you have invisible helping hands helping you. Joe Campbell talks about that. It felt like that for me.
I started working in New York City kitchens. I was doing some dirty work like working in prep kitchens, cutting downsides of beef, peeling up a million carrots, doing all this stuff. The sous-chef there was like, “You’re doing such an awesome job, would you like to do this internship with my wife?” I was like, “Sure.” It turned out she worked with Tyler Florence from the Food Network. I got there and he was working on his book and that was my foray into publishing. I was like, “This is awesome.” We were doing food styling. He was a great guy. He let me help on some of the photographs. I saw how food styling worked, how writing worked, what it meant to put together a book. We were shooting in his house in China town. It was crazy. It was insane.
I’d spent some more time in the restaurant industry. I learned a lot more about food and my skills improved. I got offered to interview for a private chef job. I had no idea who the person was. The interview didn’t come out great. I was super nervous. At the end of it, she offered me the job. My husband was like, “Who is this lady that can afford private chefs and housekeepers?” I was like, “She’s some photographer, Leibovitz or something.” He was like, “Annie Leibovitz?” She’s an amazing rock photographer. She got her start with Rolling Stone. She did the pregnant picture of Demi Moore. I had the chance to work with some awesome celebrities. Years later, through a very bizarre turn of events, I put my resume in a placement service. I got to interview with the Seinfelds. I was like, “How is this happening to me?” It’s like, “I’m this small-town girl from Pittsburgh.”
Was that in the midst of Jerry had Seinfeld on and everything?
No, this was ten years ago. This is when he was working on the Bee Movie. It was so great. I remember going into the interview. I was so horribly nervous. Jerry was like, “What are you going to cook?” I was like, “I thought I would make chicken parmesan.” He was like, “That’s my favorite dish.” It worked out so great. I feel like every step of the way there was almost like a presence or somebody helping me. During that time was also extraordinarily stressful. You can imagine, here I am, all these stars are coming in. I’m cooking for them. It’s like Top Chef every day. My health started taking a hit again because I was working twelve, fourteen-hour days and I had started my writing career at the time. I was approached by a television, a group of producers who want to shoot a pilot. They were like, “Could you do some food styling?” When I wasn’t a private chef, I was doing food styling on the weekends. I was like, “I’d love to do this.” They’re like, “Never mind, we think you’re the talent. Forget the food styling. We want you to do a pilot.” I had never done television. I was scared to death. Through another bizarre twist of fate, I ended up doing The Today’s Show. That was my first time on TV.
How did it go?
It went great. At the time, I was doing these medicinal foods. I was like, “This is interesting. What are medicinal foods about? At the time I was eating well, but I had this enormous amount of stress. I was looking for more writing opportunities. I had an opportunity to do Food Is Medicine with Joy Bauer. She’s a phenomenal nutritionist who was on The Today’s Show at the time. She’s like, “I need a chef to help with my book.” Her book is Food Cures. It’s all about treating conditions, specific illnesses through diet. As a person who struggled immensely with gut health, who struggled also with neurological things, I was like, “This is fascinating.” Every chapter was a different chapter on PMS, on chronic back pain, on cancer. Through working with her, I started to understand the power of foods to heal. She taught me so much about the science behind foods and how they help us on a molecular, how they help to detox us, how they help to balance and how there are these particular foods which are called adaptogenic foods, medicinal foods, how they can be mega healers without having to turn to medications. That was my foray into understanding food is medicine.
Can we talk a little bit about those adaptogenic food, what those are and how they can help you?
People get nervous when they hear the term adaptogen but no need, the answer is in the word. It’s adapt. That idea that if you’re tired, it can help to perk you up. If you’re too hyper, it will bring you down. It’s like that idea of homeostasis that the food can help to regulate you. Everybody knows one of my favorite adaptogens is turmeric because everybody talks about it. Over 700 medical studies, this is not woo even though I’m super into woo. This is hardcore science.
It’s a strong anti-inflammatory.
It’s pretty much healing for the entire body, for the brain, for the gut, for the skin. People with psoriasis use it as a cream. It’s phenomenal.
They use it topically?
Yeah, the idea that you can have food like this. It’s a root. It’s a relative of ginger. The active compound in it is called curcumin, which sounds like curry. There are so many things you could do with it. The whole point to the work I do, as a chef, as an integrative health coach is to teach people how to make it taste delicious, how to integrate it. You can take it in pill form but I like to cook with it. I put in my coffee. The trick with turmeric though that people don’t know is that you have to combine it with pepper. Black pepper has an active compound called pepperine, which boost it by over 1000% boost the uptake, with healthy fat and hot too. Coffee with a good quality creamer, if you don’t do dairy, you can do coconut oil. I can’t do coconut oil, but you can. I do organic heavy cream. Coffee, a little bit of black pepper. I also put a little cinnamon in my coffee. That’s a perfect mix.
I’ve heard that mixture before, but I didn’t hear about the heat aspect of it. That works a lot better when you have the heat involved in it? I heard people coconut oil, black pepper and turmeric and they swallow it. If you mix around the coffee, it works ten times better?
The heat is an important component for bioavailability. All that is how well does your body absorb it? Turmeric is not that absorbable. People don’t know that. This is why I tell people, get a little fresh ground black pepper in there. Heat it up. Fat source is important too. You could do grass-fed butter in your coffee if you’re not a coconut person. The whole idea to a lot of the work I do is how can I integrate things because if you’re going to be an integrative health coach, you have to show people how to boost things, make it easy, get the vegetables and get the adaptogens like turmeric. The other adaptogen I’m working with right now is reishi mushroom. I’m sure you’re all over that because that’s for brain health. Reishi is amazing. Reishi is a mushroom that hails from China. It’s like their turmeric. It’s like a cure-all. It’s a woody mushroom. It’s not culinary so you can’t cook with it. It’s hard. You have to eat it in ground powdered form.
Reishi means sage, to be a wise man. Reishi is a mega healer. In the studies, it’s called Ganoderma. It has active compounds in there, great for cognition. They’re doing a lot of studies with it to help ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s specifically. The trick with reishi is that you have to try to get it into food. It doesn’t taste great. It doesn’t taste bad, but it has an earthy mushroom. I find with clients’ compliance is the hardest thing. Now they’re coming out with these fabulous coffees that contain it already in it. Like turmeric, you can get it in powdered form. You can get a bag of powdered reishi mushroom. I like to put it into smoothies and drinks. You can also sprinkle it into stir-fries and soups. It doesn’t affect the taste of your coffee. That’s one reason why I also like to have it in coffee.
If you have one cup of coffee, how much reishi mushroom do you like to put in?
Half a teaspoon. What’s cool about the studies is most of the studies are done on a teaspoon per person a day. You don’t have to go gonzo on this stuff. If this is too much and you don’t cook, get the capsules. It’s a ground-up food. Take it with water. Wash it down with something hot that has fat in it that you put black pepper and don’t make it a big deal.
You also had a little bit of gluten intolerance. That’s such a hot issue right now. Many people are suffering from it. How do you know if you have a gluten sensitivity, celiac disease? How does one correlate with the other and how do people find out if they have it?
Being a chef and people are talking about allergies in restaurants always got on my nerves, “I’m allergic to salt.” I’m like, “No, you’re not.” Gluten is a protein that you find in wheat, barley and rye. It’s a combination of two proteins. This is what makes bread and pizza dough bouncy because they bind together when you kneed the bread. I long suspected that something was up because every time I eat pasta and I was blaming it on carbs too. I would eat other carbs and the thing wouldn’t happen. I would eat rice. I’d be totally fine. I went to this conference. I got tested by irregular MDM. I want to get tested for gluten. I got the test. It’s a stool test, so it’s easy. He was like, “No, you’re totally clear.” I would continue to feel terrible and bloated was the major thing. I was like, “What is going on?”
I was at this functional medicine conference. Functional medicine is a lifestyle, highly integrative medicine, root cause resolution. I was talking to this amazing guy in immunology, Tom O’Bryan. I was like, “I have all these wrinkles on my face and I feel like I’m aging prematurely.” He’s like, “No, you probably have a gluten intolerance.” I’m like, “What? No, I got tested. I’m fine.” He said, “You’re probably not getting the right test.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “The test that doctors give you that it’s covered by health insurance only charts one of the proteins and there are hundreds of proteins inside gluten and you may have it and not know.” I said, “You mean I could get rid of these forehead wrinkles?” He was like, “Yes.” I was like, “I can’t give up my pizza. I can’t give up my bread.” As a chef, my head was reeling. I went in, I got the proper testing and lo and behold, I had a gluten sensitivity which was a sad day for me because I thought, “I’m going to go off gluten completely for three months and see what happens.” It was incredible. My skin started to glow. I used to have this rash on my neck that went away. A lot of my wrinkles between the eyebrow and my forehead wrinkles went away.
I always had belly fat, which I thought was belly fat, which wasn’t. It was a muffin top because I was bloated. That went away. I dropped a dress size. The weird thing was I had anxiety, which I chalked up to being a freelancer to being a chef. A lot of that vanished because what people don’t know is when you have a gluten intolerance or celiacs, there’s a neurological impact to that. That was huge. I’m not here to tell everyone to go off gluten because my husband doesn’t have it. The trick is if you are going to do gluten and you don’t have an intolerance or celiac, you must do organic because there’s a dangerous pesticide that they put on conventional wheat, rye and barley, which is called glyphosate. It tears your intestines to shreds. People, if you’re going to do gluten, do organic. It was amazing. Now, I write for a lot of integrative and functional medicine practitioners. I went deeper down that nutrition rabbit hole.
When I write cookbooks for these guys, I learned so much more but I also had another layer of massive healing. I’m wondering if my IBS was in fact caused by this gluten intolerance. The deal with gluten intolerance is if you have it, your body is in inflammation every time gluten touches your lips. The mass inflammation which means neurological issues, weight gain, skin issues, heart problems, everything across the board because you’re in emergency mode. If you stay in emergency mode for too long, whether it’s gluten intolerance, undiagnosed, not an allergy, whatever it is, that can flip you right into autoimmune illness, which means celiacs. Celiacs is the autoimmune version of gluten intolerance. What happens different from gluten intolerance but your antibodies come in, attack your intestines, attack healthy tissues, which you don’t want. I was well on my way to celiac’s or Hashimoto’s, which is the autoimmune version of thyroid dysfunction. The truth is if you have thyroid, you have to stay away from gluten anyway, even if you don’t have intolerance because it’s an inflammatory.
You’ve written books on almost every diet out there. What diets are you a fan of? What are promotional things that maybe don’t work well, but they’re getting advertised? What are your thoughts on all the diets out there right now?
The deal with diets is this, and a lot of people say diets don’t work well, the reason why some diets work fabulously for some people, not for others, because of bio-individuality, which means we’re all very special and separate in the way our bodies are made up. What I discovered and this is also through the medicine that you practice. Lifestyle medicine is once you understand that you have a different makeup and this also relates to like the apple pear type and also in ayurvedic, like the different types of Pitta, Kapha and Vata. My husband is the banana type. He never gains any weight. I’m the apple. Once you start to understand that you have unique biology, food and lifestyle relates to that too. What I came to understand through getting tested, so I got the proper tests. There are three runs to the testing.
One is testing your gut. You’ve got a lot going on with gut and readers may have heard of the microbiome. The microbiome is the collection of bacteria, also specifically in your gut that rule your immune system, how well you digest things, how your metabolism, your neurological health. You’ve got that going on. They test for that, that’s called a GI map. They test your metabolism, how you metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins. That’s called an organic acid test. That will tell you whether or not you can process things like fat and coconut. I cannot because of my genetics and the way I made. My husband can. They have something called genetic testing. With genetic testing, you know that if you’re going to be prone to Alzheimer’s, thank goodness I am not, but I am prone to heart illness. This is why it’s important that I get rid of that muffin top and understand that I can’t deal well with inflammation. Once you get the testing, you have a complete super biohacking package to understand what diet works well. This is why sometimes when you do something like Atkins.
Atkins is more protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate. Ketogenic is more fat, less protein, less carbs around the same amount of Atkins. Paleo follows both those systems, but some people sprinkle more fat, some do, but absolutely no grains. A lot of people experience healing on these diets for the fact that they’re getting rid of gluten and dairy, which they probably have some food intolerance if they’re unaware of. You have to figure out if you don’t want to get the testing, I understand, because this advanced testing you have to pay out of pocket for. Unfortunately, healthcare doesn’t cover a lot of preventative stuff like this, which is so great for us, but for me the testing was expensive. It was about $350 and it was the best money I’ve ever spent, especially because I’m in this field so I understand how my own biology works. If you have time to go through that or you don’t have the money, that’s fine. What you can do is experiment. What I suggest is you first start taking gluten out and see how you feel. If you don’t feel any different, that’s not the answer. You try dairy. You don’t want to take out too much at once.
How long do you think people should cut it out to know if it’s working or not?
For me, I felt a difference with gluten within five days. I tell people two weeks to a month but usually, you’ll feel different psychologically too. Your mood will pick up. That’s going to be a big determiner. It depends on your biology and what we found with my husband, which was interesting, is he’s one of those bananas. He has trouble gaining weight, tall, slim, skinny. His triglycerides, his cholesterol is through the roof and it’s always been that way. We were like, “Shoot.” He’s prone to heart disease. He could have a heart attack. When doctors look at his stats, they gasp. What we figured out was through the testing, he cannot process carbohydrates well. It was like Keto. I put him on a Keto Diet. I cooked for him every day. He lost weight, which he didn’t need to. After a month of ketogenetic diet with no drinking, all of his cholesterol stats are normal now, which to me is a miracle. I was like, “Holy cow, it’s incredible.” Diet has a huge impact on how you look and feel.
I’ve done well on the Keto Diet. I hate how it’s so easy to get out of ketogenic. If you want a beer or something, it’s like I’ll put in all this work and now I’m going to take myself out of ketosis.
That’s healthy. What people don’t realize is when you do a ketogenetic diet, you don’t want to stay in it forever. If you do it for a period especially if you’re an athlete and you’re trying to shred or something like that, the downside to it and what I tell people is you don’t want to stay there forever because it can be hard on your liver and kidneys. People don’t know this because your liver has to excrete bile to dissolve all that fat. You don’t want to stay there forever. You want to do something that’s called cycling, which is you do a day of carbs. It’s okay to go down the carb. Carbs aren’t bad for you. Most people are doing around 400 grams a day where you should be doing around 50 to 80. My target is around 50 and I feel good on that. Also for your hormone balance, especially as women in their 40s like I am, ketogenic isn’t always a good idea. You need a little carb to balance out your hormones. When I say carb, I’m talking about vegetables and fruits. If you do grains you can do but a half a cup of grains, like people are doing way, way. There’s not a lot of nutrition and things like breads. All the nutrition you get in grain, you should get from nuts and seeds and vegetables.
You’re also a wellness coach. How does it work with you and your clients? Do you recommend the food and then how do you integrate everything else to change the entire picture around?
I started my coaching practice over four years ago. I thought I’m going to coach women like me. I had this like the wrong idea of who. The universe again swooped in. I fell into this community of integrative practitioners. I started going to conferences with my husband. He works for the Evolution of Medicine, which is run by James Maskell, who’s an amazing visionary. He’s all about teaching people about functional medicine and teaching practitioners how to get the word out about this amazing medicine they’re doing. I fell in love with these people. It’s like this is my tribe. I started writing cookbooks for them. I was like, “I want them to be my clients,” doctors. If you would have told me ten or even twenty years ago, I’d be health coaching doctors. It’s insane but that’s what I do in my practice. I do coach people who aren’t doctors.
That in turn reaches a ton of more people with their clients too. You’re starting from the top.
I feel like that is the greatest use of my time. To help healers heal this world. I’m so honored to be doing that, but what I help practitioners do is I help them with mindset. What I discovered through my Yoga journal is these poor practitioners are running busy practices, their cash-based, because a lot of them can’t take insurance because that’s not the medicine they do. They’re running a practice. They’re trying to heal people. They’re going crazy because they’re trying to do all these things. Most of them have diet tap down. What they need is the mindset help. I helped to keep them on the straight and narrow. I believe that every doctor needs a coach because doctors have an enormous amount of pressure on their shoulders. They’re listening to people’s problems all day long. I’m like, “I can listen to your problems, but I can also help you multitask.”
The first thing we do is we talk about what’s going on in their life. We deal with the emotional aspects of their stress. I was a chef and it almost teared me apart. I know what stress is like and I teach them techniques to manage that. We look at the other two legs, which is their spiritual practice because a lot of doctors don’t have time to meditate. I’m always surprised and I yell at my practitioners, I’m like, you’re telling your patients to meditate. I’m always surprised and I yell at my practitioners. I’m like, “You’re telling your patients to meditate and you don’t meditate?” I take a look at the food and how we can make the food easier. They already know they’re already eating properly and all practitioners are a healthy weight. They walk the talk. I’m like, “Where can we bio hack or take it up a notch?” A lot of them are teaching ketogenic because a lot of them are either in neurology, a lot of them are doing gut health. I try to figure out what is the best balance for them and how to sneak in even more nutrition for them because these folks do not have time to cook. It has to be at least two.
That’s another thing I wanted to bring up. What’s your advice for people that don’t have time to cook, aren’t that good at cooking, but they still want a healthy lifestyle?
It’s all about dovetailing things. I have a new book coming out called The Super Food Alchemy. In this book, I teach you how to dovetail all these practices. Alchemy is the ancient form of integrative medicine. It’s about spiritual practice mixed with food and healing. That idea that it’s fine if you don’t cook and I would never judge anyone for not being able to cook or having time. Maybe it’s about making a smoothie but in the book, I teach you to sit down, make the smoothie. When you drink it, you meditate. It’s like food and meditation together. To me, that is a win-win. What’s interesting is when I started to study the ancient practice of alchemy, which is like Western Yoga too, is that what alchemist teach, and this is phenomenal, is that when you do a practice and you dovetail, it’s also called habit stacking. It supercharges it.
The idea if you can get many things together as I talked about pairing the turmeric with black pepper and a heat source, the more it’s somehow sticks, that the habit sticks. It’s one plus one equals four. You have a busy lifestyle. You don’t have time to be doing all these separate million things. As an A-type woman, that also drives me crazy. I have yoga. I have cooking. I have a meeting with a practitioner. I’m like, “No, working with practitioners is my yoga. I’m going to make this smoothie. I’ll meditate five minutes before I meet with a practitioner.” This became the concept for the book. I was like, “I have to teach other people how to integrate this so that you’re alchemizing your healthy practices.”
You know when you’re eating something helpful and it’s good for your body, you almost start to feel it right away. Adding a meditation level to that is probably very powerful.
What it ends up happening too is when you start to meditate with food or give yourself that break. The other thing a lot of my practitioners tell their patients is do not be working while you eat. You’ve got to sit and commune with your meal and chew it and take your time. The fact that you could sit down, a lot of people meditate with their coffee. I have a recipe in there for that turmeric coffee. That idea that you’re sitting there. It’s a spiritual practice too to commune with your food. Think about the times where we didn’t have this abundance of food and for connection with what you’re putting in your body. That’s a spiritual part because people get a little off. They’re like, “Spiritual woo, I have to do all these crystals.” I’m huge into crystals but you don’t have to do that. You can have a spiritual practice with your children. Coffee time in the morning can be your time to spiritually connect. Spirituality is about connecting with yourself. Feeling good about your body and treating yourself well by eating properly.
I’m a firm believer if you have chaos externally outside of your life, there’s definitely some chaos internally. If you can help calm that storm internally, it can help solve the problems on the outside so they don’t keep showing up.
It’s almost like you manifest that idea. I’m huge into martial arts. I train kickboxing. I read all about Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is like, “Be like water.”
I love all his quotes and his interviews are unreal. He was next level.
He was incredible. Be like water is that idea of being like a placid lake on the inside so that when your kids are having a meltdown or something’s happening with your parents, they’re getting sick because they’re aging. How do you handle this stuff? You handle this stuff from a place of balance. How do you balance? Dovetailing, healthy eating, dealing with your emotions and dealing with your mindset and that’s what that trinity is, that body, soul and mind that all these people talk about. The soul to me is the emotional health and the spirit or the mind is your mental state and how good you are at calming the mind. This is what all these yogis and people are talking about forever and ever and that’s what you do. The physical practice of yoga is to calm the mind. You can come from a calm place, but eating adaptogens, eating fruits and vegetables calms the body and stops inflammation. When you realize that these pieces are so deeply connected, you can’t have a healthy body if you don’t have a healthy emotional state.
You can do yoga for an hour and then you go get a Big Mac, your body doesn’t know what’s going on.
It’s also this idea of vibratory, high vibe. Some people were talking about vibes is they’re talking about the quality of the food, the quality of your emotional health. What’s so interesting is when you’re able to calm what’s going on in the inside, you don’t get ruffled. You also don’t hold onto grudges. You sleep better. You have better relationships. Those magical Joseph Campbell helping hands come out of the woodwork to help you. That’s what mind-body medicine is about. It’s next level stuff. This is also why I always encourage people to invest in your health. If it costs $400 if you need to go to a chiropractor and get adjusted and talk about your diet. That’s another reason why I work with a lot of integrative chiropractors because they get it. They see the effects of the emotions and the food on the body because they’re working with your body so much. They understand that.
Do you have any tricks or dietary tips for insomnia?
Insomnia and people don’t realize this, but most people’s nervous system is like way up here. You’ve got to look at your caffeine intake. People don’t understand that it takes almost ten hours for caffeine to cycle out of your body. I used to be that big Cappuccino in the afternoon girl. I cut that out. I actually went to black tea which has a fourth of the caffeine of coffee. Caffeine is the first thing. The second thing is you want to dip your toe into herbalism. Herbalism is amazing. It’s a way that you can enjoy herbs and tea form and get into medicinal foods a lot. I’m a huge proponent of the decisional foods.
One of my favorites is nettle. Nettle comes from that plant that has his little pricklies on the end. It’s an inflammation sapper. The ancient Roman soldier used to sting their knees with it to give them a little bit of reprieve when they used to go on those long tracks. It comes in tea form and you can eat it too. It tastes like green tea. It’s amazing. There are all kinds of companies that have it and I brew it. You want to brew it extra dark. You want to leave it in hot water for at least ten minutes. That’s what I drink when I come out of kickboxing. The reason why it’s special is it contains compounds that are called nervines. The hint is in the title, nerves. It calms your nerves down. Now, the other piece like green tea, it’s green. It’s luscious. You can brew big quarts of it. You can use it in your smoothies. It’s the perfect after workout drink. The other one that I love is Valerian root. That can be a little challenging because it stinks like dirty feet.
That’s a good detoxer?
Yeah. Valerian is amazing. If you’re driving, it’s not going to make you crash or anything like that. It’s not like sleeping pills. It’s very gentle. They take a couple of days to work. What you want to do is drink them daily. I would recommend two to three cups a day because they take a while to set up in your body because remember this is plant medicine. This isn’t like popping a pill. What’s great is they’ll detoxify while they’ll help to calm your nerves. Valerian root is good because it doesn’t smell great. What I do is I combine it with fresh mint leaves or get a mint tea bag and I put them together. The trick with Valerian is it works well with some people, not with others. Nettle works across the board, I find in my practice.
I have a question for you. That’s a lot of cups of tea to be drinking in one day. Do you feel like nettle and the Valerian root, do you switch that up? Do you have certain days where you’re drinking nettle?
I tell people to pick one. You can test the Valerian root and see how you react to it. Also, you want to be drinking these in the evening. If you have your Netflix thing that you do in the evening, brew it before you put the thing on. My husband and I have a doctor show that we love to watch. You could bring your tea then. Another thing that’s great is as your work day is winding down, start to have a cup then because they don’t have caffeine in them. It’s like you don’t have to worry. They’re full of antioxidants. For me, three cups a day is a no brainer and you want to make sure you’re getting a lot of liquids anyway because people never drink enough water. I typically don’t count those towards water, but if I have a client who’s not drinking water and they drink that, sometimes they’re like, “My digestion was so much better.” I’m like, “That’s because you’re drinking more liquids.”
At the end of each episode, I’d like to ask all my guests, what is one piece of advice that has resonated with you over the years that you would like to gift the audience? It could be absolutely anything.
To forge a better love relationship with your food practices because, for me, emotional healing is huge, but it also relates so deeply to what you’re doing with your food. You can’t divorce emotion with food. That’s been the sweet spot for me.
Jennifer, where can people find you online? Do you have websites or social media?
I have a fantastic Facebook group that’s free. I do all kinds of videos in there, it’s Body and Soul Alchemy. That’s a great place, in that way you can learn more about the herbs that I work with. I work with crystals, all kinds of stuff in that group. I also have BodyAndSoulAlchemy.com, which is my coaching practice. They can also follow me at Superfood Alchemy. The Superfood Alchemy is a little bit more skewed towards food versus emotional healing.
Jennifer, thank you so much for coming on. You are a wealth of knowledge on nutrition and overall wellness. Thank you so much.
It’s a pleasure. Keep up the great work. I so admire the work that you’re doing and how you’re helping people.
Thank you so much.
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