I have always been interested in food—what to eat and what not to eat—and I assumed that most people felt the same way. It wasn't until I was in school studying nutrition and biochemistry—subjects I loved—that I realized I was different. In my first biochemistry mid-term exam, I received a 98%—the highest grade in the class. When I saw the difference between my score and the other scores posted on the grade sheet bulletin board, I realized that I wasn't normal and that most people, even very smart people, don't know much about food.
Like everything in life, if you have a passion for something from the time you are young and immerse yourself in it, you're going to get good at it and become qualified to teach others. From a very young age, I have had a fascination with food and was always excited to join my mother at the supermarket when she did the food shopping. The first thing I would do when those electric doors swung open was make a b-line to the butcher case so that I could feel the raw meat. I was drawn to it like a magnet to metal and couldn't resist touching it. I poured over books on nutrition, and my favorite reading was cookbooks, which I would read from cover to cover.
I experimented with all kinds of eating styles, from completely raw, to everything cooked slowly, to vegetarian and vegan, to purely protein Atkin's style—you name it, I did it, looking for a way of eating that felt right for me. I became a passionate organic gardener, lucky enough to start this practice on a plot of rich, Malibu land, and have been growing my own food ever since. There is nothing like eating food that you have grown and just picked; once you start eating this way, everything else tastes bland.
It wasn't until I began studying biochemistry and digestive physiology that I began to understand the components of balance in eating, and how eating real food in a balanced way contributes to great health. Unless we have a real interest in food, most of us are not taught this, and I believe that is why our culture is in a terrible health crisis. We have been literally marketed to death by the food industry—the "Industrial Food Complex," as it is known today—and this has created epidemics of diabetes, obesity and a whole array of autoimmune conditions seen rarely in humans until now. It breaks my heart to watch . . .
Above all, food Is chemistry, and once you learn this, it becomes easier to choose real food in a way that makes sense. Food is wonderful and joyful and connects us in a social way, but it is, above all, medicine. Once food hits your tongue, the process of digestion begins, breaking it down into nutrients to feed the brain, muscles and organs. To function optimally, don't you want to give your body the best nutrition possible? You wouldn't put the wrong oil in your car, right? Why would you put the wrong food in your own body? What you eat and how you eat matters, determining how well you function.
When I begin the process of nutritional consulting with my patients, the first thing I ask is that they keep a food journal. Nothing fancy—just a small notebook and pen to jot down what they eat and drink, and how they feel afterwards. This simple exercise is extremely powerful, and I suggest that people use pen and paper, rather than an app on their phone. There is something about jotting down notes this way that connects to the brain in a deeper way than electronics can deliver.
Each week, we look at the results of the journal and discuss it—what was easy or hard about the meals that week, and how it felt emotionally. When we are mindful about our food, miracles happen, and when we put this together with bodywork and yoga, new paths are forged in the brain and body, and real change happens.