Wendy: This is Wendy Halley, and you're listening to Lucid Cafe.
Hey, thanks for tuning in. I've got another good one for you. It's a topic that's near and dear to all of us, eating food. We eat to survive, to celebrate, to mourn, to hide, for comfort out of boredom. For some of us, eating is a source of pure enjoyment. For others, it's a source of strife.
It's pretty loaded.
My guest, Lisa Mase, makes eating healthy seem not only attainable, but delicious. She's a board certified nutritionist, health coach and herbalist. I love her approach, which steers away from fad diets and instead delves into discovering what's best for any given person. Turns out there's no one size fits all way to approach eating, which makes a lot of sense as you'll soon find out. Lisa is a fountain of really great information and is clearly very passionate about her work. So please enjoy my conversation with Lisa Mase.
Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Lisa: Thanks for having me, Wendy. I'm excited.
Wendy: You bet. So your work is kind of important.
Lisa: Well, everybody eats.
Wendy: That's what I'm thinking.
Wendy: Tell me a little bit about what it is that you do.
Lisa: So I am a nutritionist by trade, a health coach. I was also raised as a herbalist by my grandmother in Italy. And really what I do is act in service to the plants and the food that healed me when I had chronic intestinal parasites for ten years after living in Indonesia.
Lisa: I know. And the foods and plants that heal me of all kinds of different conditions. Since healing myself with parasites, I've gotten Lyme disease. I've had infertility anxiety and depression and autoimmune disease. So ultimately I want everybody to know that they have the power with something they're doing every day, which is eating food to heal themselves and that health is a changing state of balance. So we're always in this process of getting out of balance, coming back into balance.
Wendy: Food is medicine.
Wendy: And so are you saying that you, strictly through diet and herbs, have been able to heal yourself?
Lisa: Absolutely. And I will say that I am also in service to not only my teachers, but other healers who have come to my aid many a time. And with the example of Lyme disease, I will say that I took some pretty hard core intramuscular antibiotics that I think really saved me from having that become chronic. So I feel like antibiotics, medications have their place in time and they're not the solution. They're just taking a really strong jab at a really acute situation.
Wendy: Yeah, no, I agree. Antibiotics have been a game changer on the planet, but now they're over prescribed. So there's a problem with that, I'm hearing. So that's pretty amazing. And that's a pretty powerful message that food is medicine. How did you get on this path? Was it just through your own health journey and doing it yourself, or was there something else that some other drive from earlier in your life that this is the direction I'm going to go in?
Lisa: Yes, to both.
Wendy: Okay, fair enough.
Lisa: So it was really my health journey with healing parasites. And during that, the beginning stages of having my parasites diagnosed by a local shaman here in the Montpelier area, Susan Grimaldi, after four years of losing weight, feeling terrible, not being able to digest any food, being super anxious and having all the doctors turn me away because I was, quote, unquote, fine. She was the one who saw it right away. And I did start taking antibiotics at that time. And the antibiotics just cleaned house for the parasites to really take up residence in my gut and made my infection far worse. And that was okay. And that was part of what then sort of gave me this, AHA, moment of, wait a minute, I know what to do. I grew up making sauerkraut and making other fermented vegetables and taking my elderberry syrup every day during the winter and drinking herbal teas. And I kind of had this awakening to my own upbringing and how that was going to be the thing that was going to help me.
Wendy: So you had gotten away from that a bit?
Lisa: Well, moving to the States was a pretty traumatic experience as a teen, immigrating to this country and coming from the Dolomites. Right. Which are this fossilized coral Reef that got pushed up when the African tectonic plate made the Alps. I grew up there and you see these high peaks with these little cows dotting the hillside, eating their grass and gorgeous. That's where our butter and milk and cheese came from.
Lisa: Yes. And that's how people still live today. It's not a fairy tale. It's reality for folks. And then I came to Kansas City right smack dab in the center of the US. And that's interesting. So interesting and so destabilizing. I remember being taken to the stockyards and seeing all these cows packed together. They were all making these horrible sounds that I'd never heard of cow making before. The smell was I can't even describe how awful it just burst into tears.
Wendy: How jarring.
Lisa: So jarring.
Wendy: What brought you to Kansas City, your family?
Lisa: Yeah, exactly. My mom is American and my dad is Italian. And she grew up there and wanted to get as far away as possible from that life and moved to Europe, met my dad didn't come back for over 25 years until her parents were aging and needing help. And as an only child, she felt, this is what I have to do.
Lisa: And when we went, we were going for a year, supposedly to have an experience of an American school year because this is also part of our culture for my brother and me. And a year turned into two years. And then my brother went to College. And then I sort of continued on as well and really was supporting my mom as she took care of her parents, who then both eventually passed away. And the stark contrast between those two places really had me kind of go to opposite ends of the pendulum. So first, in order to assimilate, I felt like, okay, I have to now eat hamburgers and French fries at Winsteads, which is the local Kansas City fast food chain, and figure out what's macaroni and cheese and the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that pop out of the containers.
Wendy: Yup. Aware of all the things you're talking about!
Lisa: Yeah. And, you know, I would spend Saturday mornings for hours watching cartoons because I had to figure out what all these other kids were talking about and where they'd come from.
Wendy: And it's a great window into our culture, the Saturday morning cartoon lineup.
Lisa: Yes. I learned a lot.
Wendy: Learned a lot about nothing.
Lisa: Well, about what it looks like to have a culture of people who have been transplanted, people who've been victimized and left places, and people who have also become the victimizers of the Indigenous folks who were here first. You're talking about I'm talking about the US.
Wendy: Yeah. That's the foundation of our country. Unfortunately.
Wendy: So, yeah. That is embedded into our DNA here.
Lisa: That's right.
Wendy: Yeah. So you were getting a front row seat to all of that.
Lisa: Totally. And a front row seat to corporate processed food, which is ultimately non food. And it didn't take me long to realize that it was actually cooler to teach my friends how to Cook the foods I grew up cooking than to eat all of this other stuff that was readily available and leaving me at the end of the day feeling like I had to crash, like I didn't even have energy to do my homework because I was so tired.
Wendy: So your system was just in shock. I mean, on every level, it sounds like.
Lisa: Really. Every level. Yeah.
Wendy: Your poor digestive tract.
Lisa: Oh, my gosh. I know.
Wendy: Just multiply that by however many people live in this country. We are in bad shape health-wise.
Lisa: I know And it's not our fault. Ultimately, that microcosm of experience that I had as an immigrant needing to assimilate is what everybody is a victim to in this country, which is corporate food and the interests of people in power who really want to make money off of the food industry and ultimately the pharmaceutical industry as well. Right. Because then people have diet related diseases like diabetes and heart disease and require a lot of medication.
Wendy: Yeah. It's all a big tangled mess. I was just thinking we are I mean, as you're talking, that we are a culture of addiction in a lot of ways. We're addicted to convenience for whatever reason. I mean, I think there's probably lots of sources. The convenience of easy food.
Lisa: Totally. It's what everybody wants because everyone's being told that they need to be productive and not be human beings, but be humans doing and accomplishing and that there's no time for food.
Wendy: Were you able to keep your Italian cultural roots while you are here and not get completely absorbed into the negative aspects of American culture?
Lisa: Yes and no. I for a long time didn't really feel safe letting other people know that I was from a different country and worked really hard to assimilate and to like all of those foods, like the cinnamon rolls and the hamburgers and French fries. And I kind of liked them, um I guess, in some way, even though I felt terrible after eating them and really drained, even as a 13 year old who's supposed to have boundless energy. And I felt in some ways like those foods and participating in that process of eating convenience food was like a protective shield for me. And it wasn't until I got to College that I really felt safe telling people who I was. Of course, in high school, I had some dear friends that are still friends who knew my whole story, and those are the people for whom I would Cook. And that was always such an amazing experience. I mean, I was having dinner parties for people at age 14.
Wendy: That's adorable.
Lisa: Yeah, it was great. And doing the same thing that my dad and my grandmother would do, which is basically getting people into the kitchen and showing them how to make these really simple but really nourishing dishes.
Wendy: And what I'm thinking is that you are creating experiences for your friends that they're never going to forget.
Wendy: They'll forget when you went to McDonald’s a million times. But the times they came to your house and you taught them how to cook and then you had this great meal together, that's a memory that sticks.
Wendy: How cool. I wish I could have gone to one of your dinner parties. I would have loved that.
Lisa: I know. Well, let's have another one.
Wendy: Okay! So did you grow up speaking English with your mom?
Lisa: My mom is trained as a translator, so she always spoke English with us. And my dad always spoke Italian with us. And Italian is kind of like the language of our family. So growing up, basically, my mom would be speaking English with us and we would answer in Italian because Italian was everywhere. And it's the same now with my kids. I speak with them in Italian. They answer back in English with some Italian vocab words interspersed. But they're 100% fluent. When they get immersed with their grandparents, for example, they're just talking and at the same time coming to the States. Like, yes, my English kind of came out of me, and I didn't know any bad words. My mom had to go through accent erasure classes before becoming a translator. So she speaks newscasters English with perfect diction. And people still tease me about this because, like, I pronounce my H’s. I say what instead of what. And so I got teased to no end because I didn't know any bad words. And I spoke like a robot in some ways. And fascinating. Yeah, it was interesting.
Wendy: So you didn't have an Italian accent then when you came to Kansas City? You were able to sort of hide the fact that you were an immigrant.
Wendy: Okay. I was wondering how that worked. Mhm all right. So then I guess we should jump ahead in time.
Lisa: Fast forward.
Wendy: You said you went to Indonesia.
Lisa: Yes, I originally went there as part of some studying abroad. I am a nontraditional learner for sure, and didn't have the easiest time staying in College. I did, and I designed my own major. I was taking a lot of creative liberties, and part of that was doing a lot of traveling. So I was studying the nature of language and its capacity to create reality and gastronomic traditions and their capacity to maintain that reality. So I wanted to go live in two different cultures where this is real and alive and happening. So I spent eight months on the Navajo reservation and had the great privilege of going to Diné College, which at that time was called Navajo Community College. And I was called the foreign exchange student.
Wendy: That's cute.
Lisa: Yeah, totally. It was an incredible and difficult and amazing and powerful experience. And then I went to Bali, and I was there for initially about six months and then did some traveling in other parts of Asia, and ultimately after College, started a fair trade textile import business.
Wendy: No kidding.
Lisa: Yes. Because I was exposed to a lot of folks in the little community where I lived called Bedulu in Bali that were having to leave their homes to go to the big city Denpasar to work in a sweatshop, to produce screen printed sarongs for the Western market. And I'm saying to myself, the stuff you're making is a million times more beautiful and amazing and intricate and potent. And if the world knew about this, they wouldn't want the sarongs from the sweatshop. So my mind and way of being a very justice oriented and sovereignty oriented, which is part of what I bring to food as well. But that is exactly where I went with the textiles and started this business mostly out of a sense of justice and wanting to support people in regaining control of their lives in these ways and just maintaining traditional culture once again.
So it was also the way that I could get back to Indonesia, which is a really amazing and powerful place. And over the four years of running my business before I sold it, I kept re exposing myself to parasites because I was traveling throughout the Islands, hanging out with local people, eating the amazing food they were preparing, cooking with them. Right. So much of my original studies were about cooking. So I was eating a lot of really amazing, unique food. And my gut microbiome is obviously not a Southeast Asian gut microbiome. So it was not adapted to handling things like amoebas.
Wendy: Right. That's incredible that you helped out the local Indonesian village. But what caught my interest a second ago that I want to get back to is you were studying language, linguistics and food.
Lisa: That's right.
Wendy: How does that tie together?
Lisa: It ties together ultimately, because that's who I am.
Lisa: I'm a student of language, for sure, and a big believer in the power of words to create our reality. The thought becomes the word. We put it out there, things happen. And because of this experience of leaving one food culture that felt intact in Italy and coming to one that feels broken or mosaic in the United States will put. Yeah. I really realized that part of our survival as a species is intertwined with what we eat and how we talk about that and how we pass that down. So the oral tradition of recipes, for example, or the therapeutic effects of cooking together. When I first started my nutrition business, I was doing a ton of in-home cooking with folks. And I'd have moments where I'd have to say, let's put down the knives and sit down, because this is a therapy session right now. Right. I really see those two things as being interconnected language, cultural preservation and food. And it's both also what comes into our mouth and goes out of our mouth right now.
Wendy: I never would have put the two together, but it sounds like intuitively you landed there. Yeah, that's brilliant. So was there something about cooking that brought up emotional stuff for people?
Lisa: Absolutely. I think when folks are working with food and pay attention to this, next time you're cooking something is a memory. Coming up, memory is incredibly olfactory. The Wernicke’s area of the brain that stores language and memory is triggered by a sense of smell. So you're smelling something and maybe it's a little bit in the back of the mind, but there's a memory that comes along with that. We prepare foods that we crave because of a feeling from a time when that food felt really nurturing or nourishing. And that feeling really doesn't have a ton to do with the food, but more with the experience. So um when folks are cooking, I think a lot comes up, and uh especially when people are in this active process of thinking about their health. And what does health mean to me, and where am I in balance and where am I out of balance? Wrap that kind of question up with the olfactory, memory driven experience of preparing food and you get a food therapy session.
Wendy: Fascinating. Okay. Well, it makes sense.
Lisa: Yeah, absolutely makes sense.
Wendy: I was just thinking that unfortunately, all the foods that I have this strong emotional connection to are not good for me!
Lisa: Well. And there's a place for comfort food. Right?
Lisa: And I think that that's also the work because for every processed food, there is a fad diet to match and to try to reset the balance. And that is what this culture has done to try to deal with the insult of processed, non food. And the fad diets are really just as harmful as the processed foods because they're trying to tell people that there is one way for everybody. But guess what? There's 100 different one ways for everybody or a thousand different. Right.
Lisa: And so ultimately, I think it's about stepping out of that and seeing those comfort foods for what they are and what they bring and then figuring out, okay, I loved the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with the gross icing in the little plastic cup with the metal top. Right?
Lisa: And what did I love about that? I loved that it gave me this capacity to kind of, quote, unquote, be like everybody else. Right. Or sync into the background. And now I repay that by making cinnamon rolls with my kids for Christmas. That's something we love to do. And guess what? We live in a place where we have access to incredible heirloom grains that are freshly milled. We can get really high quality cinnamon. We have this amazing fluid from the lymph of Maple trees that gets boiled down, and we call maple syrup. And we can put that in our cinnamon rolls. And we come out with something that's actually pretty wholesome um and I'm sure delicious and delicious. And we don't have it all the time. Right.
Wendy: So moderation.
Lisa: Yeah. And transformation of those foods that we remember as being comforting and bringing them back in because there's nothing wrong or bad about comfort food, but in a way that uses whole ingredients that are as close to the source as possible.
Wendy: So how long have you been working with nutrition?
Lisa: I've been in private practice since 2009.
Wendy: Okay. So over the years of doing this work, have you developed kind of a personal philosophy around food? Being in relationship with food?
Lisa: I think it's about really tapping into who I am, who you are ancestrally. And using food as an opportunity to know ourselves better, to understand our heritage more deeply, to really figure out what are the many different places that our ancestors came from and what foods are really Indigenous to those places. Like, before Hernán Cortés brought the tomato to Italy in 1521, what were people eating? They were eating wild boar. They were eating fish. They were eating olives. They were pressing olives for olive oil. Right. And I feel like my food philosophy is a justice and sovereignty based one, which is about the more that we know ourselves and where we come from and build appreciation for that, the more we can appreciate others and their choices.
Wendy: So for those of us who are truly mutts, like myself, how do you connect with all the various cultures? For somebody like me who has a handful of them in their background.
Lisa: Yeah. I think it's this combination of sort of like where I come from and then how I relate to the world in this unique moment in time. Right. So I'm a mutt, too. A lot of my Italian ancestors are Roma. They're Gypsy population that's originally Turkish. A lot of them are French. And then my mom's family is 100% Welsh and Polish. My grandfather came from Poland. My great grandmother came from Wales. So I have all of these different pieces, and there are parts of each piece of my cultural identity that resonate in my body. And that's kind of like a try it on and see sort of thing. I don't resonate a ton with the foods from my Welsh heritage, for example.
Wendy: Don’t they boil everything?
Lisa: A lot of boiling. A lot of boiling. Definitely potatoes happening, a lot of dairy, which, believe it or not, is not as huge a part of Italian culture as people like to think. It's more part of Italian American culture.
Wendy: You mean with all the cheese?
Lisa: Yeah. So I don't so much resonate with the Welsh pieces, but there are other pieces from those other places, like Turkey, like Eastern Europe, Poland, France, that do really work in my body. And I think that's really where intuitive eating comes into play. And ultimately there are tons of people out there trying to tell everybody what they should or should not be eating. And there's a lot of information, an overwhelming amount. So much. Yeah. And ultimately it's our body and our consciousness that knows what we need. And the hardest and most important thing is to listen.
Wendy: What do you mean by intuitive eating?
Lisa: So there is a whole concept out there that was kind of popularized by someone named Evelyn Tribole, who's a nutritionist called intuitive Eating. And there's a website and books. And ultimately what that kind of framework is trying to say is like, first of all, don't pay attention to diet culture and the fad diets. Second of all, be kind with yourself and how you relate to food. And third of all, pay attention. We are a culture of multitaskers, and there's so much going on in a given moment while someone is eating a meal. And really the challenge is to slow down, take a deep breath before eating. Calm down the nervous system, because most of our stress hormones are produced by the nervous system that lives in our gut.
So that feeling of having butterflies in our stomach is the fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system being triggered when we're trying to eat. And that feeling of gut intuition is the parasympathetic, the calming nervous system being activated while we're eating. And then we start to listen. Then we start to get these messages. So intuitive eating kind of takes mindful eating, which is about really being present with our experience of eating to this next level of really being kind to ourselves. And not judging or comparing, but being present with this is how it is right now.
Wendy: So are you referring to being non judgmental about what you're actually consuming or your body image or all of those things?
Lisa: All of those things.
Lisa: Yeah. And it brings in this quality of body kindness and appreciating that all the bodies are beautiful and valuable. And knowing that I might have a goal to have my body be different from the way that it is today. And that's okay. And I can still love and appreciate myself the way that I am right now, because honestly, I'm never actually going to meet my goal unless I love and appreciate myself in the moment first, because my own negative self talk is going to get in the way.
Wendy: And that ties language, the thoughts, into how it translates diet-wise.
Lisa: Exactly. Thoughts create reality.
Wendy: They sure as hell do.
Lisa: And the other piece that you just brought up is about the food itself. Like, if I love Snickers bars and I feel judgmental about them because they're pretty processed. It's like, wow, those things have a really long shelf life. I can still eat them once in a while. Right?
Wendy: And they'll just have a long shelf life in my digestion system!
Lisa: And when I'm eating the Snickers bar, I can feel like, wow, this is amazing. I love this. This is exactly what I need right now. As opposed to judging myself or saying, oh, man, I really probably shouldn't be eating this. And what's this going to uh all that negative self talk instead knowing that 80% of the time I'm eating really well and I'm doing my best to get my good balance of macronutrients of fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, fats. And actually the kind of sign of a healthy system is that it's resilient is that it can take a blow like a Snickers bar and bounce back.
Wendy: That's a great point. Yeah. So that's really what you're wanting to do is create a system that can withstand all kinds of things.
Lisa: Yes. And if we don't listen to those messages around comfort food, we're never going to really find true healing. Right?
Wendy: Right. In my years of working with people, I've come to conclude, rightly or wrongly, that it seems one of the first steps to healing seems to be acceptance. Like accepting exactly where you're at at that time because you can't move forward unless you accept your current state. And to me, acceptance doesn't necessarily have to translate as liking it. Totally. You can accept something like, I have really shitty eyesight and I have to wear glasses. If I didn't accept that I had shitty eyesight…
Lisa: You'd be struggling.
Wendy: I’d be struggling. Well, to be mad about wearing glasses all the time? That would be ridiculous. But do I like having really shitty eyesight? No. I prefer to have 20/20 vision, but I accept it. Don't necessarily like it, but that's just a silly example of kind of what I mean. If you feel overweight or underweight accepting that it’s okay. This is not my ideal for myself.
Lisa: It's like I want to feel at home in my body and…
Wendy: It’s okay.
Wendy: It’s okay. I guess that's what I'm trying to say is that it's okay and it's okay. Even if it's not okay, it's okay.
Lisa: To not be okay. And ultimately, any negative messages I have about my body come from outside of me. Right?
Wendy: Yeah. Fuck all those people.
Lisa: That's right.
Wendy: And all those messages.
Wendy: All right. This is the tough one for American culture. What are your thoughts on sugar?
Lisa: Yeah, it's not actually food. So when a food has to be refined and processed and broken down and broken down in a lab to be made widely available and extremely affordable, it's no longer a food. Right. I'm a big fan of sugar cane. Thumbs up. You know, if anybody has ever been in places where sugar cane is Indigenous and had the opportunity to have somebody cut them one and chew on it, it's an incredible food, really. It's so delicious. It is really sweet. And it's also really filled with fiber, with tons of minerals. What happens when we process and refine any food? And I'm not talking about, like, evaporating the water off of Maple sap to get Maple syrup. That's very minimal. Processing Maple syrup is like a superfood. It still maintains all of its vitamins and minerals. It's prebiotic, which means it sees our beneficial gut bacteria. It's probiotic, which means it provides beneficial bacteria. It's an outstanding food. No wonder Abenaki people have been making Maple syrup forever.
Wendy: Have they really?
Lisa: Oh, yeah.
Wendy: That's amazing.
Lisa: And the traditional Abenaki way is actually to let it evaporate in these amazing stone containers. And I'm sure Abenaki folks could explain it much better than me. But the traditional process of syrup making is just about time. And the layers of water freezing overnight and then removing them, there's no heating of it.
Lisa: So that being said, when a food gets broken down and broken down and refined for so many different reasons, it becomes pretty much unrecognizable to our body. So in order to metabolize something that's missing its fiber, missing its vitamins and minerals, the body has to say, okay, well, guess I'm going to have to go get some vitamins and minerals from your muscles and bones and your brain and your bloodstream. Sorry, but that's what I have to do. We'll digest this food.
Wendy: When you put it that way.
Wendy: Sounds like it's heroin.
Lisa: Pretty much. Yeah, pretty much.
Wendy: It becomes an addiction.
Lisa: If people are interested in really looking at this. There's this amazing seminal book by this person named Sidney Mintz called Sweetness and Power. And it's all about why the colonists really went for the sugarcane Islands in the Caribbean, because this very sweet food provided a lot of power for them, not only by enslaving people, but also by providing this commodity that was and is highly addictive and that everybody wanted.
Wendy: What about honey?
Lisa: Honey is an amazing sweetener, and it's a hundred times as sweet as sugar. And I'm talking sugar cane. Very, very sweet. Honey is incredible because it's basically honey and garlic are nature's antibiotics. It's antimicrobial, antibacterial.
If ever I feel like I'm starting to get sick, I crush raw garlic from the garden, mix it up with some raw honey and let it honey, caramelize the garlic for a few minutes and eat that. And it's like a miracle cure.
The thing to know about honey is that it is 100% fructose. And fructose is a kind of sugar that can be really hard for some people to break down. There are people out there who have a really hard time digesting certain fruits, like apples is a good example, which is interesting, right? Apples seem so prevalent and so innocuous, but they have these long starchy chains and combine that with high fructose content. And the gut says this is really a lot of work for me to break down. I'm going to get really gassy and bloated. So honey is amazing. And it depends on the person with every single food some people find. Oh, wow. I've been eating honey because I know it's so good for me. Quote, unquote. Right. But I feel terrible when I eat it.
Wendy: But it's not good for me.
Wendy: I got you. Okay. It's a loaded topic. The whole sugar thing. And that's what I came up on. I would be embarrassed to tell you what the content of our breakfasts were coming up. Okay, I’ll tell you, pie for breakfast. We had pie, and of course, all of the sugar coated cereals that were becoming very popular in the 70s. And then the milk would become like…
Lisa: This sugary cereal milk.
Wendy: Oh, my god. Yeah. I think my teeth would fall out now if I had any of that.
Lisa: It would hurt your teeth.
Wendy: Exactly. But I'm just thinking, like, when processed foods really started kicking in in the 70s, when moms were going to work totally to make life easier, that's what a lot of people, at least my generation, came up on.
Wendy: And I know I'm definitely paying a price for that now, trying to correct that, but definitely did not do me any favors. So how do you work with people?
Lisa: I work a couple of different ways, so I work with folks one on one, which is always an incredible experience. I learned so much. I learned everything through my clients, really, ultimately, and witnessing their healing journey and helping folks make connections. For example, somebody who has a lot of colon issues and elimination issues. And then, oh, it turns out they have a bulging disc in their lumbar spine.
Wendy: Oh, jeez.
Lisa: Guess what? Those two things are intrinsically interconnected. And really, we need to be working on the lumbar spine and the colon will regulate itself. So really listening, really helping folks to make those connections, to understand that it's not about anatomy, right? Anatomy. That word means to chop things up. But it's about somatics, which is where this intricate, beautiful creature and every single part of us is interconnected. So working with folks one on one, I feel like I get to be the witness and the shepherd, guiding them on their own journeys of listening. And I also work with groups, which I love, too.
So I teach classes and offer periodic opportunities to do resets, which I started doing because I need them at certain times of year. It feels like, OK, I just got to really simplify things here.
Wendy: So what does a reset look like?
Lisa: A reset, again, a little different for everybody. And it's to some extent, I choose your own adventure thing, but it is about simplifying. I mean, for me personally, it tends to be about taking a break from flour. Like, I love to bake, and I'm always concocting fun stuff.
Wendy: I like seeing your pictures on social media.
Lisa: Baking is fun stuff. And that flour, again, is processed. It's minimally processed. I'm even a super nerd who got a grain grinder. So I get millet and rice and oats and quinoa. I grind up all my own flowers and nuts, too. It sounds like an airplane taking off when I do it. It's amazing. And that processing just affects the way that our gut responds to the food. So I like to take a break from flours. I don't really do caffeine or alcohol, but I do chocolate like to take a break from that. And I tend to take a break from fruit as well, just because of the fructose factor. And as we age, we produce less of the digestive enzymes that break that down. I don't eat dairy either, because I never produced the lactase enzyme after having parasites. That was kind of done for me because I had to go through ten years of not digesting dairy. And then once I didn't have parasites, my body was like, well, we got used to this. Yeah, we're done. We haven't done this in ten years. So those are the things I kind of tend to take a break from.
Wendy: And how long does a break usually last? How long do you usually suggest when you do a reset?
Lisa: Ten days to two weeks.
Wendy: Oh, that's not too bad. I thought you were going to say, like, for six months.
Lisa: People really get accustomed to eating more simply. And what I noticed is people kind of want to keep going after the reset, which is cool. And it gives an opportunity to actually take a longer break, like a 21 day break from a food. So that then after all of the enzymes and the proteins that relate to that food are out of our system, we can eat it again. A good example is eggs. Eggs are hard for people because they've eaten too many eggs from contained farming operations that don't contain all of the Omega three and six fatty acids that chickens get from grass and grubs, which is what we need to be able to digest that protein. So a lot of times if someone takes a break from eggs and goes that length of time, that three week length of time and then chooses pastured eggs and eats the shit out of them for two days in a row, they feel fine. And they realize, wow, eggs actually weren't a problem for me. Or maybe they test that food with its highest quality version and they're like, oh, my God, I um feel terrible. Gut cramps, pain, gas bloating. And then that's good information. Like, okay, I guess I probably uh shouldn't be eating that, but that's the other opportunity that a reset offers.
Wendy: Yeah. You can do detective work.
Lisa: Exactly, totally. And again, it's about listening to our bodies, and they have a lot to say, oh, my god, if you listen.
Wendy: They actually are screaming at us all the time.
Lisa: Constantly. Yes.
Wendy: In lots of different ways.
Lisa: Lots of different ways. And we're trying to cover that up. And actually, a lot of us spend a lot of time and energy trying to cover up those messages.
Wendy: Yeah. If you think about it, the energy it takes to do that is astronomical compared to what it would take to actually listen and then follow the message that your body is trying to give you.
Lisa: Totally. Yeah.
Wendy: It would be quite an energy saver.
Lisa: Big time. And then you have energy for all kinds of other things.
Lisa: But you know, the cool thing about the body, too, is that we have to remember that regardless of what we were fed growing up, the body is constantly regenerating itself. Right. If we give it the opportunity to do so. Yes. There are some inherent things about us. Ayurveda, the knowledge of life from India, Chinese medicine, my own Mediterranean diet. Ifa Yoruba way of eating from Africa. All of these traditional foodways are helping us to kind of understand that we all have an inherent Constitution and then we have the conditions of our lives that are affecting that Constitution and we can always get back. We can always get back into balance. The body is so generative and so incredibly good at redoing and undoing any harm that's been done that I think instead of spending energy feeling like, wow, I ate some pretty nasty stuff growing up. Or in my example, for those years of high school, I ate some pretty nasty stuff. Spend energy instead on now I have this opportunity to let my body heal itself and listen and give it the things that it actually wants. And it's like, yeah, intuitive eating to a point. Right. Eating Snickers bars every day begets more Snickers bars, because then that's all the body is getting and that's all that it wants. So, like you were saying earlier, with everything moderation and whole foods unprocessed as close to the source as possible when possible.
Wendy: That's how our ancestors ate.
Wendy: Yeah. I guess the unfortunate thing for a lot of us is that it ends up taking a health crisis…
Lisa: I know.
Wendy: To get our attention about our diet.
Lisa: We're so human, right?
Wendy: Damn it.
Wendy: Yeah, we are very much human. I guess it would be great if we were inspired to use food as a preventative medicine.
Lisa: Oh, yes. Far less trips to the doctor, far fewer Pharmaceuticals or Tylenol and Ibuprofen because of chronic pain or inflammation. Yeah. I wish it didn't take a health crisis for us to want to change our ways. And that is ultimately the blessing of illness. A health crisis in our own lives or witnessing someone we love go through something can kind of snap us out of our reverie because we don't have these periods of seasonality where there is less availability of certain foods anymore. Right. I'm sure it's all a matter of privilege and access, for sure. But folks with privilege and access can get whatever they want at any time of year. And yeah, I don't suggest eating salad when it's cold outside because it's cold. And at the same time, salad has almost become a convenience food. Right. Because it's quick and easy and doesn't require cooking. And if there were one way to encourage more people to eat preventatively, I think it would be looking at all of these places uh around the world that are called blue zones where people live into old age feeling really good in their bodies. Right. It's not so much about like, oh, wow, that person lived to be 100 on life support or dialysis. It's about this person lived to be 100, and they're still walking their same route that they've walked every day.
Wendy: They're enjoying their lives.
Lisa: That's right.
Wendy: Not in a lot of pain.
Lisa: That's right. I think about my father in law and how he's always saying, oh, getting old sucks. And it's heartbreaking to me because so many people are spending up to the second half of their lives feeling really off in their bodies. Yeah.
Wendy: Well, that's a whole different conversation, too, just around the American culture's relationship with aging. Not super healthy.
Wendy: We revere youth.
Lisa: I know.
Wendy: It's not so great. One other thing I want to ask is the relationship between food and mental health.
Lisa: Oh, my gosh. Foundational. Right?
Wendy: I don't think a lot of people make that connection.
Wendy: Depression, anxiety. But you referenced it early in our conversation about helping yourself.
Lisa: That's right.
Wendy: With your own depression anxiety, I think you said, can you talk a little bit about that?
Lisa: Definitely. So because of having parasites and being in a ton of pain in my body and being terribly afraid of food, because pretty much every food in my body when I ate it, I felt awful. That's terrible. I developed disordered eating. And this is now a specific category of disordered eating beyond anorexia bulimia called Orthorexia, which means fear of food. And it's created by diet culture, but it's also created by chronic illness. And I was terrified of food and all disordered eating is nervous system related. These are nervous system disorders. They're not digestive disorders. They lead to mental health disorders. So my disordered eating, my fear of food, led me to develop anxiety and depression, which are really two sides of the same coin.
I'd get really, really anxious about what I could eat, what I couldn't eat if I had to go somewhere, forget about it, and then I'd get really depressed because I couldn't be in the world in the way that I wanted to be. And so I really started to understand that visceral feeling of the connection between my gut health and mental health.
And then the more research I did about the enteric nervous system, the nervous system that lives in our gut, the more I understood that those neurotransmitters are the ones that are responsible for producing all of our ‘feel good’ hormones, like serotonin and dopamine, but also our stress hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine. I'm sure the adrenal glands produce some stress hormones. Some of the feel good hormones are also produced by other glands. But and over 80% of those hormones that modulate our mood are produced in the gut and then send messages to the brain via the vagus nerves about how we're doing. And those messages begin in the gut. Yeah.
Wendy: I don't think that's always common knowledge.
Wendy: I think when people go to the brain, they think it's neurochemistry in the brain as opposed to in the gut. The gut is another brain.
Lisa: Exactly. It's the first brain, really. And that cranial nerve, the vagus nerve, which innervates all of our internal organs and talks to every single one of them, is the first one to develop in utero. And the gut develops way before the brain in utero, as well. Everybody knows, like, when my digestion is off, my mood is off as well. Right. And that's kind of a small example of gut and mental health, and it can have these really dramatic ramifications, like in my own experience.
Wendy: Yeah, absolutely. Well, this has been a very illuminating conversation, really helpful. How do people get a hold of you?
Lisa: Through my website, harmonizedcookery.com. I came up with that name kind of randomly when I was starting my business, and it just feels about that process of harmonizing our relationship to food and cooking and eating in ourselves. So Harmonizedcookery.com.
Wendy: All right. Beautiful. So if you're in disharmony, contact Lisa! That's beautiful.
All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Lisa: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Wendy: Are you as hungry as I am right now? Okay. So now I'm determined to find healthier ways to bake all of my favorite treats.
If you'd like to connect with Lisa, take one of her online courses or become a member of her vibrant health Academy. Please visit her website. Harmonizedcookery.com. And of course I've included a link in the show notes.
That about does it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening.
Until next time…