interview: Lianna Nielson of Healthy By Lianna.

What I love about your approach is that it’s not so much about what you put in your body, though that’s important, so much of what you do is learning to trust your own body and though that’s a completely natural thing not many of us know how to do it so what are some of your tips for learning how?

When people come to me initially and they want to lose weight or heal their gut, their skin, their hormones, to feel better, any of those things, I get them eating real food. And it was interesting, the biggest “ah-ha moment” when I was in nutrition school was that the doctors and scientists would lecture about food vs food-like products. And it really blew my mind that they didn’t consider anything that was processed, packaged, had anything more than like one ingredient to actually be food. And then you start kind of looking at your diet and you’re like “whoa, how much food vs food-like products am I eating?” The thing is our bodies know exactly what to do with real food. Real food is information for our cells. It tells our cells to build healthy bodies. Food-like information is confusing and it wreaks havoc on your blood sugar and on your cravings. So where it gets difficult for people, especially this day and age is so many people are eating things they don’t realize aren’t real food that have additives, that have preservatives or that have too much sugar or flour and then they become addicted. So your hormones and your brain can become really addicted to these foods as well as your tastebuds. And then if you are eating carby things, starchy things all the time, more sugary based processed foods you’re seeding your gut, you’re feeding the bacteria in your microbiome. Which your microbiome is this amazing thing. It’s all the bugs that live in your intestines. More people are hearing about it these days but it’s one of those weird things. If you’re eating a bunch of sugar or grain-based foods all the time you’re populating your microbiome with bugs that crave those foods so all of your biology is working against you. And you think “okay, I’m listening to my body, I’m listening to these cravings and I want a Snickers Bar and I want pizza” And I’m like, great I love that you’re listening in a way but we have to make some alterations first. So one of my favorite things is this very simple sugar detox that gets all the inflammatory, all the addictive food out of your diet and sort of restores you to factory settings. Cravings change, your tastebuds change, even the flora and fauna in your intestines starts to change and the interesting thing is after those 10-days if you are craving whole foods like a steak or an avocado or almond butter that’s your body giving us a very clear message. Maybe you’re not having enough fat, maybe you’re not having enough protein. If your body is craving things like pizza and ice cream then that’s telling us it’s a hormonal, a habitual, a stress craving or any sort of habit that you’ve created to use food as medicine or drugs.

Well speaking of using food as medicine and drugs, with COVID going on there’s a lot of stress eating, a lot of comfort food. Do you find any of that beneficial? Obviously you don’t want to go down a huge rabbit hole of donuts (not that I’ve ever done that) but you know, ice cream is sold out of so many grocery stores because people just want to feel something. Is there a level of that that’s healthy or just no?

Of course! I’m really big on the idea of 80/20 where 80% of the time you’re eating stuff that makes sense for you that’s really healthy so you have the leeway for the 20% of the time where you’re having drinks with your friends or you’re having the donuts or having the ice cream. And yes, in the beginning of this I completely was like eat your feelings for like a week or two, this is really scary. The thing is the sugar, dairy, gluten, all those things they do behave like opioids so they feel really good. They relieve stress for a moment, they relieve pain for a moment and what we have to realize is that they do really make us feel worse afterwards but if you’re doing it and you’re aware of how you’re using these foods then absolutely. Chips and guac and margaritas are my favorite way to medicate and I just have to be conscious like okay, wow, I can’t do that everyday I need to fix the stress in my life, I need to deal with an issue instead of just eating carbs but yes, absolutely that’s an okay thing to do sometimes. I just want people to do it consciously.

Perfect because there’s a dozen donuts outside my doorstep right now. I’m not kidding.

What are three things that people could ad to their lives today to help them lead a happier life?

Add more veggies, in any capacity to any meal. We try to aim for like 75% of your plate especially dark leafy greens and colorful veggies just non-starchy vegetables. Or you can just shove them into things, you know put them in your eggs, put them in your smoothies. Cover them with good fat, make them delicious they don’t have to be raw (or they can be!). The more veggies the better. Again, the more you can try to eat whole foods so crowd out the more processed things with like avocado, chicken versus having packaged, processed stuff that’s going to really, really help. And number 3, I would say if you can sort of start to reduce the amount of sugar or processed grains. Again a beautiful way to do that is to crowd out with more veggies. Essentially the more sugar, the more grains you eat the more you crave and the hungrier you are all the time so it’s hard to stick to something a littler bit healthier when you’re eating that stuff all the time, all the time everyday. So the more you can start to ease yourself out of that and a good way to do that is to actually add more healthy fat. Healthy fat is what makes us full. Add more nut butters, olive oil, avocado that can keep the sugar cravings at bay.