This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Christa Orecchio. In her own words:
“Christa discovered her passion for holistic nutrition in South Africa after taking a life-changing workshop called “Optimal Nutrition for the Mind”. It inspired her to embark on a healing lifestyle change including a whole foods diet and supplementation program. After being raised with excessive antibiotics and years of daily reliance on sugar and caffeine for energy, changing both diet and lifestyle provided almost instant energy, digestive healing, peace, weight loss and vibrant health. These simple changes convinced her of the tremendous transformative power of food and nutrition, resulting in a vibrant, balanced, and joyful way of life.
Fueled by this passion, Christa became a Clinical Nutritionist and Holistic Health Counselor and founded ‘The Whole Journey’ in 2005 to share her knowledge with others. Her nutrition practice is unique in that Christa does not advocate any one specific way of eating. She believes that every individual has distinct dietary needs based upon genetics, lifestyle, gender, blood type, stress levels, how they ate as a child, current state of health (we look at and run all kinds of lab work) and future health goals. Therefore, she focuses on bio-individuality, while imparting a positive and empowering perspective shift around food that results in greater lifelong food flexibility.
Christa holds a B.S. in International Business and Spanish from the University of North Carolina. She is a Clinical Nutritionist (CN) as well as a Holistic Health Counselor (HHC). Christa attended The Natural Healing Institute and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in NYC, and is currently doing post-graduate work in the field of nutrition to obtain her CCN. Christa is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.
Christa has been regularly featured as a health expert on TV and in print nationwide. She is the co-author of “The Anti-inflammatory Diet” with Cheryl Tiegs as well as the author of “The Whole Journey Food as Medicine Cookbook” and “The Five Tris: A Brand New Approach to Pre-natal Health”. She is also the creator of The Whole Journey Product Review site, a TEDx speaker, and the Fox5 San Diego weekly health expert where she speaks about using food as medicine and a mind-body approach to eating and healing. You can watch her every Thursday morning at 9:05 am.”
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Today is going to be a vibrant show because we have a wonderfully vibrant clinical nutritionist and holistic health counselor. We have none other than the proprietor of thewholejourney.com, Christa Orecchio. Christa, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Jonathan, I’m happy to be here.
Christa, I had to have you on the show because when you go to thewholejourney.com and look yourself up as well as your associate Emily, I’m like “whatever these women are doing to give themselves these blue eyes, sign me up. You have the most piercing blue eyes I have ever seen in my entire life, so how could I get blue eyes like your? Just kidding.
Thank you! Unfortunately there’s no nutritional supplement to change your eye color.
Well Christa, thank you so much for joining us. Just to get us started here, your website is called The Whole Journey, and from what I understand, you actually went on quite the journey yourself to get to where you are today. Can you tell us about that?
Sure, yeah, I actually came to that name when standing in a spiritual bookstore and seeing this beautiful watercolor of a bird flying in the distance. The quote that was with that was painted in print set. It said “All that this human experience is is a journey toward wholeness.” It resonated with me so completely that I thought “one of these days, “I’m going to start a company and I’m going to call it The Whole Journey because I just feel like it reflects my entire life path of how I found nutrition and how, when you start taking care of yourself in one way, you start to take care of yourself in so many other ways. It helped me develop my philosophy of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, and addressing the whole person at the same time.
I love that story, Christa. You mentioned something in there that I want to focus on for one second, and that is how when you focus on enhancing one area of your life, that can then permeate other areas. One question I have for you, Christa, is in our clinical practice we are bombarded daily with multiple “be better at this. You need to be better at this. You are inadequate at all of these things.” How do we improve ourselves, but do that in a way that doesn’t constantly make us feel inadequate?
I love that question. I love the mantra “I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.” In our practice, we break our food into two different categories: primary food and secondary food. For secondary food, we’re going to figure out the right formula, the actual food that you eat, what works, your state of health, your genetics, your biochemistry. We’ll figure that out. We help people become flexible with it, but then we talk about something called primary food, which are the things that feed you other than food. They feed you in ways that food never can. The quality of your spiritual connection. Do you have honest, good relationships? What kind of self care are you doing? Career satisfaction. What are you here to do? Are you satisfied with how you express yourself creatively? And then physical movements that you enjoy. Instead of bombarding people with “you’re not enough”, it’s how do we evaluate the primary and secondary foods, see that they are connected, and start to create balance in your life through harmony and more self care and self love which is absolutely not a selfish way to approach life. If that makes sense.
It makes total sense. In fact, the thing you said “it’s not a selfish way to approach life”, one of the things my publisher made me rip out of my book because it wasn’t sciency enough was this Aristotelian concept of self love. The ancient philosopher Aristotle talked about how self love was very distinct from being selfish, and in fact was this “make the most of yourself so that you can be of most service to others” because again, if you’re not living your full life, how can you help others live theirs? That seems to be the opposite of selfishness.
I couldn’t agree with you more, and the more that we do that, the better life we have and, like you said, the more valuable we are. I know that you have mostly women listening to your show, and I say that I really have to drive that point home. If I do my job correctly as a nutritionist and a holistic health counselor, after three months, these women never have to worry about going back back. Their perspective has shifted and they can be flexible with their food in their life for the rest of their life because they understand this concept. I think it’s really important for women. It’s almost been engrained in us to be superstars. You give to your spouse and your kids, and you give until you’re dead and throw yourself at the end of the list. It’s like you’re a hero, and that paradigm needs to be flipped on it’s head if we’re going to be healthy, happy, live a balanced life and then let our lights shine a little bit brighter.
Well Christa, what are some of the things that we can start doing to help our lights shine brighter while not feeling like we’re not doing enough to make our light shine brighter?
That’s a really good question. It really just depends on whether we start with the physical or the emotional. You really need to look at how you’re feeding your body and how you can also accept it. I think your research is really interesting on women that are naturally thin and how do you get that? Is it genetic? So much of what we talk about is natural weight loss with ease and grace. You’re not going to become an airbrushed model. We want to find what is your natural way you can maintain living in 80/20 balance, which is when 8-% of your time makes up your health, and you enjoy your life with that 20%. I have simple things that I have people do every day as simple as drinking enough water throughout the day. That’s really important. Starting the day with 16 ounces of water with the juice of half a lemon or some raw apple cider vinegar will get excess acid out of the body and get metabolism going. Oddly enough, that small act of self care is something that will set the tenor of your day. It’s these little choices that we make where we’re making choices for ourselves rather than making the easier choice of just grabbing a cup of coffee, skip breakfast, and head out the door. By doing something as simple as having some lemon water or making sure you eat within thirty minutes of waking up will establish that. In the primary food section of things, I have women that if at all possible take one night a week completely to themselves, and at least have two hours completely to themselves. That helps with that sense of expansion completely.
Christa, you can just hear this in your voice, your business and your entire being is focused on this sense of wholeness, and I get the sense of serenity from you. There seems to be this paradox in our culture. It’s the idea that health is mutually exclusive with happiness. I know that might sound absurd, but think about it. Making the healthy choice and making the fun choice are almost sometimes presented as two opposite things, but again, to go back to ancient philosophy, this idea of getting joy from noble things and how doing the right thing actually is the most joyous thing; how do we adjust our mind from this idea of health equals deprivation and sacrifice and suffering to health is happiness?
Too bad we aren’t on a video, because I have the biggest smile on my face. That was really beautifully said.
Why thank you.
Right, and that’s the thing. That’s when we were talking before getting started with our cookbook, I decided to call it 180 Delicious Ways to Use Food As Medicine. You don’t have to roll around in wheat grass and eat twigs to be a healthy person. You can absolutely enjoy your food so much and be healthy and be vibrant at the same time. That’s where we have to have a huge paradigm shift in this country. It is a game of biochemistry. In our practice we have two philosophies. Instead of focusing on denial, deprivation, and willpower, we focus on upgrading which is “you like this food, I get it. You see it as a treat.”, eat this food instead. It tastes exactly the same, if not even better, and has no negative interactions with the body. That’s the idea behind consistently upgrading so that it happens slowly. The second theory is overcrowding. The more we add the good things in, the more the cravings for the supportive foods fall away. If it is a game of biochemistry, the thing is we have to get the perspective shift mentally, but you have to experience it in your body. A lot of us that look at eating pizza, burgers, and fries look at that stuff as a treat and having healthy food as making a sacrifice, our biochemistry is flowing in the wrong direction like a whirlpool. By overcrowding and upgrading, we slowly turn the whirlpool in the opposite direction. Then you are almost living in true alignment because you are respecting the intuitive wisdom of the body, craving foods that are good for you, and enjoying your food. It’s effortless in the mind. That’s our approach, and that’s what we do. I’m not against eating anything like burgers. For me, it’s all about quality. The quality of food. When you start upgrading the quality; where the sourcing came from, what you eat, and how you eat, the other stuff, you realize that you’ve been stuck in an addictive cycle and it’s not even real food and it doesn’t even taste that good, and you start to look at it differently. “If I eat that do I want to lose the next three hours to bloating and mental fog and feeling out of it?” that’s where emotional freedom comes in with food.
Now I wish we had video turned on, because the concept of overcrowding and upgrading and the tag line we use over here is eat more-smarter. That’s right, when you eat so much high quality food, you are not only too full. We’ve all been too full for dessert before. For some it may be easier than others, but we’ve all been too full for dessert. We know what that feels like, and when we do that, and eat a bunch of nutrient dense, harmonious healing food, as you said, we upgrade our body and we create this virtuous cycle. One thing that I appreciate about the vegetarian and vegan communities-although I may not necessarily agree with all of their diet practices-is that they represent and demonstrate people who avoid an entire group of foods that most people find delicious without any struggle. They’re not like “dammit! I wish I could eat that steak”. They really honestly have no desire to eat that. That’s because they’ve shifted their mindset and changed how they look at food. If we could do the same thing but instead of drawing the dividing line between plants and animals, draw the dividing line between food and non-food or edible products, then maybe we could live that life of nutritional serenity as well. What do you think?
Yeah, I agree with you completely. The two biggest challenges for me are teaching people to navigate what is real food because we have a lot of challenges facing our food supply with not enough minerals in the soil or water or genetically modified foods. The raw materials that actually go into processed foods have changed so much. Putting people on a real food food challenge, even something as simple as if we were eating meat is taking the beef; is it real or is it not? If it is real, what did that animal eat? How did that animal live? How was it raised? These are the questions that you have to ask. I agree with you there as we have to get people eating real food, and like you said, I love that you studied hormones so much and that you say eat more food. So many of us need to do that in the right quality and the right type. I see a lot of “adrenal fatigue” in my practice, and more and more I’m looking at it as metabolic devastation with adrenal fatigue as a symptom of metabolic devastation. Just people being severely malnourished no matter how much they’re eating. It’s important.
It’s very important, Christa, and with the time constraints that we have on our lives and such a disturbing impact that the food industry and the manufacturers have had on every single aspect of our food supply, how do we apply 80/20 there? If I can’t find it directly in nature, it is not a food. Let’s just broad strokes define a food as a plant or an animal that is found in nature. I’m not sure there are any animals that aren’t found in nature, but regardless, we can go really deep. We can go local, we can go no antibiotics, yadda yadda yadda, or we can just say “eat food”. Where is the 80/20 in terms of food quality, or is there one?
Well I guess I can give you my own life. Yea, I work to try to get people off GMO’s. I could talk about those for hours. Their ability to create leaky gut syndrome, endocrine imbalances, and immune devastation. I have people eating real food, and then what is your 20%? Well let me tell you. I really like french fries, but I’ll go to a place like Burger Lounge, where I know the oil that they’re cooked in. My 20% would be three or four alcoholic drinks a week, a couple of cups of coffee, and some chocolate here and there or naturally sweetened desserts. That would constitute 20%, and then the 80% is pretty much that I’m as clean as possible at home, you do what you want when you go out, but again, when you get that whirlpool shift-it’s different because I’m in Southern California and we obviously have a lot more choices in restaurants. We give our clients a list of restaurants and we ask a lot of questions when we eat out like “what kind of oil do you cook with?” “where are the animals raised?”, we do that work for them. It’s harder in other parts of the country. In other parts of the country I just say “do your best to keep it clean at home and make smarter choices when you go out”.
And Christa, sometimes I hear this perception that this lifestyle is only for the rich, and only a lifestyle for the elite. Is that true?
You know, I do get that question all the time. There are videos on my site about eating healthy on a budget and all of those things. No, I don’t think it’s for the rich. I think it’s choices. We’ve somehow been conditioned to think that food should be the cheapest part of our monthly budget, but food goes into our body. It’s what goes into our organs and makes up our thoughts, our emotions, the quality of our life, and our future health. It’s about maybe “do you really need all of those cable channels?”; just making different choices. Where are we spending all of these monthly bills and all of these different things? There has to be a value system. My father just came to town a few weeks ago from the east coast and said “do you really buy nine dollar eggs?”. He was blown away. “They tell you where they come from and naming these chickens?” and that’s my value system so I will cut back in other ways. Once it becomes a value and you get that perspective shift and you understand how it affects the impact and quality of your life you can shift it. We do need to do something politically and on a bigger platform to make healthy food more affordable. It has become ridiculous in terms of what it takes to buy clean and natural food.
I love what you said about values and choosing where we spend our resources. Building off of what you said about where we spend our money, I also sometimes struggle with some ratio of how we choose to spend our time. Let me give you one concrete example. While I think exercise is wonderful and that movement is brilliant and we must do it to be healthy, the amount of time that we are sometimes willing to throw at exercise-for example, we spend thirty minutes just driving to the gym and then another thirty minutes just driving back from the gym. Forget about the actual time spent in the gym. We don’t have time to cook our food. I say to myself “self, if we could just cook like our grandmothers-of course our food supply is contaminated-if we just cooked our own food. If you want to spend ten hours a week on exercise, more power to you, but if you’re spending ten hours a week exercising and you eat all of your meals outside of the home, what a profound change you could make by just taking 20% of that time and just shifting it over to the kitchen. What do you think?
Yeah, weight loss happens in the kitchen, fitness in the gym. Why not just put your running shoes on and save that hour? Then you have an extra hour for cooking. It’s a challenge that I have in my life as well. I’m sure you’ve faced it too. You almost have to run your life as a business. Figure out your values. What is most important. For me, I try as much as possible on Sunday evenings-and I get clients to do the same-to spend two or three hours teaching cooking for convenience classes. How are you going to make a weeks worth of meals in two and a half hours on a Sunday night, that way you can have ten minute meals all week. That way you can make it easy and convenient. Again, it’s making that choice. Let’s get off Facebook and really just look at the bird’s eye view of your life and saying “I’m going to stick to what I value”, and that’s hard to do but it’s infinitely rewarding.
Christa, I have to tell you, you mentioned spending Sunday night cooking and that definitely hit home. Last night, Sunday night, I spend it cooking. You’re going to love this. We generally don’t follow recipes, we do kind of a chemistry experiment in the kitchen and they sometimes backfire, but this one did not. It’s like an uber healthy meat loaf. It might sound gross, but I promise it doesn’t taste gross. It’s a combination of completely organic grass fed hormone free beef liver, which is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the whole world, and then we combined that with organic, hormone free, blah blah blah blah blah ground beef. We then combined a bunch of fresh garlic and fresh onions and wonderful seasonings and some all natural marinara sauce in there, and then we top it with the marinara sauce. We had nutrient density and deliciousness up the wazoo!
Oh, I love that! I don’t know if you’d be willing to share that recipe? I’ll put it on my site and link it back to yours. It sounds like it’d be amazing and I have such a hard time-when you say grass fed beef liver-I can feel people’s energy turning off. To me, I don’t know how to get it into my diet. I tried blending it up and making a patte; even freezing it, trying to make a supplement with my smoothie in the morning, but that sounds like a great way to get it in.
And it is. That’s what we see. We have been experimenting with this. It is very difficult to find a palatable way to consume beef liver, but my wife put it the best when the first week we started eating beef liver. She went to the gym to do her once a week weight training. She said “Jonathan, I felt mighty at the gym!”.
Oh, yes! How true! That’s a great word, and I know, it’s like how do you make that leap for people that organ meats translate to better mitochondrial function, better energy, and is the easiest, fastest way to boost the health of the entire body. I can see where she felt mighty.
Christa, I love it. To close and to wrap up, can you tell us what you mean when you say “spiritual”? What are some things we can start to do to live a smarter, more spiritually whole life?
Well, there are lots of things you can do. I’ve recently been really into the book The Healing Code by Alex Lloyd. That might be a book worth looking into for people that have health challenges that they can’t quite seem to get on top of. I do believe that the body is a messenger for the soul. It will give persistent messages until we actually listen, so that’s a good bode. Carving out time for yourself. I love having the simple act of before going to bed, let’s knock off technology and create that quiet time to reflect on your day. I do this myself. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down five or ten things that you generally feel grateful for. It can be a smile from a stranger, or having a healthy meal or whatever you genuinely felt grateful for. What you focus on expands and gratitude is a very high vibe feeling and the more we feel it, the more we attract more things to be grateful for. We get more in tune with a higher version of ourselves.
Love the idea of the gratitude journal, and I will complement that with a practice that my wife and I have had been fortunate enough to have been enjoying for the majority of our five year relationship; three of which have been a wonderful marriage. Every day we find one thing, and make it be one so that we can be on top of it, that we can say that we appreciate about the other person. Every single day.
I love that!
It can be something as simple as “I really appreciate the way you looked at me when I walked in the door tonight”. It does not have to be something big. It just has to be a continuous reminder. I think that sometimes even the smallest things; just sharing that with the other person, and it doesn’t have to be with your spouse, it can be your friends. It’s just telling people every day unless it’s unnatural, like just your buddy on the phone.
I agree with you! Instead of saying “ I like the way you so and so”, when you said that example of the way you looked at me. Those are the things that build intimacy. Or “I felt that you had my back”. If we can become more vulnerable and more authentic, we can become infinitely happier. I think we all have these feelings throughout the day. I recently texted one of my best friends. Sometimes I just get so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for her and I don’t let her know. Finally I just started texting her and she said that it made her heart melt. Why don’t we share these things when we feel it? There’s so much strength in vulnerability. Honest and open relationships are the best part of life. They make us happy and healthy and that changes ourselves.
Absolutely. Christa, thank you so much for joining us. Listeners, hopefully you have enjoyed Christa as much as I have. It is certainly a delight. You can learn all about her and all of her great work at thewholejourney.com, and you’ll also find her wonderful new ebook, which is 180 Delicious Ways to Use Food As Medicine which you know I love. She’s also got some wonderful resources up there to help you make smarter choices in the grocery store. Christa, if you could leave us with one thing that we could start doing today to live a happier and whole life, what would that be?
Just one thing?!
It’s got to be one. You can’t wish for more wishes.
Embrace the 80/20 balance. Just have the intention every single day to be a little but happier and a little bit healthier and start that off when you wake up with that intention and it will actually start to happen in your life.
Christa, I’ll give you one bonus on top of that, because I don’t want to get the last word in, but I do want to say that that intention, folks, we don’t actually get that. Most people start the intention of “I’m just going to eat less today. I’m just gonna eat less”. There’s a big distinction between “I’m going to eat less” and “I’m going to take steps to be happier and healthier.” Right, Christa?”
Exactly. Just setting that intention of living a happier and healthier life will lead to good choices for yourself. It’s never about eating less. Most of us are in metabolic devastation. It’s about eating more quality foods with more frequency. So many of us are stuck in this cycle of hypoglycemia that is leading to all of these endocrine disorder. So eat more high quality food more often and your life will improve.
Christa, thank you for the insights, the wisdom, and for your beautiful blue eyes. Everyone go to The Whole Journey if for no other reason than to say “those are some good eyes”.
Thanks Jonathan, that’s sweet. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me on the show.
My pleasure. Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did. Remember this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and life better. Talk with you soon.