Nu­tri­tion­ist, health blog­ger and author Jes­sica Se­pel talks about fight­ing di­ets and find­ing bal­ance – and she shares some recipes from her sec­ond book.

LOSE IT! - - Healthy Living - healthy liv­ing BY: LIESL ROBERT­SON

jes­sica grew up in a health-con­scious fam­ily, eat­ing well and stay­ing ac­tive, but her re­la­tion­ship with food has not al­ways been healthy. ‘I had a tur­bu­lent re­la­tion­ship with food and my body after start­ing a diet – for fun – when I was 16,’ she wrote in her first book, The Healthy Life. ‘I wasn’t par­tic­u­larly over­weight but los­ing weight ex­cited me. So I di­eted – and I felt amaz­ing. Peo­ple were com­ment­ing. I could wear a bikini with such con­fi­dence. Wow, this was fun!’ Soon ev­ery­thing went wrong. ‘I be­came a fad di­eter, a Calo­rie counter. I di­eted and di­eted and be­came in­cred­i­bly un­der­weight. I be­gan fear­ing food. I needed con­trol over every mouth­ful of food and ounce of body weight. It was ex­haust­ing.’ After school Jes­sica de­cided to study nu­tri­tion, partly to learn to un­der­stand and

nour­ish her own body. ‘It’s as sim­ple as this: I lis­ten to my body and give it ex­actly what it needs.’ She swapped pro­cessed food for whole­foods, re­duced her gluten and sugar in­take, drank less caf­feine and al­co­hol, and upped her in­take of wa­ter, good fats, an­i­mal pro­tein and greens.

‘Food be­came my friend,’ she writes. ‘I be­gan to heal my body and shift my at­ti­tude. I tuned in to my body for the first time in a long time and fig­ured out which foods worked for me.’

Her new-found knowl­edge in­spired her to help others stop bat­tling their bod­ies. So, in 2012, she started a blog. ‘I needed to share my ex­pe­ri­ences with others. I wrote can­didly about fight­ing di­ets and find­ing bal­ance, and peo­ple re­sponded in a big way.’

Then, in 2014, while she was in South Africa on hol­i­day, Jes­sica started notic­ing un­usual phys­i­cal changes: her face was puffy, she had fluid re­ten­tion around her thighs and she was hav­ing heart pal­pi­ta­tions. She went for blood tests and dis­cov­ered that her thy­roid-stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone (TSH) lev­els were much higher than nor­mal. To her shock, Jes­sica was di­ag­nosed with Hashimoto’s, an au­toim­mune dis­or­der as­so­ci­ated with an un­der­ac­tive thy­roid. ‘I was dev­as­tated that I, a nu­tri­tion­ist and health nut, had de­vel­oped a health con­di­tion,’ she writes. The worst part, says Jes­sica, was the un­cer­tainty – no one could tell her what the un­der­ly­ing cause was or what had trig­gered the dis­ease. ‘I was pan­ick­ing, so I sought out too many dif­fer­ent opin­ions. Every doc­tor had an opinion. I tried them all and my treat­ment be­came a mess.’

After much back and forth, Jes­sica de­cided to go back to ba­sics. ‘I did my own re­search. I sim­pli­fied the in­for­ma­tion and be­gan do­ing ev­ery­thing I could to heal and re­store my thy­roid.’ She started a strict ‘thy­roid pro­to­col’, and watched it take ef­fect. ‘My thy­roid an­ti­bod­ies be­gan drop­ping and my lev­els re­bal­anced,’ she writes.

To­day, her thy­roid func­tion is back to nor­mal and Jes­sica has weaned her­self off her meds. ‘This does not sug­gest for one sec­ond that stop­ping thy­roid med­i­ca­tion is right for ev­ery­one,’ she warns. ‘This is just my story.’

Her first book, she says, was a guide to ba­sic health and nu­tri­tional prin­ci­ples but this book, her sec­ond, goes deeper. Liv­ing the Healthy Life delves into some of the is­sues af­fect­ing women to­day: ‘sky-high stress lev­els, food ad­dic­tion, binge­ing and emo­tional eat­ing, and un­con­trol­lable sugar crav­ings’. ‘This book is about re­set­ting your body and find­ing the so­lu­tions to the health chal­lenges you are still fac­ing,’ she writes. ‘I learnt to heal my body and my life. And you can do the same.’

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