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