Holistic Health Coach Jennifer Joffe is my featured Changemaker this month. I actually lived near Jennifer for almost 3 years, but we did not get introduced until she had moved to Portland, been certified as a Holistic Health Coach, and launched Project Healthy Body.
“Health Coach” is a term that has been popping up a lot lately. A Health Coach is “a wellness authority and supportive mentor who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices. Health coaches educate and support clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior adjustments.”
Jennifer is a fighter and one hell of a motivator, and is using those attributes to be a changemaker in the world of health and nutrition. Although I am not a client of Jennifer’s I feel motivated, supported and valued by our exchanges. Jennifer oozes positive energy. She’s honest and empowering about how to be truly healthy. Jennifer’s own personal struggles with weight, health and personal loss helped her figure out the secret to being what she calls “healthy, happy and whole.” She is now using this knowledge and energy to help others. Jennifer made a career change later in life and now specializes in helping women (particularly obese women) redefine their relationships with food, while learning self-love and self-acceptance.
Jennifer graduated from Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2016 with a Certified Holistic Health Certificate (CHHC). She is also a Certified Whole30 Coach and started Project Healthy Body, which she defines as a “five-month journey in self-love“. Jennifer now spends her time helping other women “get healthy” while staying with them every step of the way. Her message is straight-forward: “Healthy does not always look like skinny; and skinny is not always healthy.” Personal fulfillment “starts inside of you with love, trust, and acceptance”. Jennifer has worked with 72 women so far and supervises an additional 30 through her coaches. As a Health Coach Jennifer focus on three main aspects: “one’s relationship with food, physical movement and the critical often overlooked emotional piece or as she calls it ‘self-love.’” Jennifer made the conscious decision to stop running, and has faced her own compulsive over-eating head on. Jennifer’s friend, Sheryl Sandberg, recognized her self-compassion and self-acceptance in her bestseller “Option B, Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, And Finding Joy“. Jennifer also writes for Thrive Global, a site “committed to accelerating the cultural shift that allows people to reclaim by thriving”. Through their media platform Jennifer is initiating conversations about how to get healthy. Most recently, Jennifer was featured on The Today Show, where she and a client shared their stories and message of women empowering one another on this journey.
I’m a chef and food lover. Although I think I have a very healthy relationship with food, like many of you I have had my own food struggles. I love Jennifer’s approach when looking at food: practice moderation; do not dwell on calorie-counting; and do not create lists of good and bad foods. Instead, Jennifer works to help clients create a happy, healthy life based on their individual needs. Jennifer is on a nationwide mission to support women in finding a fresh approach to eating, improving their energy and vitality, and feeling their best–making her a true Changemaker in my eyes.
I had the chance to interview Jennifer recently, below are excerpts from our conversation:
Simmer + Sauce: What does the term “Health Coach” mean to you?
Jennifer Joffe: A health coach is trained to help you reach your own personal health goals, helping you implement new habits while deconstructing less healthy ones. A health coach should listen to you, hear where you are struggling, understand your objectives, then guide and mentor you. I also believe a health coach should empower you as well as provide you with some tough love when you push back. When you invest in a health coach you are implementing two powerful and necessary components of a successful journey, accountability and support.
Simmer + Sauce: Your own personal 30-year struggle with food motivated you to become a health coach and launch Project Healthy Body as a second career. Did something particular trigger you to change your approach?
Jennifer Joffe: This made me laugh out loud! My approach to losing weight was to diet! Name the diet, I tried it! I began when I was 10 years old, went to Nutrisystem at 12 years old and I cannot remember a time in my life I was not dieting. To my dismay I got fatter after each diet, and felt worse.
So, in short, at 250 pounds, I quit chasing skinny and started to look into this thing called “healthy”. I really did not care anymore if I ever lost weight, but I had to find a way to feel better. I was so tired, beat up, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insomnia, and anxiety at 35 years old. At the time Michael Pollen’s, “In Defense of Food” had just come out and on the first page of the book he gives it all away when he says those now 7 famous words, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It really was a lightbulb moment for me. I remember opening our refrigerator and there were no plants, actually there was no real food! Everything was low-fat, non-fat, reduced fat, sugar free…loads of dairy. Low-fat string cheese, fat-free cottage cheese, skim milk, and 3 or 4 low-fat key-lime yogurts. All processed, I was processed!!!
The more real, whole foods I ate, the better I felt, the better I looked and everything just clicked. I lost 66 pounds slowly over about 4 years. I wasn’t dieting, I was just learning what made my body feel good and what foods zapped my energy and slowed me down. The last 44 pounds was the hard part, the emotional part…where I had to choose me, and decided I was worth being happy. I lost those 44 pounds when I started practicing self-care in all areas of my life, my self-love portion of this journey.
Simmer + Sauce: You have said you have “found the secret to being healthy, happy and whole.” This is something we all strive for. Can you explain what you mean by this?
Jennifer Joffe: The secret is self-love. It is the regard for your own well-being and happiness. It is that simple. I understand “self-love” sounds a bit ambiguous so I ask people to swap it out for “self-care’. When you take care of yourself you are walking the talk. You are showing your body you really do love it, and your actions empower your overall health. Mind, body and soul are all connected. We teach people how to treat us. If you do not care for your own heart, your own body, your own mind–how can you expect anyone else to? If you want to be a healthy person make choices that align with that goal and make no excuses for those choices.
Simmer + Sauce: According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is “common, serious and costly, in the U.S. alone, more than one-third (36.5%) of adults have obesity”. They also say 1 out of 3 American kids and teens are considered overweight or obese. These statistics are staggering. In your opinion, what are Americans doing wrong?
Jennifer Joffe: Americans are disengaged in their fuel. Most American’s eat the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) and it will kill you, the data is proving this. We do not eat whole, real foods, foods with a life-force. We are living beings and if we want to have energy and vitality we need to eat foods that have those qualities. I am not a big conspiracy theorist but I do know Big Food, Pharma, and the Diet Industry are all working against you, they make no money if you are healthy. We have been conditioned to think there is a quick fix for everything including our health. I can just take a pill. I can do a diet. I can have a surgery. We know these options have minimal success rates and often people end up worse off. Our bodies were not designed to process GMO’s (most of the sugar you eat is a GMO crop-sugar beets, not pure cane sugar), artificial sweeteners (the word “artificial” tells you all you need to know), chemicals, nitrates, preservatives, food-dyes and all the other things they now call food. These are food-like substances and they present as inflammation and illness in our bodies. I also want to be clear that it is not just obesity, there are plenty of unhealthy thin people in America.
Simmer + Sauce: You focus on working with women, particularly obese women, to help them redefine their relationships with food. For women who are struggling with weight, or for people who know others who are struggling, what advice can you offer them?
Jennifer Joffe: Eat. Eat often and eat whole, real foods. Many people are surprised to find out most of my clients don’t eat when they come to me. Media would have you think obese people are home shoveling donuts and cheeseburgers into their mouths. Most of my clients don’t eat enough, and then they have periods of time where they eat too much. This causes your body to hang onto every last calorie because our bodies are smart, they know you are going to go right back to restriction and deprivation. Eat all of the macros-protein, healthy fat, and fiber (fiber is your umbrella for vegetables, fruits and whole grains) and listen to your body. Not all whole, real foods are going to make everyone feel good. Each time you eat pay attention to how you feel 30 to 45 minutes later. Are you tired and bloated or energetic? This is how you figure out what foods agree with you. Also, I cannot stress enough how important good fats are (thinks nuts, avocado, coconut, salmon, olives, healthy oils) fat does not make you fat, it will actually help you lose fat. The most obvious one is eat breakfast. Breakfast is another thing 99% of my clients do not do when they come to me.
Simmer + Sauce: You have said in working with clients that you do not create lists of restrictions or label foods “good” or “bad;” that it’s about creating flexibility. Can you explain what you mean by this?
Jennifer Joffe: I just ask them to “ADD IN” whole, real foods. That is all I have to do. When a person eats whole, real foods they feel better. Then when they eat something that is maybe not such a great choice they feel awful. The food does my job for me. They clearly see what gives them energy and what depletes them. That said, I eat what I want when I want, and I teach my clients the same approach. Listen, a poor choice every now and then cannot undo hundreds of good choices. Conversely a few green drinks or fresh salads cannot undo hundreds of poor choices. What you do the majority of the time is who you are, and how you will look and feel. What you do every now and then is not where the problem lies. We all have choices, some are better than others…you get to decide each time you eat.
Simmer + Sauce: Eating healthy while eating out or traveling can be challenging for anyone. Do you have any particular tips?
Jennifer Joffe: I don’t think it has to be challenging, it is all how you frame it. First, stay in charge of your fuel as long as you can. Take healthy options on the plane with you, and always drink water, especially when you fly. When I travel I try to keep my routine consistent and I eat the same way I eat at home. Protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. For example, at breakfast I may have an omelet with veggies and bacon, but hold the toast, hash-browns, cheese and the jelly I would have put on the toast…but add some avocado and salsa! I always travel with healthy snacks so I am never “stuck” (nuts, RX Bars, Chomps, Lara bars, olives). There are always choices when you look for them and ways to make your experiences healthier. For example, if I decide to have a cocktail I drink Vodka and soda with lime. A shot of Vodka has 70 calories and no sugar. I would rather eat my sugar and have a couple of bites of a really good dessert, rather than a sweet drink that can have 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar in it and more added empty calories. I also focus on having “some”, as the 1st few bites of something is where all the flavor and joy are. Just stay engaged in your choices, and make getting 10k-a-day part of your travel plans.
Simmer + Sauce: You are also a certified Whole30 coach. The Whole30 lifestyle is extremely popular right now, can you explain why you are such a big believer in this program that stresses food elimination?
Jennifer Joffe: Taking one month of your life to be engaged in your food choices opens your eyes to food dependencies, bad habits, and allows you to see if you have any food sensitivities. It really is the best gift you can give yourself, and all you have to do to get answers to your questions is remove problematic foods for 30 days. Knowing you may have a cure to something that has been ailing you for years makes 30 days seem like a walk in the park, especially for those who have been going through each day feeling pretty cruddy. I have many clients and colleagues who have used this program to find relief from long-term health conditions, including autoimmune issues, depression, anxiety, and chronic digestive disorders.
Whenever I do Whole30, I slowly add back in foods to see how they affect my body. I don’t do great on gluten, dairy or peanuts, so for me, those are all “sometimes” foods. But prior to my eliminating these foods, I ate all of them every single day. I don’t want to be bloated, puffy, sleepy and looking rundown, so I limit those foods. This is my Food Freedom. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, but I now know what foods make me feel less than optimal. When I make a conscious choice to have one of those foods, I am aware that I might feel less energetic. Honestly, that was a game-changer for me, because most of the time I decide it’s not worth it! Now my mom’s cheesecake — 100% worth it!
Anyone who approaches Whole30 as a diet is missing the point. Whole30 is a tool that can help you determine what direction your health journey needs to take. It is empowering, and it’s only 30 days!
Simmer + Sauce: I have read that working with a health coach is often about finding the right match. For those who are interested in finding a health coach, what do you think is the best way to go about doing so?
Jennifer Joffe: I think the term “health coach” is very trendy these days and I would advise any of your readers considering hiring a health coach to do their research. Where did the coach study? What certifications do they have? Do they have a specific area of expertise? For example, most of my clients are overweight or obese so they are looking to lose weight in order to increase their overall quality of life, and I specialize in emotional eating and sugar dependence.
A good health coach should also be able to share their own health journey, as well as why they are passionate about coaching. I would also ask for references and testimonials. The most important thing is to make sure you feel “heard”. If the coach speaks over you, interrupts you, or tells you they know what is best for you–I would run the other way. A good health coach will teach you how to figure out what is best for you. We guide, we do not dictate. I would also be wary of coaches who are selling supplements or diet plans. They should support you as you set goals and make sustainable changes to improve your health and happiness.
Jennifer has shared one of her of her favorite healthy recipes from the Whole30 Fast & Easy cookbook, Flank Steak with Zucchini Noodle Ramen and I am over the moon about how easy and flavorful it is. When I spoke to Jen about cooking and this recipe in general she had the following to say about it:
Flank Steak with Zucchini Noodle Ramen
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 pound beef skirt steak or scored flank steak
- 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 6 cups Whole30-compliant beef broth or beef bone broth (see note below)
- 2 packages (10.7-ounces) zucchini noodles
- or 3 zucchini spiralized
- 4 large eggs, soft-cooked and halved
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- Step 1 In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the seasoned oil into a large resealable plastic bag. Set the remaining seasoned oil aside for the ramen. Add the steak to the bag: seal and turn to coat the steak. Marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for about 1 hour (and up to 4 hours).
- Step 2 Preheat the grill to medium (350-375 degrees). Remove the steak from the marinade and discard the remaining marinade. Grill the steak over direct heat unto the internal temperature is 245 to 150 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes for skirt steak, or 15 to 17 minutes for flank steak. Place the steak on a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Step 3 Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the remaining seasoned oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Step 4 For the eggs, fill a large saucepan with 3 to 4 inches of water. bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a rapid simmer and gently lower the eggs into the water. Cook the eggs for 7 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place in bowl filled with ice water until cool enough to handle. Peel and set aside.
- Step 5 Add the zucchini noodles to the broth and cook until the noodles are tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Step 6 Ladle the soup and noodles into bowls. Top with the sliced steak, halved eggs, and free onions and serve.
Note: For more information on Whole30-compliant beef broth or beef bone broth click here.
I want to thank Jennifer for allowing me to feature her in my Changemaker series. She is an inspiration to all, putting her real self out there and helping others make positive changes for their wellbeing every single day!