Monday, June 28, 2010

Radical Woman Q&A with Health Coach & Yoga Instructor Jennifer Fugo

Today’s Radical Woman Q&A is with health coach and yoga instructor, Jennifer Fugo. What I find most radical about Jennifer is that she is helping teach others that health isn’t about a specific diet or exercise routine. She embraces the idea that health is about WHOLENESS, in mind. body and spirit. I hope you enjoy her answers, like I did!

Q. Can you tell us about your own health evolution?

As a child, I was a very picky eater from a traditional Italian family. For a long time, I would only eat bread, American cheese, eggs, cereal, and pasta. After hurting my back, I joined a gym at 23 years old and began to slowly make better food choices by ‘interviewing’ whomever I could about what they ate. I tried so many different concoctions of laboratory-produced fitness food and diets always experimenting to aid in whatever my workout was. Then I injured my right S-I joint and had to find a new way to workout- spinning that turned into road cycling.

I became so into this new cycling world and culture that I read everything I could, especially diet-related information. Now I needed to eat many more carbs than I previously had been consuming which meant more traditional family foods. At this point in my life, I was making most of my own food from the highest quality, organic ingredients from either my garden or the store. In a sense, I had come ‘home’ to my family’s philosophy- my grandparents & great aunts were the first generation born here in the States, so everything was generally homegrown and homemade.

I ate plenty of dairy (because of what I read about protein and calcium), whole wheat, eggs, meat, etc. at this time following a ‘cyclist’ diet. After a couple of months of intense training, I was putting on weight, constantly sick to my stomach, and getting bad head colds every few weeks. This kept getting worse until my body finally gave out about 5 months later and I couldn’t wake up in the morning, even after eleven hours of sleep, because I felt drugged.

Through a series of coincidences, I ended up at a fantastic nutritionist in LA who picked up on a number of problems that were ignored by my doctors and ordered a bunch of tests. Turns out I had become sensitive to eggs (both the yolk and white), gluten, casein (one of the main proteins found in ALL dairy), the cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard, chard, etc) and cashew family (cashews, pistachios and mangos). I was floored and scared because basically the bulk of what I was used to eating since I was a child was now off limits no matter how organic it was.

After strictly removing all of these for 4 months, I found that I’d lost almost 20 pounds of inflammation from my body as well as increased my energy, resolved my chronic headaches, prevented myself from getting sick regularly, got rid of the feeling of constant mental fog, quieted my digestive system, and cleaned up my skin. Since then I allow myself occasional indulgences, but generally eat foods that allow my body to operate optimally. I describe myself as a ‘gluten-free, occasional meat-eating vegan’ and found that what seemed like a huge curse was actually one of the best blessings of my life. I started trying all sorts of food which I had previously refused to eat which I now love and began experimenting in the kitchen every Sunday night with my awesome neighbor, Michele, who also has a bunch of food intolerances.

Q. What are your philosophies on food & eating?

Eat in a way that honors who you are and what your body needs to properly function. Allow for indulgences, but make sure they are the best possible indulgence you can find. (We’re talking organic gourmet dark chocolate cake over a hostess cupcake!) Be open to experimentation with new things as well as new ways to prepare familiar food. Don’t push your diet on other people- no one-way of eating works for everyone. I also vary my diet seasonally so that there are constantly new things coming in and do my best to eat locally. And finally, eat your nutrients, as close to how it naturally exists as possible. I’m really not into supplements and feel like that entire industry is a small step up from the pharmaceutical side. There is a time and place for them, but generally you need to be consuming things that are in familiar patterns for your body. Oh yeah, and all those wonderful ideas in Michael Pollan’s Food Rules!

3. What are your philosophies on exercise?

Mix it up and don’t be afraid to experiment. Too much of any one thing (philosophy, food, ideology, exercise, etc.) can be bad. Fitness must be in balance or else injuries and problems from overuse can occur. Most importantly, allow and savor a slower, more peaceful side to fitness that allows for true recovery.

Q. In addition to being a certified health coach, you are also a yoga instructor. Why do you enjoy yoga?

As a “Type-A” person, I’m great at bulldozing through life, willing things to happen no matter what. But that behavior, no matter how great the results, is extremely taxing mentally and physically for me. I think much of what we muscle through in life prevents us from learning one of the greatest life lessons- it’s first the mind, not the body, which ‘wins’ the battle.

I certainly don’t mean to knock physical activity as I’ve done the regular weight training and then moved to boxing mixed with various martial arts and then cycling. In the end, I found that my obsession with training my physical body was a distraction from addressing my mind. The mind is where the greatest battles in life (and some might argue the only true battles) occur and thus it is the most difficult, yet crucial place to make change. This is where I am now; working to cultivate focus, clarity and peace.

Now, yoga isn’t the end all, be all. You can’t JUST do yoga and expect to be the fittest you can be. Though it was a huge part of what truly helped me to recover from adrenal fatigue last year, I do some light weight-training, core stabilization workouts and cycling.

Q. Why do you believe most people fail at remaining consistent with even the best-laid plans for eating and exercise?

They do it for the wrong reasons. When the reasons behind wellness and fitness changes are more vanity or competitive based, people will find it difficult to stick to the changes because they’re not connected to them. There is no one-way to eat or exercise, so it behooves every single person to go out there and figure what works for them. Some people will come to things sooner than others, but that certain shouldn’t deter putting in the effort. When you find what you connect with, you naturally will love what you are doing and eating. It’s a way of life rather than a chore.

Q. In your approach you mention, alignment of mind, body & diet. Why is that so important?

As I said before, everything starts in the mind. Then change trickles down through the body and diet. When those three things are misaligned, trouble is bound to ensue. Plus, they are all important and directly affect one another. We like to just look at and focus our energy on one component, however it doesn’t always serve us in the way we’d hoped. As I said, if you merely look at your diet and never work with the mind, you’ll be back eating junk food before you know it because you never bothered to address what was causing all the problems in the first place.

Q. What do you believe the relationship is between self-love and health?

I believe that the way we eat and much of what we do in life is merely a reflection of what we believe is true for ourselves. We grow up with an extremely unhealthy obsession with self-loathing being overly judgmental of ourselves and others and then projecting our insecurities outward. The stress created daily from this type of activity wrecks havoc on our body, mind and spirit. So, begin to cultivate some compassion toward yourself and others, and let go of these nasty thoughts that come up. Trust me, they are wasting your precious life, minute-by-minute, thought-by-thought.

Q. What message do you have in particular for other women out their on the road to becoming radical?

Be bold and find the courage within yourself to do what is right for you. The greatest achievements of the human race were not born of conventionality. They arose because someone was open to a possibility.

I am so glad that Jennifer was able to do this Q&A and that she has the courage to be radical! I know that many women’s lives will be touched by what she has to offer them. Please stop by her website, and check out the great services that she has to offer!



"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

— Michael Pollan

I just finished reading Women, Food & God by Geneen Roth. There will be a blog post about it, but for now I have to STRONGLY encourage all women who struggle with their body image and compulsive eating to READ it!

Also, please check out the new radical hateloss pages, About Radical Hateloss & About Stephanie.


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