IMG_0143_circleI see the world through my virtual kitchen window. Most of the meaningful experiences I’ve had in my life have been framed by the meals that came before, during or after them. The kitchen has been the heart center of every place I’ve ever called home. It seems to be where all my major decisions have been made, where my clarity has always come from.
My parents, the keepers of my first kitchen, were born in the U.S. in the 1920s to immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe. They were part of “the Birds Eye generation,” the first to enjoy convenience foods. Having lived through the Great Depression, they had access to as much food as they wanted for the first time in their lives. They were after anything frozen or canned, whatever was processed for ease of preparation.
Despite this bounty, I always sensed there was something better, more nurturing, even as a kid. Playing house customarily ended with a big mess in the kitchen, curry powder and paprika covering me like fairy-dust overalls. I was a “foodie” before there was such a thing.
As the years passed, I kept an eye out for people with whom I could share my “food geek” love. I was drawn to those curious enough to try something that might lead to, say, more energy, something that could stave off that afternoon slump, and at the same time delight the taste buds.
So my kitchen has been my lab, as well as my library, my sanctuary and my “coffee shop” — the door is always open for conversation and the kind of connection best forged over a plate of something delicious. My love of all things culinary and desire to help people have nonetheless extended beyond my kitchen walls.
In 2012 I published a cookbook, “For the Love of Food, For the Love of You.” The proceeds were donated to Urban Farming (www.urbanfarming.org), which strives to “create an abundance of food for people in need by supporting and encouraging the establishment of gardens on unused land.” I was a board member at the time, and this project allowed me to be additionally proactive in my work there to help brand and spread awareness of the mission for the non-profit organization. The book offers simple techniques for, and healthy twists on, classic recipes as well as plenty of from-the-kitchen storytelling.
But as I was preparing to write it, a routine checkup revealed that I was insulin-resistant. “No more carbs until we sort this out,” said the doctor. Apparently all those sumptuous servings of pasta and potatoes, rice and bread, were turning into pure sugar in my bloodstream. The horror!
Determined not to become diabetic like my dad, I changed my diet. A LOT. I felt like a foodie foiled, so I sulked. I turned my menus upside down trying to make interesting and tasty meals from what seemed like the shortest-imaginable list of approved ingredients. I attempted to stay positive and on course. It wasn’t easy.
Much to my surprise, a funny thing happened after a few weeks; I found myself eating dinner for breakfast, among other experiments, and generally reinventing the wheel of my diet. Exhilarated by the novelty and thrilled by my smaller pant size, I kept it up. In a matter of months I was back on track, thinking about all the dishes I wanted to include in the book.
My diet may have needed an overhaul, but my fitness regimen was sound. In my late 20s, I discovered the joy of movement. One morning I was doing some stretches and without thinking, I put on my shoes and ran around the block. Something clicked – this was a brand new feeling. I bought running shoes the very next day.
Fast-forward 30 years and I’ve moved my body pretty much every day since: yoga, aerobic dance, Pilates, qigong and martial arts — I even earned my black belt in Tae Kwon Do! And there was always lots of running, which has softened over the years into brisk walking and today includes hiking.
Paralleling my immersion in the world of food, I became invested in learning as much as I could about how the body moves and what all that adrenaline does for you. This investigation resulted in my producing the first album by fitness queen Kathy Smith, who went on to sell 16 million workout videos. “There was a record promoter* named Toni Profera in my class who approached me about doing an exercise album,” Kathy said in a 2012 interview with the lifestyle site Mizzfit.com. “Yes, an actual record, with my voice and a poster with pictures you could follow along to as you did the exercises. That eventually led to another album, which led to my first VHS, and the rest, as they say … ”
Seeking to continue my informal studies in a more structured way, in 2013 I became certified as an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist www.uzit.urbanzen.org. The program “trains members of the healthcare and yoga communities in the healing modalities of yoga therapy, Reiki, essential oil therapy, nutrition and contemplative care.” Learning these disciplines helped balance my thinking about energy, how and when to expend it and when to store it to keep me at my best, both physically and emotionally.
But it wasn’t until 2015 that my lifetime of gathering information and accruing experience culminated in my education at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) www.integrativenutrition.com. Finally, I had a framework for putting what I’d learned into practice, helping people try new approaches and break old, counterproductive habits.
I was trained as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, defined as “a supportive mentor and wellness authority who works with clients to help them feel their best through food and lifestyle changes.” “Instead of prescribing one diet or way of exercising,” the program’s website explains, “Health Coaches tailor individualized wellness programs to meet their clients’ needs … Relationships, exercise, career, and spirituality are just as important to your health as the food you eat. Health Coaches understand this and take a holistic approach to supporting the whole person.”
That training set me on my path to Toni Profera’s Whole Life Collaboration. Incorporating the nuts and bolts of nutrition, the collaboration provides a way to identify the whole-food elements right for you. We’ll also determine the forms of movement best suited to your unique physique and temperament. Together, we explore the “bio individuality” that makes you YOU and map the route to a healthier, happier you. I’m honored to guide you every step of the way.
I’m committed to Alexandria House (www.alexandriahouse.org), a “transitional residence for single women and women with children in the process of moving from emergency shelter to permanent housing.” A team of similarly inspired friends and I assist the residents in planting and maintaining seasonal gardens. These provide vegetables for families living in the shelter as well as alumni who live in the neighborhood and extended community.
I’m also a Soup Sister. Soup Sisters (www.soupsisters.org) is “a non-profit charitable social enterprise dedicated to providing comfort to women, children and youth through the making, sharing and donating of soup.” Among Soup Sisters’ beneficiaries is Alexandria House.

*Before finding my true calling as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I worked in the music industry – for decades! I’m proud to say I even helped achieve some “firsts” in the business. But that’s another story for another time.