Much of what you see while scrolling through Wellness Instagram is touchless at best and misleading at worst – informed by diet culture about science; Privilege over reality; Exclusivity over inclusivity. “You’re promoting this idea of wellbeing that is out of reach for most people,” Wendy Lopez, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., tells SELF whether it’s because of your height, race, cultural background, socioeconomic status, or age.
Food Heaven Made Easy is an antidote to general wellbeing – an approachable, sensible voice amid a cacophony of strict diets, quick fixes, and inaccessible advice. “We’re working hard to break it all up and redefine what health looks like to people,” explains Lopez. She and her co-founder Jessica Jones M.S., R.D. founded the site (and hers) Food Heaven Podcast) to broaden the understanding of our culture of healthy eating and broaden the path to wellbeing. (Lopez and Jones are SELF columnists as well.)
“Our main message is that health and health advice should be available to everyone,” says Lopez. Eating healthy (and health in general) isn’t about youth, beauty, or thinness, explains Jones: “It’s about how you feel good.” That means physically, mentally, and emotionally. Her work is largely based on two frameworks that have made her popular in recent years: Health of All Scales (HAES) and Intuitive Eating (IE), topics that she frequently covers in her podcast. Both HAES and IE reject the premise of diet culture and the pursuit of weight loss that drive so much of the harmful health and diet message we see today, and instead promote a more caring and individual relationship with our bodies and food.
The Food Heaven approach is also very practical and based on both nutrition science and the realities of everyday life. Instead of recommendations on how to buy a specific supplement, think of helpful meal preparation tips and vegetarian recipes. While a lot of your work is, of course, about what you eat, everything else is also about it concerns What you eat, Jones explains: physical health, sleep, mental health, culture, access to food, relationships, socio-economic status, and social injustices. As Lopez puts it, individual health is “much more complex than” eating more vegetables “”.
YOURSELF: How did you come to do what you do?
Lopez: About 10 years ago we worked at farmers markets in the Bronx and provided food education to the community. We were really excited – and just tired of the story that people of color or poor were not interested in eating healthy. Because we saw firsthand that when we gave them education and actual access to these foods, people were very excited to cook with them. This includes both foods that were culturally relevant to them as well as foods like kale that they may not have been as familiar with.
That is why we decided to first create videos for the local TV stations so that the residents can receive food education and cooking tips. Our friends suggested that we put it online so we can reach more people. Then we got on YouTube and it grew from there.
Jones: Then I decided to go back to California and obviously we couldn’t make videos because we didn’t live in the same place. We thought, why don’t we just do a podcast?
SELF: What do you think is the most pressing problem in your region?
Lopez: The big problem is that people in the wellness area don’t feel identified because most people don’t fit the thin white image of a girl. Greater whites, coloreds and poor do not feel identified in it – and I believe that is the largest part of the country. This affects how you view food and health. Because if you don’t see yourself identified in it, it’s like either you’re constantly trying to achieve an unattainable goal, or you just don’t want to have anything to do with it.