My Top Tips for Optimal Health and Wellness

Nutrition Advice
How I manage to stay healthy…


 

Eat well
I eat clean, unprocessed foods as close to their natural state as possible.
This is the absolute benchmark for good health, but beyond the basics, there are a few tricks to optimise your nutrition.
Alkaline foods
The body has a natural pH level that makes it easy to sustain good health. According to many alternative health theories and natural medicine practitioners, an acidic environment can lead to problems and discomfort in the body over time. This is why we want to eat to create an alkaline body – a pH of around 7.365 to 7.4. The lower the pH number, the more acidic you are. An acidic body does not absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, is starved of oxygen and bears a reduced ability to repair cells. Diseases and ill health thrive in an acidic environment. However, if you have an alkaline body it will heal readily, be more oxygenated and help you reverse and prevent disease. Many naturopaths argue that by eating ‘alkaline producing’ foods, we can modify the body’s prevailing pH levels and boost wellbeing. Some common examples of acidic and alkaline foods are:
Acidic
Meat, dairy, salt, sugar, fried and processed foods, alcohol and coffee.
Alkaline
Greens, veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, sprouts, apple cider vinegar.
If you want to create this alkaline environment in your body, or just generally boost your metabolism and clear out your pipes, we need to say bye bye to these sickening six:
1)   Sugar
2)  Artificial Sweetener (soda, gum, “sugar-free” anything)
3)  Fructose
4)  Refined carbs (cereals and processed breads)
5)  Soy milk
6)  Caffeine
I admit, I do give in to caffeine occasionally but it’s addictive and habit forming: it promotes adrenaline and stress hormones that can unbalance your natural equilibrium.  There’s some evidence that coffee can be good for you in small doses, but (and here’s the kicker) coffee is not good for you, especially when you’re stressed!
Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple puts it this way:
“The reason why is cortisol, the stress hormone. Coffee elevates it, so when you’re stressed out, which already increases your cortisol, and you start pounding the coffee, you’re going to compound the problem. Some studies have found that only hypertensive and borderline hypertensive people have increased cortisol responses to coffee at rest, but everyone appears to get the coffee/cortisol effect when under psychosocial stress… Drink it ‘when you don’t need it. Drink it when you’re not stressed.”
Read more  here

Protein Push
Recently, there has been a bit of controversy about macronutrient ratios: carbs, fat and protein. A general agreement that excessive processed carbohydrates lead to ill health and weight gain was followed by a big anti-carb movement. Then, studies came out questioning the safety of increased protein intake for kidney health.
I most certainly do not eat or advocate a low carb and high protein diet BUT study after study has proven that a moderate and sustained increase in protein intake will prolong satiety, stabilize blood sugar and regulate your hormone balance, as well as assisting in workout recovery, muscle optimisation and immune resilience.
So we need to add protein to each meal and eat THE RIGHT kinds of carbs, fruits and wholegrains. (see my blog entry on this). 
Superfoods
It is hard to maintain the right balance nowadays, even when you’re trying to eat healthily, as our bodies are being constantly bombarded with unnatural stimuli: chemicals, food additives, radiation and electromagnetic frequencies that we are not evolved or equipped to deal with. While in a pure environment, our bodies could be relied on to deal with toxic input through our normal waste management functions, in the modern world we need to pay deliberate attention to detoxifying our cells and internal organs, through exercise, water intake and proper nutrition. Most of us have an accumulation of toxic build up in our bodies without even knowing it. Toxic build up will stop our bodies from achieving a state of optimal health.
Certain superfoods have been discovered to help us find that balance and bring to our lives the energy, vibrancy and motivation that we so need and deserve. Superfoods are very high in antioxidantswhich help our bodies fight infection, recover from exercise, maintain health and even slow down the ageing process! (see my blog entry for my favourite superfoods). 
Brain Power/ Spirit Level
With the wealth of scientific data available to those seeking health, we often underestimate the power of the mind. The strength of our bodies, and our sense of wellness are so profoundly tied in with mental health. Depression, stress and fatigue can lead to a sense of despair that spirals into ill health and early death.
Feeling anxiety spikes hormones in your body that strain your organs, compounding bad habits and knock-on effects that can make health almost impossible. We’ve all seen the gaunt, grey faced, sleep deprived corporate worker, determined to stay ‘healthy’ with aggressive exercise and diet regimes, and we’ve all seen the heart attack statistics for this demographic too.
There are a number of things we can do to create a strong wholesome mind, the foundation of lifelong wellbeing as well as physical and mental resilience.
Mindful Eating & Intuitive Eating
Respect your hunger + fullness
Relax with food – Make food choices that honor your health and foods that make you feel well. Food should make you feel good, even AFTER you’ve finished eating it. The instant gratification of a grease/sugar/salt bomb will be followed by queasy regret and poor energy and health outcomes.
On the other hand, be kind to yourself. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy all day, everyday. You will not suddenly endure a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one indulgent meal. What we’re interested in is building positive habits of mind, a sense of strong self-satisfaction and joy. We can support this journey with our dietary and lifestyle choices and in the end, it’s those habits that count. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Your body is there for you- supporting you as much as possible.
Make Peace with Food
When you teach yourself to PAY ATTENTION to you, you can give yourself permission to eat. You can TRUST YOURSELF. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, you’re treating yourself like a rebellious child – pretending that you don’t have control over your own body and its desires. This kind of split-personality thinking, where you ‘forbid’ yourself treats can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, binging. I used to obsess about each and every food that passed my lips and it only ever did more harm than good. I believe that negative feelings associated with eating are worse for your health than the actual ‘bad food’ itself. Let’s work towards building a good relationship with our bodies.
Get off the ….. Diets
Say goodbye to fad diets…. They clearly don’t work!  Or we would have all be on it and stayed on it right? Reject the Diet Mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. They are all manipulative lies. They are the reason why we have a complicated relationship with food. It makes me angry!
Detoxed Body
I start my day with lemon water or apple cider vinegar to cleanse the liver and de-acidify my body.

Once your body is free of all the sludge that is weighing it down, it will be able to perform at its optimum. You will think better, feel better, look better, burn fat better and you will be able to listen to the real needs and wants of your body.
I’ve given up on spray tan and perfume; you’re just misting toxins into your body.
I use natural skin products (I love Evohe) or if you are on a budget and cannot afford the more perishable and therefore more expensive natural products, you can use organic coconut, olive or jojoba oil on your face as moisturiser and cleanser.
You can also create a cleansing mask with powdered green tea and coconut oil, or a sugar scrub to exfoliate naturally.
Active life
Key word: active that does not mean compulsively exercising 2x a day to ‘burn away’ your ‘diet sins’! This is a seductive and prevailing psychology and one that is dangerous to genuine wellbeing. Science is telling us to exercise less, but smarter!
I’ve noticed people have listed to the importance of exercise. Good! But dont take it the extreme. We are not designed to push our bodies to the limit, day after day. Yes, we must keep active but general movement, play and 2/3x of 30 minutes of interval training a week is enough for our bodies to burn energy, keep hearts healthy and keep our metabolism at optimal level.  If we overdo the gym we exhaust our adrenals, which are a central part of our endocrine system-hormones. Overtraining in this way depletes us, and leaves us hormonally unbalanced, releasing stress hormone cortisol, which enhances belly fat storage and suffering from fatigue, insomnia and musculoskeletal breakdown.
Rather than churning and grinding on a cardio machine for hours each day, try lower impact activities with a mental health aspect to enhance your joy and body-awareness.
I am a big fan of yoga, pilates or body balance to get you back in touch with your real self, and get you out of the habit of clockwatching through cardio staring at the TV, or blasting out your music while trying to forget your body and black out the pain of your body telling you what it really needs.
I exercise for 30 minutes 3-4x a week. My favourite is HIIT – high intensity interval training – run and sprint for 20 minutes and the rest core work and weight training. I work hard, and then I give myself the next day off to recover. Recovery means a happy body and a healthy mind!
An intense workout when you’re highly stressed can temporarily feel good, but then powerwash you with aches and fatigue. Distress causes the body to go into crisis response: it cannibalizes muscle, stores fat, induces fatigue, introduces nerve pains, allows muscle strains, enables injures, exhibits anxiety and depression, impairs cognitive function, creativity and problem-solving, manifests flu-like illnesses and eventually fosters disease. Why? Because your body is smarter than you are. It’s doing everything possible to make you tone it down, slow it down and recover. And the longer you ignore its requests, the louder the demands will become.  
Sleep
I say it over and over and over. 8 HOURS OF SLEEP. Let your body and mind repair themselves and detox yourself into health by sleeping more! See my blog entry on this point, but I cannot stress it enough. Sleep “knits up the ravelled sleeve of care” – don’t let yourself get pulled to pieces.
Supplements
 
There is constant debate on this topic but I believe in supplementation and here is why….
Depleted Soils! Even if you eat a healthy, predominantly plant-based diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, chances are (unless you’re consuming everything organic) the food comes from soils that have insufficient mineral content. When foods are grown over and over again in the same soils, the mineral content of that soil becomes depleted over time.
Processed foods/additives: Most foods these days are loaded with sweeteners, salt and preservatives etc. These additives can all lead to toxic build up in our bodies that can cause an imbalance in our hormones and other bodily functions. 
Supplements can help detoxify our bodies from these additives.  
Here is the research to back me up…

According to Dr Gert Schuitemaker, Ph.D:  “In the Netherlands, a report of the Dutch Health Council states that less than 2% of the population is eating according to official dietary guidelines. Moreover, the authorities state that, even if a person is eating according to the dietary guidelines, he is not getting enough vitamin A, D, folic acid, iron, selenium and zinc. Research in a Dutch hospital showed that 40% of patients at the time of admission were malnourished. So, dietary supplements are necessary.”
My daily supplements:
Fish oil
Magnesium
Probiotic
B complex
When stressed: Siberian ginseng
Less stress
I’ve mentioned cortisol a few times in this article. I take its dangers and impact on my body very seriously. I am committed to putting as little stress on my body as possible.
When you have too much stress in too many different aspects of your life, and that stress turns chronic chemicals released in your body start to devour itself and fragment your nervous system. Continuing with patterns of excessive stress can turn your endocrine system into a cannibal and lead to disease, weight gain and unhappiness!!!!
How I control my stress…
This is a mental as well as a physical game. Stress can be environmentally induced, and exacerbated by lifestyle choices and bad ‘habits of mind’.
Don’t let yourself become pessimistic!
Figure out what works for you, and do it!
Meditation can be immensely helpful in keeping stress under control as well as yoga and keeping a system where your prioritise your own health. Think about food journals, gratitude journals and more practically, to-do lists! Don’t let the world get on top of you: remember you can’t control the world, but your choice is in how you react. Try Deepak Chopra’s 21 day meditation challenge.
Downtime
Is vital! SLOW DOWN AND BREATHE!
We are expected to go go go and not break. And when we do have a break we feel guilty. WHAT IS THIS?? We need to SLOW down, breathe, take it all in and stop rushing. Recent studies show that solitude is immensely important; spending as little as 1/2 an hour of your time alone per day can increase wellbeing exponentially.
When was the last time you took 30 minutes to be alone, without a radio, television, computer, phone or companion. Think about it. I don’t like to think about it, with my busy lifestyle but it makes an incredible difference. Try to get those 30 minutes in.
What I do to relax:
•       Hot bath every evening-with lavender/Epsom salts (only 3x/week with Epsom allowed)
•       Tea time with a friend or favourite podcast
•       Read
•       Walk
•       Lie in the sun
Gratitude
Want to bring more happiness to your life? Well then be THANKFUL for what you do have, and you will attract more good things!
I wake up every morning and write down 5 things I am grateful for—-can you do the same?
Also see my blog entry on the power of vision boards, which are a great way to manifest your dreams into reality. By making your wishes concrete, putting them out of your mind and in front of your eyes, you begin to see and build the path towards them.
Respect your body
Give it love and praise. Like many young women, it took me a long time to achieve this. But the good news, with some self-work and self love you can do it. The second I did, my body worked in my favour; it healed itself. I nourished it with love and care. I filled it with foods from the earth and healthy flora and it has rewarded me with a feeling of health, happiness and an incredible sense of my own grounded self and my own agency in the world. I feel like I can do anything, and part of what I want to do… is share this feeling with you!

Affirmation of the week: I love and care for my body and it cares for me.


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TESTIMONIALS

Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.

@maddy_walters

Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!

@mariashealthytaste

Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!

@freed_from_foodie

I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.

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