Black Girls In Om— Wendy + Jessica: Food Heaven Made Easy Founders

INTERVIEW BY LAUREN ASH

You are what you eat, they say. Who am I today, then? I started my day with a glass of water and Chlollera (thanks Sun Potion!), oatmeal with tocos and a bit of agave, and banana and peanut butter on toast. Currently, I’m munching on sour patch kids, which I blame on the Arts & Public Life staff at University of Chicago who offered me to take some as I ventured outside of my studio to warm up my Trader Joe’s medley of vegetables and quinoa. So: I’m a little bit healthy, a little bit naughty. That’s me most days. So I get major inspiration from Wendy and Jessica of Food Heaven Made Easy. This duo makes healthy eating look gorgeous! They are registered dieticians and nutritionists who share their passion for mindful eating through their YouTube community, amazing recipes on their website, and, of course, the ‘gram. You may remember our amazing #BGIOMindful Twitter Chat with Wendy: we talked about eating seasonally and learned so much!

I am so blessed to be able to explore more about why Wendy and Jess are so passionate about wellness and self-care, especially in relationship to food. Enjoy our conversation and follow along their journey by following them on Instagram (@FoodHeavenShow), Twitter, and getting their free smoothie recipes or gifting yourself their recipe book!

Lauren Ash: Who is Wendy?

PHOTO: ZIA KHAN

PHOTO: ZIA KHAN

Wendy: I am a loving, multi-faceted, and complicated person who loves food, cooking, and nutrition. I was raised in the Bronx with family roots in the Dominican Republic. I love listening to people’s stories, and gain so much through shared experiences. This is one of the reasons why I chose nutrition counseling as a career choice. I also love tapping into my creative brain. I use food photography and design to get people excited about healthful eating.  

Lauren Ash: Love it! Alright, now who is Jessica?

Jessica: I am a partly nerdy, mostly quirky, compassionate and loyal person with a myriad of interests, one of them being the science of food. I like to think of myself as an introvert with extrovert tendencies. I am a Registered Dietitian by trade with a Journalism career in a past life. I grew up in California (partly on a ranch!), then moved to NYC for 8 years after college. I left NYC on my 30th birthday for a year-long solo trip around the world. Afterword I settled back down in California and have worked as a Dietitian in a primary care clinic for the past 3 years.

PHOTO: ZIA KHAN

PHOTO: ZIA KHAN

Lauren Ash: I'm nearing my 30th birthday, and hearing about your solo jaunt around the world has me inspired! Also: I love this story about how you two met. So incredible!

Wendy, what does Black Girl In Om mean to you?

Wendy: For me, Black Girl in Om means tapping into that black girl magic that continues to shine despite being constantly tried by this ridiculous white supremacist, patriarchal society. It’s that unspoken peace and comfort that comes when being surrounded by other black girls. Black Girl in Om also represents the power that we have as black women to heal ourselves and our communities.

Lauren Ash: *Snaps* You're absolutely right, Wendy. There's so much power that WE ourselves have to heal ourselves and our community. Jess, I'd love to know how do you identify with Black Girl In Om's mission?

Jessica: I identify with BGIO mission by using my background to promote wellness by helping people choose nourishing foods to eat. I think this is especially important for black and brown communities who may not not be privileged to have as much access to healthy food. OR who may not have the privilege of having these principles passed down from earlier generations.

Lauren Ash: That latter part is so important! I've thought a lot about how we need to talk more with our elders and learn from their wisdom and their practices while we still can. So much of what seems "new" to the wellness space is actually not new at all!

So, what are your self-care and self-love practices?

Wendy: I believe that one of the most powerful ways to practice self-care is through eating nutritious foods. I cook and eat plant-based meals that are going to give me a steady dose of energy throughout the day. I also honor the occasional cravings (hello strawberry shortcake and mac and cheese!), and feel like that’s part of my self-care practice as well.

Engaging in dance is another self-care practice. Shaking my body and working up a sweat brings me so much joy, and is a great way to release tension and stress. I actually have a self-care checklist that I do each month. This holds me accountable to all of the practices I know are helpful in keeping my sane. On the list is coloring for 30 minutes, listening to an episode for one of my favorite podcasts, doing a body scrub, taking myself out to lunch, and getting a pedicure. These are non-negotiable practices that I prioritize each month.

PHOTO: BITNARA SHIN

PHOTO: BITNARA SHIN

Lauren Ash: Wendy, you already know I LOVE to dance! Catch me at Party Noire actin' a fool! On a serious note: your self-care checklist is an incredible idea. I'm going to adopt this for June and see how it works for me. What a beautiful and useful way to ensure that you get in touch with a variety of ways to release, explore, activate, and reflect!

Jessica: My biggest self care practice is having balance. This means I will never sacrifice sleep, food, or my mental/emotional well being for anything (or at least I try not to). I start my self care in the morning by drinking 2 glasses of water with my probiotic supplement. I get my fitness in first thing in the AM by meeting with my trainer for a circuit workout. Next I enjoy a smoothie and shower and get ready for the workday ahead. I try to nourish my body with healthy foods most of the time, but you best believe I also balance that out by enjoying not-so-healthy foods once in awhile.

One of the self care practices I cherish the most is getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. I used to suffer from insomnia because I would work up until bedtime, but then I realized I needed a consistent wind down routine. For me, this means shutting it all off, and maybe watching a reality show or listening to a podcast until my body gets sleepy enough to transfer to the bed.

Lauren Ash: I really appreciate the attention that you bring to balance and, clearly, by prioritizing self-care first thing in the morning through a variety of ways this helps!

What's one ritual you recommend more women of color adopt to cultivate inner beauty and wellness?

Wendy: Meditation. There’s so much stimulation in our world, and sitting alone in silence is an excellent way to get centered and tap into that inner beauty that shines within. This is definitely not an easy thing to do, and it’s something I have yet to master. I try to do at least 5 minutes of deep breathing before rushing out the door, and as short as that sounds, it works all types of wonders. Sometimes I do meditation challenges with friends as a way to keep us all more accountable to this practice.

Lauren: Love, love, LOVE! I recently chatted with the lovely Rosie Acosta and she actually identified my Ayurvedic dosha. Apparently, I'm supposed to be meditating every day for 20 minutes! I'm certainly not there yet, but I'm inspired to go deeper whenever I hear of other meditating women of color! With so many benefits, from minimized anxiety to a boosted mood, I don't see why NOT!

What's one ritual you recommend more women of color adopt, Jessica?

Jessica: Exercise. Yes, it can help us get in shape, but it has so much more to offer. It’s a great way to lift your spirits, boost your endorphins and feel good. It shouldn't be thought of as a chore, rather a reward that has so many delicious health benefits to offer.

Lauren Ash: Absolutely! Put a lil' trap music on and I'm more inclined to stay 5 extra minutes on my bike at the gym.

What's one wellness product you both can't live without?

Wendy: Hands down, liquid black soap. I use it as a hair, face, and body wash, and the oils leave my skin feeling radiant. Sometimes I buy a product that has essential oils in it already, or I may add a few drops of lavender to infuse it with some smell goods.

Jessica: Jojoba oil! I have extremely dry skin so I add jojoba oil to my face every morning and night. I also started adding it to my hair after my leave in conditioner and it works wonders on making it shine.

Lauren: Thanks so much, ladies!