If you had to sum up your philosophy in one sentence, what would it be?

I believe that food is a doorway into a richer life — one where we’re more connected to a deeper part of ourselves, more joyful and present with others, and more grateful for what’s right in front of us — and we all have the capacity, time, resources and means to claim it if we choose.

What is your background?

I started my career 25 years ago in publicity, but quickly learned that writing was what I enjoyed most. I broke in as a freelance travel writer — working on pitch after pitch after pitch in the wee hours of the night after working a full time job — because of my penchant for wanderlust. But I discovered that food was really the lens through which I saw the world, whether in my own kitchen or a market in Greece. So I shifted to write more about food and, eventually, began to develop recipes based on my experiences for major magazines like Cooking Light, Health, Eating Well, Prevention and many more.

Following two life-threatening health crises in my late twenties–first lupus, and then a cancer scare–I began to dig more into nutrition reporting to answer the question, “what should I be eating to nourish my body?” After speaking with experts from around the world I found an unequivocal answer, and it was quite simple — our bodies thrive when we’re eating lots of seasonal produce, healthy fats and whole grains, with a bit of thoughtfully-sourced protein.

That finding sent me on a whole new quest — how to make those ingredients taste so good I’d want to eat them every day. Because I hated vegetables at the time. So I spent a good year playing with vegetables and grains I’d never eaten before, and approaching foods I thought I disliked with an open mind, and eventually I began to prefer–even to crave–the foods that loved me back.

Not surprisingly, my body responded in kind. The lupus diagnosis was reversed to fibromyalgia–which I rarely feel nowadays–I lost 20 pounds without even trying, and I had more energy and clarity of mind than I’d ever felt in my life. What surprised me most, though, was the ripple effect that way of eating had on the rest of my life. I felt more deeply connected to my faith and to those around me, and more aware of where my food was coming from, wanting to be a better steward of the earth.

What is your book about?

NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith and Enduring Love (with Recipes) is really a long-form, deeper dive into my journey. It’s the story of how the intertwining threads of food and faith helped me heal my body and being, make sense of myself, and find my place in the world.

How does NOURISH Evolution fit in?

NOURISH Evolution was the outgrowth of that journey. As I lived through these life-changing epiphanies and gained more energy and clarity, my life-calling burbled up to the surface — to help others on their own journeys.

As I worked with more and more people and reflected more deeply on my own experiences, I identified five main stages we all go through when we’re making a shift from processed food to real food — which I named the NOURISH Evolution. I’ve found it extremely helpful to identify where we are on our Evolution, so we can be compassionate with ourselves along the journey, and compassionate with others for where they are too.

NOURISH Evolution is for people who are desiring a better way of eating and a richer way of living, and know that it’s about a long-term commitment to shifting their lifestyle, not a silver bullet. My mission is to inspire them along the way, and equip them with tools and programs — like our online meal planning program Cook the Seasons and our video-based course NOURISH 10-Day Real Food Reset — to help them at each stage.

What kinds of people follow you?

The people who follow me are an incredible lot. They’re curious, they’re passionate, they’re humble. They’re not afraid to admit they don’t know something, and they’re all about encouraging others rather than judging or trying to fit people into nice, comfortable boxes. They’re also constantly striving to make themselves better people and the world a better place, and they recognize that it takes dedication and energy to do so. They don’t expect change to come easy, and they don’t shy away from examining their actions and taking accountability. They’re also a joyful lot, not just when life is good, but through all of life’s ups and downs.

What was an a-ha moment in your life?

There was a morning in Greece that I write about in NOURISHED, when Mama Kourtesi serves me a fried egg. It was just a simple fried egg, but it was unlike any other egg I’d ever had in my life. The yolk was deep orange-gold, not like the pale yellow yolks I was used to, and as thick as cake batter. And the edges of the white were tinged with a frill of crisp. The flavor of it all was so rich and complex that I kept thinking she had to have done something fancy to that egg. But when I asked, she said she just fried an egg in olive oil.

That moment stuck with me throughout the years, and looking back I realize it’s the first time I became–vaguely, at the time–aware of how much pleasure is to be had in the simplest of foods, when we choose them with care. I think that’s where people can get thrown off track — if you talk about sourcing farm-fresh eggs from the market, people think you’re talking “fancy foods.” But I’m not, I’m just talking about paying closer attention to the simple foods.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself of twenty years ago, what would it be?

Pay attention. Pay attention to the moment that’s unfolding now, rather than worrying about what might be or regretting something you’ve done in the past. Pay attention to the abundant joy free for the taking — whether it’s a simple fried egg, the color of an autumn leaf, or the smile on your daughter’s face — and steep in it so your soul is nourished. Pay attention to your choices — with your time, your attention, and your behaviors — because the sum of those choices are what will make up your destiny. And pay attention to your thoughts, because those are what will determine the focus and attitude of your attention.

What is your vision for a “better world?”

I think a better world starts with each of us individually. It’s like a tree. If we nourish our roots — through what we eat, think and focus on — we’ll develop the fruit of a compassionate character and become a person that cares not just for ourselves, but for our families, our communities, and the greater world.

Right now, I see my role in making the world a better place as holding out a vision and model for being nourished — what the plate looks like, what the results are both physically and as a society. I believe that if we can all rally around the common vision of eating more seasonal vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats with a bit of thoughtfully-sourced protein (really, that simple!) that that can be a unifying force amongst our families, communities and country.

It may sound simplistic, but if we could agree that that vision of being nourished is something we all want to personally and collectively strive for (strive being the operative word … we won’t all achieve it perfectly all the time — I know I don’t!), it would dramatically slash rates of chronic disease and obesity, lower healthcare costs proportionately, make a big dent in halting global warming, and–I believe–leave us with a better sense of ourselves and our place in the world.

From there, people may experiment with other ways to eat to fit their unique needs, but they can always return to that “I am nourished” plate and live there, joyfully, for a lifetime. By starting with “I am nourished,” we begin united, rather than divided, and have a common vision to guide us.