Kristen Coffield, How Healthy People Eat

Kristen Coffield, How Healthy People Eat

Kristen Coffield, creator of The Culinary Cure, joins Zibby to discuss how a dark period in her life led her to regain control of how she felt in her body. Kristen shares how she uses food as fuel to energize her throughout the day and week, and offers tips on how to get the most out of what you eat.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Kristen. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight.”

Kristen Coffield: Thank you for having me. I would say nobody seems to have time to lose weight, so this is a great conversation for anybody who is interested in maintaining a healthy weight.

Zibby: I feel like I should’ve called this podcast something else. I feel like I should’ve called it “Moms Don’t Have Time to Feel Better in Their Bodies” because not everybody wants to lose weight. That’s not always the goal. I hope that people know it’s just sort of a play on that and the ability to fit everything in like healthy eating and working out and all of that under that umbrella.

Kristen: That is a good umbrella. It’s a great conversation-starter. I would say most people do want to be a healthy weight. That’s the goal. The idea is we put health first, and then the other stuff just falls into place. When you’re running around with your hair on fire, sometimes it’s really difficult to make the right decisions because there’s no neutral habits. Our habits are either helping us or hurting us. There’s really no in between. It’s super important that we’re always gaming up, so have a plan or plan to fail kind of thing. We can’t just run around with our hair on fire and then be thinking about dinner when it’s dinnertime.

Zibby: That’s very true. You wrote What Healthy People Eat, which is amazing. I love the square shape of that, by the way. I read it online, but still, you could tell. The images and the colors, it’s very cool. Love it. Oh, it looks even better in person. Thanks for showing me. Tell me about this and how it ties into your whole Culinary Cure coaching business, all of it.

Kristen: Thank you so much for asking. What I found over years of coaching mostly women — women tend to be the nutrition decision-makers for their families. I found that people had actually forgotten how to eat and forgot what food really is. When we think about food, we think we’ve got to eat to keep going. If you remember your high school science, food in its most basic form is calories. Not all calories are the same. There’s huge variations. You might have a bagel that’s this many calories and an apple that’s this many calories, but you’re going to get so much more from that apple because the calories come attached to micronutrients and fiber and important things, whereas the bagel is empty calories. Calories in their most basic form are energy. Food is fuel. Where it gets tricky for people is in that calorie area. When we put in calories that the body knows how to use, it’s very different than when we put in calories that the body isn’t wired to use. This engine is not designed to run on chemicals, artificial ingredients, highly refined carbs, added sugars, lots of salt, lots of fat. We’re just not designed to run that way. What I was finding was people really want to do well. They really want to make good choices for themselves and for their families, but they get caught in this space where businesses are trying to sell them something. There’s not a lot of money to be made saying, eat more fruits and vegetables. There’s a lot of money to be made saying, buy this food that’s fat-free and high in protein and blah, blah, blah. I wrote my book, How Healthy People Eat. This is a book for anybody who eats. If you’re an eater, this book is for you.

Zibby: Huge market potential. Love it.

Kristen: It’s a primer. It’s Eating 101. The first part of the book is really how to eat well to be well. It’s instructions. Chew your food twenty times. Don’t drink liquids with meals. People get really confused.

Zibby: I saw that. I was going to ask you about that.

Kristen: It’s crazy. People are sitting down, chewing their food three times, washing it down with liquids. The stomach has to create more acid. Now we’re creating a potential reflux situation, acid indigestion situation for which our doctor will prescribe us a medication. We need to just take it back, learn how to eat, understand how to put the right fuel in this engine. It’s really more simple than most people think. It’s not complicated. It’s not hard. It’s not expensive. This isn’t a cookbook. This isn’t a diet book. This is a handbook for anybody that wants to eat better.

Zibby: Kristen, you mentioned, and I don’t know if it was in the book or maybe it was in one of your appearances — I watched all your things about how your husband doesn’t like bananas and whatever. I just went down this rabbit hole of your TV clips. Anyway, you did mention that you started this whole business out of a place of pain. You didn’t really go into it. Maybe you don’t want to go into it now. I was just curious if you were able to talk about what set this whole thing off for you.

Kristen: We’re reworking my website. My story is on there. You probably saw my abridged story. My story is every woman’s story, to some degree. As women, as we become moms, we become all things to all people. We’re the glue that holds this whole shit show together. As our parents age, we become more involved with them. I had a kid who played division 1 college sports. I had a kid who was an actor. We were managing everything. I had a calendar that was, each kid was color-coded so we could see the month and everybody’s activities. I got really organized with the food because, as I might have said before the show, literally, if I had a microwave in my Suburban, my life would’ve been so much easier. I could’ve fed people in the car. For me personally, I was living the dream. I married a great guy that I’d known for years. He had a great job, top lawyer in Washington, three beautiful kids in three different schools, pillar of the community, volunteer work. There were some problems that you couldn’t see if you looked at me. If you looked at me, everything looked fine. I was keeping it together for everything. I was being very productive.

What was happening was we were having some financial problems which were leading to problems in our marriage. Communication is a real problem for couples because women are Venus, men are from Mars. The conversations, we think we’re talking about the same things, and it can be very different. It’s hard as women to ask for what we need. If you’re a super capable, type A woman, you keep it together because you know you can fix it. My mom’s cancer came back. She had breast cancer. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I’ve got a lot of balls in the air. I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul every month and cover tuitions. My last kid went off to college. My dog died. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The rope was long, and I got to the end of my rope. My big world, that big world with the social life and the community, had dwindled down. It took all of my effort just to get through each day. I know I’m not alone. I know there are lots of women who experience some form of this, whether it’s a health concern or a parental concern or a marriage concern. There was more stuff that I don’t talk about because it’s actually not my story to tell.

It was so overwhelming to me that super capable, type A me could barely get through the day. I really didn’t want to tell anybody. I didn’t want to socialize. Every time I did socialize, I felt bad because I felt like I was the only person whose life was this damaged. Anyway, we sold our house to pay our tax debt. We started fresh. I was fifty-seven. I started The Culinary Cure because — this is where The Culinary Cure origin story begins. I couldn’t change all those things. I couldn’t fix all those people. I couldn’t print money. I could control one thing. I could control what was on the end of my fork. I started with food. I’d always used food. I had a catering company. I’ve been an event planner in Washington, DC. I was the girl who catered part of her own wedding. Food has always been my medium. I just made sure every bite I put into my mouth was serving me. I knew I’d been drinking too much coffee and too much wine and too many refined carbs, so I changed the input. That started to change this. This all started to look different. I started to feel better and have more energy.

Like many women, two, three AM, the file cabinet that is my brain would shoot open. All these ideas were in my head, and all that worry. I was like, you know what? I can lay here and worry or I can get up and go to a five AM workout. I started going to the gym at five AM. Now I’m eating clean. I have more energy. I’m going to the gym. My body’s continuing to change. I have more energy. I feel like I can cope with what’s happening in my life. I begin The Culinary Cure because I know that nobody wrote the playbook for picking yourself up when you’re a woman in your forties or fifties and you have very few resources. You’ve got to put on your big-girl pants because nobody’s coming to save you. It’s all up to you. Look where I am. I created The Culinary Cure. I have two hundred healthy recipes on my website. I do regular TV for two of my local TV channels. I wrote a book. I’m a speaker. From that pain came this really great thing. It started with food. I know food has the power to change lives.

Zibby: Wow. It’s happy and sad all at the same time. Thank you for sharing that story. The fact that you could go from not getting out of bed to getting out of bed and being at the gym knocking on the front door as it opened, that’s impressive. That shift in how to take control of the pain, that’s amazing. It’s just fantastic. The fact that you’re now helping other people too is beautiful. I know this isn’t specific advice, but I’m just so motivated by your story. Why do you think you didn’t just stay in bed? I know you referenced your type A personality, but what do you think it was? Yes, you realized food was helping you, but you easily could’ve just not done any of this. You easily could’ve felt sorry for yourself, justifiably, and been sick and been tired and hopeless and not created what you have. What do you think it was?

Kristen: That deep sorrow, I know a lot of people feel this. It’s complicated because some of it’s hormones. If we’re not eating right, we’re feeding the bad feelings. If we’re not exercising, we’re not creating those feel-good hormones. We have hormone changes. Listen, as women, oh, my god, we drew the short straw on hormones. Our whole life is just hormone soup. It never ends. It was one day. I woke up. I’m like, this cannot be what the universe had intended for me. I’m working with somebody to help manifest more positivity. The power of our brain is so incredible. When we flip the negative to a positive, it changes things. Then more positive change comes. We’ve got to learn to build on that. The same happens when we go down that spiral. For me, it didn’t happen overnight. It happened over a decade. I didn’t see it coming. It crept up on me. Then that sadness, there’s so much more to the story. There are wonderful people who came out of the universe and helped me when I needed it the most. I just became more in tune to focusing on the good things because that’s what we want more of. What we focus on expands. If we want more good stuff, we got to change that mindset. We’ve got to find the silver lining.

All that advice I used to give my kids, when one door closes, you find the open window. It’s there. I promise you. I had to take my own advice. I will say, it was a very lonely place. It was very lonely and very quiet, so that’s a lot of time in my head. When I started to use food and feel different — I knew a lot about food. I was already in the food business. I was the woman giving her kids probiotics thirty-two years ago, and organics in my home. I knew a lot about food. What I didn’t know was how to be super intentional with my food and habits. I’m sixty-two. I’m biohacking my health. I understand the power. When we align our big-picture goals with our little daily habits, it’s unbelievable what we can do. Anyone can do it. I don’t have any special skill set here. Anybody listening to this who wants to change something in their life, whether it’s eating better or exercising more or dialing down stress or improving sleep or being more present with their family and friends and pets and whatever it is, we can do this. Anybody can do this. You can start today.

Zibby: I see why you’re so motivating. It’s amazing. You started off this conversation saying it’s not hard. Anyone can eat the right things. When you said that, at first, I was thinking, sometimes it feels kind of hard because it’s not about the food. What about that? There’s so much that goes into food selection and why people depend on what you were just saying, the carbs and the coffee and the wine and all of that. I think it comes from a good place of self-soothing or whatever. There are obviously many different reasons. For emotional eaters, how would you counsel them?

Kristen: All of us, hello, COVID-19, who’s not an emotional eater or drinker? We all are. At one point, I was making cookies out of anything that was in my house because it felt like one big snow day. Then it just went on and on. The average American was gaining two pounds a month in quarantine. There is a lot of emotional eating. To get to the root of some of this, there’s emotional eating and there’s addictive eating. What we don’t know about food is the most dangerous part because the food industry is designed to sell us products. It is designing their food to be addictively delicious so you really can’t just eat one. The odds are stacked against us when we go into the store and we buy anything with a label because that food is processed in some way. I’m not saying don’t buy any food with labels. We should all be label-readers. Understand sugar, salt, and certain types of fats, that’s the trifecta of addiction. Creating foods that have those three things, and a certain kind of crunch and the bag sounds a certain way when you open it, it’s all addictive. If you’re using sugar or artificial sweeteners — artificial sweeteners are actually worse for you than natural sweeteners because they are chemicals. Just because there are chemicals in food doesn’t mean chemicals are food.

Sugar is highly addictive. It lights up the pleasure centers of the brain. It’s more addictive than cocaine. They’ve done many, many studies with rats. The rats take the sugar every time. Sugar’s addictive. How this works is not only is it delicious to eat and lights up the pleasure center of our brain, it feeds the bad bacteria in our gut. Now we’re feeding the bad bacteria. The gut sends thousands of messages each day to our brain telling us what to do. The brain only sends a couple hundred to the gut. The gut is calling the shots. If we’re feeding the bad bacteria, we’re creating this cycle that makes it very hard to not eat those foods that seem so soothing and comforting. We have to get to the root cause. I have something called the Kitchen Intervention, which is one of my signature programs. It’s about creating the conditions of life for the life you want to live. I eat everything. I don’t want anybody to think that I don’t eat pizza or French fries or steak or drink wine and coffee. I eat everything. Five days a week, I use my food with precision intention because I have a lot I want to do. I want to have a good night’s sleep. I need to dial down stress. I’m going to get up at 4:10 so I can get to the gym at five AM. I have busy days ahead of me.

My husband and I, five days a week, we eat a largely plant-based diet. Plants are delicious. You just have to know how to cook them. Go to The Culinary Cure. Look at my recipes. We try not to drink alcohol during the week unless there’s a reason, like something fun, I’m out of the house. We’ll have a kombucha at five in a wine glass. That can be satisfying. Then on weekends, we pretty much do whatever we want. That is forever putting the odds in your favor. For busy moms and busy working women, this is a great plan because you can now game up on Sunday. Have a plan or plan to fail. You’re planning ahead. Now you’re shopping for meals, not buying random food, which is what people do all the time. They go to the grocery store. They fill their cart up with food, but they don’t have meals. Now you’re buying meals, not just random food. You’re doing a little bit of prep work. I say if you can spend two to three hours on a Sunday prepping for the week, you will get that time back during the week when you need it the most and more. That is the key to The Culinary Cure. It’s using food with intention. It’s buying meals, not shopping for food, and creating the conditions of life. Hello? If there is something crap-tastic in your pantry, it’s going to call to you. You’re going to be in your house and you’re going to be like, oh, my god, I have some stale Peeps up in the top of that cabinet. I love stale Peeps.

Zibby: Kristen, how can people find you?

Kristen: I have a freebie. I have a gift. For anybody that wants to visit me at, it is Healthy Habits 101. It’s twenty pages. It’s got recipes. It’s kind of like your little entry level if you’re just wondering where to start. This can help you get started. It’s a little primer. At The Culinary Cure, you can see the link for my book on Amazon. I tell people if you order my book on Amazon and you reach out to me and message me and write me a review because you liked the book — I hope you will like the book — I’ll send you a copy of my 30 Day Detox as a little thank you. I loved sharing with people that is so doable. Make food your friend. Have a plan. Eat the way your great-grandparents ate. If the food wasn’t around before your great-grandparents’ time, think twice before you eat it. If you’re feeding kids, teach them how to eat lots of vegetables. I do have a great recipe for mac and cheese on my website. It’s only three ingredients. It’s quite delicious. It’s not all that healthy, but at least it’s a little healthier. Feed your kids lots of vegetables. Teach them how to learn to love vegetables. Roast them. Steam them. Serve them fresh. Serve them with a dip. The answer to longevity and disease prevention and lower stress really is in that plant-based diet.

Zibby: I am hoping that my great-grandparents ate chocolate-covered almonds because that is how I get through the day.

Kristen: I love them.

Zibby: Thank you so much. This was so nice. Thanks for sharing so openly and being inspirational but also giving such easy to understand, perhaps more challenging to follow — you’ve inspired me, even, to adopt some of these things and that mindset. Also, that image of your brain as the file cabinet with the things flying out, that will stay with me today. Thank you so much. It was so nice to get to know you.

Kristen: Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Take care. Buh-bye.

Kristen: Bye.

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