We’re all so health conscious these days that it’s often hard to differentiate what’s fact and what’s fad. Nutritionist Jessica Sepel is one person who is aiming to make being healthy easier, more sustainable and most of all, enjoyable. Jessica, through her popular blog, books and new app is trying to ensure that looking after our health becomes a lifestyle rather than a chore. We caught up recently to chat about the one question she gets asked the most, why she’s packing up and moving to LA and why she wants me to cook kalettes for dinner…
Hi lovely. Good to see you. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Thank you for having me what a gorgeous morning.
What have you been up to lately?
So I have just launched my app and vitamins so it’s been a really busy 2018 for me. A lot going on but also moving to LA next week. Very exciting.
What’s a day in the life of you?
Day in the life of me is wake up probably seven, 7.30 and I practice yoga normally, either yoga or a walk in nature and I have a JS Health [Jessica’s health program] breakfast. I actually don’t check social media or my emails or any of that until after a really beautiful morning routine, then I hit the office just like everyone else about 9 o’clock and full of meetings, recipe creation, technical meetings now because of the app and then finish work six, seven o’clock, make dinner for my husband and I, and I go into bed early.
You’ve had such an incredible journey did you always want to be a nutritionist?
I always wanted to be a nutritionist, but I absolutely didn’t have a dream bigger than that. I’ve studied health and nutrition for five years. After school, I went up to study nutrition, and then in my fourth year of study I started a blog just very casually, but I’ve always just wanted to be in private practice, that was my end goal. But then the blog took off and that’s how it kind of turn into a brand which is JS Health and JS Health turned into the books. And the books turned into a program and the program turned into an app and vitamins.
Did you have any idea that you’d be doing books, vitamins… apps?
No, no way. I always say if I can do it anyone can because I have zero business skills, zero business training…but I guess I’m really passionate about the healthy life and that as you know, when you’re passionate about something you can make it work. The best part of JS Health is that it’s this community, this really strong loyal community who have supported me and I’m supporting them on this journey to live a healthier life.
What would be some of your top tips for living a healthy lifestyle?
I actually think removing the pressure to do it all right. JS Health really is all about balance, of course making the best choices that you can most of the time, but then also allowing for flexibility, balance, moderation.
My tip is making one to two small changes a week that creates profound physical change in the body. Also, developing or fostering a wholesome relationship with your body is probably the first step when it comes to living a healthy life. Because when you love yourself and you want to take care of yourself, you automatically make healthy choices. We have to start to change our mentality around a healthy life and see it as this long term journey and make small changes week by week.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make?
Definitely the attachment to extreme and fat diets that is the biggest mistake, because unfortunately the minute we restrict and deprive our foods it always leads to overeating, binging, emotional eating and having this really complicated relationship with food. We’re not meant to be so complicated with food. Food is here to nourish us, to energise us.
Social media, especially in your world, must have such great benefits but also such negatives as well.
Yeah, definitely and I feel like I’m in the middle of both of those worlds because I’m trying to encourage people to live a healthier life, but I don’t want them to feel like that is the perfect life. I always say the healthy life does not mean the perfect life, but obviously it’s my role to inspire my community with healthy food all the time. I also always encourage people to only follow people who inspire you and unfollow the people that you are comparing yourself to. You know when you’re following an account do you feel good when you look at it? Does is it inspire you, does it excite you, does it motivate you or you’re like, “oh gosh, I wish I had that, I should be looking like that.” If you’re feeling pressure and anxiety in any small way, it’s a good idea to unfollow.
Tell me about your app. Congratulations, it’s very exciting.
Thank you, so with the app I feel like it’s been like 10 years in the making to get to this point because I had a very complicated relationship with food as a young teenage girl as a chronic fad dieter. I was like 13 when I just got into dieting, which is very weird at that time because there was no social media. So I think I was actually reading those trashy celebrity magazines and following what they were doing.
It’s amazing how young that all starts.
Really young. And then I have had this complicated relationship with food until after school and then that’s when I went to study health and nutrition and then that’s when I started documenting my transition from being this fad dieter to becoming more of a balanced eater. And then I started documenting it into a blog and then I start writing about the recipes that I was creating and developing into the blog and so the app is really just a manifestation of my philosophy, of my principles, the recipes that people have loved all these years, and really it teaches you how to give up dieting for life. It is giving you access to a nutritionist 24/7. I have a whole team someone can just ask at any time.
It’s kind of a game changer, there’re 53 health guides, so kind of a virtual online nutrition clinic. So if you suffer with your sleep you’ll go into the sleep room and you’ll capture the JS Health sleep guide, nutrition guide, lifestyle guide for sleep, and then if you need further support there’s a nutritionist there guiding you through that whole journey or whatever you might be struggling with. I guess everyone wants a nutritionist in their pocket. We’re all on our phones all the time, so the app is really just this way for people to have access to my philosophy and my recipe with absolute ease.
You gave me these amazing kalettes for my dinner tonight, what am I cooking tonight with these?
I’m inspiring you to cook tonight, well firstly because you have kids and kids love chips, and kalettes are basically a very nutritious chip. You can bake them in the oven with some olive oil and sea salt, pop them into the oven for like 20 to 30 minutes and they turn into crispy chips and then you can use Hummus or Tahini to dip them or I chop them up and I sauté them with leeks and mushrooms and then I add goat’s cheese. So it’s like a kale stir fry topped with goat’s cheese and leeks and it’s just so delicious. I bought you some mushrooms and leeks to go with the kalettes, which you can get from Coles!
So you must be a good cook?
I wouldn’t say like I’m an amazing cook, but I’m really good at discovering healthy alternatives to our favourite foods and cooking simply but tasty, like I think you can still be a foodie even if you’re health conscious. We have this perception that healthy food is bland and boring and tasteless, I’m really trying to break that conception and show people that healthy food can be really delicious and satisfying and rich and decadent.
What’s your go-to recipe?
Probably the JS Health Japanese salmon, which is basically like a healthy teriyaki sauce over salmon with probably cauliflower mash.
What’s the number one question that people ask you?
Definitely energy, how do I get more energy? I think energy is such a big issue, right now for women especially so that’s one of them. Sugar cravings, how do I combat sugar cravings and gut health? I think those three are the most commonly asked questions in the JS Health community.
What do you say when it comes to energy?
So when it comes to energy, you really want to make sure that your gut is in good shape. So with gut health I will really give them a gut treatment protocol to get their gut back in shape. Really starting with food and not being too worried about it but cutting out those foods that will probably make you feel tired, and the two most common triggers are gluten and wheat and refined sugar. So if you just take a four week break from those two and see if your energy improves, which 90 percent of the time it does, then those are the two culprits to kind of reduce. When I say give up gluten, I mean you can still go out on the weekends and have your piece of salad and have your toast it’s just I have found from clinical experience, gluten does make people feel tired. A lot more sleep and also going to bed by 10.30, 11 anything after that can, people wake up feeling really tired.
Australians drink a lot of coffee. I love coffee I’m never giving up my one a day, but I normally say one a day before 10:00 AM because having caffeine from midday onwards can really interfere with your cortisol and adrenal glands, which can really affect your sleep and can make you feel really tired the next day. So I say try and stop at 10 or maybe the latest midday and you should notice the energy started to pick up.
Is going out to restaurants ever tricky?
I mean restaurants are also catering to the health conscious so you can always find a healthy option wherever you are. I think it really is just about making sure you have the macro nutrients to keep you full and satisfied at meals. So making sure you have your protein, your veggies and making sure you have your fibre from your veggies, making sure you have a bit of a complex or releasing carb, lots of good fats.
Do you ever indulge?
What is your biggest indulgence?
I love gelato. I love going out on a Saturday night and having wine and definitely trying the dessert. I’m a foodie so I want to go to these beautiful restaurants and experience the food. So actually because my life is so healthy and every day is based around the healthy life, I actually got out of my way to break that and be flexible with food and travel and go to new restaurants and try the food because I think that is the healthy life.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working, what do you do with your husband?
That’s a good question. I definitely need to improve on getting the fun back into my life because my husband is the CEO of JS Health so we work together, it’s really challenging. For me, honestly like fun is taking Saturday off going for a massage, practicing yoga, really not checking my emails and my phone and having a really beautiful dinner somewhere. And travel is what brings me so much joy and fun. Seeing the world, seeing different cultures, seeing more different food, experiencing different food I guess that to me is what I really look forward to in life.
What is it like working with your husband?
Interesting. We work really well together because we have so much respect for each other. And when you respect someone, it’s very rare that we break each other’s boundaries or speak to each other in a negative way. But it’s challenging in the fact that our life is work now, but there’s this amazing holly bow underneath, this is like my dream. We work together, we spend every waking moment together.
Tell me about moving to LA are you excited/ nervous?
Yeah, there’s a lot of fear. It’s a big move. I guess I have such a beautiful loyal community here and I will never leave that and I’ll always continue to nourish an Australian community, but this app, the app and the vitamins really does need to be in the American market and I think, I hope to build a JS Health community over there. The JS Health message is really unique because it’s really helping women around the world give up the diets, give up the fads, give up on the extremes around food and finally find balance and peace with food and their bodies, and so I really think America needs that. Hollywood needs that.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Well, my mum always has said hard work never goes unnoticed, and so every time you know, we all have those days and those moments where you’re like, is all of this work actually worth it? But then I remember she says, you’ll see, you’ll see the hard work will get acknowledged and noticed. I think people don’t have a really true perception of what it takes to build something. It’s really not easy, it’s really not glamorous, it’s gruelling and you actually have to be relentless. My dad has always said, keep going, keep going, keep pushing it’s the only way I guess to do what you want to do and create what you want to create.
Amazing. I wish you the best of luck over in LA!
Thanks Kate, thank you so much.
Try Jessica’s recipe for this one pan dukkah crusted salmon dish below.
This easy one-pan dinner shows how to make a meal that’s nutritious, quick and easy.
- 2 x salmon fillets
- 1 x packet kalettes, stem removed
- ½ cauliflower head, cut into florets
- 2 tbsp olive oil or olive oil spray
- Himalayan salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp dukkah spice
- Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C if fan-forced). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Place two salmon fillets in the middle of the baking tray, surrounded by the kalettes and cauliflower florets.
- Spray olive oil over the veggies and salmon. Season with the salt and pepper, to taste.
- Top each salmon fillet with 1 tbsp of the dukkah spice. Pat it down.
- Place the prepared baking tray in the oven for 12–15 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through and the vegetables are lovely and roasted. Serve warm and enjoy. Pro tip: make extra veggies for lunch!
WE WENT TO: Butcher and the Farmer
WE ATE: Fried Brussel sprouts; Honey glazed carrots; Baby cos; Crispy skin salmon; & Char-grilled chicken breast
WE DRANK: Sparkling water
Jessica is wearing Zara; Kate is wearing a Hansen & Gretel blazer & skirt
Photography/Videography: Ash Larden