Fernanda De La Puente
NUTRITIONAL COACH, HOLISTIC CHEF & YOGA TEACHER, NEW YORK CITY
"I think it’s that most of us have made the body the enemy in many ways. Blaming it, forcing it into a certain shape, punishing it. A lack of love in that relationship with yourself."
TALKS NUTRITIONAL HEALING, DIETING & EATING PSYCHOLOGY
I read an interview with Fernanda years ago somewhere on the web that introduced me to her work in nutritional healing, psychology and wellbeing. But to me what was also inspiring is that not only has she attained accreditations in holistic culinary, nutrition and eating psychology but that she has also devoted much of her life to the practice of yoga, graduating with her 800hr certification in Jivamukti Yoga where she currently teaches at the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City.
It was so obvious to me that Fernanda would be someone I would love to sit and talk too about her experiences and her deeply rooted love in connecting the dots between food and the healing of the mind and the body. This interview was such a blessing in grounding me back to the reasons why I started Hello! Sun so many years ago, to open up discussions about nutrition, mental health with the hope to re-educate people about the importance of the mind and body connection that I felt was somewhat lost. Sitting with Fernanda was such a beautiful experience and our conversation was one I wish could have lasted forever because I learnt so much. I hope you can feel her lightness and wonder through this interview as I did personally upon meeting her, and I can only hope that the topics we discuss and what she has to say inspires you as much as it inspired me.
I FIND MORNING RITUALS AND HOW PEOPLE START THEIR DAY SO INTERESTING. CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNINGS?
I usually wake up in the morning and boil some hot water and have hot water with lemon and a little bit of salt. I also love making cocoa leaf tea, it’s typical in Peru where I’m from and gives you energy and I love it because it’s just a real clean kind of energy. Then I do at least three rounds of sun salutations and I do Ashtanga A and B and these ten different postures called the Magic Ten in Jivamukti Yoga, which is the type of yoga I teach and practice. That's if I have to quickly leave out the door but otherwise I usually do a longer class for myself. I usually teach in the mornings and so I’ll get a coffee on my way and there's this coffee place around the corner and they make this delicious oatmeal with dates so I’ll have that for breakfast if I have to be out the door and I'm rushing. Otherwise I’ll do something really simple like kefir with grated apples and cinnamon. I don't usually like to have bigger breakfasts with things like eggs during the week because it's just too much of a hassle and feels a little heavy. I like to keep it simple - like even some fruit with tahini and a little bit of salt.
DO YOU LIKE TO KEEP YOUR BREAKFASTS LIGHT?
Yeah and I also have this thing that I like to eat and drink a lot that's called Secreto de Inca which means Secret of the Incas and it’s basically a blend of different ancient Andean grains and it’s almost like an old school cereal but has all these amazing superfoods like Maca. Sometimes I’ll just add water and drink it and for me that ensures a good combination of nutrition for the day. I usually just have that with some boiled water and add a little bit of almond milk but generally I’ll keep my mornings light especially because I teach so I don't want to be super full and heavy. I can't have a heavy stomach because it’s important for my energy to be where it has to be to teach and I couldn't be eating a brunch right before I have to go teach class. I’m always aware of bringing my best self to class for the people and energetically it just doesn't work.
YOU CARRY AMAZING ACCREDITATIONS IN HOLISTIC NUTRITION AND ALSO IN YOUR STUDY AND PRACTICE IN EATING PSYCHOLOGY. I AM SO CURIOUS - WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY TOWARDS FOOD?
It’s become a really intuitive approach after learning a lot all these years. Now it’s just really trying to eat food that comes from a clean source. Foods that are grown in the ground organically and hopefully bio-dynamically - sourcing and eating real food, flavorful food. If I can go to the farmers market and get my produce there then that's always going to be the best for me in terms of food and food energetics. Food that has been agriculturally mass produced and filled with all sorts of unnatural additives have no taste and are bland. I mean for me the response is automatic - I can feel it you know. Something that’s organic from a small farm and cultivated with love versus the complete opposite. I think that would be my main one. Also where I eat and how I eat is really important for me. Making sure when I’m eating, I’m in a calm place - I cant really eat when I'm in a space that’s full of loud music and people and everything is really aggressive.
So I guess not only what I eat but how I eat is a really big part of it but in terms of my food philosophy that’s a really interesting question. Like just eating real food grown from real soil - like all these new food trends with hydroponics, I'm not really into it. I do eat animal protein, just not very much. Like I said I stick to kefir and I’ll have certain cheeses, especially goat and sheep. I don't eat anything processed or those food like products that you can buy anywhere - never! In terms of meat, I grew up being vegetarian so I'm not used to being a big meat eater. If it’s a really special place, special restaurant or something and I really have to try as an experience then I’ll eat it but I don't do cow - I don't do beef. I mean in having said that I don't even remember the last time I ate meat.
WHEN YOU SAY YOU DON’T EAT ANYTHING PROCESSED, I AGREE. BUT CAN YOU ELABORATE ON WHAT YOUR PERSONAL REASONS ARE AND WHAT THAT MEANS TO YOU?
Because first of all, say with dairy - it’s packed with hormones and antibiotics and other stuff they inject into cows. Not to mention the other preservatives that are added where it’s almost like you're eating plastic cheese and the chemicals that are added into the processing of that food is so harmful and really toxic for the body. I have even gotten allergic reactions almost immediately. I had an incident once where I went back home to Lima and I had this yoghurt - you know the yoghurts that are commercial and processed and have ingredients like whole milk powder and thickener? I had it happen where I automatically vomited because my body just rejected it. So definitely with dairy I’m always super careful and check that it’s organic and from a farm or a place that I trust or have researched and know where it comes from.
WITH EATING PSYCHOLOGY, YOUR WORK INCLUDES WORKING WITH MODELS OR PEOPLE WITH DISORDERED EATING OR DISORDERED RELATIONSHIPS WITH FOOD. WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE SOME COMMON OR REPETITIVE ISSUES THAT KEEP SURFACING WITH WOMEN AND FOOD?
I think it’s that most of us have made the body the enemy in many ways. Blaming it, forcing it into a certain shape, punishing it. A lack of love in that relationship with yourself. Most women say for instance, want to lose weight and that’s their main concern. That's okay and that’s why they’re searching for a nutritionist but what is important is to dive a little deeper and try and understand the “why”. What are the real motives behind wanting to lose that weight and what are the real reasons? Figuring out whether those motives come from a loving place towards yourself and a genuine want to progress and improve your life and health or if it actually stems from wanting to punish your body - the want to control, trying to fit things into straight lines and striving for an unhealthy perfection. Understanding what’s underneath that desire to lose weight and you know I think everyone is different, we all have different paths and that includes different relationships with food and with the mothers who raised us and so on but it's always important to watch that relationship closely and watch yourself and how you use food in your life. Whether it’s for celebration and nourishment or whether it is as a form of punishment and pain or you are just sad and looking for something to calm you down.
I FIND EMOTIONAL EATING VERY COMMON WHEN I SPEAK TO BOTH WOMEN AND MEN. I’M CURIOUS TO KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON INTUITIVE EATING AS OPPOSED TO EMOTIONAL EATING… HOW CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE?
I think everyone needs that pause in life and that’s why teaching yoga and practicing meditation is really important for me and I believe the same principles can be applied to everything including our relationship with food and our eating patterns. To be able to have that space between the moment you are pulled to eat something to the moment where you actually consume it into your body. Having that moment to pause and respect the food and respect yourself. If you notice that you're just jumping into the food and eating blindly then you’re most probably eating as an emotional response. That type of eating where you're actually unaware that you’re actually eating and chewing, just being completely shut off. Emotional eating is eating with that light switched off and it's all about switching that light back on.
So I guess with your question - how can you tell if it’s emotional or intuitive? It’s if you can just have a moment where you can pause and breathe before jumping into it. You allow that space and moment to count a blessing, showing gratitude for even having that food there in the first place, I mean those little practices automatically changes all the circuits in your brain. To learn that you’re not just jumping into it to fill something up in your life or whatever your emotional state is but eating for nourishment. If you make the decision then to eat to nourish your body then you will look at the food in front of you and can make a judgement on what it will do and how it will make you feel. That's where the choices will just start to come and flow in a really natural way.
THEY SAY INTUITIVE EATING IS THE COMMUNICATION CHANNEL NATURE HAD PROGRAMMED IN US TO LET US KNOW WHAT OUR BODY NEEDS OR IS IN LACK OF THROUGH THE WAY OF CRAVINGS ETC. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
I think that it’s hard to really pinpoint what your body is craving and it also depends on what you've already been feeding it. For example - it’s common to crave sugar if you are deficient in other things but it also depends on what your background has been with sugar and what types of sugar you have been feeding your body. For a lot of people they have their go-to cravings that are not necessarily aligned with what nutrients or minerals they are missing but could be just the body is drawn to eating certain foods depending where it’s at.
Maybe your digestive system enters a cleansing mode and suddenly you're drawn to eating more vegetables and greens because it is going through an elimination process. Maybe the liver is working extra hard today because you drank a lot the night before or you had a super heavy fatty meal and then you’re just naturally going to be drawn to water, fruit and vegetables. I wouldn't say you get super accurate messages from your body where it’s like "okay you have to eat broccoli sprouts today" but I think you are drawn to the vicinity of what you need. Not specifically but like maybe dark leafy greens sound really good right now or sometimes you just really need something heavy and warm to ground you because energetically you were feeling really sky high and mentally you’re mind was up in the air and you need something that's going to ground you back down. So for me it’s not only about missing vitamin A or C or whatever but more about what you need in order to balance yourself out back into harmony.
I TALK A LOT ABOUT THE MIND AND BODY CONNECTION IN TERMS OF GUT HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH. PERSONALLY DO YOU HAVE ANY PRACTICES THAT YOU TURN TO THAT HELPS KEEP YOU MORE PRESENT AND GROUNDED?
You know it’s really tough and it’s been changing throughout the years because some things work and then they stop working. I mean I think the process of living is staying up to date with yourself and constantly pressing the refresh button and finding new ways. I've always been that kind of person where I'm always trying to find new ways in figuring myself out because I'm just really curious.
If I'm feeling really down I go for a walk and be in the sun and lie down on some grass for at least 5 mins. Doing something simple like that for me, the change is really immediate. The earthing, just taking off my shoes if I can and just touching some soil or grass with my feet really grounds me back to what we are - it really changes everything. However in the winter where it’s really cold and you cant really do that I do use food. For example a soup, thats really warm and grounding, and maybe grains. Anything that can give you that feeling of an embrace really helps root you back down. And very similar to earthing, food also comes down from the earth and can also be a way for us to connect back to something that’s really natural through eating and touching the food. I think the concept of eating is very primal and going back to something that is very natural as opposed to staring at your computer or going on your phone but where your body and cells can recognize the foods and are like “oh I know this”. Eating food that is alive and is full of life. So food is a great pathway into that and for me it’s also music. Being able to sit with myself, like when I have those moments where I don't want too and feel like it's so horrible, that’s when I know I need to the most and I need to lay down and take a moment. Listening to music really helps. It’s really hard but it’s just about taking that time out to realize you’re not feeling okay and doing whatever it is you need to get you back into a more natural state and presence.
IN TERMS OF BEAUTY DO YOU HAVE ANY HOLISTIC BEAUTY RITUALS OR THINGS THAT YOU BELIEVE IN?
I've been using a lot of moringa oil for my face and I recently interviewed the owner of this brand called True Moringa and it’s this beautiful brand and they have been helping farmers in Ghana. I love moringa and my mom plants it but I never thought you could have it in skincare. I love using oils and I know a lot of dermatologists say don't use oils and that creams are better but for me I love it because it’s really plain and I love to know what I'm putting on my face. It’s not just like a combination of who knows what and also I don't like fragrances, it actually makes me feel dizzy and uncomfortable. I do dry brushing and I just keep it simple. I wash my face with water, I think everything about beauty - it shouldn't be that complicated.