Podcast Episode 36

From Pharmacy to Farmacy: Dr. Amy Sapola on Plant-Based Eating, Health, and Well-Being

Amy Sapola | 37 Minutes | March 29, 2022

In this episode, we’re speaking with Dr. Amy Sapola, a Certified Wellness Coach, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner, and Doctor of Pharmacy with a B.S. in Nutrition.

Dr. Sapola is the Director of Farmacy (that’s FARM-ACY) at The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, where she works to help guide consumers towards a mindful relationship with food by connecting the benefits of healthy soil to healthy plants, and ultimately, to healthy people. She’s a mother of two young children, master gardener, passionate cook, and long-time yogi.

Join us today as we chat with Dr. Sapola about the role that functional and integrative medicine play in wellness and ultimately our well-being.

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Notes & Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Dr. Amy Sapola, a certified wellness coach, Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner, and Doctor of Pharmacy with a B.S. in nutrition. Dr. Sapola is the director of Farmacy. That’s F-A-R-M-A-C-Y, at the Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, where she works to help guide consumers towards a mindful relationship with food by connecting the benefits of healthy soil, to healthy plants, and ultimately to healthy people. She’s the mother of two young children, Master Gardener, passionate cook, and long-time yogi.

Join us today as we chat with Dr. Sapola about the role that functional and integrative medicine play in wellness and ultimately our well being.

I am so excited to welcome you today, Dr. Amy! How are you?

Amy Sapola: I’m great. How are you?

Kirk Bachmann: As you can tell, I’m pretty excited today! I’m pretty pumped up.

Amy Sapola: I’m so happy to be talking with you. Thank you so much for having me.

Kirk Bachmann: You bet. Where are you? Are you – I’m going to guess – Ohio?

Amy Sapola: Yes. I’m in Ohio today. That is correct.

Kirk Bachmann:What’s the weather doing there?

Amy Sapola: It’s a little overcast. Ohio, it’s one of those “Wait, the next day will be different,” but yesterday was 60. I think tomorrow’s going to be 20.

Kirk Bachmann: Boulder, Colorado: 62 yesterday, minus 2 today with snow on the ground. But you know what: Farmer Lee, when you said overcast, he would turn that into some positive correlation with the vegetables being happy.

Amy Sapola: That’s right.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh my gosh. Speaking about Farmer Lee, I think you know how Escoffier and me in particular feel about Farmer Lee. Amazing human being. Amazing.

Amy Sapola: He is.

Joining Chef’s Garden

Kirk Bachmann: I am so happy. I don’t have the details, but I’m so happy that you’ve joined the Chef’s Garden team. Can you talk a little bit about how that came to be?

Amy Sapola: Oh my gosh! It’s a dream come true. It really is. Being here has brought together every single thing I love. I couldn’t be happier to be part of the team. It was really just from a visit. I was looking at maybe pursuing some culinary education, to be honest. I was in the area visiting my husband’s parents.

Kirk Bachmann: I know somebody. I know somebody.

Amy Sapola: Right!? I was in the area visiting my husband’s parents, and I knew the Culinary Vegetable Institute was close. I had reached out and asked for a tour and spent time with Chef Jamie Simpson. He was just wonderful. I spent a couple of hours with him. My six-year-old daughter came, and we just had a really great conversation. I don’t remember exactly how it went, but essentially he said, “You should just move here.” And I said, “You know, I would love to.” He said, “Send us your resume.” We started talking and really found that there was a lot of stuff we both – the Chef’s Garden and myself – both really wanted to do around Farmacy, with an F.

Kirk Bachmann: Do you think maybe you’re the first doctor that’s connected with a working farm?

Amy Sapola: I don’t know. I hope so.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s a thing! It’s a thing.

Amy Sapola: I think there’s been some physicians who have gone into farming and really gone that way. I think this relationship, bringing together a pharmacist and a farm is really cutting edge. I think it’s so neat. I really think it’s where health and wellness needs to go.

The Experience of a Chef’s Garden Box

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. You are smiling ear to ear. It’s really obvious that you’re loving it.

As we kick off, here, for our guests I want to try to create the picture. They do a lot of things on the farm, but one thing that they do beautifully – and it sort of came out of the pandemic, trying to reach people – you can order packages, boxes of vegetables in a variety of assortments. Beginner level, that sort of thing.

I just have to say, when those boxes arrive, it’s not like your typical Amazon box being thrown on the porch. This is a beautiful box that when you open it up, it’s almost like the vegetables and the herbs and the flowers have just been put to bed. They’ve just been laid into this beautiful box. You open it up. You almost don’t want to touch it. The first thing you do is grab your phone and start posting on Instagram.

Let’s talk really quickly, a plug for Farmer and for you. There’s a Rainbow Box that is now available. That’s kind of a new box, right?

Amy Sapola: Yeah. Coming out in March is our Rainbow Box, which I’m so excited about. We already have our Best of the Season box, which is really a culinary focus box highlighting being the best of the season. We have so many different boxes to choose from, but the Rainbow Box really highlights phytonutrients, which essentially is like the immune system of the plant, oftentimes known as antioxidants in your body. That’s the different colors and scents of the plant.

This phytonutrient box – we’re calling it the Rainbow Box – is going to feature a different color vegetable from each of six different colors of the rainbow. Every time you open it, it’s going to be a rainbow. We’re so excited to cook with this book. Every month, the ingredients are going to change. Even in the first month – not to spoil the surprise – but we have a special butterfly pea flower tea that you make it and it’s blue. You add some lemon; it turns purple. So we’re really highlighting all of the different colors, that variety, and how that can impact health.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. I can tell you’re super, super excited about it. Great plug. You can go to thechefsgarden.com.

Amy Sapola: Yep. Farmer Jones Farm as well.

Building Trust with Your Body

Kirk Bachmann: Perfect. Perfect. I’m still a little out of breath after your introduction, by the way. There’s so much to talk about. In a very serendipitous way, today is a very special day for me and my family. It’s just so ironic that I’m speaking to you today. I wanted to share that 39 years ago, my father donated a kidney to me. He’s doing well. I’m doing well. I’m unbelievably grateful, so is our family, for this magical moment that we have and continue to have. Nutrition, wellness, the fact that I went into the culinary industry so I could cook well and cook better.

A few years ago, my family migrated to 90-95 percent plant-based for many reasons. I’m really, really excited to talk today. I’ve read and I know that you mention in your story that you may have had somewhat of an eating disorder in high school and you followed all kinds of diets. I’ve done that, too. Paleo. Keto. Just following along. Then you say that through all of that, and it’s a lot, that you realized that you needed to stop the craziness and you needed to listen to and nourish your body. I know that that’s a lot. That’s a mouthful. In this journey of realizing or recognizing the way that you were approaching your health and that it wasn’t working, and that you needed something more holistic. Can you walk us through what that experience was like? I’ve heard this experience from others. I’m really eager to hear your story.

Amy Sapola: A lot of it centered around that I was really driven, really active in sports. The more results I saw, the more I kept pushing. You get this addictive personality where you’re going to do everything you do to 110 percent. In some areas that serves me, and in some areas it doesn’t. Basically, the best thing that ever happened to me was starting to practice yoga when I was 15, because I was really outside of my body. I was very disconnected from my body, and yoga helped ground me back in to my body, actually feeling what being in my body is like instead of being in my head.

I’ve studied yoga for a long time. Got into mindfulness, mindful eating, intuitive eating. All of those things just helped bring me back into the eating experience. Not having that rift with food. I think, so commonly, we believe – whether it is from childhood or wherever – we have this love/hate relationship with food. It’s either going to kill you…

Kirk Bachmann: Should I eat that? Should I not eat that?

Amy Sapola: It’s good for you. It’s bad for you. I’m a good person. I’m a bad person because of what I eat. So much of that is through diet culture, but we know from statistics 80 percent of diets don’t work. I think part of why I’m thankful that I’ve tried a lot of these is, when I work with clients, I have that understanding, that personal knowledge of what it’s been like and what I’ve experienced. I think there’s a lot of power to be able to listen to yourself. Your body knows what it needs. There’s a lot of marketing out there that is trying to tell us differently. I think turning inward and being able to listen is huge.

The other thing I really found was connecting with nature. I think that’s where being a Master Gardner. My grandma and grandpa were amazing gardeners. I just remember eating plums off the plum tree, and my grandpa picking us baskets full of cherries. Those were the best plums and cherries I’d ever tasted. Even now at the Chef’s Garden, the stuff we’re growing is harvested fresh and to your door the next day. There’s something to be said for that care and that love.

I think you feel that in cooking, too. When you eat a meal that someone’s prepared for you with love, there is something to that. That tastes differently. I tell my kids all the time that my secret ingredient is love, and they kind of giggle about it, but they’ll say it, too. My daughter will make me eggs and be like, “There’s a secret ingredient.” And she’ll say, “It’s love!”

Kirk Bachmann:That’s so beautiful.

Amy Sapola: It’s really about connecting with nature, with yourself, but getting back in your body and building that trust.

Her Crazy Journey to Integrative and Functional Medicine

Kirk Bachmann: It helps you slow down for a minute, too. We have a dear friend here in Boulder. She’s been on the show. Her name’s Lauren Lewis. Long-time yogi and plant-based advocate. For our company, for Escoffier, we do two yoga sessions with her a month. It’s in the middle of the day. Put the brakes on for a minute and just breathe. Most of the time I just listen to her voice to get back to center and get grounded. Absolutely love that.

Along the same lines. It’s so informational, and I love hearing about this. Can you talk about how you were introduced, and then how you promote this idea of functional and integrative medicine? What drew you into that you, essentially – I’m going out on a limb here – but you’ve kind of designed your life work around this concept?

Amy Sapola: Yeah. I think it’s been so impactful for me. It’s one of those things. It’s part of your learning journey. It’s like the healer’s journey, they call it. You’re learning along the way. You’re helping others. You’re also learning to help yourself. I think part of what started all this was yoga. Having that mind-body connection and being open to those types of experiences, the wellness and preventative wellness.

The integrative medicine piece really started with I was working at Mayo Clinic up in Rochester. I was in specialty pharmacy. I was working with transplant, oncology – people with really, really serious illness. We know from statistics that four out of five people are using vitamins and supplements. A lot of people aren’t telling their healthcare practitioners about it, and not telling their pharmacists. We know there are interactions with different things. I found myself a lot of time saying, “We don’t know if that’s safe. We don’t know if we have good evidence.” I found that I had such a lack of knowledge in that area. It’s not something we’re really taught in pharmacy school, to be exceptionally honest about that. It’s not a big focus of the curriculum. It was really easy to say, “Nope, that’s not safe.” But then you look back and you’re like, “Traditionally, people have used some of these remedies for thousands of years. Who am I to say this isn’t safe?” I wanted to really learn more and understand so that I could speak from a place of knowledge instead of fear.

I eventually started learning more, attending conferences. Then I met Tieraona Low Dog who is a physician, midwife, herbalist. She is amazing. She was doing a fellowship in integrative medicine through the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine. I signed up. It was a two-year fellowship. I had a six-month-old daughter at the time. I was a crazy person. “Yes. I’m going to do a fellowship.”

Kirk Bachmann: Commitment. Wow!

Amy Sapola: While I was doing that, I found out about functional medicine. Like an exceptionally crazy person, I then decided to concurrently study functional medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine. While finishing up my fellowship, I started that and then ended up getting certified. I was like the 17th pharmacist in the world to get certified in functional medicine.

Kirk Bachmann: Really!?! Who certifies you for that?

Amy Sapola: It’s the Institute for Functional Medicine. They have an exam you take after you’ve done all the curriculum, and you write a case. You do all sorts of stuff. It’s pretty involved.

Kirk Bachmann: Wow!

Amy Sapola: It was really a great process, and I think one of the things I should explain as kind of a baseline is the difference between integrative and functional medicine, how they fit together.

Integrative medicine I think of as the overall umbrella. I always tell people, integrative medicine is really about having more tools in your toolbox. It’s using Eastern and Western medicine, everything available. It’s focus is so much more on the preventative side and health and wellness side versus the sick care that we commonly see.

Integrative medicine, I think, is the over-arching umbrella, where functional medicine is really the systems biology approach to getting to the root cause – the official definition. What systems biology really means is that you’re looking at the systems of the body as a whole. Instead of saying, your liver, or your kidney, there’s a problem here, you look at how that effects everything. How does that effect the whole body? That makes so much more sense to me than looking at things in isolation.

We look at how all of these things, all of these systems you’re having, how do they relate to the whole and your overall experience?

Connecting with the Whole Patient

Kirk Bachmann: I’m going to relate that to what’s going on in our company now. We just launched our own holistic nutrition and wellness program last week. Truly. We got about a hundred students signed up for it. Our approach, the way we wrote this, is combining nutrition and mindfulness, healthy lifestyles with a foundation in crafting delicious and balanced meals. It’s about the food, as well. What I’m hearing you say about functional medicine is you’re treating the whole person, not just the symptoms, with a big focus on diet and nutrition.

I guess what I would ask is how does one approach the whole person. How do you make that shift? The definition is one thing, but how do you move over to that type of lifestyle?

Amy Sapola: One of the things I think we do differently is really spending time with people and taking time to make sure people are heard. If you think of a typical doctor’s appointment, you maybe have 15 to 30 minutes on average –

Kirk Bachmann: If you’re lucky!

Amy Sapola: If you’re lucky. We don’t often get to really tell our stories. Also, being able to take that time to work with somebody and look at all the different pieces of their life. Functional medicine not only goes back to birth, it goes back to preconception. What was going on with your mom? Were you breastfed? How were you delivered? All of those things.

I think it’s that, but it’s also looking at foundational things. So much of functional medicine is really about lifestyle. They have five main foundational things we look at: diet and lifestyle, sleep, stress, connection – social connection is huge. When you look at those things and form that foundation, a lot of the other components fall into place. One of the things they talk about with functional medicine is those foundational elements are the roots of a tree. You need strong roots to have a healthy body.

On Sleep and Screens

Kirk Bachmann: Can you talk a little bit more about sleep? You read a lot about this. It’s the real deal. You need your body to – what happens to your body when you’re sleeping? Does it really regenerate itself?

Amy Sapola: We don’t even probably know everything that’s going on, all of the benefits of sleep. Some of it is your brain cleaning out the glymphatic system is the lymph in brain. It’s cleansing itself. Your memories are getting reconciled and filed away. It’s giving you time, hopefully, to get into deep sleep. A lot of people aren’t reaching those deep restful sleep stages. They’re having a lot of disrupted sleep.

One of the things we see a lot is blue light and exposure to devices. TVs, phones, reader books, whatever. All of those things disrupt your melatonin production, and melatonin is what helps regulate your circadian rhythm to keep you in that normal sleep/wake cycle. If you’re not getting that daytime light exposure and getting outside, and say you’re working at a computer, and then you’re on a computer at night, the light that your eyes are seeing is messing with your circadian rhythm. People will not sleep well because of that.

Kirk Bachmann: Do you worry about younger people today gaming and screen time? No matter how much we try to regulate it – “you can only be on the screen for six hours on the weekend” – probably the worst thing they can do right before they go to bed, right?

Amy Sapola: Oh my gosh, yes! I think it’s so hard with children to try to limit that screen time, but so important. One of my favorite books is “The Dirt Cure” by Maya Shetreat-Klein. She talks about the importance of children when it comes to allergies and health and wellness, getting out, being in the dirt. How often do our kids actually get to get outside and play in the dirt, and eat food that has actually been pulled from the dirt recently. I think it’s not only sleep regulation, but that whole lifestyle. How do you do that with a family? As someone with a young family, I know it’s not easy.

Kirk Bachmann: There are so many distractions. I was just going to say, it’s funny when you think about playing in the dirt. Country music gets that, being out in the dirt. I love that feedback.

Let’s talk a little bit more about you. Certified Master Farmer…

Amy Sapola: Gardener.

Farming for Maximum Nutrients

Kirk Bachmann: Gardener. What a cool achievement! Now you’re the director of health and wellness at Chef’s Garden. You’re going to work with consumers to connect their diets to their wellness, to make that correlation. I think that’s beautiful. You’re working with Farmer Lee, who we love. Can you help our audience understand – not to take your secrets away – but how do you approach connecting the dots about farming, nutrition, and cooking? I can draw it out, but that seems like a big task. Do you have to put the brakes on things? Do you have to have team meetings so everything flows the way you believe it should?
Talk about that a little bit.

Amy Sapola: It’s a dream come true to be here and to be doing this work. I feel so privileged to be in this place. I think what we know and what our philosophy is healthy soil creates healthy plants that feed healthy people. We know that our soil is the most important thing. We’re regeneratively farming to make sure that we have that good soil biology, basically. When you’re eating, it’s effecting your microbiome. We’re really focused on that. By having healthy soil, you have healthy plants. You have less chemical input that way. That’s something that’s really important to me, too.

Then, being able to translate the evidence that we’re getting out of our lab. We have an on-site lab that is doing nutrient density testing on our vegetables. We’re getting real-time feedback on how it’s looking. Are we at the USDA average? Are we above it or below it? We can adjust what we’re doing. I’m able to take some of that data and help translate that to the consumer. Hopefully we can talk about the value of why we want nutrient dense vegetables. I don’t think a lot of consumers even realize that there’s a lot of difference.

Farmer Lee Jones will say, “A carrot is not a carrot, is not a carrot.” There’s a big difference between how carrots are grown, the nutrient density. Even the little carrot sticks you see in the store. Those are essentially the cores of carrots, and we know that the most nutrients, the most phytonutrients, the most vitamins and minerals are in the skin, in that area just underneath the skin, or the peel. That’s why I think it’s really important that we’re able to share this information.

We also know the longer it takes from harvest to consumption, the more nutrients something is losing. I think those are the things that I hope to be able to share.

Working with Chef Jamie and his team, and our marketing team, to share those recipes and really help build confidence. Sometimes you get a box and you’re like, “Oh my gosh! What do I do with this?” But I hope that triggers people to be able to go out and look and say, “Oh my gosh! This is so cool. I want to try something new.”

Part of our box experience is hopefully providing you with things you know and love, but also providing you with things you maybe couldn’t get somewhere else. Or maybe is a unique size or color, a different taste than you’re used to. We want to bring that unique experience to the consumer.

Kirk Bachmann: What I love about Farmer’s approach and Jamie’s and now yours: when Farmer Jones speaks, he’s always got the consumer, the chef, in mind. I love the story of the inner portion of the carrot. In the chef world, we have a good indication. We throw nothing away. We know how much value there is in the peel of the carrot. Heaven forbid that we get rid of that.

You mention that understanding this flow is really good for the consumers to understand the principles, the philosophies around it, but it also sets the tone for the agricultural approach as well. I’m sure that when you’re in the lab and you’re taking a look at the health of the soil, I’m sure there are times you have to pivot and get back to what’s important for the end result.

Amy Sapola: I think that steers so many of our decisions, because there are a lot of decisions to make around farming. There’s a lot of variation. You just look place to place. People are doing it very differently. One of the things that guides us is really the regenerative principles of farming, using cover crops, doing things that maybe aren’t always producing the highest yield, but producing the highest quality. That’s really our focus.

Going Against the Grain

Kirk Bachmann: Farmer has shared that so many times, with pride, by the way. It’s a beautiful way to approach that craft.

Dr. Amy, for our new students that are in our holistic nutrition and wellness program, which we’re delivering online and on ground, many of them will be seeking opportunities that you’ve exposed here. To make inroads into the industry as chefs, as wellness professionals. Is there any advice? People have to make mistakes, they have to make wrong turns here or there. But is there any advice to help students get into the right lane for this type of career?

Amy Sapola: Recently, I heard this term about being a “healthy deviant” from Pilar Gerasimo. I think part of it is this healthy deviance. Our culture really isn’t set up to prompt health. A lot of what we have to do in being healthy is to go against the grain, to do things differently. I see that in our healthcare system as well. We need students coming out of programs like this to do things differently, to go against the grain, to be creative, passionate. That’s, I guess, my best advice. Find something your super-passionate about and do that, because the world really needs more passionate people. I think if you’re passionate about it, you’re going to do your absolute best.

Don’t let the current system, how things are in healthcare, burn you out. That would be my other advice. It’s really easy to get sucked into that because there is a lot of bureaucracy and limitations. When you first come out of school, you’re so excited to just change the world. I think it’s finding that place and being open to new ideas and building those connections. Not limiting yourself to this being the only place I can work. I think there are so many opportunities for entrepreneurship and collaborations that are outside of the normal.

Changing the Face of Health and Wellness

Kirk Bachmann: I didn’t know if we’d go there or not, but we have to get a little political. The bureaucracy is real. I know as well as anyone that you’re acutely aware of the long-time battle between traditional and alternative medicine. For many years, alternative medicine practitioners have been fighting for their services to be covered by insurance, making it more affordable for patients who prefer that style or method of care.

From a legislative perspective, healthcare reform has had an opportunity to prioritize diet, exercise, self-awareness, relaxation, other behavioral changes that people can do for yourselves. But it tends to elevate traditional medicine. You work in the social justice space around public health issues related to the social determinants of health, soil health, planetary health. Not to put you on the spot, but how do you galvanize society or people around this issue so that we can make a change? Or is that eons away? Or are we close?

Amy Sapola: That’s a huge question. I feel like it could be its own podcast.

Kirk Bachmann: It is. A whole other podcast.

Amy Sapola: Yeah. I’ll give you a few things I think about on this topic.

First, I don’t like to think about there’s a battle between integrative and traditional medicine. I really think we’re all in it for the same reasons. We’re in it to help people. I think we’re working towards a common goal with different sets of tools. Not all patients are looking for integrative medicine. Not all patients are looking for the Western medicine. To me, I think it’s funny we call it alternative medicine, or used to call it alternative medicine. Really, our new Western way of way of medicine with pills and surgery and all those things, that’s kind of a new alternative to thousands of years of how medicine had been practiced.

Kirk Bachmann: Good point.

Amy Sapola: I think our payment model is really the biggest barrier to change. Our payment model is paying for sick care. We’re paying for procedures, we’re paying for pills. We’re paying for people to be sick and in the hospital. There is not payment for prevention and for wellness right now. It’s hard to pay for that and it’s hard to quantify that. There are a lot of good studies out there that are looking at what the cost savings is of these preventative interventions.

I also like to remind people how much of your time is spent outside of the doctor’s office. Sometimes I think we need to take the burden of making us healthy off of the medical system and say 99 percent of our time and 99 percent of our health is really what we’re doing outside of the doctor’s office. I think it’s so important to think of it on a community and local level. What can you do in your community to support health and well being.

While I don’t think I’m going to quickly change our political system or payment model, I do think there are things you can do locally. Before I moved to Ohio, I became a Master Gardener because I started our wellness committee garden at the hospital that I was working at. We were providing herbs, vegetables, and lettuce grown on site to our kitchen. That was being served to patients and our long-term care residents. Then I started working with our community garden to bring food to our food shelf. Then I started working with the food shelf to provide a healthy eating table. We were putting limits on fruits and vegetables, but no limits on all the junk food, which was insane, in my mind. We switched it. We said, “There are some limits on this, but there’s no limits. Fruits and vegetables, you take as much as you can use.” Then we did a veggie RX program, myself and the head of our farmers’ market. We basically prescribed $20 worth of vegetables each week for eight weeks – we did it for two years – to 40 participants. We saw incredible changes. I think just the impact of being passionate, doing things locally, starting small is huge. I think that’s where we’re going to see the quickest change.

Long-term change, again, is more….

Patterns of Kindness to Yourself

Kirk Bachmann: We say it often: food is medicine. 100 percent. Perfect response, by the way, to a big, big question that we won’t solve today.

You’ve mentioned this a couple of time, and I’ve listened to a couple of your podcasts. This idea of self-compassion. I think I know the answer. I wish I did more of this, but is it really, really important to be kind to ourselves?

Amy Sapola: Oh yeah! Absolutely! If you think of the conversations we have in our heads, most of the time we never say any of that stuff to other people. One of the exercises they talk about is looking at yourself as a child and thinking of some of the things you say to yourself. Would you say that to your child-self?

Kirk Bachmann: Oh, that’s shameful!

Amy Sapola: That’s scary. Yeah, I know! Oh my gosh! But it’s breaking out of those patterns. A lot of the stuff we do is just patterns. I think being able to break out of those patterns. That’s where mindful eating comes in, too. I think part of what I love about the connection with the Chef’s Garden and being able to bring in that mindful eating component is taking that time to slow down. Take a breath. Have appreciation for what you’re eating and the beautiful colors, the nutrients, the people who grew the food, the people who prepared the food. That physically changes your digestion. By taking that time to get out of that sympathetic response.

The sympathetic nervous system is your fight or flight, or freeze response. So much of the time, we’re running around in that. “I have to go, go, go!” Essentially, the tiger’s chasing you all the time. Your brain doesn’t know if you’re just imagining the tiger or if there’s actually a tiger there. You have the same response. Your cortisol is up, which affects your blood sugar, which does not get you in that digest state. If you can even just take three breaths before you begin to eat, it shifts your body into that parasympathetic state where you can actually rest and digest. That’s key.

I say sometimes you should feel saliva in your mouth when you see your food. How many times are we eating and not even thinking about what your eating? And then you’re not salivating, and that’s where your digestion starts. I think just paying to attention to those simple things actually can have real impact on how you are able to digest.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s so well said. I know that we try to be intentional about having our students just pause for a moment. Think about the farmer. Do you know where those carrots came from. Do you know where the protein that you’re working with comes from? I think that if we partnered and wrote a book to help, not students, but children slow down. I have an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old at home – it’s like a race! And it’s every time they eat, even if they’ve eaten an hour again, they still race through it. I love that feedback. I don’t know if that’s going to go over well tonight at the dinner table, but I’m definitely going to try.

I have a question. Because we all use a lot of these words interchangeably. In your mind, is there a distinct difference between well-being and wellness?

The Difference Between Wellness and Well-Being

Amy Sapola: It’s probably a little different for everybody, but I think well-being is really where you’re going along the path. Where you’re going to. You can do a lot for wellness along the way towards well-being. Well-being is the over-arching goal, and wellness is what you’re doing along the way is how I would explain it. It’s probably not the best explanation.

Kirk Bachmann: No, I love it. It’s like a strategy. Your strategy is to find a place of well-being, and wellness is your tactic to get there.

Amy Sapola: Exactly.

Kirk Bachmann: See, we just solved the problem. We just solved that. I absolutely love that.

By the way, I’m going to give you a plug. I don’t know if it’s still going on, but there are lots of archives of your podcast called Nourish and Shine. Congratulations on some really, really great conversations. Very appreciative of that.

Dr. Amy, I don’t know where the 35, 40 minutes has gone. Before I let you go, though, the name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish. So I have to ask, in your mind, what is the ultimate dish?

Dr. Amy’s Ultimate Dish

Amy Sapola: Oh, I have to tell you. When I was 29 – 29 is my lucky number – so I wanted to celebrate my birthday big. My husband built me the biggest, longest table. I had this meal with all of my friends. That was so wonderful. Honestly, I don’t even know. I think the meal was a shrimp boil.

Kirk Bachmann: I won’t tell anybody.

Amy Sapola: That sort of experience where you can bring everyone together to the table and –

Kirk Bachmann:And just dump it on the table. I love it.

Amy Sapola: Everyone’s eating together and really having that great moment that is just so fun. I think that sense of community, especially in this time of covid, is really hard. I think right now that’s my ultimate dish.

Kirk Bachmann: I absolutely love it. At that table with friends and family.

Dr. Amy, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Best of luck, all the success in the world. My love to Farmer Lee. I hope to see all you guys this summer. We’re trying to plan a trip to stay on the farm and run through the fields. Maybe we’ll have another conversation that gets a little deeper into the political stuff if you’re up for it.

Amy Sapola: Yeah. Sure. Why not?

Kirk Bachmann: Thanks so much, Dr. Amy. I really, really appreciate it.

Amy Sapola: Thank you. I appreciate you having me.

Kirk Bachmann: You bet.

And thank you for listening to The Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.

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