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Jeanette Bessinger’s clean-food approach offers easy solutions to healthful eating and weight management
Like many people in the field of health—particularly some of the most interesting and innovative—Jeannette Bessinger’s career started because she got sick. Really sick, in fact. With a rare autoimmune disease.
Not surprisingly, conventional medicine had little to offer. “The doctors just had no idea what to do with me,” she says. “They also didn’t believe that what I ate had anything to do with it.”
The connection between autoimmune diseases and inflammation—actually, between all diseases and inflammation—is only now being fully appreciated, but at the time (over two decades ago), this was not widely known. Nor was the connection between inflammation and diet. So Bessinger began studying food and its impact on human health.
Spoiler alert: She has been symptom- free for decades. During this time Bessinger—an ordained (nondenominational) minister—was doing a series of talks for doctors and nurses in hospitals about the mind-body connection. One of those hospitals was getting ready to revamp its weight-loss program, and with Jeannette’s new interest in (and passion for) healthy eating she was invited to participate.
“We spent the next eight years in a clinical setting trying to address this growing problem of obesity,” she told me. “We worked with hundreds of people of all races, ages, and income levels. It was a community hospital, so we had a real ‘man-off-the-street’ environment. We wound up doing a research project where we interviewed over 1,000 people with
one goal in mind—to find out what was the barrier to eating healthy. We wanted to know what was really getting in the way.” The two-fold answer came up time and time again: Time and money.
Fast-forward a decade. Bessinger’s “Clean Food Coach” brand is about translating everything she learned in years of clinical experience into healthy solutions that are relatively easy and relatively inexpensive.
I asked Bessinger what I ask every health guru: How do we define “healthy eating”? There are so many plans, so many diets, so many theories—how do you make sense of them? How do you choose what’s right for you?
“I’m a great believer in biochemical individuality,” she told me. “And even in the same person, nutritional needs evolve and change. My needs now are very different than they were 30 years ago.” That said, there are some basic guidelines that inform all of her recommendations.
“Top of the list is that food has to be whole food. It has to be natural and unprocessed. It has to come from plants and animals that are healthy. And all animals should eat the foods they were “designed” to eat—cattle raised on pasture, or grass, fish that are wild, chickens that are free-range.”
She likes foods that are local. “Local foods are right for the season and the climate,” she said. “There’s a real synchronicity between plants grown in a local area and the animals that eat them.”
Continues Bessinger, “When the food you eat is natural, organic, local, non-GMO, and comes from healthy plants and animals, the rest is merely details. You can always work out the exact proportions of protein, carbs and fat depending on your age, activity level, and individual reactions to food,” she says.
“When it comes to your health, the most important thing is that food be clean and natural. Highly refined and manufactured foods just don’t cut it for anyone.”