Phoebe Lapine is not a buzzkill. She’s not interested in taking pleasure from your life. Nor is she going to judge you if you order one more drink or eat another brownie. Her goal is health- for herself —and for you.
Lapine, author of the hugely popular website Feed Me Phoebe, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) in her early twenties. Intent on not letting it dampen her spirit, she set out to discover how to straddle the lines between discipline and decadence.
Lapine succeeded by discovering the best practices for her body and incorporating them into her new book, The Wellness Project: How I Learned to Do Right by my Body Without Giving up my Life. Lapine challenged herself to make minor modifications to her daily routine. In return, it led to finding the right balance for herself.
She recently chatted with Manhattan Digest over the phone to discuss the book—and what people can do to make smarter choices for their well being.
MD: What is the first step people should take if they want to do a ‘health makeover?’
PL: It sounds so trite, but the first step is just to begin. With all of the information thrown at us, it can be incredibly paralyzing. The best approach is just to make small, manageable changes.
MD: What do you say to people who want to make changes but claim they don’t have the time?
PL: At the end of the day, you just have to take responsibility and be willing to budget for it time wise. It takes effort and labor. I started The Wellness Project by asking health experts the same question: ‘If they could tell people to change one thing about their well being, what would it be?’ The best answer that I learned is to just start cooking for yourself. In New York, we are so lucky to have so many options for healthy food.
I am a firm believer that the food you make at home is better than anything you buy in a package.
MD: And this whole book stemmed from your gluten free website, FeedMe Phoebe. You have so many recipes on the site. What inspired your creations?
PL: I really became interested in food by way of social nourishment more than physical nourishment. Ironically, my health journey and food journey started when I was 22 and it took many years for both of them to dovetail. The recipes I started with were more comfort food based that evoked memories of childhood. I still try to start with an aspect of comfort food. I tend to focus on foods that are naturally gluten free and healthful which are inspired by places I’ve visited. My mom and I have been to Morocco, so I drew a lot of inspiration from that. The turmeric chicken recipe is a huge hit. People freak out over it!
I try to start with intentions that will never fall short on execution.
MD: You mention in the book that you had so many ‘leg ups which should’ve made your health journey easier- including living in NYC and growing up privileged.’ What advice do you have for people who want to follow your lead but who may not have the same economic advantage or access to quality foods?
PL: I actually mention that in the book. I interviewed a lady who wrote a cook book for people on food stamps. I think we can run the risk of using a physician—or any ‘other’ as a crutch. There is only so much other people can do for you. You have to take the reigns and embrace your own agency in order to build body literacy. But, I’m also clear that this book is definitely not a substitute for doctors.
In terms of money, cooking is really cheaper at the end of the day. You can make wholesome foods on a limited budget.
MD: You cut back and/or eliminated quite a few things from your diet including sugar, coffee, and alcohol. Did you find yourself craving them or did the desire for them dissipate in time?
All three of those were vices for me. But I paid close attention to the cravings both emotionally and physically. What times was I missing these things most? Moderation was-and is– incredibly difficult, but I wanted to really find a balance between health and hedonism.
In terms of alcohol, my partner and I take one week a month with no alcohol, one month out of every year and one day out of every week.
MD: This is totally a theoretical question, but do you think that you would have end up on this journey had you not been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease?
PL: It was the impetus because I was not in good health and had never connected the dots, but I think that because I was already in the food space, I would’ve become interested in the wellness zeitgeist to some degree. I don’t think I would’ve taken on the project however.
Phoebe’s website, Feed Me Phoebe can be found here.