Health Podcast Post

Your Relationship with Food with Stephanie White

George Grombacher May 25, 2023

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Your Relationship with Food with Stephanie White

LifeBlood: We talked about your relationship with food, how the way we interact with it as a culture has changed over the past 80 years, our current level of food literacy, how to improve our relationship with food to get better outcomes, and how to get started, with Dr. and Chef Stephanie Michalak White.    

Listen to learn why we become tribal about our diets!

You can learn more about Stephanie at,, Med.UC.EduInstagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Stephanie Michalak white

Stephanie White

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:01
Well hello, this is George G and the time is right welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Stephanie white. Stephanie, how you ready to do this?

Stephanie White 0:08
I’m so ready.

george grombacher 0:09
All right, let’s go. Doctor and Chef Stephanie White has worked in the hospitality industry since her teens has transitioned to teaching kitchens and higher education over the past decade. She’s passionate about food literacy, and food as medicine. She oversees two online academic programs for a goosed Escoffier, a school of culinary arts focused on plant based culinary arts and holistic nutrition and wellness. And she works with the OSHA center for for Integrative Health at you see, she’s focused on food literacy and food as medicine. Stephanie, excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal life more about your work, why you do what you do?

Stephanie White 0:48
Well, thanks for having me, George. Yeah, I started obviously, in the hospitality industry, as you mentioned, and really got into food because for me, it was something that I could provide for other people, it felt like the way that I could most directly impact other people’s lives positively. So that’s really why I fell in love with food. I also grew up in kind of interesting households with two parents that are divorced. And my father is not really into food, great guy, he’s gotten more food over the years. And as I’ve gotten into the industry, and my mom’s a huge foodie, so I two very different kinds of childhoods around food and what that relationship look like. And I found that, you know, and thinking about the time I spent with my grandparents, since I spent a lot of time there, well, not both my parents were working, you know, they raspberries, we used to pick them and sell them. And I remember, you know, harvesting walnuts, and for me, that was part of such a beautiful way to connect with them, and also a different way to approach food that I think most of us experience on a day to day basis, particularly now, you know, arguably decades later. So for me, that’s how I ended up in food. And the more I ended up working in restaurants, and high volume kitchens and catering, the more and more I kind of lean towards kind of the health and wellness side of it a part of that story too, to kind of backtrack a little bit. In my teen years, I was at a boarding school and decided to go vegan off of a bet with a friend, which is just kind of comical. At this point. We’re training for Ultimate Frisbee, and we thought you know what, hey, if we go vegetarian, we’re gonna perform better. I don’t know how we got this idea of like, it just kind of percolated out of nowhere as teens, it’s sometimes and it felt great. And I was also at the time kind of thinking about where my food was coming from kind of getting back to that core idea of why do we eat what we eat. And for me, I started getting really angry at the standard American diet and where our food system is, in the United States, pretty typical for an angry teenager to pick on something like that. So for me, that was, you know, a way to advocate for better food and different food was through my own eating, and then through my cooking, so that’s why I ended up in the hospitality industry. I’ve done a lot of different things over that time. And I fell in love with teaching predominantly, because actually used to teach martial arts in my teens. And that whole aspect of seeing people go through the process of having their own aha moment, and helping guide them there. And try not to direct it too much. But just that process of this is what this means to me, or, Oh, I had challenges achieving this, but now it’s all coming together after hard work. So for me that is a really, really amazing experience to have with other people. And that’s really why I kind of meandered into more of the teaching kitchen space and higher education.

So yeah, that’s kind of where I am now out outside of work. I’m living in kind of the Midwest but I’m from the East Coast if people can’t tell from the peace

words, but you know, I spend a lot of time trying to be outside when I’m not you know, cooking are at this point, mostly out of computer

and I have three amazing dogs and a loving husband so I you know, have a have a great life outside of work too. But really fueled by my work this point in my life. I love it. So is veganism the unlock for winning and Ultimate Frisbee?

I was very competitive and Ultimate Frisbee for many years and I was pretty okay. For me it works for other people. You know, everybody’s body is different. So I think that’s also a big part of food is we don’t always take the time to consider how that food impacts our daily mechanisms and how we feel And being that in tune with it. So for me, it really worked. For other people, I can’t say that it’s the magic key to unlock your performance. I think for some people it might, but for others, maybe not.

george grombacher 5:11
Yeah, we all must go down this journey of self discovery. But as I say that we all must not do that, you know, as, as we look at, at our culture with the majority of us are overweight or obese. So how do you think about that? Do you think that we just have a bad relationship with food? Do we not have any relationship with food?

Stephanie White 5:35
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think we all have a relationship with food, whether or not we recognize it, I think is kind of the key to diving into it. So when we look at especially the standard American diet, or just where we are as a society, and that includes globalization at this point, we can, we can see from data that the world is getting larger, as far as our waist lines go, and our chronic diseases, it’s not just American issue. And when we take a look at like the history of food, we were seeing, you know, in the 40s 50s, women getting into the workplace, more industrialized food to be a mark of modernity, you know, it was really an indicator that, hey, I don’t have to spend time cooking for my family, because now I get to do something else. It was seen as sort of this lower tiered process. Now we look today, and many people do not know how to cook for themselves. But that’s also because they probably didn’t have parents that cooked. And their parents may not have parents who cooked either. So we’re getting to a point where we have multiple generations that may not have an intimate relationship with cooking, they may have an intimate relationship with foods, but not the core ingredients that they’re utilizing. So I think that’s kind of where the breakdown is. For a lot of folks, it’s just not true for everybody. Some people have amazing traditions around home cook scratch foods. And you know, those are amazing memories and history and culture. And it can be so enriching and nourishing to not just have those foods, but be in that process be with the people that around that food. But not everybody has that. And I think it’d be really daunting for a lot of folks to get into food, if they don’t already have comfortability in a relationship on some level with cooking.

That makes so much sense. And you probably trace a pretty straight line between what you sort of laid out about women leaving the home and then cooking almost kind of looked down on to convenience. And that’s the TV dinner. And then it’s you know, food in a styrofoam box through a drive thru. And now here we are, where there’s literally a fast food joint on every single corner, and that cooking can be intimidating or going and shopping for ingredients, and how in the world am I going to put all this together? So those are, that makes all the sense in the world.

Yeah, and it’s, you know, not just thinking about, Oh, now I need to buy the ingredients, I need to know how to prepare it. And I need to also clean, you know, there are a lot of steps that seem incredibly daunting, but we also look at not just within thinking about the trajectory of modernized food, but also thinking about systemic issues within policy. So looking at how much food costs, when we look at, you know, fast food joints, you can get, you know, a meal for, for people for 20 to $30. Obviously, with inflation rate limits, again, it’s a little skewed. But it’s hard for people to rationalize, I can buy this food this quickly for this much. But it’s going to cost me this much time because you know, our time and energies does also cost us money. You know, so people are taking that trade off. But something that I think is really important that we don’t always think about in our society right now is it’s not just the short term cost. So not just the dollar value of preparing that food versus going to the you know, going to a fast food place. We’re looking at long term health issues. So looking at your medical bills, long term, looking at your insurance rates, looking at the lifespan and life expectancy that you may now have based on your food choices. So it becomes a much larger impact long term. But it’s hard for people in the moment go you know, I’ve got kids in the car that screaming want food and I haven’t I don’t have anything prepared at home. So we kind of need to scoot by this place before we go to this soccer practice, you know, and then people start spiraling a little bit and thinking about I don’t have time for this and I don’t have the mental ability or not necessarily ability but the The space to do it. And I believe I’m a firm believer that everybody can cook, and everybody can cook healthy food for themselves. But it is absolutely a process and really difficult for a lot of folks to get into.

Those are all compelling reasons for why things are the way that they are. I mean, we’re constantly faced with trade offs, and you just be went through all of them. So, so nicely. There’s a financial trade off, which is short term thinking, because if it’s cheaper to buy, to do what you laid out, but we’re essentially poising ourselves and our families and and it’s really leading to horrible things. And then the time and everything else. So. So how do we how do we start turning that around?

Yeah, how do we get out of that cycle? Um, you know, I am a firm believer that it’s based on individual actions every day, and and it can start small, you know, it’s, you do not need to overhaul your life in one day. I don’t think that’s particularly sustainable for anybody. I may have gone vegan basically overnight, because I’m incredibly stubborn. But I do not think it’s appropriate for most people. So my, my suggestion is really thinking about So what is my life with my food and my relationship to food look like? Now, how do I feel about it, because you may feel perfectly fine, too. And if you feel like there’s nothing that you really want to change, then maybe this isn’t the right time for you to change anything. But maybe you’re at a juncture where you’re like, I don’t feel that great after eating particular foods, well, maybe that’s the spot to look at, first of all, maybe I’m gonna choose to consume something else for this one meal, or maybe on Sunday, instead of, you know, doing some other activity, I’m going to prep some food, and then have it for the week, or even for a couple of meals, even if it’s getting together with if you’re cooking for other people or eating food with other people finding time to think through, okay, this is the day that we’re going to have a meal together. Because it’s not just always about producing food at home. It’s also about sharing food with other people and having that type of relationship and reconnect with the food rather than eating in the car on the go or eating in front of the TV and not mindfully consuming it because that’s also not allowing us to have that connection to our food and how it’s making us feel. So I don’t think you necessarily have to jump into cooking right away. If that’s that what you want to do, then part of it is also reconnecting, being a little bit more mindful about what you’re consuming, and how frequently you’re consuming whatever you’re consuming.

That makes a lot of sense. There’s so many different I mean, food is obviously a massive part of our lives. And looking back, we can probably look to some of the best experiences that we’ve had with other people have been around food and around a dinner table or breakfast or coffee, whatever it is, it is such an important role. If we allow it to, if we set the table for those experiences. And the the prep and if you can, as a family or a friend group or with whatever, you know, go through and actually cook the food together and then sit down and eat it, how fun and an opportunity to get off of our devices for a little bit and put some food in our mouth that is actually healthy and not going to hurt us.

Absolutely. And I think the thing too, is sometimes those events can become such a production as well. Like if you decide to cook with friends, or maybe even you decide all to cook a separate dish in your own spaces, and then come together and share it together. It’s a beautiful way to build different memories with people. And ultimately, a lot of folks especially nowadays are looking for experiences. That’s, that’s why we spend money a lot of times is because we’re looking for something that we can remember and relish and have with you know, not positively or negatively but have cultural cachet around it because that’s why sometimes we do things as humans is so that we can say we did it or say that we’ve assembled that experience and and we can kind of tote it around this amazing thing. So I think there’s just so much we can do with food, to reconnect with other people as well, not just with ourselves. So it’s it’s always fun to think about different ways that you can interact with food. For sure.

Yeah, probably a limitless, limitless thing. So with with with your work now, are you teaching people who are interested in becoming professional chefs? Are you teaching consumers just regular folks?

Yeah, that’s a great question. So the Ghostess GFI School of culinary arts focuses on accredited program so it’s meant for folks that want to cook professionally, both the plant based program and then the holistic nutrition and wellness program are fundamentally a little bit different structured. And it also depends on kind of what you want to do with your career. Some of our plant based folks are totally plant based whether or not that’s vegan vegetarian whole foods plant based you know, there are a lot of iterations of plant base is kind of broad. But if that’s kind of your your plan to cook for other folks or want to, you want to have your own business that’s plant based, that’s a really great option. But holistic nutrition and wellness is more plant forward, there’s there’s still animal products in that curriculum for the cooking side of it, particularly because when we look at holistic nutrition, it can mean so many different things to so many folks. And we wanted to make sure that that program was kind of comprehensive to that because depending on if you want to coach clients or become a personal chef, you have to be able to, you know, know what to cook for folks who may be experiencing particular chronic illnesses or have particular dietary trends and knowing how to work with it and help them have nourishing food is a big part of it. So they’re kind of two very distinct programs, but definitely meant for individuals who want to get in the profession if they’re not already. Some some folks are already, you know, professional chefs, and they want this as an additional credentialing or a different avenue, we get many folks who have been in the industry that have decided that this is more of their focus, and now they’re taking this as either a certificate, or even our associates track. So that’s for the kind of professional side of it. And then my work with UCS OSHA center, so University of Cincinnati, they do a lot of community based classes in their integrative health space. And those are more for community members. We did some online classes, and they have tons of different activities, not just on the food side, but movement side as well. They’ve just been doing a lot of planetary health as well, since there’s just so many aspects of our wellness as people as communities and globally that they do a lot of pertinent work around, not just food as medicine but wellbeing. So it’s I’m kind of hitting both sides in different spaces. Yeah.

I love it. So we as human beings love to pick a side and then stand up for our side. And I think that vegan is a word, it’s some letters strung together, that carries a lot of weight. And if you like it, then that’s great. If you if you think it’s stupid, then you think it’s pretty stupid. How do you think about that tribalism that we have with with with with, with food?

You know, it’s I find it fascinating because I think about that, particularly with veganism and how that term can be very polarizing for for many folks. But it also can have many different connotations. For some people. It’s more political. For some people, it’s more about animal welfare, some people sustained. So there’s still even within that term, so many different ways that you can approach it. But I also think it’s linguistically it’s part of our nature in the English language to its binaries, us versus them a lot of times. So it turns into a pretty heated debate for some people pretty quickly. It’s, I find it interesting, because I think, ultimately, for me, whatever you decide to consume around food becomes part of your identity. But you don’t need to talk about it as being better than somebody I’ve noticed that with certain dietary brands is people will go and it’s not just vegans, it’s paleo keto. Well, I’m doing this and I feel so much better, which is amazing, right? If you feel better, that is awesome. And I hope that you continue to feel great, like that is amazing. But at the same time, do not tell it like you’re better than everybody else, because everybody has their own relationship with food. And some people have to go through a lot of healing. Like I in my teens, I experienced an eating disorder. And it took me many years to rekindle a positive relationship with food. So I think it’s interesting how many folks will take particularly diets, whether or not it’s a trend or a fad, or just the way that they personally eat, whether or not it’s monochromatic food, or eating the rainbow. We tend to use it as a power play with other folks sometimes I don’t think that’s particularly right, because I don’t think that there’s one that’s why there’s so many cultures and so many cuisines. There’s not one right way to eat food. They’re just not. So for me, it’s it’s I find it interesting. Well said,

Stephanie, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they how can they engage?

Absolutely. So my first website My name is Stephanie That’s mi ch AE L A K, that’s AEWA. Otherwise, if you’re interested in the scarf EA side of it, it’s a scarf. So E scoff i e And then for you see, we’re looking at their website Med and Ed dot, you see that edu? They have tons of other things besides the integrative center, but that’s kind of where you’ll be look, go for most of that and I’m on Instagram, Facebook. If you need to find me, you can find me.

Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, it’s just definitely your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Stephanie

Mecalac Yeah, that’s fine.

That’s fine. Ste PHA ni e mi, CH AE L A And check out what she’s working on there. Go to skofja ESCOFFI And then Find her on Instagram and Facebook. I’ll link all those notes in the show, so you don’t need to try to decipher my spelling on her last name there. Thanks gets definitely.

Thanks so much for having me, George. And

until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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