Today we’re putting the spotlight on Sheryl and Steve Puterman, founders of Nourishment Vitality, a platform that provides online courses, workshops, and coaching programs that bring together the science of nutrition and psychology. Sherly works with people experiencing stress, anxiety, mood & fatigue, as well as with people experiencing food and body challenges including weight management, wellness, binge eating, overeating, body image, stress relief, and various nutrition-related health concerns.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your background?
Sheryl: Nourishment Vitality is a 360 Health and Wellness platform. We specialize in stress and anxiety management, as well as in holistic weight management and nutritional psychology. We are survivors of the 2004 Asian tsunami, and it was this traumatic, life-changing event that changed the trajectory and our outlook on life, and led us on this career path of where we are today. I struggled personally with a tremendous amount of overwhelm, anxiety, panic attacks, and we were living in Hong Kong at the time. I was blessed to learn with some of the world’s leading masters in the fields of mindfulness, stress relief, management, and breathing, which I truly believe is the cornerstone of stress management and really helps to regain stability and clarity. This transitioned into nutritional psychology and Mind-Body nutrition. We believe we are actually in the right place at the right time now, to be able to take many years of expertise and help so many people who are stuck in their lives. Stress is not a new concept, but it’s been exponentially amplified over this last period, and at Nourishment Vitality, we believe we’ve got a very important place in working to help these populations. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that governments have just been unable to step up to the plate, even private healthcare systems have been overwhelmed in this last period. So it’s up to the individuals to be able to create the opportunities to go out to help people.
Steve: We’ve curated our material as well into our online courses where people can take this in the privacy and comfort of their own home. Our courses are there to bridge that gap between prevention and stress-induced conditions. Not only are we in a pandemic at the moment, but we are in an epidemic of stress-related health concerns. So we believe it’s very important to add that additional value as the first line of defense.
Can you describe or elaborate a bit more about what you were doing before the tsunami in terms of your work? Because it seems that event changed your entire course.
Sheryl: Prior to that I was actually in the beauty industry for many years. I was always blessed to be able to help many people understand their true inner beauty. I’ve always been passionate about metaphysical sciences ever since I was a teenager, and I was very drawn to that mind-body space. After the tsunami, with this tremendous amount of overwhelm, I dove further into this area of stress relief, management, and mindfulness. In being able to help myself, I feel so blessed today to be able to help so many people overcome their traumas, whatever it is that they are going through, and to be able to teach through the clarity of my own example. This, I would say, is one of my greatest achievements, because I believe that when you have gone through something, you’re then able to help other people through understanding. It left both of us with a tremendously deep understanding of human vulnerability and what people need to actually overcome in order to get to that next step. I truly believe that they are traumas in life that sometimes we just never get over. We live with them. We work with them. We think with them, we move with it. But they don’t necessarily need to define us forever onwards. That’s what I feel so blessed to be able to help other people move forward from being stuck in that place. Nourishment Vitality is a shame-free non-judgmental space, where people can truly open up and let go of what no longer serves them. I know from myself that shame turns to unhealthy patterns and behaviors. I was self-sabotaging myself with binge eating and emotional eating, having had an eating disorder for decades. I kept it a secret because I was ashamed. It was shame that kept me stuck. Nourishment Vitality was born when I was able to unapologetically step into my most empowered, authentic self.
Steve: Today, people are looking to hear a voice that has actually been through experiences. Nobody is that interested now to listen to the Kardashians or LeBron James share some words of knowledge. People want to listen and hear from people with experience, they’ve got the knowledge and are authentic in their journeys. I believe that’s where Nourishment Vitality has got a tremendous advantage. People can actually listen and hear from people who’ve been there. I always say you can’t Google “been there, done that.” Now, in terms of our journey, our authentic voice, and the tremendous amount of knowledge that Cheryl has been able to accumulate over the years, we really are in an excellent space to be able to help many people who have passed through similar circumstances. When you resonate with what a person is saying to you, and you feel that that is your truth, as well, you’re then able to shift, you’re then able to move somewhat forward. That’s what we bring to the table.
Can you explain a bit more about nutritional psychology?
Sheryl: Many people, when they hear the term nutritional therapy or eating psychology, they think it’s only for clinically diagnosed eating disorders. This is actually not the case. Eating psychology and nutritional therapy affect every single one of us. It can really help to explain the way we eat individually and why we feel the way we feel about our bodies. Eating psychology sees our challenges with eating, weight, and health as a beautiful opportunity to grow and evolve. It recognizes that our relationship with food has important lessons to teach us and is intimately connected to other primary life dimensions, such as our relationships, work, sexuality, our search for meaning and fulfillment, and so much more. Our principles of eating psychology also include mind-body nutrition, which is that fascinating connection between the brain, body, and behavior. Mind-body nutrition is actually the study of how all the nutritive functions of the body are impacted by our mind, emotions, and lifestyle. It’s that psychophysiology of how our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, stress, relaxation, pleasure, awareness, and so much more, directly influences how we metabolize a meal. What we’ve seen through the pandemic is that there’s been such triggering of unhealthy habits and behaviors. What I’ve seen through my experience is that food often becomes a symbolic substitute for something else that we’re looking for, for something else that we are wanting or craving. We believe very much at Nourishment Vitality in the importance of bringing kindness. Kindness gives you that ability to face what it is that perhaps you are afraid to face and are avoiding, as well as those feel-good hormones like dopamine. It’s very important to lean in with conscious curiosity and compassion because that’s going to be able to give you that courage to look at where you’re at and to be able to reframe, reset, and move forward.
I’m glad you touched on that because I think that there’s a big misconception that the relationship between your gut or your stomach and your brain is one way. I’m reading a lot right now about how the gut is essentially your second brain. Is that something you touch on at nourishment vitality?
Sheryl: One will always affect the other. People need to realize that you can’t just take care of the body and not take care of the mind, and you can’t just take care of the mind and not take care of the body. They will spill into each other. Have you ever heard somebody say, “I have to listen to my gut, my gut is always right”? Intuitive eating is tuning into that feeling within yourself. You’re present when you’re eating. You’re aware of your physical body and how you’re feeling. When you’re eating intuitively, you’re able to actually taste your food, you’re able to notice how it feels, you savor the flavor and the textures. Interestingly enough, when people are over-eating, and most certainly when they’re binge eating, they are checked out, as opposed to checked in. They are not able to taste the food at all. Going back now to the mind-body connection and to our gut brain, we have gut microbiota, which are clusters of bacteria that are necessary for your immune system to function properly. You actually have microbiota all over your body, including in your mouth and on your skin. Studies have shown that about a third of the microbiota is something that we all have in common, which means that you have gut bacteria that will be similar to others. However, the key point is that the other two-thirds of your microbiota is unique to you individually. It has been influenced by your environment, your experiences, your story, your history, your genes, and more. It helps you digest your food, produce vitamins, combat illness, and stay healthy. So the foods that we eat impact our healthy bacteria levels and so does the way that we eat, which takes us back to intuitive eating. If we can slow down, if we can turn off distractions, if we can pay attention to food, taste, and really feel how one’s body is feeling when we eat, you set up your second brain for success. That second brain in the belly is something that we often ignore, and why do we ignore it? Because we so often think that thinking comes from our head. But our second brain in our belly is very important for us to be able to actually tune in to our intuition.
What would be your best advice to someone who is dealing with a lot of stress right now?
Sheryl: I think the first thing to help yourself is to learn to become more self-aware. When you’re self-aware, you become the authority in your life. So firstly, slow down. Sometimes we have to slow down in order to speed up. Take a deep breath. Like I mentioned, breathing is the cornerstone of stress management. A simple inhale is able to put the body back into a more relaxed state, and we know that healing, maintenance, and repair takes place in a relaxed body. Once you’ve done that, become more aware. Tune in to how you’re feeling. Where is stress sitting in your body? Are you harboring too much stress upon your shoulders or in your belly? Once you slow down, tune in, and become more self-aware you become the authority in your life, and you get to choose how you can transform that experience into something else. Each and every time, lean in with conscious curiosity and compassion for where you’re at. Because where you’re at is where you’re at, and where you’re at is perfect for you in your journey. There is no right or wrong way to feel. We feel as we feel and our emotions, all of our emotions, the good ones and the ones that we don’t really love, are worthy of validation. Acknowledge where you’re at with compassion, validate the way that you’re feeling, and take it from there.