During my Master's Degree program in 2016, I was given an assignment in one of my classes to come up with a business name. I began to contemplate my entire journey through food and nutrition, and the most consistent theme I could identify throughout my studies was the purposefulness of the nutrients and foods I was learning about. It was as if each and every nutrient that we consume has a place, a purpose, and an effect on the intricate processes of the body. Common examples include...
Omega-3's for reducing inflammation and supporting cardiovascular and brain health
Pre- and probiotics for gut health, mental health, immune strength, and the ability to break down and absorb nutrients from our food
Sulforaphane for aiding in the detoxification pathway and preventing tumor growth
Ashwagandha and other adaptogens for supporting adrenal health and our response to stress
At this realization, the answer popped right into my head. My business would strive to educate people about the "hidden" nutrients in our food that were silently working away to help us thrive, and to empower people to bring more of those specific nutrients that would best serve their body and/or ailments to their routine as often as possible.
The idea was born: "The Purposeful Plate."
Around middle-school age, I learned that my mom's dad passed away at just over 40 years old from colon cancer. This information stunned me. So much so, that I began to think about cancer obsessively. What was it? Why did it happen? How could it affect someone so young? How do I make sure to never get it?
Over the next year or so, I started to think critically about the way my family ate -- from Italian heritage, our Sunday suppers were extremely rich, and I remember feeling intense chest pain on the way home from Grandma's house after a few family meals, wondering if I was having a heart attack. (Nope -- just acid reflux, turns out I can't handle that much olive oil, sausage, and marinara on one plate).
Shortly after making a few connections between the way I was eating and the way I was feeling, I decided to go plant-based. I spent a few years on a vegetarian diet, then pescatarian, refined it a little further to a strictly vegan diet, then gluten-free, back to pescatarian... and although each segment had its own incredible purpose and healing powers for me personally, I have finally arrived at my very own version, one which does not include a label.
I have spent years mastering the art of a plant-based diet, how to feel completely satiated and balanced, how to make it work for others with various needs and in all stages of life, and have finally found my "sweet spot" among a world of endless options.
In 2008 I attended CSUSM in sunny San Diego, California for a B.S. degree in Kinesiology, with an emphasis in Health Science. Following graduation, I was hungry for more, and enrolled in T. Colin Campbell's Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition program via Cornell University, a 12-week program about the correlations and connections between the way we eat and chronic diseases.
Upon completion, I knew it wouldn't be long until I applied for a Master's Degree, and arrived at NUNM in Portland, Oregon in the early summer of 2016. I was drawn to this program for its farm-to-table emphasis, functional food / food as medicine background, and strong ties to the naturopathic medical community.
It was there, in that speck of time, that my light really began to shine. In the kitchen, surrounded by nutritionists, talking about food all day long. I had found my true happy place.
During my studies in Portland, I volunteered with "Taking Care Portland," a local cancer survivorship program. I learned to cook large-scale meals for groups of cancer patients, survivors, and their families who would come to our events in search of community and healing. We would educate them in between courses about the ingredients used, their effect on the physiological processes related directly and indirectly to cancer care, and how they could incorporate them into a part of daily life at home.
Towards the end of my degree, I accepted an internship with the Brian Grant Foundation, a non-profit organization advocating for research and education about Parkinson's Disease, and specifically the relationship between the disease and food. By this time I had already known that certain foods either promote or soothe inflammation, but through my internship studies, I learned specifically which foods exasperate the symptoms of PD, and which foods suppress them. I also learned that eating for brain health should begin at an early age.
It suddenly shocked me -- people (including doctors!) don't often know what to feed someone with a neurological disorder....or almost any other common disease.
I believe whole-heartedly in the miraculous power of food. It transforms the human body and experience. It is social, emotional, familial, and physiological. Our health and wellness depends on it, yet most of us have no idea how to eat (to thrive), or why we should.
When given an illness diagnosis by a western-trained doctor, control is presented to the patient by way of medication. However, I believe the true power lies in the kitchen, using the medicines of the earth, in order to come back into a state of balance, reduce symptom severity, reverse the illness, or prevent additional complications.
If you are currently in great health, but want to reduce your risk of developing a specific or class of disease, clear yourself of headaches, aches, pains, inflammation, bloating, acne, emotional imbalance, fatigue, or other symptoms you might be experiencing, I am here to help guide you to optimal wellness.
If you are looking to bring more plants or variety to your plate, need support feeling satisfied on a plant-based diet, struggle with a negative relationship to food, or want to get rid of the yo-yo dieting and the binge-restriction mentality, I am here to help guide you to optimal wellness.
Have any questions? I am currently accepting new clients, and would love to get to know you and your needs better. Shoot me an email to get the conversation started.
From my plate to yours,
Leesa Morales, M.S.