Desegregating Diet: An Interview With Paris Latka

Paris Latka is a Master Nutrition Therapist and Eating Psychology Coach. In her bio she states “It is my intention to help people in cultivating a harmonious relationship with food and their bodies. We use the power of food and awareness to support the alignment where optimal health flourishes.”

But my conversation with Paris also taught me that health and wellness is about a hell of a lot more than just diet trends and yoga classes. It’s about tuning into what your body needs, because it’s designed to tell you just that.

Mary Jane’s Paper: What is it that you do right now?

Paris Latka: I am a Nutrition Therapist, Eating Psychology Coach, and a yoga instructor, and I do a lot of different things within all of those realms. I do one on one consultations, I do group consultations, I teach a lot of classes, cooking classes and yoga classes. Just bringing awareness to not only what we eat, but who we are as eaters.

MJP: What do you do in your cooking classes? What kind of stuff do you teach your students?

PL: I teach my students how to prepare life enhancing food, so most of it is raw or vegan, all though not primarily. That’s just what I feel most inspired by. And we also activate “Vitamin L” together, and this is Vitamin Love. We do it by singing into the food, dancing into the food, just really allowing the food to ignite a deeper part of us where we can feel nourished in its company, therefore in our lives.

MJP: And you guys take your shoes off before you dance into the food?

PL: Hahaha, sometimes. That’s good policy. We definitely don’t take off shoes, but we get some shoulder shakes and booty shakes in there. It’s really quite astounding to see and feel the people who are really resistant to this at first. There’ll be a guy in the back with his arms crossed and this really skeptical look on his face, like asking me the question in his mind “You want me to do what, lady? What’s wrong with you? I’ve come to learn how to make raw brownies.” And I feel grateful that I’m able to carry the class forward, and am like “Nope. We’re actually gonna sing into it.” And usually by the end of class people are laughing, people are genuinely open to receiving the love that we’ve simulated in the food and around us, and people are talking with one another more, and just creating this sense of community through trying something new.

MJP: So, do you have a product line? Do you sell any of the food you make, or is it just an educational thing?

PL: No, it’s just an educational thing right now.

MJP: You say “right now,” do you plan on doing something like that?

PL: Um, I mean, I’m always open to something. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people that it would be wonderful for me to pursue creating a product line of food, and that’s definitely inspired me, but I don’t think that’s my highest excitement. There’s just so much bureaucracy within the whole food land commercialism, that I have just a genuine resistance to it, and there’s so many great foods out there anyway that I like to direct people towards. So, I’m open to it, but it’s not a primary goal.

MJP: Do you do any of the classes online? Do you have any cooking videos?

PL: I am getting ready to launch my first cooking video, Super Homegrown Style, and this is also the best way to make it more available to people who are outside of Denver, Colorado. So that means getting my act together to create something online, and I’m wanting to create an online cooking series for people to participate in. So, what’s really unique about these cooking classes, aside from like breakdancing and some amazing singing into our food, is that I speak to how it is that we interact with food.

So much of the conversation about health and wellness and nutrition is about what to eat and what not to eat, and I’m really here to expand that conversation and look at who we are as eaters and how we eat, and when we eat, and why we eat, and who we’re eating with, and how all of that factors into our ability to digest and metabolize the food that we’re eating. So it’s just a much larger picture than what we primarily focus on as a culture of what to eat and what not to eat. I feel passionate about informing people about how we can truly be nourished from the food that we eat.

MJP: I have kind of a personal question. As a vegan, and kind of a fat one, what’s the nutritional difference between cooking food, which is something I do a lot of, and eating more on the raw side, which is something I don’t do much of? Is there a really big difference there, health wise?

PL: Yeah. There is a big difference. When we cook our food passed 118 degrees, it begins to break down a lot of the natural enzymes that are present in the food, and when we eat something raw then we take those enzymes in with the food, and it helps break down the food. And with that then it’s just much easier on our digestion, and then that energy that would be focused on breaking down the food, can now be focused on other areas in the body. That’s one main difference that I think is really addressed in the raw food world. Another important aspect is that the food just changes, and I don’t advocate one way or the other. I think that eating a healthy amount of cooked food and a healthy amount of raw food is a sweet little balance, but it is good to know the difference.

Another difference is that a lot of water soluble vitamins are destroyed in the cooking process. These are a lot of B vitamins; they’re really sensitive to heat, Vitamin C, a lot of natural minerals, again, the digestive enzymes, they’re all lost in the cooking process. The fiber changes. There’s not as much in soluble fiber. That also breaks down, and as we know, that’s really amazing for balancing blood sugar and healthy elimination.

But I don’t preach one way to eat or the other. I think that we’re all biology unique, and, though we’re actually 99.5% the same, that .5% difference can be quite substantial, and I think that needs to be addressed when someone’s considering what to eat and what not to eat, is tuning into our unique biology.

MJP: How long have you been doing this and the yoga classes?

PL: I began this food journey at a really young age. Probably, like, in seventh grade I really started to scrutinize what I was eating, because I was really concerned with gaining weight. It wasn’t for healthy reasons that I was looking at what I was eating, it was more for vanity and this strong desire to be a smaller size and stay thin, so really that started this journey of educating myself about nutrition. That’s where that began, and then it really took off in 2008 when I moved to Hawaii and learned about a raw food diet, learned more about being vegan and then that was the incentive for me to enroll in a nutrition program.

Yoga has been rocking my world since like 2006, or so. And it wasn’t (until) after a couple of years that I’d been practicing that I decided to certify myself as a guide.

MJP: So, are you a vegan yourself?

PL: No. I’m not a vegan. So, it’s really interesting, because so much of my life I’ve labeled my dietary habits. I have been vegan in the past, I have been a total raw foodist, I’ve been a vegetarian, and all of these really…they served me for a little while, and then they began to not be so great for my health. It was because it wasn’t giving me all of my nutritional needs. So, as of a few years ago I just decided to not define myself by a label, because I felt like that was really quite confining. “Oh, I’m a vegan.” “Oh, I can’t have this even though I’m genuinely craving a piece of meat right now.” I just sort of opened up my world to myself, and asked what it would be like to start making choices from this awareness that I’m receiving inside of, like, genuine cravings. Often times I could fall into the vegan label, but sometimes I eat meat, and sometimes I don’t. It’s just really choosing to tune into what my body is desiring.

So, with that said, I call these cooking classes “Alive Cooking Classes,” because the food that we are creating is alive. And most of it happens to be raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, just because that’s the food that most inspires me. That’s where my creativity flows, but it’s not exclusive to that, so this is why I choose to call them “alive.” Because I think that any food that we’re activating “Vitamin L” in, and we’re eating with intention and awareness and a lot of breath, truly is alive with us. That’s what our body is needing, and we’re able to sort of meet the food where it’s meeting us, and have this really awesome experience.

MJP: I’ve never heard anybody describe it quite like that. That’s really great. What’s in the future for you? What are you looking forward to?

PL: Oh my god, so many things, Chad! It’s really, really exciting. I think one of my biggest passions right now is… Okay. So, I work with a lot of people who struggle with over eating, binge eating, chronic dieting, body image dysmorphia, eating disorders, and I assist them in finding a balanced and harmonious relationship with food and their bodies. And I think that this is the absolute foundation to any sort of sustainable health plan, because I’ve worked a lot with people in the past not really addressing these issues, and I can give them a diet plan, but it works for them for three weeks, and then after the three weeks, they go back to these old habits that are really, really not serving for them. So, I think addressing the emotional component to our relationship with food is rudimentary, and that’s something that I feel really passionate about.

So, while we address that, I give them some nutritional suggestions to augment their awareness and their relationship with food. For instance, if someone is Vitamin B12 deficient... you said you’re vegan right? There’s a lot of vegans out there who are Vitamin B12 deficient, and granted, I think this is really, really hot in the vegan world, is like “Are you’re Vitamin B12… Are you deficient?” and so I’ll be working with a vegan, and they’re chronically pushing. They’re just so incredibly tired, and their nails are brittle, and they are just sort of in a brain fog. So, I will then ask them if they’re attached to being vegan, why it is that they’re vegan, what is that sort of emotional connection for them. And, depending on their answer, if it’s because it’s trendy, if it's because it’s something that they grew up with, depending on that answer, we’ll take necessary steps. So, I’ll prescribe a really awesome, quality Vitamin B12 supplement. Or if they’re like “This is all I’ve ever really known. Yes, I’m open to eating meat,” then we’ll talk about really quality sources of local, sustainable, organic meat in really small quantities so that they can start getting the Vitamin B12, and that then reflects on their health.

Another aspect of where it is that I’m moving forward is I recently released a video that I’d been working on in the winter and in the fall, and that is sharing my relationship with food, and a lot of just really fucked up habits, and a lot of just really, really sad places in my relationship with food, that has just all guided me to this work.

When I released that video, I received a lot of feedback from people saying “Me too! I have these issues too! Oh my goodness!” and what is so profound to me about this is that what I’m speaking to in my video is a pretty a universal human thing. That is that we’ve all experienced shame, and that we’ve all experienced guilt. And it’s choosing to embrace these places in our lives and in our experience where we have felt shame, and to start speaking to them, and when we speak to them, we realize that we’re not alone. It’s just so powerful to me, because I feel like it’s just a part of the human journey to reclaim these aspects that we try to forget, because shame makes us want to forget. It’s reclaiming that and forgiving ourselves, and bringing breath and voice to those places, really recognizing that we’re not alone.

There’s just something really exciting, like a call to action that’s wanting to happen. I just don’t really know the vehicle quite yet, of bringing voice to our shame places. When we bring voice to these places that we’ve held shame in, the energy begins to neutralize. It doesn’t hold as much charge, and I think the charge is where a lot of the addictive tendencies come up.

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Paris offers support with digestive health, weight management, binge eating, compulsive overeating, energy and fatigue, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, food allergies, and heart disease.

To learn more about Paris, visit her website www.ParisLatka.com.

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