I know I say this every single time, but I’m SO excited about Christina Sciarrillo being our FanGirlFriday today! I have been following her journey on Instagram for a few years now and the knowledge and drive this girl has is straight up mind blowing. It’s really hard looking out into the Insta-world and the social media world in general and really trusting someone, but I completely trust Christina because she has the knowledge to back up everything!
You may know she recently made the switch from Primitive Paleo to CMS Nutrition- a name that suits her much better because this girl ain’t about labels. She practices what she preaches, which is: doing what works for YOU. Christina studies nutrition and dietetics at The University of Louisiana Lafayette, teaches nutrition + cooking demos at local Whole Foods, develops recipes, shares her amazing knowledge, and recently started a BLOG (which I’ve already stalked.)
Christina is such a breath of fresh air in the health and wellness community and I got SO excited when she said YES to do an interview with me because I am (and always will be) a major fan-girl of hers.
PS: Christina introduced me to minimalism and did I mention she loves coffee almost as much as I do? #meanttobe
I’ll link to all of her media below as well! ENJOY!
*Note: Christina is NOT a Registered Dietitian as of yet. The information in this interview is from her own studies and personal experiences.
I am so giddy for this interview! I have been following your journey through social media for some time now and you are such an inspiration and wealth of knowledge! So please, for those that don’t know, tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and what you’re up to now.
Hi Mel! I secretly get really awkward with introductions so here it goes– I am creator of CMS Nutrition, I am a senior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where I will graduate in May of 2017 with a Bachelors of Science, and go on to pursue my dietetic internship and Masters in Nutrition Sciences (Registered Dietitian to be), HOPEFULLY! Formerly Primitive Paleo, I changed my focus to CMS Nutrition because I felt that nutrition is a science that is forever evolving, discovering, and changing; as am I. I began Primitive Paleo 3 years ago as an Instagram page to inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle. It quickly developed into a meal preparation service within my community where I provided weekly meals. I teach nutritional cooking classes at Whole Foods, volunteer, and donate meals to local businesses and wellness centers, and partner with local registered dietitians and physicians. I am also the Study Coordinator for Epigenix Foundation, a non-profit organization with a mission to understand the epigenetic impact of metabolic interventions on human disease, performance, cancer, and illness. I am currently working closely with Epigenix and a team of research physicians on a pilot study, Metabolic Therapy for Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer: A Pilot Study. I am on the nutrition team with a group of physicians developing a metabolic clinic to treat and address metabolic syndrome and its 5 risk factors. I work carefully with the oncologists at The Elliot Breast Cancer Clinic where we are integrating a cancer-immuno metabolic clinic and nutrition intervention as a way to enhance and better understand the body’s immune system in combination with various cancer treatments. I have a passion for nutrition that is immovable and vast, it excites me more than any other area of science. I enjoy podcasts, science-y articles and books, time with my loved ones, brussel sprouts, sweaty work outs, dark chocolate, dirty martini’s, red wine, and sunshine.
You recently re-branded yourself, got rid of most of your social media accounts, and are in the process of creating a website/blog—what prompted all of this change and what do you want people to gain from it?
Regarding re-branding: I recently re-branded my name from Primitve Paleo to CMS Nutrition because I feel that I was ready to dissociate from any diet, fad, or quick fix. Paleo is not that AT ALL, but I think that judgement is immediately placed upon those choosing to identify as eating a “paleo” diet and frankly, all that I’m doing right now or where my business will evolve just wasn’t displayed enough in “Primitive Paleo”. I have spent a lot of time studying and researching throughout my academia, work experience, and online business- only to realize that there is no one size fits all, no right or wrong, no good or bad, and no perfection. I felt that being associated with “paleo” limited my possibilities and left my work judged by other professionals or colleagues, because it isn’t about “paleo” afterall. I do not want to propagate and encourage dieting or nutrition quackery, and no matter how nutritionally sound a paleo diet truly is and can be, the word still gets a bad wrap. Nothing has changed in the way that I choose to eat. I believe in an ancestral, whole, and real food way of eating, it just so happens that if you were from the outside looking in at my typical plate it could be classified as a “paleo” way of eating. I choose to reduce inflammatory foods and focus on nutrient density and maximization. I do not avoid, restrict, or eliminate any one food or food group because it is not paleo or because someone says I should. I think that understanding the needs of our own bodies is very important for long term health. As my body changes and my needs change, I adapt based upon its requests, and as always…. I listen and honor its needs.
Regarding future of CMS Nutrition: I hope to continue to evolve my online entrepreneurship. I hope to continue to integrate my passion for nutrition with my entrepreneurial spirit and expand further into areas of clinical nutrition, cancer, disease, human metabolism, and overall preventative and long-term health. I’m excited to ennounce that my webiste/blog is now LIVE and I’m stoked! Who knows what will happen in the future, but I’m rolling with the punches and loving the process along the way. It’s my one stop hub for all that I am doing- my recipes, evidence based research, readings, findings, events and classes, and just all things healthy lifestyle blogging.
Regarding “minimizing”: 2017 for me (and the years to come) are all about less and reducing excess in my life (check out THIS post to learn more). I think that the media and culture surrounding us propagates a society of excess and the desire for MORE with all that we do. That where we are, who we are, what we have, and what we want are never enough- this couldn’t be further from the truth. My reasons for deleting the majority of my media and minimizing items/areas in my life stem from a quest to evolve with a whole and intentional living approach; quality over quantity. I think that we often lose sight of the important things, myself included-like relationships, experiences, and being entire and present with exactly where we are right now. I hope to greatly continue to benefit from these changes, growth, and reflection.
You have done a ton of research in the realm of ketosis and even put yourself through ketosis—tell us a little bit more about that. What are your conclusions on that way of eating? Do you recommend it to everyone or only certain groups of people?
Ketosis is a metabolic state characterized by elevated levels of ketone bodies. Without getting too science-y, ketone bodies are an alternate fuel source for the brain and body and have a large number of benefits. It seems that we’ve evolved to operate in a cyclical state of metabolism, meaning the ability to access both carbohydrate metabolism (glucose) and fat metabolism (ketone bodies), and that our modern American diets have caused an inability to access this metabolic advantage.
As the Study Coordinator for Epigenix foundation, we are investigating the relationship between cancer and it’s metabolism, the immune system, fatty acid oxidation, and glucose metabolism in regard to various stages of breast cancer and oncology. There has been a profound amount of gain from ketosis in regard to neurologic disorders, brain tumors, and other cancers, so our feat to investigate further continues with the epigenetic impact of nutritional intervention on a pre-cancerous protein called ENOX2. With research physicians and a dietary team, we are measuring these levels in various participants at the beginning of the study, putting them through a ketogenic protocol, and then retesting them at the end and adjusting throughout.
In order to better understand our research, I put myself through ketosis and learned all of the ins and outs to be able to perform my job to the best of my ability. It was rough at first, because a lot of people I think get confused with low carb and ketogenic- there is a HUGE difference and this is where I think it can get dangerous. Low carb is essentially starving your body of a fuel source and this is where you’ll feel exhausted, foggy, and weak (no mans land). Ketosis provides a fuel source in the form of higher fat intakes coupled with low carb + moderate protein, but it is important to keep in mind that this does not displace the essentiality of carbohydrate in the diet. I do think that ketosis is very effective, therapeutic, and beneficial for certain neurological diseases, metabolic syndrome, and cancer but I do not think that anyone (especially women) needs to be eating that way unless trying to address one of those conditions.
I didn’t always feel this way, but having been through it personally and experiencing a few unfavorable health conditions, I now am looking into further research supporting a higher carbohydrate intake for women’s health- not necessarily for any of the research with Epigenix (those are both very different and ketosis is essential for what we are trying to understand). Long periods of ketosis can lead to HPA axis dysregulation, hypothalamic ammenorhea, fatigue, muscle wasting, mood disorders, and hypoglycemia- I’ve experienced it personally.
I do think that the answer to most nutrition questions is- it depends, because certainly some people will or will not do well with a ketogenic way of eating, especially those with a history of eating disorders or disorder eating behaviors. It frustrates me when it’s referred to as a “diet” because I think that eludes a lot of its potential health and therapeutic benefits. I am not encouraging ketosis (or any said way of eating) by sharing this, I just know that there is a profound amount of health gain if used for the right reasons and medical condition, paying attention to nutritional adequacy and micronutrient/macronutrient balance. To put your body through ketosis safely requires medical attention, assistance, and coaching. This is what makes it potentially dangerous because if it’s not done carefully and for the right reasons, it can cause more harm than good and I think that’s where the bad reputation comes from. There is certainly a ton of physical and performance based benefits of a ketogenic way of eating, like that in endurance athletes and power athletes, but for the average woman and her health- I see it causing very severe potential problems and I wouldn’t suggest it. I no longer eat ketogenically (or strictly/restrictive in any way) because of some health issues it caused for me personally, I just eat in the way that I feel best and what my body needs that day. Sometimes that’s a coffee with grass-fed butter or it’s a sweet potato baked with cinnamon and coconut sugar.
I think it’s interesting that the low-fat craze caused America to fear and demonize fat. The ancestral health population responded in uproar and in defense of dietary fat and although the response was valid, well-studied, and beneficial… in my opinion we took it a little too far. I think the nutritional density of those “ketogenic” or higher fat foods are certainly very important and that most people could benefit from increasing overall healthy fat intake, but I also think that this high fat complex has caused an incessant fear of carbohydrate as well. It’s made women and men forget the place that carbohydrate has in the diet, and that refined grain, sugar, processed foods, and wheat seem to be more to blame for the health epidemic than overall nutrient rich carbohydrate sources or foods that naturally contain higher amounts of fat. Both are nutritionally sound and essential, and I think we should shift focus from demonizing any said macronutrient. We should focus more on getting back to food the way nature intended by reducing processed foods, sugar, refined grain, industrialized/hormone filled meat, and GMO crops and increasing real, whole, natural foods.
You talk so much about balance when it comes to our food choices and fitness, what is some good advice for those trying to find that same approach?
Ahhhh ketosis, the perfect way to lead me into this next question about BALANCE! So there are nutritious foods (foods that give you vitamins, minerals, and make us feel revitalized) and then there are foods that are spontaneous (foods that we don’t usually eat for the nutrition content but enjoy from time to time as part of experience, culture, and time with our loved ones). This is where the dissociation occured for me with “Primitive Paleo” because there are no such thing as rules, regulations, diets, fads, or right/wrong when it comes to wholesome nutrition. It just so happens that my body feels best eating foods that fit into a “paleo” template, but I also understand the need for variation and non-restriction (especially when it comes to women). It’s about finding the ways in which YOUR body feels ENERGIZED and HEALTHY while also honoring your happiness, enjoying your food preferences, and listening to your body. I think a lot of pressure comes from social media, culture, and our society encouraging us to live in a world where we are constantly comparing, seeking validation, and looking for ways to be/look like the person next to us. I think balance is gaining the ability to instead not only accept, but LOVE, who we are and where we are at this current moment. It encourages this “bandwagon” that people continuously fall “off or on” and go through vicious cycles of disordered eating patterns and unhealthy food relationships. As long as this approach continues we are preventing ourselves from viewing health, nutrition, and life as the gift that it is. We will continue to perpetuate this extreme behavior favoring aesthetic, materialism, and restriction. There is no bandwagon in my opinion, and that’s where I like to use the word balance- because I think healthy eating and living is neither on nor off. Eating a donut every so often doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off, it just means that you know how to enjoy the moment, appreciate balance in all things, and you understand that ONE donut will not distort all of the effort you’ve put into your health (clearly I love donuts, cool). Eating without balance and intuition is unrealistic, extreme, unhealthy, and often leads to a myriad of emotional/physical/and personal issues. We know our bodies better than anyone does, so why would we let society tell us what we should or shouldn’t eat? Listen to it, nurture it, and for goodness sake eat [balanced and healthful] like you love the heck out of it! Too much of anything can be a bad thing and with a history of disordered eating and going through a very painful experience with it, I have learned long and hard that nutrition is a gift, a celebration, and a selfless way to care for ourselves, our future generations, and our loved ones. It is about forming a positive relationship with food, encouraging positive self-talk, and accepting the beauty and gift that are bodies are. I could talk about this subject for years with all that I’ve discovered about myself throughout the process but I think that what really helped me was beginning to focus on the way you feel rather than the way you look. We are humans with the ability to procreate, experience life, have fun with loved ones, and be happy- if we’re so consumed with every ounce and gram of food that’s going into our bodies all of the time we will most certainly miss out on those things and potentially cause serious health issues- both physically and mentally. I did! My opinions about nutrition and the foods that I eat remain, and I know what foods my body feels best eating, but I also know that there are times for those pleasure foods (the foods that scare some of us to eat, but are a part of our human ability as friends, mothers, wives, sisters, and partners). We don’t pick our friends and family because of the way they look, because of how many donuts they eat, because of how much kale they had in their breakfast bowl, so why would we judge ourselves for that? I realllllllly hope that we stop with this social media culture encouraging body shaming, eat less move more, grind until you die, and hustle mentality. It’s not about eating less and doing more, it’s about eating BETTER, moving BETTER, and loving ourselves MORE.
We live in an extremely superficial world and women in particular are so hard on themselves when it comes to diets and the way they look—often times overtraining and underrating. What are your thoughts on this and what would you tell these women?
Your questions are killing me, Mel… and by killing I mean hitting the nail on the head- I think that over training, under eating, and exhaustion are HUGE topics in health right now that have got to be addressed! This ties in with my last question as well, understanding that choosing to fuel your body with wholesome nutrition is a form of self-respect and maturity, similarly is fitness. Fitness is a celebration of what our bodies can do, not a punishment for what we eat, an endless calorie burn, or an over compensation for poor choices that we make about our health. Having battled a tough, almost 2 year long back injury and a history of being a workout lover, I now appreciate my body, its health, and its capabilities more than I ever have. If I could tell women anything it would be LESS is more.
Workout to feel better, stronger, more energized, and excited about your movement; workout to honor your physiology and the beauty that nature intended for it. We are meant to procreate, to love, to nurture, and to cherish our body and it’s innate capabilities- that little extra goodness around our hips is there for a reason (so that we can create a bountiful environment for children one day and house all of the cool stuff that happens in a woman’s body)! I would tell women to focus once again on feeling and intuition, rather than allowing someone to tell us what we should or should not be doing in order to get achieve some unrealistic body goal. In physics, the law of conservation of energy states that energy remains constant- neither created nor destroyed- only transformed from one form to another. That energy that we use for that tough workout, we need sufficient rest afterwards and if we continuously deprive our bodies of that in the form of over training and under eating we will burn out hard one day.
I think that there is something to be said for quality over quantity in all areas of fitness and nutrition and that fitness is about doing better, not more. Workouts should not leave us feeling exhausted, fatigued, or uninterested, you know- when you can’t walk the next day and you think that’s cool- that’s really your body highly stressed and activating a lot of pathways that aren’t beneficial. I was in a repetitive cycle with that mentality for far too long, if a workout didn’t leave me struggling to climb stairs the next day then I felt like I accomplished nothing. I fell in love with fitness again when I accepted that not every workout has to kill me and that doing what I love may be different from the norm or from what gym culture tells me to do. Fitness is such a powerful way to meditate, to find peace, to find appreciation for our bodies, and to indulge in nature and the outdoors. My runs aren’t tracked anymore, I don’t let numbers rule my work outs- and they’re slow as hell sometimes, but it’s awesome. Heck some weeks I don’t run one single mile, years ago that would have killed me- so that’s even more awesome. I’ll tell you what though: find what makes you feel strong, capable, peaceful, and healthy- stop all the noise and madness and just DO IT!
Best piece of advice you have ever received and best piece of advice you can give our readers?
The best piece of advice I have ever received was to find myself, and be just that. I think that goes without even needing explanation. The best piece of advice I could give for readers is “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it” –Salvador Dali. I am frustrated when I hear people say “embrace your imperfections and your flaws” because this interprets that we are already flawed and that we acknowledge perfection as indeed existing. What I gain from Dali’s interpretation is that perfection indeed does not exist, and that I too struggled with exhausting myself for so long trying to reach it. I set a picture of a girl standing in a blank open field letting go of a balloon as my background on my phone some time ago, and anytime I find myself tugging on seeking perfection I imagine the balloons and I let go.
Everyone I talk to today seems to be stressed out. How do you personally handle stress and reduce it?
- Meditation: Headspace app every morning and random pauses when I feel noise or the need for a mental flush
- Workout and yoga: activating some endorphins and hormones
- Walks**: frequently taking walks in nature away from technology and media
- Cooking and baking: probably my all time favorite
- Letting go of worry: 90% of what I worry about is useless and destructive
- Spending time with loved ones and family: nothing recharges me more than that.
- Introverting: sometimes I need to just be alone, do nothing, and eat dark chocolate in my bed. Nothing is wrong, I just need to recharge.
All of your food and recipes look amazing! Where do you get inspiration for coming up with your recipes?
My inspiration for creating recipes comes from random occurrences from dinners with friends and family or travels, it also comes from the INSANELY talented food bloggers on instagram and all of their creativity. I dial in on my cravings too and channel those when I feel them coming on. I often ask my friends and family what they’ve been craving lately too, it gives me ideas for recipes and fun kitchen adventures (bonus is I get to share it with them after).
Favorite way of training/ favorite workouts?
So I raced as a triathlete for a few years, ran marathons, and did crossfit for a period. I LOVE all three, and I particularly fell in love with Crossfit after coming from years of an endurance background- bulging and herniating a disc though, will change everything. It was such a blessing and a long road of recovery (coulnd’t workout for almost a year), but I am now welcoming back workouts that I love but also truly honor my body and respect my injury.
Workouts I’ve been into lately are more of combining intensity with body weight mobility exercises and plyometric style workouts; even a long walk in nature is my jam too. Loving some dumbbell movements (like snatches, man makers, DB cleans, overhead presses), bars, TRX cables, kettlebells, core work, rowing, [enjoyment] runs, and boxes. Basically if I can jump on it and swing it around, we cool. I sold my tri bike because my back can’t be in that position for too long, bummer… but I’m really really loving the performance based functionality of fitness lately.
Favorite book and why?
Favorite book… that’s tough because I read a lot, but here it goes:
Fiction: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” Oscar Wilde
Non-fiction: “The Power of Now” Eckhart Tolle
Health related: THERE ARE SO MANY OH MY GOSH I CAN’T but a good place to start is “Grain Brain” or “Brain Maker.”
Favorite quote and why?
Do memes count as quotes? Just kidding.
-Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena Speech
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
I first read this in Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly”, as the opening page to what I was pleasantly surprised to be also one of the best books I’ve ever read. Stuck with me since.
Goals for 2017 and any other comments you want to share with our readers?
Goals for 2017: Get into grad school, become a dietetic intern, and embrace less (see post regarding “minimizing” above)
Advice: You are loved, you are enough, you are whole, and you are worthy… just as you are. Always stay true to that.
Um, who else LOVED this interview with this insanely genuine, smart, loving human being? I know it’s something I will keep referring back to time and time again. It literally gave me all the goosebumps. Thank you oh so much Christina.
You can find Christina on: