Written by Elizabeth Lenz
Which is the best coast, east or west? One Rochester native couldn't choose, so she lives on both! A health and food therapy specialist as well as a medicinal and food journalist, she bounces back and forth between the coasts writing for various local and national food magazines and consulting with clients about their food journey.
Meet Christine Dionese...
How did you end up living a bi-coastal life style?
I initially moved out to California to go to grad school because the things I wanted to do professionally weren’t available in Rochester. But over the past three years, I’ve been able to come back and forth more because Rochester really seems ready and beaming with creative energy for this kind of thing. They’re really into integrated health and wellness and there are a lot more healthy restaurants. I guess the lifestyle mentally is very different: the idea of healthy living and the idea of having their social life be healthy too. I really started coming back to Rochester because no one was really doing anything with integrated medicine. I started out with my private practice just because there wasn't anyone in the area doing what I was doing with integrated medicine then added things like food therapy and entertaining with healthy food and healthy drinks. Lets face it, people all over the country still have the same health concerns. So I wanted to make those services available in the place that I grew up.
Can you explain to me a little more about food therapy?
Food therapy, as opposed to just eating well, is more of a personalized idea to nutrition. It's based a lot on how we grew up and where our people came from. For example, my people are from Italy. And genetically it shows that if you follow my ancestral line, that people do well with a Mediterranean diet. Even living here in the US. food therapy is a more personalized way to eat. Your accentuating your wellness goal by focusing on the types of food that your ancestors ate. It’s a little different than a primal Paleo diet, because that goes back to the very beginning of time. The big difference is that its taking where your people came from and combining it with where you are now so that you can prevent health concerns and you can still eat all the things you love. So you’re incorporating super foods and super nutrient dense foods but in a personalized way to address a personalize goal and personalized wellness goals.
Can you give me a summary of what you do in your wellness practice?
In my practice, I primarily consult with people who are experiencing autoimmune or endocrine issues and I address those issues through epigenetic and genetic information. I look back at a persons genetic history and then I go back and I look back at the health concerns they are experiencing or the health concerns they are trying to prevent. We start by getting the information we need to that way. Then we basically use therapeutic nutraceuticals, therapeutic food therapy, therapeutic life style changes to optimize that persons wellness. You go to the very core and take a look at that persons genetic history and then what’s going on in their life style. Whatever their goals are, you match it. Personalized medicine for modern living!
That was a lot more in depth than I thought it was going to be!
It’s really really in depth. People go “Oh you’re a nutritionist!” and I’m like “No, I’m really an integrated health specialist.” I had to go to medical school for it. It’s all science based. I couldn’t do it without science. It’s funny because then people go, “You practice alternative medicine.” But really it’s an alternative to medicine, but still all based in science. It’s just that its exceptionally in depth and personalized.
How do you balance all of your projects? You seem to have so much going on out in San Diego as well as here in Rochester!
Luckily I choose to have my bi-coastal location in a place where my family is. So when I’m resting I have my family there so it’s not like I’m missing out on any family time. They’re kind of built into it. I would say the biggest thing for me is my work life isn't really separate from my personal life. What I do during the day is my lifestyle. So it isn’t as if I have to compartmentalize things. Everything kind of evolves and revolves around one another. And I know that if I don’t take time out for self care, that I wont be able to attend to my family the way that I would like to and I wont be able to give my clients or anyone I work with the care or attention they need. The advice that I dispense is the advice I practice myself.
How do you network so well and manage all of these professional relationships? You seem to know everyone, everywhere.
Since my personal life is such an extension of my professional life, all of my friends seem to be entrepreneurs, they’re creative, or natural mutli-taskers. So when I am getting together with friends, they tend to be people who I’m working with so of course were having a glass of wine or meeting for a cup of coffee, we’re still sharing these really synergistic ideas with one another, even though we’re just socializing. It’s just constant networking. It's a passion for what I do and I’ve always been really interested in what other people are doing. I’ve always been that way. So I just get out there to find out what people are doing. You kind of attract people that are doing the same thing sometimes.
Do you have any tips for someone who is just starting their wellness journey?
Most people have an emotional connection to food. Whether it's about socializing or if it's a positive or negative emotion. So instead of changing up everything in a persons diet, I first suggest that people take their three favorite meals, excluding things like pizza and wings and beer. Have them take a traditional meal that they love, that they grew up with and ask them “how is this serving my wellness needs?” Because everything can be personalized, and then made healthier, and substituted. Instead of taking away everything a person does, I say look at what you’re already doing, how can we accentuate that and amplify that and make that healthier. And that, to me, is a more natural way for people to get into it. I also tell people to forget about the fads, because they’re all just diets. Think about the things that give you the most emotional enjoyment and help you feel the best.
We're excited about your upcoming classes with us that will be held at Hart's Local Grocers! What made you want to teach “mocktail" class?
I always go to parties and there are always like three people who don’t drink and then can’t socialize because of this barrier. But people want to be able to experience flavor, and a social experience. Almost everything you’re drinking at a bar is based on plant foods and the alcohol is added later. So I wanted to help people be resourceful with the things they have at home, even if it's just simple fruits, or herbs and vegetables they can mix up into cocktails. It’s a healthy way to entertain. Even if you still want to drink like a glass of champagne and have a cocktail but then you still want to socialize without the alcohol, you can mix some soda water with some pomegranate juice and hibiscus water. It can be as simple as that. I think it's really awesome to still have a healthy social life so you're not working the entire week and then drinking heavily at parties, you can still get up and do things. You can still have a good time and have some cool healthy beverages. From a creative sense, it’s trying new things. The tonics, are really super super healthy if your having cocktails. I want to be able to teach people to have a party where their serving aperitifs and digestifs as if a restaurant would, but without any of the alcohol.
All photos were provided by Lives Styled.
Christine Dionese will be in Rochester and teaching "Seasonal Tonic-Style Mocktails" on August 16th and August 23rd from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM.