After surviving her own battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Elissa Goodman, the celebrity nutritionist and lifestyle cleanse expert, has made it her life’s mission to work with people from every walk of life to help them cleanse their bodies and their lives.
Elissa shares the #parsleylife approach to healing, looking at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives.
We recently sat down with Elissa and asked her some questions for our Woman Up series – a collection of inspiring femmes that live large, work hard, fall often and always get back up.
Before you began your healing journey, what did you think “being healthy” meant?
I really thought being healthy meant counting calories, eating low fat and sugar free, and eating sushi for most of my meals. I was exercising like crazy, doing mainly high-intensity workouts. My idea of healthy was all about restrictions.
However, what this was really doing to my body was damaging it. I wasn’t giving my body the nutrients it needed. It didn’t know when it was going to eat or not eat. My stress levels were through the roof because of overexercising and my demanding job.
What does healthy eating look like for you now?
Now it’s about the abundance of fresh, real food, lots of veggies and healthy fats. I always make sure I have healthy fat and a protein, either vegan or animal, at every meal. These days I’m leaning more towards limiting animal protein because I don’t feel so good when I eat it, but that’s me also listening to my body’s unique needs. I’ve never felt better!
What is one of the biggest challenges you experience when coaching clients on eating a healthier diet?
First off I feel that most people don’t eat enough vegetables. To get them to double their servings of vegetables or add in healthy fats can feel incredibly scary to them. Changing their mindset can be a real challenge.
But I support them in the process by educating them and showing them that eating healthy can really be easy. It’s really about going back to the basics and getting honest about what you want to put into your body. Do you want to eat dead food or live food? Do you want to eat food from the earth or processed food full of additives and preservatives? The chemicals in foods today are off the charts and it’s causing cancer, autoimmune diseases, anxiety, depression and so much more.
We are so overwhelmed with toxins, even ones we don’t know about. The only way our body is going to be able to cleanse and detox is to eat more vegetables, herbs and leafy greens. My goal is to help people make this as routine as going to the bathroom or taking a shower.
What was the turning point during your cancer treatment that made you look to a more holistic approach to healing, rather than just traditional Western treatment?
Growing up I always had this feeling that life could be better – that I could have more energy and do more – if I could just tap into my intuition and stay there. It was so hard to stay in my own power. So many people were telling me how to do things and I was always listening to them instead of my own voice. I knew I had good instincts, but I didn’t use them.
From about the age of 16-25 I was going with my mother to Rancho La Puerta in California, where I was immersed in daily meditation, yoga, hiking, massage and nutritious eating. It was so amazing looking back. When I got back into the world, I would go back into my old habits.
When I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, I saw three doctors. The first two said I needed to get chemo, radiation and freeze my eggs. They also said they might have to do a bone marrow transplant. The third doctor I saw was able to look so much deeper than just surface with my cancer. When I met with him, he just looked at me and asked, “Tell me what is going on in your life You look really stressed, you don’t look happy.” I burst into tears admitting that I wasn’t happy and was beyond stressed.
I landed my dream job at Vogue, but it turned out to be awful. I got diagnosed three months after that. Once I realized the role that my unhappiness and stress was playing in my illness, I knew that this was no way to live. I went back to my oncologist and said that I was not going to do chemo. Instead I did 6 weeks of radiation, went into therapy and read every book I could get my hands on about emotional healing. There was so much trauma in my life that I was still suffering from that I didn’t even know was trauma.
Remembering what I learned during those years at Rancho la Puerta, I also started juicing and became a vegan. Nutritionally, this was about going back to the roots – eating how we are supposed to eat – whole foods, seasonal, organic, etc. I also started doing yoga more and getting colonics. I don’t always recommend taking that road for everyone, but this is what I felt I needed.
You just had a book come out called Cancer Hacks: A Holistic Guide to Overcoming Your Fears and Healing Cancer. You’ve already shared how stress and unhappiness can affect our health. What is the connection between fear and cancer?
When I was 18, my mom took me to an astrologist who said I would be sick at age 40 and I wouldn’t survive. So I carried that thought with me for over 20 years. Our thoughts are so powerful. You may have an idea in our head that you are going to get fat and you end up gaining weight or consistently sabotaging your diet. Or you may think, “I’m not going to be a good mom,” and you never get pregnant. I see this time and time again. This is why it’s so important to look beyond just the physical when healing the body.
Tell us the role that intuition can play in the healing journey?
Ever since I made those choices for my treatment, lifestyle and diet, I started to listen to my intuition so much more and realized the importance of it. It’s not always something I want to hear, but it’s usually what I need to hear. Simply beginning to notice how you feel when you eat certain food – more energized, more tired, more anxious, more calm – will help to reconnect you to your intuition and what your unique body needs.
Unfortunately, listening to our intuition is so foreign to us. We’re brought into this world with this amazing intuition and then we begin to lose that connection and look outside of ourselves for the answers. No one comes to me just to lose weight. There is always a mental component at play. I hope to be that inspiration for others to help them connect back to their intuition. Personally, I don’t think anyone can be truly healthy without being in alignment with that inner voice. I’ve also often referred my clients to healers that have the ability to reconnect them in cases where I can’t and the next time I see them, they’re different people.
Was it a difficult decision for you as an ambitious businesswoman, to make the choice to leave your job and put your health first?
Excruciating. It felt really selfish. Women too often don’t put themselves first. We don’t give ourselves the TLC that we need. We don’t give ourselves a break. Still to this day I struggle with that. I feel like my girls and fiancee come first. I know I feel good when I practice what I preach, but it can be a struggle. As women, we have done a disservice to ourselves. We are so powerful We can do anything and everything if we give ourselves the chance to.
How do you inspire your female clients to put themselves first?
I get real honest with them. I let them know that the road they are on is not a healthy one and ask them if this is how they truly see their life Most of them say no. They see their life on a beach in Bali. So I work with them to marry the life they are living and the life they desire together. We work to find the calmness and centeredness within a world that is swirling at a rapid pace through practices such as yoga, better sleep routines, meditation and working on keeping healthier relationships. The truth is we’re not supposed to have menopause symptoms like we do. We’re not supposed to gain weight, get autoimmune diseases and cancer at the rate we do. It’s up to us to step into our power and change that reality.
After you had your two daughters, your husband got diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Were there times that you felt like all of it was too much? If so, what helped keep you from giving up?
Many times I wanted to just run away from everyone. But as a mother, it was so crucial to help my daughters through this process. I never dreamed my husband would pass away. I always had this feeling when I would see my clients, friends, daughters or my fiance, that I would find a way to make this get better. I thought I would find a way. I thought that this was his wake up call, like it was mine. I really had this feeling of hopefulness, just like I did as a kid. When he passed away, all I could think was that life can’t be like this. Everything felt so hard. It was like pulling a boulder up a hill.
But, it was the friends that were around me that supported me like crazy that got me through it. They were so there for me through the whole process.
What was the biggest lesson you learned through that experience?
I learned that there needs to be the combination of mental and emotional and building up the immune system when going through any sort of treatment. You can’t just focus on killing the cancer. I spoke to my husband’s doctors about giving him support through supplements, food, and even taking a break from the aggressive treatments he was going under to help build up his immune system, but no one listened to me. The disconnect that is still out there is crazy. You need a holistic approach to healing. You need to address what is causing the body to break down and come up with a plan to build it up and make it healthier.
When did you know that your calling was to help others heal?
I feel so blessed that I get to do this every day. After my husband passed away, I was thinking that my two daughters had two parents that had cancer, which is not very common. I knew I needed to get stronger because I was really beaten down. I was so tired of not feeling well. I got Hashimoto’s around this time from all the stress, I went into early menopause at 45 and I wasn’t sleeping. I also knew that to some degree it was our diet, lack of sleep and emotional suppression that caused our illnesses. I didn’t want that for them. I knew I needed to be an advocate for them, teaching them to be more empowered and not repress their feelings.
I went to the American University of Complementary Medicine in Los Angeles and became a Certified Holistic Nutritionist. I learned about Ayurveda, TCM, Herbs and various Western modalities. I did it for my family first, but as I went through the program, I loved it so much that I thought I could do it for others. After I graduated, I got the opportunities to create cleanses for Cafe Gratitude, M Cafe and Erewhon. After a few years, I created my own cleanses for my clients.
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I will say though that I’m not a fan of strict juice cleanses or too much cold, raw food, except during certain times of the year, for example when it’s hot. I believe in feeding our bodies nourishing foods and never feeling deprived or starved. I incorporate real food into my programs. It’s more food than a lot of people would eat, but everyone always feels better after the five days.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s really about going back to the basics – eating real food. Your body knows how to absorb and metabolize real food.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Being that vulnerable for people to see into your world and see a little bit of what you’ve gone through, potentially judging you. I’m not a doctor or researcher and I don’t have a PhD. I’m just sharing my story. However, if I can help in some simple way and inspire some people make a few changes to improve their lives, even just getting more in touch with their emotions, then I’ve done my job.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that might surprise them?
I hate talking about myself, but I love people! At the bottom of my heart I love people. I am fascinated with people and just want to get to know them and what’s really going on under the surface.