About Real Food Plan
If you’re looking for guidance to make your real food journey a bit more manageable and doable, you’re in the right place.
Whether you’ve heard of Paleo or similar real food diet variations such as AIP, GAPS, SCD, or Keto, you know these protocols are not that easy to get started or to successfully maintain over time.
Chances are you are using one of these dietary approaches not necessarily to lose weight but as part of a holistic approach to improve your health and get your body systems functioning properly. You just want to feel better and be truly healthier.
Real Food Plan is here to empower you to restore optimal health, starting with diet and lifestyle changes.
Whether you suffer from heartburn, gas, bloating, stomach pain after meals, other embarrassing digestive issues, allergies and food sensitivities, or generally dealing with pain, autoimmune disease and other chronic health issues, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
I sincerely believe life is meant to be enjoyed fully, without worrying about another flare up, feeling in constant pain, or worrying about eating.
These real food therapeutic diets are incredibly powerful tools that can have you feeling better in record time. Not only that, but these diets also help create the right internal environment to support your body’s innate ability to heal itself over time.
The problem is, embarking on a therapeutic diet can be a frustrating, lonely, overwhelming and generally difficult process.
Success comes down to two key ingredients: 1) Clarity and 2) Systems.
Real Food Plan is here to deliver both ingredients, plus a healthy dose of community support, accountability and fun.
Clarity means understanding how different systems and symptoms are intricately connected, and the WHY behind making certain changes or recommendations.
Once you truly and deeply understand the big picture and make these connections, it tends to create an unshakable level of motivation and commitment to make changes and leave behind your old ways that are no longer serving you.
Systems means having the strategies, processes and habits in place to make this a sustainable lifestyle.
Sometimes committing to changes is the easy part, but actually following through on that commitment is not always easy when life gets in the way. When you have the right systems in place, you’ll find that these healthy living changes almost become effortless or “on autopilot”.
That’s the ultimate goal. I want you to go on enjoying life to its fullest without feeling like your diet or food restrictions or lifestyle changes are getting in the way.
I’m here to show you that this is not only possible but honestly the best path to truly enjoying life.
To get started, grab a copy of my free Real Food Getting Started Guide now, or read on to learn more about my back story…
Meet the Founder: Janna Melissa, FNTP
A few years ago, a perfect storm was brewing.
I had actually suffered from digestive symptoms and gut health issues my entire life, but I didn’t know it at the time.
I always thought symptoms such as feeling pain after eating were “normal” and thought I was overall a healthy person because I was a long distance runner and a vegetarian.
Little did I know, some of the very actions I thought were making me healthy were actually contributing to inflammation and further imbalances in my GI tract.
But it was all very tolerable and easy to ignore, until it wasn’t any more.
This perfect storm was caused by a combination of:
- Increased stress at work and overall life stress as I went through multiple big life transitions around the same time and had a complicated commuting/living situation
- Overtraining as exercise was always my main stress reliever, and I turned up the dial as I started preparing for a big trekking expedition in Nepal later that year. I didn’t realize that exercise can become another source of stress and inflammation if it’s excessive.
- Less than perfect food choices as I didn’t always make time to cook. I thought that being vegetarian automatically made me healthy, but I was actually eating a vegetarian version of the Standard American Diet and fueling my body with an excess of grains and sugar.
- Medications (PPIs) that were supposed to be solving my issues, but that I suspected were somehow making me feel worse and worse.
The Breaking Point
Since I had decided 2017 was the year I would finally take time off my corporate job for some big international travels, I made it a priority to get testing done that my doctor had recommended years ago. I wanted to get this checked out before I went off my employer’s insurance plan.
After multiple endoscopies, I was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, otherwise known as EOE.
EOE is a somewhat rare condition (which I later learned is autoimmune in nature) in which the immune system activates inappropriately, resulting in inflammation in the esophagus.
This inflammation leads to narrowing and strictures of the esophagus, which can cause food to get stuck. This had been happening since I was in middle school, and I never knew it was an actual medical condition. I always thought it was just something weird that happened to me.
But that wasn’t my main complaint at the time. I was actually suffering from horrible acid reflux/heartburn. This is another common symptom of EOE.
The problem was, it seemed the more I followed my doctor’s prescription to treat the acid reflux, the worse I felt. My doctor made me feel crazy for suggesting that the medication (Prilosec) was making me feel sicker.
It eventually got so bad that I was having loud, violent, painful burps or belching several times throughout the day and night. It started getting in the way of my exercise, sleep, and other activities I enjoyed. I was in pain and suffering almost all the time, especially after meals.
I was in my late 20’s at the time. I knew this was not normal. Yet my doctor told me this was “just another part of getting older.” I wish I could slap any doctors who say such things to their patients.
Finally, one Wednesday night in June, I felt so horrible that I had to skip the salsa dancing class I had planned to attend that night because I knew there was no way I could stand and dance with a partner in that state. It may sound like not such a big deal, but dancing was and still is one of my great joys in life.
Feeling miserable, I instead spent that evening diving in to research in an attempts to find the real cause of acid reflux, beyond the basics that I had always read on sites like WebMD.
And that was when everything changed.
Finding Clarity and a Sense of Hope
I really went down the rabbit hole that night, and it was incredible.
I found videos, blogs, free ebooks, and books on Kindle Unlimited that were written by MDs, functional medicine practitioners and NTPs.
I not only found some steps I could take to work towards a natural remedy for the issue I was experiencing, but I gained tremendous clarity on how the body actually works and how everything is so interconnected.
It turns out I was right. The medication I had been taking for months is actually designed to turn off the body’s natural production of stomach acid down to near-zero levels. But our bodies need stomach acid to properly break down proteins and digest the food we eat.
By simply turning off a major function of the body (stomach acid production), it sets us up for a cascade of negative ramifications. That’s because none of the other stages in the GI system can function effectively without that key function of stomach acid production.
And when our digestion doesn’t work properly, nothing else can work properly in our other body systems.
This helped explain some of the other symptoms I had been experiencing at the time that I never thought to discuss with my doctor, such as pain in my lower abdomen after eating, excessive gas, worsening anxiety, other mood issues, fatigue, hair falling out, skin issues, sudden onset of multiple environmental allergies and chemical sensitivities, and more.
My conventional GI doctor had been looking at one system in isolation: my upper GI, or whatever could be seen on an endoscopy. Even other areas of the GI tract further “south” were “unrelated,” let alone anything to do with my mood or energy levels or hair/skin.
But that’s not really the way the body works. We are a whole being, and the different organs and body systems work beautifully in conjunction with each other. Or, when one organ or system is in a state of dysfunction, unfortunately the effects ripple out to the rest of the body.
The best part about this evening deep dive of research? A sense of hope.
My head was spinning by the time I closed my laptop late that night to go to bed. I had just consumed so much mind-blowing information in such a short amount of time, it was like my whole paradigm on life had shifted.
But I felt hope. And that was all that mattered.
I no longer had to accept what my doctor had told me: that I would just have to learn to live with these debilitating symptoms, or that everything was normal as long as my eosinophil counts came down on the repeat endoscopy.
And that feeling of hope was enough at that moment in time. I didn’t need to have all the answers.
Just knowing there was a way that I could free myself from this pain and eventually restore proper function and true health was all I needed at that moment in time.
A Root-Cause Approach
After learning all this, I immediately decided that I could not continue down the path of destroying my health the way I had been.
I switched to natural remedies to manage my symptoms and started seeing a naturopathic doctor who could guide me in the process.
And I felt better immediately. It was a miracle to start to feel good in my body again.
But I knew that was not the full story.
These natural remedies for the acid reflux, heartburn and immune dysfunction I had been experiencing were like a band aid.
Unlike the acid blocking medications which shut down an important function in the body, these natural remedies help relieve symptoms and also gently encourage proper function.
But I knew I needed to go deeper, to remove any underlying causes that were causing my body systems to not function appropriately.
I understood that one of those underlying causes is stress. I was definitely working on managing and reducing stress. But it’s not so easy to wave a magic wand and remove stress in our lives, is it?
Another major underlying cause is an inappropriate diet. An excess of sugar and carbohydrates in and of itself can be a factor, and unfortunately my diet was heavily based in carbs and sugar as a vegetarian.
I also understood that it’s not just about carbs or sugar, but that certain inflammatory foods can also be an issue.
I learned that these inflammatory foods contribute to leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability, which is another major underlying factor that causes chronic out-of-control inflammation and immune system dysfunction.
In the past, I had played around with removing certain inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy and refined sugar from my diet while sticking with a vegetarian diet, and I had always felt better when I did so. But I was never able to make those changes stick.
Unfortunately, my health had spiraled downward to the point it seemed that just removing the top inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy was no longer enough. I needed a more drastic approach to turn the tide and stop my immune system from reacting to everything.
Over the course of a few months, I gradually transitioned my diet to a nutrient dense, real food diet that emphasized certain gut health superfoods like fermented foods and bone broth.
Yes, bone broth! I learned to embrace a food that initially sounded absolutely repulsive to me, and that was the first step towards welcoming more animal foods back into my diet to facilitate the healing process.
It was a difficult decision at first, but after feeling the nourishing effects on my body and getting better and better, and being sure to source as much of my meat as possible from select ranchers that truly raise animals ethically and sustainably, I never looked back.
After the initial gradual transition, the first formal real food diet I tried was the 30 day Paleo reset from Chris Kresser’s book Your Personal Paleo Code (now called The Paleo Cure).
I chose to start with a 30 day reset instead of something more intense like GAPS because I only had a little over 30 days left at home before embarking on my big international journey to trek in the Himalayas in Nepal. This seemed like it would be doable but also potentially very effective. I figured it was worth a shot.
I was determined to do whatever I could to get my gut in the healthiest state possible before that trip. International travel is one of my greatest passions in life and this is a trip I had been dreaming about for years.
One of my favorite ways to measure the success of any given healing protocol is to make it through a certain event, like a big trip. That way it’s not just healing for healing’s sake, but with a specific end goal of being able to enjoy life and not be held back by health issues.
I’m happy to say that this Paleo reset I did (with a heavy focus on nutrient dense gut health superfoods), along with some supplements I was taking per my ND’s recommendations, worked wonders on my health.
I felt the inflammation vanish.
I watched the pounds drop off the scale, which was a nice unexpected side effect even though I had been satisfied with my weight before starting.
I was no longer having any symptoms of acid reflux/heartburn or EOE..or at least they were 80-90% gone.
My mood and energy improved, and I felt overall more vibrant and happy with life. It was a miracle.
My own healing journey was so profoundly life-changing that I knew I had to do more than just help myself.
I still tear up when I think about how bad I felt before these changes, and how incredible it felt to get rid of my symptoms so fast while getting on the path to dealing with deeper root causes. And it makes me sad to think about thousands of people out there still suffering with similar issues.
This led me to complete an intensive certification program through the Nutritional Therapy Association in 2018, to become certified as a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP).
This program does a deep dive on the major systems of the body called “The Foundations.” We also explore additional body systems called “The Consequences” that cannot function properly when any of the Foundations are out of balance.
We learn to use a variety of functional clinical assessment skills to evaluate potential areas of imbalances and nutritional deficiencies.
We then help clients develop a custom plan using a combination of therapeutic real food diets, lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements as needed to achieve similar life-changing results to what I experienced as described above.
After graduating from the NTA program, I almost immediately went to work in one of the busiest functional medicine offices in my local area. I worked alongside a team of MDs, DOs, DCs and PAs who have received conventional medical training as well as additional advanced training in functional medicine.
As a Health Coach in this functional medicine clinic, I rapidly developed firsthand experience as I supported the work of the doctors while helping their patients implement therapeutic real food diets or gradually transition in that direction.
Why Real Food Plan?
What I realized through my work in the Functional Medicine Clinic is that unfortunately, knowing what to do is often not enough.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my personal experience in 2017 was rare.
Due to a combination of:
- My type A overachieving personality (which can be both a blessing and a curse at times)
- My desperation to find a solution so I could enjoy the biggest international trip I had ever planned without suffering endlessly through that trip (or worse, having to cancel it)
- My lifelong interest and curiosity in the field of nutrition (even before receiving professional training)
…I was able to digest and process a mountain of new information, learn new cooking techniques that honestly scared me at the time, put together a plan for myself FAST, dive in to intense dietary changes and actually stick to it long enough to see amazing results.
And I was able to patiently continue on this journey over the years, to give my body the time it needed to restore proper balance and continue the healing journey.
But the reality is, most people struggle to make changes on this level.
Overwhelm. Information overload. Misinformation. Analysis paralysis. Time management struggles. Lack of planning.
These are all real roadblocks that prevent so many people from benefiting from these types of protocols and reclaiming the health they were designed by nature to have.
The frustrating thing is, it’s somewhat difficult to help people with these very issues within the medical paradigm, even within the functional medicine setting which aims to revolutionize the existing conventional health care paradigm.
I could see that a deeper level of education was needed, more than what was practical to cover in a one-hour initial session or a 30-minute follow up session.
With my schedule often booking out for weeks at a time, I could see it was no longer enough for me to work with a limited number of clients in this 1-on-1 setting.
And that’s where Real Food Plan was born.
My hope is to help a much greater number of my peers achieve life-changing transformations with their health than I could ever hope to do in-person in a local clinic.
Sometimes these types of changes take time. We need to plant a seed, then water and nurture it over time, before we’re fully ready to take action or take things to a new level.
I hope I can be there for you, supporting you on this journey, and providing a combination of clarity and systems to help you get to where you want to be with your health, wellness, happiness and your overall big life goals.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s really about – restoring balance and proper function so we can feel better in our bodies, live and move freely as intended, enjoy life and move towards greater happiness and other goals that have nothing to do with digestion, the gut or even health in general.
If you’re with me on this, I hope you’ll stop by my free community to introduce yourself and let me know you’re in 🙂
And if you’re unsure what your next best step is or where to start, I highly recommend you grab a copy of my Real Food Getting Started Guide (FREE on this website for a limited time only).