When Elissa Goodman was diagnosed with cancer years ago, she listened to her doctors’ intense instructions to pump her body with medicine that would kill the disease—and destroy her physically. But instead of taking heed to every detail, she halved their portions and healed completely, adding the idea of food as medicine to the approach. Unfortunately, the Phoenix, AZ, native’s husband didn’t meet the same fate when diagnosed years later. When he passed away, Goodman was even more determined to figure out how food, health and wellness could be used to combat disease and imbalance. She also delved into how emotion and pain can cause more illness than anything else—and how to heal it. SBS finds out more.
SBS: You’re now one of the most respected LA-based nutritionists. How did you arrive there?
Elissa Goodman: I grew up with two very type-A parents, who traveled the world and were interesting, successful people. So, I came into the world not being able to keep up with them. I was always playing catch up. My whole life I’ve been dealing with health issues like chronic sinus issues and stomach problems.
When I graduated college and moved to New York City, I went right into business and followed my parents’ footsteps. I was all about making money and being successful. But, I was sick all the time.
I got married and my husband and I relocated to LA. I was psyched because it was my chance to get back to a healthier life. The next thing I know, though, I got my dream job working with Vogue magazine. That’s when I got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s.
I was terrified, but there was something inside me that knew I could feel better and calmer. I didn’t quite know how to get there, but when I was diagnosed and the doctors told me everything I had to do, I stepped back and ended up doing half of the radiation they told me I needed and no chemotherapy. I tried to meditate and went into therapy do deal with a lot of unresolved emotional stuff, which is a huge precursor to illness. I did yoga and started shopping at healthier spots. I didn’t completely heal myself, and the radiation did a number on me. But I did have two healthy girls.
When my husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins, they fried him. I watched him disintegrate, and he passed away. So, I went to American University of Complimentary Medicine and did Eastern and Western nutrition. I developed cleanses and menus for a bunch of health food companies, which all led me to my practice. It has been a natural, if winding, path to understanding how food is medicine and how we can heal ourselves.
SBS: What do your sessions focus on? How is your nutrition practice unique?
EG: I deal with hardcore health issues. I help clients with cancer, autoimmune diseases, digestive issues and the like. I love trying to figure out the puzzle piece that is the root to why people have these issues, not just Band-Aiding them with supplements to get them by. It’s about: How did you get here? Why are you here? It’s emotional. I talk to them about what’s going on in their life. What went on in the early years? What kind of trauma did you endure? A lot of people have PTSD of some sort, but they think it’s normal. It has been doing such a number on all of us.
SBS: If someone is trying to heal herself, what are the first few things she should do?
EG: Get in touch—at a gut level—with why you’re feeling this way. There’s always a reason we’re not feeling good. Is it unhappiness? Is it your job? Your spouse?
That’s so crucial. We’re never going to get better unless we address that issue.
I also often recommend clients talk to an energy healer that can actually go in at a cellular level and release some of the angst, trauma and PTSD that has gone on to give that person some relief quickly.
Then, I’d suggest reading a book by Louise Hay called You Can Heal Your Life. This can spark you. A lot of issues stem from not loving yourself or not having compassion for yourself. We’re so hard on ourselves.
SBS: What are the greatest misconceptions about food?
EG: I think juicing is really amazing because it’s a liquid IV in essence. However, I don’t recommend juicing fruit. Most of the juices and smoothies out there are loaded with sugar. And there’s the misconception that all juices, smoothies and cleanses are healthy, but it has to be the right type! Kale, for example, is nutrient dense, and in juice form, the nutrients are absorbed into cells easily. So that’s the time to go for it!
Another misconception is around taking things to the extreme. For example, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale are fabulous vegetables. Now, some experts are saying to limit them. But you’d have to eat a ton of any one of the vegetables for any harmful effects to occur. Don’t take advice to an extreme extent. Look at quantities.
Finally, there’s a misconception about sugar. Every client comes in and says she won’t have any fruit because of candida. But fruit is the fountain of youth! Our brain needs glucose, as does our liver. We get that healthy glucose from fruit. It’s crucial to differentiate what type of sugar and the source.
SBS: What is it that truly contributes to the diseases that are so prevalent right now, like cancer?
EG: It’s mainly all the chemicals in our food and water: the pesticides, toxins and mercury. We are so overwhelmed with it all. Our bodies almost can’t keep up with being able to cleanse it or detox it. We have it in all our organs, and when you have that stuff in your gut, you won’t absorb nutrients well even if you are eating healthy. Toxins love the liver, and that’s crucial for us to be healthy.
SBS: How do you combat that problem?
EG: Try to buy organic as much as possible and really be aware where you’re eating. At a gut level, you should feel like the food is fresh and clean. Shopping at a farmer’s market is the best, and cooking at home is stellar. Eat real food, not packaged food, and go back to the basics of eating real fruit, veggies and limited animal protein. I’m not a vegan, but since it’s hard to digest and our servings are too large, I only eat it 20 percent of the time.
SBS: How do you think fitness should be integrated into a ‘food as medicine’ approach?
EG: I am not a huge fan of hardcore fitness. I know some people thrive on it. They love it, and that’s great! But I feel we are so stressed because we are running throughout the day. To go to spin or something like that just keeps our cortisol elevated. I don’t think it’s great for us. We need so much more calming down. So, I’m a big fan of walking. As long as you’re moving your body, whether with a pet or doing yoga (which helps you reconnect and slow down), that’s helpful.
SBS: What are your thoughts surrounding cancer? Why is it so prevalent, and what should people do to help themselves avoid it?
EG: The first thing I personally want is for people to not be so afraid of the word. Cancer could be any autoimmune disease. Anxiety could be your cancer. It’s a wake-up call for people to let them know things aren’t working, to make some changes for the life they should be living or want to be living. Are you living your purpose and passion? Our body is miraculous and can heal anything. But we need to look at how much we beat ourselves up. We are Ferraris, and then we put in low octane fuel? How long can that Ferrari go with low octane fuel, whether it’s food or nourishment or love? It won’t operate at the same capacity it was meant to.
SBS: What are your tips for healthy changes you can make right now?
EG: First, get in touch with your stress. Then, get back on a better routine to heal stress, including sleep. The body resets itself between 10pm and 2am. That’s crucial to regenerate and refuel your body. Then, put better fuel and food in. It sounds so easy. But we just don’t do that.
In Elissa’s Reading Rotation:
Books about food as medicine…
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Thomas M. Campbell, MD
Medical Medium by Anthony Williams
The 21 Day Sugar Detox: Bust Sugar and Carb Cravings Naturally by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC
Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
Books about spirituality and mental health…
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin, MD
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom by Jack Kornfield
Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Caroline Myss, PhD
Books about cancer and disease:
32 Ways to Outsmart Cancer: How to Create a Body Where Cancer Cannot Thrive by Dr. Nalini Chilkov
Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Edition by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD
Elissa’s SBS Mantra: Be You. Reconnecting to yourself, living a life of happiness and having peace of mind are impossible to attain if you aren’t true to yourself. I also believe, in our journey to healing (past trauma, disease, cancer or whatever it may be), the only way that can truly happen is if we discover and stay true to our authentic selves in the process.