Dr. Alona Pulde and Dr. Matthew Lederman: “Wellness to Wonderful,” The Nine Pillars & Eating Healthy

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 17
August 10, 2023
Drs. Matthew Lederman and Alona Pulde, co-founders at WeHeal. Photo by David Rice.

In “Wellness to Wonderful: 9 Pillars for Living Healthier, Longer, and with Greater Joy,” authors Dr. Alona Pulde and Dr. Matthew Lederman, founders of WeHeal, offer a visionary approach to preventative medicine. Wellness starts with making a choice to be healthy, and taking action to get there.

“Matt and I really try [to] have that internal barometer … of how we’re doing and how we’re optimizing our health and well-being,” Pulde told the Journal.

“Several years ago, we sat down and did that inventory and found [that] we’re optimizing our sleep and our exercise and our nutrition, but we still don’t have that joie de vivre.”

These nine pillars – self, sleep, nutrition, activity, play, family and friends, work, spirituality, and the natural world – came from that exploration. Since Pulde and Lederman started implementing them, they have seen a dramatic difference.

Courtesy WeHeal

Centered around “self,” and intrinsic motivation, the pillars address the internal and external forces in your life, and how they come together to help you live a healthier, more harmonious life.

People actually have control over internal actions, such as sleep, nutrition, activity and play. External areas include family, friends, work, spirituality and the natural world. When you pay attention to what you can control, the doctors explain, it has a positive impact on the other parts of your life.

“It’s a matter of identifying what your values are, and then aligning your behaviors to make sure that those are one and one and the same,” Lederman told the Journal.

For instance, trying to be more health conscious is not just running around, checking off boxes: I need to go to the gym. I have to eat these foods. “

So many of us think ‘I need to formally exercise’ or ‘I have to eat broccoli and kale,’ because that has been shown to be the healthiest food out there,” Pulde said.

If you don’t like broccoli and kale, there are a whole slew of other vegetables that you can pick from to eat and enjoy.

Plus, while we need to get sleep, move around and eat health-promoting foods, play is an important way to get out of survival mode and into a more balanced state.

Once you address those internal factors, you can connect to the external world in a way that’s more gratifying, satisfying and filled with more joy. This includes connecting to family, friends, work, spirituality and your environment.

“It might sound overwhelming to have all these nine pillars that you think are living separately, but they are extremely interdependent,” Pulde said. “Paying attention and tending to one really impacts others.”

For example, when you get enough sleep, studies have shown that you eat more health-promoting foods and fewer calories over the course of the day. You also have more energy to do movement and are more apt to show up for your family and friends with a satisfying connection. Plus, when you are not as tired, you’re more productive and efficient at work.

“There are so many things that can be impacted by making one change, and it starts with self,” Pulde said.

Lederman believes there’s a lot of noise and confusion when it comes to eating healthy. To achieve optimal health, you need to keep things simple.

“We talk about five food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and we include starchy vegetables in there, legumes and a small amount of nuts and seeds,” Lederman said. “If you eat any or all of those five food groups, and eat until you’re satisfied, and … don’t stuff yourself [and] eat as often as you need to, you’re going to be very healthy.”

“You can eat them separately, of course, but you can combine them,” Pulde said. “[You] really are limited only by your imagination as to what you can make from that, whether it’s lasagna, enchiladas, burritos, pizza, burgers, desserts [or] pancakes.”

Making dishes using those five food groups as ingredients is the key. You can even take old family favorites and make healthy versions of them.

“My grandmother was really big on desserts, and her desserts were a little bit different,” Pulde said. “But when we make a whole-food, plant-based cake or cookies or something like that, and I take a bite, that’s very reminiscent of my safta.”

When you make dietary changes, the food will taste a little bit different. Yet, it can still be satisfying.

Different doesn’t mean less than,” Lederman said. “There’s ways to meet your needs for that sweet, rich flavor. … You can make something with whole foods, and still it’s delicious.”

Two of their favorite healthy recipes are below.

Read more about WeHeal and “Wellness to Wonderful.”

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

During the conversation, Drs. Pulde and Lederman shared some of their favorite recipes, including these two from Lisa Rice. Rice is a founding health coach, cooking instructor and educator at the Whole Foods Medical and Wellness Center.

Photo by David Rice

Cookie Dough Balls Recipe by Lisa Rice

1 cup gluten-free or regular rolled oats

1 1/2 cups pitted medjool dates

1/2 cup raw cashew pieces

2 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut

3 Tbsp hemp hearts (optional)

1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp sea salt

Optional: 1/8 (or more) cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips

In a food processor, add oats, cashews, hemp, cinnamon and salt and pulse until crumbly(small crumbs). Add dates and vanilla, and pulse until the mixture balls up on the blades. Add coconut and chips, if you are using, and pulse to incorporate so you still have whole pieces.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and chill for an hour.

Note: You can also spread in a 9X9 baking dish, chill and cut into bars.

More Options: Try substituting the cashews and coconut with your favorite nuts and seeds (walnuts, pecans, chia seeds and ground flax seeds) and swapping the dates for dried apricots, raisins, cranberries or a banana.

Photo by David Rice

Morning Glory Muffins by Lisa Rice

Flax egg: 2 Tbsp ground flax + 1/4 cup warm water

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup oat flour

1 cup whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten-free flour)

1/2 cup rolled oats

2 Tbsp date sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger or 1 Tbsp fresh grated

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup raisins (or half raisins and half dried cherries)

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Wet Ingredients:

Date paste (soak 1 cup of dates in warm water, drain, add half the soaking water and dates into blender with 1 tsp vanilla; blend until smooth)

1 ripe banana

1 cup unsweetened plant milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup grated carrot  (approximately one large carrot)

1 medium apple, grated

Streusel Topping:

1/4 cup walnuts

2 Tbsp rolled oats

1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp date or coconut sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make your flax egg by mixing the ground flax and water and allow it to sit, while you prepare the rest.

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients.

Add  the date paste, banana, unsweetened plant milk and vanilla to a blender and blend at medium speed until smooth

Stir the flax eggs and wet ingredients into the dry until batter is created. Fold in grated apple and carrots.

Fill each muffin-pan cup with a large ice-cream scoop or about 1/3-1/2 cup of batter. I used a silicone-muffin pan, but you can also line a regular muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Make the streusel topping by pulsing the ingredients in a small food processor until crumbly. Sprinkle liberally on top of the muffins.

Bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before removing them from the pan.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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