HERO’s next Think Tank (Feb. 25–26 in Fort Lauderdale, Fl.) focuses on food and burnout and we plan to use story telling as part of our heuristic approach during the day.

IF YOU have a professional or personal story you’d like to share relating to your journey, or your organization’s approach, to the connections between burnout and eating, we’d love to hear from you any time in the weeks ahead. (Contact Paul Terry at paul.terry@hero-health.org)

It always helps when someone leads the way and offers their own story. The HERO team was especially appreciative of the journey our colleague Ariane Mistral has been on and that she shared during a recent team meeting, so we encouraged her to write the blog below about her food experiences. While Ariane may not bring health or nutrition specific credentials to her story, she wonderfully role models the power of stories nevertheless. We’re hoping her story will get you started thinking about your own story and how it influences your views going into our next Think Tank.

One Size Does Not Fit All

By Ariane Mistral

Nutrition is a big focus of mine at present as I am exploring nutrition in the context of pain. And it’s not a simple thing. It’s no longer protein, carbs and fat. It’s everything. What to eat, how to cook, when to eat and in what order and in what amount. Eat local. Eat organic. Free range. Macro nutrients. Do we fast, do we eat fat but not carbs? Are we vegetarian or vegan? What about eggs? Why is everyone eating so much red meat these days? And what happened to all things in moderation? There is so much information and different recommendations for eating out there, what do we do with it all?

When I was a kid, nutrition was taking my Flintstone vitamin every day. In my family, we never worried about what we ate, and my mom loved the convenience of frozen meals and canned soup. So, when I left home, I rebelled and became very interested in what I was putting in my body. I became a vegetarian and I learned how to cook. I took supplements, herbs, oils and all sorts of interesting concoctions. And then I learned to be discerning when a friend became sick from too much of a good thing.

Speaking of too much of a good thing, despite all the food that is available today and all the overeating that we do, 40% of all humankind are nutrient deficient. That number goes way beyond the starving kids in Africa that my mom used to tell me about to coax me to eat. That 40% includes me.

After I had kids, my genetics kicked into gear and I developed autoimmune disorders.  My body started doing things neither I nor my doctor understood. Allergies developed, chronic pain, random viruses and crazy hormone levels and vitamin deficiencies. Then the weight gain started. I have always had to watch what I eat, but this time was different. My low-fat, low-calorie diet actually had me gaining weight. What?

Fun fact about nutrition: One size does not fit all (and our “size,” or needs, may change over time). So, how do we figure out what healthy eating means for us?

I am coming off about 10 years of being a medical guinea pig, trying any and every pill and procedure that western (and eastern) medicine could throw my way. Finally, finally, I am finding programs that bring the whole body and mind into the care plan that are not deemed “experimental” (meaning not covered by insurance) or do not have waiting lists of millions of years.

In my program, first, we learned to meditate. This is not meditation to clear your mind and reach a Zen state (although that is great for reducing stress, which may in itself be affecting your nutrition). This is meditation to learn mindfulness, to be present in the moment to be able to know your body. Here we watched our thoughts float by and listened to the sensations in our body. Once we mastered this we turned to nutrition.

Nutrition affects the whole of us, not just our physical bodies but our intellect and emotions too. And while there are nutrition guidelines that benefit everyone, what we should eat for optimum health is an individual thing. Here’s an example: Snacking on raw vegetables makes my throat swell up. So that is not a good snack for me, but I cannot tell you how long I ate raw veggies because I thought I needed them to be healthy. We are given a lot of information pertaining to food and nutrition, but no one ever says maybe this doesn’t apply to you. When we are mindful of our bodies, we can know what works for us.

There is actually a lot of science behind personalized nutrition with DNA and blood chemistry, etc. (HERO’s CMO Summit will be addressing this topic in February.) The 2019 Global Wellness Summit called it a “Global Wellness Trend,” putting it somewhere between a call for the individual’s greater need to be seen and the real need to address our unique chemistry. I would say that is about right. My wellness program continued with a lesson on habits. This wasn’t how to strengthen your willpower. Rather, this was about what makes you thrive. It’s tough to know what makes us tick, especially without using others as a benchmark. And some of the techniques we used to explore our hearts and minds can be used to (and may have been borrowed from) explore better nutrition for our unique selves.

  1. Tracking – track everything you eat and drink along with what you are doing, how you feel, where you are eating or drinking, etc. This is so important in finding your personal best in nutrition. By doing this, I found that refined sugar ratchets my pain way up the scale. Ariane, you say, duh – that’s been proven by so many studies. Sure. But several years ago, when I did the allergy elimination diet, guess what did not increase my pain? Refined sugar. We are always changing.
    Food diary apps: https://www.livingsafer.com/best-apps-for-food-journaling/
  2. Make small changes. We want healthy habits to last a lifetime. It’s not a test of willpower (which will break). It’s gradually making changes that are permanent. Ask for skim milk in your latte or order a smaller size. For me, I am eating half a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast instead of a whole one.
  3. Does your food reflect your values? If you practice mindfulness, are you mindful when you eat? If your value is for healthy foods, do you have them available? Worried about climate change and pollution? Are you eating local foods grown organically? Do you buy food in bulk instead of individually packaged items to reduce package waste? Becoming a vegetarian reflected my value of protecting the lives of animals from factory farms and inhumane slaughter.
    Sustainable food future: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/how-to-sustainably-feed-10-billion-people-by-2050-in-21-charts
  4. Open your mind to new ideas about eating. How do people eat in the rest of the world? Did you know that China has not a food pyramid but a food pagoda? Grains are on the bottom level. What are their food values and those of others around the world? Global meat consumption has almost doubled in the last 60 years, except in India? Why is that? Be curious. How can eating less meat help me? Did you know that crop diversity around the world has shrunk dramatically in the last 50 years? Imagine a big starry sky where each star represents a different type of food. Now imagine that a cloud floats along and covers half the sky. Those stars behind the cloud, those are varieties of food we have lost. What does that mean for how we eat and our health? What can you do about it? Finally, for more great food for thought, I highly recommend watching our webinar with Kevin Walker.
    What the world eats: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/what-the-world-eats/
    Food diversity:
    What families eat around the world:
    Dietary guidelines around the world:
    Kevin Walker’s webinar:

I am not a nutrition expert, but food interests me a great deal as I know it can affect if I am going to have a good day or a not-so-good day. You may have seen me at the 2018 HEROForum using a cane to get around. I am happy to say that my cane is all but retired. I now use a walking stick for longer walks…but what am I even saying? I am taking walks! I went hiking in Oregon during the 2019 HEROForum, took a 5-day trip to the Boundary Waters and, even though fad diets and quick weight loss are lost to my youth, I lost 20 pounds this summer. Physical therapy and exercise played a role in this, but nutrition was a huge support, as well as the other aspects of my program – I am a whole person, mind and body.

I am not sure I would have accomplished anything if there wasn’t such an element of fun linked to food and nutrition. I love to cook, and I am not surprised to hear that my HERO colleagues do as well. Please see below for some of our favorite recipes.


Emily Wolfe


Mary Imboden


Jessica Grossmeier

Salmon A’ La King
Serves 2 to 4 people

2 to 4 salmon fillets (8 to 16 oz salmon total)
1 to 2 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
8 oz baby bella (or favorite variety) fresh mushrooms, sliced
8 oz fresh English peas or frozen package sweet baby peas, thawed
12 oz to 16 oz unsweetened plain flaxmilk, rice milk, soymilk, or skim milk (do not use sweetened or vanilla flavored versions)
½ c cashews
1 T granulated garlic/garlic powder
1 T onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bag cauliflower rice or 1 large head whole cauliflower, stem removed and cut into pieces


  1. Grill or bake salmon until cooked through. Once cooked, remove remaining skin and bones. Set aside.
  2. Place cashews in a Ninja/Cuisinart/Baby Bullet blender or in a food processor. Cover with boiling water and let set.
  3. Microwave fresh or frozen peas until tender but do not overcook.
  4. Clean and slice mushrooms. Cook in nonstick skillet until mushrooms release their juices. Drizzle small amount of olive oil, only if needed to keep them from sticking to pan.
  5. Mince yellow onion and add to mushrooms in the skillet. Again, add olive oil only if needed.
  6. Drain cashews and place back into blender/food processor. Add 1.5 c milk (or milk alternative). Blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more milk if it’s too thick.
  7. Add cashew cream mixture to sautéed vegetables in pan. Fold in cooked peas.
  8. Add onion and garlic powders. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Add salmon and cook through
  10. Serve over cooked brown rice or cauliflower rice.

Cauliflower Rice (start this while you are waiting for vegetables to cook)

  1. To make the cauliflower rice, pulse cauliflower in the bowl of a food processor until it resembles rice, about 2-3 minutes; set aside. You can also just buy it fresh or frozen at many groceries.
  2. If you buy frozen cauliflower rice, heat in microwave for 5 minutes and then continue with recipe.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium skillet over low heat.
  4. Add cauliflower to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through and the cauliflower is tender and a bit toasted, about 3-4 minutes.


  • This recipe was inspired when I purchased some fresh spring peas at the market. You can use frozen peas as well but thaw them in advance.
  • A great use for leftover salmon, you can also use boneless/skinless salmon that is canned or in a vacuum pouch.
  • We used truffle salt at the table instead of regular salt during cooking. If you cook truffle salt, it can lose its flavor so best to add at the table.
  • Recipe was designed for dairy free, gluten free diets and also is Whole30 and Paleo compliant if you use cauliflower rice.
  • If you don’t want to make cashew cream, you could use butter and milk to make a classic French bechamel sauce but this is healthier

Ariane Mistral

Tandoori Tofu

12 oz water packed firm tofu
2 (or several more) cloves garlic
2 tsps minced ginger
Pinch or more of ancho chili powder or a couple squirts of sriracha
¾ tsp turmeric
3 tsps cumin
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
Salt, to taste

Drain the water from the tofu and wrap in several layers of paper towels (or to reduce waste, a tea towel). Put on a plate with weight on top while making the marinade (I use my flour canister but you could also put a cutting board on top of the tofu and weigh it down with several cans).

Mix all other ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the tofu. Unwrap the tofu and slice into 1-inch cubes. Mix tofu in the marinade, completely coating it. Cover bowl and refrigerate several hours (overnight works well).

Preheat the broiler to 450. Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil and spread the tofu in a single layer. Bake the tofu directly under the broiler for about 15 minutes, stirring often so the cubes flip over.

You can eat it warm (or room temp) with a meal (rice, salad, tabbouleh, chickpeas, etc.) but this should keep in the fridge for about a week. I eat it at room temperature as a snack.

Karen Moseley

AMT Salad

7 avocados, firm
7 mangoes, firm
2 cartons cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
Federzoni’s balsamic vinegar
2 packages Italian dressing mix

Prepare mangoes and avocados into small cubes. Quarter the tomatoes. Dice the onion. Mix the vinegar with dressing mix (you’ll have to eyeball the amount for desired consistency). Combine veggies with dressing and serve immediately.


Comments are closed.

  1. Rebecca Kelly 4 years ago

    Personal stories connected to improved health and well-being are truly inspiring. Thanks, Ariane for sharing your beautiful path of discovery and improved health.

    As a business owner working with a team of registered dietitans, there is no greater joy than helping individuals improve their life through proper nutrition and physical activity. The key is a personalized approach based on science and emerging trends. There is no ‘one size fits all’ or perfect ‘diet’. In fact, individuals must also be aware of many approaches wrapped in false promises that have short term gains and financial strains. Clinical insight combined with nutrition expertise, personal engagement, and a personalized approach certainly yield the greatest impact. The path is not easy, but the long term rewards are life changing.

  2. Erica Scott 4 years ago

    This is an amazing story Ariane! And so personal. I am a warrior for better nutrition and health coaching and social connectedness and all of the factors that can affect our well-being. Go HERO!

  3. Jessica Grossmeier 4 years ago

    I really appreciate hearing Ariane’s story because it reminds us that while research and the evidence base is a good guide, we still need to discover for ourselves how to apply it to an “n of 1”. It’s exciting to see the emergence of personalized medicine and technology coming alongside to support us in our personal journeys but so much more research needs to be done.

    I can relate to some of the challenges that Ariane describes, as I’ve also been struggling for years with chronic fatigue and pain issues. It can be a total mystery to wake up in the morning (or the middle of the night) with your gums swollen, joints aching, skin sensitive to the touch and think “what in the world did I do?” It’s taken decades since my original diagnosis of “fibromyalgia-like symptoms” to identify food sensitivities as the hidden key. And, like Ariane, I’ve had to use daily, detailed food diaries and constant rounds of food elimination tests to try to crack the mystery. Traveling while practicing a food elimination diet is a huge source of anxiety and stress for me and so I’ve learned to pack a little portable lunch bag with me. On a recent business trip I delved into my packed stash for 75% of my dietary intake for the day because the meeting host’s selections were outside of my limited plan. I look forward to the day when personalized medicine will translate into accurate testing to shorten the trial and error journey of elimination diets and food diaries. I look forward to the day when healthier, whole foods are the norm in convenience markets, airport stands, and meeting catering menus. And I look forward to the day when health insurance coverage includes diagnostic tests, personalized coaching, and alternative medicines that make coping with food sensitivities less challenging.

    I’m excited for our February Think Tank theme and look forward to hearing more stories and considering together how we can more effectively address the intersectionality of food, stress, and burnout.

©2024 Health Enhancement Research Organization ‘HERO’


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