Food is Medicine: Meet The Conscious Cleanse Founders

  • Written By:Alexandra Perron, Managing Editor
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We believe that food is medicine and when you put the right food in your body, you thrive.

- Jo Schaalman

Meet Jules Peláez and Jo Schaalman, the co-founders behind The Conscious Cleanse program. With a shared passion for food as medicine, they started their wellness program as a way to introduce others to the healing power of real food. Members (aka cleansers) are connected with health coaches and given access to recipe libraries and workout videos, all in an effort to create positive relationships with food while helping them meet their health goals.

The duo’s new cookbook, The Conscious Cleanse Cookbook, was released in December and is packed with over 100 simple and delicious recipes. Consider it a guide to healthy eating without the calorie counting. (Speaking of recipes, they created one just for us using EVOLUTION_18!)

We caught up with Jules and Jo to hear more about how they got started, their favorite recipes, and how they’ve conquered their own wellness struggles.

Tell us about your personal wellness journey and how that lead to starting The Conscious Cleanse:

Jules: My personal wellness journey started when I was just 17 years old when I gave up eating meat for lent and never went back. I guess this was my first spiritual/protein fast. I had always connected the food I was eating to how I felt, something that I later learned was one of my super powers. Like most people, my path was far from straight and narrow. I spent years on a cigarette and Mountain Dew diet, although ironically this was the time I also was learning how to cook with whole foods. After college I discovered my passion for yoga and immediately knew I wanted to teach. During my years teaching yoga, I became more immersed in nutrition, which led me to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

Jo and I were both teaching at the same yoga studio when we realized we had a shared passion for food as medicine. We were both experimenting with our own diets and decided to create a workshop together. That workshop would later become the Conscious Cleanse.

Jo: In 2004, I was hit by a truck going 70MPH as I was riding across the country on a coast to coast bike trip. This was my fork in the road, as my mom used to tell me. My life path completely shifted, as I couldn’t go to medical school because I was told by doctor after doctor that I would be disabled for the rest of my life. This accident propelled me on a healing journey. I tried every diet on the market because I thought if I lost the 40 pounds I had gained, I would heal and be happy. Nothing worked. After spending years hating my body and treating food like the enemy, I thought what if I made a shift in my thinking. What if food became medicine and my body my ally.

So Jules and I put together a program for ourselves. The premise was 14 days of real food, no allergens, and lots of veggies. The most shocking part was that even though we shared these basic principles, we both got life-changing results with relatively different eating plans. I ate meat. Jules didn’t. Jules ate grains. I didn’t. Jules ate fruit. I didn’t. After two weeks my chronic pain went from a 9 to a 5. I lost 15 pounds and my depression finally started to lift. And that was the beginning of the Conscious Cleanse.

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We teach people how to eat clean in a way that is sustainable and totally customized to their blueprint.

- Jules Peláez

When people hear the word cleanse they often think of wheatgrass shots and green juices — how does your program work? What sets it apart?

Jules: The Conscious Cleanse is the opposite wheatgrass and quick fix juice cleansing. We teach people how to eat clean in a way that is sustainable and totally customized to their blueprint. We incorporate mindful eating and practices so people rewire their relationship with food and their body.

Jo: The conscious part of the Conscious Cleanse is to create a positive relationship with both food and your body. We believe that food is medicine and when you put the right food in your body, you thrive. We don’t count calories, or step on scales and believe that nutrition is individualized and not one-size-fits all. We also know that real change happens when you feel like someone else has your back and believes in you! We coach and connect with every single person who comes to our program so they have accountability to reach their health goals.

What do you love most about the work you’re doing today?

Jules: I’m a creative and a teacher at heart, so when I get to work on new projects or connect with our cleansers to share the power of eating whole foods, I’m the most lit up. With the launch of our new cookbook during a pandemic, we’ve been doing virtual cooking classes. It’s been a blast!

Jo: I wake up every morning inspired to help people feel their best. I remember what it was like when I broke my back in 7 places, was in major chronic pain everyday and was told by over 20 doctors that I would not heal. I felt hopeless, depressed and overwhelmed. What changed my life was having one person believe in me and that healing was possible. That’s all I needed. So now, I try to hold this belief for everyone who comes to our program. This is what drives me everyday.

Let’s talk a little bit about food sensitivities - how does your program help people identify them?

Jules: When we developed the Conscious Cleanse, I was 100% convinced that I did NOT have any food sensitivities. Little did I know then that two of my main food groups were causing the bulk of my health issues. Once I gave up soy and my daily cheese habit, my adult acne went away and I lost 10 lbs that never came back. This is the power of our program. We help people clean out their system and teach them how to reintroduce foods one at a time so they can identify any food sensitivities themselves.

Jo: As a kid I was super allergic and couldn’t tolerate most foods without going into anaphylactic shock. I was lucky to work with Dr. Theron Randolph, the father of Environmental Medicine and Clinical Ecology, who helped me identify the foods and environmental factors that were setting my system off. The principles I learned as a child are part of what I teach today. Oftentimes it’s the foods we love and crave that are sabotaging our health. Finding the foods you’re sensitive to is the key to finding and accessing vibrant health.

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I know it’s like picking a favorite child, but do you each have a favorite recipe? Or a go-to recipe when you need a reset?

Jules: My go-to green Juice in our new cookbook is my favorite for a daily reset. I’m also currently obsessed with our Chocolate Tahini Energy Balls.

Jo: I can’t pick just one! My fruit free Super Green Smoothie and our Ginger Salmon Bowl, which are both in our new cookbook.

What foods fuel you?

Jules:

  • All veggie green juice because it’s like mainlining energy and sunlight.
  • Avocado. If I had to be stranded on an island with one food, avocado would win. Love me some healthy fat!
  • Raw carrots. I always have carrot sticks cut up at the ready, especially for the afternoons when I get hungry and am preparing snacks for kids or dinner. Carrots and a quick tahini dip or some raw olives is like heaven to me.
  • 85% dark chocolate. We all need a little something sweet in our lives.
  • Organic coffee with a bit of ghee, MCT oil, and a little stevia, whirled up in the blender. This is my once-in-awhile treat that helps keep me focused on whatever time-sensitive project is at hand. Try it and you’ll understand!

Jo:

  • Green smoothies. I start my with a veggie-centric green smoothie. It wakes me up and gives me energy throughout my day.
  • Sardines! This is one of my favorite superfoods. It’s packed with protein and brain-healthy omega-3’s.
  • Dark leafy greens. Reducing inflammation is the name of the game and dark leafy greens like chard, spinach, arugula and fresh herbs help me feel my best.
  • Raw chocolate. I make my own sweetened with stevia. It’s my superfood sweet treat indulgence.
  • Matcha. I love it for the boost of antioxidants and that it is naturally packed with L-theanine, which gives me a calm focus.

What has been your biggest wellness struggle?

Jules: My biggest wellness struggle currently has been to keep a “proper” daily exercise routine. Between the cold weather and the pandemic, not to mention three young kids and a busy work life, I have to squeeze my “exercise” into my lifestyle whenever I can—walking meetings, dance party with the kids, busting out some air squats or running up and down the stairs. The couple times a week that I do get a proper workout in, you’ll find me on my yoga mat or hiking in the mountains with friends.

Jo: I’ve had several health challenges over the years, from being a super allergic kid to breaking my back in my 20’s to recovering from a traumatic brain injury a few years ago. The gift in each experience is that I’ve acquired new tools, new habits and new ways of thinking. It’s allowed me to grow and learn. I’ve learned how to be resilient and how to continually pick myself up again and again. This skill is priceless.

What makes you feel your best?

Jules: A good night’s sleep, lots of water, green juice, meditation or yoga, time with friends and family.

Jo: A green smoothie, sunshine, getting 8 hours of sleep, sweating and yoga, as well as connecting with my family and friends!

Your wellness mantra:

Jules: Progress not perfection.

Jo: To celebrate my successes as well as my challenges.

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