Jovanka Ciares

It’s been one month since people declared they would shed some pounds in 2016.

If you’re one of those who made that resolution and you’ve stuck to it, good for you. If not, don’t worry, it’s never too late to get back on track. Fortunately, we’ve got the following tips from Jovanka Ciares that might just be the push you need.

Following her stint on ABC’s My Diet Is Better Than Yours, Jovanka spoke to Global Grind about her elimination from the reality show. She also shared some important tips regarding the foods we should keep in our kitchen, and just how hard it really is to practice a vegan lifestyle like Beyonce‘s.

Check out what she had to say below.

For those who don’t know, describe the diet plan you introduced on My Diet Is Better Than Yours.

The Wellness Smackdown is one of my coaching programs and it’s a holistic approach to health and weight loss. It combines principles of alternative practices, such as Chinese medicine, western herbal-ism, yoga and meditation. It also includes a whole foods vegan diet to help the body restore energy, vitality, health and help you deal with particular ailments.

What are some of the benefits of a vegan lifestyle?

SO many. It’s very much not just about eating plants and staying away from animal flesh. We also stay away from animal products. The benefits, in my experience and the experience of hundreds of people that I’ve coached, have been certainly keeping your weight at a healthy level, high levels of energy, beautiful skin, beautiful hair, better sleep, and better libido, in my experience, has been one of the by-products of having this compassionate lifestyle. Then, the idea that people on this diet live longer. They don’t get sick as often and we now know that animal agriculture, or the production of animals for food, is a big problem when it comes to erosion of the soil and water pollution. So, the more people eat more plants and less animals, the better it is for the entire world.

How can meditation and yoga change your life?

Meditation is a little bit of a cleanse for the soul. It’s an ability to be at peace and get to know who you are. It’s very hard for us to find happiness and conquer the world when we have not conquered our own self. Meditation allows you to do that. It gives you the opportunity to go within and learn things about you that you may not know. We think that we know everything there is to know about us. But, the truth is that everyday there’s something amazing to learn, everyday we’re evolving. Meditation gives you the permission to learn something amazing about yourself. Hopefully then you can go out and find that thing that brings you happiness.

Name three food essentials that we should keep in our kitchen to implement healthier habits.

The one thing that I ask people to do is to eat something raw, whether it’s a side salad or a slice of avocado. In every meal you should have something that comes from the earth. We are biologically wired to thrive on plants. Most of the people in our community (African-Americans, Hispanics, people of color), in many cases we live in these food deserts. So go to the supermarket twice a month and find three things that you love the most. Most people love bananas, they last for a minute and your children will love them. Avocados are also really easy, just sprinkle some lemon on them and it tastes almost like guacamole. Lemons will be the third essential. If you sprinkle lemon juice in your water, that’s a great start to your morning. You’re doing an amazing thing for your body just by adding these three foods. 

And three product essentials?

Buy a blender. It can be something as cheap as those Nutribullets. They’re dirt cheap and they last forever. A salad spinner would be another one, because it’s hard to make salad. But, if you actually make them once a week, pack them in bags and keep them in your refrigerator, all you have to do is dump them in a bowl, add dressing, and move on. And finally, a tea kettle. We are 70 percent water and we should be embracing the idea of consuming a lot of it. You can have teas in cold form or hot form with a tea kettle. It’s just very easy to make infusions and things like that.

We’ve heard a lot about the Atkins diet. But is it effective?

The Atkins diet, in my opinion, has done a disservice to an entire generation of people in this  country. That concept that we must be afraid of carbs to me is preposterous. People lose a lot of weight on it, but then they gain it back and then some. The more animal flesh we consume, the higher the rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other highly preventable diseases. In contrast, people that eat a mostly vegan diet around the world live longer, stay active longer, and tend to have less issues with highly preventable diseases. We’ve tried this Atkins thing and we are still imploding. So my question to people is – isn’t it time for us to try something else? Let’s try another approach. 

Is it really as hard as people think it is to become vegan?

I grew up in Puerto Rico eating pork chops. So, I loved all of the above like everybody else. I got very sick and I was forced into a new lifestyle because I needed to find solutions to my problem. It was a process. What I tell people is: leave certain things out of your diet and start there. If you love your cheese, indulge in cheese, just don’t do cheese every day. Do it once or twice a week as a treat and then honor your body with other stuff. I teach my clients that these treats are not necessarily positive treats. Your body is this amazing machine that you should treat as a five-star hotel. You don’t vandalize a five-star hotel. Every choice that you make needs to honor that amazing machine that is your body. So, just try leaving certain things out and embrace the stuff that you actually love. Slowly, you can get rid of certain foods. 

What’s one simple exercise that we all should be doing at least once a day?

The easiest thing would be to use a mini trampoline. Fifteen minutes on that thing goes by like that. You can do it while you’re watching the news. Fifteen minutes on a trampoline is like a thirty-minute run. It’s really great at cleansing your system, improving your circulation and toning your muscles. It’ll cost you maybe 50-75 bucks.  

How would your describe your experience on My Diet Is Better Than Yours?

It was an amazing experience because it was a goal of mine to reach a larger audience. I wanted to reach the people of the under-served communities when it comes to health and wellness (African-American communities, Hispanics, people of color) and let them know there is an alternative. So when I got the gig, I felt like it was like a great opportunity. The entire production team was so awesome and I learned quite a lot about reality TV and what not to do. I cannot wait for the next season.

How did it feel when you were eliminated?

The elimination happened because I offered my contestant a vegan cookie. I wanted to show her how vegan cookies can be just as tasty as regular cookies and they can be, trust me. She was not ready for the cookie and I didn’t actually know that she had such an issue with sugar. So, she felt like it was time to move on. Later on, I found out that she regretted the elimination. I still wish her the very best. She’s an amazing woman and we were both very excited because we were both educated women of color. You don’t see enough of them on TV. There’s plenty of Olivia Popes around the world doing all kinds of different things. It’s important to me to show the world that women of color are as smart and driven as all of the other people on your TV.

What’s next for you?

My goal is to go back for the second season, but I’m not sure if that will happen yet. I’m also very interested in producing my own content for both TV and online media, so that I have more control over what I can teach people and how I can reach them.



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