We are so happy to have Clean's Director of Science and Research, Deanna Minich for our My Way feature. She is an incredibly passionate scientist and scholar of health and nutrition.
Hi, my name is Deanna Minich. I was given the name of “Star Who Shines Many Colors” by my Shaman mentor, Char Sundust. From a very young age, I was wearing my favorite rainbow shirt pretty consistently – you know the one with the rainbow print going from one arm, across the chest, and into the other arm, right? Very popular in the 80’s.
Rainbows are everywhere to be found around my house these days: wall hangings, painted art, beads, even my wardrobe is organized in the colors of the rainbow. Someone attending one of my talks even called me the “Rainbow Doctor” last year.
I tell you about my love of color because it finds its way into all I do: into my painting, eating, thinking, living, and all creations (including meals!).
I even “see” people as colors: maybe someone is feeling blue or another person is fiery red (with inflammation or anger, for example). I have been known to paint people on canvas as color rather than form.
My Education: Mom and School
I spent most of my life as a student with my 4-year training as a PhD nutritional biochemist and 3 years for my Master’s in Human Nutrition. Most of the first three decades of my life were consumed with the experience of food --- emotionally eating, exploring eating as a path to health, and then, finally, tapping into my meals as a conduit to personal growth and spirituality.
Looking back, I can say that I became more fully myself, in part, through my everyday relationship with eating. It seems I’ve always been anchored into the deeper interconnections of food by investigating how the constituents of food would change my physiology, moods, and even my spiritual practices. Through food, I felt my place in the web of nature.
My mom was a health nut in the 70’s when I was growing up. Nowadays, she might have the fancy diagnosis of “orthorexia”. Since this initial jumpstart into nutrition and being ultra-vigilant about food since the age of 9 years old, I’ve been on just about every diet throughout my 20’s and 30’s.
In my 40’s now, I don’t feel like I need to diet anymore. I now feel called to deepen and live my authentic self, to really be true to who I am in other ways that don’t necessarily involve food. I’m harnessing my archetypes Spiritual, Creative, and Visionary to make a difference through all that I do. (Try the archetypes quiz for yourself!)
As I mentioned, I love colors. My Food & Spirit teachings are based in the seven colors of the rainbow.
I look at color literally through the health properties of food (for example, “orange” foods like carrots and the orange-pigmented phytonutrients like beta-carotene and other carotenoids) as well as the symbolic message of the color (for example, orange is associated with reproduction, creativity, emotions, and children). I have written a book about these interwoven concepts, titled Chakra Foods for Optimum Health.
Even though I am a scientist, I don’t believe that people, nature, or food can be confined to just biochemical pathways. The eye of dissection, slicing, and dicing is important to break something down to understand it better, but then it is incredibly valuable to turn to our other eye of synthesis, integration, and the whole to see how it all fits together.
When we apply these perspectives to the eating experience, the phytonutrients and health characteristics of food are fascinating, as is the poetry, beauty, and symbolism food embodies through color, taste, and composition.
With that as my introduction, I’ll share with you the intricacies of three days in my life. Like a little window...here we go.
It’s almost summer and we are nearing the solstice, so it is quite light outside very early in the morning. I feel compelled to get out of bed, although I would say that most of these recent mornings, I’m not quite awake. I decide to take a 30-40 minute walk so I can wake up more fully. Since my husband and I live on 2.5 acres of trees in the Pacific Northwest, it invigorates me to get out into the open with the trees.
The smell of pine and evergreen fills my lungs. The vibrant green hue penetrates my sight. On my way out for a walk, I first visit my garden, where I examine the state of the battle I am contending with slugs that are destined to destroy my well-coiffed broccoli. Fortunately, my sweet broccoli looks protected. My eye catches the miracle of how the whitish-yellow strawberries are gradually taking on a bright red color starting from the bottom up. Beautiful!
I go for a walk, call my business manager to be sure that all systems are a go, and then I carry on my walk in peace, visiting all the familiar dogs and horses in the neighborhood. Sometimes I pray/talk with God on my walk. Other times, I try to stay hyper-focused on all the intricacies around me, like the dewdrops hanging from the pine needles like adornments, or the squawk of the raven in his shiny black coat flying overhead, or even admiring the gentleness of the bulls and cows eating grass with such matter-of-factness as I walk by their grazing field. Being in this natural setting really grounds me for the day to come, which I know will only get frenzied, chaotic, and busy with juicy meetings, calls, and emails!
When I return, I blend up one of my favorite smoothie decoctions: wild blueberries, bee pollen, flaxseed meal, almond/coconut milk, and cacao nibs. I remind myself of the power of blueberries for the brain, and off I go to my home office, where I will stay buried for most of the day on calls and computer. Before I get going with work, I make sure that I give my cats some love and attention. Here is Sasha playing with bright colored felt balls.
The benefit of working from home is that I can eat what I want when I want – truly a fantastic strategy to stay healthy! In the late morning or early afternoon, I’ll make some type of stir-fry with lots of colorful vegetables that can carry me through two meals. I’ll definitely nibble on some 88% cocoa chocolate and catch at least one green tea (the Yogi tea kind) in my rainbowed mug!
By the end of the day, I check my list of what I set out to do that day. Did I achieve what I set out to do? I prepare for the next day with an intentional list of 3 main things I’ll focus on.
My husband arrives home by about 8 PM, giving us some time to catch up on each other’s day. We eat something small, and then he goes to play guitar and I go to bed. I really like to get my 8 1⁄2 hours of sleep! In fact, I think my ability to sleep deeply is my saving grace. I can sleep just about anywhere – on the plane, in a car, while in motion, during a movie or wherever, if I’m really tired.
I travel a lot. Sometimes, I might be gone 1-2 weeks a month from home. On this day, I’m traveling to San Francisco to the Institute for Functional Medicine Conference. Travel is not always easy for a person who tries to stay healthy. It involves preparation and planning. The night before, I’ve packed my suitcase, so that the next morning when I fly, it’s seamless. I begin the day with a super-packed green drink (almond/coconut milk, spirulina, green food powder, half banana, flaxseed meal) so I’m set with a complex and dense array of phytonutrients to protect me from all the DNA damage I’ll experience on the flight. I pack my supplements in a plastic baggie and throw in one of the desiccants from the supplement jars. I’ve memorized how all my supplements look, so I don’t worry about keeping them separated out and labeled.
Once I’ve stocked up internally with nutrition, and prepared my nutrient arsenal, I hit the road in my Prius. It’s about an hour’s drive from my home out of the woods to the airport. I make sure I stop by Marlene’s Market and Deli, which is on the way, so I can get a bunch of healthy snacks for the hotel and airplane. I love the Coconut Secret Mint Chocolate Bars - they keep me satiated for hours!
I arrive at the airport, enjoy the people watching as much as I can, and I am immediately filled with the delightful freedom of the travel experience! My husband can’t understand why I am saturated with wanderlust. I have found that traveling and meeting other people has helped me to expand my inner horizons and perspectives. My rule for myself is to not go (for pleasure or vacation) to the same place twice. Why? Too many places to see in a lifetime! Most interesting places I’ve been to date: Bali (I’m tempted to return), Nepal, and safari in South Africa. They all, in some way, changed my outlook on life, whether physically (watching the animals in the wild gave me a whole new look at “instinctual nutrition”) or spiritually (Bali and Nepal were both spiritual experiences for me; I visited native healers in these places. I really connect to their use of color culturally, through clothing, food, and living space.)
When I arrive in San Fran, I get to the hotel, settle in as I’m sharing a room with my nutrition mentor, Barb. I’m looking forward to the trip – should be mixed with pleasure and work. I’ve been to many nutrition meetings where there was a dearth of healthy food. This one will be different! Lots of healthy food and nutritional product vendors and conscious snack foods at the breaks.
This meeting will be intense, as it will have 1500 attendees and I know a great majority of them, which means lots of catching up. That fact translates into little sleep and high adrenaline, especially with me having to give two presentations.
Within a couple of hours of being at the hotel, I walk up to the Whole Foods four blocks up, buy some food for my hotel fridge, and I’m good to go. Perfect that I can get some healthy eats AND some physical activity! Even better, I’m surprised that I have time to meditate for 10 minutes before I do some videotaping that evening.
By the end of the night, I am not exhausted, but filled with enthusiasm. I get a glimpse of the evening skyline and then close my eyes to the world within.
The conference continues. I wake up slightly missing my full sleep, which shaved down to 5.5 hours instead of my beloved 8.5, just because there’s so much going on. Conversations with friends carrying on into the night, and then catching up with Barb before bed.
Now, today, I’ve got my major presentation – the Food & Spirit one. That was also on my mind before bedtime. This presentation will be a new one for me to give to the Functional Medicine community. I haven’t really shown this “vulnerable” spiritual side of the healing and teaching work I do.
I get dressed, and nibble on some cashews that Barb bought the other day. I rush to get ready and meet two colleagues for breakfast. I have some eggs, vegetables, and a little fruit to get me going. I don’t like eating so many eggs during travel, but they are the most featured breakfast food at restaurants. This morning, however, I do need the anchor of protein in my belly before I go out to speak to hundreds of people. I eat and move on to the first set of lectures that morning.
All the talks are on something food and/or nutrition-related, which I love as they inspire me, although they may not be providing entirely new information. I’m listening to David Ludwig from Harvard talk about the research on sugar and obesity, Mark Hyman ranting on food addiction, especially for sugar.
While all of this information is great, I’m thinking to myself that I sometimes get bored with nutrition science after being in the field for 20 years. Same old ideas circulate like a merry-go-round – always some kind of “war” or pitting of the nutrients against each other, high-fat, low-fat, high-protein, low- protein. I’m very interested in undiscovered terrain of nutrition science: energetic signatures of food, photonic emission from food as a gauge to assess vitality, quantum physics applied to molecular biology. As my mentor Jeff Bland would tell me, “It’s the leading edge, but you might have to wait decades before you see change.”
It’s afternoon and I go to give my talk. Surprisingly, a feeling of calm washes over me. I’m on the stage telling my personal story about food and then I dive into a discussion of color, physiology, and psychology. I even have a volunteer come on stage to do an activity with me on emotional eating. I finish the talk, discuss with the people who have stayed behind, and then make my way to Starbucks for a tea!
The night unfolds for me in rapid succession. I make a quick getaway to the Whole Foods. As I walk there, I reflect on what I said on stage and how I connected with the audience. Was I effective? Did I bring through a healing message? I thank God for giving me this gift of being able to speak my truth.
My last talk is early in the morning with the functional medicine nutrition team and cook, Rebecca Katz. I plunge into the fluffy bed, hoping to fly in the cloud of my dreams for another fabulous day!