Wellness isn’t just about big lifestyle changes and radical reinventions.

By Nilou Motamed
Updated May 24, 2017
Nilou Motamed
Credit: © Sven Eselgroth

The seeds for the February issue were sown over a breakfast I had a few years ago with my pal Seamus Mullen, chef-owner of New York’s great Tertulia. I knew Seamus had been struggling for some time with the debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis, and yet, when he leapt up to greet me that morning, he was positively glowing.

“You look amazing!” I said. “I feel amazing,” he replied, then proceeded to tell me the story of his remarkable recovery—precipitated not by some miracle drug or medical intervention but, incredibly, by a whole new approach to food. Working with Frank Lipman, MD, a doctor and wellness expert, Seamus had upended his entire way of eating (and cooking), rebooting his system and ultimately testing negative for RA. In fact, his new regimen—with its focus on whole foods and naturally healing ingredients—had enabled him to give up the prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatories that had become a daily necessity for him.

“I almost died, Nilou,” he told me. “It seemed I would never get better.” Yet, for the chef, the solution had been in front of him all along, right there in his kitchen.

One might not expect a restaurant cook to offer insightful advice on a healthy, sensible diet. We still hold onto the stereotype of the overfed, under-rested dude who works hard, plays harder, and eats and cooks with abandon. But since my breakfast with Seamus, I’ve had similar conversations with a growing number of food-world luminaries: Marco Canora, who has revamped his restaurant menus to embrace a more enlightened approach to nutrition (you can thank Marco for the bone-broth craze); George Mendes, who gave up alcohol and started running; and Chris Cosentino, who, last time I saw him, had just biked 65 grueling miles over the Rockies to arrive at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

These are only a few of the star chefs who have inspired and helped to shape this very special Food & Wine issue on wellness—which, I promise, isn’t about abstinence or eat-your-peas-and-kale asceticism, but about celebrating the transformative power of food.

Some of those transformations are profound. Cookbook author Julia Turshen made over her pantry and developed a whole new repertoire of go-to dishes using healthy staples in light of her wife’s diabetes. And food writer Scott DeSimon reclaimed a world of deliciousness—and renewed health—that he’d feared was lost to him forever.

But wellness isn’t just about big lifestyle changes and radical reinventions. Sometimes minor adjustments can have an outsize impact, as you’ll find in our story about chefs’ favorite healthy hacks. (Seamus, incidentally, swears by the curative properties of parsley and has never met an avocado he didn’t love. My kind of guy.)

We can all remember when the American idea of eating “healthy” felt like anything but—aisles upon aisles of fat- and sugar-free frankenproducts that took our food far from its natural state. We’re now lucky to live in a time when nutritionists and cooks can finally agree on the lasting value of real food, from ancient grains to healthy fats—even that end-of-day glass of Burgundy.

And that’s really the key, isn’t it? Nearly all the experts we talked to in this issue underscored the importance of balance: a constant, vital dialogue between mindful living and, yes, occasional indulgence; between detox juices and top-shelf tequilas. After all, as anyone who’s tried a quick-fix diet knows, the only true solutions are the sustainable ones. And as much as we want you to live a long one, life is still too short to give up chocolate cake and Manhattans. So here’s to your health—and to having it all.

Follow Editor in Chief Nilou Motamed on Twitter @niloumotamed