As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacquie Smith. Jacquie found her passion for health and wellness in 2013 when she started experimenting with natural foods and remedies in order to heal herself from cystic acne, horrible digestion and overall exhaustion caused by stress and corporate travel. Her philosophy of “little adapts” is how Little Adapts By Jax, a nutrition and fitness coaching business, was born as it allows her clients to gradually instill small, positive changes to create the healthy + happy lifestyle they’ve always wanted. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, a Barre and Yoga Teacher at Rise by We, and an avid athlete — completing multiple half marathons, the NYC Marathon (2015), and her first triathlon this year.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I was active growing up + tried many different “diets” like most women in their 20’s. However, when I joined the sales force at Bloomberg in 2012 and was required to travel 3 weeks out of the month, my health went south. I developed cystic acne, horrible digestion and overall exhaustion due to the stress of corporate travel and my job. When I asked my dermatologist about my skin, she suggested I go on Accutane. When I asked my general physician about my digestive issues, she told me I had IBS. Neither of them gave me any real help in figuring out why this was happening and recommended medication to fix my symptoms, not the issue. I decided to take matters into my own hands and changed my diet, trained for my first half marathon and switched over to all natural skin care products. This is when I truly learned about the power of food and exercise to heal the mind and body.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most interesting things that has happened to me since I started my career was one of my “Sweat Vow” clients was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes right after we started working together. Although she was in her mid-20s and pretty thin, she was so upset when she found out. This really opened up my eyes to how eating a mostly plant based diet with daily movement is super important. Even if you look “healthy”, doesn’t mean that you actually are. This helped me in two ways: 1. I had to quickly immerse myself into research and provide resources to help get her back on track ASAP, which was really helpful for my knowledge and what I can offer to other clients going forward. 2. It truly made me happy to be in preventative care so that eventually through her diet she will be able to reverse the Type 2 Diabetes.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
My funniest mistake in the beginning was when I first started recipe developing. I’m more of an “eye” it kind of girl, but most people need to know exact measurements. My husband decided to make us smoothies one day off of my website, and they did not come out the way I normally make them (not his fault!) As a result, I updated the older recipes on my website to make sure they had accurate proportions of each ingredient. Now I always measure out the ingredients and write them down immediately so that the “little adapts” community gets the very best recipes!
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I am an authority in the fitness and wellness field as everything I teach and recommend to my clients are things that I have incorporated into my own healthy and happy life. Besides having certifications through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Exhale and Poe Yoga, I am constantly trying out new wellness concepts on myself that I’ve learned through reading, research + on-going education so I can continue to evolve my practice and help my clients as best I can. The entire “little adapts” philosophy is how I created a sustainable healthy and happy life for myself and how I continue to refine it. This philosophy of making “little adapts”, or small, positive lifestyle changes, is what makes my approach so unique. It’s not about changing your life overnight, but making a positive impact each day, week, month, and year to develop a lifestyle that is what you “do” rather than following a specific diet. Lastly, I take an approach of not only educating the client on what is best for them to be eating, but also change their perception of food and their habits.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would have to say that my husband, Will, is the person who I’m most grateful for and helped me get to where I am today. He’s seen me through the pain and has watched me grow my business from the ground up. My favorite story though is when we were coming up with a name for my business and he asked me “Jax, what are you always about?” I looked at him puzzled, and he goes you’ve always been about the “little things in life”. From that comment “Little Adapts By Jax” was born.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
1. We all want to lead a healthy life, but we don’t make it our #1 priority in our daily lives.
2. We focus on knowing what the “healthy foods” are, but not enough time focusing on experimenting with all of them to figure out which foods we actually enjoy eating.
3. Most people have an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to eating well and exercising, which makes it difficult to create a sustainable lifestyle when we restrict ourselves like this.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
1. Use the concept of “Is it worth it?” when making decisions about indulgent food.
When we feel that pang to eat something indulgent — I tell my clients to just ask themselves the question “Is it worth it?” This helps them to see if it’s worth indulging on given their wellness goals. For example, I have a dairy allergy but I live in NYC where we have some of the best pizza. Does that mean I’ll never eat pizza again? Of course not but when I do have it, it better be the best damn pizza I’ve ever had!
2. Focus on moving your body daily rather than focusing on how many times you go to the gym/class.
Many people think the only way to “workout” is by going to the gym or a class where you physically have to go somewhere. The truth is that working out daily for at least 15–20 minutes sometimes can be enough if you are consistent about it. For example, if you’re going on vacation you could run in the morning to see a different part of the city or you could simply walk or bike to see all of the sites. Or maybe it’s simply that you don’t have enough time to spend an hour at the gym, but you have 15 minutes at home where you can squeeze in some body weight and resistant band work. Focus on moving your body daily and it becomes much more natural and less of a chore.
3. Be more consistent and think about how you can get back on track at your next meal.
We hear a lot about cheat days and cheat meals because we think about food as a way to satisfy a craving as opposed to thinking about food as a way to heal, nourish, and fuel the body. Rather than thinking about indulging for a whole day or having set “cheat meals”, enjoy yourself and then go back to eating healthy at your next meal. It allows you to enjoy your food when you want to, but doesn’t allow you to spiral out of control with the all or nothing mentality of continuing to eat bad for the rest of the day, week, etc. This is how you create consistency with your diet and yield lasting results.
4. Find your 3 minutes of “meditation” daily.
Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean doing a guided meditation every day. Meditation can mean something different to everyone; it’s just about quieting the mind, becoming conscious of your breathing and creating clarity in your day. For example, it could be as simple as writing in a journal, taking a yoga class, or doing a breathing exercise. In a world where we are constantly being pulled in every direction, we need to have a place we go inside ourselves to find that calm and steady peace.
5. Pick a time to start “unwinding” for bed.
We all try to get more sleep, but if we don’t have a set time on a consistent basis — it’s difficult to force ourselves to shut down. The time doesn’t mean you need to be asleep by then, but it does mean that you shut off the TV, clean up for the night, turn your phone face down on your night stand, read a book, etc. We are constantly being overstimulated by our screen time so it’s a good idea to put our screens away long before we head to bed so we can actually get a good night’s rest. I recently had a client who found herself watching Netflix until 12 am and would mindlessly snack, but once she instilled a “wind down time” — she cut her extra snacking at night and slept deeper each night!
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
1. Maintains muscle and bone health
As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass and function. Working out helps release hormones in our bodies that help our bodies absorb amino acids. This aids in our muscles getting bigger and keeps them from deteriorating. Remember: If you don’t use it, you lose it. (Reference article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28029078)
2. Heart Health
Our hearts have the ability to push out large quantities of blood to the rest of the body during exercise. However, if we are not exercising regularly, our hearts can become less responsive during exercise as the walls become thicker and the heart doesn’t twist as well to push out the blood. This can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
3. Mood Booster
Exercising can boost your mood and reduce anxiety and depression because it increases the production of endorphins and induces changes in the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. You always feel better after a workout no matter what and that’s because of the mood boosting properties it releases in the body.
(Reference article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/ )
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
1. Forearm Plank
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
I would recommend a combination of things depending upon how sore you are and if you are feeling the onset of any injuries:
1. Vary your exercise instead of doing the same exercise every day which tends to use the same muscles. Yoga is a great compliment to any workout for both stretching and the meditative aspect. Also, if you are sore, doing another workout will help to break up the lactic acid sooner rather than later.
2. Foam Roll/Stretch — This is a great way to target specific areas on body and helps to release knots and break up lactic acid.
3. Epsom salt bath — You can fill the tub with warm/hot water and then add 2 cups of Epsom salt. Take a bath for about 20 minutes after an intense workout to pull out the toxins in your body. This will help alleviate muscle soreness the next day.
4. Acupuncture — I use the trigger release method heavily for getting out knots + relaxing muscles that are too tight and starting to affect other parts of my body. I usually do this when I’m in pain, training for a race, or a few days before a race to make sure my body is good to go. My acupuncturist, Aiesha Abel, is an absolute rock star, which is why I’ve been going to her for 6 years!
5. Massage — I love a combination of Thai and Swedish massage so that I get both stretching and deep tissue massage. I probably do this every other month depending upon how my body is feeling. I also get foot massages regularly as many of our issues stem from our feet. My favorite Thai massage place in NYC is The Pavirin Spa.
6. Magnesium — This will help you to relax before bed, but also to help alleviate sore muscles. You can add 1 tsp to a cup of hot or cold water. It’s nice to drink with dinner or after as it tastes like raspberry lemonade! (Note: It also relaxes your bowels so it will aid in digestion so don’t be alarmed!)
7. Turmeric supplement — Turmeric is a root that contain a powerful anti-inflammatory component called curcumin. Make sure that the supplement includes black pepper as it helps your body better absorb the turmeric.
8. CBD supplement — CBD is one of 80 chemical substances known as cannabinoids, which are all found in the cannabis plant. CBD attaches to your endocannabinoid system, which reduces inflammation + can help with chronic pain. Make sure your CBD doesn’t contain any THC in it! (Use code: “LittleAdaptsByJax” for 15% off!)
(Reference article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5922297/)
9. Chiropractor/Physical Therapy — Our bodies can tend to get out of alignment and even with all of the above remedies, we just need our spines to be realigned by the chiropractor. Depending upon what’s going on, physical therapy can help as it’s always great to have someone else to stretch you out, especially if it’s covered by insurance. Dr. Mark (Chiro) and Dr. Alex (PT) at Broadway Chiropractic and Wellness are the best!
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I eat a mostly plant based diet with eggs and seafood, but no dairy (as I have an allergy to it). I recommend a mostly plant based diet to my clients where they aim to have ¾ of their plates filled with greens and veggies. Rather than focusing on the protein as the star of the show, I have them focus on including lots of veggies and greens as that’s where we get a bulk of our fiber, nutrients and vitamins. If my clients are going to eat meat, I recommend that they make sure it is of the highest quality.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
“Eat & Run” by Scott Jurek was very impactful for me as a runner and as someone who experiments with food as a way to heal, nourish and fuel my body. Up until January 2019, I was eating mostly plant based and would eat meat occasionally when I was out or visiting my parents/in-laws. I decided to have some conviction behind my actions, especially since I believe in the transfer of energy and in a world where we are exposed to so many toxins already, why put meat in my body that has negative energy too? I also just felt so “heavy” after the holidays from all of the meat I had consumed and no longer wanted to feel that way. I loved how Scott Jurek talks about his gradual evolution of his diet from meat and potatoes to vegetarian to veganism. He also talks about how he became a better runner and athlete by using plants to source all of his energy, which opened my eyes to new plant based foods and recipes I had never tried before. While reading this and also experimenting with my new diet, I noticed the same thing — my body felt lighter and stronger and I have definitely become a better athlete. I related to his evolution as it’s very similar to my “little adapts” philosophy.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My belief is that sugar is the biggest evil when it comes to nutrition. It is lurking everywhere in our food and even the “natural sugars” are sometimes over used. For example, why use a natural sweetener in a recipe if you already have banana? Makes no sense to me. With that being said, I find it very difficult in NYC to find a coffee shop or café that has unsweetened non-dairy milk. By coffee shops and cafés only carrying “barista blend” or sweetened milk, we are only adding to the sugar addiction. Even if it’s just a splash, overtime that adds up and can lead to weight gain, inflammation, acne, etc. because it’s SUGAR. I think that as a dairy-free eater, I should have the choice to choose whether or not my non-dairy milk is sweetened or not. If you’re reading this, please carry both kinds and make the world a healthier place ☺
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” — Maya Angelou
I actually found this quote on a bottle cap 5 years ago when I was getting my certification to be an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. To me, it was a sign from the universe that I was on the right path. (I even posted it on my personal Instagram account at the time, which shows you just how much it meant to me.) Fast forward 5 years, and I have my own nutrition and fitness coaching business. I still use this quote as my business continues to grow. In this day and age where we can’t help but compare ourselves to others because of social media, it’s a great reminder that as long as we like what we’re doing and we do it how WE want it to be done, then the rest will follow. You can’t fake authenticity.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have breakfast or lunch with Michelle Obama. I recently read her book “Becoming” and absolutely loved what she did with the “Let’s Move” campaign when she was the First Lady. I know there is so much more that can be done against the obesity epidemic, and it would be great to pick her brain about how to instill my “little adapts” on the local level and then expand it from there.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!