Tess Palma-Martinez: “Physical wellness varies so much from person to person”

Physical wellness varies so much from person to person. What could work for one person could be detrimental to another. Take the time to assess your overall well being- do you eat well, sleep well, have limited mobility, struggle with anxiety or depression? All of these factors play into an optimum physical routine. Often when we […]

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Physical wellness varies so much from person to person. What could work for one person could be detrimental to another. Take the time to assess your overall well being- do you eat well, sleep well, have limited mobility, struggle with anxiety or depression? All of these factors play into an optimum physical routine.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingTess Palma-Martinez.

Tess is a wellness chef, Culinary Director, certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and model. She is dedicated to inspiring a Completely Golden state of wellness through cultivating a healthy lifestyle. She specializes in one-on-one nutrition and lifestyle coaching, private dinner parties, wellness retreats and workshops, and menu development.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up with my single mom and lots of extended family. Most of my memories involve the kitchen. My grandfather loved all things food- cookbooks, the newest gadgets, chili cook offs and garlic fairs. I struggled with disordered eating most of my life, using food to fill something I felt I was missing. In college I weighed 200 pounds. After I graduated I met my first Vegan person and thus began the last decade of exploring food and nutrition!

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

A rock bottom in my health pushed me to go back to nutrition school and learn how to heal myself. I developed mononucleosis as an adult, and for anyone who had mono has a teenager- it’s a totally different ball game. I was sick in bed for 3 months. I had gotten to the point where I thought I would be sick forever. I started looking up nutrition and came across the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I enrolled the next day and it absolutely changed my life. I am where I am because of that school. I’ll include a referral link at the end of the interview if any readers are interested in enrolling!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Every person I have ever come in contact with has helped me get to where I am now. The butterfly effect- each movement affects what follows. I am grateful for the path of my life and all who have shaped it with me.

When I was 24, I moved back home with my mom to regroup. I got a job at a local health food store. I was ringing out a customer and was so taken by his 3 young daughters, that I offered to babysit. Through that connection, I started babysitting for his friend, Ariella Chezar, whom I worked with for the last 9 years! I started nannying full-time, and eventually was hired on her floral team as an installation artist (the focus of my BFA). While on site for a large wedding in Aspen, CO, the chef she had hired cancelled last minute. She asked me to take over, because she knew I could cook and had gone to nutrition school. I cooked 3 meals a day for 14 people over the course of a week, catering to different dietary restrictions like Paleo, gluten-free and vegan. This was the start of my career as a wellness chef!

My whole life has a string of events, like this. You never know how one connection can shape your life.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was 25 when I opened my former kitchen and garden store- Forage + Sundry, and I got a business loan of $30k. Design is very important to me and I wanted the interiors to be perfect. I personally designed my display tables and had them custom made by a company in Brooklyn, NY. I spent $14k on the tables, and when they showed up they were cheaply made, wobbled, and the tops were the opposite of what I ordered. Unfortunately, I had paid for them in advance. When I tried to reach out to the company the owner was unresponsive. I spent half my budget on tables, and had to strip, sand and refinish the tops myself- something I had never done. The store closed 4 years later and the tables are now in my friend’s basement.

I learned that while design is important, it should not cost half your budget. And, to be smarter about payment when ordering custom pieces. Check in often and really vet the company I’m working with. An expensive lesson to learn, but I learned it nonetheless!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Four Agreements (as well as Mastery of Love) by Don Miguel Ruiz. So purely written and easy to bring into practice in your own life. The Four Agreements include: Be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“The grass is always greener where you water it.” I have done many searches to find the true author of this quote, but haven’t had success! This quote was a major ah-ha moment for me. I was struggling in all areas of my life- weight, career/purpose, relationships, health and constantly looking for something outside of myself. I was familiar with the more popular version, “the grass is always greener on the other side.”. When I realized I had to tend to my own grass, rather than spending all my time peering over the fence, things started to change.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am currently learning about Human Design. This system was developed in the late 80’s and it’s taking the world by storm! It’s even being adopted by corporations to help organize their employees. Within the Human Design system, there are 5 types with various components for each individual person. I’ve started learning about digestion and how each type can have better, or more aligned eating habits. Please reach out if you are interested in learning about yours!

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together.

Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Stay unplugged in the morning, for at least 15 minutes after you wake up. Many of us go right to the phone- reading emails, responding to texts, etc. Instead, try a 5 minute meditation and a cup of tea.
  2. Journal. Free-handwriting is a great way to process and unload all the information and thoughts we accumulate throughout the day. The magic number is 3 college ruled pages. Something magical happens when you get to that third page. You can try this right when you wake up, before you go to bed, or any time during the day where you have some time to yourself.
  3. Eat well. Our intestines house the microbiome- a complex system of bacteria that produce hormones like serotonin and dopamine- the happy hormones. When your gut bacteria is out of balance, it can lead to depression, anxiety, low immune system, and Alzheimer’s. I offer a 21 day Gut Cleanse on my website.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Over the past decade, I have participated in many meditation and yoga practices. They have all been helpful in their own way, and I encourage you to explore whichever practices peak your interest. For example, Hatha yoga is very different from Vinyasa yoga- I prefer Hatha, but had to try both to find what I like best.

My favorite meditation practice is called To Be Magnetic. It is a neural pathway re-programing practice through daily meditations and journaling. I have been astounded by the shifts in my life and self-worth since starting this practice!

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Physical wellness varies so much from person to person. What could work for one person could be detrimental to another. Take the time to assess your overall well being- do you eat well, sleep well, have limited mobility, struggle with anxiety or depression? All of these factors play into an optimum physical routine.
  2. Once you have determined this, take time to connect with your body. Do this by laying or sitting still. Take steady breaths and scan your body. Notice if you have any tension, pain, tingling, or heaviness in certain areas of your body. Make note of these and do one thing each day to support these areas. This could be stretching, a quick self-massage, or concentrated activation: certain muscles can feel sore if they aren’t being used enough, or are being used improperly. If you do a lot of sitting and you have sore gluteus muscles, try some simple squats or leg lifts, and focus on the gluteal muscle.
  3. Experiment- there is a fine line with endurance. People often push themselves while exercising, but you can push yourself too far. Don’t start out hard, instead ease your way into it. Think of the tortoise and the hare. The end game is always about the slow burn. We tend to start gangbusters- from zero exercise to 100 squats. The next day your body is so sore and tight the last thing you want to do is squat. Instead, try starting with 20 squats and working your way up to 100 over 10–14 days. Your body will thank you and you’ll likely be able to stick with your fitness goals.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, 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 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

We live in a culture that treats illness, rather than preventing it. Most people don’t make health changes until they have to, including myself. And, many don’t change even when they know that is the solution to their health and happiness.

We like to do what we want, and the idea of giving up cupcakes or pasta for a bit of relief often doesn’t seem worth it. I struggled with menstrual issues my entire life, bleeding twice per month! After 16 years of trying different remedies, I decided to try giving up gluten for 3 months. And that was it… My cycle has been regular ever since. But, I remember the moment I had the idea to try it, I immediately thought “ughh, I don’t want it to be gluten!” All my favorite foods were made from gluten- pasta, croissants, canneles. Now, I find other alternatives, but mostly find that I don’t want them at all. The trade off just isn’t worth it!

So, be open to trying new ways. Play with your food. If you don’t like it, go back to eating how you did before. But, you may find that you actually feel better without it.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Therapy has helped me immensely, and thankfully it is becoming more popular and accessible. If you’re new to therapy I recommend scheduling 3 appointments with 3 different therapists. After you’ve met with each of them, go with the person you liked best. When I first started therapy I did this and it worked out great. I met with the first therapist and they were nice, but really just listened while I talked. The second therapist was very dynamic and really pushed my ways of thinking. The third therapist stood me up. I decided to go with the dynamic therapist because I felt I would grow more by being pushed. I am very open emotionally, so having someone just listen felt too easy. If you struggle with sharing, the first therapist might be a better fit for you, but most importantly choose whichever path you feel more comfortable with.
  2. Cry! A simple concept, but can be hard for some. You can find emotional release meditations that guide you. Or, you can try watching clips of animals being rescued- whatever gets those tears flowing!
  3. Connect with like-minded people. We are animals that need connection to survive. Especially during times of quarantine and isolation, connection is even more important. If you can’t connect in person, find a virtual group. The video component is important, as we pick up a lot of non-verbal queues from facial expressions.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

While I think it is a nice concept, I don’t know how effective it is long term. Our happiness stems from our internal belief system. You can put a smile on, but if you’re not addressing the underlying issues that could be affecting your happiness, you won’t be able to keep up appearances, for too long. I mentioned To Be Magnetic is my favorite form of meditation, as it addresses these underlying aspects.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I believe it is a very personal practice and varies greatly for each person. There are many ways to connect to your spirituality, and it starts with connecting to yourself, which we have discussed much of, today! Your spiritual practice can be anything that makes you feel connected to your soul- it is a feeling that is quite specific. It feels like peace, joy and like that moment of “ah-ha” when you’ve realized something. Here are some options outside of the typical spiritual practices:

Hiking, cooking, laying in the sun, reading, listening to music, drinking tea, lighting a candle while cleaning the house, writing a gratitude list, tracking the cycles of the moon, tarot, connecting with a pet, walking, sex, star gazing, learning about the universe, deep breathing, giving yourself an oil massage, taking a bath, and the list goes on.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

Absolutely. Spirituality is about connecting with our soul and something bigger than ourselves. Nature is the closest and easiest thing we can look to for that. There is so much about nature that we do not know- it allows us to slip into that place of awe and wonderment, while feeling connected. Most of my spiritual practices are based in nature.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Listen to and act on your intuition. This can be difficult, at first. You can start by making a list of any thought that pops into your head that tells you to take an action. It could be to call a certain friend, go to the store, finish a project, file certain paperwork, etc. If you can’t do it right that moment, you have it written down and can do it another time. But, make sure to act on it. Your intuition is guiding you toward goals and desires.

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, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to cook for Darren Criss, and his wife, Mia! I feel they are so successful because they are so authentic to themselves, living in curiosity, play and adventure. I am a big fan of both of their work and they have inspired me to live authentically, and have fun in the work that I do.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can connect with me through my newsletter by signing up on my website: and follow along on Instagram at @iamcompletelygolden

For anyone who is interested in IIN (nutrition school) you can use this link to explore the program and get a nice discount!

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Thank you for having me and offering this great series!

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