An Interview with St. Louis Health-and-Wellness Guru Emily Frisella

Cookbook author and St. Louis-based wellness enthusiast Emily Frisella grew up on a cattle farm in a small Missouri town, which gave her a deep appreciation for the work and dedication required behind every meal. She remembers how her father woke up at 4:30 in the morning, drove to St. Louis to work, drove home and worked on the farm with the family until the late evening hours. “I loved it. That was where I really learned to respect food,” she says.

In 2015, Frisella quit her career job to develop her lifestyle brand, Fit Home & Health, and first cookbook, “The Fresh Farmhouse Kitchen: Clean-Eating Comfort Food.” In it, Frisella divulges her recipes for great-tasting, healthy meals that are quick and easy to make. You won’t find tasteless protein glop or baked Styrofoam here. The recipes draw on her firsthand experiences of farming, planting and entrepreneurship, with a variety of health tips and tricks along the way for readers. She has a brand-new cookbook coming out this August, complete with her unique approach.

st louis health wellness chef emily frisella cookbook alive magazine st louis

What compelled you to create a cookbook and wellness brand?
Growing up, I was a chubby kid, so I got bullied and teased a lot. Fast-forward to my 20s, and I was doing what most 20-somethings do: not eating well, drinking lots of alcohol and not really taking care of myself. I knew I needed to get it together, but for me the real pivot point came when I discovered how to cook delicious comfort food in a healthy way. That’s what inspired my first cookbook. I was a college athlete, and once I graduated, I realized I couldn’t eat however I wanted anymore. I’ve also tried a bunch of different diets, but I couldn’t stick to anything if the food I was eating didn’t taste good.

Tell me about the cookbook and your health philosophy behind it.
I started compiling the recipes in 2012, and it came out last year. There are 100 recipes full of macronutrients that taste delicious, and they’re very easy to make. They can also be made quickly—that was very important to me. I wanted to send the message that if you really want to make a change, you can. I think for women in particular, sometimes we don’t even feel like we have a chance. It’s so easy for us to get down on ourselves. Body positivity is feeling good about your health journey and where you’re going with it—not just being skinny. Skinny does not automatically mean someone is in good health. That’s a very grey area right now. It’s so common for people to look to Instagram models as the new beauty standard and overlook their overall health, instead of making a commitment to self-care.

The response to the cookbook has really been amazing. My husband and I ordered a pizza a while back and as we were paying for it, the delivery man looked at me and said, “I know you—you wrote a cookbook!” He told me that he’d lost 75 pounds from using the cookbook and listening to a wellness podcast I do with a friend, and how his life had changed. I had tears in my eyes talking to him. It was such a great feeling.

That’s an amazing story. And for you, was the change in your lifestyle immediate or gradual?
It was very gradual. I recently posted a few before-and-after photos on social media, which were taken several years apart from each other. But it was the gradual moves were able to keep me consistent and passionate about what I was doing. When people try to take on things like massive New Year’s Resolutions, it’s so easy to get burnt out instead of making small, simple changes in your life gradually. That makes for a much higher success rate, in my experience. It’s also a process of learning to pay attention to your body and listening to it. If you don’t feel good after eating something, don’t eat it again.

st louis health wellness chef emily frisella cookbook alive magazine st louis

What does your workout regimen look like?
I really love lifting weights. I’ll do that about five days a week and then a specific interval-based cardio workout two or three days per week, which has you switch between sprinting and recovering. It blasts your metabolism, so you can maintain a level of high-intensity training. I really do love going to the gym. Am I always excited about it? No. But if I make time to work out for even a short period of time, I’m much more productive the rest of the day. Exercise is the most under-prescribed antidepressant out there. It’s clinically proven to help with stress, anxiety, depression and so many other problems.

Many people want to make healthier lifestyle changes, but balancing that with the stress of everyday life can be a challenge. What advice do you have about helping people achieve their wellness goals and maintaining balance?
I’d say the biggest thing is to take on one thing at a time. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Plan out your meals for the week and take one day to get your grocery shopping done, so you have everything planned out. And if I’m really pressed for time, I’ll even do air squats in the kitchen while I’m cooking or meal prepping. I’m not the kind of person where I’m constantly working out, but I do make an effort to make time for it in my life. But for people who are just getting started, diet is the best place to begin. That’s going to bring about most of your results.

Once you master that, go for a walk after dinner, or hit the gym for a short period of time. Just start moving your body, and take it bit by bit.

All images courtesy of Emily Frisella.

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