Houston is blessed to have several powerful, accomplished and committed individuals passionate about improving Black mental health. Dr. Willie Mae Lewis of the Women’s Resource Center, “edutainer” Sister Mama Sonya, and Dr. Xyna Bell along with her mental health professional peers who formed CURE, are some of the shining stars in terms of prioritizing good Black mental health.
CURE, by the way, stands for Coalition of Urban Resource Experts, and exists to “meet the emotional, psychological, social, educational, spiritual and physical needs of Houston-area urban peoples with an emphasis on people of African descent.”
However, the vast majority of these Black mental wellness warriors are Baby Boomers or members of Generation X, meaning they are 55-years-old and up.
Thankfully, there’s a movement of millennials and younger (Gen Z) who, like Lewis, are taking novel approaches to improve Black mental health.
One such local change agents is Jennifer Jones, a millennial who is the founder/owner of JENuine Nutrition.
Jones, a certified integrative, holistic nutrition health coach, personal trainer and wellness educator with a focus on Nutrition Psychology, focuses on how food impacts mental, physical and emotional well-being.
Jones doesn’t provide her male and female clients with meal plans but rather lifestyle and nutrition management under the dual mottos “Love yourself to better health” and “Live with intention, eat with intention.”
To start, Jones wants people, her clients and others, to recognize and appreciate the value in themselves.
“People that own a Ferrari, they don’t just put regular unleaded gas in their car, right,” she stated. “So, I want people to start feeling like whatever upscale vehicle they like most. I want you to consider yourself as that because people already take better care of their cars than they take care of themselves. They can take care of their house better than they take care of themselves. They take care of their bags and shoes better than they take care of themselves.”
Jones says, “How about we redirect some of that care and attention to ourselves,” arguing that if we don’t, we won’t be around to enjoy any of those things we value, including our lives.
Jones pushes the Ferrari analogy even further to make the point about the connection between food and food choices with mind, body and spirit well-being.
“Owners of that Ferrari put high premium quality food or gas in their car. That’s all food is. Food is your friend. Food is not the enemy, because food is fuel. It’s learning how to become friends with food and not make it the enemy and developing a healthy relationship with food, which is what I do with my clients and my work.”
This focus can be seen throughout Jones’ business.
“When you love something, you take care of it, right? And so, you should be on that list as well. You should be loving yourself. So, let’s love ourselves to better health. With that, it’s living with intention and being more intentional, which speaks to the mental health part and component. Just really changing your life and being more conscious and not living just off default. JENuine Nutrition is a holistic nutrition company that helps people love themselves to better health and naturally reduce stress and manage weight and balance hormones without all the crazy nonsense.”
Jones contends that the reverse is true, as well. Not only can what we eat improve our mental and emotional well-being, but things we do to improve our mental health and what we think can then lead to better food choices.
Jones came upon these awarenesses via personal experiences, though there are countless psychological and medical professionals who co-sign Jones’ approach.
According to her website (JENuineNutrition.com), Jones was inspired to study holistic, integrative nutrition after decades of being a top-performing athlete and nationally qualified bodybuilder, but not happy or satisfied with following the conventional ways of addressing her own personal health and fitness goals.
“I’ve been an athlete my whole life. Basketball, volleyball are my main sports. But I always had these debilitating cycles. So, I finally decided to say enough is enough with this, because even though I was seemingly healthy, I knew something wrong,” said Jones, who was bodybuilding while a college student.
“I did an elimination diet and took something out of my diet, and then my symptoms were completely gone. I was completely healed and that’s when I knew food was medicine.”
Jones said that she then began providing personal training services to clients in a holistic manner before she even knew what holistic nutrition was.
“JENuine Nutrition is taking a genuine approach to lifestyle and nutrition management and for long-term health. Loving yourself to better health is living with intention and being more intentional,” which Jones says speaks directly to the relationship between what we eat, what we think and our mental well-being.
Ultimately her intuition led her to holistic health which is considered a more balanced, natural way of living and healing the body. Jones says the magic formula that allowed her to achieve and maintain healthy mind, body and spirit results fueled her purpose in supporting others to achieve the same desired results.
“All of my clients experienced a mental and/or physical transformation,” said Jones, adding people are slowly recognizing the connection between diet, exercise and mental health.
“Diet and exercise aren’t the only two things to look at from a holistic perspective. Your stress levels, sleeping patterns, hormones, self-care, mental health, all play a role in your health.”
HERE’S MORE FROM JENNIFER JONES
It really starts in the mind. That’s where the real transformation starts. It doesn’t matter whether you are embarking on a journey to lose weight or to improve your finances, everything starts in the mind. So, you have to change this first before you can change anything else. But what you do consume does have an effect on what you’re thinking. How I like to phrase it is, “What you think is more important than what you eat, because what you think influences what you eat.” So if you are thinking negative thoughts, if you’re self-deprecating and not loving yourself, then that’s going to translate into your daily habits, but also your eating habits. Another one of my quotes is “How you feed yourself is how you feel about yourself.” And it’s true. If you’re thinking you’re garbage then you’re not valuing yourself and you feed yourself like you’re garbage.
CONTROL / POWER WE HAVE
People don’t understand, you have control over your body. So that’s what I like to do, as well, just giving people that power and autonomy back over their body and not leaving it up to the medical field or the health care system. Because the health care system is broken. So, it’s really just having people take back control of their power and directing it in a way that is empowering for them.
FOOD AS MEDICINE / FOUR PILLARS
When I had that realization that food is medicine and how I basically healed my body naturally, that’s when my signature four pillars of health were born. That was during the time I had moved and transitioned here to Houston. I had taken a year-and-a-half off of working out. And this is someone who’s been an athlete her whole life and, bodybuilding, et cetera. But my body was just tired and worn down. And I was like, “You know what? I need a break. I need to relax.” And I took a year-and-a-half off from working out and I didn’t gain or lose any weight. I was able to maintain my shape and figure just off of nutrition and lifestyle practices. That’s where my signature four pillars of health come into play: intentional, intuitive nutrition; lifestyle and stress management; self-care and awareness; and physical well-being. They all come together. Because, if you’re a whole individual, you can’t just extract nutrition and exercise and not think about the other components, like stress management and self-care and awareness. Those all have a direct impact on your life and your mental health.
PEOPLE COMING AROUND TO HER HOLISTIC APPROACH
This is the perfect time because people are finally coming around to the idea of loving themselves, because people thought that when you love yourself, that’s being selfish. It’s just been more so my journey and listening to my intuition, listening to the creator, guiding me on this. I’m excited to be at the forefront and I’m glad to see people are coming around and I’m like, “Yeah.”
OKAY TO BE SELFISH
I’ve been called selfish I don’t know how many times. And you know what, that’s okay because you have to be selfish. You have to set boundaries, because when you overextend yourself, when you are doing too much, when you are putting yourself on the last rung of the totem pole, that’s how people end up just burning the candle at both ends. So, you have to put yourself first and that’s perfectly okay, because if you don’t put yourself first, you don’t have anything to give. And even if you did have anything to give, it’s not going to be of the best quality.