Self-Healing Through Real Food + Healthy Habits with Christina Curp

Last Update: September 7, 2021

Christina Curp is mother, military spouse, and mastermind behind The Castaway Kitchen. After trying nearly every diet imaginable, Curp finally landed on an approach to health, wellness, and food that has worked for her: “Real food is the key to health, and a healthy, thriving life is the key to happiness.”

In this interview, Curp discusses her new cookbook, Made Whole Made Simple, and how we can reframe our perspective on what it’s like to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The tagline of your book is, “Learn to heal yourself through real food and healthy habits.” Why is that important to you?

It’s a need—people need to learn how to listen to their bodies and understand that the chronic symptoms they experience on a daily basis are their bodies trying to communicate with them. We’re living in a time when chronic illness is being normalized. I want people to know they don’t have to live with acid reflux, inflammation, headaches, insulin resistance, or in a constant flare state from autoimmune disease. Food is medicine. When we address health on a foundational level with nutrient density and apply supporting lifestyle habits, we can all reach lasting wellness. I know because I am living proof of this.

Why did you write and create Made Whole Made Simple?

There is a lot of conflicting information online and a lot of diet dogma. I relate to my readers. I relate to those who want to heal, lose weight, and feel better because I was them. I also know the frustration of trying plan after plan, promise after promise—only to be let down. We need more conversation around bio-individuality. We need more conversations about nutrient density. Not just macros—we need to look at each person and each situation as a unique case. In Made Whole Made Simple, I give readers everything they need to become the leading expert on them. Learn to listen to their bodies, what the signs and symptoms mean, and what nutrients support their different systems. It’s like having a health coach and a chef in their homes, guiding them on their unique journeys. No rules, no dogma.

You mention having done every diet imaginable. What did you learn about yourself, your body, and the wellness industry from these collective experiences?

I learned that restriction is seductive. It works for a short while, and those results can be intoxicating, but it’s not a long-term fix, and will often backfire. I learned that there is no point in losing the same 30 pounds over and over again. I learned that it’s not worth sticking to anything that feels like torture, because if it’s not sustainable, it’s not worth it. Diets don’t work. Lasting wellness comes from lifestyle changes and forever habits.

I also learned a lot about what my body does thrive on. I was able to learn about trigger foods. I was able to learn about the ancestral template and the benefits to mimicking our ancestors. I learned that bottom line: real food wins, every time.

I also learned that the wellness industry profits from repeat customers. So don’t be afraid to break the rules and forge your own path.

Why is it important to focus on digestion, hydration, blood sugar regulation, and fatty acids?

In Nutritional Therapy, we look at these as the foundations of health. We begin with digestion, because all the foods we eat are feeding or fighting disease, not only based on their quality but on how well you digest and assimilate the nutrients. Having insufficient stomach acid from being too stressed or taking proton pump inhibitors can cause a chain reaction that may lead to indigestion, leaky gut, or SIBO! Once we ensure that we are optimizing digestion we need to look at hydration.

Hydration is key for cognitive function, blood volume, healthy skin, and making sure nutrients get where they need to go. H20 is the most under-consumed macronutrient! Not only do you need to drink sufficient water, but you also need to consume the proper minerals and electrolytes to absorb it.

Blood sugar dysregulation is at the heart of many chronic symptoms. From inflammation to type 2 diabetes, making sure your blood sugar looks like rolling hills instead of peaks and lows will give you more energy, fewer cravings, mental clarity, and less stress on your system. Hormone health and blood sugar regulation are inextricably linked!

Fatty acids are imperative for a healthy inflammatory response. We need to consume essential fatty acids for our body to make prostaglandins, a type of hormone that is in charge of inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acids create pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and omega-3 fatty acids create anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Understand these mechanisms, along with which foods are high in inflammatory omega-6 and which are not, to have a healthy inflammatory response in your body.

When you address the foundations with healthy food and habits, you can find relief from so many common ailments while also learning to understand your body intimately and awakening your innate wisdom.

You mention that your goal is to “reframe your perspective on what it’s like to lead a healthy lifestyle.” How will your readers achieve that?

How many times have we said, or heard someone say, “I fell off the wagon, I cheated, I failed.” We have this vernacular when it comes to eating well and taking care of our bodies as if it’s the aberration. So when we’re in Cabo on vacation eating tacos and drinking margaritas, it’s branded as “bad” behavior. That’s silly. Life isn’t static. We’re not static. The point to healing and feeling well and thriving is to have flexibility in your lifestyle and to truly enjoy your life.

I don’t want anyone to look at wellness as a plan, a short-term solution based on a set of rules, because that’s not wellness. That’s a diet. While your food choices do impact your well-being, guilt, shame, and stress do, too.

I want everyone to ditch the diet mindset. Ditch the food fear. I think that when you truly understand what’s going on with your body and how it reacts to foods, you can make conscious choices void of moral implications.

We love your approach thinking about food. Can you explain the differences in your three food groups—“feel good,” “worth it,” and “hard no”?

Most people discover or develop a food intolerance, aversion, or even a serious food allergy in their lifetime. Especially when you’re approaching healing through a food-as-medicine lens. Sorry, Twinkies probably won’t make the cut.

When you begin to feel better, you realize that certain foods are in constant rotation. These are your “feel good” foods. The foods you love that love you right back. These make up most of your diet.

Then we have “worth it” foods. These might come with mild side effects or make you feel a little blah, but their deliciousness, cultural significance, or other reasons may make you decide that it’s worth it to partake sometimes.

“Hard no” foods will cause an autoimmune flare or an allergic reaction. We avoid these at all costs, including asking the server 10,000 questions before placing your lunch order. #sorrynotsorry

In Made Whole Made Simple, I walk you through the foundation and even some elimination protocols so you can figure out what your “feel good,” “worth it,” and “hard no” foods are.

And why is it important to categorize food in this way, versus saying some foods are “yes foods” or “no foods”?

Yes and no translates into good or bad. Yes and no lists are made by other people for you to follow. It’s not unique to your needs. There is no room for nuance, and then you find yourself in an on-and-off-the-wagon situation, and using the “I failed, I cheated” diet vernacular.

I think perspective and intention are extremely powerful in a healing journey.

What are your favorite recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the book?

Oh, that’s a tough one. I really love every single recipe in the book and they’re all worthy of the weekly rotation. But if I have to pick…

Avocado toast for breakfast
Naked Crispy Chicken Taco for lunch
Balsamic Braised Meatballs and Kale for dinner

What do you love most about Thrive Market?

Thrive makes all my feel-good food pantry staples available and affordable. Thrive also makes the best coconut aminos! I love to get quality cooking fats like extra virgin olive oil, ghee, and coconut oil delivered along with my favorite 85 percent dark chocolate chips for baking. As a military spouse, I also love Thrive’s commitment to community and to helping those who help others.

What made you switch to online grocery shopping? How has Thrive Market changed the way you shop?

Thrive is extremely convenient and I know the products will ship well packaged and insulated when needed. Consistency in quality, service, and ethics brings me back time and time again.

What are your favorite products that you always order, and how do you use those products?

I use coconut aminos in a lot of my cooking to add Asian flavors or sweetness to sauces and marinades. I also order the Epic Bacon bars in bulk! My son Jack loves these in his lunch box. I get the dark chocolate chips that I use to make the Flourless Chocolate Cake in Made Simple. I get most of my cooking fats on Thrive, too, because I get top quality at really affordable prices—healthy cooking fats are paramount in healing through food.

The selection of real-food snacks, vitamins, and healthy home products is a no-brainer when it comes to choosing healthy options for my family.

What is your top tip for shopping success on Thrive Market?

Always check the Thrive brand first. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, Thrive products are excellent and the best value!

What is your secret kitchen weapon, and how do you use it?

A big cast-iron skillet! I think that overcrowded skillets (and sheet pans) make for sad food. The texture is so important when it comes to meals, and while my seasoning will always get a wow factor, I want folks to get a nice brown or sear, too. I use a 15-inch cast-iron skillet for my one-pot meals. You can feed a family of four out of one of those and still get amazing texture and color on your food!

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Lily Comba

Lily Comba has never met a baked good she didn't like. When she's not baking, you'll find her writing, taking a Pilates class, or collaborating with the editorial and social team as a Senior Content Writer at Thrive Market.

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