Hebrew name: Penina Rivka
Job: Integrative nutrition health coach and lifestyle entrepreneur, www.ifwetrust.com
Currently living in: Wenham
Alma maters: Peabody Veterans Memorial High ‘09, University of New Hampshire ‘13, Institute for Integrative Nutrition ‘20
Favorite food: Pizza, pizza, and more pizza … it’s hard to find healthy pizza, but there is a way.
Favorite music: Classic rock, reggae, hip-hop, the whole mashup funk-soul jam band genre, classical, jazz, bluegrass, pop, rap
Favorite movies: Comedy, horror, mystery, drama
Favorite books: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, “Picking Cotton” by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
Favorite TV shows: True crime, standup comedy, documentaries, nature shows, dramas
Favorite travel destination: Israel, Italy, the Bahamas
Favorite Jewish person not in your family: My second-grade Hebrew school teacher, Deedee Talewsky
Favorite Jewish holiday: Rosh Hashanah
What is your Jewish background?
Growing up, I was in Hebrew school from the moment you could begin all the way up through confirmation, which is in high school. I had to postpone my bat mitzvah four times because my mom was deployed to Iraq right after Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had a very good Jewish upbringing. I grew up at Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody. We didn’t keep kosher in the home, but I went to synagogue almost every Saturday up until bat mitzvah age. I was also in USY in high school. I was actually the Israel Affairs and Programming VP [of USY] my junior year, and then my senior year I was the president of Peabody USY. I went to Camp Simchah every summer I could and I have been to Israel twice, once on Y2I and then on Birthright when I was 26, and it was a really beautiful way to appreciate and confirm the ways I felt about Judaism as an adult.
How did you become an integrative nutrition coach?
It’s a really interesting combination of health and wellness, if you will. I got into it because I initially started my career in hospitality management and I knew I wanted to be a business leader in my life, but I also knew I wanted and needed to learn the ropes from the bottom up, so when I was at UNH I got a psychology degree because one, I love psychology, and two, I wanted to work with people … Simultaneously, I got really sick late in my high school years, and for a few years I had to really struggle to go out and take care of myself within the U.S. food system, which can be really challenging, and doesn’t really have your best interests at heart. I started researching alternative therapies on my own, and doing as much learning and educating on my own as possible, and it really helped me feel better. After a few years, I aligned myself with an organic non-GMO superfood transformation company and that was really a wonderful experience, because I got to learn about my passion for sourcing and ingredients, which ultimately led me to my search for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
What is integrative nutrition?
Integrative nutrition is a whole-picture approach to health in regards to what’s ON your plate as well as OFF the plate. That includes the Circle of Life, which is 12 pieces: spirituality, joy, health, creativity, career, finance, education, home cooking, home environment, physical activity, social life, and relationships. All of those things need to be in balance, it’s not just about what you’re eating, it’s not just about having a good job. It’s about being able to take all the different parts of your life and make sure they’re all in harmony, so you can be the best version of yourself. If someone says they just want to eat better, we’ll take a look at all those other pieces to help me identify what their food means for them. Sometimes people don’t realize that what they’re eating has to do with all those pieces of the pie, no pun intended.
Can Judaism teach us anything about nutrition?
One thing I absolutely love about Judaism and Israel is we are a Mediterranean culture, so if you think about it, Jews and Italians and Greeks, we all love home cooking and cooking with what we have from our gardens or our farms, so it’s cooking with whole-food ingredients, abundance, and love, which is essential. I absolutely believe that my travels to Israel and my love of Jewish cooking has a lot to do with my passion for cooking at home and nutrition in general. My mom is an incredible cook, and she taught me so much about not only how to cook, but certain things about Jewish cooking, as well as my grandma – she taught me how to make the fluffiest matzah ball on the planet.