You wouldn’t know it now, but Jessica Sepel and food weren’t always the best of friends. Struggling with diets and a weight obsession in her teens, Jess used food as a form of reward and punishment and began to notice the unhealthy toll it took on her mind and body. Now, the powerhouse behind the JSHealth brand is a nutritionist, wellness advocate, and best-selling author who has found the joy in food and a balanced diet — and wants to share it with you. We chatted with the Australian beauty about what gets her out of bed in the morning, why you shouldn’t be dieting, and some of her fave recipes.

What inspired you to embark on embracing, and promoting, a healthy diet? I’ve been struggling with my body and relationship with food when I was a teenager and had just moved from South Africa to Australia. I’d always wanted to be a nutritionist, and I remember sitting in my nutrition lecture absolutely blown away by what I was learning. I am still blown away. I began experimenting with food and wholesome recipes and shifting my mindset from dieter to wholefood eater, and slowly, I started healing my relationship with my body. In my fourth year of study, in 2012, I began blogging about my journey and sharing recipes that inspired me along the way.

What does a healthy diet mean to you? It means eating with a sense of balance. Restriction and deprivation are not words in my vocabulary. A healthy diet means eating well most of the time, but also allowing for indulgence with moderation.

How does your diet help you feel better, mentally and physically? My diet gives me the ability to bounce out of bed every morning and do what I need to do. The better we eat, the better we feel - it’s as simple as that. I always say, healthy food is the best way to boost your self esteem.

What is your health philosophy? I take a gentle approach to health and nutrition. I listen to my body and give it exactly what it needs. I eat a whole food diet that consists of balance in every sense — and I don’t do extremes.

Healthy nutrition tips for busy people? You just need to commit to making healthy swaps. Making one to two changes a week is all you need to aim for. Preparation is a big part of this. I commit to two hours of prep every weekend and make healthy snacks or a big batch of bircher muesli for my breakfasts for the week.

Biggest misconception about healthy eating? That healthy eating means being on a diet. It’s really a way of life. It’s not just about what you eat. So much of it has to do with our lifestyles, stress levels and relationship with our bodies.

If you could cook any meal for anyone, alive or dead, who would it be, and what would you cook? It has to be either Oprah and Beyoncé. Both are such incredible women - I think the conversation would be amazing! I would cook them my JSHealth Japanese-Inspired Salmon on a bed of cauliflower & leek rice. Served with organic red wine. And a healthy chocolate brownie and nice-cream for dessert, of course.

Current favorite recipe? My Cauliflower Arancini Balls!