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A Moment With Alejandro Junger

Alejandro Junger, M.D. supports your intention to feel good and live healthfully.

While completing his training in internal medicine at New York University Downtown Hospital and his fellowship in cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital, Junger battled both gut problems and depression. He sought relief through Western medicine, but found accepted views of the digestive track backwards and limited. 

So, upon completing training, the doctor traveled to India to study Eastern medicine and—based on that combined knowledge—ultimately founded, Clean, a wellness company that helps people live healthier lives by guiding them through targeted programs.

Since then, Junger’s approach has gained widespread notoriety, and he has written two New York Times bestsellers on the topic, Clean and Clean Gut. His new book of delicious recipes, Clean Eats, will hit stores on April 29th.

Here, Junger shares the details of his personal wellness journey—culminating in the publication of this latest book—and explains how he and his team help patients release their fear of change:

Live The Process: After relocating to New York City from Uruguay to complete your postgraduate medical training, you battled depression and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. How did your experience as a patient impact your outlook?

Dr. Alejandro Junger: As I was finishing my six years of postgraduate training in New York, I found myself so sick that I could barely function. Multiple visits to three specialists left me with three diagnoses and seven prescription medications for allergies, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and depression.

On one hand, I was given seven medications in order to be able to function. On the other hand, I realized that this was the exact type of medicine I was practicing with my patients. None of the three specialists had asked me what I was eating at the time, let alone correlated what was happening to me with a problem originating in the gut. This didn’t shock me at the time because I was fresh out of medical school, where no one ever taught me about food and how it affects everything. Western medicine only considers the gut as a tube through which food travels, and it is mostly concerned with its architecture and not its function. These days, if I go to a doctor and I am not asked about what I eat, that is my last meeting with him or her.

LTP: What inspired you to write your new recipe book, Clean Eats? How did you select the contributors?

AJ: Whenever I treat someone and help them feel better, they immediately ask me, "What can I do to maintain the benefits?" Clean Eats is the answer to that question. The most important thing you can give a patient to keep healthy is a guide of what to eat. And if you make it fun and delicious, the patient will not feel like this is torture, something they have to do even if it tastes horrible. In fact, when people discover how yummy being healthy can be, they rarely want to go back to what they were doing before. Our contributors are people that learned these principles while getting healthier themselves, and that is how we selected them. It is always more powerful when people share things that helped them in their journey to feel healthier.

LTP: You are donating the book’s proceeds to HealthCorps and Vitamin Angels: why have you chosen these two charities?

AJ: Children are our future. When you give them tools to feel better, you are affecting them more profoundly than anyone else because it is more likely that they will acquire healthy habits and stick to them longterm. This is what these charities do, and it’s why I’ve chosen them.

LTP: How do you coach those who are reticent about changing their lifestyles?

AJ: The Clean team and I do not go preaching and trying to convince anyone of anything. By the time most people come to us, they are ready and willing to do whatever it takes. Whether that is because they have been sick and are not getting the help they need, or they witnessed a loved one go through an amazing transformation, by the time we meet them, there is less convincing to do. We just show them what works. 

That said, it’s true that people often need support to work through their resistance. This is an ongoing process that my team of wellness coaches and I work with each day. Each person’s reticence is different. Some people are nervous about a change in diet because they feel very attached to how and what they are eating. Other people are resistant to experimenting and want to be told exactly what to do. Wherever the resistance shows up, we recommend naming it and feeling what you feel. When you acknowledge what you feel, the feelings change. Then new habits can begin to be put in place.

LTP: What does happiness look like to you?

AJ: It is not so much about what it looks like as what it feels like. Happiness to me is mostly about feeling at peace and being present. In my case, in particular, there are two main areas of life that feed my happiness: my family and friends, and helping others.

LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day? 

AJ: There’s no escaping “living the process.” My process has been getting sick, not finding the solutions I needed within my own profession and having to search for it outside of the medical world in which I was trained. I was “the wounded healer,” as some call it. 

Even having learned quite a bit about these things, applying them consistently is a lifelong process; it’s one thing to know what to do and another to do it. For that, community is everything. There’s that saying: “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.” This is so true, and this is where my process is now—surrounding myself with the right community that supports my goals and wellbeing. 

Find more information on Clean Eats by visiting Clean Eats.