As the community manager at Village Juicery, Jessica plays many roles; she manages the 540 College St location, curates products for the store, provides nutritional advice as an in-house nutritionist and builds relationships with other health-minded people and businesses in Toronto.
In this Be a Villager, we get to know the person behind the counter and learn more about her passion for holistic nutrition and what it’s like to call Toronto home.
VJ: How did you get interested in holistic nutrition?
JL: Nutrition is the way I found myself.
I was working at a media distribution company right after I graduated university. The job was a wonderful learning experience, but it wasn’t my passion. At the time, I weighed 190 lbs and was was going through depression. I thought to myself, “I should either see a personal trainer or a therapist,” and I went with a personal trainer. Through my weight loss experience, I became very connected with food – and increasingly aware about what I put into my body and where it came from. That’s when I started to seriously look into nutrition.
That summer, I enrolled at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition and I started school in the fall. I began taking courses part time and while continuing to work at the media company. But I soon realized that I wanted to find more meaningful work. I took a leap of faith, quit my job and went to school full-time to fast track. I haven’t looked back since.
VJ: You moved around a lot growing up. How has that shaped who you are?
JL: I did grow up in different places, and continents. My father owned a shoe company so he was involved in the import and export business. I was raised in Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Italy. In high school, we moved to Hong Kong for my mothers’s job. I’m very grateful to have become so culturally diverse, and it was great to have entrepreneurial parents exploring the world with me – they’ve definitely inspired me.
However, moving around so much left me feeling pretty fragmented. I didn’t really know what home truly meant. I always had a connection to Toronto – I was born here – so I thought I would try my hand in living in this wonderful city and connecting to my roots.
VJ: Would you say you found home?
JL: I’d say so. I think you make the best out of every opportunity. Here, I’ve met a lot of inspiring people and made meaningful friendships. Toronto helped me find my passion and niche, and I’m thankful for that.
VJ: Since we’re on the topic of the city. What are some of your favourite places to go?
JL: That’s a hard question! I like Early Bird for coffee and to read; Trinity Bellwoods to walk Romeo, my roommate’s dog; Kensington Market, especially Hibiscus and Essence of Life for my essentials… and I’m addicted to Barreworks classes – they keep me sane.
VJ: Switching back to nutrition, you started Food Conservateur. What does it stand for?
JL: Conservateur translates to ‘preservatives’ in French. A food conservateur is term I created to describe someone who’s concerned with the tactics used by the food industry to remove food from its natural state.
I’m a big advocate of whole foods, not over-processed, and finding a qualitarian approach to nourishing the body. Nutrition is the foundation of my transformation, and I hope to inspire other people through my career.
VJ: There’s a lot of talk about whole foods and getting back to our roots, is this where you see the holistic nutrition industry heading?
JL: I think there’s a definitely a revolution in terms of self-care. The health food industry is taking off and what I mean by that is there’s more accessibility to and awareness of healthier choices. I think people are turning to food as a method of healing – it’s playing a much bigger role than just consumption.
VJ: Where do you see yourself in five years?
JL: I want to keep helping people achieve optimal health and do so in a way that is genuine for me. Because I went through a weight loss experience, I want to guide others through healthy detoxification and weight loss programs. I also want to be able to practice what I preach and embody a healthy work-life balance as I see my career grow.
VJ: What’s your favourite juice?
JL: On any regular day, it’s a Be Clean, but I have days where I gravitate towards a Be Calm.