February 29, 2024
Empowering viewers with knowledge through “Eat Your Way to Wellness”
January 25, 2024
By Dave Andrews
The recipe for an award-winning, food-focused TV program doesn’t always have to include excessively decadent desserts or brash celebrity chefs.
Jessica DeLuise, PA-C, MHS, CCMS, host of the program “Eat Your Way to Wellness,” has built a strong viewership simply based on her show’s unique topics and evidence-based insights. Infusing culinary medicine concepts in each episode, DeLuise examines how certain foods can impact one’s health.
Becoming a TV personality didn’t happen overnight. Early in her career, DeLuise worked clinically in both in-patient and out-patient settings. A significant portion of her patients had health issues influenced by diet and lifestyle choices. And frequently, the same patients returned again and again seeking care for recurring problems.
“So many of these patients were dealing with significant barriers to proper nutrition,” DeLuise said. “It motivated me to expand my knowledge base so I could provide patients with more tools to help prevent hospital readmission or exacerbations of their chronic diseases, when possible.”
Bridging Food and Medicine
DeLuise decided to enroll in the culinary medicine certificate program at Tulane University to learn more in-depth principles of how integrating nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and the culinary arts into medical practice can help treat and prevent disease.
Soon after completing her certificate, she looked for ways to expand beyond just the one-on-one patient encounters and reach a wider audience within her community.
In 2019, she began making TV appearances on segments for local Philadelphia news channels. As often as she could, DeLuise would be in-studio answering questions and discussing a variety of topics related to health, food preparation, and nutrition.
With no formal media training, DeLuise recalls feeling myriad emotions when the studio lights came on and the cameras started rolling.
“Those first few segments weren’t quite as seamless as I would have liked,” she said lightheartedly. But she acknowledges that they gave her invaluable experience that helped her gradually develop plans for her own show.
“I didn’t know much about [TV production] at that moment, but I knew what I eventually wanted to do—and that was to create a longer-format cooking show that intertwined key elements of culinary medicine,” she said.
Asking and Learning
In an effort to learn as much as possible about the dos and don’ts of the industry, DeLuise began reaching out to numerous people with media production experience, most of whom she had never met before.
“I sent messages on Facebook and Instagram to every personality, every host, every chef that I could find online to see if they’d be willing to get on a call with me so I could ask questions—and I had a million questions,” DeLuise said.
She was pleasantly surprised by the number of responses she received, which led to countless conversations with various experts across the industry. Armed with additional tips and insights on how to get started, DeLuise hired a production team and lined up sponsorships to help cover costs.
At times she questioned the show’s concept, whether it would be well received, and if anyone would even watch it. But her zeal for nutrition and passion for helping others motivated her to keep at it.
“Even though I had my doubts early on, I knew we were really creating something awesome,” she said. “I truly believed in the content, and I was optimistic. I wasn’t going to let it fail because I believed in it so much.”
After creating all 10 episodes of season one, she still didn’t know how to get her program on TV. After speaking with TV producers and publicists, she initially decided to buy airtime in the Philadelphia market, rather than sell her show concept to a network. After airing on broadcast television, a program distributor helped her get the show on digital streaming platforms Tubi and Amazon Prime.
Her optimism steadily grew with each episode, especially when the crew filmed in public places like grocery stores and local businesses. DeLuise says crowds would always form around them to watch, and she could see that they were genuinely intrigued by what they were presenting.
“Jessica has such a unique, approachable way of really connecting with her audience,” said Dr. Sabrina Falquier, MD, CCMS, an internal medicine physician and founder of Sensations Salud based in San Diego. “She does a fantastic job of using terminology that can be easily understood by a broad audience. And at the same time, there’s evidence-based, nutritional knowledge behind what she is teaching.”
Having collaborated with DeLuise on multiple social media events regarding culinary medicine over the years, Dr. Falquier is thrilled to see food-as-medicine concepts continue to gain traction with the general public and within the healthcare industry.
“The field of culinary medicine is still relatively new, but it’s continually permeating its way into culinary schools, medical schools, and PA programs,” Dr. Falquier said. “The amount of attention and funding it’s receiving will continue to grow as more people realize the impact it can have on reducing healthcare costs and empowering people with the knowledge and ability to eat healthier.”
Empowering her viewers with knowledge is exactly what DeLuise set out to do with “Eat Your Way to Wellness.” And further evidence of the show’s public appeal came in 2021 when it earned an Emmy Award.
The award also helped fuel demand for another season of the show, which will begin production later this year. According to DeLuise, season two will be “less scripted, more lighthearted, and edgier” than the first season.
Without having any prior training or experience in television, DeLuise largely attributes her success to the amount of support and information she was given early on from others in the industry.
“I’ve met so many amazing people because I was humble and honest about not knowing anything about the world of television production, and I truly wanted to learn all I could,” she said. “People are often willing to help you when they sense you are passionate about something and that you genuinely want to learn.”
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