Wijnen is writing books to provide readers with strategies that improve immune health during COVID-19
Jorg Wijnen is a clinical dietitian who reached out for help with editing his book about how to improve your immune system against COVID-19 with diet and mindfulness. Working with this content was extremely exciting. At first, I was curious (and a little skeptical) about the concept that food could protect me from coronavirus. But after reading this book, I feel much more confident in my food choices regarding what will strengthen my immune system. I was also surprised to read about the research that shows mindfulness practices such as gratitude and meditation can help boost your resilience to stress and illness.
Jorg uses fun analogies to illustrate his recommendations. This book is full of examples from his clinical practice that are familiar problems many of us encounter in life. He has a talent for breaking down the science of cellular health through stories that are entertaining and palatable to any reader.
He offered to share his knowledge in this Q&A with me to help announce the release of Immunity Hi, Virus Bye-Bye: Proven Strategies to Improve Your Immune Health During Pandemic Times.
Your book contains examples of real people changing their habits toward better health. Tell us about your clinical work.
Although at the start of my career, I walked down a similar path as my dietician friends and colleagues, that changed afterward.
After my studies, I got an opportunity to set up my own dietician consultation practice inside a well-established health club in my hometown.
Most of my clients were seeking help with weight loss, or fairly common health issues such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Despite being very gratifying, helping people one-on-one, I had a more adventurous side that demanded I’d do something extra. I found a challenging job that required me to guide and mentor refugees and help them transition into society. I was part social worker, part nutritionist, and part personal trainer. Although very intense (physically and emotionally), it was an immensely rewarding job. When this job ceased to exist, due to a shortage of government funding, the adventure bug got hold of me even more and I traveled in Asia for some time before ending up in China, out of all places.
I’ve met people from a lot of different backgrounds over the years. I’m very grateful for that because it has made me a lot more sympathetic and understanding of the food and lifestyle choices people make. Thus, I’d like to think it has made me a much better dietician.
Is there a reason you are writing this book now?
I go through a lot of research papers to learn about the latest science on nutrition and lifestyle.
What I noticed a long time ago, way before the pandemic emerged, was that the food we eat and the lifestyle choices we make can have a big impact on our immune system. There is so much research on this. When I see people putting the theory into practice, making a few little tweaks to their diet, for example, I’m always so happy to see that people just feel so much better and get sick significantly less. That’s why it bugged me not seeing information like this out in the open. I expected governments not only to inform the public but also to encourage and empower them to nourish and take care of themselves. Instead, what I saw was a lot more people suffering and even getting unhealthier. That just breaks my heart.
Who is your key audience?
I don’t wish to see people fearful and afraid to go outside. I wish to see people neither struggle physically nor mentally. I wish to see people joyful, healthy, and resilient to life’s challenges.
I’m writing for anybody who can resonate with this and who is willing to make choices that are in alignment with this.
You mostly cite medical journal research with some lifestyle and cultural observations mixed in. How did you vet information for truth and inclusion in this nonfiction book?
I think this is such an important question! Back when I was still in college, I had no idea that there could be such differences between scientific studies. Study designs matter. Just because a study offers a certain conclusion, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valid. For example, you can design a study in such a way to make it appear eating a Twinkie lowers your cholesterol.
This actually happened! The scientists just forgot to tell in their conclusion that they let the group that didn’t eat Twinkies eat extra Cloud Cakes, which made the Twinkie group suddenly look good. Which brings me to another point: who funds the study? This is a question we should all be asking ourselves right from the start. Industry-funded studies mostly produce results in favor of, you guessed it, the industries themselves. The most notorious and deceiving ones are funded by the alcohol, meat, dairy, and confectionery industries. Does it mean their products can’t be a part of your life? No, of course not. Quantity and the other choices you make matter too. Just know that when media headlines sound too good to be true, be wary, and use common sense.
How did you deal with the ever-growing body of research on COVID-19 as you prepared your manuscript for publication?
I think I spent more time on research than actual writing! Some parts didn’t require anything specific related to COVID-19 so that was relatively easy. Other parts I completed first but added in “notes to self” so I could update them later on in case any new relevant research had come out.
New research is always coming out, so some adjustments need to be made sooner or later. However, the foundation of this book is about the connection between our diet, lifestyle, and a healthy immune system. COVID-19 nor any other virus infection can change that, thankfully!
What is your key takeaway in this book for people who do not want to get sick?
The main message I want to share is this: no matter your situation, health or otherwise, there are always steps you can take to improve your (immune) health. Take one small step at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself. Never underestimate your ability to create change. Believe in yourself, because I believe in you.
What did you learn about publishing in this experience?
I need a bigger team 😀
Any future books planned?
I’d like to follow up with a recipe book. I already have a lot of recipes written down and all of them support immune health, of course! My aim is to publish it in spring 2021. I’m also planning a book about how to lose weight without being hungry. Calorie-restrictive diets work, but they’re just so much more demanding because you have to rely on willpower alone. That’s not a good strategy. You can eat satisfying amounts of food and lose weight at the same time, even if you easily put on weight.