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How to enjoy life's necessary indulgences

AMY J. BARRY, Special to the Day

Publication: The Day

Published August 07. 2013 4:00AM

When we think of the foods and beverages that create the most guilt and confusion about whether they are healthy, coffee, chocolate and wine are often at the top of the list.

And so it may sound strange that a nutritional counselor, health coach, yoga teacher, chef and wellness practitioner would be offering "Coffee, Chocolate and Wine: A Decadent Wellness Indulgence Series."

It actually makes complete sense to Emrys Tetu, owner of Wellness With Food in Chester, who designed the program, because she doesn't believe that depriving ourselves of the things we love will make us feel better or healthier. Tetu says when we savor our lives, we're more able to feel better.

Tetu, who is originally from Haddam, spent the past 20 years studying yoga, local food and wellness practices in the U.S. and abroad and says she is passionate about the experience of "our relationships with ourselves and our food, how we experience being in our bodies, and how we can feel truly well."

Although this is a holistic versus more traditional viewpoint on health, she says it comes from a very grounded perspective.

"We see that over 90 percent of doctor visits are traceable to stress as one of their causes. If our 'wellness routine' is making us stressed, for example, feeling like we have to make it to the gym, get more miles in (on the bicycle) it's inherently problematic. We don't want a program for our wellness to make us stressed - there's nothing healthy about being miserable.

"And at the same time," she continues, "we can decrease our stress by having more fun. So when we choose to really look at what we love: spending time with friends, going for a walk in nature, or eating chocolate, those can often offer us clues to what will be our best wellness plan."

The idea for this new series arose from the fact that coffee, wine and chocolate are the three things about which clients most frequently ask Tetu.

"They want to know if they're OK and about articles they've read, which (may be) contradictory," she says. "They'll say, 'I know caffeine is bad for me, but I love coffee so much.' I navigate these questions with people a lot."

Tetu says she loves to travel and that it helps keep her practice fresh.

"I just returned from a trip to San Francisco where I discovered this coffee that was so much better than any coffee I'd ever experienced. I was able to get raw chocolate on the streets while I was in Nicaragua. I like to bring back ingredients and inspiration: How can I help people enjoy these things and not feel that they're harming their bodies? - because they each have challenges for our bodies."

These challenges include understanding that specific choices matter - "Which chocolate, which coffee, which wine?" Tetu notes - and the importance of moderation - "So we get the enjoyment without the troubles that come with excess consumption," she explains.

Another challenge, which will be addressed in the series, is choosing the right foods to pair with "decadent indulgences" for optimum health. For example, she says, "coffee is hard on the adrenals, so we want to support them when we're drinking coffee."

Although Tetu stresses that there is no right answer for everyone, she is also convinced that "we can all enjoy foods that we love that also make us feel great and have great energy,"

She says that what she does in a cooking class or working with someone in a yoga class is all essentially the same.

"It's helping people to get to know themselves and getting to know (for example), 'Do I feel better when I eat more protein or more kale?' I'm not going to tell someone who hates kale to eat kale. It's figuring out those scientific questions from an intuitive place. Create your own (wellness plan) around what you love, which may come from your childhood, what's traditional in your heritage, what makes you feel nourished … what is it that really resonates for you?"

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IF YOU GO

What: Coffee, Chocolate, and Wine: A Decadent Wellness Indulgence Series

When: Coffee, Aug. 8; chocolate, Aug. 15; wine, Aug. 22

Where: Wellness With Food, 89 Main St., Chester

Cost: $60 per class or $150 for all three. Space is limited. Advance enrollment required for all classes by calling (860) 526-2581 or at www.wellnesswithfood.com

Coming up: Too decadent for you? Green Juice Making will be held Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.; $60

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