When I was in my early twenties and DJing clubs, nighttime was when everything happened. I would be up all night working, and then around 5 a.m. my friends and I would hit up a diner or some other random restaurant that was open really late and eat a massive breakfast to soak up the booze. I’d go home and pass out, sleeping all day, only to get up and eat whatever was around on the way out the door to get to the club to spin, and the cycle continued. There were cocktails and there was dancing and there were late-night dinners and early breakfasts and then back to sleep till the next round. When I look at pictures from those days, it looks like I’m having fun, which I was. But what you don’t see are the hungover mornings and days of just feeling like sh*t.

You also don’t see that underneath the makeup, my skin was a mess, because I was having a series of terrible breakouts. I wasn’t into feeling like sh*t, but I figured that just came with the territory. I wasn’t into the breakouts.

So I went to the dermatologist’s office, and the doctor put me on a course of antibiotics. But my skin didn’t clear. I kept putting on makeup and going back to the dermatologist, who would give me another course of antibiotics, and then another. And each time, my skin didn’t clear. But my stomach started hurting, and I got my first yeast infection. Now that I understand more about the connection between my insides and my outsides, none of this seems surprising. Physical issues have a tendency to compound if we don’t get to the root cause. I wasn’t eating well, I was ignoring all my symptoms except for the ones that were showing up on my face, and I was giving responsibility for my health to someone else, who thought the solution was medication. Something had to give. I needed—I deserved!—a better way.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic Medicine, the health of your skin, your only external organ, is a direct reflection of the health of your internal organs. My lifestyle—which inlcuded too much sugar, along with with caffeine and alcohol, can lead to systemic inflammation.

Inflammation is an important physical response that can keep you healthy, because inflammatory responses are what spring to action to help heal the damage when you get a bruise or a cut. This is called acute inflammation, because it subsides pretty quickly once the job is done. But sometimes inflammation is triggered not by bumps and bruises but by your diet. And in this case—if you’re eating the same foods most of the time—the inflammation becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation can lay the groundwork for a number of serious health issues, including diseases like cancer. So it was really important for me to learn how to keep my blood sugar stable and prevent my body from being chronically inflamed.

Since processed foods have a ton of added sugar, I needed to get back to eating more fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. I started thinking more seriously about how food is fuel and how we should power our bodies with nutritious food. That was when I started to get really into cooking for myself at home and developing the cooking style that I still rely on today to keep myself and my husband, Brendan, in fighting shape.

Once I was properly feeding myself, I would give my skin a chance to recover and become supple and radiant. When I realized that what I was eating was affecting my glow, I was excited to change things up and feel (and see) a difference. I didn’t need to give up everything I loved. I just needed to make more considered choices so that I could leave guilt and regret behind in favor of total food bliss. The cool thing is that being a hedonist and being a health nut can sometimes be one and the same, which is probably one of the best things I’ve learned along my health journey!

From the book DO WHAT FEELS GOOD: Recipes, Remedies and Routines to Treat Your Body Right. Copyright © by Hannah Bronfman. Published on January 8, 2019 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

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  • Hannah Bronfman is a DJ, on-camera personality, entrepreneur, and wellness enthusiast. She received her MFA from Bard College and is the founder of HBFIT, a unique destination for exploring all things health, beauty, and fitness. She lives with her husband in New York City.