Written by Khloe George

She is a health expert and diet coach. Known for her holistic approach with a combination of alternative medicine, her highly successful vegan diet plan is now part of ABC's "My Diet is Better than Yours", where she and a panel of four other health experts put their diet plans to the test.  Even better? She's in the same show as the health guru we know and love from Insanity fame, Shaun T.  As a Latina and  Editor in Chief of Touched Magazine, I had the honor of interviewing her to ask her what has led to her amazing success.

Jovanka Ciares Photo.jpg

What inspired you to become a wellness and transformation coach?

Just to give you a little background, I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I am an Afro-Caribbean woman and I moved to the United States when I was in my early twenties; super stoked to start a career and go to school and live my dreams. I did and I worked in the entertainment industry for about 12 years and working in the entertainment industry music particularly, I became one of the youngest VP’s in the company working with singer songwriters like Beyonce and Jay-Z, Sting, and Billy Joel. While my career was on the rise, my health was on the down. I got very sick and very stressed out.  

I got issues from IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome to ulcers, and fibroids. Unfortunately, Western medicine did not have much to offer in the way of healing or solutions and I couldn't take no for answer. I mean, I was way too young to be suffering from constant pain and discomfort so I went about alternative treatment. I tried everything you can imagine; from yoga and meditation to ginseng, chinese medicine, herbalism, and what I learned changed my mind, changed my life entirely, became my incredible passion. My body started to heal and I started to feel better than I had in years. What I learned became such a passion that I decided that I was really upset and surprised that this information was not available; was not mainstream. It was not available for the masses to learn from and to incorporate into their daily routine. I wondered if I could actually become an educator and inspiration for many people and at the same time make money from doing it. That was my inspiration and the reason why I became who I am today, and that was four years ago.

How were you able to create a business you love and accomplish the goal of being on TV as a healthy living expert?

This is by no means a story of immediate success. I was not discovered in some corner and two seconds later I'm this person that is on tv. This journey has been 15 years in the making, my career itself started with working part time before I leaving the corporate job and then full time for the last four years. As an entrepreneur, especially as a young entrepreneur, a person that's new in business, it has been a lot of hard work, a lot of heart, a lot of your passion. It is extremely important that your passion is there and it is clear because when people tell you there is blood sweat and tears, they are not kidding. It is a lot of all the above. You work extremely hard and you hustle like a crazy person. There are sleepless nights, 16 hour work days, seven day work weeks, and a lot a lot of hustling that has to do with it. I started first coaching some of my clients, some of my coworkers, my colleagues, and then became really lucky by associating and embracing women that were on the same journey. They became mentors and friends and people that I can rely on and learn from and help me through this journey, to build a career. and I am at the top, and I feel like I am still very young at this entrepreneurial thing and I am very deer in the headlights. I have no problem working really hard because I know after many years of working many different kinds of jobs and changing careers halfway through my life, I realized that this is my calling; this is where I'm supposed to be. It is only the beginning I am still learning quite a lot and still making mistakes, you know, improving upon the work that I have done and incorporating the things and hopefully becoming the best type of coach that I can for my clients.

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For beginners, how hard is it to make the transition to live a healthier lifestyle?

What I would tell you is that it is not as hard as you think it will be. I will tell you that that nothing that is worthwhile is without effort, more importantly the work that you do needs to be a passion of yours so, it needs to be the stuff that gets you excited to get up in the morning and stuff that keep you up at night. If that is the case and you feel like your passion is your calling in life then it never quite feels like it is hard. Do not get me wrong, there are days when you may say "oh my god, I’m going to go back to corporate America because it is so much easier" and then you will have days that there are ups and downs but at the end of the day it is what you make from it. You can actually choose to be given the opportunity for you to work hard like 5-7 years and never have to work again or never have to work that hard again in your life, or you can choose to see that something that is so impossibly hard, that is painful and frankly, if it is going to cause you pain then you might have to rethink your reasons for being part of the journey. This is my talent to the world and it was my god given talent and my life and my responsibilities are to share this talent with as many people as possible. If you come to the world with that kind of mentality,  it makes it so much easier. At the end of the day, if you fail, you will go to your deathbed thinking I gave it a go, I tried. If it didn't work out it doesn't matter but I would rather do that, I would rather have tried and failed then never try and regret. 

It seems a lot of your published work centers around detoxification of your life and soul. IS there a reason for that?

Absolutely, my concept of detoxification totally stems from a typical detox point of view because that is what i learned and that is what helped my body reset and heal. I was trying to reduce my exposure to pollutants, chemicals and toxins, and allow my body to do what it does best which is remove debris in an effective way to refresh and heal. This concept comes to us from a point of view of the physicality but also understanding that you are not just a body but your soul and your mind as well. Detoxifying or detoxing your mind and soul are just as important if not more important. There is no point, no reason for you to work really hard at making your body the best body it can be if the rest of you is a little wack. You should everyday be removing the weak, and planting new and amazing seeds in your soul and watering the new seeds with new things that you learned so that what springs out; the stuff that develops is a better version of you. In no way does my approach to detoxification involve exclusively physical detoxification or food detoxification, there is a lot of emotional and mental detox as well.

Going into TV, what say you would be your biggest challenge you'd have to overcome?

The biggest challenge would be two-fold or maybe one. It’s about getting people away from what they know; their routine and telling them that there’s something else out there.  Unfortunately, when it comes to health and nutrition there is WAY too much information out there, way too many people telling you, “listen to me”. It has gotten to the point where the supplement weight loss product industry is a billion dollar industry. We are all starving; we are all drowning in information and starving for knowledge. We hear way too much and we get overwhelmed and go back to our old routines which as you know, if you look at the blueprint of this country, we are falling apart. We are imploding. The biggest challenge is to get people to be excited and passionate and curious about their bodies with the understanding that your body is a universe. You are not in any way similar to anybody else; even twins are completely different in many ways. We need to start listening, go within and start listening to the queues of our bodies above all else. Our bodies, you know, all their wisdom holds a lot of information. We are aching, we are stressed out, too many things are happening inside our bodies and we are not actually paying attention, so the biggest challenge for me was to get people excited about their own bodies and learning with an open mind and then make your own decisions with an informed point of view. 

It’s a work in progress, obviously, for me, it’s about seeing results. People ask me all the time, how could you possibly do this and never give up, or it’s too expensive and I say, you know what? How much more expensive would a heart attack be? How hard would it be for you to give up on your health? Becoming for example, a diabetic, rather than giving the family a way to give up sugar, for example. So, it is similar to what I found with people is that presenting the information and allowing them to kind of like digest it has worked the best. The second thing that works for me is the fact that I, not only talk my talk, I have background to walk the walk. I will be 44 at the end of the month and people look at my picture and say, “Oh, my god. There’s no way you could be in your 40’s. You look like a 27 year old.” Or people see me walking down the street and they say to me, "There’s no way; I’m in my late 30’s so I would never be able to lose the weight." Well, I’m in my mid 40’s, and I was able to lose the weight and get healthy and maintain my health working. It is hard to argue with those arguments. Once again, inspiring people and letting them know, I am no different than you are and no more special than you. I have no more resources than you, I don’t have money, I don’t come from money, I come from a little town in the middle of nowhere in Puerto Rico where everybody eats rice and beans, pork chops, sweet plantains and avocados all day long. If you can say to yourself, I know I can do this, this girl that is talking to me is no different than I am and if you can see yourself in me then it would make my day! It is all about getting people excited about the idea that their bodies is the only body that they have, it is the only home that they have to live in and should be treated like a five star hotel. Our bodies should be treated like a luxury vehicle. You would never vandalize a fancy mansion, throw things around in a beautiful home or in a beautiful hotel, then why are we doing this to our beautiful “homes”. This is mine and it is my only one. If it falls apart, it’s going to cause me a lot of time, effort, pain and suffering to me and to my loved ones, my children, to my partner, parents, to my siblings and I don’t want that. I want them to be happy, I want them to be healthy. I want them to not worry about me.



I know you'll be extra busy with this fantastic new venture but if someone wanted to reach out to you for help, would they still be able to get your services? If so, how do they go about it?

I don’t know what is going to happen. I hope that the TV will allow me to expand my business; but I will continue to work really hard. I am in the midst of working on an app and a membership site that will allow people to have access to me if there is no more hours and there are 24 hours in a day, so I’m hoping that I can reach a larger audience and people can come to my membership site and just a few dollars every month, you will get access to me. So you get to ask questions and every month, 2 and 3 times a month, you get to come to a forum and ask questions and learn what works for you. I am really excited about the opportunity because this has been my goal since the time I started working as an entrepreneur was to have a forum so that my people, people of color, Latinos, African Americans, Asian people, have someone that sounds and looks like them telling them this is possible and let me tell you from my experience how this has worked for me and I hope that it works for you. We don’t have that. As you see white people, health gurus are a dime a dozen, all of them happen to look the same way and none of them look like us so, I want to inspire the world but more importantly I want to inspire my people.

Lastly, if you could pass on just ONE piece of advice to our readers that was either given to you or you've learned on your own, what would that be? And why?

This was a combination of what was given to me and that I developed on my own and that is to embrace liquid meals. By that I mean, green juices, green smoothies, smoothie blends, soups, vegetable soups, those kinds of things. The reason for that is two-fold. Number 1: If you think about soup or vegetable soup, or green smoothies, you have a meal that is quick, or essentially easy to eat and easy to pack a ton of healthy. If you have a vegetable soup or chicken soup, for example, you can put chicken, potatoes, celery, cabbage, carrots, and spinach, you name it – tons of different types of vegetables in there and it is very easy and people have come to accept those a lot easier. It has an incredible amount of nutrients in a meal that is very easy for everyone. Most of us like soups when it’s cold or smoothies when it’s hot outside and secondly, liquid meals in many ways are easily digested and the process of cooking them or blending them sort of pre-digests all the nutrients. If you were to consume most of them in the raw form, you’ll be chewing like a cow for like hours before you were to eat all of that.  A bowl of soup, you probably have half a pound of vegetables, same thing with the green smoothies. Green smoothies are like god’s gift to creation. Spinach, a couple of berries, a lot of supplements like powder and protein, chia seeds, and you put all that stuff in a glass, drink it in a matter of 10 minutes and you have so much goodness you are giving your body. So it’s twofold, easy to digest and you can pack a lot of nutrients in a single meal. Those liquid meals saved my life when I was trying to heal my body from irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers – like nothing else could. So I cannot say better things about liquid meals. I consider them to be the fountain of youth.

You can catch Jovanka on ABC's "My Diet is Better Than Yours" on Tuesdays 9pm Eastern Time. Make sure you tweet her, use the hashtag #touchedwithjovanka and let her know that Touched Magazine sent ya! 

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