We sat down with Becky Schoenig of St. Louis restaurant Symbowl to discuss everything from Whole 30 nutrition, elimination diets and food as medicine, to the delicious, healing foods that Symbowl serves up daily! In this video, learn why diet is so vital to health, and how the St. Louis community (as well as communities nationwide), are changing for the better.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 00:08 Hey, what’s up everybody? Dr. Seth Gerlach here with Core Health. Special guest today from Symbowl, Miss Becky. Becky, how’s it going?
Becky Schoenig: 00:17 Hello. Good. How are you?
Dr Seth Gerlach: 00:18 Sorry, we had some technical difficulties. Becky, have you ever had one of these where it just went 100% perfectly smooth?
Becky Schoenig: 00:27 No. I don’t … Well, I’ve had some smoother than others. Last week was a fiasco. I do these every single Friday where I’m hosting the show. So yeah, I get it.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 00:40 Gotcha. I just didn’t know if it was me or I don’t know. Okay, good. That makes me feel a little better.
Becky Schoenig: 00:45 Yeah, actually it does get easier, and you figure out the glitches and why the glitches happen. You can do this, Seth. Every week, you can do this.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 00:53 Awesome. I appreciate it. Practice makes perfect. So it’s going to be different today because you’re on the other side of the camera here a little bit. You’re in the hot seat today.
Becky Schoenig: 01:01 I know.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 01:02 Today I want to talk about food, and food is really the basis for how we stay alive, how we make energy, how we heal and replenish our bodies. I think it’s probably one of the most important things, if not the most important thing that we do to get healthy and stay healthy. Would you kind of agree with that?
Becky Schoenig: 01:22 I would agree with that, and I think there have been points in my life where I would have disagreed with that or didn’t want to listen to what you have to say about that.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 01:31 Yes. So today we’re going to talk with Becky. She’s the owner of Symbowl. If you don’t know what Symbowl is, we’re going to talk about that today. A restaurant here in St. Louis. She also does things like AIP friendly menus, paleo, Whole 30, keto, a lot of these other things. So if you’re sticking to any one of these diets right now or you’re just looking to be healthier with your diet, you want to pay attention and stay tuned because we’re going to talk about a lot of this stuff today.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 01:59 So I guess, Becky, let’s start with what made you first get into this foodie type scene but real health food scene.
Becky Schoenig: 02:13 Okay, so I think it’s easier to backtrack. In my 20s, I was very depressed. I was diagnosed with bipolar. I was on several different medications, and most medications were not working for me. And I remember going into my psychiatrist who was prescribing me the medications. I was literally in bed one week out of every single month, and I identified it to be hormones. I identified that. My own intuition kind of guided me there, and I started discovering and wanting to learn natural health, and there’s something more going on. And I remember telling the doctor I wanted to go down this path, and she refused to treat me any longer.
Becky Schoenig: 02:59 So my journey of well-being and health actually kind of started down a path of spirituality. I started diving into a spiritual practice, which then led into healthy eating, and I started studying with a naturopath. And I studied with a naturopath for two years, got certified in colon hydrotherapy, so I can tell you a lot about your shit.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 03:22 That’s … I didn’t know that, Becky. That’s great.
Becky Schoenig: 03:24 Yeah. I don’t talk about that a whole lot, but so yeah. For two years, I worked in that arena, went to school for massage therapy, and then realized that was not the avenue and path that I wanted to go down. I met my partner, Greg, who is usually behind the scenes. Everybody sees my face as the face of Symbowl, but Greg really is the food component to what Symbowl is, and he had gone to culinary school in Florida and worked for a chiropractor right out of college or out of culinary school. And he did specialty-based diets for this chiropractor based on blood types.
Becky Schoenig: 04:06 So he was doing this 25 years ago before anybody knew what paleo was, anybody was using the terminology of keto. And I had this vision of always wanting to open up a café, coffee shop because of networks, because of the people in the community, and Greg had the food component.
Becky Schoenig: 04:27 So that’s why we kind of partnered together eight years ago. The vision was not … What we have currently today is not much different than what we opened our doors doing early, early on, but it’s developed and molded into these specialty-based diets because the community as a whole has pushed us in that direction.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 04:50 Gotcha. And I love that because people out there are making a big splash in really everything today. I saw something. Oh my gosh. I think it was last week, and it said something about how Starbucks, their Frappuccino sales are plummeting, and the owner said it was due to the health and wellness industry, or health and wellness trends.
Becky Schoenig: 05:10 Oh, don’t even get me started. I worked at Starbucks. I don’t know if you knew this about me.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 05:15 Oh gosh. All right. We won’t talk about that.
Becky Schoenig: 05:17 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 05:17 But you had some other interesting points too about how you told your doctor you were going to take off on this health journey with food and all this other stuff, and she really kind of dismissed it and was almost kind of mad. I see that a lot in my practice where patients, they’re confused. They don’t know what to do, and they’re going to their medical doctors with these symptoms, these problems, and asking for help and asking for nutritional advice and they’re not usually getting the most sound and correct advice for them.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 05:51 And I think a lot of it is due to … Medical doctors don’t have a lot of training in nutrition, and it’s not their fault. They just don’t have the same background as other healthcare professionals do, but that’s where even people like you, Becky … You’ve kind of taken the reins for the St. Louis community and you’re kind of driving the ship and we’re going to healthy town. We’re taking all these great foods along with us here. So that’s awesome. I love the stuff that you’re doing, and you’re making big waves which is great.
Becky Schoenig: 06:20 Thank you. I think what we’re trying to do is when we opened up our doors, again, we didn’t recognize and realize what other doors we’d be opening. And in this industry, one with a little-to-no budget, we opened our doors up with $300 in our account seven years ago. And here we are seven years later, and we rebranded from the Hot Pot to Symbowl. And in doing that … then as trying to educate, what is this that you do? What is this meaning of food as medicine? And that’s where we started collaborating with functional medicine doctors and really pulling in this educational component. So we’re building this community, not just us doing it by ourselves, but partnering with people like you.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 07:04 Right. And it is a community because everyone’s involved. No one person knows everything. I think that’s great. I love teaming up with other doctors and awesome restaurants like you guys have, too, because people need options. And that’s what’s great about today. People can find a lot of options, and it’s growing by the day, which is the super cool part of it.
Becky Schoenig: 07:24 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 07:25 So, what’s your favorite dish at Symbowl? Put you on the spot here.
Becky Schoenig: 07:28 So, I seem to go back … I go back and forth. I love … I think, too often, people combine the sauces.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 07:37 Gotcha.
Becky Schoenig: 07:37 And they miss some of the best flavors by not leaving the sauces just by themselves. The green curry is one of my top favorites.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 07:48 Gotcha.
Becky Schoenig: 07:48 And then I’ll flip over to the lemon mango curry, which is my new addiction right now because I go, “Oh, I forgot how good that tastes.” I do eat at the restaurant almost every single day. I never get bored with it. I still crave it. It’s my go-to restaurant.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 08:06 That’s awesome. So cool. And so you created this little pet project that you got your own kitchen, but oh hey, you got the whole community to come hang out with you too for dinner.
Becky Schoenig: 08:17 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 08:17 That’s great. So I want to talk about … You do specific types of dietary or for dietary restrictions, things like that, we could say. So, they did start out more paleo-ish, and then it kind of molded into other things?
Becky Schoenig: 08:32 Okay.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 08:32 Did that really … Is that how it started?
Becky Schoenig: 08:34 So, we opened our doors knowing we were going to be gluten-free and catered to the vegan community as well. We really did not know what paleo was.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 08:44 Okay.
Becky Schoenig: 08:44 Our very first customer that came in was paleo, and she realized, “Oh, I can eat here.” But there were a couple of other guys that said, “We’re trying to create some restaurants willing to put a paleo menu together.”
Becky Schoenig: 09:01 Obviously … I think CrossFit … The CrossFit community was a huge pull in the paleo theme that went on and we just sat down with them and we went through our entire menu. We tweaked a few of our recipes to make it paleo. That was when sweet potatoes came onto our menu as well, to add that. And then obviously Whole 30, which is the super clean of paleo, was formulated as well.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 09:30 Yeah. So, let’s talk about this for a minute while we’re there. I use a lot of paleo type things, some Whole 30 things. I mix and match from a lot of different places. What I usually do is like an elimination style diet with people, just because most people come in. They’re eating standard American diet or something similar. A lot of grains, a lot of processed sugars, processed foods, dairy, alcohol, a lot of these things. Right?
Dr Seth Gerlach: 09:57 And one of the first steps is, okay, we have to clean up the diet. We have to get your gut a chance to heal, your immune system a chance to calm down, inflammation a chance to really get back to normal. So, we kind of start there. Gluten and dairy are big ones. We kind of start with almost a paleo-type template depending on the person.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 10:16 So, maybe go through like from what you see, like paleo versus Whole 30. Who are the people that are using it? And what are the differences?
Becky Schoenig: 10:24 So, I think one of the things that starts is the gyms, the CrossFit community. They put these Whole 30 challenges out there, and then what I identify and notice is that paleo becomes a first easy piece. By going paleo, you’re eliminating all of those major food groups that most would have allergies or issues with, health-wise. But then what we find out is that somebody who’s doing paleo but it’s still not working 100%, and then that’s where the AIP component falls in. Those nightshades, and you’re the doctor, you’re the expert, but these were all new terminologies that we had to identify and figure out. What exactly is AIP?
Becky Schoenig: 11:11 And I’ll be honest with you. There were moments just like in this industry you’ll hear about people going into restaurants and saying, “Oh, I’m allergic to gluten.” Well, are you really allergic to gluten or do you have celiac?
Dr Seth Gerlach: 11:22 Yeah.
Becky Schoenig: 11:22 And this stuff is thrown out there so often that in the restaurant industry, the eyes roll because you may say, “I can’t have gluten,” but then you’ll order the dessert at the end of your dinner. And you’re going, “We just did … We made sure all of these protocols were in place.”
Becky Schoenig: 11:45 I say this because this is the terminology that’s happening out there, and just because you have a gluten intolerance does not mean you are celiac or highly allergic to gluten.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 12:00 Right. Yes.
Becky Schoenig: 12:01 And we’ve got to be cautious when using this terminology because when you have somebody who truly is and it’s not taken into consideration and the cross-contamination happens, now you’re getting the phone call that somebody was sick.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 12:18 Right. And that’s a big deal, too. I’ve been with people … kind of a funny story, but we go out to restaurants and they’ll get like a fried chicken sandwich, but they’ll say, “I want a gluten-free bun.” And I’m like, “What? What did you do?”
Dr Seth Gerlach: 12:33 And it’s a really good point you brought up. So, with paleo we’re talking about limiting legumes, limiting grains, dairy. Really focusing on good quality meats, vegetables, just a small amount of fruits. Nuts and seeds, really. Right?
Becky Schoenig: 12:53 Right. And even eliminating a lot of the nuts. I mean, peanuts is not in the paleo protocol.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 12:59 Yep. [crosstalk 00:12:59] legume.
Becky Schoenig: 12:59 Again, yeah. Again, you’re eliminating those that most would be highly allergic to.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 13:04 Right. And that’s the goal. So, the people I see coming in … They’ve got [inaudible 00:13:09] those big [inaudible 00:13:11] foods that, hey, we can get out, and that’s going to allow your body to heal. So it’s different. An allergy’s different from an intolerance, and sometimes people just can’t [inaudible 00:13:21] So getting rid of those can be very big.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 13:24 You touched on AIP, so autoimmune paleo for those who don’t know. And so you have certain dishes for this also, right? So AIP is paleo, but it’s more restrictive in that it takes out eggs. It takes out nightshades and even nuts and seeds.
Becky Schoenig: 13:41 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 13:42 So what are some of the dishes that you have that are AIP friendly?
Becky Schoenig: 13:45 So really what we’ve created is all of our menu is all the same menu, but everything … We go into these customized dietary issues, and we color-code them based off of what you would be able to eat.
Becky Schoenig: 14:00 So, for instance, the ginger chamomile was a sauce that we created. The bone broth is an AIP sauce that is … falls into most of the protocol. However, there is a very small percentage of people that can’t do turmeric. So the ginger chamomile became … I know. I sit there and go, “We have more education in food as a restaurant owner than most doctors have.”
Dr Seth Gerlach: 14:28 And it’s absolutely true.
Becky Schoenig: 14:31 But the ginger chamomile we created because it’s a super strict AIP sauce, and instead of using any sweeteners in it whatsoever, we use raisins to sweeten that sauce.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 14:48 Yes.
Becky Schoenig: 14:49 And you’re not having tomato. We also created our no-tomato pasta sauce and our no-tomato barbecue sauce. Those aren’t sauces you can order in the bowls, but those are the sauces that we retail out of our refrigerator.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 15:05 Gotcha. And I have tried those and they are delicious, by the way.
Becky Schoenig: 15:08 Yeah. Thank you.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 15:10 So you’re doing some retail now too, so looking to kind of spread some Symbowl across the country, across the world. Right?
Becky Schoenig: 15:17 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 15:17 Let’s get some people eating healthy all over the place. Right?
Becky Schoenig: 15:19 Well, what we’re realizing is when you start going down this rabbit hole, how difficult some things are, doing co-packing with whole food. It doesn’t exist in St. Louis. There is a need for this. We’re collaborating and talking with other people that have great products. So we’re hoping maybe, crossing our fingers, an investor shows up to purchase a facility and create a co-packing facility that is exclusive to whole food and to all of these dietary issues that we’re talking about.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 15:49 That’s great. Well, there you go. Any investors out there listening, we’ll hook you up there. We’ll hook you up. All right.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 15:56 So we’ve talked paleo, a little bit of Whole 30. Whole 30’s just a little stricter, taking out alcohol and a lot of the other sugars and things like that too. We talked AIP, super restrictive. So then how many … So keto is the whole big thing now, right? Everyone’s talking about keto.
Becky Schoenig: 16:13 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 16:13 So how many of your customers come in are looking for keto meals? And then what do you provide for keto meals, really?
Becky Schoenig: 16:22 So actually what I hear more often than strict keto is I hear people saying that they’re mostly keto, and I think that’s a misconception that a lot of people out there have is that keto is not something you can mostly do. Keto, you are either committed to or you’re not because what your body is doing is basically going into ketosis by your body using the fat that you currently have. It’s breaking everything down much faster and much sooner. So you’re eating high-fat foods, very, very minimal carbohydrates, and most of those carbohydrates are coming from the vegetables that you’re eating, not from a sandwich that you’re eating in the afternoon. In fact, one piece of bread gives you almost more carbohydrates than what you would be able to have in an entire day.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 17:20 Right.
Becky Schoenig: 17:20 But you’re hearing a lot of major weight loss happening because of keto. If you aren’t committed to keto, then you’re really doing a low-carb diet protocol. And ketosis … One day of messing everything up, it will take you three to four days to get back into ketosis. So ask is it worth what you’re doing, what your choices are?
Dr Seth Gerlach: 17:43 Gotcha. Mostly keto. That’s a good one. I hear “mostly gluten-free” all the time.
Becky Schoenig: 17:48 What was it? Mostly gluten-free?
Dr Seth Gerlach: 17:50 Mostly gluten-free, and I’ve heard, yeah, “I’m mostly gluten-free except for all my beers I have at night.” So I don’t know if that qualifies, yeah. And there’s no-
Becky Schoenig: 17:59 Well, I saw the video that you did talking about what is functional medicine and taking each person on an individual journey and pathway to identify their health. And I honestly think that that’s what people need to tap into. They need to tap into what works for them for a longevity of a lifestyle. Often times people are going to somebody like you because they’re in dire straits. They have major health concerns.
Becky Schoenig: 18:29 Somebody like me, I don’t have any major health concerns. However, I know how I want to function, and I know how I want to feel. And based off of the food choices that I’m making, I’m either choosing to not be full functional the next day or I can choose to have more energy. So for myself, I don’t follow any one of these protocols. I can say that I’m mostly gluten-free.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 18:57 Nice. Very good, Becky.
Becky Schoenig: 19:01 I’m mostly gluten-free meaning that I know how gluten affects me and how I feel if I eat it, but I love pizza. I love pizza. If I’m going to choose to indulge in something and I’m going to say, “I’m going to eat a pizza,” I’m going to go eat the best pizza that I can and not some frozen thing that’s sitting in my freezer.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 19:21 Right.
Becky Schoenig: 19:23 We have to learn how to function for ourselves for longevity, not for a quick fix. That would be my message to anybody out there, and working with a doctor that understands that and sees that and helps you identify how to maneuver through that as well.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 19:41 Yeah, for sure. And there’s a lot of great functional medicine doctors out there too. And I like what you said … And that’s why I hate using the word, diet, because people have such a bad connotation with that, that, “Oh, I have to starve myself,” or “All I eat is lettuce all day,” or things like that.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 19:53 But it’s all about sustainability like you said, putting it in … Same thing with anything we’re doing. If we’re trying to make a good morning routine, it’s about repetition and that becoming a habit. Same with dietary stuff. So it’s about planning your days, meal prepping, making sure you’re getting the right kinds of foods in, going to Symbowl at least once a day.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 20:16 No, but it’s really taking small steps to start out like that and stuff that you can attain because if you say, “Oh my gosh. I gotta go keto,” and then you fail after four days and you give up, that didn’t do you any good.
Becky Schoenig: 20:32 I won’t name the diet and I won’t name the person that promotes this diet protocol, but I know several that have gone through it, and it’s very frustrating for me to see somebody who wants to approach something because of weight loss, but they’re being told to eat low-fat yogurt, Subway every single day, chicken and broccoli every single evening. And there’s, yes, you’re going to lose weight following this structured diet protocol, but as far as longevity, you’re going to get really burnt out of these specific foods only, eating them every single day. And you’re setting something up for failure.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 21:14 Yeah, and I always talk about food quality. It sounds like they’re doing more quantity, looking at calorie counts and things like that.
Becky Schoenig: 21:20 Correct.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 21:20 But I’m more in tune with quality. So I say our body is built out of the foods we eat. So are we going to have a really good body from eating really good quality foods? Or are we eating off the dollar menu? Right?
Becky Schoenig: 21:33 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 21:33 You can’t feel like a million bucks if you’re eating off of the dollar menu, and that’s so true because you’re making your brain, your other tissues, your gut, your immune system out of the foods you eat. And that’s either going to build you up or it’s going to break you down. And that’s why we focus on really quality, teaching people how to cook, what are the good foods for them.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 21:55 I mean, I think it’s the most important thing that people can do, at least for longevity, but also for getting people back to health too and then keeping them there.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 22:04 I’m just a huge fan of food because that was one of the things that changed me. So, I used to eat Subway, thinking it was healthy. Right? Whole-grain bread. I’ve got a little bit of lettuce on there. Man, I’m doing well. I’m healthy. Little did I know that it was wrecking the bacteria in my gut, causing blood sugar spikes, causing overgrowth of candida, all these different things for me. Right? Some people may not, but for me, that was a big issue.
Becky Schoenig: 22:30 Yeah.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 22:30 And so I think nutritional education is just going to be huge for people, and I think with the internet and this wellness boom, you see that a lot more, which is awesome. Just, just great.
Becky Schoenig: 22:43 Yeah. It’s what makes all of this … and I think that that’s what this community as a whole is doing. We’re all, in some level, struggling to get the message out there. And we’re all like these little pods trying to do it all ourselves, but we’re finding that collaboration and the community promoting each other, talking about what everybody is doing and continuing to educate and put these resources out there, people are starting to ask more questions and they’re seeking it out.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 23:16 That’s great. I love it. So, Becky, you’ve got … How many restaurants do you have now?
Becky Schoenig: 23:21 We have three locations. Our Kirkwood was our original. We were known as the Hot Pot early on, and we rebranded to Symbowl when we opened up in Chesterfield. And now we have our third location in St. Charles.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 23:33 It’s awesome. So where do people find you? What we’ll probably do is we’ll link below. You can drop your website in, but tell them where they can find you also because there’s a lot of information on your website, too.
Becky Schoenig: 23:44 Yes. MySymbowl.com, and you’ll find our “Find Your Inner Flavor” piece in there, which there’s an interview with you and I when I was talking to you about what functional medicine is. And what we’ve created is a database of resources, these interviews with other doctors, and we’re also going to have patients that have their own healing stories and can relate to people as well, but that’s one of our resources that we offer for free.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 24:18 That’s awesome. And you guys at Symbowl, you’re one of the highlights of the wellness community here in St. Louis and hopefully even spreading out from here.
Becky Schoenig: 24:27 That would be the ideal goal. Again, it’s all about finding those investors.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 24:31 All right. If you’re still listening. If you’re still listening, but that’s great because what we’re doing is we’re helping people. We’re touching lives. We’re extending lives, which has a way bigger effect than you can ever imagine. So that’s awesome.
Becky Schoenig: 24:46 Yeah. We’re truly … I believe that this is about leaving a legacy for the next generation. By shifting and making the changes today, leads to so much more prosperity, not just in wealth and in money, but also in our health as well.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 25:03 I love it. Health is the most important wealth.
Becky Schoenig: 25:07 Yes.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 25:07 And I always tell people that because without health, you’ve got nothing. Anything else you want to leave us with, Becky?
Becky Schoenig: 25:12 No. Thank you. Thank you for this.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 25:16 Absolutely. Thanks for coming on. Always a pleasure. So I’ll have to jump back on your podcast or your video here soon, and we can have fun again.
Becky Schoenig: 25:24 Okay. Sounds perfect. Thanks, Seth.
Dr Seth Gerlach: 25:25 All right, bye. Thanks a bunch. Thank you everybody. Take care.