Bonberi’s Nicole Berrie Wants To Bring Intuitive Eating To All

By Gabby Shacknai

It was the early aughts, and Nicole Berrie appeared to have it all. She was living in New York City and just a few years out from college, was already working her dream job as a writer for Vanity Fair during the heyday of glossy magazines. It was everything she’d always wanted—yet, something felt off. Between an overfilled schedule of events, mounting deadlines, and the pressures of working alongside legends of the publishing business, Berrie became overwhelmed, stressed, and desperate for a way to feel better.

Having battled eating disorders and compulsion with drugs and alcohol in the past, her instinct was to find a new fix, and with the popularity of cleanses, fasting, and trend diets growing around her, food seemed like the answer. “I got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore, so I dove into all different kinds of healing methods on my own, and I was curious about everything,” Berrie recalls. “I became my own healer and investigator, and slowly, I started to find things that worked.”

She immersed herself in the worlds of juicing, food combining, and plant-based eating, pulling from academic and scientific sources just as much as alternative and anecdotal, and as she began to notice the transformative benefits in her own life, she knew she had to share her learnings with others. “The idea was to start an online magazine—I hated the word blog back then—and I wanted to share the different modalities that are available to people and share it in a really beautiful way,” Berrie explains.

Pretty soon, she and a friend launched Bonberi, a destination for all things health and wellness. There, they explored acupuncture, colonics, traditional Chinese medicine, and much more. But when Berrie had her first son in 2015 and her cofounder left to start her own business, she realized that it was the site’s recipes that were the most popular, so she decided to relaunch it with a distinct focus on food. “It really became a foodie website—mostly plant-based, organic, and just whole foods—and one of the modalities that really spoke to me was food combining, which helps digestion and energy, so all of my recipes were based on those principles,” the writer says.

Three years later, Berrie took things offline and opened Bonberi Mart, a highly-curated, plant-based deli in New York’s West Village and a second location in SoHo earlier this year. But even as the market became a local hotspot and the Bonberi site expanded its reach, the woman behind it all felt like her story, the very thing that fueled the Bonberi universe, hadn’t really been told. So, she decided to write a book.

Body Harmony,” which was released in May, is, as Berrie sees it, the culmination of everything she’s done. “It tells my journey of being the 20-something woman hungry for balance and forgiveness in all areas in my life,” she explains. “And then the second part is over 100 recipes from the store, the website, my Instagram, and some new ones.”

At the center of it all, though, is intuitive eating, the practice of trusting your body to govern what and when you eat. “We forget how to feed ourselves, and we forget that we are born intrinsically knowing this,” Berrie says. “We’ve been taught to do something now to prepare for later—have a hearty breakfast now so you don’t get hungry later, don’t go to the supermarket hungry because you’ll overindulge, eat six small meals so you don’t eat too much at one time—but all of that tells us that we’re not to be trusted and that when left to our devices, we will fail.” People are quick to jump on new diets or food programs, she believes, because they’re looking for someone or something to guide them and tell them how to eat instead of trusting their own body and instincts.

When you are able to finally cast aside the outside noise, though, the next steps aren’t always so clear. “It can be a scary place because it’s basically like, now what?” Berrie notes. “So, this book is going to provide a safety net to hold you and carry you to that freedom to listen to your own body and not all the other voices and opinions.”

And the path to freedom starts, Berrie writes, with a little indulgence. “People always ask me, ‘Well, what if my body tells me to eat junk food?’ and that’s a telling question because it’s based on this idea that our bodies will intrinsically want what’s bad for us, and that’s not the case,” she explains. “Our cravings are about so much more than just food. It’s not the pizza or the candy or any of the other things; our cravings are life cravings.” In a chapter dedicated to such hankerings, Berrie offers a step-by-step guide on how to say yes whilst also making small tweaks to achieve the happiness you actually desire, in other realms of your life. “This is not a book about nutrition by any means,” the author says. “It’s just about tuning into your own voice, and I don’t think we can reach for those other things, like nutrition, until we’ve healed ourselves.”

Berrie doesn’t stop there though. Once the healing is done, she leaves readers with a comprehensive lesson in food combining, that is, the practice of pairing certain foods together to optimize energy and digestion. Foods like fruits and vegetables, she notes, are digested quickly and take less energy for the body to process, so they’re ideal for starting the day. Animal proteins and dairy, on the other hand, are much slower-to-digest and therefore better to eat at the end of the day when the body is winding down. “If you eat a certain way, you’ll feel a certain way,” she says. “So, we want to make more decisions that make us feel good.”

With an easy-to-understand food combining chart, Berrie then leads to the second part of “Body Harmony,” where this newfound knowledge and freedom can be put to good use—in the kitchen. A wide range of enticing recipes—some familiar favorites from Bonberi Mart or the Bonberi site, others brand new—cover the remaining pages and invite readers to try their hand at each. From the juices and smoothies Berrie has come to be known for to anti-inflammatory soups and from creamy pastas to versatile dips and dressings, there’s truly something for everyone and no shortage of applications for intuitive eating and food combining. Even here, the author’s story and personal touch remains ever-present, as she draws inspiration from the dishes and flavors of the Korean heritage on her mother’s side and Jewish and on her father’s.

“This book is really the handbook I needed as that 20-something girl who was searching for answers,” Berrie says. “And I’m so excited to put this in the hands of others, whether they’re in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s, because I think we all need that body harmony and balance within our lives.”