Wellness has become a buzzword and it can feel like we’ve lost its true meaning.
While the industry is overflowing with “experts” touting the latest and greatest in self-care, this week’s guest has a different approach – Candice Kumai believes that when it comes to wellness practices, newer isn’t always better, and there’s good reason ancient wisdom often endures the test of time.
As a 12-time award-winning writer, classically trained chef, and former TV host, Candice made her mark in several notable industries—earning her the unofficial title, ‘The Golden Girl of Wellness.’ However, it’s been the deep exploration of her culture and the honoring of her roots that has had the most profound impact on her identity and purpose.
Though food and culture have long been tied, Candice spent years exploring this relationship for herself. By thoughtfully mining the traditions of her Japanese heritage and unlocking modern-day relevance of ancient Buddhist principles, she’s pioneered a transformative approach to wellness; first for herself, and now, for many others. Her guidance is grounded in spiritual wisdom, culinary prowess, and deeply personal exploration.
Candice’s latest endeavor, “Spirited: A Modern Guide to Ancient Spiritual Wellness and Wisdom,” is her 7th book, currently available for free on Audible. In it, she helps readers take concrete steps to “clear out the noise, tune out the hype and transform into a more enlightened and peaceful individual.”
I can’t wait for you to experience the spirit that lives in Candice’s work and find out why Dr. Andrew Weil has called her “a pioneer of her time”.
“Simplify the f*ck out of your wellness ‘routine’ because it’s so much more about going inward than anything on the exterior.”
In This Episode:
What is wellness?
For me, wellness is truly practicing what you preach and giving to others with service, with expecting nothing in return. And sadly, over the past 20 years, we’ve seen that wellness has turned into a for-profit, narcissistic, very toxic industry. And so it has actually led me back full circle to food again. So I often cringe over the title that I was given so long ago so gracefully by friends at different magazines as the golden girl of wellness, because now I just want to say, “Well, I’m a fucking chef. And if you really want to change your life, learn how to cook, learn how to create your own recipes at home, and simplify the fuck out of your wellness “routine” because it’s so much more about going inward, more importantly than anything on the exterior.
Walk the talk
I can’t take you seriously if you’re out there fraudulently trying to make money off of sick people or vulnerable people. I can’t take you serious if you haven’t done the work, if you haven’t nothing to prove for at least two decades. I want to see what you’ve done with your life and I want to hear your story, and I want you to make me feel like your electric and I just can’t take my eyes off of you. As Maya Angelou says, “Do something so well that people just cannot take their eyes off of you.” And unfortunately, we’re being duped nowadays by a bunch of shitheads who think that making money off of sick or vulnerable people is cool.
I felt so connected to being Japanese and living this different type of lifestyle, I got teased for everything that I loved. I immediately came back from kindergarten to first grade and remembered this kid named Freddy just picking on me, doing the pulling the eyes thing. Often, people just generalized that all Asians are Chinese, and getting called all kinds of repulsive names from first grade…My sister would say the word weaponize, but I would say I started to learn skills to enrich myself in sort of soothing, self-soothing the wounds of being teased for being Asian. So I don’t think I was special. I just felt like I was different, and I was polarizing from day one. And I’m very aware of that, polarizing with teachers in high school, and polarizing now, I’m sure with my audience, because people do not accept women in certain arenas when they say they’re actually really talented and good at various things. It’s a little bit of a sideways path to have to prove yourself for so many years. And I think that one key that I’ve noted in going forward in my calling, which I believe is to be of service to others and to help improve lives, and bridge the gap between the Western decline in health.
What is her calling?
The calling is very simple. It is to be of better service to my audience and to those who understand that they can reclaim their health and make the best of what they’ve got. You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be beautiful, you don’t have to have all the riches or education or degrees, but if you can learn to make the best with the cards that you are dealt in this one life. As you’ve said before in some of your pods, we don’t know… We have an infinite amount of time here. And so I’d rather use my time in being a service to others more than anything else.
I’ll show you
I also fought tooth and nail to get to where I am because my parents told me that I could never make a living off of cooking for others. And that was the first thing my Japanese mom told me when I told her after college, and I got a degree in interpersonal and organizational communications, the second thing was, I love people so much, I’m going to pay my way through culinary school. And she said, “You can make a living out of maybe writing or maybe you could be a doctor, but you cannot make a living out of cooking for your friends.” And I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll fucking show you. And if you don’t believe in me, I’m going to pay for this a thousand percent on my own,” which I did.
Striving for more
I still feel like a loser, just like you said on another pod, that you hit a cliff and you can just hit the wall. Even though I’m on my eighth book right now, I still go through this, what do others think of me? How am I not as successful as others had hoped for me to be, along with myself? Am I a failure. And will I ever be satisfied with the books I have written, the shows I have produced, the outlets that I write for? And if I died tomorrow, I’d be very happy with what I contributed in society and those I’ve helped, but I would be very sad that I did not hit the mark.
The dirty game of wellness
You have to be really smart in order to figure out how to use the cards that you’re handed in life. And how do I fucking use these to my advantage? And I’m not going to play dirty. And that, unfortunately in this world, is why I’m not as far ahead as some of my colleagues. Being honest and being truthful and working with integrity is not popular nowadays. It may pay off in 10 years time, but it certainly doesn’t pay off in this world of quick, thirsty, paying for followers, buying likes, desperate for fucking attention on TikTok. It’s just not the way our world currently works. But I can bet if I exist, there are others who still exist out there that care about integrity, quality of work, truth, honor, integrity, and authenticity.
FOPO (Fear of People’s Opinions)
We all have a fear of what others may think. So we may never live up until our full potential because we are afraid of this rejection. I have been rejected my entire career. I’ve heard the word no probably 95% of the time. And that lucky 5% is the only reason why I get a call to work with Selena Gomez or Dan Levy. That fucking 5% man is what I live for.
Persona vs. Person
I kind of feel like it’s a little bit of my duty to share with young women in particular that you can be funny and you can be yourself, and you don’t have to put on a full mask, not the beauty masks, but the sort of like that persona versus person strategy. You can take off the persona mask, as my old therapist used to teach me, and just be Candice.
My creative director at Shape Magazine used to tell me, “The reason why you’re different than everyone else, Candice, is because you have a level of excellence that you expect from others that is very… It’s difficult to match.” And it comes from my mother. And my Polish father is also… He’s a former Navy veteran, but also a nuclear auditor. So he audited a nuclear power plant, San Onofre, for 40 years. And he used to say to me, “If you think your job is stressful in my line of work, there’s zero room for error. And then he would just walk away.” A man of few words, very intelligent and also taught me about doing things the right way with integrity, not by saying it, but rather showing it. I want people to look more into their heritage, the way they were raised, what their grandparents were like. I wish that more people could define themselves not just by their career or their title or their stupid platform on social media. It’s so much deeper.
Wellness and cooking
I went to a Le Cordon Bleu program. I cooked on the line with many French chefs, and I’ve worked with everyone in the industry. I have the utmost respect for them. But it is your kitchen at home that will determine your level of health or wellness, not some fucking French man in a kitchen across the street. So it’s up to people like me to teach people how to cook better in their own home as their greatest resource… You already hold the keys to improving your whole life. It’s in your kitchen, and it’s really easy. We tend to overcomplicate everything, including our dating lives, our weekends, our friend bullshit, our jobs, the money that we’re making or not. We tend to overcomplicate everything. And we also remember that public figures don’t have the fucking answer. You do.
My greatest takeaway was that we have so much more power in keeping our waists felt or your muscles big, or whatever works for you. But everyone will fluctuate between five to 10 pounds of weight naturally. And that it’s okay if I have to shoot in a swimsuit one week, that’s fine, but I’m not going to kill myself over having a night out with my girlfriend. So be easy on yourself. Be real. Enjoy it because it may not last forever. And you don’t want to think back and say, “I wish I did X, Y, Z.” Please go out into this world and fucking do it because the last thing I want is for anyone to say, “Fuck man, I want to live that life.” You absolutely can. So do it. Actions are truly virtuous, and they will always set people apart.
I wish for every individual to find those little nuances in life that bring you so much joy that it brings tears to your eyes … My hope is that wellness can go back in time and look at how beautiful we once had it, and, how do we unfuck wellness? That would be a great way for us to tell people, you don’t need 3000 supplements. Even though my partner still believes in that, I’m like, you virtually can get a lot of nutrition from food.