Julia Reiss Says Good Bread Makes Noise

Julia Reiss, writer & humorist living in Paris, is done suffering when it comes to nutrition and beauty. Drawing upon a European sensibility, she encourages us all to get rid of the guilt and make self-care sacred. 

Julia Reiss Says Good Bread Makes Noise

“For a very long time, I thought life was about suffering. From food to writing to beauty routines, I thought you needed to sacrifice in order to get what you needed. Diet culture is the perfect example. I thought you had to starve yourself or eat strange things to fit certain expectations.”

Julia Reiss is a writer and a humorist who splits her time between Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. Finding comedy at 23 years old showed a younger Julia, self-described as ‘thoughtful and intense,’ that it’s not always so artistic to be sad; that you can shift from silent suffering towards spreading joy. With a dose of humor and a tri-city perspective, Julia is applying the same lesson to nutrition, beauty, and self-care: enough guilt, more pleasure.

“I had a really bad eating disorder in high school. I was fortunate enough to spend the summer before NYU in Greece with my family, where I was just eating and living, and I put the weight back on. Then, I got to college and lost all of it. Then I gained a bunch. Then I lost a bunch.”“Part of the problem is the way our culture tells women, ‘No matter what your body is, it’s wrong.’ Whether we are too small or too large or too in between. The other problem is that, in American food culture, we don’t value food. We sell solutions in the form of diets. We have these aggressive, borderline religious convictions in certain ‘pseudo-foods.’”


“I don’t do bars anymore. Not drink bars – those I’ll do. But the bars they call food? They are a rectangle and you are supposed to eat them? I remember the day I woke up and said, ‘Never again.’ Bars are actually terrible for you, and I think I’m much better off having a piece of chocolate or something I actually like. Not pseudo-food. There's a lot of pseudo-food and pseudo-health these days. They are marketed with guilt, which [can’t be good for you.]”

“I’m no endocrinologist, but I’m quite sure there’s a hormonal response to guilt. When you eat something with a guilty mentality, I don’t think your body is in a place to use it effectively. During my recovery, I had to tell myself, ‘Guilt no longer belongs in my food space.’”

“Re-education was also key in my recovery. I wanted to know about how food is supposed to be grown and how it has been prepared for years. We have this tendency to reinvent the wheel, when, in reality, humans figured out food pretty quick. Fire, barbeque, flour, mills. We were good, but we kept going. For me, valuing food is saying ‘no’ to diet culture and getting back to the way food was always meant to be.”

“I’m fortunate to come from a family with different cultural values around eating. After this strained relationship with food in my early twenties, I realized I needed a coming-home-of-sorts. I had to remember the values I was taught about food and mealtime, and try to put them back into my life.”

“Today, food to me is an experience. Food to me is about the person you're eating with. If you're cooking solo, it's about taking that moment to be with yourself, to learn something about yourself. To discover new things.”


“Chemicals are not part of my diet. Neither is fast food. That’s something I feel strongly about. But bread is. Dairy is. All the usual suspects are. I just try to eat as unprocessed as possible. That doesn’t mean weird sea bread. It just means bread without mono-whatever-it-is. Good bread makes noise.”

The crack of a baguette as the barometer of quality: that’s the French mentality we all could use more of. Julia is quick to express gratitude at life leading her to all three cities, and even quicker to note the wildly different self-care cultures in New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. When it comes to extinguishing guilt and fueling pleasure, however, she has found her peace in Paris.

“France brings out my most balanced, healthy relationship with myself and with beauty. It's not perfect. French women value thinness in a way that I think can be damaging – but there is pride in self-care there. Extreme pride about taking care of your skin, about putting on a little bit of makeup, but not too much makeup.

“That's the French rule of thumb in every aspect. ‘Butter. Not too much.’ That’s the vibe. Do whatever you please and then scale it back a little bit.”


“For years, there was this idea in the beauty world that you have to hate yourself or experience pain to be beautiful. There was no space for pleasure. When, in reality, no one should make you feel guilty for your beauty or self-care routine. I’m someone who does her makeup in ten minutes, maybe twelve if I’m going out. I have learned to think of those twelve minutes as sacred. Mealtime is sacred, too. Sleep is sacred. I’ve learned to not feel guilty about protecting and finding pleasure in these moments.”

“When women invest in themselves, it’s often considered vain. And ‘vain’ is one of those tricky words. What’s the line between caring enough to ‘keep up’ and vanity taking over everything you care about?”

Listening to Julia, one could argue that beauty shifts from vanity to self-care when we reclaim it as a joyful, personal experience. While in LA, Julia met Anna Zahn of Ricari Studios and instantly bonded over a shared, straightforward approach to a self-care revolution they coined ‘New Beauty.’

“New Beauty is a culture; a movement; the opposite of ‘the white lady with an orchid.’ It’s not just body inclusivity and racial inclusivity. It’s about every type of inclusivity. It’s about disrupting beauty culture, because homogeneity doesn’t help any woman. The second you start putting forth a tent-pole or trophy idea of beauty, women suffer. We suffer from being funneled into one direction, because, in reality, we are all so different.”


“It’s about choice at the end of the day. That means it’s up to you how you do your makeup, what vitamins you take, what your mindfulness routine is or if you are into mindfulness at all, whether pasta is your pleasure or your Satan. It doesn’t matter. It’s all allowed.”

“I’ve been in [romantic] relationships that have made me feel really guilty for my self-care practices and I think that’s so wrong and sexist. Men are not called high-maintenance. Men aren’t taught to feel shame for investing in themselves. If [my partner] wants me to be present and enjoy our time together, I need my time first.

“That doesn’t mean I can’t throw on sweats to go grab pizza, but if you want to go to a nicer restaurant, I just want to take five, ten, thirty minutes… to get myself together. Then I can be present and feel sexy and feel that I haven’t given up anything to be there, because that kind of sacrifice breeds resentment.”


While Julia advocates for a more inclusive, open-minded beauty movement, there are still limits to what we label self-care. Taking care of yourself is good, Julia argues, erasing existence is not.

“I have a hard time getting behind the beauty marketing term ‘preventative.’ What are we preventing? There’s a weird fetishization of young women in the beauty industry. Men get distinguished – they are appreciated for the experiences that show on their face. The way I see it, if you expect a woman to look ageless, you don’t want her to have lived. You want to rob her of her experiences.”

“Laugh lines. Smile lines. I have my own insecurities about these things, too, but I think being more honest about the work that’s being done to erase them is important. Beauty is always a commodity, but when it becomes something that can just as easily be bought, you start forgetting about the other things that make a woman beautiful.”


“The French use this phrase, ‘Elle a du charme,’ meaning ‘She has charm.’ The connotation is not the same as the meaning of ‘charming’ in the United States. Here, charming often means lying. He’s charming, can you trust him? The French use it to describe the way a woman carries herself. It’s about charisma; about that ‘Je ne sais quoi.’”

“Charm is an indefinable thing that makes somebody attractive. The French have a radar for it and value it culturally, no matter what the person ‘looks’ like.” 

Interview and Article by Molly Virostek. Photographed by Stephanie Lavaggi. Styled by Emily Newnam

Tags: bodytalk , Self

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That was lovely and eye opening. I hope to adopt your way of thinking! Thank you ❤️

Meridith Griffin Bertwell

Mar 2020

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