Nutritionist Jessica Sepel may be a successful cookbook author, expert and the face and creator of a health and vitamins brand worth millions, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the entrepreneur.
The 32-year-old, who emigrated with her family from South Africa to Sydney when she was 13, has battled all sorts of demons – both personally and professionally – in order to reach the top.
From struggling with anorexia nervosa as a teenager to several failed business ventures to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, Jessica has worked hard for her success and struggled along the way.
‘People see the photos I share online and my long blonde hair and perfect feed and they think they know me, but my life has not always been glamorous,’ Jessica told FEMAIL.
‘I still struggle today, but I think the community behind the JSHealth brand appreciates me being real and talking about my down days as well as the highlights reel.’
Nutritionist Jessica Sepel (pictured in 2021) may be a successful cookbook author, expert and the face and creator of a health and vitamins brand worth millions now, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the entrepreneur
The 32-year-old (pictured in 2020), who emigrated with her family from South Africa to Sydney when she was just 13, has battled all sorts of demons – both personally and professionally – in order to reach the top
Jessica (pictured in 2009 and 2020) struggled with anorexia nervosa as a teenager after she moved to Sydney and latched onto the idea of ‘diet culture’; she tried every diet going over a period of 10 years
EATING DISORDER STRUGGLE
Like many nutritionists, Jessica is lucky to come from health-conscious parents who always prioritised feeding their children wholefoods and going on hikes when she was younger.
Jessica (pictured as a child) said she came from health-conscious parents who prioritised wholefoods when she was a child
However, unlike most, she also moved continent – from South Africa to Sydney – at the transitionary age of 13, and struggled with the many changes both in her body and outside it.
‘Emigrating while I was changing both mentally and physically was hard,’ Jessica told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I put on weight around my hips at exactly the time when I was starting a new school and trying to make friends. There was very little education around my changing body at the time, and I just remember feeling really insecure.’
It wasn’t until Jessica latched onto the word ‘diet’ and diet culture from fashion TV and ‘trashy magazines’ that she realised she could do something about her body shape, and this sparked 10 years of trying to control her weight obsessively.
‘Within months of moving to Sydney, I became completely obsessed with being thin,’ Jessica recalled.
‘I was hooked on the numbers on the scales, I would eat diet jelly in the school car park at lunchtime and would religiously measure out 30 grams of cereal every morning.
‘If I even had 31 grams instead of 30, I’d feel like I’d failed. Every morsel of food was measured and I was always hungry, I tried every diet going at the time – the lemon detox diet, low carb and Dukan. I was miserable.’
The nutritionist (pictured as a child, teenager and in 2020) said she became ‘obsessed’ with being thin and would weigh out every morsel of food she ate when she was at school; Jessica said she was miserable
It wasn’t until she had been studying nutritional medicine for two years that she realised the terrifying extent of what all the dieting was doing to her body (pictured graduating in 2011); Jessica vowed to learn to eat better and healthily
THE TURNING POINT
The weight fell off the already-thin teenager quickly, and her parents quickly picked up that something was wrong.
Jessica was sent to a nutritionist, who she remained with for many years through school and while studying Nutrition in college.
Jessica started blogging in 2012, and sharing her personal struggles around foods and the meals she loves (pictured)
But while her anorexia was managed to a certain degree through consultations with her nutritionist, Jessica’s attitude towards food and health took many more years to heal.
‘Even when I was in lectures, I remember sitting there with a can of tuna and a Diet Coke,’ Jessica said.
It wasn’t until she had been studying nutritional medicine for two years that she realised the terrifying extent of what all the dieting was doing to her body:
‘My hair was falling out, my gut was uncomfortable and I had PCOS,’ Jessica said.
‘I realised what I’d been doing to myself all these years and I suddenly had panic attacks over the abuse I’d been giving my body.’
Around this time, Jessica tentatively started introducing more wholefoods into her diet and trying to reverse the decade of poor nutrition.
She also began blogging on her own website in 2012, sharing her personal struggles around food and what she had done to overcome her demons and get healthy.
‘I met my now husband and the CEO of the JSHealth business, Dean, that year and he was instrumental in helping me with my relationship with my body,’ Jessica said.
‘Almost as soon as we started dating, he told me I needed to throw out my scales and he was with me when I did it. I know it sounds small, but it was a huge moment for me. I haven’t weighed myself since that moment.’
It was tough at the beginning, when Jessica said she worked out of her parents’ house (pictured) and did all of her work for JSHealth on the side of working for a private practice
Jessica met her husband Dean (pictured together) around this time, and she said the now CEO of JSHealth has been ‘instrumental’ in both her personal and professional life
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BLOG
Jessica’s blog was quick to resonate with a community of Australian women, who appreciated the nutritionist’s honesty around her own food journey as well as her candid discussions about her health.
‘When I graduated and went to work in a private practice as a nutritionist, I started sharing my recipes and tips for a healthy lifestyle on the side,’ Jessica said.
‘Before I knew it, the blog was getting 20,000 views. You have to remember that health wasn’t big or fashionable at the time, but I could tell the community were craving something more than what was out there. They wanted something tangible.’
Jessica wrote her first book, The Healthy Life, in 2014 (pictured signing copies), which proved to be a huge success and a catalyst for her JSHealth business
The nutritionist poured everything into an e-book in 2013 that sold around 10,000 copies.
‘I would see clients in my private practice by day and then blog and write the e-book at night and at the weekends,’ Jessica said.
‘One fed into the other as I was meeting women first-hand and seeing the nutrition issues they were struggling with. I could see anxiety was a massive issue, as were problems around gut health.’
Jessica made a vow to post at least one free blog post per week, and she now marks the true beginnings of her business JSHealth as 2014 – when she was approached by publishing houses to write a book.
This later became the first best-selling Healthy Life cookbook.
Jessica (pictured) said her partner Dean encouraged her to throw out her weighing scales, and she now enjoys balance around food and drink
Jessica has had many career highlights along the way, including meeting Oprah Winfrey in 2015 (pictured together)
What are some of the statistics around JSHealth?
A JS Health product sells somewhere in the world every 27 seconds and it is the second most popular brand in Australian pharmacies (Jess pictured with her vitamins)
* Jessica Sepel has published three cookbooks as a nutritionist: The Healthy Life, Living The Healthy Life and The 12-Step Body Mind Food Reset, as well as one e-book.
* Her vitamins are stocked in Australia, the UK and the US. They have also recently launched into Asia.
* The nutritionist has gone from a team of four people to 30 globally, across Australia, the UK, US and China.
* The JSHealth community has moved from a few hundred to more than one million.
* In 2020, JSHealth won the Deloitte Fast 500 Rising Star award, with a 21 per cent growth year on year.
* A JS Health product sells somewhere in the world every 27 seconds and it is the second most popular brand in Australian pharmacies.
* The brand has a cult following internationally including Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba and Romee Strijd, as well as at home from Rozalia Russian, Phoebe Tonkin, Lara Worthington and more.
* JSHealth vitamins are sold in 126 countries across the world and it has the number one hair growth vitamin in Australia.
* There are over 25,000 independent third party verified positive reviews globally for the products.
While JSHealth started as a passion project, Jessica now employs a team of 30 globally, and one of her products sells every 27 seconds around the world (JSHealth HQ pictured)
The nutritionist’s posts still strike an honest chord with her followers, with Jessica talking candidly about how she overcame poor body image in 2018 (right)
TURNING A PASSION PROJECT INTO A CAREER
When Jessica made a ‘small income’ from the proceeds of the book, she was able to hire one staff member.
They both worked out of the back of her parents’ home on laptops in their spare time, until she launched an eight-week health program in late 2014.
By the time 2015 rolled around, Jessica realised she was making enough money to leave the private nutrition practice she was working at and devote herself full-time to her own fledgling business.
There were several tough or ‘failed’ ventures along the way to success in JSHealth, including the app launch in 2015, which Jessica described as ‘difficult, technical and very stressful’.
Jessica also recalls trying and failing to launch a healthy cereal brand, something which cost her thousands of dollars.
Jessica (pictured at home) said she has always been ‘obsessed’ with vitamins and always had her eye on developing her own vitamin formulation
The nutritionist now has 16 individual research-backed vitamin formulas, that target everything from ‘Hair + Energy’ to ‘Skin + Digestion’ and ‘Detox + Debloat’ (pictured with her range)
THE VITAMIN EMPIRE
It wasn’t until 2018 that Jessica truly struck the big time with one of her ideas.
‘I’d always been obsessed with vitamins and had seen the benefits of them through taking them throughout my life and in my private practice,’ Jessica said.
‘I decided I wanted to launch my own range of vitamins and went through around two or three years of trial and error and thousands of dollars spent with various manufacturers and GPs to get the right formula.’
The nutritionist now has 16 individual research-backed vitamin formulas, that target everything from ‘Hair + Energy’ to ‘Skin + Digestion’ and ‘Detox + Debloat’.
Every vitamin is TGO-approved and filled with proven ingredients that treat various ailments, like iodine and zinc for hair and energy levels and turmeric for stress.
‘We didn’t have much money when we got the vitamin range off the ground and it cost around $20,000 for 2,000 bottles,’ Jessica said.
Every vitamin is TGO-approved and filled with proven ingredients that treat various ailments, like iodine and zinc for hair and energy levels and turmeric for stress
Jessica now owns a spectacular Vaucluse mansion with her husband Dean Steingold (pictured)
The five-bedroom, seven-bathroom residence was previously owned by film director Rebecca Rocheford Davies (bathroom pictured)
Sun-soaked balconies, ornate fireplaces and arched windows are peppered throughout the one-of-a-kind home (entrance pictured)
The open plan living area on the second floor overlooks the water with unrestricted views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House (pictured)
But the project was a huge success story: the vitamins sold out through Jessica’s website and Instagram page within months.
‘I’m not good at much, but I am good at vitamin formulation,’ Jessica said.
‘All those years studying nutrition and working in a private practice taught me exactly what works and for what. I learned which ingredients you need for success and how much you need of them to make a real difference.’
Since the launch of the vitamins in 2019, Jessica’s JSHealth has gone from strength to strength.
Today, a JSHealth product sells somewhere in the world every 27 seconds, Jessica’s vitamin range is the second most popular stocked in Australian pharmacies and there are more than 25,000 independent glowing reviews for her products online.
What are some of the highlights in Jessica Sepel’s award-winning best-selling range of vitamins?
Jessica’s vitamin range is the second most popular stocked in Australian pharmacies and there are more than 25,000 independent glowing reviews for her products online (pictured with her range)
* HAIR + ENERGY: The $44.99 Hair + Energy formula contains iodine, to help restore the strength and volume of your hair, as well as zinc, which works to improve your hair and nails. Iodine also helps to regulate the metabolism and assists in energy levels. There is also a therapeutic dose of Kelp within the formula, which is known to promote growth factors specifically connected to the hair cycle. Research shows that a supplementing with seaweed extracts helps to prevent hair loss and promote scalp health. A bottle of Hair + Energy sells every 27 seconds globally.
* SKIN + DIGESTION: The $44.99 Skin + Digestion formula is a bestseller thanks to what it does for your overall skin health. Zinc helps to relieve acne, pimples and minor skin eruptions, while burdock helps to relieve irritations and mild symptoms of eczema and dermatitis. Vitamin C supports connective tissue health, collagen formation and wound healing, while turmeric relieves digestive discomfort and promotes bile secretion.
* DETOX + DEBLOAT: This $44.99 formula is a community favourite because of its ability to combat discomfort. Fennel helps relieve abdominal bloating and distention, milk thistle supports natural liver cleansing and detoxification processes, while turmeric maintains and supports your liver.
* ANXIETY + STRESS: The $44.99 Anxiety + Stress formula boasts many hero ingredients and helps the body to adapt to stress. Ashwagandha is traditionally used as a rejuvenating tonic but is here included in the vitamin. Meanwhile, passionflower reduces mild anxiety and nervous tension. It also helps with stress and sleeplessness. Chamomile works to calm the nerves.
* HORMONE + PMS SUPPORT: This $49.99 formula contains chaste tree, to support healthy hormones and relieve the symptoms of PMS. Dong quai reduces menstrual cycle irregularity, while Vitamins B3 and B6 maintain nervous system health. Finally, magnesium supports muscle function and relaxation.
* METABOLISM + SUGAR SUPPORT: Chromium, magnesium, zinc, cinnamon and gymnema help to maintain and support healthy blood sugar levels, and they also aid in the processing of carbohydrates. Zinc maintains and supports the body metabolism and metabolic rate. The formula costs $44.99.
* SLEEP AND MIND RELAXATION: Ziziphus relieves sleeplessness, calms the nerves and aids mind relaxation. Lavender supports the nervous system and calms the mind, while also helping with sleep. The formula costs $39.99.
* AM AND PM MULTIVITAMIN: Vitamin B5 supports energy levels and nervous system health, while Vitamin C supports the immune system function. Lavender calms and soothes the mind and nerves.
Despite her incredible success, Jessica (pictured) said she hasn’t let herself get carried away with the wealth, and she still answers all of her direct messages on Instagram
Despite her incredible success, Jessica said she hasn’t let herself get carried away with wealth.
She still answers all of her messages on Instagram, and listens to her community and what they want and need.
‘Never in this whole journey have I been like “let’s sit down and launch a range of vitamins”,’ Jessica said.
‘Every single product has come about through an issue that’s been raised within the community. I’ve always been more gratified by customer reviews and personal stories more than by hitting KPIs and making millions.
‘While it’s obviously great to financially reach a certain level of success, I’m more interested in empowering women and creating a safe space for women to learn more about nutrition and health.’
Jessica said the appeal of her story lies in the fact that she is not perfect:
‘A few years ago, I was fighting for my health like many of my clients,’ she said.
‘I lost a best friend to mental health, was diagnosed with PTSD and was bed-ridden for months. I still struggle today, but constantly try to show the realness in my journey and that everything is not perfect all the time.’
She added: ‘I’m not a health influencer. The JSHealth journey began with me being candid and honest about my problems and it will remain that way.
‘I have fought very hard to be taken seriously, and feel as though I deserve it now.’
You can find out more about JSHealth on Jessica’s website here.