Like many, my journey to health started with illness. When I was six years old, I had recurring strep throat for months in a row, and was prescribed antibiotics upon each reoccurrence. Frustrated with my inability to stay healthy, my mom pulled me out of first grade and homeschooled me for the remainder of that year and all of second grade. During this time, my weight exploded, and when I returned to school in third grade I weighed around double my classmates. My weight continued to spiral up through high school where, in sophomore year, I maxed out around 270 pounds. Frustrated with frequent skin and upper respiratory infections and discomfort in my body, I committed to taking control of my health.
Beginning the summer before my junior year, I went to the gym for one and a half hours every single day for a year straight, performing an hour of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training. I strictly counted calories, eating around 1500kcal daily during that year. By the time senior year rolled around, I weighed in at 170 pounds.
Although I had discovered a new found passion in fitness, my strict relationship with food took its toll and led me into an eating disorder that began my senior year of high school and didn’t end until after graduating from college. Over time, this eating disorder, in conjunction with the extreme weight loss, resulted in damage to my gut and the development of ulcerative colitis that caused intense gastric pain, bloating, and bleeding from age 19-21.
After multiple unhelpful visits to physicians, I decided to try to devise a solution of my own. I began with an elimination diet, removing eggs, dairy, and wheat from my diet for about a month. I then re-introduced each one at a time, which revealed that dairy was a major trigger for my flare ups. I removed it from my diet entirely and my gut began to heal. This was my first personal experience with the power of nutrition in cultivating health. To expedite my healing, I looked more deeply into other aspects of my diet, and began switching to a whole food-based diet. Prior to this, I had largely been consuming processed foods as it was easier to track energy intake and macros consuming foods with labels.
At this point, there was a shift within me. By eating these nourishing foods, not only did I feel a difference in energy and vitality, but my guilt around food and eating began to diminish, which ultimately put my eating disorder into total remission. Eating whole foods regulated my appetite, and allowed me to not worry about overeating and regaining weight. It also rekindled my longstanding passion for cooking. As I continued to learn about food systems and the interactions between our diets and physiology and metabolism, I gradually placed more and more emphasis on food quality over food quantity, and now at least 80% of my diet comes from organic vegetables and local regeneratively-farmed meats. This eating strategy, in combination with a 10+ year commitment to resistance and aerobic training, has allowed me to keep off all of the weight I initially lost.
When we make the switch to eating real food, our intuition around appetite and diet comes back online, allowing us to understand the types of foods that will best serve us at a given time. Moreover, as our diets change, so too do our gut microbiomes which directly influence cravings, mood, appetite, and energy levels. By eating nourishing foods, we are feeding the microbes that will support us on our health journey, and our cravings for foods that do not serve us largely dissipate. Health is an ever-moving target that changes with the seasons of our lives. By reconnecting with our body’s innate wisdom around food, we not only free up a great deal of cognitive power, but we also create space for intuition to guide us in other aspects of our lives, which creates a sense of ease as we set out to birth our unique gifts into the world.
- B.S. Biochemistry, Math (Moravian College, 2015)
- Ph.D. Molecular Biology (Princeton University, 2021)
research focus: the effects of nutritional and exercise
interventions on metabolism
- Peptide toxins as biothreats and the potential for AI systems to enhance biosecurity. Ying-Chiang J. Lee, Alexis Cowan, Amari Tankard. Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol., 2022.
- Ketogenic diet and chemotherapy combine to disrupt pancreatic cancer metabolism and growth.
Lifeng Yang, Tara TeSlaa, Serina Ng, Michel Nofal, Lin Wang, Taijin Lan, Xianfeng Zeng, Alexis Cowan, Matthew McBride, Wenyun Lu, Shawn Davidson, Gaoyang Liang, Tae Gyu Oh, Michael Downes, Ronald Evans, Daniel Von Hoff, Jessie Yanxiang Guo, Haiyong Han, Joshua D. Rabinowitz. Med, 2022.
- Local production of lactate, ribose phosphate, and amino acids within human triple-negative breast cancer. Jonathan M Ghergurovich, Jessica D Lang, Maren K Levin, Natalia Briones, Salvatore J Facista, Claudius Mueller, Alexis J Cowan, Matthew J McBride, Esther San Roman Rodriguez, Aaron Killian, Tuoc Dao, Jeffrey Lamont, Alison Barron, Xiaoyang Su, William P D Hendricks, Virginia Espina, Daniel D Von Hoff, Joyce O’Shaughnessy, Joshua D Rabinowitz. Med, 2021.
- Metabolite discovery through global annotation of untargeted metabolomics data. Li Chen, Wenyun Lu, Lin Wang, Xi Xing, Xin Teng, Xianfeng Zeng, Antonio D.Muscarella, Yihui Shen, Alexis Cowan, Melanie R. McReynolds, Brandon Kennedy, View ORCID ProfileAshley M. Lato, Shawn R. Campagna, Mona Singh, Joshua Rabinowitz. Nature Methods, 2021.
- Comprehensive quantification of fuel use by the failing and non-failing human heart. Danielle Murashige, Cholsoon Jang, Michael Neinast, Jonathan Edwards, Alexis Cowan, Matthew C. Hyman, Joshua D. Rabinowitz, David S. Frankel, Zolt Arany. Science, 2020.
- Quantitative fluxomics of circulating metabolites. Sheng Hui and Alexis Cowan (co-first author), Xianfeng Zeng, Lifeng Yang, Tara TeSlaa, Xiaoxuan Li, Caroline Bartman, Zhaoyue Zhang, Cholsoon Jang, Lin Wang, Wenyun Lu, Jennifer Rojas, Joseph Baur, Joshua D. Rabinowitz. Cell Metabolism, 2020.
- Metabolite exchange between mammalian organs quantified in pigs. Cholsoon Jang, Sheng Hui, Xianfeng Zeng, Alexis J. Cowan, Lin Wang, Li Chen, Raphael J. Morscher, Jorge Reyes, Christian Frezza, Ho Young Hwang, Akito Imai, Yoshiaki Saito, Keitaro Okamoto, Christine Vaspoli, Loewe Kasprenski, Jerry Zsido II, Joeseph H. Gorman III, Robert C. Gorman, Joshua D. Rabinowitz. Cell Metabolism, 2019.
- PRDM16-Driven metabolic signal from adipocytes regulates precursor cell fate. Cell Metabolism. Wenshan Wang, Jeff Ishibashi, Sophie Trefely, Mengle Shao, Alexis J. Cowan, Alexander Sakers, Hee-Woong Lim, Sean O’Connor, Mary T. Doan, Paul Cohen, Joseph A. Baur, M. Todd King, Richard L. Veech, Kyoung-Jae Won, Joshua D. Rabinowitz, Nathaniel W. Snyder, Rana K. Gupta, Patrick Seale. Cell Metabolism, 2019.
- The small intestine converts dietary fructose into glucose and organic acids. Cholsoon Jang, Wei Liu, Gina Lee, Sheng Hui, Wenyun Lu, Alexis Cowan, Gregory Tesz, Morris J. Birnbaum, Joshua D. Rabinowitz. Cell Metabolism, 2018.
- CHO cells knocked out for TSC2 display an improved productivity of antibodies under fed batch conditions. Michael Aronov, Giovanni Rizzi, Alexis Cowan, Charo Scott, John Megill, Reb Russell, Duncan Mcvey and Boaz Tirosh. Biotechnol. Bioeng., 2016.