I focus on natural foods because they offer the greatest concentration of nutrients for our bodies (vitamins, minerals, fibre, enzymes and antioxidants) and are usually easier for our bodies to break down, digest and metabolize. Unprocessed foods are also free of additives, preservatives, colorants, flavor enhancers and other synthetic fictions that can complicate the picture of health. Whenever possible, I source ingredients locally and support organic growers.How do you define health?
Health is often defined as the absence of disease which I’ve never found particularly helpful. It’s a little bit like defining sleep as the absence of wakefulness. I believe that health isn’t just about being free from illness or injury but rather a quality of completeness that involves every part of our being – mind, body, spirit (however you choose to define that) – working towards a common goal.What is holistic nutrition?
Holistic nutrition is an approach that respects the sanctity of the individual as a whole and not merely its individual parts. It is an approach rooted in the recognition that our bodies are not separate and distinct from our minds but rather intimately connected.
As a holistic nutritionist, I not only take into account the food that we put in our bodies but also the thoughts that we put in our minds. Understanding how these patterns manifest in our day to day lives is critical to informing the overall picture of health. You may well be eating an excellent diet and exercising daily but if you are living with chronic elevated stress levels or holding on to persistent negative emotions, true health will continue to elude you. In my view, and in my clinical and personal experience, it is not possible for our bodies to be engaged in a productive process without the simultaneous participation of the non-body aspects of our being.Many of your recipes are gluten-free and/or dairy-free – are you both?
I am neither but many of my readers and clients follow specified diets and I try to offer them as many options as possible. It’s not difficult to find recipes featuring dairy and gluten, it is more challenging however to find nourishing recipes that offer alternatives.
Do you follow a particular diet?
While I respect personal choice and believe that each of us has the ability (and responsibility) to adopt the dietary regimen that works best, I am not a proponent of any one dietary plan or strategy. I prefer an inclusive approach that focuses on eating whole foods most of the time. In the nutrition world, we call it the 80-20 rule. If you’re eating well 80% of the time, you’re on the right track. Eating a big plate of fries isn’t going to kill you but eating an occasional salad isn’t going to heal you either. It’s what you do most of the time that counts.
I also support slow and steady transformation and often think that our collective focus on dramatic transformation is counter-productive because in reality, it’s incremental change that has the greatest chance of taking hold and succeeding over the long run.What ingredients do you favor and which do you recommend eliminating?
I don’t believe that healthy eating is about excluding any particular food or ingredient. It’s about creating the conditions for lifelong habits and finding a balance that is sustainable. It’s about being open to slow and steady change that will plant the seeds of progressive transformation. My biggest concern with exclusion diets is that they often end up being fear-based and that’s not the kind of relationship I want to encourage with food. With so many individuals battling raging eating disorders, I prefer to work towards a positive relationship with food that embraces inclusion and balance over exclusion.When someone feels completely overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start, what advice do you offer them?
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Laozi) ~ I am a big proponent of slow and steady. People often feel that they have to transform their lives entirely in order to become an acceptable version of healthy or give up their favorite foods and habits — I wouldn’t want to to that either!
Instead of thinking of it in terms of all or nothing, I encourage making one change at a time. Start slow – add one new healthy food item or practice a week or a month to your current regimen without subtracting anything – keep practicing the habit until it becomes reflexive and watch how it slowly transforms your life. Over time, the positive habits will start to take root and crowd out the less helpful habits until they begin to fall away (there won’t be any room left for them!). In my view, this is a far more natural and sustainable evolution. It does not require that you turn your life inside out but it does require that you start. One change at a time with the intention to keep practicing.There is so much conflicting nutrition information out there ~ what advice can you offer consumers?
Our society is more health-conscious than ever which is brilliant. The underbelly to this of course is that we have seen a drastic commercialization of the nutrition industry in recent years and this has had at least two significant consequences for consumers. The first is that there are now more individuals than ever advising on matters in which they have no background. For this, I simply encourage consumers to ask themselves whether the information they are considering is coming from a credible and reliable source (education and publishing history are helpful indicators).
The second component is what I refer to as a turf war among the experts. There is plenty of money to be found in selling your version of health and wellness to the world (or better yet, a better, stronger, faster version) and we have all witnessed the explosion in recent years. Some of these approaches may have merit for some people some of the time, while others may not. Keep in mind that balance and moderation will never have the same commercial appeal as a fad diet, quick fix or magic cure and building a sustainable lifestyle is, well, inconvenient. So this is where your personal experience comes in. Trust your own instincts and know that there is nothing more informing than assessing how you, as an individual, respond to a particular approach or regimen over a sustained period of time.Did you grow up in a food-conscious household?
[smiles] No, not exactly. I was raised in a family of 12. Both of my parents worked hard during my youth and neither of them had the luxury of time, money or education to focus on food preparation and choices. Food consciousness is something I developed as a result of my own personal journey and good fortune in having the option of education.