This summer I wrote about how it seems everything we eat, drink, and wear is, in some way, bad, unhealthy, or dangerous. It was really starting to get to me. Since then, I've let a lot of the fear go, and started focusing on taking small steps toward eating better foods, drinking more water, wearing "cleaner" products, and choosing organic and natural whenever possible. To help me on this journey I decided to check in with nutritionist and author, Meghan Telpner. Thanks to her informative and often shocking blogs I've made a lot of changes in my life. For example, I now only use natural deodorant and toothpaste, no more Dove or Crest for me. And, I'm seriously thinking about letting my highlights grow out and embracing my natural hair colour...after years of colour treatment.
I wanted to get Meghan's take on a few things and have her answer a few questions that are still bugging me. So, here we go...
1. If someone (i.e. ME!) finds the whole 'eating healthy' thing a bit overwhelming, where do you suggest he or she begins?
Begin with a good book! That exact issue was why I wrote UnDiet. Most people who want to make that switch to healthier living do find it overwhelming as once you start searching, you quickly realize how much is wrong with that what we've been told is right.
A very simple first step is to start clearing out the chemicals–those in our foods (most prevalent in the foods labeled 'diet' or 'light') cleaning products, and beauty care products. Once you begin that transition, you find that the good stuff becomes obvious.
2. What are the top five foods no one should be eating—ever?
1. Diet Soda (or anything with artificial sweetener)
3. Microwave popcorn
4. Seasoned chips, crackers, or anything with monosodium glutamate or yeast extract.
5. Processed meat
3. In your opinion, what's the motivation for eating well/cleaner?
Life! The better quality fuel we put in our body, the better quality of life we live. We are able to think better, respond better, love better, move better, sleep better, and have better energy through the day. Everything we eat or rub on our skin will either build our health or deplete it. Life can be challenging and draining enough–why add to it with our poor choices. Every choice counts and we have a rare luxury on this planet to be able to choose our food. Too many of us take this choice for granted. Why would we want to choose less than the best for ourselves and our families?
4. When it comes to feeding kids, how do you "convert" a kid who already loves sugar and junk food (i.e. my three-year-old)?
Slowly and diligently. It's for sure tricky when kids have developed a taste for junk–but that's just what it is. The key is to be consistent. It will undoubtedly be a struggle at the start, as is breaking any bad habit, but if we take the time to explain to our kids why we are making the changes, get them involved in meal prepping, and make certain types of treats "never evers" they'll get it. Replace treats with better options–whether homemade or from a quality source. If we limit treats to things made in home kitchens instead of factories, that can be a great guiding principal.
5. What's your favourite guilty pleasure?
I don't have any. For serious. My husband and I are often asked if we ever "cheat." We eat chocolate—the really good stuff. We'll drink organic wine. We eat amazing brownies (that I make myself). Our indulgences are always real food based, so there is never any guilt or feelings of cheating. We just enjoy. I don't have the least bit of a desire to eat crappy food. I don't want to feel crappy. It's a pretty simple equation. Taste buds truly do change. Any kind of store bought desserts taste way too sweet to me at this point and so aren't at all appealing. And knowing the state of the oil in greasy food turns my stomach. When you know the process so much of our food goes through—it becomes much less appealing.
6. What about body/skin products/cosmetics? Is it as important to switch to 'all natural'? Which products are most important to switch out first (shampoo? deodorant? toothpaste?) If so, any brands you like the best?
We want to switch the stuff we use everyday as the priority. Toothpaste and deodorant are super important for sure as both are going into highly sensitive and absorbable areas. For that matter–feminine products and lubes are also super important! I devote an entire chapter of UnDiet to the gunk that's in conventional beauty care products. I for one would hate to think that a future breast cancer diagnosis or thyroid disease could have been prevented if I'd only swapped deodorants or stopped colouring my hair. It's a lot to think about but buying one product over another—that does the same thing—is the easiest switch of all. The Environmental Working Group has a Cosmetic Database which is a great resource.
7. How do you handle the grocery store? Sometimes it seems daunting–like everything has something bad in it?
Sad but true. As soon as a food has been put in a package with some label claims, you can assume that some vital components have been removed and then replaced with substitute or synthetic versions. The food industry has made an art of taking food apart into its various components and then works to put it back together in such a way that it has an indefinite shelf life and has been salted/sweetened just so to make us eat more and more. The best advice when it comes to your supermarket is to buy your food in its most whole form...as much as possible.
8. What if you don't have a lot of time for cooking/or are balancing a career and kids. How do you live the UnDiet lifestyle when time is an issue?
Time seems to be an issue no matter what our lifestyle or situation. The bottom line is that we need to make the health of our family our priority. It is worth everything! This may mean ordering your groceries online to save the time it takes going to the store, it may mean dedicating two hours a week to prepping vegetables, it could be having a day of cooking a month where you jar and freeze an assortment of soups, stews, patties etc. In my book, I offer really essential strategies to truly optimize your time in the kitchen. We all have the same number of hours in the day. Eating well really doesn't take any more time or money than eating crap, once you get your kitchen organized to support it.
9. How has your life changed since you started living this lifestyle?
Getting healthy in a truly optimal and balanced way makes me feel like I have finally exhaled after holding my breath all my life. I wake up happy, I feel good, I sleep well, my weight stays the same effortlessly, I do exercise I love to do, not what I think I have to do. Through this lifestyle I met my husband, I have developed a dream career and have been given the honour of helping guide those that seek my help. I live far more simply than I ever had a desire to and can see around me how much people complicate their lives unnecessarily.
The greatest change is really in the thoughts I think and the fearlessness I have. Having healed from a disease I was told was incurable, I have the confidence that my health is in my own hands. I am not always perfect, of course, but I do have a sense of empowerment with the knowledge I have and love getting to share it with others.
10. How do you respond to the statement that I seem to hear all the time: "It can't be that bad for you...after all, it's allowed in stores, or Health Canada approves it, or it's always been used..."
They allow cigarettes in stores. Health Canada has approved loads of medications that were later recalled because they killed people. If people are looking for a way to rationalize their choices or make excuses for them, that is their journey and their path. I can't and would never try to force any lifestyle on anyone who is not ready. I do think it's important though for people to consider how each choice affects their health, that of their family, and the environment and I do believe it is our responsibility to understand the impact of our choices.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in a two-hour Awaken Love: Yoga and Crystal Healing Music workshop with yoga instructor, meditation guide, and energy healer Hillary Pike and musician Darren Austin Hall. The experience was profound for a number of reasons, but most notable was the fact that I wasn't at home negotiating the bedtime routines of my two little girls. I was out with a friend on a Sunday evening, enjoying peace and quiet in the most relaxing of circumstances. It was pure bliss! When I got home that evening, I felt more appreciation for my husband—who had stayed home to oversee baths, bottles, books, and bedtime—and more love for my girls, who were sleeping peacefully. I was breathing a little easier that night. Feeling less tired and less stressed. It was a really great way to begin the week.
This was the reminder I needed. Five months into baby Fiona's life, I needed to re-claim "me time" in the form of activities that would force me to relax, unwind, and take care of myself. The past few months had been all about my baby, and my toddler, and my work. It was time to get back in touch with my own inner peace. And so, I looked at my schedule, coordinated with my husband's schedule, and booked myself in for a six week Gentle Yoga & Meditation series with Hillary Pike of Be In Grace.
Hillary happens to be my youngest brother's girlfriend. She's really sweet, has an extremely calming presence, and is an excellent yoga instructor. She spent two months in the yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh, India where she became a 300-hour certified Hatha Yoga Instructor. She also trained in LA at Golden Bridge with Gurmukh, and is a 220-hour certified Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Instructor. She has her Prenatal Yoga certification and has studied with some of the world’s leading yoga and spirituality teachers. She's also busy gearing up for her fall term, with meditation workshops, mom and baby and prenatal yoga classes, and one-on-one coaching.
As I begin to re-embrace "Me time" I thought I'd share an interview I conducted with Hillary. Perhaps she'll inspire you, whether you're pregnant, taking care of a new baby, or just busy with life and family, to give yourself the gift of inner peace...especially as we head into one of the busiest seasons of the year!
I was a huge fan of prenatal yoga during both of my pregnancies. For those who don't know, what are the benefits of doing yoga while you're pregnant?
The benefits of yoga during pregnancy are vast; science has now proven how much the first nine months in utero affects the rest of your life. Prenatal yoga helps you to prepare your mind, body and spirit for childbirth and motherhood. Prenatal yoga practice is a great way to take time to nurture yourself and connect with your baby. It builds strength, balance, teaches you to breathe, relives anxiety and helps you bond with your baby.
Beyond stretching and keeping your body in good shape, why else might someone who is pregnant want to practice yoga?
Physically, prenatal yoga practice provides relief to back pressure created by the extra strain on the abdomen. Stretching and strengthening allows the pelvic opening to release which prepares the body for birth. Prenatal yoga focuses on toning the pelvic floor which creates more controlled birthing experiences and promotes faster postnatal healing.
Is it important to stay mentally calm and grounded during pregnancy? Why?
Yes! Your baby is developing within you and you want to create a calm and loving space for the baby. This is a sacred time of self-care and nurturing for you and your baby.
When Fiona was six weeks old I enrolled in a mom and baby yoga class. What are the benefits for mom and baby?
One of the main benefits of postnatal yoga or mommy and me yoga is getting mommy out of the house! It is a great way to meet and bond with other new mothers. It is also a way to bond with your baby in a loving and supportive environment. The baby will love the positive energy and mom will be able to re-strengthen her abdomen and pelvic floor.
I know a lot of people love yoga for exercise, but what's the value in a more gentle, relaxed, and meditative practice?
Many have heard of the idea that your thoughts create your reality. Yet, what can be even more important that your thoughts are your emotions. Thoughts are electric and emotions are magnetic. That means your emotions are really creating your reality. The more time we spend in the sympathetic nervous system (in a stress response) the more we are attracting or magnetizing stressful experiences into our lives. We want to spend more time in the parasympathetic nervous system. Yoga strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts the “fight or flight” response that is triggered when we're under stress. Spending more time in the parasympathetic nervous system allows your mind and body to rejuvenate so you can let go and trust the universal flow. There are so many profound benefits of meditation and deep relaxation. Yoga teaches you to rest on command which is helpful as your sleep schedule changes with a new baby. Also, when you are relaxed it is easier for your baby (or children) to relax.
Parenthood can be stressful, what are your tips for achieving inner calm despite the outward chaos that sometimes surrounds new moms?
Breathe! Remember the breath and how powerful it truly is. When the life experience surrounding you feels overwhelming take six deep breathes. Inhale and expand the navel. Exhale and the navel glides back. Close your eyes and remember that you are the being-ness behind the experience. After the first six breaths, go back and take six more. Then, take the time to do what makes you feel good, centered, and balanced. Life can be stressful but it is your outlook on life that has the biggest effect on how you handle stress. Keep up with your yoga practice, it is said that yoga is the effort you put in to be effortless in life.
Outside of the studio, what can moms do to practice yoga or meditation on their own?
I love watching/listening to videos on YouTube, like Eckhart Tolle. Even if you only have 10 minutes you can play a short meditation and lay on your bed and completely relax. To keep up with your yoga practice you can bring your yoga mat out in the living room and while you are watching and playing with the baby you can do stretches and breathing exercises. You may not be able to practice for long periods of time but the little amounts of time add up! Be gentle with yourself and do the best you can. The last thing you ever want to do is make yourself feel guilty. Accept the life changes with self-love and keep a yoga mat around!
I went to an energy healer a few times when I was pregnant with both girls. I loved the experience! How can energy healing / light work help new moms or expecting parents? Can energy work help improve the quality of a pregnancy? Can it help mom and baby connect before baby is born?
I think this quote helps to answer that question. “When a mother is pregnant, the kind of soul she can accept depends on her mental attitude. And then there is another beauty that within the realm of your belly, which is your pregnancy, you can totally transform the soul. The soul is pure and has nothing to do, but the subtle body carries the karma of the previous life. A mother can totally purify the subtle body of the new child.” —Yogi Bhajan
Pregnancy is a truly sacred time and everything the mom does during this time as far as meditation and spiritual work, I do believe that the baby also receives the benefits. This is a way to bond the spirit of the mother and the baby before the baby is out in the physical world. During pregnancy mom and baby are one; embrace this sacred unity by deepening your spiritual practice.