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.