You share your knowledge on health and happiness in our main feature. What does wellness mean to you?
It’s more than the absence of disease. It’s a level of energy and vitality that exists when all the inner workings of our bodies are receiving the nutrients they need.
My work has three pillars to it: the biochemical, the nutritional and the emotional. Wellness for me involves all three of those aspects coming together to support body and mind.
Where does your interest in food and nutrition come from?
I learnt the nutritional value of food and how important soil quality is for food from a young age. Dad would do experiments in the backyard where he’d plant fruit and vegetables in soil with different nutrients added to it.
I grew up in the low-fat, calorie-counting era, but my mother wouldn’t talk to me about that. We had an orange tree in the backyard and instead she’d say: “An orange is a good food because it’s got a lot of vitamin C in it; it’s really good for your immune system, and then you don’t get as many colds.” I knew I needed to choose certain foods to be really well.
I can see how your upbringing paved your career path.
My parents never forced me to do anything, but the one thing Dad told me to do was chemistry in high school. He said it’s the basis of life. And I found it really hard; it’s always a shock to me that I went on to do a PhD in biochemistry. I’m so grateful for his advice; it’s become a huge part of my life. I’ve always loved writing and have kept a diary since I was four years old. I initially studied journalism, but all I wanted to write about was food and nutrition. I was at university for 14 years. I studied nutrition and dietetics and learnt the role nutrients play in every aspect of our health. I loved learning, in fact I still do.
How do you nurture your well-being?
I have a morning ritual where I create a space to be by myself. I do whatever I feel like: sometimes it’s meditation, other days it’s going for a walk, reading to learn or reading for pleasure.
Sometimes it’s sitting on the couch in the sunlight. It changes how I experience a day, and I’m a better human with that ritual. I wouldn’t have my level of wellness without it.
Can you recall a time when your well-being was low?
Yes, that’s why I wrote Rushing Woman’s Syndrome in 2011. My business had gone crazy, in a good way, and I was really grateful for that. I was seeing about 10 patients a day, I had no receptionist;
I had to return phone calls and emails in the early hours of the morning. I really care about the food I prepare for my family, so I was doing the cooking and shopping on top of that. Never was the privilege lost on me, which almost made it harder. But it was just too much work for one person. It took months for me to realise, ‘this is insane, I’m compromising my highest value, my health and well-being, to fit all this stuff in.’
Have you always been aware of what makes you happy?
I’ve always observed human behaviour, my own included, and have a deep curiosity around why people do what they do. I don’t walk around with a constant hat of analysis on, I’ll just see patterns and want to understand what’s created them. Writing in a journal as a child was how I worked my own mind out. I could see what I was worried about, what I cared about, what I was upset or overjoyed about; I started to see my own patterns. I’ve always wanted to get to the heart of everything. We can eat whole foods so we’re giving ourselves the right nutrients, slow our breathing so our body knows it’s safe but the real juice is in our inner world and understanding our beliefs.
Why do you make it your mission to empower and inspire people to take charge of their health and happiness?
I don’t want a health crisis to be what wakes people up. I think we all have a little voice inside us that wants us to take even better care of ourselves, and we don’t always listen to it.
I also want children to grow up knowing they are enough. When we live our life in a cloud of false belief that there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not tall or pretty or smart enough, then we never believe that we have enough. And so we live life in this relentless pursuit to have more things, when in fact we have plenty.
When we know we are enough, we treat ourselves accordingly; it changes the food we choose, whether we get off the couch to go for a walk or not, the jobs we apply for, the friends we make, our self-talk and the way we speak to everyone in the world we love. If we can live our life in touch with the fact we are OK the way we are, I feel it changes everything.
Reported by Monica Tischler for our AA Directions Summer 2016 issue