A couple of months ago, right before the madness of the holidays set in, I attended a fun and informative class at my local Whole Foods presented by another local blogger, Donna, of Better Off Well. As soon as I met Donna I knew we would be friends, and friends we have become! That is one of the many perks of my kind of "work," getting acquainted with like-minded foodie people. We tend to be passionate, warm and open minded, three of my favorite traits in people!
Donna is a WEALTH of information. On a recent lunch date I couldn't stop asking her questions! Since the lunch date went by quickly (and we actually had to pause to like, eat!) I decided an in-depth interview was in order!
So silence your phone, grab a hot beverage and get to know Donna!
Tell us a little about your background in wellness. How did you find yourself on this path?
After my son entered my life, I started taking better care of myself. It was terrifying to be responsible for the health of a small child, so to make sure I did everything best for him that I could, I researched all I could find about nutrition. I focused more on whole foods instead of the processed I often threw down on the table. I started to cook, using foods that grew from the ground, and not manufactured in a factory. As friends noticed how Max was thriving and the kinds of foods he was open to eating, they asked questions. Finally, I held a Veg Out Night in my home for 17 of my mom friends. It was a horrible presentation, but it went well enough that I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. What's great is that I get to combine my love of teaching with my passion for food and people.
I know you’re someone who has suffered from many different allergies. Do you feel the way you now eat and the cleaning products you now use have helped you?
Absolutely! When I was 8, I was diagnosed with 43 allergies. That meant allergy shots every week- 4 in each arm at one point. I was a human pin cushion. And then there was the asthma. Nasty, debilitating asthma that often limited what I could do. There were a couple times I suffered dangerous attacks. Caught without my steroid inhaler both times, the attacks were life-threatening. Later there was pneumonia, flu, cancer, and back pain. I was a mess, though I had no idea that the way I was living my life had anything to do with that. I assumed illness was the luck of the draw, and the aches and pains I experienced later in life were simply a part of aging. But that's why I'm so passionate about spreading the word now!! After eliminating certain foods from my diet, like dairy, I am now living asthma-free. I've not carried an inhaler in 8 years! That's freedom to me. The back pain that plagued me in my 30's is completely gone. Even my allergies are so much better. Where once I couldn't even be near somebody with a cat, I can now stay overnight in friends’ homes who have cats! That's something I never would have expected. And you're right, it's about more than just food. I've worked to clean out the toxins from as many aspects of my life as I'm able- from cleaners, to detergents, to lawn care, to candles. Chemicals are everywhere, so the more we're able to eliminate them from our environment, the better off we are.
You have your own business called “Better Off Well.” What kind of services do you offer? Do you offer anything for people who are not local?
I do. And for movie buffs who came of age in the 80's, it might be easy to tell what inspired my business name! I work with clients individually, typically in a 6-month program, which caters entirely to my client's individual needs. In each session, the client has time to talk, and be heard, something that is often missing in our health care system today. We then create goals that encompass not only nutrition concerns but other issues for which the client may need support- whether it be stress, organization, becoming "unstuck" in a job, etc. I love this part of my job. Every time I leave a client session, I feel so blessed. When I hear of the progress my clients make, it warms my heart and I can't help but cheer them on. They make the effort; I just support. I also speak in corporate settings, which is a lot of fun because I can address many people at once. And my Ladies Nights with a Twist are a blast! I started those over a year ago, and now I book a few every month. I thought, we women are always going out for jewelry and other types of parties, why not meet out for a fun night of nutritious sampling and life-changing education, all the while enjoying a glass of wine and the company of our gals. So much fun!
Where would you like to see the state of food/eating in this country for the next generation? Do you think we’re on the right path?
Oh gosh. That's a big question, but a great one! SO much of our food has changed, even in the past twenty years. We're taking in enormous amounts of sugar, synthetic and petro-chemicals under the guises of "natural and artificial flavors", "spices", and colorings, genetically altered food, and food products laden with hormones and antibiotics. We are sick, fatigued, brain foggy, lethargic, unhappy and generally unwell. Yet, just like I once did not, many don't make the connection between what they put into their bodies on a daily basis and their own health. Perhaps saddest is what is happening with our children. They, too, are becoming ill, allergy-laden, overweight, and lethargic. Kids...lethargic! That's crazy. But I am really excited, because I believe there is an evolution happening. People are starting to wake up to what is going on. The Internet makes information more available, so more people are becoming educated about food. It's a beautiful thing, and I'm so happy to be a part of it!
Do you have any future plans you can share?
On the personal front, I'm learning more about sustainability. I love the local food movement, and want to try to cook more of my meals in season. Our planet can't sustain the monocultures that have replaced small farms in the past 50 years. They're not natural, and because of this, valuable soil is becoming depleted, pollinators are dying, and superweeds are starting to spread. Sounds scary, I know, but I'm comforted in knowing that the number of farmer's markets has exploded in the past few years and more people are learning about sustainable gardening, beekeeping, and just planting something in their yards. It's exciting! I also love learning about raw food preparation. Raw foods are so important to include in our diets, and every "raw" person I've met so far looks amazing and seems to have oodles of energy, so clearly there is something to it! On the business end, I've just expanded to include skype and phone client sessions, so I can work with clients on a national and international level. I also look forward to growing my corporate offerings, since I really enjoy speaking to crowds these days. Soon I'll be volunteering with a local urban group, which I'm probably most excited about. This is a segment of the population this is highly stressed and often underserved when it comes to health education. Oh, and I'm working on a book, which I hope to have out next year. It's going to be lots of fun!
So there you have it! Thank you, Donna, for your wealth of knowledge. You are so inspiring and we are lucky to know you!