I am so excited to introduce you to Em Harding! Em is a student of Holistic Nutrition and Phytotherapy. Her wonderful website is an enticing and inspiring mixture of health, spirituality and delicious recipes! She is a talented, healthy foodie, and one look at her blog or Instagram will have your mouth watering (seriously, this girl has mad skills!). A fellow Graves Disease Warrior, Em is determined to live lovely with her autoimmune disease; I am so inspired by her dedication to her health and her positive energy! I know that she will inspire you too.
Tell us about your health philosophy.
My health philosophy changes regularly depending on what I need.
Today, it is: “do your best, be grateful for what is and what has been, nourish yourself inside and out, the rest will follow”.
That being said, I do believe that a change in one’s food and eating habits is one of the biggest things someone can do to change their life for the better. When my Graves relapsed almost three years ago, bringing with it severe eczema and depression, changing my eating habits saved me first and foremost, and has kept saving me ever since!
What’s your favourite part of your health-esteem journey so far?
I actually really enjoy having to cook/prepare my food most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I get bored and exhausted too! But when I have a few minutes and some inspiration, I really love creating FOOD… it calms me (usually), it tastes amazing (usually!), and I waste a LOT less.
Most of all, cooking nutritious food has become my self-love-language… I tend to eat with my emotions, so if I can make something beautiful for myself, it is a lovely way of telling my body that everything is ok. For me, this has definitely been at the centre of my health-esteem journey.
What changes were necessary in order to achieve your state of self-love?
To be perfectly honest, my state of self-love is a constant work in progress. I have a massive tendency to bash myself, often not even realizing that I’m doing it. But I guess I’ve come to a state of awareness surrounding that, so I’m happy to be moving forward!
Over the last year I have been learning breathing techniques for stress, walking in nature as much as possible, and learning to look inside myself. I am constantly in my head about what I feel with my heart, so I have been trying to just let my heart lead my head instead. It has certainly not been easy for me and I have a life-time to go, but I have come to some interesting places that I never would have guessed were affecting me every single day. I’m trying to love that.
I write in a journal, make a nourishing meal, listen to some music that matches my mood, breathe, walk, and let go as much as I can. It’s slowly working, and I am so proud of myself for every day I let go and love something more about me!
What has Graves Disease taught you?
Graves has taught me so, so much – about my body, about food and nutrition, stress, inflammation, and how all these things and more affect us each and every day.
Life is… inexplicable. It can really bite you in the butt if you aren’t paying attention. Being diagnosed with Graves has really opened my eyes to what I’m surrounded with and how I move through it.
We as a society have created such a huge disconnect from our lives… and it truly is creating hurt. To borrow from one of the biggest themes of my museum days: Prevention and preservation are a hell of a lot easier than restoration – it’s possible to rebuild the city, but it helps to have quality materials at your disposal.
What motivated you to become a student of Holistic Nutrition and Phytotherapy?
My journey with Graves, eczema, and the Autoimmune Protocol were my main motivation. I was searching for answers, finding some, and craving more!
Now that I am through my first 3 semesters, I am so thankful that I took the leap and moved to BC to follow my heart. I am so happy to be surrounded by people who have all had different journeys and have so many different perspectives… I am learning more than I could ever imagine!
Tell us 3 interesting facts that you’ve learned in your studies so far.
1) There is no single right way to eat/exercise/heal/be/think/etc. The only thing we all must do is listen to our bodies and be honest with ourselves.
2) In Ayurveda, warm water is recommended in the morning before food to gently stimulate the internal organs and awaken the body. Cold water shocks the body and can shut down performance and absorption, setting you up for a day of substandard digestion.
3) Digestion of food begins with the senses – sight, smell, touch, taste, and sometimes even sound. Always experience your food!
What inspired you to become the Healthy Foodie you are today?
My health! When you become chronically ill and you just can’t stand it anymore, you do whatever you can to feel better. I have always loved food, so it was a short jump from there to where I am now.
The Autoimmune Protocol was a very powerful tool for me to turn my health around, and I feel so much more empowered now – in my health journey, in my life journey, and in my self-love journey! I still eat my fair share of ice cream (coconut milk of course!), but now I know how to balance it out with lots of veggies, good fats, sustainable protein, exercise, nature, and self-forgiveness.
Describe a typical day on your plate.
Breakfast is usually leftovers from the night before (eg. sausage and sauerkraut or turkey and avo). I feel the most energized by a breakfast higher in protein and fats, and lower in carbs, but this doesn’t happen every day! Sometimes, I’ll have a green smoothie with gelatine, or fruit with coconut cream, hemp and chia seeds. I occasionally have coffee, but try to keep it as a treat, or make my own dandelion coffee instead.
Lunch is also often dinner leftovers, but usually on a salad, or with a side of veg if I can scrounge them up. Often avocado sneaks in here!
Snacking mostly consists of dark chocolate (I have a tendency to binge on it, so I try to incorporate something else like and apple or some avocado), fruit, homemade treats or fat bombs, or if I’m really prepared, I’ll have homemade paté and cucumber – YUM!
Dinner is usually a mix of some kind of meat (organic as often as I can, grass-fed when possible, local, etc.), with veg and sweet potato or squash. In winter I make a lot of bone broth for soups, and in summer I eat more salads or zucchini noodles topped with turkey, salmon, spiced ground beef, etc.
What is a daily health ritual must?
My most important daily health ritual is to set aside time for breathing. Stress affects me ridiculously, and is the number one cause of flare ups for my Graves and eczema. I have always been empathetic and take on the emotions of those around me. My Mom used to have to tell me regularly to stop “stealing her mood”.
Very simple breathing exercises, such as belly breaths and alternate nostril breathing, really help me to calm down, refocus, and be able to try again. I often combine this with a “legs up the wall” pose to encourage lymph drainage and decrease swelling from water retention.
What advice would you give for someone wishing to make some health invoking changes?
I want to inspire others to start their own health journeys, not to try to copy anyone else’s journey. Listen to advice, but do your own research and make informed decisions. Only you can do what is right for you.
That said, don’t get yourself down when something doesn’t work, or things aren’t going smoothly right away. Taking care of ourselves is really hard work (seriously!). We are in constant flux and the best thing you can do for yourself is to be patient, self-loving, and keep up your Health-Esteem! You can DO THIS!
What’s your biggest health misconception pet peeve?
From a purely nutritional stand point, it boggles my mind that people are still counting calories! Calories are not all the same, we all need different amounts, and we really should just eat real food!!
What is your favourite health food staple?
AVODADOS!!! All of them! In everything! All the time! Ok, not in everything and not all the time, but they definitely have a very special place in my heart!
What’s your go to healthy snack?
Did I mention my avocado obsession? I love grabbing one (or just half), sprinkling with a little cumin, turmeric and lemon juice, and voila! 10 second guacamole! Avocado contains enough fibre, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and even protein to make it a great choice for snacking – guac on!
What does Health-Esteem mean to you?
To me, Health-Esteem is all about your emotional relationship with your health. We deserve a happy connection with ourselves and our health is a big reflection of that. Stressed people have stressed bodies.
“Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything” – The Princess Bride
Please share a favourite health-inducing recipe
Dandelion Basil Pesto
3 cloves garlic
1 c. fresh basil
2 c. fresh dandelion greens
1/4 – 1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt, to taste
3 cloves garlic
1 c. fresh basil
2 c. fresh dandelion greens
1/4 – 1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 Tbsp hemp seeds
1 – 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until desired consistency is achieved – voilà!
Store in jars with a little olive oil on top to seal and preserve if you will be keeping in the fridge for more than a couple days.
The pesto may also be frozen – for best results fill container right to top to lessen frosty ice crystals (just remember to NOT put the lid on tightly to prevent explosions in your freezer!).
***This also makes a yummy dip if you add some avocados (surprise!) and blend until creamy! Try it with veggies, sweet potato fries, or on a burger!***
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