Who is this new face in Wellness Room, Bess?
When I read a health article or a recipe blog, I want to know something about the writer. That maybe they don’t always live this blissful, perfect, food-focused life; that there is more to them than mountain top experiences. I am sure there is… but sometimes I think, “Far out, I cannot even manage my time and make a piece of toast for breakfast let alone photograph, post + scribe poetry about my gluten free kale granola with vegan activated buckwheat milk from Panama.” So I thought it was worthwhile sharing a little about myself so that I seem like a real person that has a past, present and hopefully exciting future. And by the way, I do like buckwheat and would probably love Panama.
I’m an Australian born and bred Nutritionist who loves her home in Melbourne and the people that make it just that: home. I’m also very happy with my Kiwi husband working in a private health clinic on the North Shore in Auckland. I grew up dancing which influenced my mindset for food/nutrition quite negatively before it became positive. The industry mostly calls for skinny and if this is not your natural physique, don’t eat until you get there! It was actually when I stopped a full on dance regime and finished University that the unhealthy mindset became action, as opposed to just the negative thoughts. A few health complications took hold and I realised skinny did not equal healthy. Thankfully love and good, patient people jumped in. Mum taught me to cook and to love experimenting with food, which turned me into a foodie before I stop myself. I adore being in the kitchen with a killer recipe and delicious ingredients.
This was pre-New Zealand. I studied both an exercise science degree and postgraduate nutrition studies in Melbourne, I danced a whole bunch, worked at numerous cafes/organic stores, taught food education in primary schools and wondered, what does one do with all this? Well, one from my generation goes abroad, don’t they? Yes. And sometimes, it is insanely life-changing. I had the opportunity to go to Northern Thailand and work for Destiny Rescue, a Christian NGO who rescue children from sex- trafficking. I started up a café for this organisation + trained young rescued girls in hospitality skills, confident customer service, both English and Thai cooking as well as language while running a full six day a week, 7am-11pm operation with them. I taught some dancing on the side as well. It was so much more than I could have ever expected. I was challenged out of my boots, not just over there to use some skills and help some cute kids. These girls became my life whether I had wanted them to or not. I became the big sister, boss, youth worker and gave my all trying to help these kids on their journey forwards from pretty dire + traumatic situations. Tiny girls with huge pasts + presents. You kind of get over yourself when you spend time with amazing people who have not known the education, comfort, security, wealth, opportunity, love and health that you have. It is remarkably humbling. The only thing more humbling is how quickly you revert back into a Western mindset “I can’t believe the organic store no longer stocks my favourite almond butter”. We can be so ridiculous sometimes, can’t we? There is nothing wrong with almond butter, but maybe we need to get some perspective sometimes. Thailand is a stunning backdrop for all its harsh undercurrents. The vibrant food markets, the chillis, the food! The girls taught me a thing or two in the kitchen and I taught them a thing or two in return. I realised the therapy in cooking + being able to create. I think it was pretty big healing for these tiny Thais and for small-to-medium Bess too.
Fast forward about 2-3 years and here I am. Living on the North Shore, I miss many things in other parts of the world but adore the ocean so close to my front door, the freshness of the fish my husband has been catching off his paddleboard and the hike-able hills all around. I enjoy working as a Nutritionist as I get to see people from all walks of life with all sorts of needs! Nutrition is one part of the whole deal. A perfect diet will fail if your body never moves or your mind never stops. You are much more useful if all of you is working optimally. I am passionate about food education: from primary aged kids learning to enjoy broccoli, to adults who want to prioritise cooking a meal for the family. It’s awesome. In an age of immediate and convenience, learning to take time with our food makes it taste better and feel better.
As a Nutritionist, I guess I should give some advice?! My wellness advice is, don’t be pretentious about your health + food, be real about it. Embrace it, look after it and enjoy it. But remember that there is more to life than the latest trainers + food trend. There’s a big wide world out there that might just be better off if you add to it with your time, heart, healthy choices and your blessed circumstances. Until next time, here’s a yummy and simple Thai dish for you to make.