Dr Libby on food fads and fostering a postive mindset
DR LIBBY’S SIMPLE TAKE ON EATING WELL HAS SEEN HER BECOME AN ICON FOR HER LEAGUE OF FANS. SHE TALKS TO SARA BUNNY ABOUT FOOD FADS, EMBRACING A POSITIVE MINDSET AND FINDING JOY IN THE LITTLE THINGS
When wellness guru Dr Libby Weaver meets with Good
Health at a bustling café, it’s clear she practises what she preaches. Shunning the coffee and sweet treats in the cabinet, she cheerfully sips herbal tea, says she doesn’t believe in ‘comfort food’, and looks bright-eyed and relaxed despite her jam-packed schedule.
But it hasn’t always been as easy as she makes it look. In her 20s, she battled her own serious health issues while studying nutrition, an experience that taught her a valuable lesson in listening to her body’s needs. Not only that, it was a phase that highlighted just how important it is to not get too bogged down in a world full of conflicting health advice.
“We aren’t going to be able to change the influx of information we now have on food, so I think we have to be more discerning about what we take on,” she says. “Your own body is your best barometer, and we can’t be so attached to a [health trend or wellness label] that we miss the feedback from it.”
This is one of the key messages of her latest book, which takes its title from the
‘we have to be more discerning. Your own body is your best barometer’
very question she gets asked the most, What Am I Supposed to Eat? It was the low-fat days, Libby believes, that triggered a dramatic change in the food supply, led us down the path of nutritional confusion, and made us more disconnected from real food than our grandparents’ generation ever was. “Before the low-fat era, if you wanted an apple pie, you baked it yourself,” explains the nutritional biochemist. “Then the food industry got involved and there was an apple pie in the frozen section of the supermarket. Then there was a low-fat pie – and everyone knows this now – it was filled up with sugar, then salt to mask the sweetness. So through the low-fat era, people ate more salt and sugar than ever before in the entirety of human history, and they believed it was good for them.
“Nutrition information moves in about 30-year cycles; in the early 80s we started the low-fat era, and what came after was the high-protein era. This is nothing new, and it’s always going to keep happening.”
With all that in mind, Libby’s rule of thumb for those who are feeling bamboozled by today’s abundance of diet advice is simple: “The way to not get caught up in the fads is to remember that when it comes to food, nature gets it right and human intervention can get it really wrong.”
In What Am I Supposed to Eat?, the wellbeing warrior tackles everything from micronutrients to managing sugar intake, but she’s quick to say that having the right mindset is the most important wellness tool of all.
Most of us have berated ourselves for having a lack of willpower and a weakness for chocolate, but what if it was your
‘When it comes to food, nature gets it right’
a key question we should be asking is ‘will this nourish me?’
perception of eating that was getting in the way? According to Libby, common traps include having an ‘all or nothing’ approach to food, and a tendency to focus solely on what we ‘shouldn’t’ have.
“A lot of people end up making lousy food choices as they are very black and white; they always think of it as this ‘wagon’ that they could fall off,” she says. “But there is no wagon to fall off, it’s just your life. If you eat some biscuits for afternoon tea one day and think ‘I’ve ruined it’, you won’t go home and make great choices with that mentality.
“A better way to look at it is with curiosity. Think, ‘I ate three biscuits – what led me to do that? Was I hungry? Or did I eat them because of an emotion?’ The minute we judge, we go blind and we get no insight. Whereas when we bring curiosity, we’re open to learning something, and from that, behaviour can change.”
Other times, we’re fighting with misinformation and old-fashioned ideas that are surprisingly hard to shake. “The concept of calorie counting is all about restriction, and no one can sustain that,” says Libby. “Often it comes from a place of fear; it’s not about wellbeing and vitality and wanting to embrace life, it’s ‘I’m not allowed to have that.’”
So how do we cut through all the noise? The holistic health expert says a key question we should be asking when it comes to what to put on our plate is, ‘will this nourish me?’.
“There’s freedom in that mindset shift,” she explains. “It means you’re not avoiding a food because it’s bad for you, you’re choosing to not eat something because it offers you nothing, and that comes from a more positive place of
‘I’m looking after myself’”.
And if you’ve got a list as long as your arm of food you’ve labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’, you might want to reconsider that too, she says.
“The words you use matter. If you say to yourself that you’re eating a ‘bad’ food, then you’re saying you’re behaving badly, or that you’re a bad person, and there’s no truth in that.
“Food isn’t healthy; people are, or they aren’t. Food is nutritious, or it isn’t. If you’re judging yourself harshly then that often leads you to make more poor quality food choices.”
Look for happiness
With almost a dozen books to her name and the power to pull big crowds on her regular speaking tours, Libby has a league of fans throughout the world who turn to her for guidance.
And when it comes to taking her own advice, she has some daily health rituals she couldn’t be without. She used to create a vege-packed green smoothie every morning, but when a hectic travel schedule started to make smoothie whizzing difficult, she created her own green Bio Blends powder that she now takes with her wherever she goes. She’s long been a fan of tai chi and meditation soon after waking up, but these days, she focuses on ‘spaciousness’ instead.
“I noticed a long time ago that if I started the day by doing something in silence, by myself, then my day would be very different than if I just got up and got going. I just let myself do whatever I want for 20 minutes each morning; I might go for a walk or I might read. It gives me a sense of space because I’m calm.”
And when you pare it back to the basics, less stress and more happiness is another one of Libby’s main messages.
“It sounds silly, but I think joy gives us energy,” she says. “When you talk to people who are dying and you ask them what they are going to miss, they tell you the most ordinary things, like the feeling of their dog’s fur under their fingertips, or the night sky. We’ve got all of that now, so I think part of joy is letting ourselves have what we already have.
“As often as I can, I shut the lid on my computer in the evenings and go out to watch the sunset. It’s something so simple, but it just blows my mind. It’s the little things.”
‘It sounds silly but I think joy gives us energy’