This month we asked Monique Phipps, a clinical psychologist and nutritionist, what sparked her journey as a wholefood advocate who is passionate about sharing her knowledge with her engaged community as The Nourished Psychologist.
We love her wellness messages and her answers to questions so many of us are asking. How do you manage a busy life with three kids and keep them healthy physically and emotionally? How does what we eat effect how we feel? And a question popping up a lot recently following the release of more scientific research surrounding it why is our gut health so important?
1. Share your journey with us. What first sparked your passion for a cleaner, healthier, chemical free lifestyle?
For many years I had used more natural cleaning products and liked using organics products and foods but it wasn't until I read an article on food additives and the effects they can have on both physical and mental health that I really became passionate about making serious changes towards a chemical free, cleaner lifestyle.
2. You are an advocate for a wholefood, refined sugar free diet. Can you explain simply why you believe this is the best way to eat and what positive effects this has had on your family.
As soon as we removed additives from our home we noticed effects on energy levels, behaviour and sleep for all of us. That lead to me researching and making more changes such as removing refined sugar and most grains and our health and immunity has continued to improve. I believe that wholefood is what works for our bodies, it is what nourishes us and doesn't put extra strain on our bodies to have to eliminate added chemicals and toxins or damage our guts. Refined sugar is one of the most harmful things we can put into our bodies. It is responsible for a wide range of problems including obesity and diabetes but is also very detrimental to our gut health because it feeds the bad bacteria. Gut health is so integral to our physical and mental health as well as our immune systems so for me, getting rid of refined sugar is a no brainer. Sugar as it is found in nature is packaged in a way that our bodies can process so as long as it is not excessive. I am happy to include natural sugars such as fruit and raw honey in my familys diet.
3. You have a diploma in nutritional medicine and mental health how is our mental health effected by what we eat?
Our mental health is affected by what we eat in several ways. One of the biggest impacts in through gut health because our gut (which is often referred to as our second brain) is where neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, are made. Serotonin is important in mood, sleep, sex and many other functions and the majority of it is found in our gut, not in our brains. If our gut is not healthy and the gut walls are permeable then undigested food particles can also pass through the gut walls which can cause issues in many different parts of the body, including the brain. Our immune system lies in our gut too so of we are constantly getting sick then that is also going to have an effect on our mental health. Food additives can have effects on mood, anxiety, sleep, behaviour and learning. Many people also find that substances such as gluten and casein cause significant issues with anxiety and mood as well as serious mental health issues such as schizophrenia. There is also a lot of research linking nutrient deficiencies to mental health problems.
4. What are a few of the easiest nutritional changes people could make in their daily lives to improve their mental and physical health?
Eat real food! Ditch the packaged foods as much as possible, include plenty of healthy fats (no more low fat products!), eat a rainbow of colours and learn to listen to their bodies to work out which foods make them feel good and which dont. Try to make your own food as much as you can so that you know what you are putting into your body.
5. Life with kids and work is busy what are some of your top wellness tips and healthy habits?
Make time for yourself. Learn how to manage stress. Find a way to shop in bulk and cook in bulk whenever possible. Take your own lunch to work. Do some form of physical activity that you enjoy. Every day is a new day start afresh each day and do the best that you can with what you have at that time.
6. Along with your work promoting clean eating and living, what are some other things that you love to do?
I work 3 days a week in a public mental health service and my passion there is in the treatment of trauma. I love having fun with my kids, shopping at markets, baking, aerial silks, yoga and handstands.
7. You have three kids what kind of life advice do you think is important to pass onto your children?
Listen to your body it will tell you everything you need to know. Respect yourself, others and the environment and try to live by your values rather than what you think will please other people. And of course, the importance of eating real food! That is part of respecting yourself really. If you respect and value yourself then you will choose foods (and personal care or cleaning products) that nourish you and help you thrive rather than cause harm.
8. Whats next in store for you on your life journey
That is a very hard one to answer! I am in the process of applying to do a Doctorate. But I also dream of moving out of the city and having a big property where we can have chickens and goats and a huge veggie garden! Another dream of mine is to open a holistic mental health centre where a range of natural therapists work together to develop individual treatment plans for our clients. Just have to wait and see where life takes me!
Monique has some fabulous recipes (especially for kids) on her blog and a great community of like minded people who engage and share fantastic articles via her Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. Join her community HERE.