This blog post is dedicated to my 1.5 years of living abroad. For those who are new here, my partner, Ali, and I spent the last year living, working and travelling around New Zealand. We lived in a van for most of the year and also parked ourselves in an adorable surf town making coffees and learning all about Kiwi and Māori culture. We also visited countries like Samoa, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. And what a time it’s been! I’ve learned so many incredible life lessons from our time abroad, especially many on the topic of nutrition, health and wellbeing.
This year we spent the majority of our time living in our campervan, where eating the way I did back home was not an option – cue small fridge space, keeping food in a small camping cooler, limited appliances, no Vitamix, and lots of eating on-the-go. The rest of the year was spent living in a house with flatmates in an adorable little beach town while we saved up for more travels (cue tiny budget, lack of organic produce and insane schedules).
This year was the biggest health challenge I have ever faced, and it really put me to the test! I feel SO inspired by our time in New Zealand in the best way possible.
My Year Without Superfoods
So the real question is, did I really go without superfoods for an entire year!?
If you have been following my platform, The Pure Life, for a while, you’ll know that “superfoods” were my must-haves when it came to nutrition. From maca powder, to chia seeds, açai bowls and spirulina powder, I have always been a die-hard fan of superfoods. I write the title of this blog post as a bit of a joke, instead of completely removing “superfoods” from my diet, I actually just simplified my diet and view of nutrition. This was fascinating, and I can’t wait to share it with you below…
3 Things I Learned About Health
1. We like to overcomplicate nutrition.
My goodness, isn’t this so true!? Wellness has become oh so trendy, spin class is sexier than ever and are you even healthy if you don’t drink celery juice? While I am over the moon about nutrition and wellness becoming popularized, I also like to remind myself to not take things too seriously. With so many superfood products and wellness trends being thrown in our face, it’s easy to feel swept up in the chaos. I can see now why so many of my clients come to me begging me to give them the answer to their health problems – we feel pulled in so many directions. Is paleo the right diet for me? But all my friends are going vegan? Should I be taking maca powder? I think the simple answer to all of this is that we need to stop overcomplicating nutrition and instead focus on:
- Eating real, whole foods
- Choosing locally grown, in-season foods when possible
- Consuming less processed and packaged foods
- Drinking enough water
2. Stress brings on an array of health problems.
Over the Winter, I was working 3 jobs, waking up at 4 am every day and doing HIIT workouts – my physical and mental stress levels were through the roof. I never realized how much stress truly affects our health. I learned about how stress can seriously impact our hormones from a first-hand perspective, and now I am excited to bring what I’ve learned to you guys. If there is one thing I want to teach my clients and readers moving forward, it’s to put an emphasis on reducing stress. Instead, it’s important to:
- Practice stress-reducing habits like deep breathing, walking in nature, writing in a journal.
- Ensure enough sleep, ideally in the 10pm-7am window, depending on the season.
- Enjoy movement that makes you feel energized, not depleted.
- Utilize specific foods and herbs that help combat the effects of stress on the body.
3. Bringing it back to basics is basically the answer to every health problem
My Dad used to always say to me that nutrition is simple, don’t overcomplicate it! I thought he was crazy but man, was I wrong. Bringing it back to the basics is where we almost always find ourselves. Are you eating enough vegetables? Are you supporting local producers? Drinking enough water? What about making food from scratch? These are all simple ways to practice health that we can always fall back on. Simplicity is so underrated!
My Updated View on Self Care
Do you ever feel overwhelmed that you’re not doing all the things?! I used to feel overwhelmed with this pressure to fit in all the self-care practices into my day. Morning routines, adaptogenic lattes, meditation, Spin class, writing in a gratitude journal, listening to podcasts, reading self-development books, the list goes on. While I am still a huge advocate for these self-care practices and while I still practice all of the ones listed above, I now realize that it’s definitely not necessary to do all the things, all the time. And on top of that, it is a huge privilege to even have access to these things. Also, who really has time for all of that!? My goal moving forward is to have all of these incredible tools at my fingertips but not feel the pressure to be doing them just for the sake of doing them. Being present and doing self-care practices with intention (for you, not for others) is the whole point of self-care. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- The most important self-care practices are the basics, like doing your laundry, eating enough food, spending time in nature, getting enough sleep.
- Self-care is not self-care unless it’s intentional. Have the intention behind each practice, don’t just do something for the sake of doing it. Ask yourself – why is this important?
- You are 100% deserving of your own unique self-care practice. What worked for you last year might not work for you now.
Since 2020 got us off on a bit of a rough start, it’s tough to say how my views on health and wellness will alter in the future. For now, these are some pointers I think are important to share.
Things I’ll leave behind:
- The need to feel “trendy” all the time
- Stressing over small things
- Having 500 superfood powders in my pantry
- Overcomplicating nutrition + health
- Thinking I need to slap a label on my diet
Things I’ll take with me:
- My health & intuition
- Stillness and simplicity
- Supporting organic locally-grown food when possible
- Remembering that cooking is a ritual
- Eating intuitively
Why Living In a Van Was So Difficult For Me, But SO Necessary
The first few months of living in a van really got under my skin. I struggled and I struggled hard. While I was loving every second of it, I still had moments where I broke down in tears and anxiety hit me pretty bad. Newsflash: I learned this actually happens to a lot of vanlifers. Being confined to a small space can bring on some seriously intense emotions and thought patterns. After a lot of working through this (so thankful for journaling, my partner Ali and my dear friends on the road), I realized my anxiety had a lot to do with coming from the big city life and learning to sssllllooooowwww dooowwwnnn. Growing up in Vancouver, I never realized how much pressure we put on ourselves every single day – I was constantly stimulated one way or another and never really got away from it long enough to have a chance to escape that feeling. Travelling for 4 months in a van was a very unique experience for me. There was a whole lot of adventure, quality time and chilling out and very little routine, personal space and planning. It was somehow exactly what I needed, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
These months in a van allowed me to step back, really think about who I am as a person – without my health and wellness circle, without my career, without my family. It was emotionally tough but fascinating and so rewarding. I now have a clear picture of who I am, what I want my life to look like and how I can help others.
Moving forward – what happens now?
I am inspired to take what I’ve learned in 2019 and share it with you guys. If you’ve made it this far (haha, thank you!), I hope you are also excited and inspired to revamp wellness with me. While The Pure Life gets a rebranding, I will be sharing more epic goodness with you (including even more delicious recipes, beauty tips and self-care ideas!). Cheers to health! XO, Sisley