Meet Kiki: Our Overly Enthusiastic Wellness Advocate → Here’s What I Know (& Still Need to Figure Out)

 

Hi! My name is Kiki and I’ve teamed up with Sparked Magazine to bring to you health and wellness insight, recipes and nutritional hacks to navigate your way to being a healthy and vibrant attendee at music festivals. These tips will not just make you a well-prepared festie, ready to dance night and day, but they will also serve you in your daily city life. Practicing these fundamentals will increase your creativity, energy and positive outlook in all aspects of your world.

So, a little about me. Over the past few years, I’ve been dabbling in the world of “healthy eating”. Okay, maybe “dabbling” is putting it gently: I’ve tried a full-on raw vegan diet all the way to a fat-burning ketogenic diet and just about everything in between. But throughout all my experimentation, I always chose to eat real, whole foods, with dashes of superfood powder or tinctures of some sort mixed in for good measure.

If there’s one thing I’ve come to terms with on this journey towards healthier and more wholesome living, it’s that as soon as you think you’ve figured out the “hack” to a “healthier” dish, ingredient, or way of preparation… you realize there’s probably something else you’re missing! And so the learning and excitement never ends.

Take the idea of “eating healthy” for example, it really can mean completely different things for different people (different strokes for different folks, as they say). Maybe eating healthy to you refers to ordering a salad at your next business lunch, but for others, they wouldn’t even consider that idea and chance what the heck might be in the dressing (likely – GMO canola oil…oh god).

For me, I’m somewhere in-between. It depends on the day and my mood, to be honest. With that said, I’ve come a long way, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the insights I’ve gained. For instance, what if I told you that even if you ate only the healthiest of foods, you’re still not doing nearly enough. Yes, I’m referring to eating exclusively organic whole foods, especially plant-based “superfoods” and nothing outside of that fabulous category of edibles. Now I’m about to blow your mind: even if you did THAT perfectly, and nothing else…you’re still kind of FAILING!

Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh – but it was a hard reality check that I myself came to face within this past year, and while you may already be rolling your eyes, I’m going to try to explain to you exactly why and what I mean by this claim. I’ll need a few posts to lay it all out for you – which is why I’m excited to be on the Sparked Magazine team as the editor of Health & Wellness. But for now, I’ll touch on a few points to get us started.

First off, food is simply not enough. Food being that “regular” stuff you can buy at your local supermarket. And we are not talking ‘processed food’, we are talking wholesome, organic, fresh, unpackaged food. There’s a marketing term for some of those wholesome foods: “superfoods”. And whether you agree with how the consumerism around it is shoved in our faces or not, you’re going to want to get onboard this health trend. It’s perhaps currently being hijacked by big business because they see the money in it, and marketing is confusing the issue, but the value of true ‘superfoods’ is proven, regardless of marketing fads, so suck it up and get onboard! Some of my favorite “mainstream” and “overdone” superfoods that still deserve attention and space in your grocery trolley include:

  • Hemp hearts
  • Goji berries
  • Quinoa
  • Spirulina
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Wheatgrass (preferably the fresh or flash-frozen juice, but some of the organic powders are just or almost as good!)

Note that I tried to include some of the most “common” and “regular” superfoods in the above short list… although depending on where you reside perhaps spirulina and wheatgrass might still be considered a bit “out there”. Again, finding these foods in their freshest, unadulterated form is where you will get the benefits you need from them. Anything packaged and processed by companies jumping on the health bandwagon to make money will degrade their potency (and bio-force) while still convincing you that you are getting the best product out there.

Remember this example: peanut butter, although potentially not for everyone, and ever debated in terms of ‘is it good for us’, is not always peanut butter. Kraft and Jiffy do not make peanut butter. They make a fake, processed, salted and sugar-added cream colored paste that they call peanut butter. You can even find versions of that kind of paste labeled ‘organic’, yet still containing salt and sugar, and of course, processed- which likely means they ground up all the moldy peanuts in along with the good ones. GMO’d? Who knows, they won’t tell you. Pesticide free? NOT A CHANCE. So what is peanut butter? True peanut butter is organically grown peanuts, free of genetic modification, free of exposure to radiation, free of petrochemical residues, non-moldy and ground into a butter-like consistency, that is all. THAT is peanut butter. This is just one example, and it can pertain to all foods, only the best version of that food is real food. The rest is garbage and it’s killing us slowly.

So back to superfoods- the fact is, these foods are jam-packed with nutritional benefits and each one deserves an exclusive feature post. I’ll be sharing recipes and the corresponding facts about a select number of these in future writings for Sparked, so stay tuned.

Next up, super HERBS. This is something I have David Wolfe to thank for. I’m talking moringa, slippery elm bark, mucuna, pine pollen, astragalus root, and oh so much more. If I’ve lost you already, then ohhhhhhhh my goodness we have so many fun things to explore and I can’t wait to introduce this whole new world of herbs to you.

Thirdly, let’s talk dirty. No, not that kind – the friendly bacteria kind of course! Good bacteria (lactobacillus) are the probiotic microbes you’re going to need to start incorporating into your diet. Kimchi and kombucha are super trendy these days, so you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with these “gut-friendly foods”. [Side note: the kombucha that you can pick up at your local health café and find at music festivals is likely not ripe and probably doing more harm than good…so beware (more on this in a future post)]. And while I’m a total fan and lover of foods like sauerkraut and keifer…these are not enough! Sad but true. You’re going to need to invest in a good probiotic supplement and take it on the daily – it won’t do you any harm and is generally a good call for just about anyone and everyone.

Fourth: liquids. Your body is a filter, and if you don’t filter the water that goes into your system, your body will get stuck with that task. Hint: you want to minimize this distress on your system as much as possible, so choose your water carefully. There are great options for filtering your water, and there will be a post about that, but personally, I’m all about the LIVING STUFF– i.e. spring water…nothing beats it! You can also “upgrade” your water by making a tea out of it, letting it sit under moonlight, add a living element like a blade of grass to it, and much more (again, major props for all of these airy-fairy ideas goes to my main man David Wolfe). For festivals, you can purchase a Sports Berkey Water Bottle to take with you and filter all the water you drink. I strongly advise against buying stacks of water bottles, it’s just terrible for nature and not good for you either. Water at festivals is free and in abundance, filter it and you are good to go!

And finally, our fifth point is a good way to close. I’m going to leave with you the idea that HOW you think about what you choose to ingest, and HOW you live life on the whole– is vital for optimal health. If you’re doing all of these “wellness focused” things just for the sake of it, or just to “get them done” because you know you should, while doing a whole lot of other bad stuff based on old habits, then a lot of your hard work will be lost.

The … GOTTA-GET-TO-YOGA-AND-NAMASTE-AND-THROWBACK-MY-GREEN-JUICE-AND-STFU-ONE-SEC-IM-MAKING-MY-ACAI-CHIA-BOWL, is simply not the way to live.

I hope you agree with that or are at least intrigued with all of the above in a general way because I look forward to sharing more of this content that I genuinely believe is worth all of the hokey-pokey “alternative”, “holistic” hype that surrounds it. On a similar note, I’m also going to be explicit on calling out the fads that are simply the result of “greenwashing”– AKA, bullshit. Where companies essentially hire PR agencies to create the ‘appearance’ that their brand cares, all the while simply using focus group trigger words that they know will fool us. For instance, Tea Detoxing: yes, it’s a marketing ploy. They sell you cheap tea at a high price and promise you unfounded benefits. If you want to waste your money, go for it, but honestly, they make a mockery of one of the oldest and most beneficial beverages in the world, with a history that dates back thousands of years. Take time to learn what tea can and can’t do for you, it’s worth it, and it will save you a lot of money. It’s just one tool in the toolbox to great health. And that goes for everything else, not one diet, not one food, not one beverage will give you what they promise it will give you, it takes a combination of all of the above, done on a consistent basis. Because, the most important part about your ‘teatox’ isn’t even in what tea you choose—it’s in what else you eat: “Tea can only be medicinal and detoxifying if your diet isn’t taxing your system, which most North American meals are guilty of,”  says New Jersey-based holistic nutritionist, Laura Lagano, R.D. In order to truly detoxify your body, cut out processed and fried foods, and up your intake of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and anti-inflammatory fats like avocados and almonds. Once your diet is clean and gentle on your body, detoxifying teas can begin to enhance your natural organ function.

And similarly, another thing that angers me is that “health cafes” in this day and age continue to sell and market desserts with “no added sugar” and then freely use coconut sugar instead or ‘organic cane sugar’, which has just as high of a glycemic index spike on your blood…thus marketing to our ignorance and treating us like complete fools. The problem is, too many of us fall victim to these sneaky tricks because these companies spend big money to always be more prepared than we are, promising us their products will do what we desire them to do while creating or capitalizing on the buzz words we recognize in popular culture. But I’m eager to help you make wiser and more informed choices.

The people around you may start to think you’re “over the top” or “too restricted” when you start following some of these nutrition hacks, but hey! they can continue feeling yukky, while you morph into a total superhuman– it’s fine, you can still be friends. And when they are ready to make a change, you will be right there to help them.

In the meantime, you will definitely be one of the last ones standing on the dance floor. And Mario and I will see you there!

Angeliki (Kiki) Athanassoulias @kiki.athanas

NOTE: I am in no way shape or form a doctor or intend to provide you with diagnosis or treatment. I’m simply sharing what I know and believe to be true as inspired by my work and research with Meal Garden, collaborations with various health experts (including RD’s, RHN’s, and CNE’s), knowledge learnt at UofT’s Continuing Studies courses such as a Women’s Approach to Naturopathic Medicine, and my current enrolment in David Wolfe’s Nutrition Certification Program. You may choose to take what I say with a grain of salt– but just make sure it’s living sea salt from New Zealand or Hawaiian black lava salt, please & thank you

Find more of her great writing on her personal health blog Mindfully Edible, and try out the Holistic Health Toolkit on Meal Garden for personalizing your digital cookbook and generating tailored shopping lists.

And if you feel like doing a little extra reading about what ‘organic’ means read the Think Canada Organic description here and the USA version from the Organic Trade Association here. This one is my favorite in terms of an objective view to the whole subject Well For Culture ‘Organic 101. And for history read this Liquid Planet ‘Organic 101‘. It’s important to remember that organic is about more than simply not using chemicals: it’s about rotating crops and building healthy soil for the future, it’s about treating animals well, and many other things you can’t “test” for.