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Plate Expectations

Cityscape caught up with our favourite nutritional biochemist, renowned author and all round lifestyle guru Dr Libby on the launch of her new book What Am I Supposed To Eat? Making Sense of Food Confusion and Food Frustrations tour this month for a few healthy pointers and to find out more about the amazing woman behind the legendary healthy living empire.

Tell us about your new book and Food Frustrations tour.
My new book What Am I Supposed To Eat? delves deeply into the nutritional aspect of my three-pillared approach, examining the biochemistry of food along with what I’ve learned from 14 years of study and 20 years of clinical practice. My goal with this book is to help people get back in touch with how to best meet their own nutritional needs, instead of just following a prescribed diet or food plan without considering their bio-individuality. I hope that, through its pages, people will see the value of viewing food as nourishment and feel less confused about what to eat. My Food Frustrations: What am I supposed to eat? live event is about getting to the heart of people’s biggest frustrations with food. Some people are honestly confused about what health information is accurate and helpful to their health. Other people are stuck in a cycle of eating things they know they shouldn’t but they’ve been doing it for years and don’t know where to begin to change their habits. I want to give people a greater understanding of the biochemistry of their body, to enable them to identify which food choices will best serve their health and help them break through old paradigms of eating.

What prompted you to write it?
I wrote What Am I Supposed To Eat? because it’s the number one question I am asked at my seminars and women’s health weekends. Although I often speak about stress and digestion and hormonal balance, there are always people coming up to me afterwards saying “please just tell me what to eat”. There are still so many people who are confused about what to eat and I want to clear up this unnecessary confusion. In addition to that, New Zealand is the third most obese nation in the world, which is a tragedy and also unacceptable. The consequences of this on adults and children are immense and this won’t change until we change what we are eating.

What’s the most important thing you hope readers take away from reading it? 
I want people to know that their body has their back and that it truly is the expert on what is best for them. It’s so important to tune in to the messages your body is sending you about what does and doesn’t serve you, because everybody is different and what is nourishing for one person won’t necessarily be nourishing for another. In general though, eat real whole foods, not processed foods.

Dr Libby kneeling gardens copy

Why do you think people don’t know what’s good for them?
I think deep down most people do know what’s best for them, but they’ve lost faith in their body’s wisdom and no longer trust themselves to make decisions that best support their health. So they go looking for answers externally. When we don’t know who or what nutrition information to trust, but we also don’t trust ourselves, it can make things incredibly complicated. The other part of this involves the question “why do we do what we do when we know what we know?” People are educated and most have a pretty good idea of which foods are nutritious and which ones aren’t. You don’t polish off a packet of chocolate biscuits after dinner thinking that you’re going to feel amazing afterwards. For people who frequently make poor quality food choices despite knowing this won’t nourish them, understanding the ‘why’ can be a powerful catalyst for change.

What’s the biggest misconception around healthy eating?
That there is one best way for everyone to eat. Generally, we need to eat whole real foods rather than processed ‘foods’, but the specifics of this will vary from person to person when it comes to which real foods best serve them, how they are prepared and how often they are eaten. I have witnessed so many people continue to eat foods they have been told are ‘healthy’, despite their body sending them clear signals that these foods aren’t right for them. Your body truly is your best barometer – do what works for you.

What’s your go-to dish to whip up in a hurry after a long day?
I absolutely love the delicious Brilliant Brassica Soup from my second cookbook, Real Food Kitchen. It is packed full of liver-supporting vegetables and I can prepare it in under 20 minutes. Otherwise it would be poached eggs or a frittata with greens from my veggie garden, avocado and organic sauerkraut.

DrLibby Brilliant Brassica Soup

Who inspires you?
The people who write me emails sharing their life stories about how they’ve turned genuine hardship into brave learnings and a new way of living. So often this involves dietary or other lifestyle changes. I’m also inspired by the ripple effect. When one person starts looking after their own health and makes sustainable changes, this creates a ripple effect on those closest to them and subsequently those closest to them and so on.

What are the three rules you live by?
Food is nourishment – to me, food is nourishment, so this is what I base my food choices on. If you’re feeling unsure about what you should eat, try asking yourself “will this nourish me?”

Be a flexitarian – I’m not about rigidity, restriction or ‘perfect’ eating. A gentler approach can embrace a degree of flexibility or what some like to call ‘zig and zag’. A ‘zig’ meal is made up of nutrient-dense real foods and no alcohol. While for a ‘zag’ meal, the focus is more about the company you are in, being playful, relaxing or nourishing your soul. Zags are part of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Don’t worry about something until it’s a problem – this piece of wisdom was a gift from my beautiful mum.

You’re obviously a very busy woman; how do you keep it all together?
I could not do what I do without my own personal restorative practices. I have a morning ritual that I don’t compromise and I also eat amazingly well. Those are my physical rituals, but the other big thing is my attitude. I am really in touch with how privileged I am. I know people think the concept of being ‘grateful’ gets overused but I am truly grateful for life itself plus everything I have in my life – such as clean water and fresh air. An attitude of gratitude can be very energising – and in times of challenge I bring myself back to this.

Favourite item in your wardrobe?
My gumboots!

What’s the one song guaranteed to get you up dancing?
This changes from week to week. I love music. At the moment, it’s ‘Late Night’ by ODESZA.

Favourite tipple of choice?
Beer on a really hot day.

What’s the one beauty product you can’t live without?
I love using organic oils on my skin. I don’t have a particular brand that I use – often I’ll mix up my own blend of oils. I keep it pretty simple and focus more on a beauty from the inside out approach – providing my skin cells with the nutrients they need from whole, real foods.

A genie grants you three wishes – what are they?
For organic farming practices to become the norm.
For everyone on the planet to have their basic needs met – access to clean water, nutritious food and shelter.
For no one, particularly children, to go to sleep cold.

I’ve never really been a fan of …
Sweet foods. I’m more of a savoury person.

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