Today I want to introduce you to Sharon Gray from Belly & Soul and The Nourished Cook. A digestive health practitioner, self-care advocate and brains behind an impressive one-pot cookbook community project. I am very excited to have met Sharon and am even more thrilled to be soon sharing a Veggies & Me one-pot recipe with her The Nourished Cook project.
I hope you get a lot from this interview. Sharon has shared some really insightful yet simple strategies for including self-care as part of your busy daily life… and make sure you keep reading all the way to the end to see one tasty recipe!
In our busy modern world, surrounded by stress, frantic pace jobs and fast food many people don’t even know what ‘normal digestion’ feels like. How can people slow down and learn to listen to their own body?
I totally agree. It’s so easy to become disconnected from our bodies and inner wisdom, especially when life gets busy. I do believe it’s possible to reconnect though, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time and energy to get started.
One of my favorite ways to practice listening is a simple self-care “check-in.” Whether you’ve been staring at the computer for a long stretch, running errands, multi-tasking, or anything else that has your attention, take a moment to pause what you’re doing. Close your eyes and simply ask yourself, “What do I need right now to feel well?” Rather than thinking about what you should or shouldn’t do, try listening for a solid 30-60 seconds (or more if you can).
You may realize that you simply need to drink some water, eat a snack, shift your position, or take some deep breaths. You may even discover insights that can lead to major life changes—all from simply taking a moment to be still and listen.
Sometimes the answer isn’t always right there at the surface. If you’re met with a whirlwind of thoughts or “radio silence,” don’t worry. This can take time and practice, but I assure you, the more you show up to listen, the more your inner wisdom will tell you exactly what you need to be well at any given moment.
In your experience what is the link between optimal health and good gut/belly health? What benefits can people expect by improving their own gut/belly health?
When your digestive system isn’t working properly (due to poor nutrition, over-exertion, chemical toxicity, stress, etc.), this can lead to a wide variety of issues beyond digestive symptoms. Some of the most common examples I see in my practice are excessive weight gain or loss, difficulty thinking clearly, anxiety, depression, increased susceptibility to colds, flu, and other illnesses, allergies, yeast or fungal infections, fatigue, and much more.
Improving your digestion not only can help treat or prevent these symptoms, but it can also lead to a greater sense of comfort, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life.
If people are suffering from chronic disease or feel they are not thriving how would you suggest people begin their journey towards better health?
There are many paths to health and vitality, however, I think most folks could benefit from keeping things simple. To help with this, I recommend something I call the “list three, pick one” method of self-care.
The first step is to come up with three daily practices that you know would be supportive to your situation (e.g., taking a walk, stretching, going to bed earlier, etc). I like to write these down on a white board or a piece of paper taped someplace I can see regularly.
Now, instead of trying to keep up with all of these things at once, just pick ONE item to do from the list each day. If you do more, that’s fine, but don’t make that the goal. The more simple you make your self-care regime, the easier it will be to follow through, and the more you follow through, the easier and more natural it becomes to care for yourself.
You say on your website that you continue to work on your own self‐care practice. Can you please briefly outline the concept of a self‐care practice?
There isn’t just one self-care practice I would recommend for everyone, as we all have different needs. However, I would say one of the most important practices we can ALL benefit from is self-love and compassion. Let’s be honest. No matter how much we listen to our bodies, we’re human and we’re not always going to choose what is most beneficial for us. I think it’s especially important to be gentle with ourselves during these times.
I say this a lot in my practice, but I think it’s worth repeating. I believe self-care is recognizing what enriches our lives and what doesn’t, and having compassion for ourselves no matter which one we choose.
What are the most important elements of self‐care for YOU?
It’s a constantly evolving practice, but there are a couple of things that have stayed with me over the years. Probably the biggest one for me is eating three meals a day of primarily “real,” whole foods. My body will not compromise with me on this. When I eat good food, I have more energy, I can think more clearly, and I’m less prone to anxiety and overwhelm. The more I consciously make a connection between what I eat and how I feel, the easier it is for me to choose nourishing food.
Another self-care exercise that is absolutely essential for my health is my weekly “unplugged” day. I spend a lot of time on the computer for my work and by the end of the week, I can feel it taking a toll on my eyes, my body, and my mood. On Sundays, I choose to stay off the computer, and eliminate any unnecessary stimuli, including Netflix and music. It’s my day to stop the “noise,” which helps me listen more clearly to my own inner wisdom. I also feel so much more rested, clear, and inspired when I come back to my desk to work on Monday.
The testimonials on your website are so heartfelt and full of gratitude. It is easy to see how much you have helped your clients. What tips can you give people for finding the right practitioner for their gut/belly issues?
While credentials and experience are important, I would say it’s at least as important to have a good rapport with your practitioner. When there is a safe, comfortable connection, it’s easier to open up and allow deep healing to occur.
I’d recommend exploring websites when available, and don’t hesitate to call or write potential practitioners with any concerns you might have. Keep in mind, they may be very busy, but most practitioners who work with folks one-on-one are willing to answer general questions before making an appointment. Even just 5 minutes can give you a better sense of whether or not they are the right practitioner for you.
How would you describe your approach to food?
I wholeheartedly believe we are all nourished in different ways, and there is no one “right” way to eat and be healthy. I believe what nourishes us depends on many different factors, including our constitution, lifestyle, age, state of health, where we live, and the season.
Because of this, I’m not a fan of “diets,” but rather reconnecting with our bodies so we can know what is most nourishing for us at any given time.
I am currently developing my first online programme, which will focus on teaching people to get confident with a suite of recipes they can adjust to their own tastes and adapt to their local produce available seasonally. How do you get inspired to prepare a meal?
Much like you, I’m also very inspired by the season when I cook. I literally feel giddy when I see bright, tender asparagus cropping up in the springtime, or that mountain of hearty winter squash on a crisp autumn day. We can always count on Mother Nature to know what we need to be nourished at any given time!
Whether I’m cooking for my small family of two, or a house full of guests, I still check in with myself and ask, “What would nourish me right now?” Once in a while I stump myself, but the more I stop and listen, the more I get a clear message of what would most nourish my belly and soul.
Leave a comment with how you prioritise your own self-care.
Sharon has shared one of her favourite recipes:
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 large avocado
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp dried dill (plus more for garnish)
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring water to a boil.
- Add rinsed quinoa to boiling water.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Drain excess water from quinoa using sieve or fine colander.
- Quickly return quinoa back to pot, and let sit covered for 15 more minutes.
- While quinoa is cooking, chop the vegetables however you like them (chunky, tiny, etc).
- Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice over quinoa (optional: reserve a couple of slices for garnish).
- Place cooked quinoa in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add olive oil, dried dill, salt and pepper, while gently fluffing the quinoa.
- Add chopped vegetables, mixing lightly on top of the quinoa (or mix thoroughly if you prefer).
- Garnish with chopped parsley, along with some additional dried dill.
- Take a deep breath and enjoy!