At Gardenuity, we believe that all wellness should be holistic. If our physical health is not informed by our mental health or vice-versa, how can we really be able to feel our best?
The focus on mind-body connection is one of the many reasons we love Meg De Jong. A registered holistic nutritionist, Meg’s work focuses not only on nourishing our bodies through delicious food but also grounding us mentally through connection to the Earth and freedom from anxiety.
We spoke with Meg about her career, her philosophies on wellness, and how her surroundings are constantly informing her broader worldview.
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your story?
I’m a registered holistic nutritionist. I live on a small island called Salt Spring – off the coast of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. I love gardening, cooking, baking, hiking, and doing anything in nature!
How did you come to be interested in nutrition?
I was initially interested in nutrition because I had a long journey struggling with anxiety and disordered eating. I didn’t know the power food could have until I saw it first-hand in my own life. Once I realized it, I decided I wanted to create a career where I could help people like myself to foster a better relationship with food and also help to use food as a way to ease anxiety levels (not be a further trigger for anxiety).
What is the focus area of your practice?
As a nutritionist, I specialize in nutrition for anxiety and gut health (they are so connected!). However what people learn from working with me is that there are SO many areas in our body that can impact our anxiety levels such as our hormones, our blood sugars, our vitamin and mineral levels, and so on.
What are a few ways to ‘eat for anxiety’?
I’d try these three things, to start:
One, focus on consuming 3 blood sugar balancing meals a day. If our blood sugars are imbalanced, it can easily lead to cortisol spikes.
Two, include more leafy vegetables (at least ½ your plate) and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, etc. for gut support
Three, do your best to avoid trigger foods. These are different for everyone, but common ones include dairy, refined sugars, food additives, excess caffeine, and alcohol
The connection between food and numerous other systems in our bodies is something that has started entering into the collective consciousness more and more. How can we start working on this relationship in our own lives? What are our first steps?
I love this question! When we take a step back, we realize that truly everything is connected. What is good for the planet will be good for our body and, in turn, will be good for our mental health!
I think the best way to start is pick a spot that feels easy for you and begin there. We can get so overwhelmed when we try to tackle all areas at once. It’s important to know that every positive step we are making (in any area) is a step forwards to bettering our planet and all of humanity.
For me, I started paying attention to how my food was grown. I tried to shop more at farmers markets and buy organic, as pesticides are harmful for our bodies and the planet. From there, I continued making all sorts of other steps that felt do-able. It’s like the idea of habit stacking.
What are your thoughts on the stress and burnout associated with modern life? Do you have any lifestyle tips that can help alleviate them?
Gah, yes! It’s SO prevalent in this day and age. I recommend getting into nature as much as possible (without your phone!)! This is one of the best places to ground, clear your mind, and get back in touch with what is truly important. Whether it be a walk in a forest, a hike, a dip in the ocean or lake, or a walk around a local park – anywhere you can be in touch with the earth can have a powerful impact on bringing your body back to balance.
On top of this, I’d say try gardening! I love how Gardenuity makes growing food so accessible. We need to take advantage of how it can be possible for so many of us to begin growing!
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting to learn about nutrition?
Don’t forget to listen to your body. It can be so easy to get caught up in thinking you need to try the latest fad diet or to avoid xyz but the truth is, once you know the foundations of nutrition, you are your own greatest teacher.
Also, don’t let it add to your anxiety! Nutrition should feel empowering and exciting, not stressful and anxiety-provoking.
Tell us about the gardening you do. When did you first start gardening?
I have a large garden where I grow tons of food with my partner, Luke. I’ve been gardening for 7 years now and love it so much! It’s a great way to get into the present moment and also gives you the most delicious and nutritious rewards. Some of my favorite things to grow are carrots, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs.
Is there a connection between home-grown food and holistic health?
Absolutely! Nutrition is not only about what we eat but how it’s grown! As I mentioned earlier about the connectivity of all things, in focusing more on food grown with the utmost care, we know we will be doing amazing things for our bodies, minds, and the planet as a whole!
Homegrown food is grown with love and often contains more nutrients than conventionally grown mono-crops. Not only this, but we get to decide how it’s grown!
You live on Salt Spring Island, a beautiful island in British Columbia. Do you have any ties to the land there that inform your nutrition practice? How can we ground our diets in the land on which we are living?
I definitely do. I’ve learned so much from Indigenous culture about foraging and living more in touch with the land– and I have so much more still to learn! Salt Spring Island is on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people, who have so much knowledge about the best nutrition for the area. I’ve learned from Indigenous peoples within British Columbia about harvesting things like spruce tips and fir tips, the importance of wild salmon and wild game meat, about all sorts of other amazing plants such as elderberry, horsetail, wild berries, and so much more.
Want to hear more from Meg? Check out the Instagram Live we did with her a few weeks ago!