With the onset of dark nights, cold weather, and indulgent festivities, our health can often take a back step during winter. We spoke to Xochi Balfour, nutritional therapist and wellness guide, about her top tips for winter health and how she maintains balance at this time of year.
How did you first get into nutrition and wellness?
The beginning of this journey was hitting burnout while running a street food business with my husband Ben. Together we quit our office jobs in 2010 to hit the road and while the experience was completely life changing in so many ways, running the van at back to back events left us drained and under lot of physical and emotional pressure.
I was lucky enough to discover the power of nutrition to get us back on track, and that was the foundation of the journey on which we find ourselves. Food is a fundamental gateway to how we treat our physical and emotional selves (and the planet); the building block of balance and wellness. I trained as a neuropathic nutritional therapist, began writing my blog, and then my book was born from there.
From food, I became interested in natural beauty and lifestyle, and then meditation and healing work became the third "pillar" of vitality. We can drink all the green juices we like but I do not believe that true wellness can be attained until we look at what is blocking us on an emotional and energetic level as well.
What does your typical day look like?
My baby boy Sasha is 9months old so at the moment it very much revolves around his schedule. Surrender is the ongoing lesson!
We recently moved from London to Somerset, so I am lucky to be able to walk with him in nature at least once a day. I am also enjoying being creative about how to play with him and how I can weave things like cooking or making a batch of natural beauty recipes into our time together. It's a challenge but with motherhood I have learned that everything becomes one's meditation: presence and responsibility keep me in the here and now.
Before I had a baby, morning meditation and ideally some stretching or yoga would be the best foundation for my days. As any new mother can attest though, finding time for this can be a real challenge and now I find the most helpful resources for me are working with an altar, cultivating gratitude and getting into nature as often as possible.
What’s your wellness mantra?
Listen to your body.
What are your top three tips for staying healthy and mindful over the winter season?
Stay connected to nature: even though it is colder outside, Mother Nature is our greatest healer and the more we can immerse ourselves in the healing green, the better our systems will feel. Even if it's just a walk in park, this connection is vital.
Hydrate! It's harder to maintain when it's colder but hydration is vital. Herbal teas are the perfect ally and allow us to gently harness some targeted herbal benefits as well.
Don't go wild on the sugar: when it's cold, days are short and festivities are kicking off, it can be tempting to reach for refined sugar and sweet treats. However sugar plays havoc with our energy levels, hormones and emotions, so being mindful of our intake is vital for maintaining balance within and without.
Your book The Naturalista is full of everyday recipes – is there one you couldn’t live without?
At the moment, the banana, almond butter and flax pancakes are a breakfast staple, and the spiced Mayan hot chocolate. Cacao is a wonderful, feminine and heart-opening plant and I like to honour it with a really delicious, synergistic blend of spices and flavours.
What’s your advice to anyone looking to embark on a more holistic way of life?
We are all works in progress: be kind to yourself and look to achieve more balance gradually and easily. Then the changes will really last and become woven into the fabric of your everyday life. It's easy to jump into huge promises and transformational ideas but if we are too absolutist we set ourselves up for failure. I work with each client in very different ways to make sure that we meet them wherever they are at, that is the key - there is no one size fits all approach to nutrition or spirituality, so I help each person to find their own toolkit that works best for them.
You’ve recently welcomed your first child, how are you adapting to life as a mother?
It's a total trip! The love is mind-blowing, and I feel so lucky; the tiredness can also be a little mind-blowing but I now realise more than ever the importance of self-care, self-compassion and an ongoing awareness of how I eat, move and engage with my days. The teachings are coming thick and fast.