I love doing these #healthspotalks and I hope that you find them as inspirational, motivational and fun as I do. Isn't it great to see that there are so many like-minded individuals working on making this world a healthier and happier place? Gimme a hell yeah! This months' beautiful soul is Sami from Sami Bloom. I stumbled across her feed a couple of weeks ago and was (a) mesmerized at how she manages to make kale look like the most gorgeous flower and (b) inspired by her life story, having gone from working in law and advertising agencies around NYC and Sydney to following your passion for health. Today she is a health coach, yoga teacher and is studying nutritional medicine to delve deeper into the topics she loves so much. Let's have a little chat with her, shall we?
What was the catalyst that turned you into a healthy foodie?
Having gone through my own health roller-coaster, I made drastic lifestyle changes that revitalized my health and ignited my passion for wellness. Previously, I had had a very unhealthy relationship with food. Whilst I considered myself healthy, I realised my food choices were not made with health in mind, but rather, body image. I shifted my focus from quick fixes to longevity and actually feeling healthy. The more I learnt about the body, the more I wanted to be good to my own. Yoga was instrumental to my healing – the days I did yoga I didn't want to deprive myself or have nasty thoughts. I began to experiment in the kitchen, learning how to make some of my favourite meals with a healthy twist, and I became hooked on how good it felt to eat clean! As I continue to learn more about the body on a biological and biochemical level, it continues to amaze me and I continue to respect how hard it works for me .
Why do you eat the way you eat?
I guess I said it above. To me, it is all about respecting how hard your body works for you and making the connection between nutrition and quality of life. I believe that what you put in your body is a reflection of how you care for yourself. Any time I catch myself being overly obsessive or restrictive, I question whether I am making that choice in health or for less loving reasons. I have also recently shifted to 100% plant-based, and to me, that is the diet that I feel my 100% best on – mind, body, and spirit.
Describe your day on a plate.
I like to begin with warm water and ½ lemon, juiced, upon rising. 30 mins-1 hour later I will make a green smoothie. I like to load it with green leafy vegetables and fresh ripe fruit.
About two hours later I will probably be feeling peckish again. In winter, if I am working from home that usually means a warming bowl of oats with cinnamon and banana. Otherwise I might choose a slice of sprouted gluten-free bread with avocado. If I am on the go, I'll bring two homemade sugar-free bliss balls and some carrots.
Lunch time is usually around 1pm, and I generally make a large green salad with some roast vegetables and/or grains for e.g. kale, cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, sprouts, kim chi, avocado, herbs, sweet potato/quinoa and a dressing of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and nutritional yeast. It's pretty big!
Afternoon snack might be a protein shake with Nuzest pea protein ½ banana, bee pollen, cinnamon, cacao and stevia, otherwise I snack on a small handful of raw brazil nuts and will try to locate a coconut/almond chai tea!
For dinner I love to have a tempeh curry or stir-fry, or an open burrito bowl – brown rice, avocado, black beans, fresh vegetables, coriander, Mexican spices. I'm all about the spice drawer! I also make sure to snack on celery sticks whilst I prepare, as I believe it is beneficial to eat something raw before main meals, plus I am a chronic “pick-as-i-go-er”, so this helps!
Most nights I usually finish off with a peppermint or chai tea. If I'm feeling dessert I will either stuff a frozen date or two with some raw nuts, or enjoy a clean treat I have recently made – bliss balls, raw slices, cacao mousse are some go-to's.
What are the 5 things we will always find in your fridge/pantry?
Fridge: Tuscan Kale, kim chi and avocado
Pantry: Seaweed sheets and nutritional yeast
What’s the biggest nutrition misconception you are always having to clear up for people?
I think nowadays, with so much information out there and so many different rigid “diet's”, the biggest misconception is focusing on any one thing/nutrient. I am always having to clarify that healthy fats like raw nuts and seeds or avocados are incredibly nutritious for our bodies. Other times, I get asked about how much fresh fruit is ok, what about the sugar? What about the carbohydrates? And if it isn't one of those two, you can bet you I hear “where do you get your protein from?” all the time! I have been there, always questioning which nutrient is to blame for weight-gain or bad skin…
But the truth is, if you eat enough and you choose whole-foods 80% of the time, you are eating well. There is no need to fear an entire food group.
After years of being destructive to your body, you were diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. What are your recommendations to someone who is diagnosed with POS?
Most doctors will put you on the pill, and in my personal opinion, I don't agree with that. It took me a long time to bounce back off the pill and I believe it is a band-aid solution to what is really going on. I would advise them to get tested to see if they are insulin-resistant, as many PCOS women are. However, many are not, and don't need to diet as though they are. If their cycle is abnormal, I would tell them to not just ignore it until the time comes that they would like to conceive, but rather address it now.
Hormones are important for a variety of functions, not just reproductive, and are reflective of a much bigger picture in the body. You want a healthy cycle!
When it comes to diet and lifestyle, I think a plant-based whole-foods diet is extremely important for several reasons. Firstly, there are so many hormones and antibiotics in meat and meat products that we just don't know the long-term effects of. I would advise everyone to buy organic meat, not just PCOS women, to avoid this, however I think shifting the focus to whole-foods loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre is extremely important and beneficial at keeping blood sugar, weight and hormones under control. While many experts say that eating a high-protein, high-fat diet is paramount, a study from 2008 actually concluded that vegetable sources of protein, rather than animal, can reduce the chances of infertility from PCOS by over 50%. My advice is to find what works for you – see a nutritionist or naturopath to discuss your symptoms and tailor a diet to your needs and preferences, and really evaluate how you feel and how your body functions. You might need to adjust it. You are your best judge… How do you feel best? I think making exercise a part of your life is important, as well as managing stress through yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or in another way that calms you.
I know yoga is a big part of your life. What tips can you give to someone who wants start up yoga but seems to not find the time for it?
Make it a social occasion! Instead of lunching or going for drinks, go to a class with your partner or friend over the weekend, or better yet 1-2 week nights. Having a buddy can also boost your confidence if you are worried about “looking silly”, which so many people seem to be.
"The truth is, no one is looking at you! They are all focusing on their mat."
But I understand this is a concern for many. If this doesn't work for you, try sitting on the floor whilst you watch TV or chatting with a loved one. Do some deep yin stretches, holding the poses for 5 or so minutes. This is a great way to work on flexibility. There are plenty of Youtube videos or diagrams of postures online, so have a browse and find a routine that suits you. If a morning practice appeals to you, even just jumping out of bed to do 3 sun salutation A's, and 2 B's is a great way to dip your toe in and feel the benefits!
You went from working for law and advertising agencies in Yew York and Sydney to following your passion for health. Have you had to face any setbacks or hardships throughout your wellness journey? How have you dealt with negativity from those close to you who might criticize your lifestyle? How did you overcome those challenges?
The biggest challenge for me was making the initial decision to switch from law to not only nutrition, but studying… again! By the end of my nutrition studies I will have studied 9 years in total. Of course I was concerned with whether this was the right decision, whether it would hold me back whilst all my friends had proper jobs, what financial sacrifices would I have to make etc. etc. There were, and there always are, 1000 reasons not to do something. But there was one gigantic reason to take the risk, because it was my passion and I believed in myself. So I did! And I have been extremely fortunate in that I have a very supportive partner, family and friends who really saw my transformation and prompted me to act on it.
I think when you are living what you love it shines through, and no one can argue with you when you feel your best and they can see you living your happiest most authentic life.
Tell us about your workout routine.
I try to balance my love for yoga with other forms of exercise, but sometimes, it can be quite the challenge! I try to get to 3 yoga classes a week outside of teaching, and will do self-practice and sequencing most other days. I will also alternate between laps in the pool, HIIT on the treadmill and a soft sand run along Bondi throughout my week. On days where I just don't feel like any of those three options, I make sure I do a 45-60 minute walk.
What does living a wholesome lifestyle mean to you?
To me, a wholesome lifestyle is one that encompasses all aspects of wellness – taking care of body, mind and spirit. It is more than just eating whole, exercising often and saying positive affirmations, it is doing it for the right reasons – making conscious decisions out of love and respect for your body, and loving yourself whole-heartedly.
A recipe from Sami - Sticky Raw Vegan Shortbread (12-15 bars)
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup natural brazil nuts
1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/2 cup coconut flour
3 tbsp coconut oil
2-3 tbsp xylitol or stevia (sugar-free, feel free to use maple syrup or natural sweetener of choice)
1 tsp maca powder
1 vanilla bean (seeds scraped)
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup filtered water
1. Blend all the base ingredients together in a food processor, adding the water as you go for consistency.
2. When it forms a dough, press into a non-stick baking paper lined baking dish (with a little depth) to form a thick approx 1 cm base. Place in the freezer.
3. After at least 1 hour, remove from the freezer and allow to sit for 1 minute to soften.
4. Using a sharp knife, slice the shortbread into bar or biscuit size pieces. I used a fork to make three sets of four holes for decoration (similar to scotch fingers). Enjoy immediately or store in the freezer.