Last week Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief at the Huffington Post, landed on our pink sandy shores in Bermuda. She spoke to a packed ballroom at the Southampton Princess hotel about her latest book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder. She was fabulous. Of course she was. Full of dry humor and compassion too. Her philosophy of "no brilliant jerks allowed here" has surely been integral to her success. There is no hierarchy amongst those who write for the Huffington Post. As she said, "You can be President Obama or Hilary Clinton.... or a homeless student with something interesting to say." It's led to a breadth and depth of opinion writing that has given web news a refreshing lift. As for the homeless student, Harvard University read that particular piece, gave him a place and he's now completing his third year. How's that for warm and fuzzy?
Some of Arianna's funniest anecdotes revolved around her mother who had a wonderful disregard for hierarchy too, famously introducing the plumber to the British Prime Minister so they could hash things out. And it seems she also had no time for good old fashioned calories either: "She really believed that if you didn't eat every 20 minutes, something terrible would happen to you." I am pretty sure this Greek matriarch would have been my youngest daughter's best friend; Belle is never happier than when she has a snack -- preferably one in each hand.
The number of interesting pieces here on the Huffington Post makes it a very difficult site to leave. One click leads to another and another and another. Compared to some other options, at least you end up well educated. It's never a great feeling when you realise you've lost hours of your life to celebrity gossip and funny cat videos. (Though there's a lot to be said for funny cat videos.)
But just as with all good things, a little balance is key. Have you ever read so many opinion pieces you wonder what your own opinion actually is? Last week my mind was swirling with the Food Babe vs. Science Babe debate. I was determined to keep an open mind, but ultimately it was hard to stay connected to my own perspective. Sometimes a cleverly constructed comment or argument can make you doubt something you innately know to be true. It reminded me of something I once read: "Listen to others, but don't lose your own voice." I printed it for the girl's bedroom wall and I should put it on mine too.
But back to Arianna's mother, who I can't help wishing I had met. There are more insights and stories in an online piece written by Arianna herself last year, "This Mother's Day: Remembering my Mother", and in her book Thrive. We are told of a woman who was simultaneously blunt and exceptionally loving, who nourished her daughter's bodies with good food and their souls with pearls of wisdom. I know many matriarchs in Bermuda and elsewhere who do this too - except our downfall is that a lot of the food they make for others isn't exactly nourishing.
One of my group clients was telling a story in class the other day that relates to this. She said she spent 21 years being encouraged to eat everything put in front of her. Then at 22 years old, when her mother was suddenly concerned with her weight, she remarked to her daughter "you don't have to finish everything you know!" The thing is, you are not allowed to criticize someone for the habits that you yourself spent decades instilling. You are allowed to serve smaller portions and healthier options however - so long as that is how you treat everyone.
There's no doubt that chocolate cake has a feel good factor - especially if it is baked from scratch, made with love and shared with friends or family. But given the current health climate in the United States, Bermuda and elsewhere, if we really want to look after others, we need to make much healthier options. We have celebration after celebration these days and every single one of those occasions comes hand in hand with unhealthy staples. Here in Bermuda it means fried chicken, mac n' cheese and our super-sweet Dark n' Stormy cocktails (to name a few). It may all be tasty but it's a bittersweet blow for those who are trying to live healthier lives.
So if you really want to nurture your loved ones, you have to aim to nourish them too. That means real food, with whole, healthy, natural ingredients, the vast majority of the time. After all, is a treat really a "treat" if it contributes to poor health and disease?
If you are unsure where to start, browse the Huffington Post Healthy Living section for tips. Also try www.100daysofrealfood.com and www.cleaneatingmag.com for some brilliant recipe makeovers. Join me on Facebook for more ideas and inspiration. You can find out a little more about our amazing Bermuda too!