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Taking Healthy Living Personally: Interview With Sarah Wilson

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Last week, as a part of my recent Pilates training curriculum, I came upon a quote from Joseph Pilates. He said, "We retire too early and we die too young, our prime of life should be in the 70s and old age should not come until we are almost 100."

Is his guidance realistic or even possible? One can't be sure, but his perspective reflected his personal truth -- Pilates grew up sickly and through an increasingly mindful approach to his own health, lived well into his 80s. All expert debate aside, our access to health and wellness tips and guidance is unprecedented. Our ability to instantly connect to others' experiences -- as well as expert advice -- makes it hard to negate a general growing desire for more information about how to live healthier lives.

Through my own research, I was introduced to Sarah Wilson, former editor of Cosmopolitan, editor of her own popular health and wellness site and host of Australia's Lifestyle YOU channel. More than a certified expert, Sarah takes health personally, having experienced an adrenal collapse followed by an autoimmune disease just a few years ago. Using her own understanding as an inspirational backdrop, Sarah started her own personal journey toward wellness and in the process, is now a global guide for many looking to progress their physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Recently, Sarah and I caught up about her views on health and wellness means, what she's learned and a few of her own expert tips on healthy living.

Laura Cococcia: You've had a successful media career -- from working as the editor of Cosmopolitan to hosting your own TV show -- and you're also a coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (INN). What prompted you to pursue this latest part of your career?

Sarah Wilson: A few years ago I got quite unwell -- adrenal collapse followed by an autoimmune disease. At the time I was editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. I was forced to stop and get well. As in, truly well.

It was a wake-up call. So, I did the smartest thing I think I've ever done -- I decided to turn my journey to get well into a career. I started my blog and started writing a column for an Australian national Sunday newspaper magazine about how to make life better. Each week I experiment with a different theory or approach -- everything from e-mail detoxing to quitting sugar to adopting advice given to me by the Dalai Lama. Interestingly, he told me to not bother trying to stop the mind, to get out and live instead.

Since then, my career has been "layering along." One thing leads to another. I've hosted a cooking show, which led to a nutrition makeover show. I added the INN layer last year. Slowly, it's all steered me to my own wellness and inspired quite a number of others to make the same turn.

LC: The words "health and wellness" are used often -- what do they mean to you?

SW: Today, wellness is certainly a very broad concept -- encompassing all aspects of our lives. It used to be just one compartment. Now we seek wellness in our work and our friendships, as well as physically and psychically. I've come to learn the hard way that wellness and health are not things to be imposed from without, via rules and other people's ideas and structures. I've learned it's a far more gentle process that's not about making abrupt changes, but about kindly easing things to where they sit most sweetly. And, yes, it's a process. There's no final "well" endpoint; it's about ebbing and flowing with the natural balance of life and of ourselves. So, in my view, health and wellness is about really knowing yourself.

LC: Speaking generally, what would be your top three tips for someone looking to live a more healthy lifestyle?

SW: My initial thoughts:

  • "Crowding out": we humans are not great at quitting or restricting our behaviors. As a result, we do badly with diets. The best way to ease into better eating is to focus on eating more of the good stuff -- green veggies, whole grains -- which naturally leads to "crowding out" the processed food. It's a concept that's about doing instead of denying -- and it works.
  • Learn to meditate. It provides the software for all kinds of change. The change just happens once you start meditating daily.
  • Move every day. It doesn't really matter what kind of movement you do (walk, swim, yoga). It's the everyday part that matters.

LC: You have a book due out soon -- can you give us a sneak peek into what it will cover?

SW: It follows my journey to healing and to wellness, the kind of wellness I mention above. It will track over 150 different techniques I've tried, plus the kooky stuff I learned growing up on a subsistence living farm, editing magazines, living with a porn star, mountain biking around the world and so on. But, at the same time, it tracks what I call 'The Yearning' -- our desire to know what life is meant to be about.

You can read more about Sarah on her site (including her most recent visit with the Dalai Lama) and follow her on Twitter.