Talking Food, Body Image and Balance with Holistic Nutritionist Kayla Kervin

I’m so excited about today’s blog post because I’m trying something a little different and featuring my very first guest: Kayla Kervin. Kayla is a holistic nutritionist and blogger at Kale Ahhh, and she spreads such beautiful messages about health, balance and body confidence.

I first met her through my friend Courtney (who, incidentally, is also a blogger at The Fernweh State), and right away, I thought Kayla’s journey of switching gears from a corporate chick to a holistic nutritionist was so cool and inspiring. She now lives in Aurora, Ontario with her new hubby, and she lives a super balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Without further ado, check out our Q&A all about Kayla’s wellness journey, entrepreneurship, food and more:

Tell me a bit about your health journey. How did you get into nutrition and holistic living?

I was a competitive swimmer for over 10 years of my life and it was not until my teenage years that I started to realize the connection food had on my performance, mindset + energy levels. From there I became very passionate with feeling my best (+ to be honest at that age also looking my best). I was obsessed with health magazines like Self, Shape and Womens Health and would cut recipes, tips + celebrity advice out of the magazines to create my own scrapbooks with all the information. I originally applied to Nutrition for university but was convinced that it “would not get me anywhere” so switched to Business instead. I still took some Nutrition electives in university but it was not until I was working a full time job post university that I realized that I needed to follow this passion. I enrolled in Nutrition school which I did part time while I worked full time all while being obsessed with weekly meal prep, healthy cookbooks and sharing everything I learned with anyone that would listen. I had NO idea what I wanted to do with this schooling but I started an Instagram account posting my recipes and tips, and it has evolved naturally. Next thing I knew I was making food for people to feel better!

Why did you decide to become a holistic nutritionist? What do you love most about the gig? Also, what did you do before you switched careers and how did you gain the courage to start something new? (This is three questions in one, sorry for cheating!). 

I truly believe our ancestors were doing it right and somewhere along the way we made things more complicated than they need to be (ex. life, eating, relationships).  We are given all the tools we need to thrive + survive in life (food, water, herbs, etc). and I love that. This is a huge component of holistic nutrition, looking at the whole equation and not putting health and wellbeing into compartments. Mind, Body, Spirit all the way baby!

I LOVE both helping and making people realize how much better they can feel when they give their bodies a little TLC.

Before I got into nutrition I worked for 5 whole very long years at a desk in FINANCE because it was the “right” thing to do, secured a good future and paid the bills. It was soul sucking and although I learned a lot about myself it was not for me. I finished nutrition school about 4 years into it and life gave me a little nudge (i.e a shove) when I got laid off. 20 minutes post lay off I felt a huge weight off my shoulder, pure joy and excitement. I didn’t really give myself the time to think about getting back into the finance world (probably for the best as I would have been scared s#itless) and I decided to do meal delivery which has evolved to just 5 day detoxes.

Did you face any self-doubt when embarking on your entrepreneurial journey? If so, how did you overcome it?

Every day! You can feel very alone sometimes as an entrepreneur so you let that little voice in your hard critique everything you do and scrutinize you when things are not going well. To be honest, my husband is my rock and always helps change my outlook. The healthier and more active I am, the better my mindset is and the easier it is to silence any self doubt. Also creating friendships with other entrepreneurs is great too, entrepreneur podcasts, self help books, you name it! Essentially surrounding myself with positive things in all aspects of my life.

What are your top tips for wellpreneurs looking to carve out a brand for themselves on social media, make a steady income and gain traction with clients? 

It takes a while to find your footing and that is OK! Become very clear on what you want to do, what type of money you need to make and how you can better people’s lives. Just be you, even if you have 15 followers. Post with intention too!

Where did you get the idea to offer 5-day detoxes? What are the benefits of detoxing through food? 

To be honest, I do not even remember! I started to offer it on the side of my weekly meal plans but never fully focused on it. I realized slowly that people love the idea of 5 day detoxes so ran with it and about 8 months ago switched strictly to detoxes.

Do you consider yourself vegan, paleo, or label-free? Why? 

Label free I would say! I was a vegetarian for 5 years partially because I do not enjoy most meat and partially because it felt cool that I had that kind of will power (how sad!). I have tried the gluten free, vegan lifestyle as well but realized that putting myself in a little restrictive box does not fulfill me at all. I truly LOVE food and sometimes I want a green smoothie and other days I want to eat a burger + fries. I do feel my best when I limit my dairy + gluten though but I also feel really good eating a slice of pizza so its all about that balance!

How do you think diet ties into lifestyle, mental health and the rest of our lives?

Diet affects everything! I honestly think if we all ate healthier and took better care of ourselves we would live in a happier and more peaceful world. It is quite simple to me, the healthier I eat, the brighter and more vibrant I feel. The more vibrant I feel, the better my work is, the more positive my interactions are with other people, and the greater the likelihood I can work through hardships. I lost my mom a few years ago to cancer and realized a lot of life was out of my control but the one thing I could control was my diet and lifestyle which set the tone for the rest of my life. Living healthier ensures I can handle whatever comes my way more positively and I just wish everyone realized this!

How do you define “body confidence”? How do you promote this in your own life? 

It took me many, many years to actually feel this! I had many years filled with trying to perfect myself, trying to be achieve a certain body type, belittling myself, and even struggling with an eating disorder for a few years to get me to where I am today but it shaped me into who I am. It took ups and downs most of my life + my mom getting sick to realize how fragile life really is and what a work of art the human body is. It is like a switch was turned on and I suddenly embraced who I was, flaws and all. To me that is body confidence; working with what you got, loving yourself fully and most importantly being kind to yourself. I can honestly say that I am at a point in my life where I am so happy with my body. The moment I embraced who I was and not what society thought I should be was the moment I gained body confidence.

I think the best way to promote this is to lead by example and to open up the conversation. There was no one around when I was younger to do this and I know if I saw more body types like mine,  more positivity around eating, and more of a focus on feeling your best rather than being a certain size I would have felt less insecure!

What do you eat in a day? 

It varies each day but I am more of a 2 meals/day than 3 type of person. I am an early riser so usually eat earlier in the day (except on weekends) between 8am-3pm. I even did this in university and my roommates thought they were living with a 90 year old trapped in a 20 year olds body. I just follow my what body wants! Which happens to be healthier for you than eating late at night right before bed. Trust you inner knowing people!

A typical day is 8/9am: bulletproof coffee before the gym, 10/11am: eggs, avocado + some greens or carbs, 3pm/4pm: a salad of some sorts, assortment of detox meals, or even a jam packed smoothie with ever superfood known to man kind in it (I love superfood smoothies). I also have a sweet tooth so often find I like some chocolate after dinner.

What’s your absolute favourite recipe of all time? 

Hm that is a tough one! Favourite recipe and favourite food are so different! For example my favourite food is very different than you would expect it to be. Toasted homemade Irish Soda bread with butter… I grew up with this in my house and I could live on it.

If I had to pick a recipe though, I would say wonton vegetarian “pizza pockets”. My step mom introduced these to be in university and I have evolved the recipe to use ground chickpeas instead of  meat. People have no clue its not meat, thats the best part!

Are any foods “banned” for you? Why or why not?

Currently: bulgur as it makes me get a rock hard stomach with serious stomach cramps. But that is because it quite literally cripples me. There are no other foods I have banned. I go through phases where I cut out gluten and dairy to feel more energetic and mentally clear when I want to be more productive but I could not do it for life because it would not make me happy.

Do you ever count calories, carbs or any other macros? What are your thoughts on this practice? 

I used to count calories but I do not anymore as it made me obsessive which ultimately lead to an eating disorder. Going back to our ancestors, they never counted macros. They just hoped like hell they would be able to eat and ate food from the earth! So my advice is just eat as close to the earth as possible, a variety of foods, eat what is in season as well as what your body is craving. Counting marcos can definitely help with athletic performance and even weight loss but my opinion is that it is no way to live, tracking and counting everything you put in your body. To me that is draining and counterproductive. To each’s own though, do what works for you and fulfills you the most. For me that means trying eat foods that will make me feel the best when it feels right.

What do you do for exercise?

I currently do HIIT bootcamps 4 times/week (they are 30 minutes long) , run 4x/week (varying distances) + yoga every two weeks for a good stretch. I used to do bootcamps 6 times a week but I am currently training for a half marathon so cross training and switching up what I do! I realized I do love long distance cardio (i.e my swimming background) so need to follow that!

Do you have a mindfulness or spirituality practice? (This could be as simple as breathing deeply once a day or heading to a yoga class!). 

Cooking for me is very meditative. I cook anywhere from 10-20 hours/week (often by myself) so it is my time to reflect, focus, and evaluate my life.

I really love the little calming things too. Lighting some candles, turning on my essential oil diffusers (I have many!), doing a face mask, body scrub, having baths, I love it. It even brings me joy talking about it! I find time for this at least 3 times a week.

Do you drink? What are your thoughts on alcohol? 

Maybe once a month and every time I regret it the next day because it makes me feel awful! I always knew alcohol was a depressant but it was not until the past few years I realized the few days after drinking I feel really sad and depressed. I hate not feeling my best so limit my alcohol consumption because I also do not like feeling in a different mental state. But if it makes you feel great the day after (I am not talking about the day of! Most people can enjoy it for the most part) than do what works for you.

Do you ever have cravings for something unhealthy? How have you trained your mind to focus on healthy eating over the years? 

All the time and a good handful of the time, I follow through! I try and avoid foods that will cause stomach or energy issues (ex. serious stomach cramps or make me feel lethargic after) but if I am craving a cookie, I will make sure I am eating a cookie that is the least processed and made with quality ingredients. So if I want a cookie, I am not eating an oreo, I am eating an authentic freshly baked cookie from a local bakery. I just make sure  I don’t fall down the rabbit hole and continue to eat “unhealthy” foods all day either. I try and eat healthier before or after and usually allow myself to indulge on days when I am more active so it will not effect my energy levels (I am way more focused on how I feel these days and if I have a craving for fries but know they will make me less productive, I will not want them anymore)!

Do you take any supplements or vitamins? Why or why not? 

Oh yes, I love my supplements! They vary based on the time of the year and how I am feeling.

Non negotiables (daily): probiotics and chlorella/spirulina

3-4 times/week: women’s multivitamin with chaste berry (so good for balancing our hormone levels), kelp (helps with my underactive thyroid) and I add lots to my smoothies: ashwaganda, maca, reishi, the list goes on!

What do you wish people knew about holistic living? 

It is not about being perfect! It is about feeling your best which looks different for everyone.

What would you say to your 20-year-old self? 

Don’t change a thing, it will all make sense one day. Follow your intuition, respect + nourish yourself and all the pieces will fall into place.

What’s next for you? 

I really want to spread my outreach and help others feel good every day as well as about the body they are in. Life is too damn short for self loathing and not feeling your best!

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