Earlier this year, we sat down with Elle Halliwell, journalist, mother and good friend of Sporteluxe who opened up about how her rare cancer diagnosis ironically, helped manage her anxiety and ultimately, made her a more mindful and happier person (you can read more about Elle’s inspiring story here).
Since then, Elle admits that her lifestyle has changed dramatically—and for the better.
“It’s slower,” says Elle. “I try to honour my body’s cues much more when it comes to my diet, rest and exercise. I guess my motto used to be ‘work hard, play hard’, but it’s now much more about slowing down, enjoying small pleasures and appreciating what I have in my life; family, friends, a home, love.”
In our most recent catch-up with Elle, she talks about adopting a more natural approach to living, prioritising self-care and taking the leap to study nutrition so that she can continue to inspire and educate others.
What was the very first thing you did to clean up your lifestyle and what else followed?
The first thing was to give up packaged and processed foods, and eventually I replaced most of my household and personal products with natural alternatives.
Can you share some of your favourite natural beauty buys?
- Black Chicken Natural Deodorant
- Vida Glow Collagen Powder
- Dr Bronner Castille Soap
- Three Warriors Self Tan Mousse (recommendation from my girlfriend Tegan Martin)
- Lux Aestiva Body Oils
Is there anything in particular that’s a ‘no go zone’ for you now?
Any harsh chemical products like household cleaners are banned in our house. If I’m going out and need a full face of makeup, I’ll wear non-organic products, but when I’m not, I try to keep that to a minimum. I avoid parabens and surfaces like the plague, and consult my Think Dirty app if I’m unsure about a beauty product’s ingredients.
“It made me so angry that there was no holistic thinking at all as to why my body had become sick and whether it could heal itself with the right care.”
Can you tell us a bit about your nutrition course and what inspired you down this path?
I couldn’t believe when my specialist told me there were no lifestyle changes which could help me to beat my cancer, that I just had to take the drugs. It made me so angry that there was no holistic thinking at all as to why my body had become sick and whether it could heal itself with the right care. I’m all for conventional medicine when used with respect, but I do believe our bodies can be powerful self-healers, so I enrolled in an Advanced Diploma of Integrative Natural Health (Naturopathy) and a health coaching course through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, the latter from which I graduated this month! So I’m now a certified health coach, and am so excited to share my knowledge and give people the tools to become masters of their own health.
Congratulations! How do you hope to utilise your studies once completed?
I’m planning to combine it with my career as a journalist and writer. I have another book planned, which has a health focus, and a few other projects on the boil. I’ll keep you posted.
How has your food philosophy changed since your diagnosis? What changes have you made to your diet?
I’m still trying to learn what nourishes my body best. The medication has created some food intolerances which I had never had before, so I’m trying to figure out what affects me and what is okay. I used to love the odd glass of red wine, for example, but recently have found my body is reacting to it, so have cut that out, as well as dairy products. It sounds so Aussie, but the one rule of thumb I’ve found when it comes to my meals is that you really can’t go wrong with the idea of “meat and three veg”! Hehe, although instead of potato, carrot and peas, I’ll have something more flavoursome like sautéed cabbage, ratatouille or roast Mediterranean veggies.
You’ve said that you truly believe chronic stress and anxiety has contributed to your diagnosis. In what ways have you learnt to manage this now?
I recently completed a meditation course through The Broad Place, as until this point I had been self taught and my practice was fairly inconsistent. Jacqui was an amazing teacher and I’ve really found my mindset has improved since my meditation became more regular. I spent a decade in ‘fight or flight’ mode; my body constantly primed for attack, which left it with no ability or time for rest and repair. Eventually it just broke down. I’ve found that in order to combat that state, when I’m stressed I need to either meditate or pump the adrenaline away through light exercise like walking. I also find the herb Withania and a folinic acid supplement really combats stress and anxiety.
“I spent a decade in ‘fight or flight’ mode; my body constantly primed for attack, which left it with no ability or time for rest and repair.”
What does a day look like for you now as a working mother and how do you find balance amongst it all?
I have very early nights, and go to sleep by 9pm. Mornings usually start at about 6am, and in that time I’ll get myself and Tor [son] ready for the day. He’s at daycare a few days, and I work part time as fashion editor at The Daily Telegraph. I try to get a 45 minute walk in each day, whether it’s during my lunch break or in the morning. Dinner is usually Marley Spoon, as it stops my husband and I having to think about what to cook for dinner. It’s also a nice ritual for us to cook together once Tor is in bed.
You feel very passionately about inspiring self-love. How do you practice it yourself?
It’s very much about being conscious of your internal conversations. It’s so easy for us to berate ourselves and criticise, and hard to be kind, so it’s very much like training a muscle. I try to catch myself whenever I’m being too critical and change my approach from being harsh to being motivational or upbeat. For example, if I did badly on one of my naturopathy exams, my first thought would be to tell myself I was stupid, or unprepared, but I try to interrupt this by saying to myself ‘these things happen’ and ‘you tried so hard and I’m proud of you all the same’. Sounds a bit silly, but it’s actually a really great habit to get into if you struggle with things like perfectionism, anxiety and low self-esteem.
What will we find you doing on a Sunday morning?
I’m hoping as summer approaches I’ll be taking my husband Nick and our son Tor to Bilpin for a day of fruit picking! I love going on little adventures and exploring our city, whether it’s a walk in the Royal National Park or a trip to the zoo. On a lazy Sunday you’ll find us reading the paper at Bills Bondi over breakfast before heading to the beach for a quick swim.