31: Gratitude, Health & Wellbeing w/ Angela Simson

Gratitude can be the best practice to change your life. Today's guest, Angela Simson, embraces gratitude to her body to live her happiest and healthiest life. As a nutrition health coach, she inspires hundreds of women to do the same. This episode is perfect for everyone learning to love and nourish their body.

Angela Simson Lavendaire

Angela Simson is a multi-passionate Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, writer, speaker and creator of The Gratitude Project blog. Ange has personally coached hundreds of women and virtually supported thousands through their quest to a happier and healthier life.

In this episode we explore:
  • Ange's journey to becoming a health coach (1:34)
  • The mental connection between being healthy and eating healthy (4:20)
  • How to eat with mindfulness and joy (6:31)
  • The road to health – Start where you are. (11:22)
  • The essentials of living a healthy and happy life (13:25)
  • Forming a gratitude practice (16:36)
  • What Ange's gratitude looks like (17:36)
Links: Angela Simson
  • Start exactly where you are.
  • I'm not going to put the pressure on myself to be somewhere that I'm not.
  • I'm just going to be better than I was yesterday, every time.

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Welcome to the Lavendaire Lifestyle, the podcast on lifestyle design for millennials. I'm Aileen and I'm here to guide you to become a master artist of life. Every Sunday you'll get new insight and inspiration on how to create your dream life. After the episode, the conversation continues in our Lavendaire Lifestyle Facebook group, so I can't wait to see you there. Life is an art, make it your masterpiece.

Hi everyone! It's Aileen. Welcome back to The Lavendaire Lifestyle. Today's guest is Angela Simson, the blogger behind The Gratitude Project. I'm super excited to have her here. Let me just read her bio: Ange is a multipassionate integrative nutrition health coach, writer, speaker, and creator of 30 Days of Self Love, the ebook. She also has a recipe book called “Treat Your Taste Buds“. And she's also the founder and force behind the Gratitude Transformation online program. Ange has personally coached hundreds of women and virtually supported thousands through their quest to a happier and healthier life.

Aileen: Hi, Ange. So great to have you here.

Ange: Thank you so much for having me. It is an absolute honor.

Aileen: Yeah! First of all, congrats on your new baby girl, Harper. She's beautiful. I love your family, it's so cute.

Ange: They are the best. I'm on cloud nine. I feel very blessed in the moment. She's just a little dream, a tiny little dream.

Aileen: Yeah! Alright, so let's start with your story behind how you started The Gratitude Project. Where did that really come from?

Ange: Well, do you know what? It was when I had had my first little girl, Beau. I was in the car. I was on my way to the chiropractor because she actually had a problem with her neck. She couldn't turn her head left. I remember I was driving along in the car, and she hated being in the car. She was screaming, crying. I was freaking out. And I had this sort of moment of clarity where I went, “Okay, this is really bad. But this is life. This is motherhood. There are things that are going to happen, and I have to figure out a way to deal with it and be happy.” I had sort of been stressed out. I had a newborn. Life was just getting a little bit difficult, compared to what I was used to.

And I pulled over to the side of the road to calm her down and feed her. And I said to myself, “Okay. In this moment, how do I come back? How do I come back from stress and anxiety? And how do I come back to a place of joy and calm and happiness?” One word popped into my head, and it was gratitude. I sat there and thought about how lucky I was to have my baby. Even how lucky I was to be able to feed her, and how lucky I was to have a car. All of these things popped into my head as I was sitting in the back, calming her down. I put her back and got into the front, and started driving off again.

It was sort of like this real moment of “I need to use this.” So many people are living in this place of stress and not realizing how blessed they are in their life and how lucky they are, because everything else is getting in the way. So I said to myself, “Yeah, I'm going to start up a little blog just mostly for me and friends and family, just to remember what I am grateful for.” And I called it The Gratitude Project because it was my gratitude project. It was like, “Alright, I'm gonna focus on what I'm grateful for.”

And it just felt–From there, I was super interested in nutrition my whole twenties. My husband said to me, when we had Beau, “You know, you should study. Why don't you do some online studying? You've got more time now that you're not working.” And so I studied at the Institute of Integrated Nutrition to become a health coach. And it all just started to connect from there. The thing was, it wasn't easy but it flowed quite naturally for me to create this site and to create my coaching practice and everything that came from it, I think because it came from a real authentic place of wanting to help people. It happened with ease, I suppose is the right way to say it.

Aileen: So, in the beginning, it was just kind of a personal project just to record your gratitudes. And you got into health, and now health coaching is a huge part of it now, right?

Ange: A huge part, yeah. I sort of realized when you're in a place of gratitude, it's really hard to live in the toxic way that you used to. I used to have a big addiction to chocolate and sugar and all the–

Aileen: Me too!

Ange: Yeah, everyone! I remember, I just got to a place where I was so into my gratitude practice and thinking about it in every moment. And I would go into the cupboard and see cookies or a piece of cake. You know, because it was always on my mind, I would be like, “Okay, well I have so much gratitude to this body. How could I be feeding it something that's not really fueling it in the way that it needs to?” And you know, “I have gratitude to the energy I have when I eat whole foods and really clean things.” It all intertwined into that. And I realized that, by doing my coaching and by speaking to clients about connecting the two and how a healthy mind does encourage a healthy body and healthy habits, it really was a bit of a no-brainer to put them together.

Because I had also gone through the whole “I'm gonna go on a diet,” and this was prior to having my children. You know, “I'm gonna eat super healthy!” And I would always go on diets, and then I would come off them. I would be on a diet for a week and off it for months. And I would keep going back to “I'm gonna eat some kale and I'm gonna drink smoothies and juices and I'm gonna be really healthy.” But I think the thing that was missing, the crucial part that I wasn't focusing on, was the mindset and the mental aspect of being healthy and eating healthy. I want and I wanted to teach people the connection with that, because sometimes, just eating well and exercising isn't enough. Sometimes you actually need to focus on what's going on in the mind so that it can really connect and become long-term.

Aileen: Yeah. I actually think that's a great idea and I never thought of it in that way. If I'm grateful for my body, then I wouldn't want to put anything toxic in my body, right?

Ange: Exactly.

Aileen: Because I experience this too. I go in phases of being healthy and being not healthy and the strange thing is–I don't know if you've experienced this, but when I eat very healthy for a few days, sometimes I just want to eat something very unhealthy on purpose just to balance it out. Do you know where that comes from? You know what I mean, right? How do you stay strong and how do you make it into a solid lifestyle?

Ange: Do you know what? It could be so many things, especially with sugar addiction. I think there's so many issues that people don't address. It could either be a habit of–You know when you're young and you do well at school, and your parents take you out for ice cream? Or on the flip side, you fall over and hurt yourself, so your parents take you out for ice cream. It can be a habit where you just learn that, “Hey, if I'm doing really well, I should treat myself with food,” and “Hey, if something really bad has happened, I should treat myself with food.”

I always say to people, “You gotta remember: HALT. Whenever you're going to eat something a bit unhealthy or a little bit maybe on the naughty list, you say ‘HALT'.” And it's H-A-L-T. Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Or am I tired? If you're hungry, yeah, eat something nourishing. If you're angry, lonely, or tired, address those issues first because if you're eating to fill the loneliness or because you're angry and you want to take your mind off it or because you're tired–which is what a lot of people, a lot of people rush to sugar when they're tired when they really just need to go and have a nap. You know? So it's one of those things where it could be habit, it could be masking emotion. It could be a physical problem. It could be an overgrowth of yeast. It could be candida in the gut. It can be so many different things. It's figuring out, for you, what it is that keeps bringing you back to these foods.

And, again, I personally…I used to bake a lot, especially when my husband and I–when I was 17 and we first moved in together, I used to bake all the time because I love baking. For me, being in the kitchen is a real meditation. I find, still, I watch cooking shows and I go, “Oh my god, I just want to go into the kitchen and bake a cake.” And for me, there's something about sifting flour and whisking eggs and butter together that really makes me feel good. I still do that. When I really want to do it, I will still go and make a cake, given I use whole flour. I don't use sugar. I use a substitute like maple syrup or xylitol. I use all organic ingredients, but I acknowledge that, for me, that's a part of growing up, so to speak. I used to make cake and that would make me feel really good. And I love sharing them with people, so I still do it. But I do it in a healthier way now and I've acknowledged that that's something that I enjoy.

And I think, if you try to take the joy out of your life, if it is something that you really love–If you love going out to dinner with your partner and sharing a decadent dessert, then that's great. But when it's when you're just going to the fridge and scoffing down a packet of chocolate or cookies or something without enjoying it, that's when I think it's toxic. Doing it with mindfulness and joy, that makes it worth it.

Aileen: Right. Always be mindful. Are you emotional eating or are you eating to fuel your body? You should be eating just to nourish yourself, right?

Ange: Exactly, exactly. And then, on occasion, do something because it brings you joy. Like I said: baking or the treat with your partner, do it if it brings you joy. But check in with yourself, going, “Why am I doing this? What is this bringing me?”


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Aileen: I want to ask: What advice do you have for people who want to shift their health habits? If someone, for example, has a lazy diet or really lazy about exercise, where do you even start on the road to health?

Ange: Oh my god, okay. Always–and this is like my mantra with life–start where you are, because what I see is a lot of people go, “Okay, I need to be healthy so I'm gonna start juicing kale. And I'm gonna start only eating salad.” And it's like, if you are lazy, if you can't cook, then you don't want to put the expectation on yourself that you have to go and start doing meal prep and cooking three meals a day when you don't cook. If you want to be a little bit healthier and you eat mostly packaged foods, then go, “Okay, what is the healthiest option?” Instead of saying, “Okay, I need to be this other person's view of healthy,” go, “What is healthy to me?”

I would say to someone who eats, say, frozen meals: See if there's an organic range you can buy. If you can go to a Whole Foods store and still find pre-prepared meals, but a healthier version, maybe organic or even gluten-free. Start exactly where you are, because if you try to start where someone else is or where you want to be eventually, you're most likely going to fail and then you're just gonna go, “Okay, I'm gonna go back to easy.” You kind of want to keep it easy, if that makes sense. If you like to cook chips for yourself, change it to sweet potato chips or something. You know?

Aileen: Yeah, that makes total sense because I think it can be really overwhelming to see all these healthy food Instagram accounts and everyone's prepping beautiful healthy, vegan food. And it's a lot of work. Yes, start where you are. Make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Ange: Exactly. Just the small changes because it's about progress, not perfection. I still think about my diet and I go, “Wow, maybe there's more that I want to change. Maybe I want to be doing something better.” but I'm not going to put the pressure on myself to be somewhere that I'm not. I'm just going to be better than I was yesterday, every time.

Aileen: Yeah, okay. So something else that you say on your blog that I really like is, “Health is not just the food that goes in your mouth. It's so much more,” right? What else do you believe is essential for living a healthy and happy life?

Ange: My favorite is your relationships. I think the relationships in your life are so important to your health. I think if someone is eating a really clean diet but they're going home to, say, an emotional abusive partner or they're going to work and their boss isn't appreciating them or they're being yelled at, it's very detrimental to your health. At the end of the day, I believe that stress causes disease in the body and whether that's physical stress or emotional stress, that's where disease comes from. And I think that if you have relationships that are toxic in your life, no matter how much healthy food you eat, no matter how much you go to the gym, you still have to deal with those toxic relationships on a physical or metaphysical level. I think it's looking at your relationships.

Next up is looking at the work you do. A lot of people spend a third of their life doing work that they just absolutely hate or in an environment that they really hate. I think it's not about quitting your job or being like, “Okay, I'm gonna go and try to become an actress in LA, because that's my dream.” But it's about thinking to yourself, “How do I make my situation better now? Do I need better communication with my workmates? Do I need to approach my boss about maybe changing my role so that I can be doing something I'm slightly more passionate about or something that I feel I'm slightly better at doing? Or do I need to be working with people more? Do I need to be working with people less?”

Relationships, career, and then spirituality, which to me, my spirituality is gratitude and mindfulness. That's where I really put a lot of focus. For some people it's God, for some people it's Buddha. Having some sort of belief system that is bigger than you, I think, is really important because on the grand scale of things, we're just this tiny speck of dust. We're so small and knowing that there's something bigger out there and having a belief system like that–They say people in hospitals who pray or who have a belief in God, they suffer less pain. They tend to live longer. People with terminal illness feel less pain if they have some form of belief and I think that that's important as well, having that bigger belief than yourself so that when you are in a situation where you feel a little bit out of control, you can have faith that there is something else that has your back, so to speak.

Aileen: Yeah. To recap: you have to be healthy not just with your food, but with your relationships, your career, and spirituality, whatever that looks like to you.

Ange: Yeah, yeah. And then the way you move your body, as well, is super important. I think having some connection with nature or some connection with your body and the way you move, that's always really important because our bodies were designed to move. I think that, again, if you have everything else covered, but you spend every single day sitting on a couch watching TV, you're probably not going to feel great.

Aileen: Yeah, true. What would you recommend as one action that our listeners can take today to move towards this healthier and happier life?

Ange: In the spirit of my website and what I do, I would say forming some sort of gratitude practice whether it's journaling or writing it down or maybe having someone that you call everyday and share what you're grateful for with each other. Just some point in the day, every single day, whether it's in the morning when you wake up, just repeating the word “thank you” over and over again. Or however that looks to you, just having some way that you remind yourself of the good in your life in each day because I think we do tend to focus on the bad things that happen, like if you get yelled at or someone cuts you off, you think about it for a little bit longer than you think about the smaller things that we're grateful for. So just taking the time in each day to steer your mind towards gratitude definitely my number one tip, personally. Just to being healthier, happier: focusing on the good.

Aileen: Do you still journal your gratitude every morning? What does it look like to you?

Ange: Mine changes daily. In our house, our family, we're very focused on gratitude as the time as it is. Some nights, at the moment with a newborn, it’s a little bit harder. But some nights, if I do get the time and the strength, I do sit with my journal and I write down what I'm grateful for. I write down my challenges for the day because I think it's important to look at my challenges and work out how they're helping me to improve or how they're benefiting me in some way. Before we eat dinner, we all sit around the table and, you know, in some houses they pray. We sort of put our hands over our plate and think about where our food came from: the people who grew our vegetables. If we're eating meat, the animal that sacrificed its life for us. You know, all the people who were involved in our food. We take a moment to think about that and how lucky we are that this food was cooked for us before we eat. And I'm also a big advocate of telling people in your life what you're grateful for with them because I think that's something we don't do enough as well. If a friend has done something for you or even someone you don't know has done something really kind, just making sure you tell them that it means something to you and it’s noticed.

Aileen: Yeah that's something that we forget to do or sometimes it feels awkward to, but I think it’s important to show our feelings more, right?

Ange: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Express it. And let people know, I think–There's nothing nicer than hearing that what you've done for someone has made an impact on their life.

Aileen: Oh yeah exactly. Alright, so lastly: where can our listeners find you online?

Ange: Lots of places, but mostly at my website which is The Gratitude Project which you can just Google and it will come straight up. And I love Instagram. Instagram is sort of my online social media home.

Aileen: Yeah, your Instagram is beautiful.

Ange: I love it. I'm so visual so places like that just really float my boat, to be able to scroll through and see beautiful pictures and images. And my handle there is just gratitude [underscore] project. And then on Facebook where I share articles and things like that which is just Facebook [dot] com [slash] AllAbouttheGratitude, one word.

Aileen: Okay, awesome. Thank you so much for sharing all of your knowledge and wisdom on health and gratitude. I'm sure everyone loved it.

Ange: You are more than welcome. It was so so nice to speak with you.

Alright, that's it for today's episode. Thank you so much for listening to The Lavendaire Lifestyle. If you like the podcast, please show your support by leaving a review on iTunes. It helps me so much. It also helps other people find the show. You can also catch me on YouTube and Instagram at @lavendaire, where I have even more content for the Artist of Life.

Alright, love you all. Bye!

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