How did you become interested in healthy eating and living?
In 2001 I discovered I had tumours in my spleen, which meant removal of my spleen. This was a wake-up call and from that point I started in earnest to address what I was putting on and in my body. I used to lather myself in chemical-based, highly perfumed body wash and body lotion every night before bed, and not eat as healthily as I could have been. I truly believe these poor choices contributed to my illness.
Since then I have been a sponge for information on holistic health and wellness. I educated myself about leading a non-toxic life and 12 years on I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I want to share the knowledge I’ve gained so people can make more informed choices.
What are the main health challenges with the way we eat and live today?
A huge percentage of foods we consume daily are highly processed, high in sugar, high in saturated fats and trans-fats and contain many dangerous chemicals. Conventional products that people use on their bodies every day also contain toxic chemicals that put their health and wellbeing at risk. In particular, the beauty and personal care products that are put on skin and hair or in the mouth are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
People are ingesting thousands of harmful chemicals each day and not even realising it. So the main issue is that consumers are not making informed choices about the products they and their families are using. They’re not aware of the dangers of these chemicals.
If you could offer just three easy eating and lifestyle tips, what would they be?
• Choose certified organic whenever possible. That includes food and beauty products.
• Avoid sugar and foods that rapidly convert to sugar (pastries, pasta), highly processed foods and trans-fats.
• Pre-plan. Plan the night before or cook on weekends and freeze your meals. I find this works best for me, especially when I know I have a busy week ahead or will be travelling.
Tell us about Lunchbox Solutions.
Families do the best with what they have and what they know. One of our goals as authors of Lunchbox Solutions is to educate people, because it is only when we are educated about nutrition – and the lack of nutrition in our foods – that we have the ability to make informed choices about our health.
We wrongly presume that what is in our foods is healthy and will provide us with everything our bodies need. With a lot of the foods on supermarket shelves, you might as well eat the packaging because the nutrient content within is so depleted. So when I got together with my co-authors and dear friends Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani and chef Kate McAloon and decided to write this book, our aim was to educate parents on the importance of nutrition and of course make the recipes as easy and accessible as possible. From research we conducted we found most parents want to make healthier choices but either don’t know where to start or don’t have the time.
Lunchbox Solutions is an interactive iBook available on your iPad or iPhone. It contains over 50 tasty superfood recipes, helpful tips from Dr Jen, Kate and I, healthy lunch ideas for everyone and a multitude of free resources. All recipes are gluten free! For more information on Lunchbox Solutions, please see theresekerr.com.
How can people cut the costs of consuming organic produce?
Buying fresh quality produce – produce that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals – is one of the best things you can do for your body and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Go to local farmers’ markets (see theresekerr.com for farmers’ markets around the world), as certified organic is usually reasonably priced at the markets. If you can’t buy certified organic products, at least ensure they’re farm fresh. Editor’s note: Tips for buying organic on a budget.
What are some common misconceptions about skin products?
The biggest misconception I come across is people not knowing the difference between natural, organic and certified organic. Most people think they all mean the same thing and they certainly don’t. Allow me to break it down for you.
Natural: This means a product may contain natural ingredients, but this could be one ingredient among hundreds, or even thousands, of chemicals and the natural ingredients may not be certified organic. You may also see on labels ‘contains certified organic ingredients’ – this does not mean the product is certified. It still contains chemicals, which is why it can’t be certified organic.
Organic: The word ‘organic’ is grossly misrepresented. A company can claim something is ‘organic’ if it contains carbon, yet it could contain thousands of harmful chemicals and still be called ‘organic’.
Most conventional skin, personal and hair products on the market today contain ingredients such as: TEAs, DEAs, glycols, silicones, sulphates, parabens, synthetic colours, oils and flavourings, formaldehyde (or derivatives), insecticides, pesticides and ethoxylates, just to name a few. Most of us are unaware these chemicals impact on our health. Companies can and do include these ingredients plus many more in products because they are cheap and profit is their goal.
Certified organic: This is the best option because certified organic products are the consumer’s only guarantee that there aren’t any of the aforementioned ingredients in the products. When a product is certified it means, for example, even prior to the planting of any seeds into the ground, the soil has been deemed ‘free from chemicals or any possible contaminants’.
The process of certification is a long and arduous one because of all the documentation needed to prove that the ingredients being included in the formulation are free of any contaminant. With certification there is accountability and traceability.
How do you know if a product is certified?
Only products that have passed the rigorous certification process of a certifying authority such as Australian Certified Organic can use the words ‘certified organic’ on the packaging. However, be careful. Some companies will include certified organic ingredients in their formulations and state they contain certified organic ingredients.
This may mean whatever else this product contains is not allowed in certified organic products. If the certifying bodies allowed all ingredients that are in the formulation, the company would go to the expense and take the time necessary to certify its products. Look for a certified organic logo such as Australian Certified Organic or COSMOS.
What are the dangers of conventional cosmetics?
The number of chemicals conventional cosmetics contain and the impact they have on our health is alarming. According to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis (2010) of the 10,500 ingredients used in toothpaste, sunscreen, nail polish and personal, hair and skin products, only 13 per cent of them have been reviewed for safety in the last 30 years and that was by the Cosmetics Ingredients Review, which is run by the cosmetics industry. A report by the EWG in 2010 shows, on average, most women are likely to apply 126 different ingredients to their skin daily and roughly 90 per cent of these ingredients have not been evaluated for safety.
Have you noticed your clients are coming more from the mainstream over the years? How have they changed?
It’s exciting to see more of the general public becoming concerned about their health and wellness and looking for safe alternatives to conventional products and foods. I speak to people from all walks of life through our Divine by Therese Kerr stockist events, screenings and expos around Australia. Mothers in particular are starting to pay attention to boost family wellness and a number of teenagers are educating themselves also. Even kids are being educated on organic and chemical-free issues as mothers start using certified organic products – and the kids are loving it. So I have noticed the consciousness of people is changing as they become more educated, which is wonderful.
What problems are people most concerned with?
A lot of people come to me with their concerns regarding all areas of health. There is so much information out there and also a great deal of confusion about what is and isn’t good for you. I help people in relation to all areas of health as I take a holistic approach to wellness – physical, emotional and spiritual.
I receive questions ranging from, ‘What foods should I eat to lose weight?’ and ‘What are low GI foods?’ to those relating to serious illnesses such as cancer. A lot of people now know I have been through the trauma of having tumours in my spleen and they want to educate themselves to try and prevent health issues with their family and loved ones. People contact me to find out about my juice recipes and what foods may be beneficial for them during illness and in nurturing the body to prevent illness. I get a lot of questions about healthy alternative ingredients and many people ask about diet, nutrition and food choices. It’s exciting and I love helping people. My blog provides a lot of information, so people can make informed choices in a range of different areas.
As mentioned, one of my biggest passions is to educate women about the harmful impacts of conventional skin, hair, beauty and personal products. People simply don’t know what they don’t know and I have so much knowledge in this area as I live and breathe it every day.
Most women don’t understand that the incidence of endocrine disruptive disorders such as endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility, early onset puberty, early onset menopause, heavy, painful and prolonged periods and breast cancer are mainly caused by the endocrine disruptive chemicals found in skin, hair, beauty and personal products. Our endocrine system (which regulates our hormones) is so delicate that only a small amount of synthetic oestrogen will disrupt it – and unfortunately we are absorbing so much of it. Pthalates (found in just about every beauty product that is not certified organic) are one of the main contributing factors to breast cancer, in both women and men.
That is one of the reasons we are screening The Human Experiment nationally. See theresekerr.com/my-personal-invitation-to-you/ for dates and information on screenings.
If you liked this story you might also enjoy this one about another Australian Organic ambassador.