Nutritional therapist Xochi Balfour experienced first hand the draining effects of keeping up with a fast-paced city lifestyle. After reaching burnout, she turned to nutrition to regain her wellbeing and is now the author of blog and book The Naturalista, where she offers advice on holistic nutrition and conscious living. In this interview from summer 2017, she shares her top tips and techniques for restoring good health and practising mindful living in London.
How did The Naturalista start?
My husband Ben and I used to run a street food business called Rainbo. In 2013 I hit burnout and found myself battling extreme fatigue. We were working long hours, doing events and festivals back-to-back, and living off refined foods and caffeine. I knew our diet was the first thing I had to change so I enrolled in a nutrition course and it was a light-bulb moment. I signed up for a diploma and started blogging about the journey. We overhauled our diets and saw immediate effects on our wellbeing. Natural skincare soon followed, and then meditation and spiritual practice became the third pillar of the journey back to wellness. My book covers the three pillars of vitality: naturopathic nutrition, natural beauty and skincare, and mindful living.
How would you summarise your philosophy?
I believe in living a balanced life, cultivating vitality and harmony through nutrition, natural living and spiritual self-practise. Having a baby has been such a crash course in true presence and responsibility and I have never had a better experience of having to listen to my body. The demands on my time are huge and it is harder to cook lots of food from scratch and create new recipes, but I am very lucky to have an amazing husband who is creative in the kitchen and supportive of us both. It can be isolating for modern women to raise their babies alone; we were built to do it in communities and I think lots of support is absolutely vital.
How do you live a holistic life in a busy city like London?
Connecting to nature as often as possible is what keeps me grounded and balanced. It could be a park, a garden or heading out to the countryside – connecting to the healing green is so important. I also work with myself and my clients to build up a toolkit of resources to keep us grounded in the everyday: aromatherapy, crystals, card decks and journalling are all wonderful practices that anyone can adopt and weave into their day-to-day life.
Is there a particular place in London you like to visit to take time out in?
I have always lost myself in the best way possible on Hampstead Heath. The wildness of it makes you forget you’re in the city and the water and rolling hills are such wonderful medicine after a busy day.
And where do you go to escape city life?
Epping Forest, located between London and Essex. We also visit Costa Rica every year to spend time at an eco village called PachaMama. They host therapeutic groups, silent meditation and indigenous ceremonies, and it was there that I earned my name Xochi [formally Candida], which means “flower” in the Nahuatl language of the region. We try to take a flavour of PachaMama to our Sacred Space retreats. My husband and I started the retreats in 2015 to move beyond nutrition and bring a spirit of self-enquiry, community and healing into a day or weekend.
What are the essential ingredients of a healthy diet?
I always encourage two thirds of every plate to be plant-based. Fibre is essential for helping eliminate toxins – lots of dark green leaves like kale and cabbage, which are also full of calcium, magnesium and other essential nutrients. Good fats – such as raw coconut, hemp and olive oil, avocado, cacao butter and oily cold-water fish – are fundamental.
What is your favourite recipe?
I love my raw carrot and cinnamon bircher muesli – start with oats and nut milk, grated apple and carrot. Then add turmeric for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, cinnamon which helps balance blood sugar, and goji berries which contain vitamin C.
How can we combat stress?
You have to create daily space for self-enquiry and allow your system to reset, whether that is yoga, meditation, barefoot walking or whatever brings you to the present moment. Working with an altar is a way of bringing positive memories into your home. Choose a corner and fill it with things that are important to you – a crystal, a written intention that you would like to manifest, or something you are grateful for. It’s a way of staying connected to something greater than yourself and introducing beauty, prayer and devotion into your home.