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Leading the way to a Less Toxic Lifestyle

Vanessa Haridas-Galea and I bonded over our mutual interest in low tox living. This lovely lady left her career in business development in order to pursue her passion of living a more natural life. She went back to studying nutrition, health, herbs and oils and is now a fully qualified Health Coach, Aromatherapist, Dermatologist and Massage Therapist. (Wow!)

In an attempt to cut out the “bad” she makes natural personal care products, beauty products, household cleaning products and remedies for her clients. She’s actually made a natural remedy for my pigmentation which I am happily using at the moment. (thank you Ness!)

There is so much to learn about low tox living and you’re certainly not alone if you feel overwhelmed when trying to make the switch. It’s impossible to become free of toxins from one day to the next, in fact one could argue, if it’s at all possible to ever live a completely toxic free life, I’m guessing it’s not! But that’s not to say that we can’t educate ourselves and make a few changes here and there to better our quality of life and to be a bit “nicer” to our environment in the process.

I, for one, am always curious to know what measures other people take to reduce their exposure to toxins in daily life so l took the opportunity to cross-examine Vanessa and hopefully pick up some useful tips to improving my own approach …

Vanessa, can you tell us a bit about your journey and how it led you to where you are today?
Well I could never fully make up my mind what I wanted to do for a career and very boringly took up business development. I ended up working for one of the world’s leading cosmetic companies in the U.K. and completely fell in love with understanding skin, the way products work with our body etc. it got me studying again, but this time aromatherapy, dermatology and massage therapy, herbalism and nutrition.

I started to learn and see where and what ingredients were made from, which wasn’t always nice, or in the long term beneficial to us. This made me start looking into why we are not using cleaner and safer ingredients. Why did we ever move away from more natural, earth given products? Quite simply, it all seemed to boil down to profit, what is more cost effective and the part that made me really sad was that natural ingredients could not be patented so companies would create ingredients in a lab which in the end are synthetic. Our poor bodies are being filled with not so nice toxins which effect us quite a lot, especially our hormones.

What would you say defines a toxic lifestyle? Do you think that the majority of people in Malta are currently living one?
I would hate to say that the majority of people here are living a more toxic life, but I think quite a few are!
There is not enough information given to people to explain what is going on with the average off-the-shelf product with regards to food, cosmetics, body care and other things.
The big companies rule and with them it’s all about profit and developing the cheapest ingredients to hit a higher margin.
But sadly, cheaper is not always best! In the long run buying processed food and many body care ranges can lead to having to see the doctor more often and having to buy expensive medicines.
Many clients of mine that I help are children, unfortunately, with not-so-great diets due to fussy eating. They tend to have skin conditions, behaviour issues and of course tend to suffer more with their health.
In a nut shell a toxic lifestyle that encompasses living off fast foods, processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, packaged juices etc is not going to pay off in the long run unfortunately!

Do you find that we are often mislead by advertising of products that claim to be healthy but in reality are far from it?
100%! Oftentimes sugar is replaced for other cancer causing ingredients. Especially in diet foods! It’s safer to eat healthy home cooked meals, watch your portion size, eat little and often.

Can you remember the first measure you took when you consciously decided to go down a more natural route?
The first was learning which bad chemicals to avoid and how to read labels, but the biggest was moving away from plastic in my kitchen!

As a health coach, what do you consider to be the most important factors for living a healthy lifestyle?
I would say go back to basics .. learn how to cook simple dishes with fresh ingredients and try not to use plastic for food and drinks. Also, think before you buy! For example; don’t get the ready packaged cappuccino but opt for normal coffee in a jar and one of the biggest is stay away from preservatives.

For anyone wishing to embark on a less toxic path, could you advise on a few simple changes that could easily be implemented?
Some tips that spring to mind are …

  1. Dedicate a few extra hours while you are shopping to understand what is in the food before you buy it. Once you find the right items, shopping gets easier.
  2. Start thinking that what we put on our body enters our bloodstream.
  3. Try to replace plastic containers with glass and stainless steel.
  4. Whenever possible, opt to buy organic seasonal produce.
  5. Get into baking at home as opposed to buying ready made treats.

How has your overall well-being (and that of your family) improved since you have distanced yourself (as much as possible) from toxic living?
It has changed completely, both physically and emotionally. We are able to fight off colds faster, we sleep better, we even fight less. Overall I would say we have more energy.

If you have any questions for Vanessa, she can be reached on vanessa.ayaka@gmail.com or via her Facebook pages; Ayaka Health & Beauty or Healthy Foods and Living Made Easy

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