Kate Van Zyl
The passionate up-and-coming food blogger and a true wellness warrior, Kate Van Zyl, talks
to MYHRU about her inspiring wellness journey by taking charge and going rogue for health.
Q: Every health journey has it’s beginning. What sparked yours?
At the age of 30, where one would hope to feel at the peak of their health and physical form, I felt like I was having a meltdown. I was gaining weight, I had no energy, I was emotional and had no control over my thought patterns. I had debilitating migraines, eczema, poor sleep, PCOS, IBS, heartburn… to name a few! And all those were things I’d gone to see doctors about and had been prescribed medication for. It had slowly crept up on me, but that moment of realisation was when I found myself sitting in the doctors rooms, (knowing I wasn’t in my best shape but thinking I’d get around to fixing it later, when work, life, or relationships weren’t demanding so much of my attention anymore) and hearing that blood tests showed I had hepatitis. It was the result of my body simply reaching its limit to cope with the tremendous job of detoxing that I’d tasked it with, and by not taking proper care of myself. It was then that I made the decision to get to the bottom of things, and found a phenomenal Functional Medicine doctor to help me take charge of my health again.
Q: So what were the major changes you have made that yielded the biggest results in your life?
Identifying how harmful stress was/is, learning about the many forms it can take, and subsequently setting about eliminating it as much as possible has been a real game-changer. I didn’t quite realize the burden that I was placing on my health by working long hours, being too busy to cook or eat properly and allowing myself to just fix my health ailments with a pill. I am now not on any medication at all, (not even Panado!) and I no longer get migraines, which I used to have every ten days. I can’t even say that I have IBS any more, and my heartburn is definitely a thing of the past. I’ve adopted a new eating plan that makes veggies and healthy fats the hero that they are, and that eliminates gluten (not my friend!). I have not looked back since.
Q: That’s a huge change indeed! Has your personal wellness journey influenced people around you?
The first thing I realised as I embarked on this journey was that so many people around me had the same struggles and they were just as stuck. But not everyone has been able to figure it out. Perhaps they didn’t have the motivation, or they are standing by something outdated (or poorly researched) that they read on the internet, or had just tried one too many fad-diets to have finally given up hope on themselves. Everyone has to walk their own path, and just because I was finally beginning to figure it out, I had years of damage control that I needed to take care of with my own body, and telling someone about it wasn’t going to make a shred of difference to them…
It was just by getting on with it, and allowing the results to speak for themselves that has created the most impact. I didn’t even realise how profound the change was until my cousin asked me for information about the health journey I was on because he could see how much better I looked (and apparently, I was nicer to be around too!). He has now lost almost 30kgs since adopting the same routine as I have, and despite being diagnosed with type Two diabetes at the start of his own healthy journey, he is now treating it only with diet, and takes no insulin at all!! My mom has also ditched gluten and my sister has taken great care with how she feeds her baby boy, knowing that nutrition is key to his physical and mental development. It may be small changes for some, and more drastic changes for others, but it’s all about getting the conversation started and supporting every effort that others make to take better care of themselves.
Q: What changes are you hoping to see during this major health shift we’re witnessing today?
I’d like to see people less concerned with managing symptoms, and more focused on treating the cause, knowing that it’s all connected. It may seem crazy, but your headaches are related to your gut, and the skin rash you sometimes get is related to your sinus issues and heartburn! I hope that people begin to realise that they are allowed to ask questions. Don’t just accept the diagnosis and tell yourself that it’s in your genes. The naturalisation and acceptance of chronic lifestyle diseases is something that I hope becomes less commonplace.
I was told that I’d be on migraine medication for the rest of my life, and there was nothing to be done for it. I’d been hospitalized for it, been put on drips more times than I can count, had MRI’s to try get to the bottom of it… only to end up with hepatitis when it turned out that the treatment protocol I was on was poisoning my liver. The fear alone of getting another migraine left me feeling depressed and anxious, which only added to the problem. And after all that, it turns out that there was no miracle cure, because to be honest, none was needed. It took finding a doctor who wanted to hear the whole story before deciding on how were were going to approach my health concerns… and instead of writing a prescription, she actually took all my meds away, and prescribed whole foods!
Q: You have coined the expression “going rogue for health” – absolutely brilliant! Tell us more!
This expression is one that I think rings true for so many of us. Each of us is different, and while we come from diverse backgrounds and our day-to-day lives aren’t the same, we all need to take care of ourselves first and foremost if we’re going to have anything left of ourselves at the end of the day. That’s something we all have in common… we are the ones in charge of our own health. The irony is that we’re bombarded with conflicting advice on the internet and social media, with access to an overwhelming volume of information, each tidbit promising to make you feel better than the last.
For me it felt like I just wanted to stick my head in the sand and tell myself I’d deal with it another day. And then it made me feel angry… why is it such a challenge to be well? Why is it, that if you are trying to look after yourself, it feels like you’re actually doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing? To prioritize your health means you have to Go Rogue. You have to look beyond the supermarket aisles, read labels, ask questions, get second opinions. There will be naysayers, but there will also be the payoff of finally feeling like your body is working for you, not against you!
Q: So what does your typical day look like in terms of meals and snacks?
It is a work in progress, since having PCOS means that I have to be very conscious of blood-sugar spikes. I don’t take insulin to regulate my blood sugar, so eating correctly is the only weapon I’ve got! I used to love a fruit smoothie in the morning, but now I’ve adapted it into a veggie smoothie, and I can’t start my day without it. Baby spinach, raw beetroot, carrots, celery, lemon, ginger and flaxseed oil make for a winning and nutritious smoothie. It may seem a bit hardcore, but I challenge you to swap out one fruit item in your regular smoothie with something like a carrot, beetroot or celery, or just chuck in a handful of baby spinach – trust me, you won’t be sorry!
After getting hepatitis, I learned that too much sugar, even fructose, would add to my liver’s already heavy load, so while I LOVE my fruit, I always combine it with healthy fats like raw seeds and nuts, and add a bit of cardio exercise to help my body process the impact that fruit has on my blood sugar levels. After that, it’s all about whole foods in the form of leafy greens, the ever-amazing cruciferous vegetable family, and organic protein in small amounts. I am not the biggest salad fan, and would rather make a stir-fry for dinner with green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, ginger and tamari. It is so satisfying, and I feel full and nourished instead of miserable chewing only on lettuce! We have to love what we eat, so I challenge myself daily to prepare meals that not only nourish me, but that I enjoy eating as well.
Q: What can we expect from your up and coming wellness blog and Instagram platform?
I’ll be honest, I sometimes get so caught up in something I’m busy with, and I forget to stop, take it in, reflect, take a photo… and at the end of the day I’ll be kicking myself that I didn’t write a recipe down or take a photo of something I found inspirational… So that’s the first challenge for myself as I continue with my health journey: to be more mindful about documenting the process and spending more time reflecting on the day-to-day evolution of my path back to wellness. I’d like to say that a more dedicated and focused blog is in the pipeline, as it is something I’ve been wanting to do for so long. Having lived through burnout and adrenal fatigue and the devastating effects that can have on one’s health, I feel I have got so much first-hand knowledge that I’d love to share with others about how to recognize it, and then make the changes to get well again. I’m still learning, and it is still early days, but I’m so excited for the future!
Q: We ask this to every MYHRU guest that we have the pleasure of interviewing – what does beauty mean to you?
When I think of beauty I think of laughter. To be filled with joy is the most beautiful thing in the world! So each day, take some time out to do something that brings you the most joy. For me, it is going for a run and experiencing nature, and playing with my two precious dogs who are the most beautiful things in the world… if you have joy in your life, it will shine from the inside out!
Q: MYHRU is proudly cruelty-free! How important is it for you in terms of choosing a cosmetic brand?
This is SO important for me! I have recently done a house-hold product cleanse, and only use brands that are conscious of their impact on the environment. If you wouldn’t put it IN your body, why would you put it ON your skin?!
Q: We couldn’t agree more! You have very generously given us a beautiful product review! How does MYHRULOSOPHY fit into your lifestyle and your wellness outlook?
I’m notoriously fuss-free when it comes to my beauty routine and use as few cosmetic products as possible. What I LOVE about MYHRU is that it is one powerhouse product that takes care of a LOT of things, and it is that simplicity and attention to quality and detail that has me sold!
Q: Thank you Kate! Before you go, can you please share with us one of your awesome signature recipes for #GetTheGlow?
Absolutely! I make a mean marinade 🙂 I love a braai, but I often find the standard fare on offer is very heavy and lacking in the greens department. Also, store-bought sosaties are often covered in a marinade that’s loaded with preservatives. So I prefer to make my own marinade, and then skewer a bright and colourful selection of veg onto bamboo skewers. You can add pasture reared chicken or grass-fed lamb for extra protein, but really, the veggies are the star here!