Over the last couple of years I’ve been increasingly obsessed with what I put into my body as much as what I put on it. Although I love me some cake and have been known to scoff my way through a bar of Galaxy and suffer the consequences, I’m fascinated by the power of certain foods and how they can have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing. This initial mild interest became a full-on fascination after spending a few days with Louise Westra, the resident nutritionist and colon hydrotherapist at Gleneagles in Scotland. Her knowledge is vast and her passion is infectious, being able to diagnose and treat issues you never knew were there just after an in-depth conversation; she’s prescribed me bespoke concoctions, and yes, even examined my bowel movements in an effort to cleanse me from within. Her experiences, career and daily life are utterly fascinating, so I asked her to let us into her world and give us ten minutes of her time…
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR JOB?
I was living in Australia, but looking to come back to the UK, and saw the position advertised online. To cut a long story short I flew to Hong Kong to meet Sue Harmsworth, founder and CEO of ESPA, for an interview. I was then subsequently interviewed via skype by the Gleneagles team and offered the position not too long afterwards (although it felt like a lifetime).
CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY?
At this time of year I rely on an alarm to wake me, although my son is sometimes awake beforehand and making loud suggestions from his room that we get up! I go downstairs and feed our rabbit, put on some fresh coffee or I might have green tea. Food is a pretty big deal in our house so for breakfast we often make pancakes, or I may have made a breakfast crumble the night before so it just needs to be put in the oven to warm up. If I’m not quite so organised it could also be bacon and mushrooms with spinach, or even almond or peanut butter on toast. I usually have a day off during the week, so when I do I’ll drop Noah off at school before trying to immerse myself in my Masters degree work. Otherwise my day is filled with consultations and/or supporting clients remotely via the phone and email, making up their herbal formulas, researching individual cases and updating notes. I also have clients into the spa for Colon Hydrotherapy treatments, or I may speak with prospective clients; often these come as referrals through existing clients who are happy with the care they have received and results we have achieved together (it’s definitely a collaboration). Alternatively I may be presenting to a corporate group, training with my team or writing my column.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE?
In Australia, where I trained originally and lived for nearly 14 years, there are now as many visits annually to Naturopaths as there are to GPs – so what I do is a normal part of people taking care of their health. In the UK there is still a need for more understanding about the role that practitioners like myself can play in creating and optimizing health, and the breadth and depth of what we can achieve with our clients. Education and awareness plays a big part.
CAN YOU PINPOINT A PARTICUALR HIGHLIGHT TO DATE?
I’m fortunate to get so many wonderful moments working with clients as they progress in their own experience of health. It is always really fab when you have great results with clients that were previously told they would just have to live with their troubling situation. Being invited to offer professional commentary on my first magazine feature was also a definite highlight for me.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Watching people blossom once they start to experience a level of health and a feeling of vitality that they had either forgotten they could have, or had never actually known was possible.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
When I was completing my BHSc and was fretting about an exam or assignment grade a close friend said to me, “Lou, passes make degrees”. I laughed at the time but I have always remembered it. Since then I have been able to sideline some of my perfectionist tendencies to realise that if you’re someone who has a good work ethic and strives to do your best at any given moment, in time then that is usually enough.
IF YOU WERE TO GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Irrespective of your qualifications, work on yourself first before dispensing advice to clients. That way you will have a realistic idea of the challenges that people face when making changes that may go against accepted, mainstream dogma.
HOW DO YOU UNWIND AFTER A LONG DAY?
Listening to my son telling me about his day or hearing him read a story, ideally also with a sauna or a hot bath with ESPA Restorative Bath Oil. If I can get my husband to give me a foot massage too, then I am good for nothing except sleep!
CAN YOU LET US IN ON YOUR FIVE BEAUTY MUST-HAVES?
It differs a bit from season to season, particularly as as I read a lot of advice and listen to the spa team, but at the moment:
1. Image Vital C Hydrating Repair Crème – this got me through a recent skin issue with really dry, sensitized patches.
2. ESPA Skin Saviour; after the aforementioned incident, I realized I needed to protect my skin more than I had been doing – so I currently use this product twice a week as a face treatment overnight. This tip came directly from Sue Harmsworth!
3. Anastacia Brow Pomade (how could anyone not love this product?)
4. Lucas Pawpaw Ointment. They don’t let you become an Australian unless you can prove you keep this in your bag at all times! Great as a lip balm and for various other uses.
5. Skinade: I know it’s a supplement but I couldn’t not include it. If I was going to a desert island and could only take one beauty product this is the one I’m packing!
Find out more about Louise and the services she offers at the Gleneagles Spa here.
Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.