Jennifer Medhurst’s gleaming locks, mozzarella smooth skin and overall resplendent aura exemplifies a lifestyle that us Starbucks-swilling, Pret-Christmas-Sandwich-eating mortals can only imagine.
On the many nights I’ve been unable to sleep, I find myself instead meandering through the rabbit hole that is Instagram’s myriad food pornography, specifically what I like to call ‘greens with garnish’. Healthy food bloggers with a penchant for one ingredient banana ice cream, porcelain bowls and well-lit kitchens, who treat garnish placement with the care of an OCD mosaic artist. It was on one of these nights that I came across the gorgeous Jennifer Medhurst and her website of the same name. What initially drew me in were her vibrant and striking photos of dishes which actually looked like they might be satiating – when I dug deeper I realised that Jennifer’s story is a pretty remarkable one – in an effort to treat an unexpected illness, she went from a regular young woman who regularly enjoyed the simple pleasures of junk food, to a major player in the health-food game. With her hugely popular recipe website and newly launched catering service, Jennifer is busier than ever. Her food philosophy is both mindful but non preachy and her aforementioned beauty is testament to her approach. Today Jennifer tells us all about self love, the benefits of food on our faces and why we shouldn’t be slaves to food.
Whole steamed artichoke – Image – Jennifer Medhurst
I first changed my diet as a result of being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, and then later with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS) – an illness that attacks the nervous system causing, amongst other things, blood pressure to drop and the heart rate to increase abnormally. After trying everything conventional medicine offered me at the time, with little effect, I decided to take a homeopathic approach. I began researching nutrition and natural healing approaches, then started formulating a new way of eating, this time with health in mind. The results of my new diet were so wonderful a friend suggested I start a blog as a place to share the recipes, and hey presto!
Sweet Potato brownies – Image – Jenniifer Medhurst
I don’t like to label myself as having a specific diet. I am a lover of whole foods and having a whole life. Being dogmatic about food doesn’t work in my opinion. If you define yourself in rigid terms you will more than likely end up eating something that doesn’t fit that definition and feeling terrible about it. Health is about overall well being and feeling better in ourselves, not worse. So I have a general set of principles that I follow, but beyond that it is very much about listening to your body.
I’ve worked really hard to make my recipes accessible. I want people to be able to pop to their local food store on the way home from work and make something really nutritious and tasty for themselves. When I first started eating for health I found most of the recipes fairly uninspiring and packed full of complicated ingredients that I had never heard of and couldn’t find anywhere. My goal was to create an online space for both health food lovers and non-health food lovers which could inspire everyone to make simple, healthy choices. I try and limit myself to five ingredients per recipe – my site is about making nutritionally powerful meals that are simple, but not basic and packed with flavour – That’s the real challenge.
Of course the real secret to beautiful skin comes from within, as what we put into our bodies certainly shows up on the outside. However, there are lots of things you can do to help support what’s happening inside, on the outside. We absorb about 60-70% of everything we put on our skin into our bloodstream – so if for example you’re using a conventional store bought deodorant then chances are it contains parabens, PEGs, synthetic ingredients including hormone-disrupting fragrances and antibacterials, petrochemicals, or aluminium compounds. That’s a lot of toxins to have pumping around your body – I prefer to use something natural like Biosen deodorant.
It’s especially important to be careful about the products we use everyday as these are the ones that are most regularly going into our system. So I wash my face with warm water then use a small amount of coconut oil to moisturise it. There are some great coconut oil brands, I use Sister and co, Lucy Bee or Vita Coco as they are all cold pressed, raw, organic and fantastic! Coconut oil is by far the best lip balm, face moisturiser and eye make up remover I have ever used, and to moisturise my body I use almond oil. It’s crazy that my bathroom looks like an extension of my kitchen now, but this stuff really works!
Just like skin, the condition of your hair is an outward sign of inside health. The cells that make up each strand of hair require a regular supply of key nutrients. So skin, hair and nails directly benefit from a whole food plant based diet. Vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc are really important for hair growth and you can easily add these into your diet by consciously eating foods such as quinoa, beans, avocados, nuts and coconut oil. Although the effects can take about a year to really show. To wash my hair I use Jason Jojoba Shampoo and Jason Jojoba Conditioner they have so many lovely smelling flavours and you can pick the exact one to match your specific hair type.
Balance! Balance in ALL areas of our lives. This word means different things to different people, and this is because we all think differently and our bodies are all different. What works for one person may not work for another. No single nutrient is evil and the sole cause of bad health. Similarly, no single nutrient is ‘super’ and responsible for good health. The same can be said for food generally – it’s not the only thing that will change your life.
What I believe is that with a change in diet usually comes a change in mind set, and it’s this new way of thinking that’s ultimately responsible for making us feel better. For me when I started eating better, I also started taking care of myself better in other ways. I took up yoga and began to switch big nights out on the town for nights in with a book and a bath. Ultimately, I learned, and am still learning (we should never stop learning!) to try and work with my body, not against it.
People shouldn’t feel guilty if they don’t go the whole way and give up everything at once (or at all). Bringing vegetables and whole grains to the forefront of your diet, ensuring you are well hydrated and reducing/removing stimulants, is a really positive step.
I’m actually pretty relaxed about my diet. A rough idea of how I eat on a day to day basis is 80/20 – so 80% of what I eat is healthy and delicious (recipes like Coconut chia seed pudding with raspberry puree and Quinoa pizza) and the other 20% is whatever I want! I really don’t want food to rule my life. It’s definitely something you should think about, but NOT obsess about. Make a decision to start caring for yourself in a permanent way, and the rest will follow. Sure, there will be set backs, but the point is to keep moving forward, however slowly, and don’t beat yourself up about any mistakes, learn from them and move on. It was overwhelming at first, but like most things the more you practice the easier it becomes.
It’s funny, but when I started this process I would have rolled my eyes so hard at what I’m about to say, but, my mantra is…. drum roll…. Love yourself. Super corny, but also super true. We punish our bodies mercilessly, and they are actually pretty good at telling us what they want if we look after them. Next time you’re weighing up doing something you’re worried might be bad for you, ask yourself what it’s really doing for you, and if ultimately it’s making you feel better or worse. If you choose what is best for you and your body – that is loving yourself and THAT is the Jennifer Medhurst approach.
Jennifer’s nourishing, soothing avocado beauty mask
Avocado is vitamin and mineral rich, as well as being high in fatty acids, lecithin and phytosterols, which make it an excellent moisturiser for dry skin. As it uses fresh fruit and dairy ingredients, this recipe should be used immediately. This face mask is an anti-aging must. It helps your skin retain moisture and acts as a temporary filler for wrinkles, leaving your complexion glowing and smooth.
½ ripe avocado
1 tbs natural yoghurt
1 tbs raw clear honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pea sized amount of almond/coconut oil
- Place all the ingredients into a blender and puree into a smooth cream. Apply to freshly cleansed skin (avoiding the area directly around the eyes and mouth). Leave for 10 minutes. Rinse with tepid water and pat dry with a towel.
- Moisturise with almond or coconut oil, and allow to soak into the skin.
For more from Jennifer head over to JENNIFERMEDHURST.COM