Most of us stretch ourselves thin; working, friendships, family, events, meetings, visitors, travel… the list goes on and on (and sometimes on again!), wearing on us physically and emotionally, hurting our immune systems, dulling our skin, encouraging skin ailments like stress and hormonal acne, increasing aging, and leaving us as lesser-versions of our incredible selves. We’re getting to the bottom of how to feel and look our best through thriving, oppose to simply surviving.
We headed to our expert go-to on the subject to dissect tips for living well. Meet, Kirsti Pesso, of “Thrive With Kirsti Pesso“, this Australian-born, New York living health coach, detoxification specialist and personal trainer is here to answer our burning health questions about how to not only survive, but how to beautifully thrive.
Let’s dive in!
LeVert: What are the benefits of clean eating and why should we all do it?
Kirsti: Our health and wellbeing is determined by the quality and strength of our building block, our cells. The cells are our workforce and are only as strong as the quality of the environment within which they live and the nourishment they receive.
When we consume food that has been processed and refined—think sugary breakfast cereals and snack bars—our cells are unable to utilize the man-made ingredients. Conversely, when our cells are well hydrated and fed nutrient dense foods—like fresh apples—that are high in alkalizing living enzymes, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, amino acids and fatty acids that they can recognize, digest, absorb and assimilate, the nutrients become the building blocks for our cells and the rest of our systems. The results: cells and organs that thrive and are able to carry out their many functions. This manifests in balanced hormones, a robust immune system, radiant skin, quality sleep, stable energy and mood, a healthy gut and digestive system, and the reduced risk of inflammation and chronic illness, to mention just a few.
LeVert: What really classifies “clean” in terms of food?
Kirsti: ‘Clean eating,’ in truth should be a roadmap to better health and vitality, reflecting the way our body responds best to nutrition and food. Clean eating is about consuming foods in their most natural state so as to promote optimum long-term health. This means avoiding processed foods, preservatives, foods with lots of added sugar and foods with high levels of bad fats (some saturated fats/all trans fats). It also means avoiding foods that have been stripped of their nutritional value and/or have been injected with chemicals and additives (for added shelf life). In other word, eating clean is eating in the way that was intended by nature. Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, sprouts, legumes, beans, sea vegetables, super foods, and if you choose, small amounts of wild or organic and grass fed and sustainable sources of animal protein.
LeVert: How does clean eating effect your body inside & out?
Kirsti: What we eat has a direct effect on our skin (our largest organ) and the rest of our internal and external health. Eating a ‘clean’ diet full of good fats, antioxidants, collagen building nutrients, and amino acids can truly mean the difference between a vibrant, glowing complexion and a dull, tired, puffy one. It can also make the difference between elevated and stable energy and mood, or a day of highs and lows, ups and down. Our skin is simply a mirror, reflecting the state of our internal health. An overly acidic internal environment and inflammation – caused mainly by the foods we consume and by our lifestyle choices – is at the root of many health and skin issues. Clean eating, together with quality sleep, hydration, stress management, self-care rituals and meaningful relationships, will bring balance and optimal function to all your internal systems. The strong foundation of thriving internal health will shine through on the outside in the form of clear, glowing skin and healthy, lustrous hair.
LeVert: Can you identify key ingredients and foods that we should be incorporating into our daily lifestyles for better energy, mood and skin?
Kirsti: I think people today are really confused about what to eat, when they really don’t have to be. In part, the confusion lies in the conflicting and constant barrage of information that we receive. It’s really quite simple, just eat real food. Not surprisingly, all the foods that will boost energy, mood and skin health are also the best foods to eat for overall wellbeing and illness prevention.
Eating whole foods that are mainly plant based, unprocessed and graciously given to us by nature, is truly the best way to achieve thriving, vibrant health. To maintain a steady supply of energy, you’ll want to ensure that you eat foods with fiber and healthy fats, as these help to slow the breakdown of carbs into glucose and give us slow, burning energy throughout the day.
Consume living foods that contain lots of enzymes and color. Seasonal, local, fresh fruits and vegetables – organic where possible – should form the bulk of your diet. They are alkalizing and detoxifying and will boost your energy and the quality of your skin. Some of my favorites are berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, sprouts, sweet potatoes, cruciferous veggies (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli) and red peppers. These are packed with skin benefitting antioxidants, vitamins A (for cell growth and regeneration), C (the building block for skin-supportive collagen), calcium, iron and magnesium. Eating a rainbow every day ensures your body gets the full spectrum of antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals it needs to fight aging, inflammation and disease. These are the real super foods!
People have been scared of healthy fats for too long, but thankfully the tide is turning. Foods that are high in quality, healthy fats such as omega 3 fatty acids, will fight inflammation and balance hormones—that’s great news for your skin and overall wellness. Think avocados, cold-pressed unrefined olive and coconut oils and wild and sustainable oily fish such as wild salmon and sardines. Seeds such as hemp, flax and chia, along with nuts like almonds, walnuts and Brazil, will also provide you with some of the most important nutrients (calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E) for skin health and overall wellbeing. Omega 3 fatty acids are your best friends when it comes to healthy, glowing skin.
Foods with fibers will help ensure that your detoxification and elimination pathways are not congested and are able to remove heath sabotaging waste, acids and toxins. Nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, legumes and beans are all packed with fiber.
Another key ingredient is fermented or cultured foods that contain good friendly bacteria. Our gut is the epicenter of our immune system and keeping it balanced and strong is essential for practically every aspect of your health, in particular your energy, mood and skin. Fermented foods include things like miso, tamari, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir etc., but a good probiotic supplement can also help balance the microbiome. Prebiotics are the fertilizers for bacteria production and work synergistically with probiotics to balance the gut. Alternatively, garlic, leeks, onion, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and bananas are all packed with prebiotics. Regardless of your source, you’ll need about 5 grams a day.
LeVert: How does stress and exercise play into a person truly thriving?
Kirsti: Stress is the body’s response to a perceived physical, mental and emotional demand that exceeds the adaptive resources of an individual. There’s no doubt that acute stress can be highly unpleasant, even debilitating. Stress is known to reduce immunity, making you vulnerable to a vast range of illnesses; it’s also linked to depression, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disturbances…just to name a few ill effects.
However, in short bursts, it’s actually motivating, keeping us productive and focused. It can even enhance physical and cognitive performance, pushing us to strive for more. Ideally, our stress system – the adrenal glands – will activate and deactivate in a relatively short time, regulating our body out of the stress response. Today however, many are living in a constant state of stress which can become chronic. This is debilitating and can wreck havoc on our entire body – inside and out. When our stress system is activated chronically without a chance to recalibrate, we run the risk of exhausting our entire endocrine system, with a ripple effect running through the body from our immunity and energy, to our sleep, skin, weight, mood and digestion. Managing stress is not only a key aspect of maintaining your overall wellbeing, but it also has a direct impact on your energy levels and skin health. It’s critical to find ways to manage stress daily. Even small things like deep breathing, journaling, taking a walk, soaking in a bath, and taking adaptogenic herbs can really help to calm the nervous system.
Exercise can benefit you in so many ways, but primarily, it’s a great way to manage stress. It will have a positive effect on the way you metabolize fat and sugar, will strengthen your heart and lungs, will build muscle, secrete happy hormones and endorphins, promote better sleep, weight management and will keep oxygen and nutrients flowing to the blood. A regular exercise regime is truly a fundamental part of thriving health.
LeVert: How much time should the busy woman (or man) take to focus on these efforts to feel strong, healthy and like his or her best self?
Kirsti: These days everyone is time poor. We are trying to juggle and fit in more than ever before. Unfortunately for a women, especially if she is juggling a family and a career, this can often mean putting herself and her own needs for nourishment on the backburner. I have worked with many women who say they simply don’t have time to love themselves up. My goal is to continue to support busy women to take care of themselves by having them understand that you can’t give from an empty cup. Its essential that as women, we understand how critical it is that we feed ourselves with good food, sleep, rest, exercise and time out because if we don’t do so, we won’t have the energy and stamina to take care of everyone else’s needs. I do understand how easy it is to fall prey to the time crunch, but little things can make a huge difference.
Workout Tip: You don’t need an hour at the gym to get in a great effective workout. A few rounds of tabata – 8 rounds of 20 seconds of hard work and 10 seconds off for a 4 minute set – will get your heart pumping and lymphatic system moving in no time. You can literally stand anywhere and punch out rounds of squats, burpees and mountain climbers and in less than 15 minutes you can be done.
Food Tip: Make food prep at the beginning of the week a priority, so that when the business of the week hits, you are prepared. This is a game-changer and can make the difference between grabbing M & M’s or fresh veggie sticks and hummus for your snack.
Stress Tip: Take short breaks throughout the day just to be still, sit and breathe can switch us back into our relaxing parasympathetic nervous system.
Beauty Tip: Using clean skin care products is key, while having a consistent regimen, morning and night, where you cleanse, tone and finish with an oil or serum can double as self-care as it makes you feel good too.
Water Tip: Carrying a BPA-free water bottle everywhere you go will encourage you to stay hydrated.
Bonus Tip: Begin going to bed early two nights a week, this can have a huge benefit to your overall health.
For the most part, it’s really about mindset. Knowing how important a good diet and some daily lifestyle rituals are to your health and vitality can encourage compliance. Committing to a few easy self-care rituals is a great way to start. Begin with easy things like more water, more veggies and some daily deep breathing. Once that feels like its second nature, build on it to include some regular short bursts of exercise, daily meditation and home cooking at least 4 nights a week. Health is a journey, it’s a process, but it does take commitment and a desire to make changes! Once you have things in place and you begin to reap the benefits – glowing skin, natural and dynamic energy, balanced mood and hormones and a strong immune system, you’ll never look back.
Rainbow Chopped Salad
Eat a rainbow, everyday!! The beauty of a deconstructed salad like this, is that it’s simple a matter of chopping different colored veggies – you can use the ones suggested or pick your own – and arranging them on a platter, either in a row, or in wedges, organized by color for a pretty appearance. There are so many antioxidants and phytonutrients in this dish, as well as healthy fats, fiber, protein and enzymes, sure to strengthen the immune system, give you radiant glowing skin and enhance your overall wellbeing. Add protein of choice – can use freshly cooked or tinned salmon or tuna, eggs, chicken etc., drizzle a simple dressing of lemon and olive oil and viola.
Add ½-1 cup of each of the following:
- Chopped carrots
- Chopped cucumbers
- Chopped red, yellow and orange peppers
- Cubed avocado
- Chopped beets – red, or yellow
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Chopped haricot verts – French string beans
- Fresh herbs of choice – I like parsley for this salad
- 2-4 cups salad greens of choice – arugula, baby spinach or kale or chopped Romaine
- Juice 1 lemon
- 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 Tbs balsamic vinegar – optional
- Salt and pepper
Other additions- optional
Hard boiled eggs, soft boiled and halved
Tuna or salmon – tinned or freshly cooked
Hemp and sesame seed
Nuts of choice for some added crunch
- Chop and prepare veggies and arrange in rows, by color on large platter.
- Place additional ingredients in bowls so people can help themselves
- Assemble by placing some greens in bowl and then taking whichever veggies and additional ingredients you like and drizzle dressing on top
Kirsti’s LeVert Beauty Favorites:
Kirsti: It’s nearly impossible to pick two of my favorite LeVert products. If I have to share only two they would be Mun’s No.1 Aknari Brightening Youth Serum and May Lindstrom’s Honey Mud. Both are extraordinary. Once you have these beauties in your arsenal it’s difficult to go without. They are like the icing on the cake, consolidating the heavy lifting done internally from clean eating, hydrating, sleep and exercise. At Mun’s heart are three 100% organically pure anti-aging treasures of nature: Prickly Pear Seed, Rose and Argan oils and as it’s name suggests, these transform the appearance of your skin giving it a youthful radiant glow and smoothing out fine lines. A gem worth investing in. Honey Mud is intoxicating, a silky almost pudding like mask that pulls out dirt and toxins leaving your skin feeling smooth, hydrated and nourished. So good, you could eat it, and with ingredients like raw honey, macadamia nut oil, sweet orange and cocoa, it’s tempting. Both products are certified organic, gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan and my go-tos.
Official Bio: Kirsti Pesso is a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach (CHHC), a Detoxification Specialist, certified ACE Personal Trainer with a Psychology and Social Work background. Currently living in Westchester, New York, Kirsti’s journey began as a young foodie in her father’s professional and home kitchens.
When her father had a massive heart attack 14 years ago, she became intensely committed to finding out the cause. Her journey led to an understanding and deep passion for the powerful interconnections between diet, lifestyle and one’s wellness.
“Thrive with Kirsti Pesso” was born of that intensive journey and exploration. She eats and breathes holistic wellness and her work embodies this approach motivating people to connect the dots so they can uncover the underlying causes of their own health issues and explore the interconnectedness of their physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. Her group and tailored 1:1 cleanse and wellness/lifestyle programs, cooking classes and workshops, educate, empower, support and inspire positive changes so that they can be the best version of themselves and find true balance and thrive!
Find her directly on her Website and on Social Media here:
Follow her for your daily dose of holistic health and wellness! Grab her new FREE recipe eBook out now here at www.thrivewithkirstipesso.com