Women In Wellness: Author Liana Werner-Gray On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
… I would start a movement with food companies have to label their product if it is anxiogenic and or carcinogenic. I believe it’s only fair to list an ingredient as carcinogenic and neurotoxic if it has been proven so by science. People are eating foods every day that are stripping them of energy and taking away their health and they don’t even realize. The food industry should be more transparent, and it will force many companies to have to do the right thing and then change some of their ingredients and values.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liana Werner-Gray.
Liana Werner-Gray is a Best Selling author of four books, one is the Top 100 Cancer books of all time: Cancer-Free with Food foreword by Mark Hyman, MD. The Earth Diet was her original work followed by Anxiety-Free with Food. She is a Certified Nutritionist and a Natural Food Chef.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
In 2009, I had a major wakeup call. Although I was only 21, I ended up in the hospital with a golf ball-sized lump sticking out of the right side of my neck. Looking for appropriate guidance, I saw three doctors in all. After doing a biopsy of this solid mass, I was told I had early stages of cancer and both doctors offered me conventional medical treatment, beginning with surgery.
I was not disheartened, as something in my background gave me confidence that I could heal the tumor on my own. I had grown up in Alice Springs, Australia, an area that’s home to a large community of Aboriginals who eat in a manner that’s unlike the modern American diet: with more plants, less meat, and very little processed food. Largely because of what they eat, these indigenous people enjoy excellent health. They taught me that food is medicine. Knowing it was possible for food to be used as medicine, even as the medical doctors were giving me conflicting opinions, my mind was on the lookout for an alternative approach. Following the third doctor visit, I made a bold decision about my course of action. None of the doctors’ proposed treatments for the lump in my neck sounded appealing. In fact, to me they sounded like torture. I had already put my body through five years of agony by engaging in a self-destructive cycle of binge eating toxic junk food followed by starvation. I had no doubt that my sickness was related to my disordered eating, which had spiraled out of control when I left home. So, I decided to opt out of conventional treatments — at least for several months. Instead I would heal myself using all-natural methods because that was what intuitively felt right for me to do. I met with a naturopath and she also had confidence that I could heal the lump by detoxifying my body. And that is just what I did. I learned how to turn my kitchen into a pharmacy. This strategy was my choice because I wanted to address the deeper causes of my tumor, not just react to the surface-level symptoms. This is something I learned from growing up in Outback Australia at an Indigenous school. The aboriginal people taught me things from age five that I helped form my belief system and knowledge in healing and nutrition. Their philosophy was always that the healthiest way for us to eat is to get food straight from nature, from the ground, water, trees and bushes. I saw the illness as an opportunity to heal myself and become healthy on every level — mind, body, and spirit — in a way I had forgotten or lost.
Instead of conventional treatment, I:
- Changed my diet and consumed a lot of nutrients.
- Juiced up to six times a day.
- Bathed in bentonite clay and used it as a poultice to draw out toxins — also drank it.
- Had sessions of alternative therapies, like reflexology and massage.
- Received a colonic or a coffee enema every day for two months.
- Rested, relaxed, and did everything I could to reduce stress.
The lump started to get smaller and smaller, and within three months of commencing this regimen, it had completely disappeared from my neck. It entirely dissolved. I have been cancer free for thirteen years. One of the things I did to create accountability for my new lifestyle was to start a daily blog. At the end of a year, I collected recipes from the blog and published them in a book, The Earth Diet. This opened doors for me with thought leaders — doctors, nutritionists, healers, natural food purveyors, restauranteurs, and authors — who welcomed me as a fellow traveler and were generous in sharing their expertise. I’ve interviewed these cutting-edge thinkers. I’ve done research. I wrote three more recipe books, 10-Minute Recipes, Anxiety-Free and Cancer-Free with Food (Foreword by Mark Hyman MD) all of which are Best Sellers the Top 100 Cancer Books of all time! The best of what I learned and know as it pertains to cellular health, disease prevention, healing, and supporting the body to cope with the side effects of cancer treatment.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
My blog going viral and finding out Prince William and Kate Middleton were following my work. When I first started my blog The Earth Diet, I did it to hold me accountable to sticking to my new found lifestyle of only eating foods from nature for 365 days. I did it so I could break the vicious cycle of food addiction that I was in. And I soon had hundreds of other young women writing to me saying they were doing the same binge eating behaviors. We helped each other by taking openly about it, and our solution was eating natural foods to replace cravings instead of processed foods. It was changing our lives! I started my blog in 2009 when blogs were really just beginning, it was an exciting time, and then it ended up going viral through word of mouth, I found that so interesting because I spent nothing on marketing nor had any idea how to turn it into a career. It was my blog readers who suggested I turn the content into a book, which I did by self-publishing. And then I found out Prince William and Kate Middleton bought my book. A year later I signed with a publisher and it was a dream come true. The takeaways I got with this story is to follow your highest passion, because that energy will take you to where you need to go with your career. It just flowed for me and felt very natural, I really felt like it was my purpose and I learned that every single person has a unique gift to share with the world and that we should all offer it through our work.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake I made was trusting people too easily and quickly. I spent 9k on a photoshoot for my recipes for my first self-published book, looking back now I realized I could have gotten a similar result for 2k. I spent 12k on a website that was horrible, it was slow to function and I lost a lot of subscribers in the meantime. I since have rebuilt it for less than 1k with myself and my employee. There were a lot of people along the way who I gave money or time too that said they wanted to help me but turns out they had other intentions. I’ve learned now to get to know people first, and do thorough research before making a decision of commitment. People have also told me how I should do things, or not do things, and now I will take it and meditate on it to see if it is right for me.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I have been helping people get back to nature and heal. Nature provides us everything we need to restore health! It is truly remarkable. As a certified nutritionist my clients (and readers) include people who have healed thyroid disorders, hormonal issues, cancer, acne, digestive system issues, anxiety, fatigue and more. There is a natural remedy for everything! And I help people find this with foods they can eat, natural products and particular recipes.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- CHLOROPHYLL WATER RIGHT AFTER RISING EVERYDAY
I start every day with chlorophyll water, everyday since 2009 when I started The Earth Diet and made a commitment to myself that I would treat and nourish myself to this life changing compound every-single-day. I’ve accidentally only missed 4 days in the last thirteen years. Chlorophyll is a compound found in dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, broccoli, broccoli sprouts, blue-green algae. It’s as easy as adding a few drops into clean filtered water. It is also affordable and cost as little as 20 cents per day. I’ve witnessed chlorophyll transform my own like and there are many other reasons why I believe chlorophyll is the #1 most powerful and transformative health hack known to human kind including that it is: instant energy! Chlorophyll increases flow of oxygen throughout the body which helps our bodies to build oxygen-carrying blood cells. The first thing we put into our body each day is the most important, why? Because the cells are hungry and ready to intake some form of energy to get the day started. Chlorophyll gives a nice boost of energy to start the day. It can also give you energy before a workout, yoga, or hiking. It also helps with chronic fatigue. Chlorophyll also creates healthy blood and is a subtle daily detox as it cleanses the body of toxins, especially the intestines. For people who don’t eat enough dark leafy greens, this is a quick way to get your daily dark leafy greens in. “90% of Americans do not meet that goal” of eating the recommended serving of 2–3 cups of vegetables per day according to Connie Diekman, a St. Louis-based registered dietitian and former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Chlorophyll is an extract from dark leafy greens. I talk to my clients about chlorophyll for hours until they become so aware of all the health benefits that they are onboard with trying it themselves. Of course eat dark leafy greens as well, and drink green juice, but this hack of liquid chlorophyll drops in water just makes it so much easier for people. Lastly chlorophyll is also know to assist with disease prevention, helps to reduce inflammation, can enhance oxidative stress tolerance, helps with anxiety and depression as it calms the nervous system and boosts the mood, stimulates the immune system, helps with weight loss, protects the cells of you eat foods with refined sugars and carbs, preservations or other toxins, creates new cellular memory which helps prevent sugar cravings and it is refreshing and incredibly hydrating.
2. SET YOUR MINDSET ON A HEALTHY FOUNDATIONAL DIET AND FOCUS ON WHOLE FOODS STRAIGHT FROM NATURE, LIVE AS NATURAL A LIFESTYLE AS POSSIBLE
Make a commitment to eat and drink foods that come straight from nature, that is not nontoxic foods and beverages and then observe how eating different foods makes you feel, not just at the moment, but the next hour and the next day. Be sure to buy as much organic and non-GMO ingredients vs packaged food. It is important. Fewer pesticides equal less damage done to our DNA and nervous system. The body cannot process pesticides and herbicides well; we take them in, and the body reacts to them as poisons, which often leads to oxidative stress and inflammation. In my books I list the most carcinogenic and neurotoxic foods in my books which are refined white sugar, trans fats, GMO’s, foods contaminated with glyphosate, preservatives, additives and colorings. Foods on this list are poisons that have been proven to wreak havoc on the body, causing everything from gut imbalance to nervous system damage and inflammation. These foods add stress to the body, and it’s time we let them go. When our foundational diet looks that similar of our paleo ancestors, we would eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, and for the meat eaters, wild animals and fish. I also incorporate organic chicken and pasture raised eggs.
3. USE THE UPGRADE SYSTEM FOR CRAVINGS
Food upgrading or swapping is the concept that literally saved my life. I have lived it ever since; it stopped all of my cravings and impulses to eat unhealthy foods, and I am still indulging in the most delicious foods like fried chicken and fries, just in a completely brand-new way.
One approach some may try when a food craving hits is relying on willpower just say no to every craving and impulse. In my experience working with clients and patients over the past decade, this deprivation approach isn’t very realistic, especially for those who struggle with addiction and anxiety. They aren’t able to say no all day — especially for the rest of their lives. I always ask my clients, “Do you think you will never eat a cookie again? Or some cake?” It’s just not realistic! People always fail at giving up bad foods with this approach. I did too. I would say to myself, “On Monday, I will start again, and I will never eat junk foods ever from then on.” Then, Monday would come, and I would have a strong craving for gummy bears. I’d try to ignore it until the urge became so strong that I would give in and binge them. Deprivation backfires in a similar way for most people. God was leading me to something healthy and balanced that I could do for the rest of my life. Food upgrading is it! After seeing thousands of people adopt this strategy over the past 10 years, I promise you that it can lead to the transformation of your body, mind, and spirit. Do not underestimate this approach because of its simplicity. It won’t help you manage your anxiety if you eat foods that trigger chaos in your nervous system. Upgrading can bring you into a state of greater harmony and balance. We can strengthen our bodies with nutrients while enjoying the flavors and textures we love from different foods. Because oftentimes, when we crave certain foods, like fried chicken, for example, it’s a message that the brain is actually craving fat to support its functions. Or if you crave chocolate, it’s a message that your body may be deficient in magnesium. So it’s good to listen to your body and fulfill its needs with wholesome versions of its desires.
When I was working to restore my health and overcome the anxiety I felt, I got the idea to adopt the thought process: Every time I am craving something to eat, I will find a way to eat it in the most natural way possible — in a way that nourishes my body and at the same time tastes really good. I was immediately excited to try to find or invent new, healthier versions of the foods I loved. A huge burden lifted off my body. I felt lighter and more peaceful right away and thought, Wow! Okay! I can eat chocolate for the rest of my life! But I have to find a way to do it with a chocolate that has cleaner ingredients. It was a dream come true because the item I craved most often was chocolate.
This was a decade ago, and there weren’t as many organic choices available to us then. Although I did locate some organic chocolate in a health food store, which was an upgrade from conventional chocolate, it was sweetened with white sugar, an ingredient I wanted to avoid. So I started to make my own chocolate using cacao, almond flour, and honey. I would add peanut butter to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls! And I would eat up to 20 of them a day because, for me, this was a major improvement, an “upgrade” from the kind of chocolate I had formerly eaten in one day.
I was blown away by the flavor and texture! The result of making homemade chocolate was like a moist, buttery, delicious chocolate brownie — although it contained no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no preservatives, no GMO ingredients, and no refined sugar. It tasted absolutely delicious, all the while providing my body with protein, fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that were healthy and sustaining for my body. Discovering the food upgrade mindset was the best thing that ever happened to me!
When I am doing nutritional coaching, I always tell my clients: Start with your greatest obstacle food first. Replace that food, and the rest of the changes you want to make will be easier. It will also give you a lot of relief to move a huge rock from your path to wellness. For some people, the food blocking the path might be pizza, or pasta, or bread, or cheese, or candy. What is yours?
For years, chocolate was always my biggest weakness and the greatest obstacle to healthy eating. Upgrading is how we can have our cake and eat it too! But — you get it — it has to be a certain type of cake for this to work. I used the upgrade approach to replicate all my favorite foods. I made chicken nuggets with organic chicken and a coating of turmeric, almond flour, and sea salt. I made cheesecake with cashews. I made ice cream with almond milk. I used coconut oil instead of butter. I made cookie dough from almond flour and maple syrup. And I discovered that there is a healthier alternative for absolutely everything that we want to eat.
Upgrading means we can continue to eat the foods we love for the rest of our lives guilt-free! We can eat them and achieve optimal wellness. Truly, it’s worth repeating that it’s not realistic for any of us to think, I will start a new diet on Monday — after which I will never, ever eat cookies again. We are not biologically programmed for deprivation. That’s why millions of people are stuck in an “I’ll start tomorrow” pattern. They are still eating junk food because that way will never work. But when we adopt the approach of asking, How can I eat cookies in a healthy way? and then find a way to do so, we fulfill our cravings and have a pleasurable experience. Because this food tastes good and nourishes the body, it also leaves us with a sense of real satiety, and it calms our nervousness. That’s the key. Flood the body with nutrients at the same time as you are indulging in happy-tasting flavors. I was mind blown to discover this and wished I had learned it before I had first tried processed foods with refined sugars and become hooked on the sugar.
The Upgrade Thought Process
When you have a craving, ask yourself, How can I satisfy this in the best way possible?
- Worst-case scenario: Low-quality, fast-food, and conventional options; GMO and nonorganic ingredients; high-sugar, high-fat foods; anything with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
- Better upgrade: The organic option with clean ingredients
- Best upgrade: Something you make yourself with the highest-quality ingredients you can buy
Let’s say, for example, you want some French fries. The worst-case scenario is buying fries at a fast-food franchise made from GMO potatoes cooked in low-quality oil and seasoned with preservative-ridden salt. What is the upgrade in this situation?
The better version is to get them at an organic restaurant where the cook uses non-GMO potatoes and high-quality oil.
4. DETOX IF NEEDED
One powerful healthy strategy that you will never regret is detox. Detox can help with healing and preventing disease, weight loss and even anxiety. Detox is the second principle I write about for healing anxiety in my book Anxiety-Free with Food. If you know or guess that your body is overloaded with toxins, a detox is a good idea. You would throw out a bucket of dirty water entirely before you began adding clean water to it, wouldn’t you?
I suggest doing a full-body detox, which includes a gut cleanse and liver cleanse, so you can lower the toxic burden in the body, give the lymphatic system a chance to restore itself, and let the gut heal so it can absorb nutrients properly. A toxic buildup can lead to anxiety, depression, and fatigue because your gut can’t properly absorb the nutrients you are giving it.
When I was sick, I underwent a major detox for three months. This was what I needed to heal my gut and restore balance throughout my body, as well as to dissolve the tumor from my neck. Some people need more or less time. I recommend working with an integrative doctor, nutritionist, or naturopath to do this. Detoxification may not be fun initially, but it is worth it ultimately; it is the best feeling to know that your body is pure. Organs of the elimination system that can benefit from detoxification support include the liver, kidneys, and intestines.
These days, I detox only once a year. For this, I use the Aloe and Colloidal Silver Protocol described on my website. You must decide which detox plan is right for you, if any, and if you need to detox, please do a detox. Clean out your “murky water,” so you can add in all the good clean stuff and build yourself a nice new body from the inside out.
If you consume something and feel concerned about toxins afterward (for example, high-mercury seafood, fast food, or alcohol), you can consume a clay drink or chlorophyll water. Bentonite clay is ash that has accumulated from volcanoes over millions of years. It binds with heavy metals in the body and helps us to eliminate them from the body. You simply need to drink 1 teaspoon bentonite clay mixed in 2 cups water. For chlorophyll water, add one serving to a tall glass of water. Both waters are safe enough to incorporate as part of a daily routine.
5. CONSUME ASHWAGANDHA DAILY
Ashwagandha, aka Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera), is derived from the fruit or leaf of a shrub. The name refers to the smell of the root (“like a horse”). In Latin, the species name, somnifera, means “sleep inducing.” Most ashwagandha is cultivated in India, Nepal, and China. This has been used for centuries to alleviate fatigue and improve general well-being. It has powerful antianxiety, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also an adaptogen, which means it helps the body respond to stress. One study in which people took 300 mg twice daily of high-concentration Ashwagandha root extract found that it “safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.” Study: K. Chandrasekhar, J. Kapoor, and S. Anishetty. “A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults,” Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, vol. 34, no. 3 (July 2012), pp. 255–62, doi: 10.4103/0253–7176.106022.
I included ashwagandha as one of the top 10 ingredients that help treat anxiety naturally, and it’s included in my supplement Anxiety-Free www.LianasOrganics.com I take 4 capsules a day and absolutely notice a difference when I miss a couple days! Imagine it as literal food for your nervous system.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a movement with food companies have to label their product if it is anxiogenic and or carcinogenic. I believe it’s only fair to list an ingredient as carcinogenic and neurotoxic if it has been proven so by science. People are eating foods every day that are stripping them of energy and taking away their health and they don’t even realize. The food industry should be more transparent, and it will force many companies to have to do the right thing and then change some of their ingredients and values.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- That some days will be incredibly hard and awful, that I would feel like you are in a storm, so on those days to keep the movement going forward just do the next best step. I may not be able to dive into a high workload project on these days, so look at your to-do list and just do the one thing next that seems doable.
- To always be grateful and content in any situation.
- Before I started eating fast foods and processed foods when I was 16 I wish I had known what I know now about you can still eat things you want, but in a healthy way.
- To focus the most on my readers and really nurture them, to not just be consumed in “growing” and getting new followers.
- To work six days and have one completely rest day every week as to avoid burnout and have a nice work life balance (there have been many years where I worked seven days a week).
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is close to my heart as it runs in my family, and I have had to overcome severe depression and anxiety myself. It’s been ten years since I was diagnosed. It’s dearest to me because most people don’t understand that a lot of mental health issues is directly connected to the foods we eat. Certain foods are anxiogenic and actually produce anxiety as soon as we eat them. There are also unfortunately a lot of neurotoxic foods in the food industry that are banned in countries such as Australia, Europe and UK but are in the foods here especially the bread, hotdogs and cereals. Understanding the nutritional factors of anxiety is incredibly important. The main dietary issues people with anxiety are facing, I discovered, are likely to be deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and amino acids. Without these, your brain won’t function optimally, and you’ll soon begin displaying some symptoms of anxiety — and also depression — everything from irritability and mood swings to insomnia, digestive upset, and a sense of impending doom. I got a blood test done and asked my doctor to check if my omega-3 count was low. Sure enough, I was deficient in fatty acids! The doctor recommended I take fish oil supplements right away. A few days later, I felt better and was sure the fish oil supplements had taken effect. I also started to incorporate more omega-3 fats in my meals, using ingredients like salmon, chia seeds, hempseeds, coconut oil, olive oil, walnuts, and avocado. Also, I dove into researching the role of the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. This is the body’s communication system, which controls much of what your body does. It allows us to do things like walk, speak, swallow, breathe, and learn, and controls how our bodies react in an emergency. I learned that the nervous system can be damaged by diseases; injuries (trauma), especially to the head and spinal cord; blood supply problems (vascular disorders); and mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders, depression, or psychosis. My research also led me to understand that another factor causing anxiety is inflammation. This was fascinating because I already knew that inflammation causes weight gain and difficulty losing weight, arthritis, all major degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes, fever, chills, fatigue, loss of energy, mood swings, headaches, stiffness, and fatigue. I just did not know that inflammation was a cause of anxiety! There is a promise of a bright future ahead. I hope it excites you to discover that there is much hope for people suffering today. There is a lot of science that explains why certain foods may reduce stress and anxiety. Knowing this should give you confidence and empower you.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Instagram or facebook @LIANAWERNERGRAY @THEEARTHDIET
My books are on Amazon including Cancer-Free with Food one of the Top 100 cancer books of all time! https://www.amazon.com/dp/1401956424/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_JPGG16SP3GCSCMV55Z69
My website: www.TheEarthDiet.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights!