Transcript: Live a Richer and Fuller Life By Feeding Your Brain Healthy Foods

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Live a Richer and Fuller Life by Feeding Your Brain Healthy Foods and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Not surpisingly, healthy eating and nutrition are topics which often come up on First Time Mum’s Chat and I’ve interviewed a number of wonderful ladies on these topics.

My observation is that the focus is often mainly on weight and of course for new moms ensuring that their intake is beneficial to breastfeeding. However, something that I feel is often neglected when eating regimes are being revised and planned is the topic of brain health. Too often, this takes a back seat and you’ll hear from today’s guest, holistic nutritionist and Brain Health Coach, Julie Gervais about why this is so important.

After all, by feeding our brains healthy nutrient dense foods, we are providing it what it needs to help us live fuller and richer lives.

Helen Thompson: Hi Julie and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here. When we first spoke, I was fascinated by your family’s journey which led you to becoming a holistic nutritionist and a brain health coach.

Julie Gervais: Thank you, Helen so much for having me on your podcast. I’m really excited to be here. My name is Julie Gervais and I am French Canadian. That’s where the French name comes from, but I was raised in both languages, so I’m perfectly bilingual. I’m from Ottawa, Ontario, and we’ve lived here for 15 years on and off. We were blessed with the opportunity to live overseas twice because of my husband’s work. So we lived three years in Tunisia and three years in the Philippines. So six years overseas out of fifteen, but we always came back to Ottawa. It’s our home.

So I used to be a social worker and then when I had my children, I decided that I wanted to be a stay at home mom. So I left my work and I was a stay at home mom for 13 years. And I raised three children. I’m still raising them.

Helen Thompson: How old are your kids now?

Julie Gervais: They’re 17, 15 and 12.

So I did raise three children and after that I went back to school, but I’ll explain to you why I decided to go back to school. So three kids, but what I didn’t mention is my three kids were very intense children and myself being an intense child when I was a child, it was no surprise to me. It was almost a joke in our family because they were definitely like I was when I was a child. So they were very intense and that was fine. But then when they turned about eight, ten, about that age, I started noticing a lot of physical health issues that started popping up.

Eczema, one had severe constipation as a baby, but I never thought anything of it. I thought it was normal for baby to be constipated. I didn’t realize at the time how severe she was, how severely constipated she was. So until we changed her diet, she has always struggled with constipation.

The other one started developing severe excema. And then my oldest developed a auto-immune condition and I was like, what is going on here? We were a pretty healthy family. You know, I always was very careful with what we ate. I would go towards alternative medicine all the time, even when I was a teenager. Okay. So I was really surprised. So I started looking into it and that’s when I started researching and figuring out, what can I do naturally to help my kids?

So we started changing our diet. We started removing gluten. We started maybe removing some dairy and so I was happily surprised that a lot of this was improving their conditions. Like my daughter’s autoimmune condition. All the symptoms just went away within a year. It was like, wow. So for her, it was the gluten.

We immediately saw that the gluten made a huge difference. And for my daughter who had eczema, it was the dairy but then it was still there. We had completely removed the dairy and it was still there and we’re like, what’s going on? So we digged deeper and we got her tested for food intolerances and we realized that she was intolerant to almonds.

I was like, oh right. Because I had replaced all my milk with almond milk, almond flour. Remove the almond, the eczema went away. So it was like, oh, wow. But through this journey, what really hit home for me was although they were getting better physically, like their physical symptoms were going away, what I noticed even more so was mentally, they were so much calmer. They were just not as intense. They were more able to manage their emotions. It didn’t change the personality. They would still react, but not as strongly. they could calm down when I asked them to calm down. it was just, oh, interesting. And being always quite intense myself, I noticed the difference in my own mental wellbeing. I noticed that I was calmer. I was just feeling happier. I wasn’t always getting these mood swings all the time. So that was a huge eye-opener for me.

So once we came back from the Philippines, that’s when I decided to go back to school. So I went back and got my diploma in nutrition. And because I was so passionate about mental health, having a background of social work as well, I went to get a certification as a brain health coach. Making that link between nutrition and mental health. So that’s what I did and I started working with children initially because I thought that’s really what I wanted to do. I want to help children and I saw there was a need. Parents would come and see me and ask, I know things could improve if I could get my kid to eat the right foods, but he’s picky or he doesn’t like this.

So I was like, okay, I would give them recommendations and I never really knew if they were implementing it because often either they wouldn’t come back and see me, or if they would come back and see me, because parents are busy that’s what I’ve noticed. Is their intentions are good. They wanted to help their child, but implementing all of this took a lot of time. It gets overwhelming for a mother because mothers are like I say, mothers, because it’s mothers who come to see me to be completely honest. I parents. Yes. But it’s mostly moms. So the mothers come and see me and it’s like, yes, they get all these recommendations, but they had troubles implementing it.

Even the ones that came back, they said, you know, I didn’t have time. Or my kids weren’t interested. I was like, okay, there must be a better way. Right. So within a year I started seeing a pattern. It’s not the children that I needed to support, it was the mothers.

Yes. It was the mothers who needed the support. And if the mother can implement my recommendations into her own life and make it a habit for herself and see the difference in her own wellbeing, then it will be a lot easier for her to be a role model for her child.

Helen Thompson: Exactly and I think it’s about being a role model for children. It’s seeing what you do. I agree with that 100%.

Julie Gervais: Right. The role models that are the most important, the children are parents. Right. And a lot of mothers, they need that support because, especially young moms, they’re overwhelmed, they’re exhausted, they lack sleep. And so, it was like, nope, I’ve got to change my approach.

So that’s what I did. I started supporting mothers who struggled with their mental health, with moods, with feeling overwhelmed, with feeling exhausted. They’d come and see me, they’d say, I’m completely depleted, my moods are all over the place, I’m feeling angry a lot and I’m yelling a lot more than I used to.

I don’t like who I’ve become. I’ve lost that love for life. I I’ve lost that zest, that energy that I used to have. I want it back. So those are the mothers that started to come to see me. When I started changing my clientele and I was supporting moms, the moms who came to see me, this is what they were saying to me. I’m depleted, I have no more energy, I’m not like I used to be, I get angry a lot, even resentful towards my husband and they would say, I don’t know how to get out of this vicious cycle. I just don’t know where to start.

So that’s how I started supporting moms. The last 18 months, because more and more, all our services were being put online because of COVID. I decided, I’ll do the same thing. I’m going to put all of my services online. So that’s what I started doing. And I created a 16 month program, where I support moms who struggle with their moods and mental health through coaching with fundamental principles that they need to know so they can thrive mentally. Fundamental principles to help brain health, because it’s all about your brain.

Your brain is the organ of your mental health. Your brain is your brain. Yes. If your brain works right, you work right. You make better decisions, you’re happier, you’re more successful at school, at work and your relationships with your husband, with your partner, with your children. It starts with being mentally well first. So you can make the right decisions for yourself and for your child, for your family. Right? So even someone that wants to lose weight, it starts with your brain. You need to be mentally fit and well to make those right decisions every day. So it’s the same thing. So it’s all about brain health. I teach moms what they need to know about their brain, what their brain needs. When I talk about nutrition, I talk about what is it in food that their brain needs so desperately? So I explain that in detail. I talk about protein.

We need proteins to build those feel good chemicals, that help us feel happy, that help us feel calm, to help us make good decisions to plan, to feel organized. These are all the feel-good chemicals, those neurotransmitters that are responsible for how we feel every single day. We need to be building those in our system, they need to be balanced.

And the best way to do that, it is with proper nutrition. I mentioned protein earlier because the protein that you eat breaks down into those building blocks that you need, so you can build those feel good chemicals. There are certain building blocks that you need that comes from food. Like those amino acids. You need those to build good chemicals and carbohydrates, that’s another one. Healthy fats is another one. Once you break it down, you need those to help to support your brain health, to support those receptor sites.

You need to be supporting your physiology so that you can feel good. So once they understand that and they really see the connection, it motivates them to make those right choices when it comes to their food, because they understand why do I have to eat whole foods, why do I have to eat protein? I really nail it down and explain that to them.

One of my pillars is, you need to understand your brain health. You need to understand what your brain needs. If you want to feel happy and strong mentally.

Helen Thompson: When we’re talking about brain health and nutrition and what we put into our bodies, like the proteins, the carbohydrates, there’s so many additives that we have in food these days. And there’s so many things that we have in food that we’ve got to be careful of. But then again, you’ve got to get that balance as well. People say that butter is not good for you, people say that dairy is not good for you. I guess it depends on your body and your mental health.

Julie Gervais: Yes. We’re all individually biochemically different. Okay, so for some people, dairy might be a problem for others it might not be and I go through that in my program because once they understand the brain health and I’ve got three pillars and I’m going to explain what you’ve just talked about, like the toxins and the chemicals that we eat, it’s all part of the process. So initially I explain to them about brain health. And then I talk about blood sugar because your blood is intimately connected to your mental health, intimately connected. So if your blood sugar is all over the place, your moods will be all over the place.

Okay. So it’s very important that they understand how to balance their blood sugar. What do they need to do when it comes to food, to be able to balance their blood sugar? And some people are more susceptible to imbalance blood sugars than others. Again, we’re all biochemically different, right? And we get to chat about that through my coaching calls. So, it’s fun. And my third pillar is all about blood flow. Movement is critical for brain health. We need to get our blood flowing because your brain needs oxygen, needs blood flowing through it constantly. It always is but when we’re exercising or when we’re moving, we’re walking, it doesn’t have to be running a marathon. It just means finding something you enjoy doing. It could be yoga, it can be walking with your child, swimming, but just get moving. So for your mental health, because when you’re moving, you’re building those feel good chemicals. So those are my three pillars and once they truly understand that, then we move on to lifestyle. So I get them to master those three pillars first, so they truly implement that in their life. When it comes to nutrition, it’s all about nutrition. Those three pillars is about the food that they’re eating. Okay. And it’s not about complicated recipes. A lot of my moms say, I don’t have time, I don’t have time to cook. I’ve got a baby who’s always crying or I’ve got three kids. I had three kids, I know how busy it can get. That’s why all of my recipes, everything that I recommend in the program is so simple. It’s so simple. It’s not about time. It’s about knowing how to combine food. So you can always be balancing your blood sugar.

You want to be combining those proteins and healthy fats and the carbohydrates. You don’t want to just be eating sugar. You don’t want to just be eating protein. You don’t want to just be eating fats. You need to be balancing those out.

Helen Thompson: I noticed on your website that you have a lovely recipe, raspberry and avocado ice cream and I make a mousse sometimes with avocado and cacao, but I liked the idea when I saw that. That’s an easy one to do and it’s quick and easy for a mum and you just whack it all in the whizzer and there you go. You’ve got the avocado, which is a fat, the carbohydrate, I believe and then the raspberry, which is glucose and the sugar. And I think you put frozen banana in there as well and coconut oil. So you’ve got all those mix of things and that’s exactly what you’re talking about,yes?

Julie Gervais: Exactly. Exactly. It’s those mix of carbohydrates, the fats in the avocado, there’s carbs in the avocado and then you can add some protein. You can add maybe some hemp seeds and when you’re mixing it in the blender, you don’t even taste the hemp seeds. There’s so many different ways and sometimes it’s just two or three ingredients together like that and you’ve got ice cream. It can be very simple.

And once they’ve got that in their schedule, because I help them build habits, it’s all about building those habits, so it becomes part of their routine. It’s really critical that it becomes part of their routine so they don’t get overwhelmed. So I provide them with the menu plan, an empty one it’s completely empty and I just say you fit in which recipes you’re ready to do. It can just be one new recipe a week. Just fit in what you’re capable of doing with the time that you’ve got in that menu plan and decide that on that day, I’m going to commit to doing that new recipe or that new breakfast recipe or that dessert that’s healthy for me or that snack that’s healthy for my child.

Okay. So it’s building those small, small habits, one at a time. Through the whole program that’s what I’m doing with the moms. So once that’s done with the food, then we move on to let’s look at your sleep, because sleep has a huge impact on how you’re feeling. So we look at their sleep and I provide them with strategies on what they can do to improve their sleep. Sometimes they don’t know, like for instance, it’s something very simple having electronics in your bedroom. That’s a no-no.

Helen Thompson: Yes. A lot of people do.

Julie Gervais: We removed them, we put them out of the room, super simple. Or just turning off your electronics at least an hour before going to bed to help you fall asleep.

Helen Thompson: I’m a bit guilty of that. I don’t have electronics in my bedroom but there are times when I watch something and then 10 minutes later I go to bed, which I know it’s not the right thing to do but yes, I know that’s a key point.

Julie Gervais: It is, and what’s important is to be aware. I’m not perfect. I’ll sometimes, end up being on my computer before going to bed. But I see the difference. I see the difference in the quality of my sleep. I’ll wake up more in the middle of the night. So it’s learning, it’s teaching the moms to be more aware of when they change certain things or their lifestyle, when they change certain things in their diet, that they’re starting to see a difference in how they’re feeling. It’s about being more aware and more intentional. You know, you might want to watch something right before bed, but try to make it intentional.

Say today I know I’m going to watch a movie with my partner. I know it’s probably not the best thing, but just as long as it’s intentional. Yeah. So lifestyle sleep. And then after sleep, we talk about movement. So I try to get them to create a routine for themselves, but a routine that works for them because every mom is different. You know, every mom has a different schedule with their baby. So it’s important. I don’t impose anything. We talk together, like, what do you enjoy doing? Some mothers don’t really like exercise. Okay, well, let’s brainstorm together. What is it that we can find that you can implement in your routine somewhere?. And then we talk about creating habits. That’s the key, right? Because I want it to last long term. So it’s like, no, I want you to get results, but I want the results to stick. So you, as a mom can be a role model for your child.

You’re the one that’s going to teach them how to eat. Right. You’re the one that’s going to teach them the importance of sleep when they become a teenager. You know, it starts with you. Mental health doesn’t start with the child it starts with the mom and the dad.

We talk about mindset. Oh my gosh. That is such a huge one, mindset. So a lot of moms, they’ll complain about maybe their partner, they’re complaining about their kids being like this being like that. So we talk a lot about mindset, not only in the module, but from the beginning to the end, because that is almost more important than food. It is so key to your happiness. So, and I make them realize how much their thoughts impact, how they feel. So I, I help them become more aware of the thoughts that they’re nurturing every day.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s so important.

Julie Gervais: It is such a huge one, especially now with everything going on. How do we protect ourselves as moms? What can we remove from our daily lives that’s not serving us, that’s not helping us feel good, that’s nurturing all these negative thoughts about what’s going on out there? So we talk a lot about that mindset. So key.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, no, I think it is because you really notice a difference. I notice if I go out for exercise, if I haven’t been on my bike for six months because I love cycling. And recently we just went out on the bikes and I just loved it. It was just so nice to be out exercising again and enjoying the fresh air and building up my vitamin D. When I came home, I was tired, but I was energized tired. I really felt my whole state of mind had changed. Yeah. I just felt so much more relaxed. I’m just putting it into my perspective of what you’re saying, because doing that really, really, does help.

You were talking about having TV and you’re not having TV in your room and going to bed early, and just reading a book. Yes. I find that so relaxing. Sometimes I think I’m not tired and I’ll just go read about the first chapter and then falling asleep. I have to turn the light out cause I’m too tired. And I wake up the next morning feeling much more refreshed.

Julie Gervais: Oh, it makes such a difference. And I think once the moms start doing it and just try it, they realize it. They realize, wow, I actually enjoy reading before going to bed or maybe it’s meditation or whatever helps you relax. So I find that the moms that come to see me, the ones that are exhausted that are depleted, that are finding that they maybe yelling more than they want. These are often moms who are givers. They give, give, give, give, all they want to do is give as much as they can to their children, so their child can thrive and I’m guilty of that.

I was like that and I just wanted my child to have what I didn’t have, or it can be another reason. Right. So being givers is a beautiful quality, but you can’t keep giving without receiving. You just can’t, you’re going to empty yourself and that’s, what’s happening. Your bucket is empty. You have nothing else to give, right. So you need to be filling up that. There’s so many ways of doing that. Asking help, delegating to your partners, certain things, certain chores around the house with the baby maybe. We tend to take on a lot as moms, right.

But we forget that we need time to ourselves. We need time to regenerate, to just build, to receive love from others and of course from ourselves as well. Learning to love ourselves so we can give more to our children.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and as you’re saying you also need to replenish yourself with natural nutrition and helping your brain and you don’t have to go out and buy vitamins. You can get it in your food.

Julie Gervais: Absolutely. You can get all the vitamins and minerals from food, as long as you’re eating the right foods. And that comes back to what you were mentioning earlier. You were talking about all the toxins, the chemicals that were in the pesticides, the herbicides, all of those things that we’re eating when we’re eating processed foods. Right? So once the mothers know, and they’ve been through half of my program, the first half is all about what do you need more of to feel healthy, to feel better?

The other half is what do you need less of? What do we need to be removing? But before removing, I always introduce what I want them to add to their routine, their habits. And then I remove what, because it’s easier to remove once you’ve been introduced to something else like something good, right! You don’t start removing immediately from the start, because that creates resistance. It’s like I kinda like my ice cream or I kinda like my cookies, right. So I always start with, okay, let’s start with the good habits, let’s start with the healthy food, let’s start with the best sleep. And then at the end, what can we remove from your life right now that’s preventing you to thrive, to feel good like your old self again. You mentioned that earlier, right? Chemicals, food dyes. That’s huge.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it is. I know, I think, yeah, a lot of the, too many food dyes and food, and I think, I mean, this is a generalization.

I’m not saying this is the case with everybody, but from my understanding, if you’ve got a hyperactive kid it’s got a lot to do with what’s in food because ADHD, I think has got a lot to do with what’s in the food rather than the fact that the child is hyper. Yes, I’m generalizing when I say that, I know that there are other factors, but I think food has got a key point in there.,

Julie Gervais: It can really help. My son, I’ll be transparent. My son is diagnosed with ADD. So I’m quite familiar with it. And we’re able to manage his ADD with food and supplements. That’s it. We tried the medication and, nope I prefer the food and the supplements. He’s doing much better on them. Everybody’s different, but it’s definitely worth trying. Yeah. And when you talking about food, you know there’s a lot of sugar in processed foods and we don’t realize how much sugar there is. We’re constantly eating sugar and then we wonder why we’re angry, why we’re irritated all the time or why we’re sad all the time. It’s the sugar.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. I’ve got a bit of experience in this because my partner came home one day after going to see the naturopath and the naturopath said, because he had high blood pressure, I suggest you change your diet, cut out the sugar. And Jonathan he’s got a very sweet tooth and he found it really hard and he came home and he said, Helen, I can’t have this, I can’t have that. I can’t have this.

I’ll make, I do a sort of nut thing at the base and I put tahini and peanut butter on the top, make it caramel-y and I sometimes put dates in it and put that on the top. So that’s the sugar because you’ve got the dates for the sugar and then make cacao and coconut oil on the top and then we’ve got our little sweetener and I’ve learned how to adapt. It took me a while.

As you say, communication and talking to moms, and expressing how you can help them rather than saying, oh, well you can’t do this, so you can’t have that or you’re stressed, you’re overwhelmed.

Julie Gervais: Yes, exactly. We’re always trying to find solutions. Okay. Yes. You’re busy. Let’s see what we can find in your schedule. Let’s see, are you spending a lot of time on social media? Let’s try and find some space somewhere for you. So, so important and you know about social media, I’ll just say something about that. More and more young people are spending so much time on it, looking at other people’s lives, but whose life is more important, other people’s lives or yours, right? Your life should be your priority and you should be spending more time on you than on watching what other people are doing on social media and stop comparing. Cause it can get a vicious circle. It can be quite addictive. Let’s just say very easily addictive.

Helen Thompson: I always think when people say take care of you, I always use this example. When you’re on an airplane, the pilot when he does the safety things, he says when, if, if in an unlikely event, the oxygen masks come down, make sure that you take the oxygen first before you give it to somebody else.

Because if you don’t take that oxygen first. You’re not going to be in a position to help that other person. And I said that to my father once, and he said, oh, but Helen I’ve had a long life, you know, I would give it to you first. And I said, yes, dad, you would. And I thank you for that. But if you don’t give it to you first, I wouldn’t be able to help you, it’s interesting.

Julie Gervais: Yeah. I like that analogy, but it’s counterintuitive. Like we don’t we’ll think about doing that, especially if you’ve got a child next to us, right. We’re thinking I’ve got to save my child.

Absolutely and we talk about the chemicals and all the food guides and all that. And even food intolerances is something we look into as well quickly. We try and see if there’s, is there anything you’re eating that might be impacting how you’re feeling? Dairy and gluten are huge ones for some people. So corn, soya or other ones the list goes on and we talked about stress. Stress is probably our last huge module at the end where it’s sort of like, okay, what stressors are in your life that we can kind of maybe eliminate.

Helen Thompson:Wow Julie, I’ve learnt a lot from you today. I find the whole topic of brain health fascinating and it seems to me an area that is often not considered when it comes to nutrition. So how can moms connect with you to find out more?

Julie Gervais:Yes. Thank you for asking Helen. So how can people connect with me. The best way is through Facebook. I’ve got a Facebook page, a personal page, Julie.Gervais.Wellness. So you can friend me there and follow me on Facebook. I’ve got my business page as well, which is maybe more related to what I’ve talked about today.

Brain Health Pour La Vie. That’s my French heritage that’s coming up there. Pour La Vie, so if you translate that is brain health for life. And one place I would love for people to connect, if what I shared with you today resonated with them is my private community Facebook group. It’s called A Holistic Approach To YOUR And Your Family’s Mental Health. So I’m there daily, I’m posting, I’m providing education, Facebook lives, I do an episode weekly episode, Monday motivations. So I just want to give all the information that moms need so they can thrive and it’s probably the best place also to get to know me who I am and what I stand for.

I’m also on Instagram. So if you’re on Instagram, you can follow me there at Brain Health Pour La Vie and I’ll also provide you with a free resource it’s called three-step nutrition and lifestyle action plan for moms who want to stop yelling. So it’s not just for moms who want to stop yelling. It could also be for moms who are irritated, frustrated, tired, sad.

It’s those moods that we want to get rid of, or we want to improve so we can feel like our good old selves again. Right. So I’ll provide you with that link for anyone who wants to download it for free. So, thank you so much for inviting me on your podcast. It was a delight to chat with you, Helen today.