I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated by Liz Wolfe and her new homesteading experience. Who is Liz Wolfe, you may be asking? She’s a Paleo nutrition practitioner, the blogger at www.cavegirleats.com, author of The Skintervention Guide, author of her new book, Modern Cave Girl (available for pre-order now), and co-host with Diane Sanfilippo of the very popular Balanced Bites Podcast. She’s a busy girl! But she’ll tell you all about that in the interview below.
Anyway, back to living primitively. You may have seen my post about my dream of having a little home off the grid in the middle of nowhere, but what I didn’t mention in that post is that I also want to raise animals. Chickens, goats, lots of dogs (not to eat!), pigs… Someday when I’m done galavanting around in my van, I want to do this…
She’s fascinating! And funny. And smart.
And since I’ve had skin problems myself (see my blog post on my acne woes), I was super interested in all of her secrets about having beautiful skin. So… I asked her for an interview for all of us to learn from!
Enter Liz. Oh, and here’s her book cover with a picture of her on it so you can put a face to her words…
And another pic because it’s cute.
So Liz, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Liz, and I’m terrible at describing myself and what I do. (Laughs.) I’m a nutritional therapy practitioner with a background in writing, which lends itself well to my other writing endeavors – including a column on body care in Paleo Magazine, my upcoming book Modern Cave Girl, the Skintervention Guide, and my work designing nutrition materials for non-profit organizations.
I’m also working on my Master’s Degree in Public Health. The anchor of it all, funny enough, is my blog – which both keeps me sane and enables me to be slightly nutty. These days, my blog is mostly focused on our new homesteading adventures: we recently moved to a 15-acre homestead and are focused on creating a more sustainable life, starting with a garden, goats, chickens, guinea fowl, and way more work than we signed up for!
What first drew you to Paleo and nutrition in general? I know for me it was health issues I was trying to fix. Was it the same for you?
I think, deep down, I was yearning for something more than the constant obsessing over calories, weight, and outward appearance. Before my lifestyle change, food was something that made me fat or made me skinny. It had a lot of baggage attached to it. So did exercise.
I believe I was yearning for a more purposeful existence, and it’s all taken shape in a way I never could have expected. Through realizing food was not reward or punishment, but nourishment; and realizing that exercise was not about how many spin classes I could take, but about how strong and capable I was meant to be (thanks to Coach Rut at Bootcamp Fitness Kansas City), I slowly built the framework for a more satisfying, healthy life. I also realized, through that process, that food didn’t just affect my body composition. It affected my energy, my sleep, and my skin.
How did you come to find that Paleo could help your skin, and how has it improved?
You know, Paleo didn’t help my skin at first. I have to be honest about that. Yes, I had increased energy and slept better. But I was still on prescription skin medications and I still had issues. Until I sought deeper education into where the nutrients are, and how the digestive system works and the consequences of digestive disfunction and nutrient deficiency, I didn’t make progress with my skin.
Here’s why: I was eating a very narrow selection of foods. I eliminated the “bad” foods and didn’t add in new, unfamiliar ones. I was eating chicken, broccoli, and coconut oil, because they were “Paleo” and I knew how to prepare them. It wasn’t until I started eating traditionally-valued, nutrient-dense foods like organ meats, fermented cod liver oil, homemade bone broth, and far more healthy, varied fats that I saw true improvement. I think that’s a really important thing for people to know.
Paleo fixes lots of things, but I had to become a nutrient-seeker to really get that extra mileage. Ditching the unnecessary chemicals in my body care routine and switching to a really natural regimen was a natural step for me, and part of the whole process.
What kinds of things did you try before Paleo for your skin?
What didn’t I try? Topical and oral antibiotics. Aczone. Tazorac. Retin-A. Solodyn. Everything in the skin care aisle at Walgreens.
What motivated you to write your “Skintervention Guide” ebook and what kinds of responses have you seen to the book?
I wrote frequently for my blog about my skin care adventures, but I began getting more questions than I could answer. Lots of people were dealing with the same things I was, and many people wanted to take the same steps I was taking, but they had questions.
At the same time, I was working with official nutritional therapy clients on their skin issues. With a full-time job and a busy home life, I knew I had to put everything together in one place. That way, people could have everything I knew at their fingertips. They didn’t have to wait to become clients, and they didn’t have to cull through the comments on my blog to get answers.
The fact is, the most powerful force in being able to heal your own skin is to get to know it better: what affects it and why. What nutritional inputs help. How digestion affects your skin health. Topical strategies, to be very honest, are less important than nutrition and digestion. Folks needed to know that, but it’s hard to counsel someone on the steps to take for nutrition optimization and digestive healing in a blog comment about the oil cleansing method, ya know? It all needed to be in one place. A 180-page “start here” post, if you will!
Any favorite success stories from your readers?
One of my favorites was from a girl named Sunny, who took the information in the guide and absolutely ran with it. She sent me her before-and-after pictures, and we used them on Skincare Saturday – a feature of the Skintervention Guide blog. She had really frustrating acne, and realized after reading the guide that she needed to take things a step beyond and look at a special diet – the Fruct-mal (fructose malabsorption) approach. Her results were absolutely stunning. You can see them at the blog.
In brief (I know you already wrote a book about this :), how does diet affect skin?
It comes all the way down to the cellular level. Your cells need nutrients. Vitamin A, for example, is critical to the process of keratinization, or skin cell formation. Vitamin C is critical to the health of your collagen matrix. Adequate magnesium is critical for healthy skin aging. (We all have to get old, but we can do it with healthy skin!) Zinc, B vitamins, gelatin, calcium – it’s all important.
Hormonal function, which can be manipulated by the food you eat, governs oil production. See why anyone who tells you diet has nothing to do with skin health is wrong? But here’s the critical part of the equation: if you’re not able to digest and use the nutrition you give yourself, it’s all for nothing. That’s why I spend so much time talking about the keys to healing digestion. Many of us need digestive healing as much as we need a change in diet.
What was the most surprising food you found that affected your own skin? I finally figured out a few years ago that chocolate gives me acne, but I’ve also found that olive oil makes me break out. Any weird ones like that for you?
Highly processed oils, like corn, canola, or soybean, make my skin very angry, red and inflamed. I love going out for breakfast, but I realized at one point that, unless you go to a restaurant that proudly touts its use of healthy animal fats, your eggs will be fried in soybean oil and your hollandaise sauce will be reconstituted from some wonky powder. I’ve got to be careful at restaurants!
Unfortunately, another thing that affects my skin more than anything is travel. Traveling is a great stressor for me, as I’m a total homebody (even more so now with our homestead), and my skin tends to get red and patchy when I fly. That’s why I spend some time on stress relief and stress management in the guide – it’s important for managing skin health!
Any special advice for teenagers with hormonal acne? Or cyclical acne sufferers?
It’s not easy, but getting to know your skin and how it works will enable you to discover what might be the root cause of your acne. For many years, I relied on other “experts” to tell me what was going on – well, they didn’t so much tell me what was going on as prescribe me various things to treat it – but when I started putting the puzzle pieces together for myself, and owning the process, I became very confident about my ability to take charge.
Be patient, be forgiving, eat real food, take care of yourself, and be honest with yourself about what might be driving the problems. Did I mention be patient?
What kind of info will people find in your new book, Modern Cave Girl, and what do you think are the most valuable parts of it?
Modern Cave Girl is all about myth-busting. I wanted to provide a fun, funny read that also gave answers to all those questions we get – isn’t fat bad for you? Haven’t you read The China Study? Haven’t you seen Forks Over Knives? Don’t I need whole grains? Many of us know that these myths are tired and done, but our friends and family might not, and we may not know exactly how to explain it to them. I wanted to put all the answers in one place – and I wanted it to be fun to read.
Can I ask what your diet looks like in general? And is it something that you’re always working on, or do you think you’ve found that perfect sweet spot with your nutrition?
It’s boring. I’m no chef. And it does change with the seasons and my life. Life is not the same every day, so nutrition doesn’t have to be either. I suppose I’ve found a “sweet spot” in that I’m confident in my ability to make choices without questioning myself over and over again about the Paleo-ness of it all. I just eat.
Staple items are sardines, eggs, ghee, hollandaise sauce, sweet potato, butternut squash, berries, spaghetti squash, homemade broth, liver, tongue, red meat, sauerkraut, beets, and when I travel, I always bring PaleoKits by Steve’s PaleoGoods. I’m trying to work more oysters and more varied organ meats into my diet for their nutritional benefits.
Do you do consultations with people if they need more one-on-one help?
I will again one day, but I did have to close my practice to new clients for the sake of my own health! Right now I’m mostly focused on getting the homestead up and running, as well as working on my Master’s and doing nutrition work with non-profit organizations.
I work with The First Twenty, an organization dedicated to firefighter health, and Steve’s Club, an organization that brings fitness, nutritional guidance and mentorship to at-risk youth. I’m very passionate about working with at-risk populations, which is why I’m working on the Master’s in the first place. I can only hope that I’m able to reach a sufficient number of individuals through Skintervention, Modern Cave Girl, the Balanced Bites Podcast, the Balanced Bites Workshops, and the blog!
Any plans for more books or other big projects?
Homesteading is my next big project! My husband and I wanted to move toward a more sustainable way of life, and to learn what it really means to produce and preserve your own food. We talk a lot about supporting small farmers, but we wanted to really strive for self-sufficiency by learning how to produce as much of our own food as possible.
Let me tell you, we’re in WAY over our heads! We’re loving it, but it’s not a part-time endeavor. I’ll definitely write about the adventure on the blog. Maybe a book is in order too? The title could be “Homesteading: What Not To Do” or “Don’t Sleep, There Are Ticks.”
Ha ha! Sounds tough! Anything else you want people to know about the book, your work, you?
I’ve gotten some really wonderful words of encouragement from people, and I really wish I could give every single one of them a huge hug. The support means so much to me. I feel really fortunate to be part of this community. We have something truly special in this movement!
So thank you, Liz, for the interview! Again, you can find more from her in her upcoming book Modern Cave Girl, the Skintervention Guide, her blog, and the podcast. Enjoy!
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