A better life through chemistry? Not necessarily, when it comes to what you put in and on your body. Even something as benign as a face cream or toothpaste can have unintended and negative consequences and keep you from being as beautiful and healthy as you can be. This month GRAND’s health and beauty guru Kat James explains “shedding,” a process that allows our bodies-and sensibilities-to recover from modern self-care assaults, revealing a vital, gorgeous glow that comes from within. Here’s Kat’s story and how you can benefit from her experience.
By Kat James
At my lectures, people often ask me (with pencils poised) what I started doing, eating and taking the day the most dramatic part of my visible transformation started (the day my 12-year eating disorder fled because it had no remaining biochemical or emotional roots to hang onto). It’s an understandable question. It’s also ironic, since it was not what I started doing or taking that resulted in my shrinking ten dress sizes and taking a good 15 years off my appearance. Rather, it was the succession of issues I’d left behind and resolved that allowed my emotional and physical work to “click.” My disease and ill health had nothing left to hold onto. I call that process, which I cover in great detail in my book, “the Process of Shedding.”
For more than a decade I blamed the skin I thought I was “born with,” my caloric intake and my “character flaws” for my self-sabotage and my distorted looks and shape. But as my resulting health crisis eventually showed me, it was the day-to-day choices, as well as my biochemical issues (i.e., liver, blood sugar, thyroid, serotonin)-and especially my stubborn mindsets about how health and beauty must be achieved-that turned out to be my real roadblocks to feeling and looking how nature had intended all along.
Your “Rubik’s Cube” of issues will be different, but one thing I can guarantee: It’s not so much what you start doing as what you leave behind, find sanctuary from and recover from that will transform you the most. The nature of achieving our inherent radiant potential was never intended to require constant vigilance, hard work or struggle. This may be hard to grasp for those who have been lured into oversimplified, no-pain, no-gain, popular beauty and weight loss pursuits, but beauty and vitality are actually our intended, natural states. They will emerge and thrive without fail, once the unnatural burdens we’ve accumulated all our lives are “shed.” And our bodies’ ability to recover that vitality at any age is profound. But before we can find the path back to our true potential, we must first reject the detours that led us astray.
Reject, and then recover from, modern body and beauty self-sabotage
As an insider veteran of the “beauty world” who transformed myself in spite of (not because of) today’s hyped, high-tech approaches, I owe the skin on my back (literally) to some insights I want to share with you now. Today’s beauty advice disregards and disparages our bodies’ innate wisdom, while making superheroes out of the next set of hot quick fixes. It seems harmless enough, but once we buy into that dialogue, we enter a treacherous minefield that can truly jeopardize our precious internal body ecology, the function of our skin’s protective surface matrix and, even more importantly, our health.
For most Americans, a significant degree of this destruction has already taken place by the time we hit our 20s. Modern technology and marketing have managed to invade every internal and external terrain of our bodies by seducing us into harsh choices that compromise our bodies’ precious balancing and healing functions, while locking us into (expensive) dependency on high-tech maintenance, disguised as “solutions.”
Examples of this are endless: an innocent teenager’s dependency on harsh acne drugs and topicals that compromise digestion and the antibacterial acid mantle of the skin (guaranteeing a pattern of unexplained new skin- and health issues once his teenage acne has cleared up); a young woman’s unsuspecting use of powerful tooth whiteners that guarantee not only whiter teeth but more porous teeth that are more prone to future staining (and more dependency on stronger and stronger tooth whiteners); or the man with psoriasis who was not told that using those free steroid ointment samples would eventually thin his skin and destroy its immunity (guaranteeing him worse recurrences that steroids can’t control).
Give yourself sanctuary from the top assaults
The first and most important step to recovering our true potential is to take sanctuary from self-sabotaging mindsets and choices. Once we stop the immediate assaults, we can turn our focus to recovery of our internal and external ecology and functioning. Here are eight assaults you can reject starting today that will put you on a path toward recovery of your body’s innate “pro-beauty” functions:
- Mindsets that disparage your body’s innate wisdom and precious ecology
- Beverages and foods that spike the blood sugar and desensitize the cells to insulin
- Poor-quality fats, such as trans fats and cheap vegetable oils (omega-6 oils)
- Synthetic preservatives, sweeteners and additives, which challenge the body
- Unnecessary antibiotics and steroids (any drugs tried where natural remedies exist; discuss this goal with your doctor)
- Skin-function-destroying products such as foaming cleansers, topical steroids, antibacterial soaps (which encourage the development of resistant bacteria), harsh exfoliants and regular use of alpha hydroxy acids or microdermabrasion
- Chlorine in drinking and bathing and showering water, which challenges your skin and your health
- Personal care product chemicals or irritants known to sensitize or collect in the body, such as formaldehyde, pthalates, chemical sunscreens and perfumes
Fortify your defense tactics
Once you’ve found sanctuary from the above assaults, start to think defensively. Every time you avoid that next course of antibiotics or steroids (with your doctor’s supervision, of course), you avoid another untold, guaranteed domino effect on your health and beauty down the road. A basic checklist of tactics against our standard American challenges includes:
- A dietary approach that minimizes inflammation, improves insulin function and alkalizes body pH (basically, avoiding sugar and flour, increasing greens and healthy fats, and avoiding grains for some)
- A comprehensive multinutrient regimen to close nutrition deficits (at least 90 percent of Americans are deficient in one or more major nutrients)
- A quality purified fish oil supplement to establish an optimal omega-3 fat ratio
- A comprehensive blood sugar stabilizing supplement as basic defense and lifelong recovery from modern food and beverage assaults (even from our childhood)
- Smarter personal care products that purify and regenerate the skin without stripping, thinning or weakening it.
- Water filtration systems for drinking and bathing/showering water
The above checklist is intended to add new considerations to a journey that only you can (and should) command. Once you’ve incorporated the defense tactics above, you’ll doubtless continue discovering ways to customize and reinforce your own Process of Shedding. My book, The Truth About Beauty, includes hundreds of additional “upgrades” to everything from mouthwashes to bug sprays to nail polish to popular foods and color cosmetics and supplements. Remember, the best solutions will rarely be thrust in front of you on billboards or in the glossiest magazines, so having your resources is key.
In the next issue I’d like to take you even deeper, by helping you (or a loved one) to identify and chip away at the most stubborn and dangerous barrier to beauty recovery of all: compulsive self-sabotage.