We caught up with Gemma Davis, a naturopath, author and yogi to chat about balance, wellness and living with compassion.
A naturopath's tips on living a life of balance
What inspired you to become a naturopath?
I started my [naturopathy] studies when I was 18, and did the first year of study while I was still modelling in Europe. For me, it was the polar opposite of the fashion industry and perhaps that’s what attracted me to it. I was craving depth, a more wholesome view of life and health, and saw first-hand how much diet could affect wellbeing. Plus, I had always been attracted to herbs and natural healing, [which was] inspired by my mother.
When and why did you become a vegan?
I became a vegan when I was 21 years old. I had already transitioned to a vegetarian diet but then read Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, on the recommendation from my dad’s partner, who had been vegan for over 20 years. It was a life-changing book for me and I went vegan overnight and never looked back.
What's your food philosophy?
My food philosophy is obviously to not eat anything that has caused harm to another being, so no meat or dairy. I believe if I can live a healthy life without hurting someone else, then why wouldn’t I? I also eat mostly healthy whole foods that make me feel good long term. Yet I am careful not to be so restrictive that I miss the joyfulness that foods can bring – the sweet and naughty on the right occasions!
How do you combine your knowledge on naturopathy with veganism?
[I’ve done this] by eating a healthy plant-based [diet] and teaching others how to do this. I strongly believe it does no one any good to give up animal products and become unwell or unhealthy. It doesn’t help inspire others to make change and it certainly makes it harder to stick to a vegan life – plus it is possible to live a vegan life and be healthy. So why wouldn’t you? The key is to be educated on the basics of nutrition and to make what you eat count.
I have also learnt how to gently direct people – who are not ready to be vegan – to more conscious choices when they do eat meat. It does no good judging people, as that never inspires change. Sometimes, just giving them the information on where to buy organic meat that isn’t raised in factory farms, and why they should do this, is the seed that can start conversations in their life.
What inspired your passion to live a cruelty-free life?
This is something very close to my heart and a driving force behind why I share what I do. With 80 per cent of meat and dairy now coming from factory farms, animal agriculture has become a major cause for unnecessary suffering to animals.
Currently, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of all greenhouse gases, more than the combined exhaust from all transport. It is also responsible for using 20 to 33 per cent of the world’s total fresh water, is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
There has to be a shift away from supporting this unsustainable and cruel industry. It is happening with more and more people becoming aware. But we also cannot do it and just eat pasta and empty carbs and end up sick. So I want to help educate people that it is possible to live a life that is healthy and cruelty free.
Do you have a morning routine?
I always have a big glass of filtered water and lemon or apple cider vinegar when I first wake up. I will either do yoga then or after kids are dropped at school, depending on what work commitments are that day. For breakfast, I either have sprouted seeded toast with avocado and some type of greens and fermented vegetables or a big green smoothie. Time permitting, I love to write in my journal too to help clear my head but more often that is becoming a nighttime routine to go with my mediation.
How do you practise mindfulness?
I think mindfulness is what living a conscious life is all about, even if the phrase is a new one. It is about being present and being aware of your thoughts, choices and responses. It is a practice. One that doesn’t ever stop.
What have you learnt through your years practising yoga?
It has taught me many things on my journey over 15 years: that nothing is ever the same; one day you might feel full of energy and everything is flowing and the next be tight and stuck. But this knowing means you don’t get caught up stressing about it, or attached to it – you can just be free to feel it and be present to it because this too shall pass. [Yoga has taught me] to be kind to myself, sit with the uncomfortable sensations, to really feel, to surrender and have less attachment, and to be more present. Yoga heightens our sensitivity, which, in turn, allows us to be more conscious, empathetic and compassionate to all living beings and to energies.
How do you define compassion?
[Compassion] is being able to truly feel what others experience. This [type of ] empathy can completely change the way we relate to others, but also to ourselves.
What are you grateful for?
The opportunity to live without fear for my safety and to have to ability to create a life I want. So many people around the world live in war-torn places, without even access to fresh food and water; or women are not free to even have an education. As we are born with this freedom, I feel we owe it to those who aren’t to do something with it! [We should] do what we love but also to give back in our own way that can make this world a better place. Every day I am grateful for my hildren and husband and my health.
What do you believe is the key to lasting happiness?
Not being attached to the way things ‘should’ be and being true to your ‘youness’.