Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Meghan Telpner

When you say 'Nutritionist' to me, I automatically think of someone in a lab coat telling me I drink too much pop and that I need to exercise more.  Meghan Telpner proves that it's not really like that.  She's a young and fun Nutritionista who is also the Director of Love In The Kitchen Academy - a cooking school based out of Toronto.  Meghan tells us how she got her start and has a few healthy living tips for hip + urban girls:

What made you want to become a nutritionist?
After spending several years dealing with severe digestive issues, while pursuing a career in advertising, my health continued to deteriorate. After three years, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's disease, my doctor said what I ate wouldn't have an impact on the prognosis of my disease and that medications and surgery were the best options for managing this 'incurable' autoimmune inflammatory disease. I decided I had to take this into my own hands and sought alternative options.  This made me realize that medicine can only do so much, if we aren’t offering our bodies what they need to heal and repair.  Using acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbal medicine, and fresh, organic 100% whole, unprocessed foods, I healed from this disease and remain 100% symptom free nearly five years later. This inspired me to go back to school to earn my certification as a holistic nutritionist.

What do you think sets you apart from others in your industry?
I dreamt up what my dream job would be and I made it happen.  The job I have created is so diverse. It takes me from hosting cooking classes, which are more like dinner parties in my downtown loft kitchen, to touring people through a chocolate plantation in the Caribbean. In between I cook, create recipes, photograph, write, present at events around the city and on TV and mostly play. I think the fact that I have so much fun with my work, and do it with complete and total integrity, invites people into this world to join in on the fun. Guests who attend my classes and retreats, after following my blogalready have the feeling that we're friends. 

What is your typical schedule like?
Insane? I  don't have a regular schedule.  I am always working, if it can be called work. When I wake up at 6 am to meditate every morning, I usually get inspired to execute something that day. When I go out on my morning walk, I'll see something I want to photograph and blog about. Every-time I cook something new, if it's beautiful and delicious, I have to photograph it and write down the recipe. When I go on holidays, I explore local vegetation, which is furthering my education and knowledge base. I am always reading books and articles, watching videos, attending events and hosting events. Now that I teach yoga, even attending  a yoga class is part of my work as I strive to understand new sequencing.

It is tough to answer this question as healthy living is not just my job, it is my life. Everything I do can be considered working, or it can beconsidered living. It is tough to separate the two with the work that I do.  At this point in building my business, I do have to spend more time at my computer than I would like, but seeing the results of my efforts makes the hours in front of the screen worth it and most often, it is working on things I love doing like writing my blog, watching Twitter, writing tutorials, putting together presentations etc.

What are some of the disadvantages of your job?
See schedule above! I have never thought of the work that I do as a 'job'.  It truly is my ultimate passion and I do it as much for myself and my own well being as for the people I share it with. It is really tough to shut it off sometimes and just enjoy a meal or just 'do nothing'. The combination of living in the same location that I work and loving the work that I do, makes it tough to take time off to pursue some of my other hobbies outside the kitchen.

What are a couple health and lifestyle tips that you have for hip + urban girls out there?
Make it a priority.  Food is our fuel so if we want to maintain that hip + urban goodness, we need to be in tiptop shape. There is no sense in worrying about drinking the best kind of water or taking the best supplements if we aren't making the time to get loads of sleep, eat fresh seasonal food, love our jobs and most importantly the special peeps we share our lives with.  Those are the 20% of factors that will give us the 80% health benefit. Don't make healthy living more complicated than it needs to be. Basic health and lifestyle tips than would be to sleep at least eight hours/night, eat something fresh with every meal, drink loads of water, exercise moderately but frequently and laugh as often as possible.

Your Top 5 Super Foods?
This seems to change with the season. At the moment, as I write this during a break on the retreat I am leading in St. Lucia, I would have to go with raw cacao, fresh turmeric, leafy greens of all kinds, seasonal fruits, aloe and the best of the best sea veggies.

The foods that are always in my fridge at home would include fresh greens, ginger, a tea blend made of reishi, shilagit and ormus, raw cacao, coconut oil and raw honey. That's more than five. I was never very good at following rules.

What does a nutritionista like you eat on a given day?
I start my day with a green juice always - celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, wheat grass, ginger and for sweetness a little apple, pineapple or pomegranate. I often have a smoothie for lunch loaded with whole foods: fruits, veggies, super foods like hemp seeds, cacao, goji and chia and likely some sprouts and some raw protein powder.  I drink herbal tea throughout the day, eat loads of fresh salads and soups. Dinner will depend whether I have a class, company or am with my partner. If it's just me, usually a stew, chili, one pot stir fry, lentil soup or a veggie burger. The more people I dine with, the more exciting the meals get. When it's just me though, I keep it easy and simple - just as we all do.

Tell us more about your cooking school!
The Love In The Kitchen Academy developed out of the idea that if we don't eat well, no matter what we do for our health, it's like mopping up the floor with a leaky bucket. When I was dealing with my health issues, I had no idea how to cook. I still have no formal training which is why my recipes are so forgiving and also so easy. I learned to cook using creativity and interest and that's what I work to inspire in others with my cooking classes and workshops. I want people to see, taste and experience that eating well can be simple, approachable, achievable, sustainable and really delicious. As I was transitioning my own diet, I began to feel a little isolated from my friends and the social life I once knew.  This was how the plan came about to offer extended four to six week cooking programs where people would come together once a week, learn together, cook together, eat together and develop something of a community around healthy living, without it being preachy.  I now offer a variety of cooking programs, private classes for groups and eight or nine different workshop topics. Recently, I have begun offering workshops taught by others whose areas of expertise differ from my own. I want to continue growing the school while meeting the needs of my students as their interests expand.

What did you study in University/College?  Would you have done anything differently?
Fashion. Makes perfect sense doesn't it?  It's easy to say now that I should have studied something else, but everything I have done in my life has lead me to this moment and to the work I am doing now, and for that reason, I wouldn't change a thing. Studying fashion and design has helped me hugely in branding my business and a lot of the design work and back-end involved with my website, blog, eBooks, right down to the labels on my jars in my pantry.

Best place to shop in the city?
For clothes - if it weren't for Anthropologie I would be naked. I am not much of a shopper - I go twice a year, once for my spring/summer shop and once for fall/winter and wear things until they fall apart. Really putting my fashion degree to good use.

Tell us about your neighbourhood and what you like best about it.
There is no other neighbourhood I would want to live than Parkdale. It has just enough grit, the right amount artists and artistic inspiration with a healthy dose of urban hippie and alternative, innovative, forward-thinking entrepreneurs. Despite being right downtown, Parkdale feels like a smaller city within the city with a very solid sense of community and
great community supported events like street festivals and weekly markets.

What do you wish someone told you when you were younger and just starting out?
Wait a second? Am I old and established? I still feel like I am young and starting out. think what I needed to be told when I was younger, I was told, I just didn't listen. I think I took high school and university way too seriously. I was always so focused on my goals, on where something would get me. Where I am now is not what I expected in the least, and I kind of imagine that where I will be in another ten years is not what I am planning for now, so I do my best to have fun with my work on a day-to-day basis. I keep my goals in mind, but don't get too attached to the outcomes of my efforts.

What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?
Try it all! Finding out what you don't want to do is just as important as discovering what you do like. W-O-R-K may not always spell F-U-N but they most certainly can be the same and they should be. If you find something you love and can figure out how to make a living doing it, success is inevitable. Combining skill, knowledge, passion and a sense of fun to your aspirations is the ultimate recipe for success.

Learn more about Meghan:
Web: www.meghantelpner.com
Blog: www.meghantelpnerblog.com
Twitter: @meghantelpner
Facebook: www.facebook.com/makingloveinthekitchen

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