My Interview with Karen Toews of Real Food Matters

I recently had the opportunity to Skype with Karen Toews from Nova Scotia. Karen is a holistic nutritionist and health coach and a very inspiring woman. As colleagues in coaching, we connected online and she invited me to watch a webinar class she and a colleague from InBalance Lifestyle Management gave. I will admit I was skeptical, thinking either I knew it all or it was going to be ‘just another diet’ webinar. I was actually blown away by how solid and balanced, and helpful, the information was.

I wanted to interview Karen and get her on my blog so that my readers and clients could experience her balanced approach to health and lifestyle, and because I wanted to know more and support her and her passion for wellness. Enjoy these words and photos from a beautiful woman.

Karen Toews in shawl

Question #1: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

I am a wife of one, mother of two, and Nana to 6 fabulous grandchildren! About seven years ago I moved with my husband across the country (Canada) to live on the East Coast. Here, in a new phase and location in life, I explored a new world, was thrilled to be closer to my children – and discovered what I wanted to be “when I grew up”!

A little background:

I was raised eating real food from scratch (gotta love growing up on a farm!) which evolved into a passion for cooking healthy food later in my own kitchen. My children married and had their children, and through some of their challenges with food sensitivities and allergies, I made the shift to what I considered “normal healthy food” as not being ideal for everyone. Adapting my thinking and menu planning tweaked a growing desire to learn more specifically how (and which) foods can heal and contribute to optimal health overall for different individuals.

I studied for a diploma in natural nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and began teaching and coaching others in their health journey – through workshops, personal consultations, nutrition demonstrations, writing a blog on my website, Real Food Matters. And living it myself! Since 2012, when I became an In Balance Certified Consultant, I’ve been presenting BALANCEd wellness and weight loss programs for adults and kids alike. These four or eight week programs are taught online as well as in person, which gives me unlimited potential to help people who have “had enough” with not feeling great, are tired of yo-yo dieting, and don’t know where to start.

Karen T veggies

Question #2: I talk a lot in my work about following your heart and finding your way via the feelings of joy and delight. And I love that your business is so heart-centered for you. What excites you about your work?

If you are low on energy, carrying excess weight, sleeping poorly (the list goes on…) you will not feel well. Many of us at some time have been there in some way or other – and life can be miserable. For you. For others, most often those closest to you.

I love being able to offer hope – I work mostly with women, but not exclusively – to move from that unwell position to a point of improved health. Here are a few of the reasons why:

Walking with people through discovery of what foods are the best nutrition for their body type and sharing recipes to help them know where to begin gives them the tangible tools – it is empowering. (I’ve always loved trying new recipes. Now I can justify all those groups of “white papers” clipped on the fridge – the queue for testing!)

Encouraging people with an action plan that isn’t counting calories or numbers, being “on a diet” or tethered to a scale (whose number can make or break a person’s day) supports people towards freedom and direction and less stress.

Discussing the integral part attitude and emotion plays into health and wholeness can be the trigger to those ah-ha moments that shout “I can”.

Everybody’s health journey moves differently so reports from “thank you for helping me; for giving me the knowledge and tools to finally begin to help myself” to “I lost two more pounds this week, but like I said from the beginning, I’m doing this to get my life back….” are cause for celebration – and are personally invigorating!

Question #3: How does your work as a holistic nutritionist and coach fit into your sense of your life purpose?

This was a good question, Lisa, to clarify what is my life purpose? I think its best wrapped in what matters to me, narrowed into three categories: faith, people (relationships), wholesome and wholehearted living. Because of my faith in God, and I believe He has a fantastic design for my life (it’s amazing how powerful it is for me just to write it out), I want to be an encourager for others who are also living out their path of uniqueness and wonderful potential.

We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” yet within that, the reality is we all have some area(s) in our life that require change. In a later question I talk about my passion for running. It increased my fitness but, common to many runners, I over-ran myself into injuries, which was often more a psychological battle than physical. Adjusting what defined me as person, looking ahead for the long haul, being kinder to myself – I needed to make changes.

I believe change is possible – I just don’t adhere to the fast-track bullet fix because that doesn’t usually last. We all have the possibility to make choices, and we all have strengths. I want to help people focus on those to achieve the health and lifestyle changes they desire.

So it’s a mix of accepting the two: accepting that we are loved by God (some may identify this as a supreme being or higher power) and being open to change.

Karen T trees

Question #4: I really enjoyed the balanced approach to health that you presented in your webinar. One topic you discussed that was new to me was the idea of differentiating between desires and goals. Can you explain that a bit and how my readers can use that distinction as they seek personal growth, better health and moving forward in life?

This foundational truth that I use with my clients came from a book The Marriage Builder by psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb.  In his words, a goal is an objective that is under your control…, whereas a desire is an objective that may legitimately and fervently be wanted but one that cannot be reached through your efforts alone.”

You may have an objective to lose 10 pounds (especially popular this time of year!) before you leave for your vacation to the sun and the departure date is less than three weeks away. Perceiving this objective as a goal, you will find a way to make that happen, perhaps even if you have to do it in an unhealthy way. However, you don’t have the ability to completely determine whether or not your body will shed excess weight during that time. For example, pushing yourself to do increased exercise might in fact increase your lean tissue to fat tissue ratio – which could mean healthier – but perhaps you’ll see little or no change on your scale. Or there could be other reasons, like unexpected sickness in the family or the stress of work deadlines, to mess you up from reaching your goal. You will probably be frustrated, down on yourself, and even angry.

A legitimate goal is an objective that can be reached through your own efforts.

So if you want to shed excess pounds, or get in better physical shape or perhaps develop a new personal habit like daily quiet time and meditation, approach meeting your goal using a strategy similar to this:

  •  ‘I will go for a 20-minute walk 3 times/week’ (instead of planning to meet a friend at the gym three times a week)
  • ‘I will eat 5 servings of vegetables a day’ (a possible goal with your intentional shopping)
  • ‘I will set my alarm 15 minutes earlier and have some quiet, meditative alone time’ (rather than waiting for your favorite Facebook friends’ daily inspirational postings!)

The outcome of attaining the above goals will be much more likely because you are able to make the choices to make them happen. And on those days you might not feel like doing what is required to reach the goal (it’s cold outside and a warm bed is calling louder than your sneakers and a jacket), it has been within your control to make that choice.

By accomplishing those goals, you are also setting yourself up for reaching your desires (might be losing inches, gaining energy), and even in those weeks when you didn’t quite “nail-it” on those desires, you can still be proud of yourself for goals attained and making some seriously healthy habit-and-lifestyle changes.

Goals. Desires. Sum it up.

  •  “With proper goals you are responsible to act in ways that will realize your purpose.”
  •  A proper response to a desire is hope, a wish or a prayer.
  • Move forward with small steps towards your goals; let the desires take care of themselves.

Question #5: Tell us one true thing about your life as a healthy woman “over 50” …maybe something that can inspire others to pursue health at any stage of life.

I am 60 years old. I don’t mind giving out “the number” because I had no part in determining it and am very happy to have it (in light of the alternative!).

In my early 40s I started running. My children had grown and moved on and my time schedule was more flexible; my husband had started the sport and I decided I was participating rather than simply waiting at his race finish lines!

That decision began a “love affair” which continues to this day, albeit my passion now is tempered with including other activities to keep my body happy and healthy.

I truly believe that training and committing to show up for the start gun – “giving it my all” for the duration of a marathon’s miles made me dig deep, built character and mental stamina that has helped shape my path to my 50s and beyond, including a new career path I find so fulfilling.

It could (and probably will), be something else that calls your name. But I encourage clients and readers to have the courage to move forward – change things (get help when you have to) that are making you feel stymied or trapped or sick. Life is full of unknowns but stepping beyond the norm and predictable could open up to you a world of healthy vitality, meaningful relationships, and experiences to treasure.

(To be clear: I am not a doctor. I cannot diagnose or prescribe for illness. But I can make recommendations for dietary and lifestyle changes to work towards improving health.)

All photos credit Karen Toews, with the exception of the shawl photo taken by Renee Tougas of FIMBY (yes, they are mother and daughter!).

If you are interested in contacting Karen, knowing more about her life or business, check out her website Real Food Matters.

Thank you, Karen, for an informative and inspiring interview! I am so happy to know you.

6 thoughts on “My Interview with Karen Toews of Real Food Matters

  1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kristine. I just loved the distinction between desires and goals. That is going to be so helpful to me.

  2. Wow! I saw the photo of the shawl on FB and didn’t have time to read. I just knew she seemed so familiar. I read this interview and am so in love with the theory/practice. And then it clicked: Renee’s family. Oh of course I would love this, then. Such a lovely read and really just what I needed!

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