Monique Hemmingson talks to us about her intrepid journey to good health and how the route to the best result is not always the fastest
Monique Hemmingson’s journey to good health took her around the world – literally. While backpacking through Southeast Asia six years ago she had a double-dose of bad luck when she was struck down with giardia followed a week later by salmonella. Alone and with no medical help readily available, she decided to keep going, with little understanding of the lasting effect such illnesses would have on her body.
Continuing her life and her travels, Monique found minimal relief for her ongoing symptoms with conventional and other remedies she was recommended. After trying diets, reading books, and experimenting with people’s advice, she found the best option was to listen to her body and try to heal herself.
“The solution was to work on what suited me personally,” says Monique. “This was to take out the ‘bad’ food and bring in good, whole foods.”
Realising what’s in the food we eat is a great first step to being healthier, she says, and looking closer can reveal that what we’re eating often contains more ‘junk’ than goodness.
“Cleaning up your diet can do amazing things for everyone,” she says. “Stripping it back, keeping it fresh and if possible, organic, and learning what’s in your food and where it comes from is a great start.”
Monique says the convenience and accessibility of fast food has a lot to answer for.
“It’s not just the food itself, but the mentality of how to eat. The process of recognising you’re hungry, making a meal and sitting down to eat can activate some of the digestive enzymes in the body. Eating on the run means you’re not actually giving your body its best chance to use the food you’ve just eaten. This is something I have been trying to become more mindful of lately.”
Monique says that while she was travelling it was always a challenge to find foods she could enjoy and tolerate. Realising there was a niche to fill prompted her along the path to becoming a business owner.
Returning from London to New Zealand in 2016, Monique used her new health knowledge and her experience in the hospitality industry to establish Wild One Wholefoods Eatery in the Bay of Plenty’s Mount Maunganui.
“There are always new challenges in your life that take it in a different direction,” she says. “The journey to health set me on a path for my whole life.”
Wild One Wholefoods Eatery is all about giving people the opportunity to eat clean food, and to make it a positive experience. The café’s food is all made on-site, is organic where possible, and the standard menu is vegan and gluten-free with the option to add salmon and free-range eggs. Every effort is made to be environmentally friendly with packaging and recycling, and the team do what they can for charity events that align with their belief structure.
“We want to show an example of how we live,” says Monique. “We’ve created a place where people can come and eat, and where it proves that clean eating can be delicious and doesn’t have to be this big self-sacrificing diet where you are miserable! You can eat sweet and savoury foods that are tasty and are nourishing for your body as well.”
The local community is vitally important to Monique and her business, providing support throughout the year, which is especially important in a seasonal town where in winter you need the loyalty of regular patrons.
These days Monique has a range of support to keep her health aligned, including a naturopath, an acupuncturist, and an integrative GP. “It’s still quite a journey, and there’s still quite a lot of damage to fix. Yet, in terms of my day to day life, my health is the best it’s been in a long time.”
Monique says it’s taken a while for her to consider the symptoms she has as a positive sign from her body. “We immediately think of a symptom as a negative thing and go about trying to fix it. But symptoms are your friend, they’re your body’s messenger and are communicating to you that something’s just not right.”
A prime example is adrenal fatigue, says Monique, who has personal experience with the condition.
“Adrenal fatigue is your body’s way of saying ‘hey, I’m not dealing with things and something has to change’. It’s hard – because you’re not actually trying to be stressed out. It’s important to put solutions in place, like finding your happy place, finding your calm, being mindful, and being kind to yourself.
“Everyone is responsible for their own health, and for finding ways to look after themselves in better ways”.
Self-care is so underrated, but in reality it’s the only way you’re going to get through in the longer term.”
Monique says, “It’s important for everyone to do what’s right for them. You’re really the only person who can help you, people need to step up and take responsibility for that.”