Is it just us, or has it become increasingly difficult to figure out what healthy living looks like? Should we all be practicing Intermittent Fasting, or is having a balanced breakfast a cardinal rule of healthy living? Are we eating too much protein, or not enough? And of course, there’s the eternal question of gluten: friend or foe? Well, Nutritionist and Colon Hydrotherapist Maren Epstein continually impresses us with her ability to cut through the noise. Her approach to healthy living is nuanced without coming across as inaccessible, and she’s a firm advocate of doing what’s right for you when it comes to wellness. Read on to learn more about her story, daily life, practice, and top tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Tell us more about your story. How did you end up working in health and nutrition?
That is a long story! I’ll give you the quick version! When I was in high school I developed an eating disorder. I also suffered from PMDD, TMJ, a weak immune system and constant bloat! This was really uncomfortable for me as a girl in high school. I couldn’t even button up my jeans most days and hid my body under sweatshirts and leggings.
When I went to college in 2011 my health rapidly deteriorated. I started suffering from migraine headaches up to four times per week. I spent a year on epilepsy medication and jumped from doctor to doctor to try to figure out what was wrong. Eventually, through an MRI we discovered that I had spots in the grey matter of my brain. Doctors chalked up most of my symptoms to autoimmune disorders for which they said had no cure.
At this point, I was deflated and depressed. Not to mention my eating disorder became worse, because I noticed that whenever I ate, I felt sicker. Not knowing which foods were causing my symptoms, I naturally had a lot of anxiety around meals. I suffered from constipation and IBS for my entire life. I thought it was natural to go to the bathroom once per week. It turns out that this was the root cause of my issues!
Once I realized that the traditional medical community couldn’t fix me with a pill, I decided to look into different types of diets. One day in a bookstore in Madison, New Jersey I tripped over a book called the Raw Food Detox Diet. This book changed my life! I quickly called up the author and became her nutrition client.
I followed her advice on cleansing and eliminating for the following three years. In that time, I met many great healers including Gil Jacobs. I received colon hydrotherapy treatments from Gil and learned about cleansing from him. Before graduating college Gil asked me if I would be interested in mentoring with him. I said yes! Over one year, I learned how to administer colonics and to apply the cleansing model to various individuals.
Once I felt confident, I ventured out on my own and opened up my own nutritional and colon hydrotherapy practice in Brooklyn, New York. I practiced there for 9 years. During that time I gained invaluable clinical experience in colon hydrotherapy, diet and digestive health. From this experience I was able to create my own program in order to teach individuals what I already knew (and learned the hard way). The desire to start this program lead me to culinary school and to start my blog and program called Eating Works.
Now I spend most of my professional time administering colonics in New Jersey and working to empower individuals all over the world to understand the vital process of intestinal cleansing for healing, happiness and longevity! I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with many individuals and watch them succeed.
What does an average day look like for you?
My average day is pretty busy! I am the mother of a beautiful toddler named Ava. I am also a (dressage) rider and have a horse named Emmy along with my nutritional practice. On an average day, I wake up early (before my baby) and head out to the barn. This is where I connect with nature and ground myself for the rest of the day!
From there I come home, take care of Ava, and balance a mixture of Colonic appointments and Skype calls for Eating Works. After Ava goes to sleep I cook, go to the gym, and work on meal plans. By 9 pm or 10 pm, I’m in bed!
What’s a common misperception people have about healthy living?
I don’t even know where to start on this one—there are so many misconceptions. I think the most important one is that not any one particular diet is either right or wrong. The truth is that healthy eating is contextual. This means that certain foods are beneficial for some while not beneficial for others based on their age, condition, body chemistry, sex, etc.
That is why two different people will try the same diet and it will work for one of them and not the other. The biggest mistake most people make when trying to eat better is not understanding their own needs. For example, fruit is one great example of this. Some professionals recommend eating fruit and others say that it should be avoided all together.
In reality, it depends on who is eating the fruit. Someone with a healthy digestive system who does not have yeast or bacterial infections would benefit from eating fruit. It would help them eliminate better while providing tons of vitamins, minerals, and moisture! For someone with chronic Candida infections, the fruit sugar would act as food for the parasite and help them grow and make the individual experience indigestion and bloating.
What’s your advice for sticking with lifestyle changes?
On an index card, write down the healthiest diet you could maintain while still being psychologically satisfied. Even if this means keeping foods in your diet that you know are bad for you! Having an all or nothing mentality often leads to failure. Finding balance is the ultimate key to the longevity of any lifestyle change.
You have a young daughter. Has your approach to healthy living changed since having children?
My approach to healthy living has not changed much after having my daughter. Though I am now very conscious about feeding children! I understand how important it is to give our kids a healthy start. For me, that meant breastfeeding for the first year and supplementing with goats milk when needed (the casein molecule is smaller and easier to digest than cow’s milk for kids).
I also provide a wider variety of foods with higher fat and nutrient density. Children need smaller meals more often with more fat and protein than adults do. This is because they are multiplying tissue (growing) while we adults are simply maintaining!
The way I feed myself after having a daughter has changed, because I no longer have tons of time to prepare and eat my meals. I have been enjoying more well-combined smoothies and quick salad concoctions that require minimal to zero cooking or prep! I fully understand the mom on-the-go mentality, I just try not to sacrifice my health for convenience! Because I know ultimately I’ll pay the price in the way I feel later.
What’s one thing everyone, regardless of circumstance, can do each day to maintain a lifestyle that ensures they feel their best?
The most common reasons people give for avoiding healthy living are time and money. Regardless of your circumstances, here are two things that you can do every day. 1. Eat a salad before your lunch and dinner meal. 2. You can ensure that you are eliminating properly by taking a magnesium supplement. Most people are deficient in magnesium.