#gamechangers // The Honest Grazer
I can’t quite remember when Linda and I first crossed paths on Instagram, but I think that it must have been a year or two ago when she was first transitioning from a vegetarian to a vegan diet and was sharing her experiences, as well as the most amazing recipes along the way. Now call me ignorant if you want to, but at that point in time I was very much of the opinion that vegan food = boring, tasteless, and plain yucky (which maybe a lot of the recipes I had been exposed to really were), but following Linda’s journey definitely played a role in opening my eyes up to the fact that plants really can be the centre of a healthy diet. Anyway, I am so glad that she agreed to be featured here on Taste & See, to share a bit of her background, her journey with food, and her hopes and dreams for the future. I hope you enjoy reading through our Q&A as much as I did!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! I'm Linda, plant-based food enthusiast, and the happy human behind The Honest Grazer (@thehonestgrazer). I hope to inspire and encourage others to make more conscious dietary choices through sharing my plant-based culinary pursuits and experiences. I’m all about finding a healthy, balanced and sustainable lifestyle that suits you – no diets, fads or ‘no-go’s’, just pure honest living.
How have you got to where you are today in your career?
From a young age, I always felt naturally drawn to the arts and the creative field. I went on to study an art degree where I focused mainly in film and photography. It was during my student years that my relationship with food and experimentation in the kitchen really began. Living on my own (with a very tight budget) forced me to think creatively with my meals and I guess in a way that sparked my love for and fascination with food. I found my way into digital advertising and now work as a full-time content creator at a social media agency in Johannesburg, South Africa. It’s a fascinating career, and I love the pace and nuance of it, but I have never lost the pull towards doing something focused around food.
So, I set aside some time to feed my passion for all things food through THG. This small platform has become so much more than I could have ever imagined. I now offer Wellness Workshops where I chat about building a positive and sustainable relationship with food, frequently style food shoots, consult with brands on recipe development and cater for health focused retreats. Next on my to-do list is to study Nutrition part-time, and continue creating valuable and inspiring content through THG. I’d love to eventually venture into the food space full-time, whether that be through content creation, opening a plant-based café, as a wellness consultant or doing all the above ;)
How has your relationship with & approach to food and nutrition changed over the years?
As a young girl, I never paid much attention to my appearance, health or physical well-being. I was the epitome of a tomboy, so being pretty and skinny didn’t mean much to me, I was having too good a time playing in the dirt (let’s just say, I wasn’t the most popular kid). It was only after moving out that I became aware of my body and how it looked to others. During this time, I believe I developed a form of orthorexia* - I began fixating on becoming as ‘healthy’ as possible. I refused to eat anything that I considered to be an ‘unhealthy’ food. So even though I wasn’t intentionally starving myself, because I had such a restrictive diet, I ended up losing a lot of weight. To put it into perspective, I was not at a healthy weight for my body, no matter how ‘clean’ my diet may have been. I think at the time it was a means to try and regain control over some aspect of my life, everything else seemed high pressure, daunting and overwhelming in my early 20s.
After a radical intervention from my family and friends, I knew something needed to change. Around this time, I also moved to Durban and I guess that’s where my recovery and journey towards building a positive relationship with food began. I was surrounded by people who prioritised their physical health and well-being over other commitments in their lives. I was genuinely inspired to do the same. With a large vegetarian community there as well, I naturally started doing more research about vegetarianism and plant-based diets. I never felt good when I ate meat and never really understood why, so I tried removing it from my diet. I almost instantly started feeling better, but I was still eating organic free-range eggs, dairy and some fish. I had the opportunity to meet a few local farmers there, who challenged the way I thought about food. I started to educate myself on where our food comes from and dedicating more time towards exercise. As a born and bred city goer, I stood out between my new sun-kissed surfer friends. So, I started running every week and began practicing meditation and yoga weekly.
I think the biggest mental shift that happened then, was seeing how my behaviour directly affected the people around me. As I started to heal my relationship with food, I naturally became a happier, nicer and less anxious person to be around. Eating out became more about the conversation and interaction with others, and less about what I could or couldn’t eat on the menu. My perspective shifted towards eating for nourishment, not because something is perceived as ‘healthy’, or for pleasure and comfort.
*Orthorexia is the term for a condition that includes symptoms of obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet. Orthorexia sufferers often display signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders that frequently co-occur with anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders.
How and why did you transition towards following a vegan diet?
When we moved back to Johannesburg (around 3 years later) I stayed on a mostly vegetarian diet but could feel that I was slowly starting to lose connection again. Stress, more hustle and living in the city, all contributed towards this. One day, a colleague at work asked me how I could justify still being ok with eating eggs and dairy if I felt so strongly about my health and how my food choices were impacting the environment. Honestly, I didn’t have a good enough answer. So, I decided to commit to a 30-day vegan challenge. This is how The Honest Grazer really started. By putting it out on a public platform, I knew I had to stick to the challenge, it helped me stay accountable. And then, everything changed. I felt so unbelievably good. I didn’t realise that you could feel so good, energetic and alive. Brain fog, sinus, IBS, all my usual struggles, (that I thought was normal) started to clear away. After the challenge, I stayed on a vegan diet for a while. But I started seeing the signs of an unhealthy relationship with food starting up again. Thoughts like “it’s vegan, so it must be healthy!” and “I can’t eat that because it’s not vegan” playing over in the back of my mind. I did some introspection, regained my focus, and prioritised eating a mostly whole food plant-based diet. I also knew that it was more important for me to eat consciously 90% of the time, and allow myself a 10% grey area, to experience new food and accommodate friends and family, than try to commit to a perfect vegan diet. This is how I knew I could sustain a balanced diet and lifestyle for life.
How did you get started with recipe development and food photography? How have those skills developed over the years?
I think that recipe development has always come naturally to me. My family often jokes that I can make a meal from nothing, and I probably can. Moving out of the house really young, without the means or luxury to live on a diet of convenience foods or take out, forced me to cook with food in unique and different ways. As for photography, I still don’t think of myself as a food photographer. The food and light are doing all the work, I’m just capturing it.
Do you have any top tips for those wanting to start incorporating more plants into their diets?
Start SMALL, do your own research and do what works for you and your lifestyle. You don’t have to be vegan to be a healthy, but it is important to equip yourself with knowledge towards becoming a more conscious consumer. I don’t believe there is a universal diet that works for everyone, we are all unique and process food differently. I think it’s more important to educate yourself on the long-term impact our food choices may have on the environment and our health. I firmly believe that we can make a greater impact (and positive change) as a mostly plant-based flexitarian society, than if only 1% of the population committed to a fully vegan diet. Do what you can, be responsible, but also, enjoy your food.
What are three of your top tips for staying healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally?
Daily positive affirmations
I know this sounds wishy washy, but it honestly works. If you think about it, you only really have yourself to depend on. If you can’t take care of and love yourself fully, how can you expect others to? Tell yourself that you are beautiful every day, that you are enough, that you can and will achieve what you set your mind to. It leaves an imprint on your subconscious, and soon enough, you’ll be the person and live the life that you have always wanted.
2. Find a form of exercise that you can stick to
Exercise should not be something you do to burn off bad eating. Food comes first, but being fit enhances your life in ways a great diet can’t. You owe it to yourself to know that feeling.
3. Stay true to your values
Don’t compromise on your beliefs because it may seem too difficult to stick by or because you are afraid of being judged. The same applies to food - every time you make a meal, you are actively showcasing your morals and values. If you are choosing to eat or buy something that you know is not good for you, or the planet, you are choosing not to take care of yourself or be responsible for your actions. It’s a harsh truth, but you have the opportunity to make a better choice next time.
What is your favourite go-to meal to make after a busy day?
Sweet potato wedges with hummus, tahini and some crunchy leafy greens. I know it sounds super simple and maybe a bit boring, but I adore roasted root veg and crispy greens. Best of both worlds. Perhaps a glass of sulphate-free wine to go with it ;)
What is your favourite recreational activity?
Rock-climbing, reading and being in nature. Seldom things compare to the quiet and contentment of being outdoors. Nature is humbling and always re-inspires me to live with grace and gratitude.
Any last words of advice for girls (and guys) who want to live healthier, happier lives?
Find a lifestyle, not a diet/program. You only have this one body, love it, take care of it, see what it is capable of, and enjoy your life. We have too little time not to.
Sweeten-Me-Up Berry Smoothie
- 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/4 cup raspberries
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 Tbsp unsweetened peanut / nut butter
- 1/2-1 cup almond milk (depending on how thick you like it)
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Blend all of the ingredients up in a high-speed blender or Nutribullet until thick and creamy. Top with frozen berries. Granola, nuts or coconut flakes. Enjoy!