Q&A with Catherine Mack-Hancock

What are your non-negotiables with your health?

There are a few things that I like to stick to (because I’ve noticed the difference over the years of doing them!). The first is drinking pure, filtered water. I’m so used to the good stuff that if I drink tap water now the difference is huge. 

Quality sleep is a non-negotiable. I’m an absolute night owl and work best under the moonlight (and computer screen) if I let myself, I’d be up until 1am every night with loads of energy so I have a simple ‘wind-down set up on my phone to make sure I turn everything off at 9:30/10pm and get into bed at 10:30. It’s 9:30pm right now as I type this… it’s such a nice quiet time when the toddler is asleep and the house is calm. That’s the realistic goal, but if I can do it all half an hour earlier that’s the dream. Literally 😉 

Tongue scraping (sounds disgusting I know, I know!) every morning after I wake up – I’m addicted. The amount of mucus and bacteria that come off your tongue after you wake is amazing. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it (or stop!). 

I eat a very clean diet, but I do think that moderation is key for me. I am someone who goes to extremes. If I’m going to do something, it’s usually full force, so protocols and diets aren’t usually very productive for me if they’re restrictive, so I try to live a life of balance now but focus on the practises and choices that make my body and mind feel it’s best. Eating as organically as possible (because I don’t want my family to be eating pesticides), but that’s just unachievable to do 100% of the time, so as much as possible is perfect. Grass-finished meats, enough protein for my body, and having time out every single day is imperative – even if it’s a 15-minute yoga Nidra while Coast is asleep. I have to calm and recalibrate. 

You look the epitome of health, is there a magic formula you prescribe to?

Oh thanks, Scott! Back at you. I got woken up at 4am by the toddler so I feel a bit like rat shit today, but.. I took it easy today, lots of vegetable soup and sunshine and will jump into bed soon and feel brand new tomorrow. 

A few daily practises that make me feel amazing:

Grounding – getting your feet in the sand, mud, dirt for 15 minutes a day. Sunshine every day – my toddler now says “let’s get some sunshine” and rips her top off to lay in the sun with me. Meditation – you’ve heard it a thousand times I know! But don’t you feel so different afterwards? If you don’t have regular practice it’s so much better to start small and just watch your breath for 1 minute every day. Don’t set yourself up to fail. A friend of mine started a WhatsApp mediation group almost a year ago and I’m a month behind (because life happens with a toddler!) but… it’s about going easy on yourself and just keeping up where you can. We’ve been using a Kundalini chant for almost 360 days – it started as a 40-day challenge and just continued. Point of the story … Little actions start to add up when you just pop them into your day. 

Have you had any health setbacks?

Well, I feel great and have been ‘working hard on my health but I’ve defiantly been in a challenging period, the most challenging of my life. I don’t want to say I’m coming out the other side, because I think what I’ve learnt is that things change and continue to change and it’s about surrender rather than control – so who knows what around the corner. I’ve recently been faced with the reality of mortality (that we all have) through my health challenges and have had to level up emotionally to deal with things. It’s been the best thing to happen to me in a way because my idea of being ‘healthy’ was shattered with an autoimmune diagnosis and then gallbladder issue postpartum, and I had to question the amount of gravitas I put on my identity as very ‘healthy’. I felt like my body was giving up on me and failing me. I felt like a fraud being a health coach to so many yet dealing with my crisis – but then I realised that I needed to see and feel what it was like to be unhealthy to understand it. The biggest lesson is that our body talks to us, it’s communicating through symptoms. Now I listen. Getting in touch with my body has been the greatest gift and something that I’ll continue to work on. Being able to feel what’s going on, and being quiet enough to listen is the most valuable thing we can do for health, I believe. It helps to quieten down the chattering mind, reduce the stress and stop some of the stimulants or addictions so that you can come from a clean slate. 

What has helped the most to bounce back from the setbacks?

Mindset. That’s the biggest thing. Something that I’m still working on and will be for the rest of my life. Challenging the stories, questioning the narratives. We have such ingrained, inbuilt systems of belief that a lot of the time it takes someone else to see them for you. It’s a tough gig constantly trying to be conscious about the thought patterns that then create emotional experiences and ultimately our personality and the way we react to things. Seeing my setbacks in a different light has helped immensely. Being grateful for the things they have led me to – like a deeper understanding of myself, holistic practitioners to work alongside, a questioning of the illness narrative, and a greater love for everything important around me. 

You seem incredibly busy, are there some days you want to take the ‘comfort’ route and chow down on Oreo’s or are you more disciplined?

 I don’t want to sound like a wanker but I just don’t have refined sugar at all anymore, or anything like Oreos because for me it isn’t worth feeling shit afterwards and having a sugar crash. In saying that though, I would demolish a tray of vegan slices and cakes if I had the chance – the sugar effect is just the same with all of the ‘other’ sugars like dates and maple, but… that is my weakness and I love a raw vegan cake or some Pana chocolate with a dandy tea. I just had a flashback from years and years ago of when I travelled to Vietnam with a girlfriend and we were staying on a boat for two nights, a little travelling convenience store on a tiny boat pulled up with LOADS of Oreos and we bought what felt like hundreds and ate them all that night. A lot has changed! But if that boat was full of date-sweetened cakes and raw treats – I would still probably jump over to it. When I’ve gone through periods of cutting all of that out I haven’t had the cravings but it does take a good few weeks to get to that point. As much as I joke about it, I can, easily, have those things in moderation. My partner always finds it annoying that I can have one square of keto chocolate and be fine with just that. I think for me, it’s about not denying myself something if I feel like it – finding an alternative or just having a tiny bit.

How do you navigate healthy food for your 2 yr. old daughter Coast?

I get so worked up about it and have to relax about her gut health and healthy food in general. She goes to kindy twice a week and on her food intolerance form I wrote no to vegetable oils and sugar… and the caterer was struggling to find things for her to eat. I’m still in disbelief that they feed 2-year-olds sugar and vegetable oil (amongst other things). She was an amazing eater before she started – she would eat any type of vegetable, liver, anything I put in front of her… but now that she’s tasted kindy food it’s much more of a struggle. I feel awful that she might feel different to the other kids, getting different meals but I just don’t want her to have a crappy start to her gut health and eating journey. I hide food in smoothies which sometimes works but now she’s always asking for ‘white food like kindy’ (rice and shitty bread… don’t get me started!). As a ‘rule’ I try to avoid food in packets (like the prepacked kids’ snacks – unless they’re really clean), try to give her organic food as much as possible, hide veggies in smoothies and have made a rule that if she finishes all of her vegetables then she can have something sweeter after dinner like a bliss ball or some almond butter. She loves cod liver oil so that’s a ‘treat’. Weirdly she also LOVES sardines, bones and all. I gagged watching her eat them the other day, with gizzards coming out of the side of her mouth but so happy for her to have that healthy habit and preference. 

Has your regime or attitude to your health and well-being changed over the years?

Yes absolutely. Initially, I was interested in the anti-aging world (as a vein young actress living in New York!) and started learning about health 15 years ago to try not to get wrinkles. I cringe when I think about how insecure and vane that is. Then I become fascinated by the human body and the way we are built. I was so “healthy” I barely had a cold for years and years. I loved the control aspect of it and the feeling of total vibrant health. When I become pregnant it all changed. I was nauseous for the whole pregnancy and pretty debilitated. The only thing that stopped my nausea was eating crap. I hadn’t eaten gluten in 10 years and found myself staring at a white wall eating sourdough and Nutella, day after day after day. My body was so inflamed and the hormonal shifts along with traumatic birth and stress post-partum sent me into a spiral. Upon diagnosis of hashimotos, I tried the Autoimmune Paleo diet, had to go completely dairy-free for my daughter’s milk, then tried a very restrictive bean protocol (which I’m still interested in!), and lots of other things., I have tried a lot of protocols, practitioners, health enhancers, there are some amazing things out there but the key is to realise that every body is so different. It all comes back to trusting your gut and knowing when something feels right or doesn’t. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa – it’s a constant reminder.