Q&A with Camilla Julia from Becoming Fully Human
We met at a health food store many moons ago – had your curiosity about elevating health begun long before that?
My relationship with health has evolved so much over my lifetime, mostly because my understanding of what it means to truly be healthy is continuously changing. I first started valuing ‘health’ as a concept probably around the start of university, when I first started experiencing self-consciousness related to my body. Before that, I was a dancer with metabolism on fire, to the point where I could eat total junk all day (and did) not to mention drink alcohol, stay up all night, and still look healthy. I was very active, I was young and very thin, so health to me became a “thing” when I started wanting to change my body.
I started looking up to women in the fitness industry, so my idols were focusing on fitness as their main pathway to “health”. At about 18 I started learning about what calories were, what macronutrients were and delving into all things fitness. I was not dancing anymore so the gym became my church, but my habits were extreme: I was partying a lot, and exercising a lot… I was burning the candles at both ends. My scope of health at that point was completely vanity-based, and I tried crazy diets and detoxes, all in the name of “health”.
When I broke my leg at age 21 and was couch-bound for 6 weeks, I started reading about nutrition. This was the next step in my evolution of understanding what it means to be healthy. I realised that all calories were not equal, that food industries preyed on our taste buds with hyper-palatable nutrient-void foods and marketing. At both those stages, I considered studying in the field, first fitness as a PT and later as a nutritionist but neither of them felt deep enough a means to help other people. There were still many missing pieces to the puzzle.
When I moved to Australia in 2014, I was about 25 and by then my extreme lifestyle had all but faded away. I was no longer interested in drinking alcohol or partying, I started exploring the spiritual world. I fell deeply in love with organics and natural living, ditched all the toxic, hormone-disrupting body products, etc. This is when we met! But my journey and relationship to health were still so so so in its infancy stages. Although I valued health, and many of the boxes in which people would consider me to be “healthy”, I still had a deep void. I lacked self-love, I was still grappling with childhood wounds and coping mechanisms that left me validating myself through the eyes of others.
Today I can see so clearly that although food, exercise, and the likes, are a reflection of self-love, they do not actually in of themselves lead to “health”. Many people enforce restrictive diets and exercise from a place of such self-punishment that I would argue they become unhealthy behaviours. When we met I had one foot in both worlds, and today I feel like I am stepping into what it means to be healthy. For me, health now is about coming home to yourself. It’s not even about elevating or seeking or achieving, it’s a remembering of one’s wholeness and holiness. And from that place, may we exercise, eat, connect, and share out of a place of unconditional self-love and acceptance.
Do you feel we are heading in the right direction for health and well-being or are you concerned about the volume of information out there that has most of us running in circles?
I believe deeply that “when the student is ready, the teacher will show up”– in other words: that we gravitate towards the type of information, teacher, practitioner, relationship, friends, etc, that we need for that stage in our journey. There is a lot of information online, but there are also so many people on this planet, each with an opinion. It will always be up to the individual to discern what is serving them or not and make an embodied choice that hopefully empowers their growth and wellbeing.
I think the bigger “problem” is not the volume of information, but rather the tendency for individuals to give away their power to other people. When sick, many people go outside of themselves for answers without a second thought. Be it a medical doctor, a naturopath, or Dr. Google: As soon as we rely on external inputs to tell us how to navigate in the world, we lose connection with our body’s innate knowledge, we lose touch with our intuition. Look no further than the animal kingdom to see how true intuition is, wild goats will nibble on “toxic” plants only to the absolute last possible amount before it becomes toxic to them. They don’t need a nutritionist to tell them what to eat. Look no further than animals that fast when sick or injured: the innate knowing that stem cell regeneration and autophagy will help them heal faster.
We as humans have benefitted from the comforts of the modern-day at the expense of all it is we need to thrive. Many spend all day indoors only to spend money on gym memberships to get in the kind of shape that comes naturally from living off of the land. It’s that irony of people driving to the gym to walk on the treadmill, it’s everywhere! We’ve unplugged from nature to the point where we no longer know what serves us. We’ve become so disconnected from our nature (nature!) that we have to pay people to tell us how to operate.
So the mass amounts of information available today, is it the problem? I don’t think so. I think that if anything it serves as stepping stones for people to slowly wake back up to their innate knowing. I think it can be useful to stand on the shoulders of giants, to use other people’s wisdom and experience to help bolster our own… but ultimately we need to continuously transcend our teachers and not rely on anyone to give us every “the” answer. Ultimately, we have every answer laying dormant inside of us.
Is there a general code or mantra you live your life by?
The only constant is that the more I know, the less I know. My journey has already evolved in so many ways, and I continuously shed mantras or quotes to the point where I am so humbled by my ignorance. For the past few years, I strive for is grace and clarity. I find that when I operate from that place (the silence between grace and clarity), I find inner peace.
Do you have any non-negotiables?
My gut answer is no. Over the years I had SO many “non-negotiables” but from where I am now, I find that this does not serve my human experience. I have many values (things that I prioritize), like eating regeneratively farmed, local food. Preparing food mindfully, and eating with mindfulness and gratitude for the plants and animals that gave their life for mine. I value moving my body in a way that honours the menstrual cycle, no longer pushing myself constantly without regard for my cyclical feminine body. I value the truth, probably more than anything.
And yet, I still occasionally pick up my phone mid-meal, I find myself craving my homemade carrot cake that uses coconut imported from the Philippines. On occasion I find myself telling a lie. And I use all these experiences as reference points that I can self-reflect on. I honour my humanity and imperfections, and I love myself anyway.
As humans, we ebb and flow. Everything in nature does. The only constant in life is impermanence, so although I do my “best” to honour my values and live a life of integrity, I think the only thing I strive for is compassion for where I’m at. It’s exhausting to pursue perfection, and although there are many things now that essentially are “non-negotiables”, I am very open to the possibility that maybe these things won’t serve me one day. Or perhaps one day a situation will arise in which I change my mind.
I do not at home consume refined sugar, for example, but if I was visiting a friend who spent all day cooking with so much love to feed me her grandma’s famous triple chocolate chip cookies, full of white sugar, to me at that moment the “non-negotiable” of not consuming refined sugar would matter less than communing over cookies with a dear friend, without guilt, shame, or fear.
Have you had setbacks to your health and mental well being and if so how did you address it?
Haha, where to start with this one! A few come to mind.
I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 19– a period of my life when I was sporting a 6 pack and was about 20 lbs underweight. I looked like the image of health, and so my doctor said “nothing you can do, but you may have trouble conceiving a child one day” (she told me this over the phone…). This struck me odd and was a big catalyst for my self-exploration into health and healing. I didn’t realise it until years later when I completely “cured” myself of PCOS, reversing every symptom, and now bleeding with the moon every month.
PCOS, like many diseases we give names to, is a collection of symptoms. We give them a name but disease does not strike us out of the blue creating symptoms. Symptoms occur and we name them a disease. This creates the notion of an enemy we need to fight off when symptoms are our body communicating that something is out of alignment. Despite looking healthy, I was living a far from a healthy life. Over-caffeinated, over-exercising, under-eating. I had no boundaries, I was a doormat when it came to my relationships with men. I was also operating from a deeply wounded masculine place: so much focus on eternal life, on achieving, on doing.
So I addressed it in the only way I think we can address any health challenge, which is holistic: looking at all the moving parts. By addressing the physical (like diet, movement, sleep, hormones, digestion, gut health), the mental (self-worth, self-love, trauma healing), and the spiritual (the bridge between the physical and the mental, the mysteries of life). I didn’t do it consciously, tackle all those things to heal my PCOS symptoms, it was years of an evolutionary journey understanding that it meant to be healthy and as I honoured my mind/ body, things came back into alignment. The PCOS symptoms went away naturally when I stopped getting in the way of my body’s naturally healthy functioning.
This is a life’s journey! ‘Health’ is not a destination. My relationship to self, to my body, to my spirit is continuously evolving.
What do you find most frustrating with the area of health portrayed in the media?
There are so many things, and yet nothing truly frustrates me… because I see myself at various stages in my evolution in every possible thing that frustrates me. So instead of frustration, all I can feel is compassion. The compassion that people are doing their best with the information that they have. Even compassion for the fact that many people let financial gain and power drive their motivations in this stage in their life.
Humans are suffering deeply from their disconnection from self and nature. Most of us are operating from unexplored childhood wounds and trauma. So many cling to the illusion of health (look no further than the influencer culture promoting terrible products they don’t even use just for financial gain)… but we’re all flawed. There’s nothing I can accuse someone else of that I can’t find in myself, in at least microscopic ways. I think our current culture is quick to point fingers, blame, and cancel people, before really addressing their shit.
When I get triggered by anything, I see it as a blessing to explore my own shadow. I see life as a mirror, and all pain (be it frustration, heartbreak, annoyance, disbelief) as a tool to go inwards and find the parts of myself that have been denied or repressed. As soon as I get activated by anyone or anything, I know there is something there for me to sit with.
Are you an “everything in moderation” kinda person?
I think it depends on how you interpret the concept of “everything in moderation”. What you do matters less than why you do it. So two people may both have a glass of red wine or a candy bar from the petrol station, and yet, to me, what matters more is their relationship to the thing, why they’re engaging in something that is typically not considered to be serving their highest good.
I don’t believe in repressing anything (desires, cravings). So often we approach our vices as this thing that requires self-control or willpower. So we engage with this concept of “everything in moderation” to give us permission to consume things or do things that we know aren’t good for us in small quantities. I think this is very dangerous as a concept because it prevents us from asking the harder questions and taking a deeper look at why we do what we do. Self-abuse is abuse, no matter how small it is.
If you’re craving something that you feel you shouldn’t be engaging with, this is a powerful tool to dig deeper. We use food, shopping, sex, relationships, gambling, alcohol, and drugs to escape asking deeper questions. To avoid looking at our wounds. When we investigate with curiosity and compassion as to WHY we crave things that we think we shouldn’t have, then we can get somewhere. Instead of escaping through cheat days, we can heal from the voids that we try to fill with “bad” habits.
The concept of forgetting about your values, priorities, or morals “just because” is so culturally accepted that most people do it blindly. If you’re faithfully married, would you be fine if your partner cheated in moderation? What’s the difference?
So am I saying you should never have a glass of wine or candy bar? No, not. But wine and candy can be consumed without guilt or shame, and without being small acts of abuse to the self. This requires looking at the why of permitting yourself to break your value or priority instead of just doing it blindly.
Most of us are not taught to live a truly empowered life. We are mirrored and taught to self-abandon from very young ages, and so we don’t realise how things like “cheat days” (or however you implement “moderation) are reinforcing low self-worth, self-abandonment, and self-sabotage. For many people, moderation looks like indulging occasionally and then punishing themselves with a more restrictive diet or more exercise the next day to make up for it… You can have your cake and eat it too, but do it from a place of self-awareness. Examine the reasons why you feel you have to self-abandon your values, heal, and then have cake simply because you want to!