What's in HER bag - Stephanie Matthias

Stephanie Matthias is down to earth and grounded. As a holistic chef and postpartum doula in Los Angeles, she opens up about how her personal experiences has made her adept at empathizing with the women she supports. Learn how Stephanie's approach to food and outlook on life can you help you lead a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.

 

Q. You describe your work as Holistic Wellness and believe that food plays a vital role in healing the body. Could you describe some of the work you have done as a holistic chef and what you've learned helping those suffering from cancer and other diseases?

A. I 100% believe that food, and your relationship to it, shapes so much of one’s health and experience of being alive. I think avoiding too many processed foods and focusing on what comes directly from the earth is going to lead to a healthier, happier you, however, I can’t emphasize enough how important your thoughts and attitude towards food is. I would even go so far as to say it’s the most important component to your health. Us humans haven’t even begun to fully comprehend the power of our minds, beliefs, and subconscious programming. I believe that the biggest impact to your health is your attitude and outlook on life. I’ve seen sick people who eat the “healthiest” food available and have access to all the resources under the sun, but they’re not happy and they’re not helping themselves, not changing, and therefore not getting any better. Think about the impact we could all have on the world if we chose to fully live in gratitude - even if it’s only for a few minutes every day. You are a human with a body! You can taste delicious food and fall in love and design a building and smell flowers. Each one of us is an actual walking miracle and most of us completely take that for granted. I cooked for people with cancer for years and it gave me a real appreciation for the fact that your life can be turned upside down in a moment, for better or worse. All we can do is fully immerse ourselves in being alive while we can - loving each other and ourselves, being kind to each other and ourselves, and bearing witness to the miracle of our existence. 

Q. You have a number of amazing recipes on your website RadianWomanHealing.com ranging from broths, various drinks to a pizza! There are so many healthy eating trends today (from Keto, Paleo, Veganism etc) and one of your recipes is for a delicious looking Paleo sandwich. What are your thoughts on all the diet trends and do you think one is better than the other?

A. To be honest, I’m not really on board with all the diet trends because - and I realize this is a generalization - I think when the word diet is involved, it inevitably leads to some degree of deprivation and not listening to your body. Eating isn’t one size fits all - what’s optimally healthy for one person isn’t the same for the next. Personally, I follow intuitive eating most of the time (staying in tune with what my body and soul are really wanting and needing rather than letting external information dictate my choices) and that ends up meaning that about 80% of the time I eat fairly cleanly and the other 20% of the time is pizza, wine and dessert. And to be clear, when I say clean eating, I’m not living on green juices and salads - I eat a lot of delicious soups, don’t avoid carbs, and refuse to deprive my taste buds. I mostly eat home cooked meals - and avoid a lot of junk that way - but don’t really restrict myself much. Eating great food is one of the great joys of being a human, in my opinion, and I’d rather taste all the things and live my life to the fullest than worry about calories or an extra 5 pounds. 

Q. Have you always had a positive relationship with food? And what do you think would help more people feel more appreciative and beautiful with their natural bodies?

A. As a woman who grew up in Los Angeles, I think it would be impossible for me to have always had a positive relationship with food and my body. Unless you live under a rock, if you are a woman in Western society, you are inundated on a daily basis with messages that you are not enough - not tall enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, strong enough, curvy enough, feminine enough, masculine enough - all the bases are covered and there’s just no way you can win. And if you listen to that and give into it - which of course I have at times because I’m human - you will exist on a perpetual treadmill, running after something that will always be just out of your reach (but it certainly makes you spend a lot of money, huh? And who do you think benefits from that? Not you!). According to some imaginary standards that the majority of people now accept as truth, none of us will ever be enough because it’s literally impossible. I think the answer, and perhaps the antidote, to this is for all of us to strive to be the most “us” that we can be. I hope that at the end of my life I can look back and see that I was the most myself at any given moment. And if that’s my bar - if we each just measure ourselves by what our personal best is, then I think the potential for us to really fall in love with ourselves, and each other, is there. I don’t mean to make it sound like I have all the answers or that it’s easy or that I don’t still wish that my stomach was flatter or that my arms were more toned - of course I have those moments! - I’ve just gotten in the habit of stopping those thoughts in their tracks and shifting my mindset so I don’t go down that rabbit hole because I know I will end up feeling shitty. The thing I’ve found to be the most helpful is to zoom out, think about how I’m going to see myself at this moment 30 years from now and consider, will this still be important? And if my answer is that it probably won’t matter much, then I move onto the things in my life that will. Am I happy? Am I making the world a better place in some way? Am I making choices now that will enable me to build the life I want?

Q. You personally have experienced an unexpected pregnancy, loss and now you're the mother of two beautiful children. How do you think your own past experiences have informed your work as a doula with your postpartum clients or those who have suffered a loss? Do you recommend any books to help prepare women for postpartum if they are unable to hire a doula?

A. When I was 17, I had an abortion and that experience has stayed with me. First, because it was traumatic, lonely (only one friend knew at the time) and confusing. Second, because it humbled me, showed me my own emotional strength and made me incredibly empathetic. I’ve been through a lot - in some ways I feel like I’ve already lived 7 lives during the 35 years I have under my belt so far… I’m a young mom, I’ve built and closed businesses, gained and lost friends, made and lost money, gotten married and divorced - you name it and I’ve probably lived it in one way or another. And all of that, I believe, is what makes me so adept at showing up for people. We all know how complex and layered and ever-changing life can be and if we could all remember that, I think we would be a lot kinder to each other. Supporting women who have gone through or are going through a pregnancy loss - specifically abortion - is one of my most treasured experiences and probably the part of my job that I feel the most awed and grateful to be able to do. The honor of sitting with a woman and holding space for whatever she is going through is never lost on me. 

If a woman isn’t able to hire a postpartum doula, I recommend a couple of things. First, pick up the book “The First Forty Days” by Heng Ou because it’s definitely my most favorite book on the postpartum period and all of her recipes turn out so well. Second, build your village. Organize your friends, set up a meal train, make some meals to freeze in those last weeks of your pregnancy, stock up on bone broth, and give people jobs - if friends and family come to visit once the baby arrives, they get jobs (i.e. laundry, dishes, cooking, etc.) - they are not there to just see the baby and take energy from you! If you’re able to, I highly recommend seeing a therapist before baby comes to make sure you have healthy, strong boundaries in place with yourself and the people in your life so you don’t end up playing hostess two days after giving birth. Oh, and I would also encourage women to surround themselves with people who will hold space for their experiences and their choices rather than judging them. 


Q. As a mother with two young children and your own successful practice, tell us #whatsinyourbag?

A. I’m a single mother of two girls (4 and 12, who live with me almost full-time), a business owner, and a pretty social person - to say that I have a lot of plates in the air at all times is a slight understatement. I’m often running from morning carpool to a breakfast meeting, to a client, home to make dinner for the girls and then sometimes out for an early dinner date (ha!) so my bag needs to be prepared - but also not too full and heavy because I am currently trying to work on my “mom posture” lol. I use little cotton gauze drawstring bags to organize all of the different things I have and that helps keep my purse organized and not too full of unnecessary things. I always have: a reusable water bottle, my Fat and The Moon all salve which I use for everything from lips to dry hands, a notebook/journal and my favorite Muji pen, Saje “peppermint halo” essential oil blend, True Botanicals “stress relief” roll on, RMS cheek color, 1 or 2 Cora organic tampons, Spry xylitol gum, Dr. Bronners hand sanitizer, my little Goyard card holder, my iPhone, a little piece of citrine, and usually a book (right now I’m rereading an old favorite, “By The Light of My Father’s Smile” by Alice Walker

For more details on Stephanie's Transience bag, see our Swing Bag 02 in Black Leather.