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Expert Interview with Alexandra Sechler on the Health and Beauty Benefits of a Real-Food Diet

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Alexandra Sechler, founder of Creative Simple Life, advocates a real-food diet for its many health and environmental benefits. Eating real foods has been an important lifestyle decision for Alexandra and has offered the added bonus of helping her look and feel her best.

"I find that when I'm eating real foods, which includes healthy fats like grass-fed butter, organic olive oil and plain whole milk yogurt, I can eat what I want and it's easy to stop when I feel satiated," she says. "I feel good about the food I'm putting into my body and my body feels good in return. My skin is clearer, my energy levels are higher, and I experience more restful sleep at night."

We recently checked in with Alexandra to learn more about her back-to-nature philosophy and how she incorporates it into her beauty routine. Here's what she had to say:

What's made you advocate a back-to-basics lifestyle? Why are you so passionate about sustainability?

Let's face it: living in the modern world places a lot of demands on us both physically and emotionally. We are constantly asked to multi-task, increase our productivity and efficiency, and generally speed up the pace in which we do things. Our food system has started to reflect this with its overwhelming prevalence of fast, highly-processed convenience foods. All of this takes a toll not just on our bodies, but on our spirits as well.

One method I've adopted for coping with this stress is living a back-to-basics lifestyle. For me, this has meant making a conscious effort to slow down, consider my food and shopping choices and reconnect with traditional crafts and ways of preparing food. The phrase that comes to mind is: Can I make that myself? I've found that the answer is usually yes.

By slowing down and taking the time to make things from scratch, I've found a greater appreciation for the items in question - whether they are foods, skincare products, clothing or household items. Making things from scratch provides me the opportunity to not only take care of myself and my family, but also to do so in a way that is personalized and special. I find that this process not only nourished my body, but also my soul.

When and why did you start your site, Creative Simple Life?

I started Creative Simple Life in 2012 as a way to share my ideas with the community. I was already committed to preparing real food for myself and my family, and I found that I was frequently being asked, "How did you make that?" Creative Simple Life has been a great way to share the ideas that I'm passionate about with the world.

How do you define "traditional" and "real" foods? What do you seek out when you're cooking?

I consider traditional foods to be dishes that have held up to the test of time. Foods like sauerkraut and bread have been prepared for thousands of years and have been adopted by many different cultures. These foods are traditional in the way they are prepared and in the role they've played in nourishing humans throughout our history.

Real foods are foods that come from the earth. They are minimally processed, free of pesticides and preservatives, and not colored or flavored artificially. When cooking, I choose organic ingredients that are in season and, when possible, available locally. I buy animal products that are produced humanely and that most closely replicate the animal's environment and diet when found in nature.

You also write frequently about fermentation. Why do you love it? What are the benefits?

I do love fermentation! In a way, it feels like magic: taking one food (like cabbage), adding some salt and spices, and watching it transform (seemingly on its own) into another food entirely (sauerkraut!). Fermented foods are an important part of my diet. I primarily ferment foods using lacto-fermentation methods, which results in a product that is effervescent and alive. The big benefit for me of fermented foods is that they have probiotic properties. Eating fermented foods regularly helps to support a healthy digestive and immune system. I find I rarely get sick or have tummy troubles when I'm eating fermented foods. Not to mention the obvious benefit - they're so tasty and joyful to eat!

What are some of your favorite DIY skincare remedies? What products should we all be keeping in our pantries?

Right now, I'm loving making strawberry face masks! I mix mashed strawberry, plain whole milk plain yogurt, and honey in equal parts (about a teaspoon each) and apply it to my skin for a few minutes once a week. The strawberry contains antioxidants which help brighten skin, prevent wrinkles and remove dead skin cells. The honey and yogurt nourish and moisturize while promoting healing.

There are so many pantry items that can be a great addition to your skincare regimen. Another favorite of mine is oats. They are very soothing in the bath and can be a great mild exfoliant for face or body when ground up. I always keep some around.

What's your daily skincare routine consist of?

Living in Colorado can be really drying for my skin, so I do my best to keep it hydrated. I use a mild powdered cleanser (which I make and sell on Etsy), and then while my skin is still damp I apply a few drops of homemade face serum. When my skin seems like it's needing an extra pick-me-up, I'll whip up a mask using ingredients I have around the house (like the strawberry mask above) or do a facial steam with dried flower petals and essential oils.

What do you do when you really want to pamper your skin?

Two words: Honey and yogurt. These ingredients are so nourishing for the skin and can be used by people with all skin types. I love incorporating them into homemade masks, or simply mixing them together and slathering them on.

I also love to take Epsom salt baths with a few drops of lavender essential oil and some ground up oats.

What do you look for when shopping for natural beauty products? What types of products do you avoid?

Most of the time, I prefer to make my own products; but when I do take myself shopping, I always avoid parabens, sulfates, colorants, preservatives and dyes. If the ingredient is hard to pronounce, it's likely synthesized in a lab. I choose products that contain natural ingredients and natural preservatives like Vitamin E. Skin Deep's website is a great resource for determining how safe your skincare, haircare, and makeup products are.

What are some must-reads for those who want to adopt a more natural lifestyle?

Gosh, I have so many favorites! My top five right now are Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation, Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, Terry Walters' Clean Food, Stephanie Tourles' Organic Body Care Recipes and Daniel Leader's Local Breads.

Connect with Alexandra on Facebook.

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