For Holly Harding, founder of O’o Hawaii, life on the North Shore of Oahu revolves around her passion for health, wellness, and her love for the ocean! Before she created a transformative skincare line, she began helping clients improve their life through her holistic health and nutrition coaching. We interviewed Holly about her journey with integrative nutrition and how her background has impacted the quality standards of O’o Hawaii skincare solutions.
What was your inspiration to pursue an education and career in nutrition?
Holly: Back when I was in the thick of Bubble Shack, my first company, my husband and I were working ridiculous hours- I think I went five years without a day off! I drove myself into the ground and I was eating in that old way of low fat and processed foods because that’s what I thought was good for you! At one point my body just stopped and rejected that way of eating. One day I was going out for lunch when I saw my reflection in a Panda Express window and I didn’t realize the person I saw was me. I realized how much weight I put on and in that moment knew I had to do something, so I went on this quest to figure out what’s best for my body. I started looking at life a lot differently instead of just being this workaholic machine.
Flash Forward a few years, I was getting to the point where I was ready to do something new in my life, we had the opportunity to sell Bubble Shack and it was the perfect transition for me to go back to school for nutrition. A year prior, my dad actually passed away from lung cancer and it made me even more passionate about trying to help others understand what healthy is and how you can live an amazing life. I wanted to figure out what the best schooling would be for me and what made the most sense was to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Rather than going through regulated coursework or traditional programs that taught old school ideology, the program I chose exposes you to over a hundred different dietary theories and it has some of the top doctors and scientific researcher’s that everyone is listening to right now. It was a great way to learn about what everyone is exposed to and make my own opinions based on research.
What is the H Lyfe evaluation method? What are you assessing in an individual to create their personalized nutrition plans? Holly: I basically look at past medical history, medications people are on, current health conditions, family history, blood type and current blood work to name a few things but I mostly work with client’s individual health goals. There’s some interesting science that comes out of blood typing, I wouldn’t say I necessarily put someone on a blood type diet, however I will say that in my experience working with people, typically type A’s thrive on a vegetarian diet and O’s tend to want some more meat in their diet.
I studied Ayurveda through schooling and different yoga course work that I’ve taken. I usually assess the person’s dosha whether it’s vata, pitta, or kapha. That gives a person a little bit more insight into themselves. I find the more you teach someone about themselves and open their eyes up to what makes them uniquely them, the more excited they are about using the solutions that are given to them because it’s catered to who they are and how they’re made up. I even pull my client’s horoscope chart because I find it’s perfectly in line with their Ayurvedic dosha. Elements of earth, fire, water and air in the horoscopes are the same elements presented in Ayurveda. The light bulb goes on and people are like wow that really make sense!
What do you consider the biggest lifestyle influences to an individual nutrition plan?
Holly: Hands down, work and children. I think children can be more challenging than work for most people. One thing that gets me a little wound up sometimes is the concept of “kid food” and how many parents think they can feed their kids chicken nuggets, pizzas, and french fries. In actuality, if you don’t introduce those foods to your kids they’re not going to have a craving for it. If you introduce them to other foods that are healthier that’s what they’ll eat. If they happen to eat it at a birthday party or a friend’s house then no big deal as long as they are eating healthy food at home on a regular basis. I think getting that message through to parents and getting over that hump is a challenging hurdle for a lot of people. A lot of times I start with the individual I’m working with because you have to get their mindset correct first but quickly after you have to get the whole family on board. People think a lot of times kids can eat whatever they want and they don’t have to worry about it until later, but that’s not the case. If you’re setting your kids up to crave processed foods, by the time they’re in their twenties they very well may have a weight problem and later on a series of health issues.
A lot of times we talk about what it means to be healthy, whether it’s in the kitchen or exercising on the daily. What do you envision in your own mind as the barometer of “perfect” health? Holly: One thing that I always try to communicate is there’s no such thing as perfect. A lot of times if people approach different health plans with a perfectionist mindset. They set this level of perfection in their mind and if they mess up one time they’re done. I try and create this way for people that’s more gradual; it may start with eliminating soda for 2 weeks and suddenly we’re adding in one green vegetable per day. It depends on the person and where they’re at and how open they are to certain things. There’s four categories that fall under health: food, relationships, physical movement, and spirituality. Whatever spirituality means to that person, just some sort of practice where you’re letting go and letting it out to something else. As a health coach you have to get involved in people’s personal lives to some extent, I try to pose questions to my clients that make people think and try to find their own answers.
What do you consider the biggest misconception in our culture right now surrounding food, health, or nutrition? Holly: Well there’s a lot, the biggest one, calories in calories out. A calorie does not equal a calorie. If you’re eating an apple or you’re eating a hundred calorie pack of pretzels, the 100 calorie apple is going to act completely differently in your body than the pretzels. People start getting into these starvation diets of trying to eat less and less and it’s not necessarily about the mass of food, it’s about the type of food.
It’s easy to get caught up in reading calorie, fat and sugar content on nutrition labels. Is there any red flags you look for when reading labels?
Holly: Primarily we’re looking for things that don’t have labels, but sometimes you just want to get a barbecue sauce and not make it yourself, then I always look for non-GMO and organic on the front label and then I flip it over to the back and one of the biggest things I look for is natural flavors. Natural flavors are a trick, the word natural is there but it’s really a mimic of a natural ingredient and typically it’s genetically modified. Really it’s just trying to stick to whole foods from nature.
What about supplements? There are so many options and brands on the market how do you weed out the good from the bad?
Holly: There’s a lot of supplements out there and there’s a lot of junk supplements with fillers. There’s actually a whole thing in the supplement industry where silicon dioxide is used to get the product into the filling machine and they don’t have to put it on the label because the percentage is so low. I recommend going through a very reputable source for your supplements and making sure it’s free of dairy, gluten, wheat and it’s vegetarian based. Of course organic is always best when you can get it. Every person is different with the supplements they need. I usually have people get blood work done before I start working with them. You can guess based on things they’re telling you, but the blood work is what really tells you what’s going on. I find that most people in America are vitamin D deficient even us in Hawaii, the vitamin D is actually suppressed through grains processed foods and lectins that block it. I also start many clients on a high count probiotic to aid gut repair.
What do you do when you’re working with a client who has a major health issue that isn’t being fully addressed?
Holly: I typically recommend seeing a Functional Medicine doctor. Functional medicine is working as a detective. Say someone comes in and has sinus issues and they don’t know why, well that functional medicine doctor will go in and dig and find the root cause of the issue. Instead of just giving you a pill, they work together and say okay maybe you’re exposed to mold at home and the toxicity in your body is creating histamine issues. That’s the case on so many levels, it’s a better approach to health because it fixes root causes.
How has your background in nutrition and wellness influenced O’o Hawaii?
Holly: Working in holistic nutrition and living a holistic lifestyle, I wanted to create products that were in line with what I believe in and what I like to teach my clients. You won’t find any GMO’s, synthetic fillers, fragrance or colors in our products. All the synthetic ingredients and chemicals that are in typical skin care products are endocrine (hormone) disruptors. It’s really important to keep our hormones balanced, so we want to try in our daily lives to keep our chemical exposure very low so it doesn’t disrupt the endocrine system.
What does a day in the life of your kitchen look like?
Holly: In the morning, I start with a glass of water and the O’o Hawaii Beauty Boost, and then this other green mixture that has probiotics, prebiotics and different super greens. Typically I eat when I get back from working out and that’s usually eggs and veggies. Sometimes I eat a mixture of nuts and fruit with a sprinkle of coconut and hemp seeds topped with nut milk. For lunch I usually eat a salad with sardines or mackerel, the really fatty fish. Dinner we either cook at home or since I’m at home working all day, I like to get out to see other humans! We’ll go out to dinner and it’s usually some variation of salad with fish or Thai stir-fries. I’m really strict about making sure nothing in our home is GMO or has junk in it. I figure it’s not going to be that way when I eat out, chances are if i’m eating a piece of Mahi Mahi at a restaurant in Hawaii, it’s probably cooked in GMO soy sauce. I figure if I’m really clean at home and I have a little bit outside then it should balance out.
What’s your best advice for someone who works full time and doesn’t have time to prepare healthy meals on the daily?
Holly: There’s several things you can do, at some point you have to make a decision that your health is first and foremost. If you don’t take care of yourself and give yourself self-love then you’re not going to have that love to give to others. For a moment you have to stop and be selfish and say alright I’m going to do this for me. Maybe that means meal prepping on Sunday and taking a couple hours to prepare food for a few days. If you’re somebody who has to go to Starbucks every day and you don’t want to give that up, then just change up what you’re ordering, just don’t get the Frappuccino! 12 hour fasting is important for most people. Depending on how late in the night you’re eating dinner, you may want to wait to eat breakfast and have a later breakfast. I think it’s really important to have 12 hours of no eating. According to research you need 12 hours minimum for your stomach acid to fully digest all of the food that you’ve eaten and that means not letting anything else in your body besides water. The clock starts ticking the moment you have anything other than water. I find that my digestion is better and it’s easier to keep weight off by ensuring there is a 12 hour fast period each day.