This interview is part of the Real Talk Real Women interview series, where we bring you the life-changing, heart-warming and inspirational stories behind the most successful women in health and fitness. Make sure to follow us on Instagram for the latest interviews! For this installment, we are joined by Tess Challis.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in holistic health?
I'm Tess Challis, and I'm a vegan chef, cookbook author, and wellness coach. I'm all about showing people how delicious and fun a healthy diet can be. I love sharing the message that you can have it all - exciting food, a happy life, and vibrant health!
Can you explain to us here in Europe what it means when you say holistic health?
To me, holistic health means that we're incorporating all aspects of ourselves, not just our physical bodies. I mean, someone can be physically fit, but an emotional wreck. It's vital to be happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
At one point you decided to share all your knowledge through cooking and meditation classes, catering and workshops - how did that all start?
It first began with cooking classes. I was working in a furniture store at the time, and the ladies I worked with were intrigued by my diet. So I began to show them how to make smoothies and hummus in the break room. After that, I began personal chef work, and also decided to pass on my knowledge of meditation via Friday night group classes.
Over the years, it has continued to evolve. After years of cooking for others, I found my true passion is actually to empower them to cook. I love getting people excited about creating healthy, delicious food. I love helping others feel empowered and comfortable in their kitchens and grocery stores.
Over the last few years you’ve also published several books, what do you generally write about and if you could recommend our readers to pick up one of your books, which one would it be and why?
Yes, I've written five cookbooks over the past several years. I generally combine healthy, delicious vegan recipes with holistic health tips. To me, it's important because health isn't just comprised of the physical. Health is about the whole person.
Which one of my books? That's so hard to say. I always joke that it's like answering the question, "Which child do you love the best?" Right now however, I'm enjoying my most recent book, FOOD LOVE, because it's full of quick, healthy go-to snacks.
You’re also a vegan, a lot of people think vegan food is expensive or can’t taste good. What do you feel is the most common misconception about veganism and why do people make that mistake?
I think the most common misconception is that it's not satisfying. And I mean - I get it. Way too many people think a vegan diet is comprised of salads, buckwheat, and steamed carrots. In fact, many of my coaching clients were unable to maintain a vegan diet simply because they weren't eating enough calories! It's important to eat sustaining, nutrient-dense foods.
For me, I've been able to stick with a vegan diet for over 25 years because I actually like it and find it satisfying. I eat things like Pad Thai, potato dill soup, Indian curry, Drunken Noodles, and raw chocolate strawberry cheesecake. They're all healthy, nutrient-dense, and vegan - but they're also satisfying, both to the palate and to the body.
Can we talk a little bit about your “inner wellness regime” - you write on your website how meditation and visualization made a world of difference in your life. What can you share about that?
Back when I was in college, I started having daily panic attacks. They were so awful that I still remember them vividly, decades later. I remember lying on my bed one day, staring at the hippie tapestry on my wall, feeling like I was powerless over my thoughts. I remember wondering if I'd ever feel normal again. I remember feeling like that line from a Dave Matthews Band song: "Open up my head and let me out" (which came out a few years later, but reminded me of my panic attack days the first time I heard it).
This went on for a few months, until it became clear they weren't just going to go away on their own. I remember sitting in my college apartment, thinking: "I could go on meds. . . or I could try and do this the hard way." And just FYI, I have no judgment about people who do use meds. They have their place. But my path was different. So, instead I began to devour everything I could in the self-help realm. I started doing affirmations, self-hypnosis, mantras, visualization exercises, and meditation. I saturated myself with the stuff. And before too long, I started to notice a BIG difference.
What are you currently working on now? Any exciting new projects?
Yes! I just launched my Health-o-Licious Cooking Club, which I'm crazy excited about! It's a way for me to teach people how to cook amazing dishes and be smart shoppers - all from their own homes. I'll do classes, live streaming via Facebook, at a small fraction of the price I'd normally charge for this sort of instruction. And the dishes will be fantastic! We'll also be tackling smart shopping, one month at a time. Click here for more info.
If you could just spend 5 minutes with someone who was in terrible shape and wanted to live a healthier, happier life - what would you say to them?
I would suggest that they make BETTER choices, rather than perfect choices. In my work as a coach, I've found that most people get hung up on trying to be too perfect. It's one of the biggest ways we self-sabotage. If all we did was make better and better choices daily - in ways that could be built upon and maintained - we'd be steadily reaching our goals.
That, and eat more greens. And meditate daily.
What are some of your goals for 2017?
I'd like to move to Santa Fe, help more people with my work, and be the healthiest, happiest version of myself yet. Oh, and I need a new food processor.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!