On a recent trip to NYC, I was fortunate enough to catch a moment with the bright and vibrant co-founder of Branch Basics, a non-toxic all-purpose cleaning line. We spent the afternoon at #17Bleecker chatting about how her wellness journey literally changed her life, why she swears by liver smoothies (pregnant or not), and the importance of creating a healthy home. @branchbasics
Current state of mind at 24 weeks?
I just passed a full-length mirror for the first time in weeks and saw HOW BIG my belly is and it suddenly became very real!
How did focusing on eating well and clean products change your life?
About 10+ years ago a series of events led me to overhaul my lifestyle. At the time, I was eating terribly and counting calories. Therefore, while I looked great, I was dying on the inside. After a significant life shift — that ultimately to launching Branch Basics — I’m a REAL food junkie. I eat whole foods, with no limits, and I never count carbs or calories.
It all began in sixth grade when I got my first period and then never had one again. By high school, I was told to go on birth control to regulate my period before being diagnosed with PCOS. I had thousands of cysts all over my ovaries and was told it was unlikely I’d ever get pregnant naturally. All through my diagnosis and “treatments”, my diet was never discussed or considered a factor of my condition. However, as I said, the way I ate was awful, even though I thought I was fairly healthy— lived on Splenda in my coffee and tons of boxed cereal. Fast forward a few years to college and my condition worsened — I was plagued with chronic pain from my neck to my back and could barely go to class. The doctors diagnosed me with MS, I lived with ice packs and felt like my body was failing me. That’s when my aunt stepped in and forced me to examine the way I was living and focus on what I was putting in, on, and around my body.
I, of course, had a ton of doubt about how something as trivial as what I ate or the lotion I used would have any effect on my debilitating condition — after all, I’d been to the best doctors over the past year and none of them had mentioned any of this. However, at that point I was on hydrocodone, muscle relaxers, pain killers, sleeping pills, and antidepressants — I was a mess and was willing to listen. She got me to toss all of my toxic cleaning products, start reading food labels, and cook fresh food for myself. Within 2-3 months of living a hardcore clean lifestyle, I was off my meds with virtually no pain. As a result, I continued to be diligent about living this way. Eventually, I went back to my fertility doctor for a sonogram, and the cysts, aside from three, were gone. Then the most exciting thing happened, I got my period back in 2014! It was almost better than my wedding day and I started crying from excitement! The doctor had never seen anything like it.
After about a year or so, my cycle normalized and I got pregnant naturally in 2016 with my first and now the same with my second! Today I am a believer that clean living is a lifestyle, not a sacrifice.
How did you come to launch Branch Basics?
The summer that I graduated, my college roommate — who had witnessed all of the drugs, pain, and doctors, plus my health transformation — suggested that we move to my aunt’s home in the hill country outside of Austin and learn everything we could from her. For 2 months we learned what it meant to eat whole food, connect with nature, and the benefits of drinking kale juice — long before kale juice was a thing. It was a pivotal summer in my health journey and dramatically changed both of our lives. At the end of the eight weeks, we became passionate about helping other people create healthy lives and launched the first iteration of our company in 2009. We started a website selling air purifiers, organic mattresses, and infrared saunas, but none of it was selling. That’s when we zoned in on cleaning as it’s a low-lift first step for most people, and it allows you to quickly and inexpensively remove some of the most toxic things in your home. For us, it’s the trojan horse, but our content, messaging, and brand focus on the whole lifestyle.
What have you been craving this pregnancy?
Carbs! However, for me, that means oatmeal and avocado toast. I’m a VERY healthy eater, so my splurge is a big bowl of Ezekiel fruit juice sweetened cereal — or something to that effect — with almond milk that I make fresh at home and always have on hand.
What are you eating on the daily?
I start the day with oatmeal or eggs — we must go through dozens of eggs a week! For lunch, I typically eat a huge salad, with avocado, hard-boiled eggs, seeds, tons of oils and good fats. Dinner is usually fish or a grain bowl with lots of veggies. Also, I’ll snack throughout the day on bars or something homemade. Plus, I’m a sucker for — and this is entirely embarrassing — cold organic hot dogs straight from the fridge! For dessert, my go-to is yogurt with granola and honey.
Are you avoiding the typical pregnancy “Do Not Eat List”?
I don’t eat refined sugar and haven’t in 10 years. I’ll do maple syrup, coconut sugar, or honey. However as far as the conventional “do NOT eat least while pregnant” I don’t mind any of that. I recently had a ton of oysters in Nantucket, I eat sushi if I know it’s clean, or deli meat if it’s cut right in front of me. My philosophy is if it’s clean, fresh, and from a wild or grass-fed source, I’ll eat it. In fact, I eat raw liver three times a week as it’s the only thing that gets my hemoglobin and iron levels up — I could talk till I’m blue in the face about the benefits!
Has anything funny happened during this pregnancy?
My belly button has majorly popped — it’s like my third boob!
Sex while pregnant?
It comes in waves. I feel bad for my husband as it’s one of those things that keeps getting pushed off, but also one of those things that I know won’t happen for a while as the pregnancy progresses. I’m trying my best 🙂
Do you take time for self-care?
I’m battling with guilt this pregnancy as it’s all about my toddler and work these days, so I haven’t taken a ton of time for myself. I recently had a sit-down with my husband and told him he needs to lean in a little more with our little girl so that I can focus on me.
Getting pregnant while breastfeeding?
I didn’t know it was a thing either! Initially, I thought you couldn’t get pregnant while breastfeeding, but came to find out that’s not true. Ha!
How do you plan to take maternity leave?
When you own your own company, you never really leave. However, both my business partner and I are very hands-on moms. She’s still nursing her 20-month old and I just stopped nursing last week! We work during naps and after they go down. I keep praying that I have an abundant milk supply and a baby that loves to sleep!
Our bodies are capable of so much more than we give them credit for and we’re not the victims of our genes — even with dire diagnosis. If we can be mindful of the things we do to our bodies, put in them, and think about them — that means clean thoughts and clean products — it’s impressive how the body will respond. Creating a healthy home is vital as our bodies rest and rejuvenate at night. Often if our homes are toxic, the body can’t purify and starts to shut down — hence the importance of detoxing your house first. I always say, don’t worry about the things you can’t control at your office or in the park, worry first about where you lay your head at night.