Part II: Latham Thomas
Born and raised in California, Latham is a graduate of both Columbia University, where she earned a degree in Visual arts and Environmental science, as well as the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is a certified holistic health counselor, who mixes her passions of plant physiology, botany, holistic nutrition, fitness, yoga, and green cuisine into a lifestyle program that supports the various needs of her clients. Specializing in maternal and child wellness, Latham served as Program coordinator for the Healthy Moms-Healthy Babies project for the B-Healthy organization. She is the co-founder of Panela Productions, a company that educates parents and children about food, through cooking classes, and events. Latham has developed partnerships with Vogue Magazine, Destination Maternity, Jurlique, and Euphoria Spa to produce events for expectant and new moms.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, we’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. And I’m really excited to bring on the next guest, Latham Thomas.
She’s born and raised in California. A graduate of both Columbia University, where she earned a degree in Visual Arts and Environmental Science, as well as the Institute for Integrated Nutrition. She’s a certified holistic health counselor who mixes her passion of plant physiology, botany, holistic nutrition, fitness yoga, and green cuisine into a lifestyle program that supports the various needs of her clients. Specializing in maternal and child wellness, Latham served as Program Coordinator for the Healthy Moms Healthy Babies Project for the Be Healthy organization. She’s the co-founder of Panela Productions, a company that educates parents and children about food through cooking classes and events. She’s developed partnerships with Vogue magazine, Destination Maternity, Jurlique, and Euphoria Spa to produce events for expectant and new moms. And she is the founder of Tendershoot Wellness. And so much more; we’re going to be talking about all of that in the next half hour.
Welcome, Latham, to It’s All About Food!
Latham Thomas: Hi, Caryn! Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi! I’m so glad we have found a moment in your very busy schedule to chat. I love talking to people like you: people who walk the walk and do it so beautifully and radiantly.
Latham Thomas: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve watched a few of the videos, especially the one you were recently featured in Experience Life on the front cover.
Latham Thomas: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Very exciting. And I loved the little trailer that they did for you online. You can see all that in tendershootswellness.com.
Latham Thomas: Thank you. That was a really fun shoot to do.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well, let’s just start from the beginning. Were you brought up to be on this path that you’re on today, eating so healthfully and spreading joy about what’s good for our bodies and what’s good for the planet?
Latham Thomas: I grew up in California, actually in Oakland. Growing up there, I just was just really privy to plants being all around us and just being in this ambient landscape that had beautiful plants, wild edibles, medicinal herbs. There was a lot of food that was grown, where I lived and houses nearby. My cousins and I would go pick the plums of our neighbor and then go and … it was just really an experience that was extra sensory. So there was a connection to food that was really visceral, right, because it was part of my upbringing; it wasn’t like a separate thing. Going to the grocery store was an experience but there was also the reality that a lot of the foods around you, you can just pick it from nature. So I had an awareness at an early age about that. I also was really interested in medicinal herbs and wild edibles and was able to spend some time with a master herbalist studying that, and that helped me develop a secret connection with the environment and also noticing that there are healing powers in plants that are beneficial to us when prepared in our food on a daily basis.
So when I made that connection as I got older, that’s sort of like the beginning, the rudiments, of what I would do later in life and had no idea at the time.
Caryn Hartglass: One thing I love about parts of California is the fact that food is all around us. There’s trees bearing fruits and the weather is so great that there’s a lot of food produced there. And we’ve gotten so detached from where our food comes from. I get really excited when I see fruit dropping from the tree. There’s just so something deep and this detachment is really hurting us, in a bad way. And Oakland is a really interesting place. And you mentioned that you had this attachment, or this introduction to food with food all around you, but there are plenty of food deserts there as well. It’s kind of like a mix of everything.
Latham Thomas: Yeah. It’s very interesting there because now, I haven’t been there for so long because I’ve been living in New York for 13 years so when I go it’s pretty infrequent. But there has been … in certain parts of Oakland, yeah, you cannot get food. It’s like being in certain parts of New York City where there’s only like bodegas and Chinese food restaurants, right? So in Oakland there’s now this sort of movement towards people taking charge of their health with creating access to vehicles. Like in West Oakland, for instance, there’s a movement with people’s groceries where they have a food truck that had all sustainable produce and sustainably grown produce, local farmers, and they just basically bring it into communities that are underserved. One of my colleagues, basically like my brother, Bryant Terry, who is a food activist and chef in Oakland is also doing this work, really helping to sort of broaden this conversation around choices that we have, where we spend our dollars, but also making healthy choices with what’s available too and making sure that people feel this connection that I was talking about earlier, through food. And his work, I’m glad that he’s out there because they do need it in Oakland too. But where I lived, in particular, it was just one of the places where food was growing everywhere; it wasn’t as needy and so it wasn’t as polarized as it is today.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, so now you’re in New York and you’re doing this great business where you’re helping new moms and future moms get connected to their bodies and what they’re eating. And is it crazy, but there hasn’t bee a lot of information, especially with doctors, about what … how what you feed you’re child, even before it’s born is critical to the rest of its life.
Latham Thomas: Right. Yes. So there’s a lot of research that’s coming out now, especially on that. People think that, “Oh, well whatever I eat is going to build …” They don’t really make the connection that the things that they’re eating are building their baby but the things that they already ate will build their baby too. So whatever’s stored in your tissues is what makes up your baby, not just what you’re eating now. So in a lot of it from the very in the beginning, especially when we don’t know when we’re pregnant, like the first 10 weeks or so when people don’t even know for the most part, is when your body is actually drawing upon these stores in your tissues, right? And so if you’ve been sort of not as mindful about what you’ve eating prior to that time, your body has sort of like poor building blocks to work with. I like to work with people who are thinking about it on a conscious level, in the conception phase, because there’s a lot we can do to help them cleanse their bodies, cleanse their lifestyles out so they can ground in the pregnancy experience and feel really empowered in the choices that they’re making. And then I get people from the whole spectrum. I get people really late in their pregnancies, they’re like, “Okay, let’s see what we can do here. “ But there’s always something that can be done because the pre-natal body is so dynamic; it’s always changing. Anything that you can do good, a teeny bit goes a long way. So I’m just honored to be able
to help support women in that part of their lives.
For me, I know when I was pregnant, I was looking for that sort of thing, a little handholding because I knew things to be true but I wanted someone to validate it, kind of to say, “This is the way to go. Do this. This will feel good. Try that. Don’t do this.” And I just thought there wasn’t anything like it so I have this entrepreneurial spirit and I thought, “You know what, I’ll just do it myself.” So that’s how I came to grow this practice.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s great. It’s not just getting your thoughts validated but there’s so much negativity that you get if you’re thinking about doing something that sounds helpful, like whatever people talk about not eating dairy. Some people can get really explosive, like, “Oh my God, you’re pregnant and you’re not having dairy?! Don’t you care about your child? What’s wrong with you?!”
Latham Thomas: I’ve heard my fair share of that, for sure. It’s very interesting too because you come up against backlash but a lot of people fears of things they wished they’d done or didn’t do, you sort of end up internalizing a lot of people’s fears because it’s a time where you’re super vulnerable. So it’s also a great time to have some handholding and have someone provide some guidance and affirm in what you already know to be true and help you connect to that truth because sometimes it’s just a matter of connecting wires, right, and once you feel like “Oh, wow, I’m totally tapped in. I really do know what I should be doing.” And most of us do. It’s not that you need somebody to tell you; sometimes you just need some support. That’s the main reason why people find they’re not quite as successful in making lifestyle changes, is that they don’t feel supported, right? They don’t have that to fall back onto make sure that they follow through with some of their choices. And once they can work out that piece, the behavioral piece, I think, is a little bit easier to implement.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s why people like you and I are doing what we’re doing, just standing a little bit of support in the world, right? And another thing, you probably realize this too, giving your body great nutrition is good for yourself and for your future child and your children. But that support is so important for the emotional aspect because even if we’re eating all the right things, if we’re giving ourselves the wrong emotional message that can have a negative impact too.
Latham Thomas: One hundred percent. Food only works … It’s like magic. It’s like it magically works if you believe in it. Food is the same way. Yes, it’s full of vitamins and minerals and all these phytonutrients and there’s so much in food, right? However, the magic can really work for you if you believe, right, if you believe in … You know, they say there are people who did all the right things, “She did wheat grass. She did this. She did that” and were very meticulous and still grew tumors, right? There’s something about … it’s not just what you eat but what you think.
Caryn Hartglass: And what you think while you’re eating too.
Latham Thomas: What you think while you’re eating. If you’re stressed out. If you’re not adjusting; you’re creating stress hormones so you’re actually creating fat deposits in your belly, right, so there are all kinds of things that need to go into this practice of mindfulness. It’s not just what you eat but how you eat, when you eat, where you eat. Are you eating on the go? Do you take the time to sit down? How you gather yourself. If you create this healthy relationship with yourself, and getting the right relationship with yourself, then all your choices are totally in line with that principle of self-love and self-care.
And that’s another thing I sort of help moms with because with women, there’s just a sort of almost like a legacy we inherit when we’re born, of selflessness. And it’s great to help others. Like the foundation of my work; I think it’s what you’re supposed to do too, is help others, but not at the expense of yourself. So I think if we can just help people figure out that they’re worthy and it’s important that you don’t just fix a great meal because you’re having company but fix a great meal for you, even if it’s just you. Or treat yourself to a juice and you feel like, “Oh, but it’s expensive.” It’s expensive to get fixed too, right? So I think making healthy choices but also feeling valued, feeling like you deserve to have … you deserve that choice. You deserve to make that choice. It’s key.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s such an important concept on so many levels, this selfishness idea. There’s a good kind of selfishness and a bad kind of selfishness but what you’re talking about is so important, the solid foundation in loving and nurturing ourselves because … One thing that drives me nutty sometimes is I’m promoting a healthy plant-based diet and one of the reasons I do it is because I don’t believe in killing animals and animal suffering and there are many animal rights activists that don’t eat animals but they don’t eat a healthy vegan diet. They’re not giving out the right message and they’re not healthy and so if they’re not here, if they’re not energized, if they are not well, they cannot do their work.
Latham Thomas: Yes, exactly. Exactly. It’s so important.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad there are vegan donuts out there but it’s not an everyday food.
Latham Thomas: No, it isn’t. And I think it’s not about feeling like we have to do … Yes, it’s nice to have some, I guess, sweets and things you feel like, “Oh, I can still have this and it’s a better option” but not always is it a better option because all these things that they make vegan fast foods with, vegan fast foods or … not the vegan foods but sweets or things are not the healthiest for you. So I think people tend to think, they’re like … they call them the fast-food vegans or whatnot, right, that still are lacking the consciousness about the health aspect. They’re like, “Well I’m not eating meat” but you’re not eating anything that’s fortifying either, right? So I guess it’s making that connection that it’s about coming back to the land, looking at plants as foods that provides information for the body, right? And if we’re lacking that connection because we’re eating a lot of things that are processed, we’re not getting the information that our bodies need to navigate this landscape that we’re living in. And that’s why local is so important and seasonal is so important because our body assimilates this information from foods that’s been here for gazillion of years, right, not like foods that have been made in the past 6 years, right, or just created in the lab maybe this year. There’s no sort of … there’s no place to ground in that, like your body doesn’t … what’s it going to get from that, except to store fat on the body someplace, right? It doesn’t even process necessarily. So it’s kind of like growing this connection back to our roots and these foods our ancestors ate. And not like eating it the same way, like food that doesn’t taste and prepared well, but food that’s prepared really well still but sort of like back in the past. It grounds us in the place that we are because it’s one of those things, like if you sit down and have a really good meal and you’re in good company and you feel good about yourself, you’re not going to reach for these French foods and make poor decisions or feel like you’re in a place of lack, you know?
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a thing about progress and evolution and as a civilization I want to think that we’re moving forward. And there are some things about progress that are really great and some things that aren’t. And even when it comes to food, we don’t have to eat exactly like we ate 10,000 years ago. We’ve learned that. But also we’ve done a lot of things that aren’t natural and aren’t healthy so we should be taking the good things from the past and bringing them forward and then doing beautiful things with them.
Latham Thomas: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: But I want to move on to the medical community, I understand you’re also trained as a doula.
Caryn Hartglass: And that’s a beautiful thing. And we don’t … it’s really not ingrained in our culture; it’s more popular outside of the United States and I’m not certain about this but is the medical community, the traditional, conventional medical community accepting of doulas in the delivery room?
Latham Thomas: Yeah, it’s getting to be more so an acceptance. It’s more so because now physicians are seeing that doulas are cutting back the time of the labor. The presence of a doula actually will cut the labor time in half; there’s a physical research on this. Also there’s less intervention, there’s less incidence of augmentation with certain drugs, right, to augment labor and induction as well. So I think at first there was sort of this whole kind of like, “Oh, group of witches that are coming in” but now it’s a little bit more like, “Okay, these people are educated. They understand the advocacy. They understand the medical terms and the what’s actually happening in the physiology of labor and birth” but they’re also helping to support the woman. And the nurses cannot provide that bedside manner and that constant support that a doula can. And also, you don’t know what the situation’s going to be for a laboring mother: if she’s going to have a loved one there, a partner, or any support, and it’s just good to have a constant presence of someone that you know to serve in that capacity. It’s something that everyone should have access to and it’s becoming more so of a necessity, like people are starting to say, “Okay, you have to have a doula if you do this.” Also, with some of it, films that do a lot of speaking about advocacy, like the baby being born, which has a lot of traction within the birthing community and outside, which helps people more familiar with the term “doula” and it’s concept.
But what I see is, in my experience, the doctors are cool as long as you come in and you’re cool. It’s an attitude, I believe as well. So I’ve had a great experience working with them in that way. A lot of people that I’ve worked with in prenatal yoga and nutrition, I just work this way with them as well. But after that, most of the reactions are from the people who are there, the caregivers like the nurses, will share with the medical staff like, “This is really great. We need more of these people here.” So some hospitals have actually staffed doulas, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s similar to what I was just saying before about progress. There’s lot of great things that have come out of our education and our knowledge over time and the there are stuff like the disconnect, the things that aren’t good that we’re bringing forward and in the medical community, certainly, we have that disconnect. So many doctors don’t know anything about other parts of the body aside from their specialized parts. They don’t know anything about nutrition. And we don’t work that way. We’re big, integrated, whole beings and so many things come into play. I love the concept of a doula and I‘m thinking, just talking to you, that we should have some person for anyone that is going through some sort of hospital procedure, somebody who’s there on your side. I know I went through some crazy experience with ovarian cancer 5 years ago. I, fortunately, had my sister. Not only was she really a tough, intelligent attorney, but she was there for me. And in some way, she said so many times she felt like it was happening to her and so I felt like she was really there for me. And I made sure she was there all the time. When I woke up in the recovery room, I insisted, I wanted her there. It just makes all the difference to have somebody that’s focused just on you and your emotions and your desires, separate from the procedure that’s going on.
Latham Thomas: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: The doula’s not entirely separate but the doctor, especially when the doctor’s doing it. You’re not responsible for the delivery; you’re focusing more on the mother.
Latham Thomas: Yes, which is also really an important piece. Also, just making sure, in a hospital, you have to remember they’re not providing you with healthy food. So when a lot of people who are in the hospital, since they have a baby or since they have surgery or whatever it is, you get pancakes and Jell-O and Coca-Cola and it’s like craziness. So it’s really insane. You see this and like, “When are they going to give you something to eat?” You ran a marathon, essentially, giving birth and they want to give you some Jell-O. Another piece for me that’s huge is making sure that parents have food and every time I go meet with people I also introduce them to new foods and things that’ll be fortifying for whatever stage they are in the pregnancy. And we make sure that we prep meals. Meals are so important to have either in the hospital or I survey the area where I know they’re going to deliver to make sure that we have access to food as soon as that mom has given birth because …
Caryn Hartglass: What are some of the foods you recommend for a woman who has just delivered?
Latham Thomas: We do a lot of protein but not like intense, just like plant-based. I always promote a vegan diet and people make whatever choices they want around that but I always make sure they get plant-based proteins because it’s easier to assimilate, for one. But also it’s going to wreak less havoc on the baby, who is not going to be able to digest the proteins that come through the milk from animals, right? So I have them have usually protein-rich smoothie right after. Almonds. A handful of nuts are always good. We’ll have a piece of fruit. Fresh juice or coconut water. Coconut water usually throughout the labor because you lose a lot of fluids, it’s very cooling so we’ll do that. Also to fortify their electrolyte levels because you’re really, really warm during that time so it’s a great way to make sure you’re balanced. We’ll also do, afterwards, I make a granola that I’ll bring and we can put that over an acai smoothie or something like that. We’ll do … so many different things. But a lot of it is like tuna salad, and tempeh with beans and quinoa and avocado and a nice dressing. Then I’ll fortify the dressing with omega-3 oil, along with a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice and …
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now I’m getting too hungry. Too hungry.
Latham Thomas: So we’ll make sure we make this kind of really good food; it looks beautiful, it tastes good but it’s also really good for her. And it’s great to have as a first meal when you come out of it. You don’t want to hand me a piece of dried toast.
Caryn Hartglass: And good luck finding these foods in those hospitals.
Latham Thomas: Oh, my gosh, good luck, yeah!
Caryn Hartglass: So we just have a couple of minutes left but one thing I want to mention you certainly walk the walk. You’re a mom and I just want to take a minute to talk about your son because he’s just amazing and spectacular and definitely a reflection of his upbringing.
Latham Thomas: Oh, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: And he’s obviously intelligent. I saw some of the clips with him as a DJ and he’s gorgeous and just as articulate as you are. And it’s just amazing.
Latham Thomas: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: He…
Latham Thomas: Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Caryn Hartglass: So he eats like you do?
Latham Thomas: Yes, he does. I believe that all kids should eat … I don’t believe there’s kids’ foods and so he’d always eat what I eat when we go out. He eats what I eat. I would just give him some of my food. And at home, we cook together. I believe that kids should learn very early to take some ownership over their meals so I’d always have some type of activity to do. He loves baking. He loves making soup. He loves making ratatouille; he’d learn it off of the Ratatouille film. He said, “Oh, I think I’ll make this ratatouille” and I’m like, “Do it.” But he’d make lentils and split peas and brown rice and seaweed. He actually made seaweed popular at his school; he started it last year or something. He was bringing it everyday and now the kids wanted to trade seaweed and parents were like, “Where do you get these seaweed from?” and I’m like, “Oh, my God, it got some attention.” So it’s pretty cool. But he’s a very good eater. And I really think it’s about my attitude, just knowing that he’s just going to like this. And that’s how we eat. And I think that if you’re really relaxed and not like really uptight, your child will be comfortable too. I mean, there are picky eaters but I think that has a lot to do with the attitude of parents. The parents get stressed out, thinking the kid won’t eat this. They’ll claim that, “My son doesn’t eat that.” Of course they don’t because you’re declaring that they won’t eat it.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. I’ve heard that so many times.
Latham Thomas: Yeah. It’s like, “Well, how do you know? How do you know? You’re not them; how do you know?” So it’s just really about … I’ve heard adults say that they don’t eat certain things and then they try them and they’re like, “Latham, I don’t eat this but I love this. How do you make them?” See? There’s always room. I think that there’s … You have to provide choices, or at least the illusion of choice for them and help them navigate their own relationship with food but you have to provide a foundation. And you also have to do what you expect them to do because if you’re eating poorly and you expect them to eat well, it doesn’t work that well. So they model behavior. So it’s important you’re doing exactly what you expect them to do because kids would look at you and say, “Why isn’t she doing it?” So they really notice these things. So to me, that’s really important.
Caryn Hartglass: We just have a few seconds left. I want to say, we live in a culture where most people follow; they don’t lead. And there are so many images out there for people to follow that aren’t the best for the planet, that aren’t the best for their health and what I really love about you, and about your son too, is you’re the kind of people that people should be following. You’re beautiful, you’re radiant, and you’re doing great things. So I want to thank you for that.
Latham Thomas: Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate that. You and your show, it’s tremendous. And you’re actually bringing a shining light on a lot of issues but also bringing a lot of light into the world by sharing your message and your passion, bringing together all these different voices along the spectrum so thank you for your work.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you. And we’re going to get together for a green juice some time. Okay, and your website, tendershootswellness.com.
Latham Thomas: My upcoming website will be mamaglow.com and the book is coming out 12/2012 so look out for that.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I can’t wait. Great. Thank you.
Latham Thomas: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, be well.
Transcribed by Diana O’Reilly, 5/7/2013