If New Orleans is all about excess, then Lydia Wheaton Lynn is on board — although “excess” is not a word one usually associates with a pescaterian doctor of naturopathic medicine who makes her own insect spray from witch hazel.
Finding a balance in life between all things happy and healthful, however, is what this native New Orleanian is all about.
“You don’t have to live extremes,” says Lydia, referring to both celebration and detoxification. “It’s about balance. You can make good healthy choices without eating vegan dishes that taste like cardboard. If you pull yourself too tightly in either direction, it’s just a rubber band.”
Lydia’s philosophy is the result of growing up in the City That Care Forgot – and embracing its joie de vivre — before landing at Sewanee University, where she fell in love with nature. A doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in Washington state cemented her expertise in healthy practices (naturopathic doctors are licensed in 17 states, though not Louisiana). But that NOLA lifestyle still called, and Lydia returned to New Orleans six years ago. She’s been perfecting that life balance ever since.
To that end, Lydia begins writing a healthy living column for NolaVie. Look for DetoxifiCajun (how better to express life at both ends of the spectrum?) on these pages soon. Articles will chronicle product and lifestyle choices that keep the zest in living and arteries and livers clear.
“It’s mostly about education and common sense,” says the author, doctor and former university professor. “What you put on your skin or in your mouth is important. I’m pro-commerce, but I’m also about awareness and companies cleaning up their products.”
Lydia’s newest venture is the local launch of beautycounter.com, a firm she began researching at the request of a friend. She fell in love with its products. “I’d just been on a camping trip and had used a couple of ‘natural, organic’ products that made me break out all over. So I started looking into skin products.”
What she found, she said, was surprising. “The last time we passed a law governing skin-care products was in 1938. The U.S. bans only 11 ingredients – 11 – in skin products. In school we learned what chemicals have adverse effects, but not what brands contain them. Yeah, we know formaldehyde is bad for you, but do you know where it is? You have to police this yourself.”
These days, you might spot Lydia scanning the shelves of her local grocery with her smartphone, using a handy app to decode food labels (more about that in an upcoming DetoxifiCajun column, but as a teaser she likes the apps Skin Deep by EWG, Dirty Dozen for organic and conventional produce and Food Scores). Her consumer rationale is, well, rational. She’s no product prude.
“Sometimes you’re better off eating a Snickers than a granola bar because at least that contains real peanuts,” she says. And when husband Steve came home the other day with a package of Oreos, she dipped in.
“I do use hippie deodorant without aluminum,” she adds with a laugh. “And I consider fragrance a word used to hide things. But the health movement can be rigidly conservative. I mean, certain fruits produce a tiny bit of formaldehyde, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat pears. “
Lately, with her interest in cosmetics, Lydia has turned her attention to skin creams and makeup lotions.
“My mom swears by Clinique, and when I scanned her products I found that some of my organic products are more toxic than hers. I’ve been doing a lot of research on lipstick, too. We took the lead out of paint, but it still can be found in that tube of lipstick you carry. I just want to know the relative safety of whatever I use. So I look at products I’m using everyday and think about what is being absorbed.”
Health in general, Lydia believes, is not about perfection, but progress.
“At the end of the day, there’s not one perfect diet for everyone. Some people can digest dairy products just fine. Some people are salt sensitive, and some aren’t. Why do we have to hate on that?”
New Orleans, Lydia believes, offers the best and worst of diet and lifestyle. And the choices are ours to make. “Even bars serve ahi tuna on a salad.”
She’s also a proponent of lifestyle evolution, believing that even this sin city can straighten up its act.
“In the 1950s women were told to smoke cigarettes to combat morning sickness,” she says. “Now even New Orleans has banned indoor smoking. Can things change? Absolutely.”
Lydia Wheaton Lynn is a native New Orleanian and doctor of naturopathic medicine. She writes DetoxifiCajun, about healthy and happy NOLA lifestyles, for NolaVie. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Beauty Counter.