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Q&A With Dr Libby Weaver

Nutritional biochemist, Dr Libby Weaver (PhD), is also a thirteen-times bestselling author, speaker and founder of the food-based supplement range, Bio Blends.

With a natural ability to break even the most complex of concepts into layman’s terms, Dr Libby’s health messages embrace her unique three-pillared approach that explores the interplay between nutrition, emotions and the biochemistry of the body.

I was lucky enough to have a chat with Libby, and she generously shared her thoughts on what inspired her career path, her top tips for stress management, how she practices mindfulness and how she has navigated her way through COVID-19.

Q: You have dedicated such a significant portion of your life to health, wellness and bettering the lives of others. When did you decide to take this career path, and what or who inspired you?

A: I didn’t plan any of it. I grew up simply with chickens in the backyard and parsley and strawberries to pick. Dad taught me about what we were growing and as a child, collecting the eggs was my favourite thing to do, so much so that it was all I wrote in my diary from age 4. Mum taught me about the nutritional value of food – not because she sat me down and gave me a lecture – she would just gently mention why an orange from our tree was nutritious in ways I could understand. So my parents most definitely started the ball rolling.

The only thing workwise, I knew from a young age was that I wanted to write books. I originally studied journalism at university and then psychology, but soon realised that all I wanted to write about was human health and behaviour – why we do what we do, even though we know what we know. So I did a Bachelor Health Sciences in Nutrition and Dietetics, and then did a PhD examining biochemical, immunological, microbiological and nutritional factors in children with autism spectrum disorder.

An allergist, who was a guest lecturer during my N&D degree, inspired me to look further into the wide variety of ways that reactions to foods can play out in infants and adults and the professors who supervised my PhD taught me to think critically and independently. They shaped my life and my brain in ways I will be forever grateful for, as did my patients and their families. Still to this day, I am driven to help children grow up knowing they are enough, as a belief that you aren’t enough, fosters endless lousy choices once we are adults.

I was also given the opportunity to work in health retreats in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, and it was here where I observed the toll stress was taking on too many people’s lives. Having worked in my own clinical practice for over 20 years, it was here that I pieced together the way stress hormones, sex hormones, digestion, thyroid function and the liver all impact each other, as I saw thousands of women unnecessarily suffering. So I’ve combined my 14 years at university with my two-plus decades of seeing patients to create what I refer to as my three-pillar approach–– the biochemical, nutritional and emotional––and I look at everything through these three lenses. My colleagues from my health retreat days as well as the patients I worked with across these years inspired me to want to get to the heart of what people were experiencing and deal with the cause, as much as I could.

My business partner and great friend encouraged me to start writing books and speaking at events on a regular basis, and since then we’ve created a publishing company (Little Green Frog Publishing), a food-based supplement company (Bio Blends) and all of our events and online offerings (Dr Libby). So he, and my wonderful team have shaped my path, as well.

Q: You have such a devoted readership and following – tell us what it was like to write your very first book. Do you remember that moment when you saw it first in print?

A: Yes, it was just before Christmas in 2010, and I held it to my heart with deep gratitude for all that had occurred for me to be able to write it. We printed 2000 copies and had no idea if they’d still be sitting there the following Christmas, but the book struck a chord, and we had to reprint two weeks after it was released. I was thrilled the information resonated for people. It was all word of mouth initially – we hadn’t advertised it – so that was a very memorable and touching experience for me as a writer.

Q: Has there been a book that you’ve written that has been a standout – both for your readers and yourself?

A: Women’s Wellness Wisdom was the first “pretty” book I wrote. I worked with a brilliant designer (Steph from St Clement Creative), and I poured everything I knew (up until that time – the learning never ends) about women’s health into it. Of the 13 books I’ve written to date, this one has also been the biggest seller as it seems to not only educate the reader but those who read it, want those they love to know what’s in its pages – so it’s been a popular gifting book.

Q: You generously took part in our #MindfulMonday series on our Instagram page @yourmindfullife (thank you!). In your quote, you mentioned that “most of what we think, we make up and we are “mindless” when we do this”. Managing and combatting stress is such a huge focus and passion for you. Can you give us your top tips on how we can get on top of that mind-chatter and stress, before it spirals out of control?

A: Yes, absolutely! I am passionate about getting to the heart of what stress really is for people as I think far too many think it’s just how life is now. Also, please know that when I talk about stress, I’m not referring to trauma. I’m talking about what people share with me are their everyday stresses – things like their to-do list, their overflowing email inbox, running late etc. It’s also important to acknowledge that there is (unfortunately) very real stress in the world and in people’s lives. And there is also a huge amount of stress we create for ourselves because of how we think. And that’s the type we can change. People usually think that their stress is because of everything outside of them – that person, or that situation – yet we forget that it’s our response that makes something stressful or not. But we have to catch ourselves in the act with our thinking to see this and change it, and that takes dedication! 

We are also not taught that we make up thoughts – that not everything we think is true. For example, someone might think: “I ate too many chocolate biscuits; I’m hopeless and pathetic.” Yet do we pause after thinking such a thing and question if it’s true? Usually not. The first part of that sentence might be true – you might have eaten too many biscuits. But the second part – that’s not true. You made that up. You judged yourself. Yet that’s the part you’ll remember, and that’s the part that will lead you back to eat more biscuits later or the next night. In my book The Invisible Load, I talk about our two thoughts systems – I call them Old Brain and New Brain. Old Brain is automatic and unconscious, and it runs our life. New Brain is the one that can see when we’ve told our self a story. It has the ability to reason and apply logic, but at this stage in our evolution, it’s not automatic. We have to actively apply it and to do that we have to first realise that so much of what we think stems from our perceptions, not from actuality. So that’s what I mean when I say we are “mindless” – we are mostly on automatic pilot and not even aware of it. 

One of the best ways to examine what stress really is for you is to explore what I refer to as your forehead words. These are the traits you want others to see in you. I cannot encourage you enough to take pen and paper and ask yourself “how do I need other people to see me?” and write down your responses. Words that often appear for people include: kind, thoughtful, selfless, intelligent, independent, creative, witty, perfect, or the biggest ray of sunshine that ever walked into a room. The traits are endless. Once you have your list, the next time you are stressed, pause and ask yourself, “am I perceiving that someone is seeing me in a way that is the opposite to one of my forehead words?” And most of the time, the answer will be yes. We don’t want to be seen in a disapproving way by others which gets set up when we are born. We unconsciously have to ensure our own survival when we are young by making sure the adults who provide us with food, clothing and shelter will continue to give us those things – essentially as little humans, we won’t survive without “love”. But as an adult, we know that a life with love in it is delicious, but we can live without it because we can obtain our own food, clothing and shelter. Yet if we don’t examine this, our pursuit for approval will unknowingly run our life.

Q: Here on The Journal, mindfulness is such a huge focus, and we love how it can be applied to our day-to-day lives. How are some ways that we can be mindful with our health?

A: Be present in your body. Make your choices based on the deep knowing that exists in you. Be present with the choices you are making. There is a voice inside us that has our back. It knows what will best serve your body when it comes to food choices. It knows when it’s time for you to go to bed, when to get off your emails, when to go for a walk. Tuning in to that voice by being present in your body, allows us to make mindful health choices that serve us, which may be different from what others are doing or what your tastebuds want! 

So often, we get out of bed, have a shower, brush our teeth, talk to family members, eat our breakie, do our work… and our minds are somewhere else. We are thinking about all of the things we didn’t get done yesterday and how we still haven’t emailed that person back, or about how we mustn’t eat afternoon tea later today because it made us bloated yesterday or how great our life is going to be once we change our career. And living like this, we completely miss what we are doing. We miss who we are. We miss right now, which is how people get to the end of their lives and wonder where it all went. Yet it can be very challenging to live mindfully when we are wired on too much caffeine and perceiving huge amounts of urgency in our days due to all of the adrenaline this generates. So changing some of our lifestyle choices as well as bringing awareness to how we think can have very health-supportive outcomes.

“lifestyle choices we make today don’t just influence how we feel and function today, but what that future looks like.”

Q: What are some ways that you personally like to practise mindfulness?

A: As well as what I’ve described in other answers, my current favourite is to lie on the grass, front side down, winter sun powering into my back… my three chickens Moira, Alexis and Stevie, usually run over and they are so friendly and sweet, I can stick my nose into their feathers and inhale. I love their dusty smell and how soft their feathers are, and I love listening to the sounds they make while they peck at the grass around us. They wander off after a while, and I lie there, feeling the solid Earth under me, soaking up the warmth of the sun and gratitude for life leaves my eyes moist.  

Q: 2020 has certainly thrown up its challenges for a lot of people, especially with a global pandemic upon us. Wellness and health has never been more important or valuable to us all. As an advocate for health and wellbeing, do you think there have been some key learnings for us with this whole experience? 

So often it takes a personal health crisis to remind people that their quality of life is significantly compromised without their health. I am hopeful that more people have awoken to this without actually becoming sick (although they may have been affected in other ways; ostracised from friends, family and social support, for example). I am also hopeful that more people link their current choices to their future health as too many people live too short and die too long. And the lifestyle choices we make today don’t just influence how we feel and function today, but what that future looks like. Making choices to keep our body robust, including the immune system, year-round, I hope is something that has awoken for many.

Q: How did you manage and adapt your business during isolation? Did you find it challenging, and were there any positives that came from it? 

A: Initially, there was some heart-break as my team is like a little family. And we had to let some go. For example, when there are no events, I sadly don’t have a role for my event manager. However, being a homebody in my nature, it has been a joy to travel less (not at all!) as I am usually on the road speaking at least 90 nights per year. To adapt, we’ve been offering online events, and I love delivering them. My team is online to answer people’s questions while I speak, and I answer some live at the end. Personally, I’ve loved being at home to overhaul my beloved vegetable garden, so it’s been a joy to eat what I’m growing and give boxes to friends.

 

Q: Are you working on a new book or do you have any plans for one? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

A: Before COVID19 unfolded, I had decided not to write a book this year – the first time since 2010 – and instead create something a little different. It will be available in September, and I’ll let you know more on my Instagram page (@drlibby) when I can. I’ve also filmed a new online course which will be another option for my nine-week Women’s Health online course that I offer four times per year.

Q: What’s next for you this year. Any special plans, or anything that you’re excited about? 

A: Bio Blends, my food-based supplement range, is great fun for me as I get to research, formulate and test food and herbal ingredients so I’ll be continuing down that rabbit hole to develop new formulations that further support women’s health. I’m also excited about the film Wonder Woman 1984 coming out later this year! I’m excited to continue to learn about regenerative farming so I can apply more of these practices to the way I live and grow food. I’m looking forward to delivering more online educational events – Perimenopause, Iron Deficiency, Sleep and Bloating are just some of the topics I’ve discussed so far, and there are many more to come!

Do you want to learn more about Libby and connect?

Libby’s Books

Women’s Wellness Wisdom 

https://www.drlibby.com/shop/womens-wellness-wisdom/

The Invisible Load

https://www.drlibby.com/shop/the-invisible-load/ 

Libby’s Courses 

The next 9-week online course for women starts October 9, plus her other short courses can be found here – 

https://www.drlibby.com/courses/ 

Libby’s Products 

Learn more about her plant-based supplement range Bio Blends here –

https://www.bioblends.com 

Connect with Libby

Website: www.drlibby.com 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DrLibbyLive

Instagram: @drlibby

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