Naturopathic Doctor Jillian Cole On How Beauty (And, More Importantly, Health) Is Really More Than Skin Deep
Wherein naturopathic doctor Jillian Cole shares how she got to where she is today.
After hospitalization for an eating disorder in my late teens, I had a very raw and real look at how much diet and lifestyle affects our wellbeing. I was burnt-out, anxious and depressed, had acne-prone skin, a laundry list of gut issues, and an autoimmune thyroid condition to top it all off. It’s taken me years to truly understand the meaning of health and gain clarity in what it means to be healthy. From both my personal experience and professional knowledge, I’m grateful to be able to share what I know to help improve the lives of others.
I’m also a true believer that our perceived faults or struggles carry some of our greatest strengths, and I’m here to help others see the light in their pain. From a first-hand perspective on this, I’m grateful to be able to provide a deep sense of understanding towards others and whatever their struggles may be. As a naturopathic doctor and someone who lives working through recovery on a daily basis, I can’t say enough for how much it means to me to be able to be there for others in their times of need with empathy, integrity and respect.
In my opinion, the goal of healing is to gain a certain kind of peace, understanding and love for ourselves, whether that be through optimizing nourishment, implementing various lifestyle changes, or treating conditions that are affecting your quality of life. My hope is I can help others understand that we all deserve to invest time and energy into ourselves. After all, if we’re not at peace within ourselves, how can we possibly be available for others?
Tell us about your story. Why did you become a naturopathic doctor? What led you to focus specifically on skincare?
After graduating from the University of Guelph with a focus in functional foods and nutraceuticals and cognitive neuropsychology, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or how I wanted to contribute to society. Naturopathic medicine seemed like a natural and obvious thing for me to get into, given my education and previous history with an eating disorder, which was a very real way to understand what it means to be “healthy”.
I’ve dabbled with focusing in different areas over my career to date from concussion/brain health, mental health and autoimmune disease, although the skincare focus has been something that I always kept coming back to. Skincare is not just about what’s outwardly showing up, it’s an entire complex of mental/emotional health, diet and nutrition, lifestyle and wellbeing. Our skin tells us more about our health than we realize. I’ve dealt with severe acne in the past and can understand just how deeply a condition like this can affect a person. A bit of a pun, but skincare really is more than just skin deep, which is why I’m so passionate about helping people treat and manage their skin conditions.
One of the biggest misconceptions most people have about a healthy skincare routine?
That external factors, like getting the right cleanser or moisturizer is a cure-all. Sure, using appropriate skincare formulas pertaining to your individual skincare needs are important, but healthy skin is SO much more than this. All aspects of a person’s health need to be addressed, from stress management to optimal hormone health to proper nutrition to a healthy social life and proper exercise. Our health should not be compartmentalized, and the best results in one’s health come from understanding this, that a whole body and mind approach to health is the approach that leads to lasting change.
One thing we can do tomorrow morning to make a difference in the quality of our skin?
Work on your approach to stress, and implement healthy stress management techniques. Yoga is my favorite for this; the movement, sweating, mindfulness and community. You’d be amazed how much dealing with your stress can help improve the overall quality of your skin. Cortisol, our stress hormone, can cause a lot of issues when it’s constantly being infused into our system. When our bodies are in survival mode, the health of our skin is not top priority. When we are well, it shows on our skin. Even from an evolutionary perspective, healthy, radiant skin is a sign of optimal health (and fertility!) so it’s not a wonder that the people who are the healthiest on the inside will look just as such.
Now a bit about you. What three (or so) things do you do regularly that help you lead a happy and whole life?
- Wake up early and spend 30-60 minutes with a cup of coffee and my thoughts until I do anything else. Sometimes I’ll write, sometimes I’ll read for a bit. Whatever I’m in the mood for that would be nourishing for me at that moment in time.
- Yoga. I stick to a very regular yoga routine most days of the week. I definitely notice a difference in my mental/emotional/physical health when I’m not making yoga and movement a priority.
- Social time. I tend to spend a lot of time with myself and I notice a major difference in my overall wellbeing when I make a point to spend time with friends a few days a week. It’s an absolute priority in my weekly schedule to meet up with friends, even if it’s just for a quick few minutes.
And food. What’s your go-to recipe? The superfood that’s always in your kitchen? The food you can’t resist?
My friends who read this are going to laugh at this because it really is my go-to: sautéed kale with sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil, topped with these awesome gluten-free, grass-fed meatballs I make. Delicious!
For a superfood, I always have cacao powder (the real stuff, not processed cocoa powder) in my kitchen to make chocolate chia seed pudding with when I want a little something sweet yet chock-full of antioxidants.
A food I can’t resist: I openly admit I can’t resist a good pastry. Gotta treat yourself every once in a while, right?!
Your favorite way to move, and how it inspires you?
Yoga, yoga yoga. Mindful movement is my jam. Yoga has been a catalyst for major change in my life; it’s helped me to become more aware of my own thoughts and emotions, understand and appreciate my body, and gain patience with others. Yoga is also my creative outlet, and what’s so great about this practice is there will never come a time in my practice where it’s possible to plateau. There’s always something new to learn, some new creative depth to venture into.
The one place on earth you can always count on to help you reset, refresh, and refuel?
My family’s cottage on Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. It’s quiet, has a perfect view of the water and an amazing open patio space for me to set up my yoga mat.
Your wellness muse?
There are so many to choose from! My top three would be:
- @the_southern_yogi for her openness, honesty and lifestyle. Her personal journey that she shares on social media is one that truly inspires me.
- Vava from @thestoreonqueen for her confidence and recollections around nutrition, exercise and being an entrepreneur.
- @yogoskenz for how inspirational (and fit!) she is! She motivates me to continue pushing forward in working on my yoga practice.
The travel destination you can’t wait to explore (or explore again)?
I love London, UK. I try to go there once a year and immerse myself into daily life there. Every time I go, I try to find a new coffee shop, yoga studio, etc. to check out. There’s so much to see and do there and I always find something new and wonderful every time I go.
How do you relax and unwind after a long day?
Silence. I value my alone time and look forward to it in the evenings. I’ll light a delicious candle from @foxhoundcollection and have a glass of wine or a cup of tea while reading a good book. Right now I’m into fiction novels, I’m currently re-reading the Outlander Series!
The best piece of advice you ever received?
Let it hurt, then let it go. I have a tendency to get wrapped up in negativity and have a hard time moving on from stressful situations. This piece of advice has helped me realize that it’s ok to feel sad, upset, and angry over something, but then it’s important to be able to let it go and move on. I used to feel ashamed that I would feel an emotion that I thought was negative, like being angry, but once I realized that I could feel angry without trying to push it away, it made it that much easier to experience that emotion, then let that feeling go, instead of allowing it to continue to fester.
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