Angelle Batten with Dr. Barb
Angelle Batten is co-founder of the Nourish to Flourish Society, which aims to encourage women in self-care for mind, body, and spirit. A teacher at heart, she studied elementary education and earned a Masters of Education Administration. First teaching in the classroom and as a literacy consultant and leader, Angelle then studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Angelle has coached thousands in person and through her 14-Day Get REAL Challenge, which was adopted by New York Times best-selling author Jordan Rubin. Angelle has collaborated with Dr. Josh Axe and others in the wellness industry. She is a graduate of the Mentor Masterclass life coaching program and has been coaching since 2005.
Dr. Barb: Angelle Batten is a health and lifestyle coach and the co-founder of the Nourish to Flourish Society. Through that partnership as well as on her own, Angelle works with individuals and groups, through designed programs or one on one, to help others toward a life that’s nourishing, energizing, and joyful. I’ve recently talked with her partner, Jill, about the Nourish to Flourish approach, which integrates diet, exercise, self-esteem, relationships, and self-care. Welcome, Angelle!
Angelle: Hi there! I’m so happy to be here with you.
Dr. Barb: Yeah! Thank you for joining me and sharing your expertise. So, I understand you’ve been learning and teaching about the relationship between hormones and diet. Certainly in my practice, and what I do, hormones are a common topic of discussion, but I’m especially interested in hearing your knowledge and understanding of diet and what it takes to flourish, especially at midlife. And how were you led into this area of your career?
Angelle: Hmmm, I’ve been interested in diet as it relates to hormones and hormonal harmony, as I call it, for over 20 years, actually. I was a woman who had struggled with PMS – pretty severe PMS when I was younger – and I sort of thought it was normal. I had lots of intense cramping, swelling in my breasts, moodiness, achiness – just all kinds of the symptoms that you know women do feel are normal. And I went along with that for many, many years. It was really when I dealt with an intense depression – I was about 30 – that I started kind of putting some pieces together for myself and realized that were a couple of things going on.
One of the things for me personally was that I was not nourishing myself. Not only was I not nourishing my body physically with the food, I was eating a lot of things that were creating hormonal havoc in my body. And so I started to change the way I nourished my body. (I also want to talk about nourishing my spirit, because there was definitely a spiritual component along with this.) But when I started to change the way I nourished my body, I noticed that my cycle began to, how should I say... ease up a little bit. The symptoms started to ease up. So it’s kind of like putting these little pieces together along the way. I was like, “Oh, what I put in my body really, really matters and helps so many things, including my hormonal cycle.” So that was kind of the beginning for me, and then the past couple of decades have just been this journey of learning and understanding and also having the privilege to teach other women about hormonal harmony and hormonal havoc and how diet impacts that.
Dr. Barb: I’ve heard you say “hormone havoc” and “hormone harmony.” I recently did an interview with Dr. Pamela Peeke. She talked about hormones and appetite and hunger and some of the regulation that goes on in our body and how disruptive some of those hormones can be for women in trying to manage hunger and nutrition and weight. How would you say that might interact for women and how would you describe that to women and how they might have some impact on that?
Angelle: One of the things that I like to explain to women is that we are cyclical beings. We have these hormonal cycles and, unfortunately in our culture, we don’t honor those. We really work against our bodies’ natural rhythms, including a hormonal rhythm. So when I’m talking about hormonal harmony, a couple of things come up that I’d love to mention. One is learning how to work with your body’s hormonal rhythms on a monthly basis. But also, two of the most important hormones that impact everything in terms of body, mind, and spirit, in my experience – personally, and also working with many women – are insulin and cortisol.
When we are working with women and teaching about how to create better hormonal harmony in the body, what does that mean exactly? What happens as a result of hormonal harmony? You have better energy, better sex drive, and can shift your body into fat-burning mode. All kinds of good things happen when our hormones are working more together in harmony. So one of the things with insulin that Jill and I do through our work at the Nourish to Flourish Society when we’re focussing on how do you nourish yourself well is we teach women how to eat in a way that helps to keep insulin levels more steady, lower and more steady. So many of us have been – and I’ve totally been there because I’m a recovering sugar addict – so one of the things that I learned in my own journey is that the way I was feeding myself with sugar and refined grains was creating a lot of the hormonal havoc – you know, a lot of the PMS, a lot of the symptoms. So when you eat in a way that is more aligned with your body’s natural rhythm, you can balance out your hormones. And balancing out our insulin, lowering your insulin and kind of getting off this blood-sugar roller coaster ride has so many positive effects.
What that looks like, really practically, eating a lot more “friendly fat” as I call it, a little healthy fat at each meal, and also having fewer of the processed carbs; having more of the veggie carbs and fruit, and having a good amount of protein – I call it powerful protein – so creating a balance at each meal, but also working in alignment throughout the day. Getting up in the morning, drinking some water, then having a breakfast that has some healthy fat in it for sure, and some good protein. Then, instead of grazing throughout the day, or skipping meals or work at counting calories, you know, eating enough at breakfast that you can make it lunch. At lunchtime, have a beautiful meal, and really hormonally when we’re thinking about our rhythms throughout the day, that’s the time to eat your biggest meal – midday, by 2 p.m. Have a really nice meal that has a good amount of food. Too many women are not eating enough food, and that’s working against them. Then as the day winds down, going towards the evening, having a good dinner, but maybe smaller than lunchtime, because that’s when our bodies, in the afternoon, want to start to wind down, going into the evening.
So a lot of what I teach around diet is helping women to get into that rhythm. Between those meals, your body is actually do what it’s supposed to do – shift into fat-burning mode. It kind of taps into that fuel that is already there versus continuing to get fuel from the outside throughout the day.
How does that sound for you? Does that making sense in a way of describing it?
Dr. Barb: Yes. I think that makes perfect sense, and I’m interested in your comment about sugar because I feel like our food industry has sort of pulled us into a sugar-addiction tendency. I am always impressed by the women who have identified that, have changed it, and the remarkable improvement they feel in the quality of their life. I’m just wondering about your understanding, briefly, around just the sugar piece of it. Can you speak into that for the listeners?
Angelle: I would love to! Yes, because this is so crazy! In our society, the amount of sugar – even if we’re being conscious about it – there’s just so much access to sugar. For me, it was definitely something that I was addicted to growing up. I mean I would eat sugar – you know, we had sugar on the table, and I would eat a spoonful of sugar; I would drink a lot of pop. We had good meals, it was just throughout the day I was fueling myself with a lot of sugar. So I went into my young adult years like that.
When I started to learn how to better nourish my body and add in those friendly fats and that powerful protein, and more of the veggies, then what I noticed was that my desire for sugar started to diminish dramatically, my moods were better, my PMS – the symptoms – they went away probably almost 95 percent. It was amazing to me that that happened. It was about adding in more nourishing foods that helped me to crowd the sugar out.
Our bodies are so brilliant! Our bodies are always communicating with us through hunger, through cravings, so for me, the cravings and the messages my body was sending were definitely about my not getting enough of the nourishing foods and the nutrients that my body needed. So I was getting messages about hunger and about cravings, and also just being tired and having these other symptoms. Also, there’s something else, though, that I’ve experienced myself for sure, with women over the last two decades of working with women is that we don’t allow ourselves enough experience, enough pleasure in our lives. So that sweetness of life is often missing and we turn to sugar to get that temporary feeling of sweetness. But then that wears off.
One of the things I do with women is working on that baseline diet, and learning how to nourish yourself really well and crowd the sugar out. But, also it’s how can you experience more pleasure in your life and more sweetness in your life so that you are feeling more expansive, more relaxed, but not with using sugar or alcohol or other things that temporarily give you that.
Dr. Barb: That’s an interesting way of stating it. I’m not sure I ever thought about it in explaining to women the alternative of seeking sweetness in other avenues other than their food source. I like that. I think women could relate to that.
In my practice, which is primarily perimenopause/menopausal women’s health, obviously we know hormonal fluctuations become somewhat more dramatic, and it can be a time where women struggle somewhat more. For many women some the PMS becomes more exaggerated, weight becomes more difficult to manage, sleep can be more disrupted, brain fog -- you know a number of things can be more difficult for women. I talk with them about lifestyle, and how details matter more, the basics of how sleep and stress and diet play a bigger role. I’m just curious if you have any insights, specifically for women at that stage of life, and how they might incorporate nutrition in addressing those symptoms.
Angelle: Yes, absolutely. So one of the things that is missing for women, in my experience, is eating enough healthy fats – what I call friendly fats. So talking about things like avocados and avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee (which is clarified butter); if you eat animal protein, having it come from grass-fed pasteurized sources, flaxseed, chia seeds – all these healthy fats; if you eat eggs, pasteurized eggs. I love this when we work with women! Jill and I have a program called The 14-Day Reset, and one of the things that we designed – the way we designed the menu plan – was to incorporate more of these healthy fats. Often women get really anxious about that because, in our culture, we have that message that fat is bad for us, or that fat will have us gaining weight, and cause all these health problems. What we really know to be true is that we need a lot of healthy fat for a lot of reasons, and definitely for hormonal harmony.
What I have experienced myself when I include a lot of friendly fat in my diet, my symptoms – prior, my PMS symptoms – really really subsided, like I’d mentioned. But also going through perimenopause, same thing. The symptoms really subside quite a bit. And I need to do less of the sort of “band-aid” kind of treatments.
So those are one of the things, Barb, that I would say that women are really… I would invite women to embrace eating healthy fat at every single meal. If there is a concern about weight gain, it’s so fascinating because my clients, and our clients at the Nourish to Flourish Society, who embrace and actually take it seriously and start eating the friendly fats on a regular basis at every meal, those are the women who actually experience the vast results with weight loss, but also just kind of symptoms across the board. So that’s probably my biggest message for women is to embrace eating more friendly fat.
Dr. Barb: I’m not surprised to hear you say that, and I think your comment about many women don’t get enough calories seems so counterintuitive, and it’s hard to have a discussion with women about their restrictive eating might actually be negatively impacting their ability to feel better and maintain their weight – a more healthy weight. It’s great for you to communicate that more clearly about the importance of fat. But again, even underscoring that – healthy fat. You are right. Women create and develop some very unusual approaches to diet. When I think of all the avenues available out there with books and online, there’s some just absolute crazy things, and this idea of going back to some of the basic foods that are available to us is so refreshing.
Angelle: Yeah, I agree. And it’s so you know what? It’s so fun to experience this with women when they realize that you can actually eat more food, and it can be food that tastes delicious, and tastes satisfying, and better reach their health goals. It’s this whole idea of working in alignment with your body versus being at war with your body.
How do we actually use – like we’ve been talking about – our hormonal rhythms and how do we work with our hormones versus being at war and fighting ourselves and our bodies? Start, for me, definitely with that piece, of how are we nourishing ourselves through what we eat. Then there's so much more. And I know, as you know and you’ve mentioned, it’s also sleep, stress, and you mentioned at the beginning cortisol. Cortisol is such an issue for so many women. One of the things that we talk about with women a lot is that pleasure piece. You know, how can you enjoy not only your food and what you’re eating more – and we have really good strategies around that – but also just in life. Are you doing things that lessen your cortisol because cortisol is wreaking havoc on our hormonal system. So we really need to give ourselves permission as women to carve out space in our life to have more fun. To relax more. And it can be things like meditation, or things like walking. Things that are what’s uniquely fun for you. What do you enjoy doing that you haven’t given yourself permission to do? That’s one way that will really positively impact your well being.
Dr. Barb: I’m glad you mention that because I feel like it’s an area that women just find it very difficult to incorporate. They don’t give themselves time or permission to really try to flourish, I think to use your term, of helping women thrive. This idea of cortisol and stress – I think women want to, “well, measure my cortisol,” or “tell me more.” It’s so difficult to communicate to individuals the nuances of their lives and their habits and how importantly that plays out in how they feel and function.
Angelle: So true. And you know what I’d say: We’re talking about midlife. This is a time for us as women to really reevaluate. Look at how we’ve been living, how we’ve identified ourselves, how we label ourselves, what we give ourselves permission to do around food and diet and lifestyle. And it really can be such an amazing time to do that reflection, but also to reinvent ourselves and to give ourselves permission to do things that really feel pleasurable and that really help us to feel more expansive versus contractive.
I definitely believe that we can go through this transition with support, as needed, and come out, come through it, you know go through it, beautifully, and learn how to be the fullest expression of ourselves. And be as authentic as we can be and really have a beautiful second part of our lives.
Dr. Barb: Yeah, I would agree. I think women are open to change and science has told us it is a unique time where new habits can be developed. I think a lot of women are motivated to look forward and maybe enjoy a different level of happiness and healthiness and are willing to maybe invest in themselves. So it’s for both of us an interesting time to be involved in women’s health.
One of your comments is about listening to your body, listening to your gut. I’m curious as to how you help women understand getting in touch with that and how to identify some of the queues we are getting and how to properly respond to that.
Angelle: Jill and I talk over at the Nourish to Flourish Society about the fact that – let’s just take cravings, because it’s a good example. A lot of women experience cravings for sugar or for salt or whatever it is, so we talk with women about the fact that those cravings are like your BFF. Those are messengers from your body, sometimes from your spirit, letting you know what you need to pay attention to. How you might better need to nourish yourself, whether it’s through food or other things. When we have this conversation with women, it’s like this paradigm shift, especially when they experience it for themselves – so working with us through the reset – they experience that the cravings diminish dramatically. For instance, when they are really nourished well. So it’s the sort of a-ha moment when, “Oh! Like my body is actually communicating with me. She’s telling me what she needs. And I just need to tune in, I need to listen a little bit.”
For me when I’m working with women, I’ll lead them through like just a simple body scan. Sort of a meditation. Really taking a couple of deep breaths, dropping into your body. What are you feeling? And just kind of going from head to toe. What are you feeling, where are you feeling it, and just walking them through to just become more in touch. “Yeah, how am I feeling right now?” Not “How am I doing?” But “How am I feeling? How am I feeling in my body?” Also, as far as when there is really paying attention to your gut, the really practical stuff – how’s your digestion? Are you having bowel movements every day? – that’s really practical stuff. But there’s also what else could this… if you are experiencing physical symptoms, it’s again just a reminder that your body is calling you to pay attention to her. Like what is this about? It could be something in your diet, or it could be about you are really holding on to some tension around a relationship or around your work. Or because you are not following or pursuing something that is really calling you out of fear. It’s really about this conversation with women to honor your body and honor those physical symptoms as a way of your body communicating with you.
Dr. Barb: Was there a particular event that gave you clarity, a vision or confidence in taking charge of your own life and health?
Angelle: I would say it was most definitely a series of events. I would say a couple of things. I talked a little bit about the PMS subsiding when I started nourishing myself differently. When I experienced the intense depression when I was around 30, I was teaching at the time. Everyone on the outside sort of thought I was doing fine and I had it all together and all of that. Very few people knew what I was experiencing, and I ended up taking a leave from my work because of the depression and spent some time at the hospital. It was after that that I really realized that going down that conventional path plus medication helps me – temporarily. I just felt called to get to the root of what was going on for myself. That’s what kind of happened that led me down this path to how to better nourish myself. But also to learn how to align myself with practitioners that were like-minded. This is what I like to talk to women about. You know I believe that there’s definitely a place for conventional medicine when needed. I also believe though that if you are truly wanting to enhance your health, if you are wanting to step into – well at any age, really, but definitely as going through perimenopause – it’s really important to find practitioners that are health-minded and that are going to support your desire to flourish. That takes effort and energy to find those people sometimes. I have a team. I have a medical doctor, I have a chiropractor, I have somebody I work with who does reiki and energy medicine and massage. So finding practitioners like yourself who are health-minded. For me, it really came out of that experience of depression. And then it’s been experiences along the way. Even a year and a half ago, I was struggling with some chronic stomach issues, just like discomfort. What I learned was that it was related to… it was emotional. It was an emotional situation, relationship related. When I resolved that, which I had been avoiding doing because it was going to be difficult and a series of difficult conversations, it was so fascinating. I still get fascinated by it even though I’ve experienced it multiple times, and the chronic stomach issues resolved. So it’s been a series of things along the way.
Dr. Barb: I think you highlight important things about just the importance of self-care. And I think it’s easy to just follow the path of least resistance and continue in the rut of your habits, of which many are unhealthy, and pivoting away from those can take an enormous amount of energy and intention and planning. For many women, they just don’t put in the investment because they don’t understand the potential benefits that they might gain. It’s helpful to hear you kind of underscore the importance of all of those areas for women and their families. Because their families tend to flourish more when they are feeling better.
Angelle: So true! I love hearing women – we have a private Facebook community when we are coaching women in Reset – and I love hearing women, you know moms with kids at home – they say, “Mom, you’re not yelling as much!” [laughs] “You are more patient.” And that happens very frequently. It’s so true that women, at whatever stage of life, the way we nourish ourselves and take care of ourselves has this great ripple effect. If we are investing and living intentional about nourishment and self-care, the ripple effect is so beautiful with our families, in our community, and our work. We can just show up more powerfully in our lives which is my wish for all women is to be able to show up powerfully in your life so that you can be that healthiest, strongest version of yourself.
Dr. Barb: In conclusion today, can you share where you find fullness in this stage of your life?
Angelle: Yes. At this stage in my life I find fullness in being present in my life. So being present with my family and those relationships – I have three teenagers so I’m sort of at the end of that act of parenting phase. My daughter, my oldest, is heading off to college next year – I really find fullness in relationships. I’ve also learned over the years that means really being present and showing up and enjoying those relationships. I just come back to presence. Nature, I love nature. I love walking. I love hiking. I love the stillness. I love the activity. It brings me into that present moment. That’s what matters for me, whether I’m eating, whether I’m playing, whether I’m working is using my breath, using my senses and being present. That’s when I really feel satisfied and full in the best possible way.
Dr. Barb: Well thanks for sharing that. Can you share with the listeners where to find out more about the programs you have to offer?
Angelle: I would love to. Thank you so much. You can find out more about myself and Jill Tanis, and our work with women over at NourishtoFlourishSociety.com. We have a couple of programs that we use as our foundational program for women. We are also on Facebook and Instagram at the Nourish to Flourish Society.
Dr. Barb: Thanks again for your time today.
Angelle: Thanks so much for having me. I enjoyed it.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.