ICON: Thorbjorg Hafsteindottir
EXPERTISE: Nutrition, Fitness, Longevity
AUTHOR: ’10 Years younger, in 10 Weeks (Your Best Self).’
PROFILE: Thorborg is Scandinavia’s anti-age queen and has reached cult status with her natural and empowering approach to aging. She is a trained nurse, nutritional therapist and certified health coach with 25 years of experience in nutrition therapy. Focused on behavioral and integrative lifestyle changes, her work specializes in sugar addiction, obesity, diabetes, women’s health, healthy pregnancy, healthy children and especially anti-aging.
IDEALS: “Just because you’re technically getting older doesn’t mean you have to feel that way. Women are beautiful, inside and out, regardless of their age.” ~Thorbjorg
Welcome Thorbjorg to World Wise Beauty. I truly feel ‘World Wise’ talking with a beautiful woman about ideal wellness who lives across the globe in Iceland and Denmark! You are originally from Iceland and now currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark. Denmark is the home of the happiest people on earth according to many research studies! I have to say, having visited a few times for work, the Danes are lovely people, and the word that comes to mind for me when I think of the Danish is ‘relaxed’. But I admit you are my first real encounter with an Icelander!
For many of my American readers, you are more than likely just learning about Thorbjorg but she is quite a celebrity in Scandinavia and has an almost cult like following. She is considered the ‘Anti-Age’ queen and I guess we could compare her a little to Suzanne Summers here in the states. In fact Thorbjorg recommends one of Suzanne’s books in her book. What they both believe passionately is you should not have to grow old, weak, and sick just because you are getting older. On the contrary you can live a very active life full of vitality if you treat your body, mind and spirit well!
Thorbjorg, I will be honest with you. When I saw the title of your book ‘10 Years Younger in 10 Weeks’ (Your Best Self) I thought ‘oh here we go again–another diet book perhaps selling miracle potions!’ After reading your book and learning more about your story I must say ‘don’t judge a book by its title!’! But in your case definitely by its picture! It was refreshing to find that your book is no gimmick, but rather a practical and comprehensive longevity program, that would normally cost thousands of dollars if you went to a wellness retreat or center. What I love about it is you look at women holistically and your prescriptions for looking younger are all related to nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyle. It won’t be a spoiler alert for the readers to know your program is no easy peasy but totally achievable if you commit to revitalizing your habits and mindset.
Lauroly Q- So to begin, Thorbjorg you’re 54 years YOUNG, mother of three and most people think you are at least 15 years younger! Just look at your book cover! Wow! What is even more interesting is you worked as a nurse for some years. Is that when you were addicted to sugar? Let’s start by telling us what the catalyst was that sent you on your wellness journey. Did you suddenly turn yourself around or was it a gradual step by step process? I love how you tell us how wonderful you currently feel and how you plan on feeling this way well into your advancing age. I’m with you and sign me up!
Thorbjörg: Thank you Laura for your kind words and great welcome greetings. I am honored to be here and thank you for the opportunity to be here with you. What a blessing! I have a slight correction. I did not work as a nurse for very long. In fact you can count the time working in the white uniform in hours only! My focus was always on health and nutrition, and I thought obtaining a nurse’s education would facilitate my work, so that is what I did. And I have never regretted it.
I learned how the body works; anatomy, biochemistry and physiology and the experience working with patients was very helpful. I was the oldest in class and a rebel I guess. I remember having strong opinions about several things regarding treatment and the food of course. Didn’t see much ‘healing’ and nourishing food around the hospitals in those days. But nevertheless I left school with the highest score and three years later I finished my degree as a nutritional therapist at Institute for Optimum Nutrition. I have been my own boss in my own company ever since.
I have been sugar addict ever since I was a little girl caused by several circumstances. When I was 23, expecting my first girl, I sort of woke up from my sugar blues thinking that this wasn’t fair. I no longer wanted to hurt my own body and jeopardize the chances of giving birth to a healthy strong girl. So I quit! In a sober moment I found the energy and the will power to change my sugar habits. I’m not lying to you! I remember it was very hard and there were times I felt like I was going crazy! I needed my fix! But eventually I felt much better, the less sugar chews in my brain the more clarity I had. With a clear mind it is much easier to make good choices. It took me some years to find out what made me mind fogged, miserable, depressed and bloated. I was still eating starch from bread which is basically the same as added sugar. I eventually cut out all sugar and I also cut the gluten. Amazingly my joint pain vanished. My journey towards optimum health and sobriety took some years and I learned so much about food, the human body, and most importantly my body! The more I took care of myself, the more resolved I became about what I wanted in my life. I wouldn’t have missed being a sugar addict for anything in the world! I use to congratulate my sugar trapped students for being exactly where they are, because their ‘life bliss’ was still yet to come. Quitting sugar, loving your body and taking control of your health is that kind of feeling.
Lauroly Q: Thank you for being so honest. Many people don’t even realize they are ‘sugar addicts’ and just don’t make the connection. Your experience as a nutritionist definitely contributes to your 10 week plan and I love all the medical tests you include in the book and on the ‘Pine Tribe’ (your Publisher) website. These tests would be exactly what a wellness retreat or wellness center might have you take when participating in a wellness program. I know because I was formerly Marketing Director for one of the leading longevity centers in the country here in NJ. When you create wellness programs for people you have to consider that every person has their own unique bio-individuality. How did you come up with your three different fitness types? Each type has a different temperament and requires different wellness rituals. Tell us more…
For years I have been blessed with the opportunity to know beautiful women, in all shapes and sizes, visiting me in my private clinic, attending my lectures, and they all have been my grand teachers. By listening to their stories, how they feel and what they eat and at the same time observing how they look, talk, behave and the color and texture of their skin well, I got to know them pretty good.
I began to see a pattern of similarities in behavior, body shape, health condition and symptoms. For example, I often see rather skinny or not overweight women, full of high energy, ambitious, often hard cardio trainers, seeking stressful things, drinking a lot of coffee and on the go. So I named those types “To Go”. They are adrenalin, cortisol dominated women with physical and mental symptoms that reflect this kind of control or lack of it! Ha ha 🙂 Well I’m one of them. Typically this type can send their immune system into overdrive and all kinds of symptoms will confirm this. Rashes, dry skin tendency to wrinkle, besnier’s prurigo, sleep disorder, digestion problems, joint problems and sugar cravings are all the body’s way of saying I am out of balance.
Then the type which appears to be the opposite has slow metabolism, slow digestion, low energy, tendency toward depression, overweight, especially around the stomach and hips, and dominated by hyper thyroid function. This type is more into hot chocolate with cream and she will ‘stay’ while enjoying it. She is my second ‘To Stay’ type. The third type is yo- yoing between the two; a metabolic dysfunctional type feeling up and down. All of the types have a challenge to deal with, and the journey to balance is a bit different in terms of the type of food and exercise they choose. The ‘Adrenal type’ needs to calm down and take it more easy. She can learn from her calmer chocolate drinking sister! Each type can actually learn from each other. It’s finding the balance for your type. This is not bulletproof science but my observations are based on experience, knowledge and wisdom.
Lauroly Q- I love the quote from your book “your second youth begins in your fridge” because you really believe the secret to staying youthful is the fuel we give to our bodies. I like your book in particular because it offers a little ‘tough love’ and confronts ‘truths’ which maybe too many experts dance around. Each of us is ultimately responsible for our own wellness. I would add that sometimes no matter healthy we are, things can happen due to no fault of our own. Yet, many ‘old’ ailments that many have succumbed to can be avoided. There is a heading before one of your tests in the book that says ‘what you eat can be seen and felt’. How true that is. You really crystallize the whole aging concept when you focus on ‘Chronological age’ vs ‘Biological age. Some people at the age of twenty already have the body of a 40-year-old and some people at age 85 feel like they are 60! Isn’t that something! You spend a lot of time talking about sugar and are pretty strict in your program about not having it. Why is it so bad and why do we have to be extreme about not having it all?
First I want to make it clear that I really believe that we are responsible for our own life and health. Every bit of junk food and every sip of sugary sodas, the hours you’re not sleeping while you should be in and all the times you bailed out of your exercise class or the walk you promised yourself. This is on you. That said I do not believe that all “bad things” are on us. Let’s talk about cancer, “the great white” in the sense of the fear many of us have for this condition, with good reason because cancer can indeed be very serious. And it strikes randomly or so it seems. Healthy lifestyle or not, it invades your body, your life and challenges you and your love ones. I have witnessed and worked with many women and men with different kind of cancers taking responsibility and it changed their life. They begin to take better care of themselves through food, exercise, mindfulness and love. It’s not coming from guilt and shame and the notion “I got cancer because I have been a bad girl and now I’m being punished”. No this is about facing facts and the using the healing power of taking action and stepping up for yourself. In some odd way, it can be a great and wonderful journey. And lifesaving! Why wait for a serious disease to improve your sense of well-being?
So why am I anti-sugar? Because getting rid of it, or most of it, is a part of being sober, feeling energized, focused, and awake. Getting rid of it can slow down inflammation in your body, and ward off serious conditions like type 2 and 3 diabetes, several types of cancer and heart problems. Also, sugar makes you old in a hurry and your skin wrinkled. If that is what you want you can keep it! But if you want something more out of your life, not just now, but in 10, 15 and 30 years from now, you want to quit sugar and all the products with added sugar and starches. And you find it everywhere! In all kind of products, including some that claim they are healthy just because they are organic or “natural”. Do not let them fool you. Read the labels!
Lauroly Q- I found this book to be one of the most comprehensive health books for women I have covered to date and it’s simply because you cover health, wellness and anti-aging from an integrative perspective and you practice what you preach. You spend a lot of time covering bio-chemistry in the book and really delve into the importance of managing stress and our hormones. This is such an important part of your program. Hormones can wreak havoc on your health and cause all kinds of imbalances in the body. But as you spell out on the book, if you are taking care of your ‘ total system’ hormones seem to have less impact on your overall health. What is the biggest misconception women have about their hormones?
I think many women have no clue how their hormones work, such as what estrogen does in the body and the importance of balanced progesterone and testosterone. They all effect your energy, balance, sex, weight, brain and skin. Also I find it disturbing that far too many women think pre-menopause and menopause is supposed to be about suffering. Some believe, the only thing to relieve the suffering is Hormone Replacement. Ok of course there will be changes in how you feel when your hormones change in production and the balance in ratio between them. It’s it natural to experience mild symptoms such as tiredness and hot flushes. But suffering for months and even years is not to be accepted. Eating authentic and real food that communicates with the body will allow menopause and the years to come to be the best time of your life. I believe you can be beautiful and a wise woman in balance with yourself. I’m still a rebel but in peace! A true Vitality Warrior! (the title of my next book!)
Lauroly Q- I am excited about your next book! I can’t let you leave us without asking you about ‘Cultural Diets’. The two big regions in the world who have gained most of the attention for their longevity diets are Japan and Greece. Suddenly in just the last year ‘Scandinavia’ has become the new ‘hot diet & region’ trending around the world! Did you start this trend with your book!? What do you think the magic is in the Scandinavian diet? For Greece it’s the oil, Japan it’s the fish and seaweed, and France it’s of course the wine. Is it the berries in Scandinavia? I simplify I know! But tell us what you think? I think every culture has its super-foods but it’s generally the overall ‘culture and lifestyle’ that contributes to longevity and centenarian status. Do you agree?
I do agree Laura. Every culture has its own super foods. And the Nordic food is very much about the food our grandparents ate for generations. Back to the basics so to speak. Wild blueberries and black berries, all kind of kale and root vegetables, wild salmon and fish, lamb game grass fed, butter and cream and the Icelandic skyr which is also is available in Whole Food Market in the states. And yes, I believe some of this is on me, since I have been talking and writing about eating real and local grown food for the last 25 years! This is superfood! So is turmeric, astaxanthin, spirulina, chocolate and goji berries, just to mention a few. When the food works with and supports the natural function of the body I’m all in. I want my food to support my hormones, bones, joints, brain, glutathione and serotonin production as well as nitric oxide. I eat food for this purpose, take supplements and patch meridian spots in my body to support my body and I eat smart dark chocolate with turmeric and camu camu every day.
Lauroly Closing: I am so honored to have spent this time with you Thorbjörg! You are an inspiration and I am thrilled to announce you are now officially my first 2015 WWB Icon! You are a WWB Icon because you share your wisdom and expertise and are totally committed to advancing wellness culture. Through your work, publishing projects and personal example you teach us how we can all celebrate ideals for wellness culture from the inside out. Bravo!
I am going to share this book with everyone I know! I encourage all my readers to visit your website and learn more about your 10 week program, then order the book as fast as you can, so you can get started with ‘REVITALIZING’! I hope you will visit us again and I invite you to come back as often as you like to share your wellness wisdom! P.S Keep on riding those bicycles! 😉
Thank you so much Laura. I’m so honored. It means a lot to me. My work is truly my passion. My mission is to help women revitalize and live long healthy lives. My purpose in life is to teach and inspire. Thank you for supporting me with my mission. I would love to come back. There is so much more to share. And yes! Biking is a part of my lifestyle in Copenhagen where I live most of the time. In Reykjavik, Iceland I have a bike too, but a bit more robust off roader. A true Viking needs a mountain bike! Ha ha ! 🙂