What happens when we strip away the buzziness of wellness trends and the business of conventional modern living? We find beautiful ways to enhance our natural rhythm, and with any luck, it’s as graceful and dreamy as that of ageless Australian model and mother of three, Abigail O’Neill.
Abigail’s hardcore holistic approach to wellness is incredibly inspiring. The Aussie mama — an author, model and raw chocolate obsessee — is truly living her best life, embracing a mostly raw vegan lifestyle, nourishing herself with sunshine, spring water, fresh air, and pure faith in the power of plants.
Just reading through Abigail’s interview below gives us inspiration to live closer to nature and to up our self-care game on this level. Not all of us can live so close to the earth or model for a living, but Abigail’s perspective on self-care opens up our hearts to take better care of ourselves. Keep reading for some serious wellness inspiration, from homemade alkalizing tonics to waterfall plunges and plenty of vitamin sunshine…
For decades I’ve begun my waking day with warm lemon water, just like my grandmother used to do in the island of Madeira. My Portuguese mother taught me this little healthy tip well before it was trending, and as we know it really works to detoxify the liver and provide a gentle flush the body for the new day. Sometimes I’ll even add a pinch of Celtic salt, I read that this helps to hydrate the body deeply at a cellular level.
Breakfast is usually fresh fruit in season. At the moment I’m loving freshly plucked passionfruit from our vines, citrus of all kinds from the garden, local raspberries, custard apples and dragonfruit. Sometimes I’ll have a spoonful of coconut kefir or yogurt with my fruit for probiotic goodness.
I love to supplement my diet with a nutritious, alkalizing, all organic, homemade, green, anti-inflammatory medicinal powder which sits on my benchtop in a large dark glass jar ready for the morning. I make it myself from barley grass powder, curcumin (the potent part extracted from turmeric), medicinal mushrooms (immune boosting, adrenal support) and blue spirulina (phycocyanin for extra antioxidants). Sometimes I’ll add horsetail (herb, silica) to the batch and occasionally diatomaceous earth or French green clay (detoxification). I pop in any other superfood powders I feel like I might need at the time.
I do really love to prepare a fresh green juice in the morning, but this powder is my lifesaver when I’m busy with work or even lazy, and if you create your own you can always amp it up to suit your needs. It’s so much cheaper to make than those exotic, labeled brands. Sometimes I’ll have a piece of my homemade 100% organic rye sourdough toast with sauerkraut, piles of greens from my garden, avocado and olives, especially if I know I have a big day at work ahead.
After half a lifetime practicing and hoping to make perfect, I do feel that the greatest thing I’ve learned is to let go of any set rigidity — no matter how righteous it may seem — one must ever be prepared to adapt any kind of diet for one’s health.
Most people know me to be very much into my mostly raw food, vegan lifestyle and this won’t change. It’s my default diet that I know really works to make me feel my most vibrant and well. I’ve practiced it for decades. Although I’ve learned by much experience that it’s not always healthy to be rigid. I try to add more balancing, cooked foods like beans, vegetables and whole grains in winter than I do in the warmer months. If I notice I haven’t been consuming enough minerals, vitamins, protein from vegan sources, I may even decide to do a stint of three weeks or even up to six months adding in softly poached eggs two times weekly, perhaps a little soft goat cheese on my salads.
I’ve shared much over the years about how I love to juice fast. Generally I’ll do this two to four times per year from a few days up to a week. But if I feel that I’m on the thin side, or that my hormones are not feeling balanced, I may skip this ritual in exchange for a more gentle — yet still detoxifying — diet. I’ll include even more greens than usual, more probiotic rich foods, vegetable juices, soups, broths and rice salads that I make with an abundance of fresh herbs from my garden, with the goodness of healing fats like flax seeds and avocado. It’s pretty much the way I live anyway, but we can all get too busy — sometimes all we need is a little more intention and positive attention! I’ll take more rest, sunshine, stretching and remember to be mindful to let go of stress.
I’m 44 and am aware that my body is transitioning into a new phase, and I’m listening to that. This is the kind of health wisdom that — if you’re intuitive — you learn with life and the beauty of age. I strongly believe in the power of fruits, vegetables, pure water, fresh air, rest, sunshine, trust and medicinal herbs to heal, alkalize and rejuvenate the vital life forces within each cell of the human body.
My above mentioned homemade green superfood powder. Also on my supplement shelf: spirulina and chlorella tablets, maca, hemp seed protein, cayenne, turmeric and bee pollen. Actually I’m quite minimal on ‘supplements’ as I prefer to gain what is needed for my body where possible from nature’s abundance of unprocessed foods. Lots of fresh herbs, probiotics, mineral rich seaweeds and herbal teas or tonics where needed, and herbal powders. I’m always very interested in discovering new, plant based, potent, unrefined supplements of the superfood kind, things like grape skin and seeds powder, and moringa leaf.
Can't live without:
Hydrotherapy! It’s my salvation every day. I usually enjoy water therapy twice a day, morning and evening. I also love time spent jumping from waterfalls, swimming or surfing in the ocean. I’m blessed to have recently been spoiled with a beautiful new home day spa with my very own steam room and magnesium plunge pool. It’s so beautiful that I actually feel like I’m at a resort in Bali whenever I use it.
Before this, since I was just 14 until now (30 years in fact), I’ve used a plain and simple bathtub or shower to create a revitalizing home day spa experience. It’s as simple as doing three minutes of hot (very warm), followed by 30 seconds of cold (or even tepid, for those new to hydrotherapy). If you have access to plenty of water (I have rainwater at home), you can repeat this easy process three times, finishing with cold and rubbing yourself all over briskly with a crispy towel. It feels so amazing!
I love to moisturize my whole body with raw organic coconut oil afterwards. Always balance the body by putting on warm clothing afterwards and if required, the blood sugar by taking a teaspoon full of raw honey. In the bath, I love to add all kinds of salts, Epsom (magnesium), seaweeds, Celtic salt, bi-carb of soda, essential oils and various clay powders. It’s just endless what you can do! In my book I have a divine cacao bath salts recipe, which uses cacao butter, mint and lavender. It’s so soothing and embalming to the body, I love it!
Once I week for my heath I:
Oh dear! I may need to answer this one as to the many things I love, but haven’t been doing. Lately I’ve been so much busier with work and life. We’re only human after all. Our many distractions (even of good things) can take us away from our own hourly, daily and weekly needs so easily. Dreams, work, commitments, social media, even the special people we care so much about can use up every last moment of our time. Stress or grief can weigh us down so that we forget to desire to care for our minds and bodies as we should.
This question has made me realize that I really must do again a weekly yoga class that’s intense or fun such as bikram or aerial yoga. Also, remember the power of prayer in my life, book a massage or even just remember to dance through my organic garden (not just weed it and prune it), hug and climb my rainforest trees barefooted, have a heart full of gratitude and lie down (grounding) outside in my small blueberry grove watching the clouds float on by. Oh my! I actually need this now!
On my property I have a flight of 44 stairs going up our small acreage hill to a new banana plantation I recently put in. I’ve been climbing them twenty times for a nice brisk workout followed by a salty body scrub, steam in my new spa and cold plunge. Feels so amazing! I also love to surf on my 9’4″ longboard when I can, practice yoga and take long mountain walks in the rainforest. Leaping from waterfalls (up to 12 meters) is something I’ve learned more recently.
After the loss of my sister four years ago and sweet mumma only two years ago, I became utterly obsessed with jumping off precipices and swimming in the icy pools at the bottom before cliff climbing up again to the top just to leap again. I’d even go to plunge like this during winter, timing it with the full moon, many months in a row. It was a strange healing journey of cold, black and cinematic darkness that seemed to soothe my grieving heart. My family (my grown-up kids: 25, 23, 20 now, and husband of 28 years) and I loved these adventures! The boys would light a fire under the stars, I’d bring hot cacao to warm us, blankets to sit on and find the glow worms to be discovered in the caves beneath the waterfall.
Best healthy food option on-the-go:
An abundance of all organic in-season fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Black tahini and plump organic Medjool dates. Avocados with my raw seed crackers and quality (raw, local as possible) olives, hummus, sunflower sprouts. Coconut water packed in glass. Delicious seaweed chippies that I make from nori sheets cut into pieces and sprinkled with any herbs and spices I feel like at the time, Celtic salt and drizzled with a few drops of organic cold-pressed sesame oil (to make the spices stick). I take these on planes and always have them on shoots — they’re really balancing, especially because when I travel I tend to eat less, so nutrient dense lightweight foods are wonderful along with my fruit and vegetable snacks. Goji berries and raw cacao beans are great, too!
Staples always in my medicine cabinet or on my vanity:
In my medicine cabinet there’s various options for ailments such as turmeric powder, colloidal silver, golden seal tincture, essential oils, those green powders I make which double as excellent alkaline immune boosting shots for sick boys, olive leaf, bee pollen, my homegrown and gathered raw honey from our bees, fresh pine needles and ginger from the garden…to name a few! On my vanity is squalene (or cold-pressed organic rose hip) oil for my face, plus my favorite pure essential oils of frankincense and myrrh. I use these whenever I remember. I also love fresh aloe vera gel from the garden to alternate with my various face oils.
At least once a week I cook:
Uncook – a great big stash of my delicious raw chocolate, of course! I always make it from scratch, RSF, DF, GF as shown in the countless recipes in my book MODEL CHOCOLATE and on my website. It’s rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals, and so satisfying. I never want for any unhealthy snacks as my body feels so nourished! I also love to bake my own sourdough bread, as I have since I was only 14, a few times a week and cook almost every imaginable vegan or vegetarian multicultural meal for my very hungry still-living-at-home young men (and hubby) most nights!
If I could give just one piece of health advice it would be:
This is really difficult as our bodies are so wholly integrated and every aspect of our lifestyle is so important for achieving optimum health that lasts a lifetime. I can sum up my health philosophy in eight simple yet highly effective health ‘laws’ that you can easily remember by taking the first letter of each one to make the phrase ‘NEW START’. Each letter stands for a health ‘law’, and they’re worth keeping! I learned these basic health rules when I was only a child and they’ve really stuck.
If ever my health is out of balance, I look to address any one of these ‘nature’s doctors’ or ‘laws’ that I may have neglected with excellent results. They’re also often referred to as the ‘8 Laws of Health’. They are: Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest and, last but not least, Trust.
Current reading list:
I’ve just read through the Medical Medium series because I’ve always been passionate about the common yet powerful foods that he highlights so simply and wonderfully in his books. It makes me beyond happy to see how many people are catching on to the healing power of fruits and vegetables worldwide, on such a viral scale. It’s the health stuff that I’ve been into from so very young (like green juice, etc.) and back then I was so uncool for it!
Another one I’ve just read is supermodel Gisele’s book, Life Lessons, as I’ve always been interested in models and their stories.
Super Immunity is probably the closest health book I’ve bought recently that aligns with how I personally like to eat.
Just for fun I enjoy browsing any current or vintage high fashion magazines. I also still always love re-reading about cleansing, detoxing, fasting for health and beauty. Some of the old favorites on my shelf are are by Dr. Paavo Airola, Jethro Kloss, Anne Wigmore, David Wolfe. I actually really need to go buy some more right now — one can never get enough health books!
Ingredients in products I always avoid:
I avoid all flavorings, even so called natural flavorings, no matter how fancy the superfood product may seem. One such flavoring actually comes from a beaver’s bottom! Yuck.
I only wear essential oils as my perfume. My home contains very limited cleaning products and personal products. I avoid refined (white, de-natured) foods. Heated oils internally and externally. My food and face oils are always cold pressed and organic. Anything that has a number in the ingredient list or that I can’t pronounce. I avoid things packaged in plastic as much as possible. I like to stay away from any packaged foods generally. The nutrient density of a meal is so much higher when the food is prepared from scratch using raw, organic or homegrown ingredients. I like to buy bulk produce from local farmers markets, organic, unprocessed, and health food stores. I won’t use ultra heat treated milks, I like making my own raw milks from nuts and seeds. If I had to choose I’d rather purchase antioxidant rich organic wild blueberries to eat any day than apply an expensive face cream. Your skin, body, life and health depend on what you place on the inside!
Crazy health idea that actually works:
If I have an important shoot coming up, and have been over working, not exercising enough, or not quite on par with my nature rich lifestyle (at my age I can’t just depend on collagen plump cells to buoy up my face and keep my body toned like I did when I was younger) I’ll employ an early night, good dose of hydrotherapy (in the form of hot and cold baths/showers/or steam/plunge), sunlight, raw antioxidant rich foods, raw honey face masks (sometimes I add raw cacao) followed by fresh aloe vera gel and organic cold-pressed rose hip oil, salty all over body scrubs and extra hydration to fix me, fast! Truly. It works every time.
Always in my travel gear:
Organic cold-pressed coconut oil for my body that can also be used on my face (I do hot and cold hydrotherapy in hotels and then slather myself all over with the oil before bed), charcoal toothpaste, a tongue scraper, essential oils of peppermint (I drop it onto my tongue for freshness, it also clears the head) and frankincense (for my face – use with a carrier oil like rose hip), geranium, rosemary, pine needle or any other essential oils I feel like for perfume and to uplift my senses, incaberries for fibre and antioxidants, organic apples, carrots and green beans, my seaweed chips, dried olives, white tea bags (I ask for hot water on planes), keep cup, keep bottle filled with alkaline water and some kind of green supplement I can pop like chlorella or spirulina tablets, bee pollen. Once I arrive at my destination it’s easy to go hunting for raw fruit and vegetables, and replenish diminished superfood snacks again.
I don’t have cheat days. Ever. I’m not an 80/20 kind of girl. I don’t crave unhealthy foods as I’ve lived this way so long I find them distasteful. Any kind of processed food ruins my lovely feeling of pure satiation.
Simplest way to improve health:
Start by adding in a few good things to your day and life. Maybe a gentle walk, some sunshine daily, fresh air, lemon water before breakfast, more organic fresh fruit and vegetables, sunshine, deep breathing, early nights. Wear natural fibers. Leave your skin make-up free as often as you can. Make sure your eliminatory organs (skin, liver, kidneys, bowels, lungs) are working daily.
These positive choices only get easier and better because after they do the work of detoxifying the body, wellness begins to feel so nice — it becomes addictive. Natural highs all round! Before long you’ll be craving more and more life enhancing goodness and less toxic, aging and life-force diminishing badness. It’s never too late to create your new body.
Stress is one of the biggest health destroyers as we go through life. I’m understanding more than ever how much I need to make a conscious effort daily to let go of the things I cannot change, especially for those I love and care about, choose to take back more moments for myself and practice embracing the inner peace I need so desperately to stay well, relevant and inspirational to my family and community.
Go-to juice or smoothie:
I use anything in season and organic to create the most delicious juices and smoothies. The closer your ingredients are to being freshly picked the more satisfying your smoothies and juices will be. I add herbs from the garden, aloe vera gel, superfoods like gojis, raw cacao, moringa powder, bee pollen, maca or hemp seeds to the mix.
My main go-to smoothie base is berries for the antioxidant content. Strawberries, cherry guava and passionfruit are beyond divine in winter, while fresh squeezed citrus juices, mint or vanilla are amazing with summer melon juices.
Favorite healthy getaway:
Anywhere that’s tropical surrounded by lush rainforest or the sea! I love to immerse myself in nature’s mineral rich water as much as possible, indulge in massages, saturate myself with raw organic foods, take sunshine and rest to the max and rejuvenate my mind by getting away from technology, read (paper, printed) books, stretch and walk up to 8kms per day.
One of the best holidays I ever took was last year alone with my daughter Charlotte (25), in Ubud, Bali. We drank freshly plucked coconut water all day long for five days, ate mostly raw, in season, locally grown food, visited the temples, waterfalls and jungles, walking everywhere in our sarongs. I had one of the happiest moments of my life discovering raw cacao trees filled with pods, growing freely along the pathways. The resort where we stayed at also had the most wonderful steam rooms and invigorating icy cold plunge pool, the pool being set to almost that of a ‘cryotherapy’ tub temperature, it was so freezing and good! I would repeat that exact holiday again.
My current mantra:
Every day we have breath is the most wonderful gift. With good health of mind/body/soul, we can do almost anything! There is such power in this. I choose today to live my life kindly, lovingly and sustainably, for those most precious to me, and for myself, and thankful always to my Creator and for this wild beautiful Mother Earth.