Name: Beth Greer
City: Mill Valley
Position: Healthy lifestyle guru
J.: You moved to the Bay Area 14 years ago from Queens, N.Y., to run the Learning Annex with your husband, but then you had a health scare that caused you to shift direction. Can you talk about that?
Beth Greer: I ended up having a drastic career change in 2002. When I turned 50, I discovered, to my shock, that I had a benign tumor the size of a tennis ball growing in my chest that caused me a lot of pain. After going to three top Bay Area surgeons, they all wanted to cut it out of me, but I knew I didn’t want surgery. Instead, I went into a meditative state and the word that came to me was “simplify.”
J.: What did you simplify, and how did it help?
BG: After thinking that I had been living a healthy lifestyle, I realized I was eating out a lot, eating processed foods and using the microwave to heat my food. So I decided to basically go on a juice cleanse with organic fruits and vegetables. Within three days, I noticed the pain had started to go away. It took six months of going natural and becoming healthier, and not only had the pain gone away, but the tumor had disappeared completely. It was such an eye-opening experience to realize that our bodies are self-healing.
J.: You’re known as “Super Natural Mom” and you wrote a 2008 book, “Super Natural Home,” about how to improve your health by eliminating products with toxins from your life. How can consumers be more aware of everyday toxins?
BG: The book is broken up into three sections: What products are going in us? What do we put on us? And what is around us? I show people the very simple switches they can do, and make them aware of how they are being exposed to things they may not be aware of. Very often people will read food labels, but not read labels on personal care products or makeup. These products are not regulated by the FDA, and manufacturers can put in pretty much anything they want.
J.: What surprised you most when you were writing your book?
BG: The [large] amount of toxins that are in our everyday products that consumers don’t even realize. When I first started this, I began looking at my own products and discovered ingredients in my deodorant and shampoo that were unpronounceable. I also started looking at what I was cleaning my home with and found out there’s a warning on bottles of Windex that caution that it’s hazardous to humans and domestic animals.
J.: What has changed since you first got into this line of work?
BG: I think there is more awareness about what we are putting on ourselves and what’s around us. When I first started giving talks, people were almost not open to looking at ingredients. Now people are coming around and seeing there are some great alternatives, such as skin care that does not contain toxic ingredients and beeswax candles.
J.: What’s the intersection of a healthy lifestyle and Judaism?
BG: When I was growing up, in our household, healthy food and exercise were important. In the Jewish tradition, we don’t eat pork because of trichinosis and/or shellfish because they are bottom feeders. It has always been engrained in me to focus on health. In my own way, my Jewishness is coming through to help people stay healthy.
How would you characterize your Judaism?
BG: I’m Jewish and go to High Holy Days services, but I don’t consider myself religious. I always have an annual seder because Passover is my favorite holiday. My husband and daughter and I belong to Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, but I personally relate more to the heritage of Judaism. I grew up watching my grandmother light the Shabbos candles, and that has stayed with me, but my parents were not observant. In fact, my father was an atheist who believed in nature.
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