It’s a wet and bitterly cold Monday in December and we’re cosied up in Xochi Balfour’s Walthamstow home. Whilst she potters around the kitchen making rooibos tea, we’re admiring her trinket-filled living space - think hand-painted ceramics, tapestries, pebbles and feathers placed in second hand pots.
If a home is designed to be a reflection of the individual living inside it, then Xochi’s couldn’t be more fitting. Eclectic, spiritual and full of charm, Xochi is a nutritional therapist, holistic wellness guide and the brains behind her popular blog, The Naturalista. She’s cultivated a legion of fans who practice what she preaches. In fact, last year saw the release of her first book - a collection of nourishing recipes, beauty concoctions and tips for slowing down and listening to your body.
And although Xochi has sung the praises of “slow living” before, it seems that nowadays the concept has never been so important.
“It’s such a magically weird thing for your body to go through. And you feel so open and vulnerable sometimes” says Xochi. She’s talking about her growing baby bump - Xochi is 8 months pregnant and like most first-time mums, is still getting to grips with the external and internal changes pregnancy brings about.
“I feel relaxed and pregnancy has been really healing” she tells us, “In my first trimester I was definitely purging a lot of really intense fears and emotions. A lot of stuff was being let go of to make space for this new life. You have to step up - both to be responsible and to be a mum. It’s a big deal. I don’t know if society makes enough space for that.”
Kitted out in a pair of baby-friendly JoJo Maman Bébé dungarees and a bell-sleeved shirt, Xochi seems to be fully embracing her new role as a bohemian mama. She shares her home with her husband Ben, a biodynamic psychotherapist in training which Xochi tells us is about “fusing body work and psychotherapy to do trauma healing.” Impressive stuff.
The pair began their journey into the world of food and wellness after quitting their day jobs back in 2011. They did what many dream of doing - ditching the 9-5, buying a 1948 Ford pickup truck and selling healthy gyoza dumplings and Asian salads at street food markets and festivals all over the country. Their business, Rainbo, also had a social cause, with 20p of every sale going to a child labour charity based in Nepal.
But last year, the couple chose to sell the business: “We would just come home at 2am and drink wine and get up and make coffee and eat brownies. I just completely collapsed” she explains, “So then I did a nutrition course and was suddenly like ‘Ahh, okay’. It’s like we were putting diesel in a petrol car. So then I started blogging and everything else came from there really.”
However, the end of one part of their lives signalled in a whole new uncharted chapter - Xochi found out she was pregnant after her last ever shift at Rainbo, telling us that “It was quite symbolic. I feel like he must have been waiting to come.”
Since that moment, 2am finishes have been a thing of the past and Xochi has been focusing her time on self-care, all-important nesting (“I’ve never known this desire to nest. It’s completely bizarre but I love it”) and generally prepping for baby’s arrival.
Working from home and seeing clients at Holistic Health on Broadway Market a couple of times a week, Xochi has been able to keep balanced during pregnancy. For her, that means some gentle yoga (“although it’s getting harder”), swimming and plenty of walking - as much of it as possible in the Dorset countryside where her and her husband spend a lot of their weekends.
You don’t have to be around Xochi long to understand how in tune she is with herself and her body - and what an important factor this is in her life, particularly whilst pregnant. If she feels the urge for an afternoon nap, she’ll curl up and get on with it. Likewise, when London starts to get too hectic for her, it’s off to see family in the countryside for plenty of TLC and long walks.
“Pregnancy gives you amazingly heightened sensitivity. It’s a gift to listen to” she says, “For a while I actually felt sick when I looked at a screen - I couldn’t write blog posts or do Instagram.”
You also don’t need to be around Xochi long to realise that writing is her outlet - whether it’s a recipe for blueberry and quinoa muffins or a guide to giving up shampoo (using rye flour as a substitute, if you’re interested), words come naturally to her. Her blog, The Naturalista, originally started life as a way for Xochi to detail her journey into nutrition. It’s evolved to become an online wellbeing destination that covers food, beauty, mindfulness and travel - and, not forgetting, a published book.
It’s no surprise then that Xochi is approaching impending motherhood in a similarly holistic manner. When deciding on a birthing partner, she naturally leaned on a close friend and one of her first ever yoga teachers.
“We’re just really good friends” says Xochi, “She does massage therapy and is just a real earth mama. But she was saying that she would be there with us and I just couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather have. It’s nice to be able to have someone to answer questions for you - and she’s amazing with treating my back too.”
Although she assures us that she’s had more than a few moments of internal anxiety so far during pregnancy, Xochi (to us) is a picture of calmness and positivity. She’s aware that having a baby throws out all sorts of variables - of course, you can plan to do things a certain way but the reality is so often very different. She tells us that she’d love to breastfeed, but “you just never know” she says - and we can’t help but admire her ‘take it as it comes’ attitude.
One thing Xochi has been practising is hypnobirthing: “Me and Ben have done all the hypnobirthing together, he’s been so supportive” she explains, “I’ve always looked for a bit of equality in whatever we’re up to. We share the cooking, we share the birth reading - the only thing he can’t do is have the baby for me!” Xochi jokes.
There are also plans in the pipeline to move to the countryside. London, she so often finds, isn’t good for her, and with a baby boy on the way things have only become clearer.
“We’ve got to the point where the pace, pollution and noise is incessant. The more we dive into wellness and meditation, it’s so clear that we need to live amongst nature and it’s what we’re built for.”
However until then, Xochi still has her own rituals to counteract the city chaos. Mornings generally start with a rooibos tea and 20 minutes of Vedic meditation. Porridge, a smoothie and maybe some toast too are her go-to pregnancy breakfast at the moment and after emails have been caught up on, Xochi spends her afternoons getting a little more creative with content for her blog.
Being part of such a growing community (both online and off), Xochi has been inundated with help and tips since becoming pregnant for the first time. Her advice? “Get selective in what you listen to” she says, “Everyone loves drama and negative stories. For me, pregnancy has been an amazing exercise in boundaries. I have these boundaries which I never really knew existed. Instead of people pleasing, I’m like ‘No, I don’t want to hear that’.”
It’s a healthy, grounded approach to life that Xochi will no doubt pass down to her family - “I’m having a boy and obviously the world is in need of aware and conscious males. I just want him to live as authentically as possible and to take each day as it comes” she says.
It’s not easy to tear ourselves away from her cosy little urban cottage and back out into the cold, but it’s nap time for Xochi and time for us to leave her in peace and enjoy these final last weeks. In a world that’s so hectic, Xochi serves as a reminder of the importance of reflection, recuperation and never ignoring your inner self. And with motherhood beckoning, we can’t think of a better way to navigate a new, exciting chapter than with an attitude like Xochi’s.
Xochi’s pregnancy recommendations
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England
Mama, Bare: The Birth Of Mother by Kristen Hedges
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
The First Forty Days by Heng Ou
JoJo Maman Bébé dungarees - they’re a great investment as they can expand with your tummy! I tried so hard to find sustainable maternity jeans or trousers but it’s a total wild goose chase. So invest wisely in one good thing and lighten your footprint that way. Also floaty vintage dresses, my husband’s T shirts and giant sweaters!
Aveda pregnancy massage
NHR organic pregnancy oil
Tisserand essential oils
Lucy Annabella bath milk
Pai Skincare Chamomile & Rosehip Calming Day Cream
Wild Nutrition pregnancy supplement
Loads of ginger steeped in boiling water, all day everyday
Homemade dark chocolate!
Organyc panty liners
Prenatal yoga with Yolanda at East of Eden in Walthamstow
Hypnobirthing with Kat Berry at the Well Garden
For the arrival:
Words: Lucy Vincent
Images: Jessica Maccormick for Glasshouse Journal