January 08, 2019
Living in the NSW Blue Mountains, I'm surrounded by people who love the outdoors, and nearly everyone you meet is a rock climber. But there are rock climbers and there are rock climbers, and Amanda Watts has got to be the most impressive female climber I've ever met, representing Australia in World Cups and competing at an elite level for over 20 years. Not only does she excel at this sport but she is also a nutritionist and dietitian, helping other sportspeople reach optimum results in their chosen field.
In this interview I asked Amanda about her climbing career, how the right kind of nutrition can change lives and what beauty means to her.
Q. Could you tell us how you got into rock climbing?
I was 17 and in my first year of Uni studying graphic design. A male friend of mine started going to the indoor climbing gym and had been talking about it non stop. He reluctantly took me with him, telling me I wouldn’t like it but I’ve never been one to take notice of boys in those situations. I absolutely loved it as it turned out and was hooked from day one and think I climbed nearly every day for the first 2 years of my climbing life. I moved to the Blue Mountains from WA for climbing when I was 20 and haven’t stopped climbing since.
Q. You run a thriving nutrition and dietetics practice in the Blue Mountains. Could you tell us about the importance of diet when it comes to living your best life?
The food we eat has an impact on both our physical and emotional states, so understanding food and eating well are essential. I think most of us can relate to that flat, spacey feeling of a sugar low or the button popping, lie on the floor and not move feeling induced by over eating. If you just look at the impact of those two examples on our mood and energy levels you can see the impact of diet. Then to expand things out, if you look at what we are learning about the gut microbiome and how we can impact our immune systems and our brains with the bacteria colonies in our digestive tract, diet is one of the first stops in living your best life. Food impacts and offers so much and can also be such a cause of heart ache and stress. I love working with people to make food and eating a positive and empowering thing for them to do, so they get to set up their best life.
Q. And how does nutrition and dietetics feed into rock climbing?
It underpins everything. At every level of climbing food has an impact. Whether you are climbing at an elite level or you just have a couple of climbing sessions a week for fun. What you eat determines how fast you recover, how much you gain or lose and how hard you can go in your sessions. It impacts your ability to concentrate, your immune function, energy levels, mood and long term health. It is very cool seeing how much impact a few simple diet changes can have on performance.
Q. I imagine your clients come to you for a variety of reasons, but all of them require some level of change. Stepping someone through dietary and lifestyle choices is one thing. How do you approach a change in their mental attitude?
Facilitating change for people is such a challenge and an art and everyone needs something different. I am so passionate about helping, educating and empowering people. I just want everyone I work with to have the best life they can. I think as humans we naturally like the comfort of the familiar, so to make big lifestyle and diet change can be pretty uncomfortable. My job is to make that feel easier, more comfortable and something exciting and empowering. When you can anchor people in to their big dream for their life and for themselves and help them find the steps toward that big dream, change is so much easier.
Q. You have a pretty unique experience of beauty with the different roles you play. I imagine in your role as a dietitian you work with people who struggle to feel beautiful and you work with them to find that beauty in themselves. And then there’s your role as an elite athlete in a predominantly male dominated sport and as a mother to your 5 year old daughter. When you bring these things together, what does beauty mean to you?
Beauty for me is authenticity and kindness. I think when you understand yourself and what lights you up in the world, when you are clear about what your core values are and you are living your life as aligned to these things as you can, that is where you find beauty. Authenticity is the X factor that people seek and it is something that everyone has if they choose to embrace who they truly are. It is so, so important to me that my daughter learns that beauty is about all of her, not just the way she looks. That the way she thinks, feels, expresses herself and treats people are so important and have such an impact on the world. For me someone like Turia Pitt is the poster girl for true beauty. The scars she has mean that her classic beauty has changed, but she has found her life purpose and is trail blazing with it, she has worked hard to be comfortable in her own skin and her beauty just shines through. It is incredibly inspiring.
Q. You’ve begun embracing natural and organic beauty in your skincare regime. What made you want to transition to this type of skincare?
I have noticed organic products for a while but I have always had such sensitive and reactive skin and my experience of trying anything new had been terrible. Red, stinging skin and difficulty working out what products were best or safest to try. So historically, it was always about finding a product I didn't react to and sicking to it, rather than seeking out an organic product. But the world is changing and I have a daughter who looks up to me to learn what is good for her. Our oceans are full of plastic, we are running out of room for all the stuff we have bought, that we don’t need and I wanted to step up and be more responsible for how I use our planet. The Clémence organics message and values resonated with me. The fact that its a local (Australian) owned and operated brand and the simplicity of the range made me take the leap. You answered all my questions and helped guide me through the transition to Clémence products and they work for my skin. So much so that my partner Tom is now also using them.
Q. What are some of your favourite beauty products and why?
In the Clémence organics range its the Refining Cleanser, the Tone + Hydrate Spritz and the Ultimate Face Cream. The Cleanser leaves my skin feeling clean but not stripped and dry (which was a welcome surprise), the Tone + Hydrate Spritz gives me a day spa feel when I get out of the shower and its so easy to use that I actually finally use a toner. The Cream just lasts so well - I wake up with my skin feeling moisturised and soft. When you spend days out in the elements climbing, it's excellent to find a product that actually helps counteract that. Outside of the Clémence range, I love a good mascara. It is the one bit of makeup that makes me feel good when I am living in active wear and spending most days covered in climbing chalk and sweat.
Q. Top beauty tip?
Love yourself as well as you can. To learn more about Amanda or to book an appointment, visit her website: http://nutritioncollective.com.au/thrive/