Mom of 2 Amy Thompson Taylor, 46 of Matthews, and mom of 3 Niki Middleton Hitch, 38 of Matthews, started their health coaching business, Spunky Avocado, this Spring.
During their launch, they decided to post a family challenge, the Suburban Smackdown, a 7-month “emancipation of consumification” during which their families buy nothing new. The experience has been life changing not only for them, but for many other Charlotte families. Keep reading to see what their families have done and learned so far and how you can follow their lead!
Q. How did the two of you meet and develop a partnership?
A. We met through a “Healthy Child and Earth Committee” at our children’s school. From there we became friends, then classmates, and now business partners.
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Q. How did you get the idea for Spunky Avocado?
A. As Niki and I were ending our training as Holistic Health and Lifestyle coaches, we knew we wanted to work together because we share passions for a greener world as well as helping others live fully actualized and truly healthy lives. We tried to come up with a business name that suggested eco-consciousness” as well as vitality and that’s how Spunky Avocado was born.
Q. What all do you do?
A. Our personal desire to live simpler, greener, and healthier lives has compelled us to help others find their own paths to balanced and healthy minds, bodies, homes and spirits through a variety of coaching methods and support services.
Q. What types of packages do you offer?
A. We have both packages and a la carte services. Our packages are 6, 3 , and 1 month commitments where we work with individuals one-on-one and tailor our coaching to their personal needs and goals.
We also offer small group coaching if clients are more motivated in group situations. And our a la carte services can be a single coaching session, cooking classes, meal planning, pantry makeovers, or even grocery store shopping excursions where we help clients better understand the how’s and why’s of establishing informed and truly healthy shopping habits.
The majority of our coaching right now centers around helping people clean up their eating by providing a great deal of nutrition support and education.
Q. Why is eating organic just as important as eating healthy foods?
A. A study came out a few years ago (and who knows the motivation behind it) that proclaimed that organic food was not more nutritious than non-organic food. While I think those findings themselves are a bit dubious, I also think they completely missed the point.
Organics are most important because they aren’t doused in dangerous chemicals that poison our bodies. There are many “clean” produce items that you do not need to buy organically, but there are those that are so heavily contaminated with pesticides, that purchasing them organically is essential.
The Environmental Working Group provides The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list on their website: www.ewg.org. Niki and I firmly believe that the single most important decision we can make every day to influence our health outcomes is how we choose to nourish our bodies.
Q. What is your favorite meal?
A. Amy: Fish tacos, bar none. But I can do amazing things with sweet potatoes and avocados, too. :)
Niki : Breakfast! Refrigerator oatmeal in the summer and quinoa, eggs, edamame and avocado in the winter.
Q. How have you incorporated healthy living in with healthy eating?
A. Holistic lifestyle is about finding balance in mind, body, and soul. We feed our bodies with good, solid nutrition and plenty of body moving activity that we enjoy. We feed our brain with healthy fats, avoiding toxins, and we have an openness to learning new things every day - nurturing positive thought and reducing stress. And, we feed our souls by cultivating relationships, seeking out life enhancing experiences, spending time in nature, and finding a spiritual practice that brings us peace.
Q. What is the Suburban Smackdown?
A. The Suburban Smackdown is an experiment where our two families are buying nothing new (or used, for that matter) for six months. We agreed to a list of guidelines that allow for a very limited list of exceptions, such as food, personal hygiene items, medications - really just essential needs.
Going into the challenge, we took care to not over think it and we did not stock up because we knew that the bigger bumps along the way would have the biggest impact on our families. For example, our families will celebrate eight birthdays during our Smackdown challenge, and we will not be buying gifts.
Our entire focus instead will be on experiences that we can have as a family. These experiences may or may not cost money. We may choose to travel, go to a museum, go camping, or just go out for a great dinner.
Another part of the Smackdown is eliminating one-time-use disposable items, such as paper plates, plastic cutlery, unnecessary packaging, paper towels, foil, etc.—all the things we so thoughtlessly purchase, use, and immediately throw away.
Q. What is your goal of the challenge?
A. While we would love to inspire a movement and a bit of an awakening toward a society of conscious consumers, we’ll be satisfied with knowing that we’ve shifted our family’s focus squarely on the things in life that truly matter.
We already know that we will never go back to our old, less conscious way of being. We do hope to empower families to be happier by helping them to shift their focus, too. We hope that when others see that we are just two relatively normal suburban families doing this, that they can do it, too. Even if it is just baby steps.
Q. What made you decide to take on the challenge?
A. Amy: Essentially, the catalyst for me was finding myself getting sucked back into the whole “keeping up” scene. You know, I love this beautiful earth of ours. I love every creature roaming its surface and every root digging into its soils. I want my children to cherish and protect this earth, too. I want them to know that their contribution to this world matters much more than the size of the house they live in or in having the latest greatest device, which keeps them planted on a couch inside a house.
I knew it was going to be up to me to lead the wayto walk the walk. In the end, I know that I am not going to mourn the shoes I didn’t buy, the landscaping I didn’t invest in, or the brand my kids won’t be wearing. But, I would mourn the time I wasted wanting more and not realizing I had way more than enough. I would mourn important relationships that I didn’t nurture, experiences that I missed because I was focused on my next acquisition, and I would mourn risks not taken, like putting the Smackdown out there, for fear I might step on toes or challenge the status quo.
Mindless consumption in our throwaway society is harming our children as well as our planet, and setting in motion a path to our own demise. I know I have, at times, been a part of the problem, and it is my hope that from the Suburban Smackdown forward, my family and I can be a part the solution.
Niki: The desire was there to do more; for myself, for my children and for this lovely planet we call home. Much like Amy, I wanted to teach my children that the source of true happiness is not found in a gift bag or at the local electronics store. Instead the best parts of life are true, meaningful experiences with the people you love to spend time with.
I, too, am concerned with the direction we, as a society, are headed and feel that drawing attention to the negative impact (not only on our personal happiness but on our environment, as well) of super-consumerism will create an awareness of the problem and gradually effect change. As for the decision to do the Suburban Smackdown, Amy suggested it and I said “heck yeah!”
Q. What have you learned in the first 3 months?
A. Both Niki and I have learned that there is really very little that we actually need and that most of our trips to Target or a mall were out of boredom or to fill a void that were almost always followed by buyer’s remorse. We’ve learned that money put towards experiences is far more fulfilling and sustaining than money that is put toward something material.
Q. What have your kids learned?
A. They’ve learned they can do without a constant influx of stuff and that a season pass for our family to the US Whitewater Center is far better than a new video game.
Q. You began the challenge by purging your homes. What was the hardest thing for your kids to purge?
A. Amy: Well, my boys are like me and attach memories and sentimentally to things, so they did have a few old favorite toys they were not willing to give up. But for the most part, understanding that their things would go to some other child, perhaps not as fortunate, made it mostly okay.
Niki: Despite my expectations, we had no tears. My kids were not the ones struggling with the purge, it was me. Hands down, my closet was the hardest part.
Q. How can our readers join in?
A. We would love for any and everyone to join us, of course! Just go to www.spunkyavocado.com and click onto the Suburban Smackdown page.
Readers can sign up for any amount of time they would like to participate or they can just drop us a note of support! We are looking for other participants to feature on our blog and on Facebook who will share their own Smackdown experiences.
Just let us know and we will get in touch with you! You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find more info at:
Niki and her family
Amy & her family