Our hosts chat with a longtime supporter of No Barriers, and wearer of many hats – Heather Thomson. Heather speaks to Erik and Dave about everything from the challenges of being an entrepreneur, motherhood, and her new endeavor with her whole foods supplement company, Beyond Fresh.
To many, Heather Thomson is an adored reality star from the hit Bravo reality television series, The Real Housewives of New York City, but what many don’t know is that she also is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and recently launched beyond fresh organic nutrition brand and Heather Thomson superfood shows, developed to educate and support people making positive and sustainable changes impactful to their health and well-being.
The real Heather wears many hats as a married mother of two, successful entrepreneur, celebrated designer and inventor, philanthropist, speaker, avid adventurer, and her latest undertaking as host of her new podcast, in MY heart – with new episodes, every Tuesday.
For more information go to Heatherthomson.com
Follow along on Instagram and Twitter @iamheathert and find Heather A. Thomson on Facebook.
Heather Thomson: No Barriers Ambassador
Listen to in MY heart Podcast
“You have to allow the emotions to flow. Feel the anger, feel the pain, feel the hurt. But then take that energy and start to harness it to something new and something positive. “
Heather Thomson: You have to allow the emotions to flow. Feel the anger, feel the pain, feel the hurt, but then take that energy and start to harness it towards something new and something positive. Like I learned to not stay and wallow because it doesn't serve anything. It certainly doesn't serve yourself, and it certainly doesn't serve your next foot forward.
ErikWeihenmayer: It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is
ErikWeihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a "no barriers life," to define it, to push the parameters of what it means, and part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way and that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in in the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call "no barriers."
Dave Shurna: Today we speak with
Heather Thomson, who is an adored reality star from the hit Bravo reality television series The Real Housewives of New York City. She's an integrated nutrition health coach and recently launched Beyond Fresh Organic Nutrition brand, and
Heather Thomson Superfood Shows, developed to educate and support people making positive and sustainable changes impactful to their health and wellbeing. The real
Heather, though, wears many hats as a married mother of two, successful entrepreneur, celebrated designer and inventor, philanthropist, speaker, avid adventurer, and her latest undertaking as host of her new podcast In My Heart with new episodes every Tuesday. Enjoy the conversation.
ErikWeihenmayer: So, you're an integrative health coach. That is super cool. You went back to school to get that degree, right? Now-
Heather Thomson: Yeah.
ErikWeihenmayer: That's part of your new business all around nutrition, right?
Heather Thomson: It is, it is. It started as really a passion project with my son Jax. For many people who know me through the No Barriers community, my little guy has a lot of challenges. He's now 16 and robust, but I started really learning about food as medicine because of Jax. I wanted to stack the odds in his favor because the immunosuppression medicines that he was taking to keep his body from rejecting his new organ, he had a liver transplant at six months old, those medicines were keeping the liver healthy but it was destroying a lot of other organs and issues in his body. So I wanted to make sure I was stacking the odds in his favor as much as I can, and that was through nutrition. I was like an avid reader of every diet theory. Every diet book or nutrition book that came out, I read it. I just decided one day, I woke up and I was like, "I want to be educated in this. I don't want to hear people's opinions and theories because the guy who believes in juicing or the girl who believes in eating for your blood type, they really believe in it," and I believe that there's some good to take away from all of those theories, but I really wanted the education, the underbelly. So I never did it thinking I was going to do anything more with it than just further educate myself and then apply that to my family and I, but when I graduated from school, I was really angry about the propaganda. I realized people were out there trying to do the right thing, and they were being led astray through Big Food and Big Pharma and marketing, and that sort of thing. We just have to keep the messaging simple and keep food simple again, and I also realized that organic food, which is good for us, good for Big Blue, was impossible for most people to even attain or afford; if they could find an organic option, it was very expensive. So I used my education and my entrepreneur underbelly, and I put it together and I started a business. It's called Beyond Fresh and it's an organic food supplement brand, and I got it because I went back to school to become an integrative health coach, to learn about food not only as fuel, as medicine, and a beautiful social attribute to our life, and then learning to work with it within those boundaries.
ErikWeihenmayer: So we'll talk about Jax a little bit later, but the short of it is that your son was born with a rare liver disease, right? So are you saying certain kinds of foods are going to be better to keep that liver healthy and certain foods could actually poison that liver and make it less sustainable?
Heather Thomson: Sure. I mean it's really whole body wellness that I'm looking at for him. Disease starts and ends in the gut. People don't understand how important our stomachs are, our guts are. They're the second brain to the body, and our immune system lives in our gut. Our metabolism lives in our gut. Our nutrient absorption lives in our gut. When that gut is out of check, out of whack, out of balance, which is oftentimes because of the diet we're eating, refined sugar, a lot of high carbohydrate like white flour, these types of things, they're clogging up our system but also, the new modern lifestyle, we don't eat fermented food. We're not pickling and jarring our food anymore. The modern life has caused some upset to the system because our diets have changed so much. Probiotics, you can get them from apple cider vinegar, you can get them from fermented food pickles, sauerkraut, but we just don't sit there and eat bowls of sauerkraut anymore. So, getting your gut health in check is really important, and that's really where it began for me. That really is the center focus of everything that I do, because if I can keep his gut healthy and his microbiome healthy and his flora flourishing, then he's going to be able to fight disease and illness and inflammation in his body on his own. If I crowd his stomach full of foods that cause inflammation and cause that clogging, then I'm not doing him any services.
ErikWeihenmayer: I feel like I'm an expert in this area because I had some pumpkin pie that was left over from Thanksgiving, and I ate the last piece last night, so I feel like I'm really helping the flora. Is that-
Heather Thomson: [crosstalk 00:06:50] pumpkin protein [inaudible 00:06:51]. That's good. Plants have protein.
ErikWeihenmayer: No, no. It was the bacteria because it had sat in my refrigerator for like two months. No-
Heather Thomson: [crosstalk 00:07:00].
ErikWeihenmayer: It's like pumpkin pie combined with kombucha.
Dave Shurna: Yum. That sounds delicious, Eric.
ErikWeihenmayer: Yeah, thanks.
Heather Thomson: [crosstalk 00:07:09]-
Dave Shurna: That's why you look so good this morning. That's why your complexion is so bright, I'm sure.
ErikWeihenmayer: Yeah, but isn't a huge challenge for most Americans, let's stick with, you go into a supermarket. It's rigged against you because everything's got sugar. Just loaded with way more sugar than you need. So you got to be super proactive. Most people just go in and are just trying to get the job done, right?
Heather Thomson: 100%. Now-
ErikWeihenmayer: Right, and it's like, it takes a lot of effort to be healthy. Some people, it's harder than others, right, because you don't have a lot of time or maybe your supermarket just is full of crap.
Heather Thomson: Yes. Well convenience is killing us. That's for sure. The preservatives and the fillers that they're putting in this mainstream food that is being made available and convenient to us as busy Americans is killing us. You're right: it's not easy, but if you just remember some of the basics and a few small steps, then you're going to start to stack the odds in your favor. Simply reading labels. Remembering that Big Food is out there to keep you coming back. Remember, those adages like, "Once you pop, you can't stop" or, "No one can eat just one," that's real because they are designed in a science lab to stop your triggers that tell you you're full, or they keep your serotonin levels high because you're like, "Oh my God, that makes me feel so wonderful." So they're designed to keep you coming back because the bottom line, you guys, is that being healthy doesn't pay. Being unhealthy pays. Think about that in terms of healthcare and government. So if you're healthy, the insurance companies aren't benefiting, the hospitals aren't benefiting. So you have to remember, unfortunately, it's a cold world out there. Nobody really cares about you. You have to care about you and you have to stack the odds in your favor. There's little tips out there, like shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Stay out of the middle of the aisles unless you're just going to get some condiments or dry storage you need. Look for those types of things so that you can start to make better choices. Then you're going to beat the system, Eric, and you're going to be your own advocate. You're going to say, "No, no. You're not going to get me because I'm going to stay healthy, and that will feed my family and my purpose in life."
ErikWeihenmayer: I hope what you're saying registers with our community because we have a lot of people who struggle, been through trauma and have had all kinds of challenges. Maybe they're more psychological or physical challenges, but our physical health probably is a huge influencer in terms of how we approach life and our positive outlook in the world, right?
Heather Thomson: Yes. Your stomach affects your mood. What you're eating and what you're putting in your system 100% affects how we feel, how we act, and how we show up.
Heather, I'd love to talk to you about being a mom and an entrepreneur. Also being a mom of a child, Jax, who had a very serious transplant and you have to continue to worry about that and monitor it. For our listeners, when I look at what you've done with your life, you started Yummie, you were on Real Housewives of New York, you're starting a whole new business that isn't about fashion, how do you do it? How do you manage that balance? Give our listeners some advice of how you still find time to tap into your own passions when you've got two kids that you're raising, starting new businesses and a new podcast too.
Heather Thomson: Yes. I love my podcast. It's so fulfilling do it. You know what? The honest truth is there's been a few journeys and paths that I've taken with that,
Dave, and right now, I would tell you the one that's most beneficial for me is to go easy on myself. Not expect all of these grandiose things for myself, and just being easy on myself. Really, I show up for the moment and the day that I have before me. I try not to get overwhelmed thinking about the future. If my belly, my gut tells me something that I have to do, I listen to it. I have to do it, and when you're really passionate about something, you do it. You go for it. It's almost like you're a wind-up doll and they send you on your way, and you can't turn and you can't stop, and you can't go the other way. So I've been kinder to myself, and I allow myself really some time to listen truly to the answers that come to me, like, "Do I really want to do this project? How important is it for me?" If the answer is a resounding yes, then stop at nothing to get it because I always say it's only work if there's someplace else you'd rather be. If we go after the things that we love, the passions, the things that fuel us, and we try to find a career path in that, a way to build businesses, build communities, make money, then you're going to always be good at it. Because when you love something, it's never too much information. It's never too much time to study or if you can't sleep at 2:00 and you get up and you open your book, and you're excited to read it at that time, then go for it. So I have erased some of the society barriers that get in my way, like the super ego, like, "You should be doing this," and, "This is what you're supposed to do." I just throw all that away because I think that those are these fake barriers that are put up there where the expectation is of the world of us or a family or what people believe we should be doing. You should really listen to your own heart and your own voice in your head, and then just focus on the task at hand one day at a time.
ErikWeihenmayer: I mean the path doesn't matter really as long as you have passion there. I have a friend who runs a big paper towel and toilet paper company-
Heather Thomson: Well we need them.
ErikWeihenmayer: [crosstalk 00:13:18] like, "I want to make the best damn toilet paper that is humanly possible to make." That's great.
Heather Thomson: Well, and he loves that, and so-
ErikWeihenmayer: And I appreciate him three times a day.
Heather Thomson: Yeah. Well that's good. That's more than most, Eric. I think that it's very true: I think that if you do something that feeds your soul in some way, and whatever career, you don't have to make these grandiose dreams. If you love socializing and you love an atmosphere and you want to be a bartender, then be like the guy on Cocktail and be a great bartender and have people want to come to your bar and see you at your bar, and be the best at it. It doesn't matter what path you choose. Just choose one that your body says to you, "Yes, yes," and not, "No, no."
Heather, you started out as a fashion designer. You worked with Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez and Sean "Diddy" Combs. Pretty incredible. I want to learn all about that, how that got started, but then you stated this huge, amazing, successful fashion company Yummie. I know in the last, what, three, four years ago, you sold it?
Heather Thomson: Yes.
ErikWeihenmayer: Anyway, point being you've had huge ups and some downs, some struggles. The advice that you're giving, you've had to live fully. What was that struggle like of having to let go of that?
Heather Thomson: Yeah. Okay, so I started in fashion a hundred years ago I feel like now, but over 25 years ago. I graduated from college not really quite sure what I wanted to do, to be honest, so not everybody has this, like goes to college and they're like, "Oh, I know what I want to do." I graduated still quite confused as to who I wanted to be and how I wanted to show up. My mom gave me great advice and I have stuck to that advice, and I share that advice. She said, "Go for what you love. Who cares right this very second? You're an avid skier, you're a racing coach and a ski instructor, and you love to ski. Why don't you go get a job at the local ski shop and just give yourself a second to sit and settle?" I was like, "Okay, great. That's my tribe, man. I'm going to go with my people." So I went to the ski shop, Eric, and what I found there was as I aged, I wasn't that impressed or interested, necessarily, in all the new technology and the best new ski I could get, but I was started to get really interested in the gear. I was like, "Well I want to look hot with this on," and, "The zipper should be different," or, "This should change." I started realizing I wanted to create my own ski clothes. So I decided while I was at that ski shop in that six months that I was going to actually go back to college because I wanted to design ski gear. That's what I decided I wanted to do. I never actually went back to college for design. What my mother, wise again, said to me was, "Well why don't you see if you can find a job in fashion a little bit first before you go back to school? You just graduated. Maybe there's some things that you can apply that you already learned," and that's what I did. I got a job as the assistant to the president of a fashion business, and the rest is literally history. I learned on the cutting room floors in factories all about engineering, fashion design, and I had a little bit of a God-given talent that I could draw, and so I was never 9 Heads trained. That's a certain illustration style that you learn in design school, but I learned it myself and I went up against people that were trained in fashion education, but I got the job. I was able to serve that because I think I was so passionate about it and because I had done the work hands-on. So fast-forward to, yes, I had a successful career in fashion and I worked for some of Hollywood's biggest, baddest talents if you will. They're all triple threats; they do more than just one thing. Puffy really taught me what I was made of. He pushed me harder than anyone ever in my life and he showed me that I'm unbreakable, really, and that I really am made of a lot and I have a lot to give, and I can dig deep. He taught me that. Jennifer Lopez really taught me to stay focused on the task at hand. That's something I still carry through life with me. She was really the first triple threat, so she was like the dancer/singer/actress and then fashion icon and all that kind of stuff. We built a lot of things together, but we would really focus on the task at hand, and I noticed that's how she was able to balance things. Beyonce really taught me true humility. She's the true star. I mean she was the biggest star, but she would always walk into a photo shoot, God forbid she was like 15 minutes late, she would shake everybody's hand. "I'm so sorry I'm late. Your time is important to me and valuable to me." She was so humble. I watched her shine in that beauty. I learned a lot of lessons working for hugely talented, hugely intelligent, and successful people. Let me tell you, the one word that I'll leave you with with those three is "work." They are hard workers. They never stop. They work really hard, and I was raised with a great work ethic and then I was enforced with it because together, we had great successes. I went on to build Yummie. I was with Beyonce and Tina when I had both my kids as the co-creative director, and I loved my job and I loved them, but after I had my kids and Jax was ill, and he had the plethora of health issues: it was lung disease, he had hearing loss, he had this liver transplant. He just had a plethora of issues that we were dealing with. We became so close during that time, as you can imagine, but what I also noticed was a lot of people, they would look at me with the puppy dog eyes when I would walk in because Jax was sick. I get that because people feel terrible and they don't know how to deal with trauma or what to say to people, but I thought if I could show up back like myself, I could lose some of the baby weight and I could show up and feel myself, then maybe they wouldn't feel sorry for me. They would see that I was okay. So I went to the shapewear department to put on some shapewear to get my waistline back so that people would be like, "Oh, she's looking good. Everything must be great," and I really found as a fashion designer that it was antiquated and frozen in time, and not anything I wanted to wear, or really could wear for any long periods of time. As necessity being the mother of all invention, I put pen to paper and I invented this three-paneled tank top that I got 12 patents on because with the fashion industry, it's hard to get patents, but it was really such a unique idea. It was an "aha" moment for me, and so I entered it into a trade show. Beyonce and Tina had them, they were wearing them. We never thought that I was going to have to leave them for this, but what happened was it blew up and everyone was like, "Oh my God, I have to have that," and it became a bigger business than just an item business.
ErikWeihenmayer: Let me just interrupt because as a blind guy, I'm really left out of fashion. I don't get it. You can look at what I'm wearing today. This is not that fashionable. So Yummie was really more about understanding women's real body types and really building clothing for real people-
Heather Thomson: Yeah.
ErikWeihenmayer: Instead of for skinny little models and stuff, or what?
Heather Thomson: Yeah, or false advertising where someone would want to pour themselves into some tiny little thing that they were uncomfortable, and I don't think very healthy for your innards, quite [crosstalk 00:21:01]. So I said, "Why do we have to be embarrassed? Why does it have to be this ugly garment that women are taking off in bars and leaving in the trashcan before they head home if they got lucky that night or something?" For me, it was like a mark against women, that we all had to be this perfect little thing. My feeling was like, "Rock what you got. I want you to rock what you got," but just like women will put on a little foundation to even out their skin tone, we can do that in dresses. Women's wear and menswear is very different in most cases. We wear clingy, tight things. Even your underwear, you can see a line. So Yummie, when I developed it, was really more like a smoother. It was like, your fat roll's relative. If it's yours, it's yours. Whether it's little or big and you don't like it, and you want it gone in your dress, we got you covered. If you want to lost 10, 15 pounds, my garment isn't going to do that for you, but it'll help support you on the journey towards weight loss. It's not an answer to health, but it was an answer to confidence. I wanted women to feel confident and supported with their choices and not like it was a dirty little secret. That's what set Yummie apart from the rest of them, and I built a multimillion dollar business with it, so it was bittersweet leaving Beyonce and Tina, but I still maintain a wonderful relationship with them. They're proud to see what my successes were, but not everything has a pot of gold with the rainbow at the end. I had a partner in Yummie that I learned a lot of lessons working with. He was my partner, even though I was a 51% majority owner in the business. I didn't sign a great contract, and there were some loopholes and booby traps in that contract that put me at a disadvantage and put me in a position that I wasn't happy anymore. Like I couldn't go to work and feel good about all of the goodness that I was trying to spread when in my own office, there was turmoil and ugliness. I said, "You know, I'm not doing a service to my family and myself. I'm sick. This is making me sick." So I made the decision to step down from my business and ultimately, I then sold the company to him. It was the hardest thing, Eric. I mean you remember it; you [crosstalk 00:23:33] a wonderful support to me through that, because I think it was one of the hardest things I ever went through in my life. Someone might say, "Wait, you said your kid had a liver transplant. How could that be?" I'll tell you why, because it is all about the [inaudible 00:23:47]. When Jax was ill, I had doctors surrounding me saying, "We got this. We got this." When I was in a lawsuit, everyone's like, "Well, I don't know." It's like, whoever has the better lawyer and more money. It's like, "What? Right and wrong doesn't matter?" That was a big blow to my everything. It shattered me, quite frankly. After I sold the business, because it was like my baby, and I never thought when I started it that I would ever sell it or leave it; I was going to build it, but what I did learn is some entrepreneurial lessons, like I want to get in businesses and make a difference, and I don't have to necessarily stay. I've got a lot of ideas and I have a lot of passions, and quite frankly, everything happens for a reason, and I was not meant to stay at Yummie; it was just supposed to be a part of my life.
ErikWeihenmayer: Yeah, but that must be earth-shattering in the present, though. It's really interesting to hear your story, but I mean, I just don't feel there's that much difference between the vet who comes home after being blown up in Iraq and their whole life has changed, or a guy who's gone blind, or somebody who's experienced some kind of major trauma in their life and they just can't get past it. They get stuck, right? They get stuck, and maybe they get stuck forever.
Heather Thomson: Yes.
ErikWeihenmayer: And somehow, you worked your way through it.
Heather Thomson: Still working my way through it. Had it been a different story, then it might have been a different story, but this is the story that it is. So what I learned, and quite frankly from you, my friend, is that you have to allow yourself to be mad. Allow the emotions to flow. Feel the anger, feel the pain, feel the hurt. Feel it, but then take that energy and start to harness it towards something new and something positive. I learned to not stay and wallow for too long because it doesn't serve anything. It doesn't serve anybody. It certainly doesn't serve yourself and it certainly doesn't serve your next foot forward, your next movement forward. I love my mountain-climbing experiences, and I know that you do too, and we can refer them back to life in such easy ways, but life is about suffering. If people don't understand that, they should start to understand it right now here and there, but the suffering is part of the process. You have to go through it. Think about climbing a mountain. We do that because we get on the plane and go. Nobody tells us we have to, but man, think about some of the darkest, coldest days on the side of a mountain suffering, suffering. Put your head down and just one step at a time and you're suffering, and your stomach hurts, and you've got a parasite, and things really suck. Then you summit, and you look at all that hard work and you see what you did, and then that journey was worth it every bit of it. Why can't we apply that truly to life and allow the suffering, and understand that it's a part of the story and it's a part of the process. When I started looking at my experience with Yummy that way, I felt like I could overcome it. I could move on from it. I'm still living the life I wanted to live. I'm inventing and designing things that are going to help people feel better about themselves and live a life that hopefully is healthier and happier, so that's a good thing.
ErikWeihenmayer: We're neglecting the fact that you are a TV star. Three years on Real Housewives of New York. I don't think they really want No Barriers' attitudes and mindsets and breakthroughs. They love drama. What was the most drama you had there?
Heather Thomson: Oh God, there was a lot-
ErikWeihenmayer: [crosstalk 00:27:38] the drama.
Heather Thomson: There was a lot. So-
ErikWeihenmayer: Every minute was drama.
Heather Thomson: When I look back at it, I mean what a crazy thing the Housewives is.
ErikWeihenmayer: But it was a great platform for all the good positive stuff and work you do in the world.
Heather Thomson: Well that's why I did it. I went into the show without any expectation other than I didn't study the women. I didn't try to be something that they wanted me to be. I went in there to forge new relationships, meet new people, have dialogue, and just see where it all came out. That served me because I was true to myself. So they don't cast people on the show to change who they are. They don't do that. They're not going to make you necessarily into somebody that you're not, but there may be an edit where, I used to call it the "ugly edit stick," like you got hit with the ugly edit stick that show because at the end of the day, the show is for entertainment value. We're there to entertain. Yes, it's a reality show; it's not scripted, but it is edited, but what I also learned, after doing the show, I did it for three seasons and for me, there was a beginning, a middle, and an end for it. I didn't sign up to the show to be a lifetime reality star. That wasn't my purpose of doing it, and I had a big company and job and business to go back to, which I was also running while I was on the show and going back to nutrition school. I had a lot on my plate. So when it was time to leave, it was obvious that it was time for me to go. Then I maintained really good relationships with the network and every season, they would ask me back for a cameo. That was really fun because I got to dip my toe in the water and have fun on the show, but I didn't really get sucked into the drama. That made it nice. This season with COVID, it was a different season. They had a small cast. They had let go of one of the major players on the show, and they really felt like they were missing a sixth cast member. So they came back to me and I said, "Well geez." Being on the Housewives full-time again, I couldn't do it. It's a lot of work. It's a full-time job, so to speak, "but maybe there's a hybrid where I could kind of come back" and something like that. I tried it out this season and it was not the right thing for me. I am glad that I tried it, even though I had a horrendous time on the show because it's not just about the editing. It's about the other people on the show with you. So what happened was my mind was so set with where I had been that when they asked me to jump in again, I didn't watch the show. I didn't know anything about the new women on the show, and again, I thought that that would serve me, not doing my homework, going in to try to forge new relationships and understand new people, but, there's preconceived notions and the new girls on the show, being that the Housewives has been on for so long, they watched the show two, three, four times. They've seen episodes. They study the cast members, and some of the rules changed. When I went back in there and the drama kicked up right away, I just was like, "This is not how I want to spend my time." It's really a simple answer. I have much more important things to do for me that will feed my soul, and coming home whipped and beat up just for the entertainment value of millions of Americans wasn't the role that I wanted to play anymore.
ErikWeihenmayer: I totally relate to that. I mean not to totally bring myself into this, but-
Heather Thomson: [crosstalk 00:31:11].
ErikWeihenmayer: You make these decisions sometimes along the way and you're like, "This is good for me. I have to do this. I don't feel super comfortable doing it, but it's great for my career," let's say. I had a sponsor that was an allergy medication company, and I had to go on national TV and be like, "Blindness is not my greatest challenge. My greatest challenge is my seasonal allergies." I'm like, "Ugh." It'd be like a punch in the stomach every time I said it, but it financed some of my climbs. So yeah, I'm just saying these compromises and things are tricky for people.
Heather Thomson: Yeah. Well I always say this: everything's okay until it's not, right? Sometimes we make trade-offs or we try things that don't fit. The shoe doesn't fit, and so we don't wear it, but everything's okay until it's not. I was able to get out what I felt like was important and move on from it. I didn't come out with any bumps and bruises; I was actually assaulted on the show, crazy enough. This woman threw shit at me, but-
ErikWeihenmayer: [crosstalk 00:32:10]. Jesus.
Heather Thomson: It was ridiculous. The thing for me is like yeah, I'm tough and I can take it. That wasn't the issue necessarily for me, although assault is real-
ErikWeihenmayer: [crosstalk 00:32:21].
Heather Thomson: But what was really the issue is that it was watering down bigger issues. It was watering down name-calling and our words. We have a tarnished history of white nationalism and terrorism in this country, and we can't just use those words flippantly. We have to be careful of them. Anybody who suffers from mental illness, I'm sure they would like to watch the rhetoric change around, "OH, you're so crazy," "You're nuts." We have to, now more than ever, let's just chew on our words a little bit before we spit them out, and think about what it feels like to be the other guy on the other end of that. I was not going to be able to continue that conversation on the show. I had that moment to do it. I got my uppercut and I went home, and I could feel good about what I did.
Dave Shurna: Well
Heather, I'd love to finish our conversation by another passion project of yours that started this year. Tell us about In My Heart and your podcast.
Heather Thomson: Oh my God, I love my podcast. I'm so excited about it. We really overcame barriers this year launching it. It's been in the works for a couple years, and it's really about the people that I've met along the way, old friends and new, that have dynamic stories, have had dynamic achievements in their lives, have overcome great difficulties or great achievements at odds, and they share their stories, or it could be something that's storytelling and inspiring. That's In My Heart, and I love doing it, so thanks for asking.
Dave Shurna: Of course, and our listeners, if you're interested, you can find In My Heart anywhere where you listen to podcasts. We'll put it in our show notes as well, a link to the podcast.
ErikWeihenmayer: Just one last question from me. So as a mom, let's focus on that for just a few minutes as we wrap up. So your son Jax, he was born with an array of physical challenges. I hear he's doing really well now, like his liver's healthy and everything-
Heather Thomson: Yes, [crosstalk 00:34:22].
ErikWeihenmayer: That must make you proud as a mom.
Heather Thomson: [inaudible 00:34:24].
ErikWeihenmayer: I mean that's probably the most adversity you've ever experienced right?
Heather Thomson: Yeah. You know-
ErikWeihenmayer: You got this kid and you love him with every bit of your heart, and he's born with challenges, and you can't fix it. So how's he doing and how does it affect you as a mom?
Heather Thomson: Well, as a parent, it's so horrible to see your child struggle. To see anybody you love in pain is a very difficult thing to watch, but when it's your child and they're really little and they don't understand, and you can't explain it to them, it's a lot. It can be totally overwhelming. I mean in fact, when Jax was first born and in the hospital, John, my husband is the son of a very famous rabbi who was part of the Reform Movement, who brought a lot of modern thinking into Judaism, like the rights of women, same-sex marriages, a lot of forward-thinking things. I raise my kids Jewish although I'm not Jewish. My husband is and we raise our kids Jewish. When Jax was born and he was sick, it was really important for me to have something to lean onto that was faith-driven. So I really looked at it from a faith perspective, that I had to believe that the universe had our back. I had to believe that no matter what the struggle was that we would be okay, and I had to continually say that to myself. I had to have a lot of faith and I had to have a lot of hope, and I never let that run out. I didn't let the hope run out. Sometimes it doesn't end up a good story. I mean I was in the NICU with a lot of babies that didn't go home, you guys. It definitely happens. People always say that I'm a hero, like, "How did you do all that?" I'm like, "I came home with my child. Don't call me a hero." You know what I mean? The loss of a child, I just don't think is anything that someone should ever have to go through but we do, and we bear it, and people overcome. They go on to do great things for it. So I tried to keep that in line. I tried to keep my faith in line, I tried to keep my hope in line when he was really little, and I had trust that we had the best doctors and they were going to give him the best that he could. Then you learn toward actually working through that every day in real time. I hit a wall where I didn't have it left in me anymore. My husband and I played a role. Jax got stuck with needles all the time. I mean all the time, and we were in a teaching hospital, and he was a hard stick, so he was like a challenge like, "I'm going to get him." I had a rule: I'm like, "Three sticks and you're done. I don't care if you have to get the IV in. You're not going to do it anymore," but after all of this trauma, in Judaism, we get circumcised. So Jax had to get circumcised, and I as a mother, I couldn't bear to watch it because it was one more painful thing that he had to go through. I also knew my limits. I didn't show up at the bris in the hospital. My husband did it because he had the wherewithal to do it, and it was really important to him. I didn't show up that day because I couldn't do it, and then there's other times where John, it was hard for him and I would show up or I would take the call with the doctor. So I leaned on the community that I had at home. Our nanny Junie who we hired three months before Jax was born was so important for us, and she came to us from the heavens. I mean I really believe that. Here this woman needed a job at the moment. I had a baby coming in three months, and I was like, "I'm going to hire you right now." Thank God we did because she was there with me. We knew her. She was like family and she helped me nurse Jax back to health. The doctors that we had and John's family, and our best friends, and the people that were there, my mom, that helped us through it, I leaned on community. I let them come in and help me. That was really an important factor to my success and my healing through it all. Okay, so then we bring Jax home and he gets better and he's getting better. Now I'm watching this boy grow. He's 16 today. He's driving my new car.
ErikWeihenmayer: [crosstalk 00:38:54]. He hasn't crashed it yet?
Heather Thomson: No, no. He's a very good driver. I taught Jax how to drive. My father thought driving was a skill that everybody should learn and you shouldn't have to wait until you're 16 or 17, so he taught me how to drive young and I taught Jax how to drive young. So he's good and he's conservative. I love him. He's a great driver. He's very cautious and conservative, but watching the challenges and watching him grow, I had to take stake and understand and listen to Jax because there were times where he felt like the world didn't like him. He felt like the world really had it out for him, that God hated him. Why did he have all these issues when everybody else was fine? Ella, he would compare himself to his sister who has not even a food allergy. "Well why doesn't Ella have anything wrong?" That was a hard thing for me to answer, and I don't know if I've ever even answered it right, but what I do say to Jax is, "We know your challenges. They hit us all on the front end. I don't know Ella's challenges yet. It's a long life we live. [crosstalk 00:39:57] know your challenges and you've overcome so much at such a young age that you're already ahead of the game. You already understand suffering, you understand pain. You understand looking different or being different or being outcast." Right now, very difficult with Jax's hearing loss with Zoom. Mandy Harvey and I, I mean I'm in touch with the leadership team at Zoom because there's no closed caption on Zoom and it's the platform that we're all using for education. It's only the Disability Act. It's just like, we can look around our shoulder, just enacted, and now we're leaving out deaf folks again. These are things that Jax now can help lobby and fight for. He can help be a part of the challenge. He can be his own voice and voice for others that come after him. So when I present it to him that way, his chest can pump up a little bit and he can feel proud of what he's overcome, and I do check in with him mentally. I have him in touch with a therapist and I let his emotions get heard. I don't let Jax keep things bottled up. I give him his time, but then I make sure we talk about it because I want him to learn that skill early on, that it's okay to cry, that it is masculine to cry and it is important. Our emotions are there and our tears are there for a reason. They're cleansing, and we need to feel the pain, feel it, wallow in it, and then move on from it.
Dave Shurna: Well
Heather, thank you so much for this amazing conversation about entrepreneurship, motherhood, dealing with pain and suffering. This has just been incredibly insightful. For our listeners, though, I feel like we neglected to tell them early on when we were talking about Beyond Fresh. Where can they go to get Beyond Fresh?
Heather Thomson: Yeah, okay. I love it so much. Just a little tidbit of living a No Barriers life. We all have it in us. What's within us is stronger than what's in our way. I love the work that you do at your organization. I am always so honored and thrilled to even just be a little tiny pinky part of it and lean into it. It's such important work, so thank you guys. Beyond Fresh, you can go to beyondfresh.com and check it out all there. You can go to shophq.com. You can look for when I'm on television there. For like a one-day only, I give a really amazing value on everything so people could get it home and lock it into subscription. Same with beyondfresh.com. On social media, you can follow me @iam
Heathert on Instagram, or you can go to
Heatherthomson.com to find out anything that I'm up to and all the latest and greatest right there.
Dave Shurna: Well thank you so much,
Heather, for your time. Thank you to our listeners for joining us in this incredible conversation. If you enjoyed it, please share it with one other person. We'd love to continue to grow our listenership. As always, you can find show notes at nobarrierspodcast.com, and if you're interested in joining any of our programs, we're doing some great at-home programming and in-person programming coming later this year. Check us out at nobarriersusa.org. Thank you so much, everyone, for the conversation.
Heather. No barriers to everyone.
Dave Shurna: The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer Pauline Shaffer, sound design, editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman, and marketing support by
Heather Zoccali, Stevie Dinardo, and Erica [Howey 00:43:24]. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our intro song, Guidance, and thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time, and we appreciate you spending it here with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.