When did healthy living become so confusing?
If you’d have asked me three years ago, healthy living would simply have meant no weekly trips to McDonald’s. The 2014 version of me would’ve said toast is a perfectly acceptable snack, exercise is a 30 minute stroll and the nutrition label on packaged food is basically a foreign language. Skip forward to 2017, and I am lost.
Paleo, organic, vegan, intuitive, no-sugar, gluten-free, Mediterranean. Everyday a new diet or fitness regime endorsed by some celebrity emerges claiming to change my life for the better. One lists fructose-filled apples as public enemy #1 but sings praises for red wine. Another advises calorie counting and vigorous interval training. A few say anything is okay so long as I schedule in a juice cleanse and yoga retreat.
The result of this advice-onslaught is that I am literally standing out in the cold by the aisle 6 refrigerators calculating if I should eat this, avoid that or fast over the weekend because mercury is in retrograde and apparently that means something. So, to separate truth from fiction, I turned to the people who have tried and tested this all. The bloggers, entrepreneurs and athletes dedicated not only to achieving wellness but actually sustaining it.
We asked 3 Perth foodies & fitness friends how they lead a healthy life.
Founder of NOOD Food
What sparked your love for wholesome food?
I’ve always loved food. I grew up in Asia and have a very multi cultural family – Mum is Italian and my Dad is Indonesian/Arabic, so as you can imagine, our home was always bursting with the good stuff. Luckily for me, all cultures have strong appreciation for homemade food and the notion of eating is very much a part of family tradition and togetherness. So cooking, eating, and learning how to make food came very naturally to me – it was integrated into my childhood. As I grew up, I took my love for cooking with me but it wasn’t until I worked as a commercial cook for about 4 years, that I started to realise what processed foods, toxic foods, and sugars were doing to my body. I decided to undertake my Diploma in Nutritional Medicine, and from there I combined the two elements together – cooking, and wholesome, fresh ingredients. I’m a huge advocate for flavour so my main objective was creating healthy food, which wasn’t bland or boring as many people perceive it to be.
With a store in Leederville, a pop up at enex Perth and collaborations with WelleCo and Cocobella, NOOD is on route to becoming an empire. Looking back 5 years, would NOODs level of success been a surprise to you?
Haha yes of course! I think when you’re ‘in it’ every single day, constantly working, fixing problems and trying to streamline processes or systems, though you tend to forget about the journey (which isn’t a good thing!). It’s not until people interview me or ask me questions like this, where I look back at all of the challenges, successes and failures, and give myself a pat on the back. I think when you own your own business, your continuously striving to improve, so the job never feels 100% done. But yes, I am surprised… I am also extremely grateful to my partner, my family, and the people who have supported the NOOD journey along the years, as it definitely wouldn’t be where it is today without their help.
Running a small business is always going to be fraught with moments of stress. How do you stay relaxed?
To be perfectly honest, it can be very hard to switch off at times. Running your own business is by no means as glamorous as it looks on social media! Especially when you run one in hospitality. I think having a solid team of people around you really helps, having a network of people who are also business owners and who understand the stress can be also be great when you just need to call someone to have a vent! Other than that, trying to set aside or schedule in ‘you time’. When I get so busy or stressed that I forget to exercise or look after myself properly, it can really have a snowball effect. So ensuring I look after my body, eat well, sleep well, and still go out and have fun with friends is really important. If you don’t balance it out, it can sometimes feel like your trapped in a bubble.
What 5 foods do you always have fully stocked in your pantry?
Ooh this is hard. I have so many ingredients I call on daily. I would say my favourite pantry essentials are sesame, coconut and olive oils, tamari sauce, apple cider vinegar, a selection of dried herbs, and a selection of good quality spices (especially cumin, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric).
When it comes to fresh produce, I think strawberries, avocados, lemons, kale and sweet potato seem to feature quite regularly in my fridge.
How do you integrate fitness and exercise into your everyday life?
I have to schedule it in. I used to do a lot of high intensity fitness such as boxing and HIIT and circuit work, but I actually found that with how much I was working, the fact that I am often standing all day, (and sometimes how stressed I was), the high energy exercise was totally burning me out. So I swapped my exercise routine for much slower movements which my body is so much happier with and from which I’ve seen great results from. I try and walk every day with my dogs for up to an hour, I go to pilates once a week, yoga once a week, and have just started doing another form of pilates/movement through Lisa Burns Training Studio in Scarborough which I am really loving.
Tell us a little bit about your blog, Sonja’s Life. What inspired you to set it up?
My blog aims to inspire and encourage people to find healthy alternatives in daily life. The main point of difference to other blogs is that through Sonja’s Life I want to show how fun, happy and exciting a healthy lifestyle is, and can be. I just want everyone to smile! To genuinely smile, inside and out.
I was inspired by seeing others bloggers pages and meeting people doing what I wanted to do. I always thought, “Why aren’t I doing that?”, or, “I can do that.” Publicly displaying their passions through social media, with confidence just seemed so awesome to me. I wanted to build that same sort of confidence.
When did your passion for good food & fitness start?
I was brought up in a very healthy and active household. My parents always encouraged sports and my mum shared her love for cooking nutritious and healthy meals. So I guess I’ve always been aware of the benefits and importance of leading a healthy life.
It wasn’t until I went to boarding school that I really realised how different my household was to a lot of others. That’s when I actively started making my own choices, choosing the best alternatives and going out of my way to create a healthy lifestyle when the environment around me was not.
How do you incorporate fitness into your busy schedule – especially with university?
Exercise has honestly just become a part of my daily routine. Wake up, gym, then my daily tasks begin. Without it, the day just doesn’t feel the same. Therefore I don’t feel as if it’s a chore. To me it’s a necessity to feeling good. Without it I won’t complete my daily tasks with as much energy or enthusiasm, making the day less enjoyable.
Being a morning person helps a lot with this. I can get my exercise done before heading to work or university. Setting the day up for success.
Obviously times can become very stressful or busy, especially at university. This is when I do give myself a break. It’s important to listen to your mind, and your body. Otherwise you’ll end up burning out, and is that really worth it? Instead, when work and stress build up I just make sure I at least get out of the house, every day. This could be going for a walk, taking the dogs for a run, heading to the beach, getting coffee with a friend, chilling at a park nearby or even just eating your lunch in your back yard. It is so beneficial to get outside and clear your mind.
Typically, what would we find in your fridge?
What I ALWAYS have in my fridge: avocados, spinach, mixed salad leaves, coconut water, carrots, fruit, lemons. These are my daily essentials. I add avocados to everything. Smoothies, salads or snacks. Avocado is such a good source of healthy fats keeping me satisfied and full. Green leaves are full of iron, something I always add to every meal. I love to crunch on carrots or apples for snacks throughout the day and coconut water gives me some sweet energy when I need it!
Do you believe in the idea of ‘cheat meals’? Do you have your own take on the idea?
Have fitness and exercise always been an important part of your life?
Growing up as an above knee amputee, sport was always my way of being able to fit in and show people that I could do what they could. It wasn’t until later on in life where I started to learn how sport, fitness and exercise also play such an important part in living a healthy lifestyle and to be able to take advantage of all the wonderful things that life has to offer.
You currently have your sights on the Tokyo 2020 games. How has your daily routine changed to prepare you for the games?
Getting injured in the 2016 Rio Paralympics was heartbreaking and I took 1 to 2 months analysing what happened and what we needed to do differently. The challenge for training for the games is that you’re always on the knife edge of too much vs too little. So my goal in Tokyo is to create a stronger more resilient Brant, achieving this in two ways. First, I’ve started a new strength and conditioning program which is called Lagree and it’s all about working the small muscles and stabilizers to make them as strong as possible and overall a stronger me.
Second is consistency – in the lead up to Rio I struggled to stay consistent. I was always trying to fund the journey to Rio which took away some of the focus off training. This time though it’s different I am forcing myself to get to all 16 training sessions a week.
I can imagine the process can be draining at times. How do you maintain motivation?
Motivation is an interesting topic. I like to describe motivation as the spark and the kick start to getting started, but without fuel that spark disappears quickly. You then need the discipline to turn that motivation into a habit and I believe that creating a habit is the fuel that will keep the flame going.
What’s your best advice for people who don’t think they have the time or energy to commit to an exercise regime?
A friend told me the other day that the one thing that we all have in common is that my minute, my hour and my 24-day is the same amount of time as everybody else’s. It’s about making it a priority. Whether it means getting up half an hour earlier or I’m turning in half an hour later. Giving exercise the attention it needs will have a life-long and lasting impact on the quality of the life you get to live.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
After training 16 times a week and sometimes 6 hours a day, I’m definitely a Netflix and chill type of person. When I have a little bit more energy though, taking my wife surfing would have to be my number one way to unwind.