Happy & healthy life at any time and ages

Born in England Rona Morgan has made a great career in a banking. She had been managing large branches of HSBC in London, then for 13 years in Hong Kong, and more years in Melbourne, Australia. But now, instead of chilling during her retiring, Rona is a very happy woman with her new full-time job as a health-life coach, personal and small group exercise trainer in Singapore.

I have met Rona at a biggest fitness educational conference in Asia for fitness, health and wellness professionals in Bangkok (Asia Fitness Conference and Expo 2015). When I heard her life story and the way to fitness pro, I understood I have to share this motivational story with people. Rona knows well what does it mean to be busy, stressed and depressed with your business and job. She was not in a good shape or fitness person for all her life. But she has found a way to manage an active and healthy lifestyle regularly, has lost 20 kg, and used the time from banking retirement to study Personal Trainer and Health Coach certifications.

Me: Have you ever been in a bad shape?

Rona: I started my first diet at the age of 13 and had been on and off a weight-loss diet for most of my adult life. While I had always been active, there were periods of my life when I was very busy, stressed and sometimes travelling for work, which impacted my exercise regime and my health. I would say there were 3 occasions when I lost a significant amount of weight, each time vowing never to regain it!

On the last occasion, I was in Australia. I foolishly believed that moving to Australia would enable me to get fitter and healthier because of the outdoor lifestyle and fresh food, both of which are highly limited in Hong Kong.  I was wrong, and gained even more weight due to a number of factors including hormonal changes, great food and great wine which is relatively inexpensive, and stress.  Due to my job, I wasn’t as active as I should have been, although I did try.

I joined the gym in the same building as my office and came across a Step class and I loved it. I used to do Step a lot in Hong Kong and at one time, I used to do 5 classes a week. I went into the classes with a bit too much enthusiasm and at the beginning of my fourth class, I badly sprained my ankle. It was quite bad, and I didn’t work out for quite a while. I became depressed. I felt I was not in control of my weight and I would end up being obese.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona
The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: How did you find your motivation again?

Rona: Eventually, it was husband who took positive action. He came across a small PT studio near where we lived and signed us both up. They specialize in weight-loss among other things and friend of mine had also lost weight with them. It was a very non-threatening and friendly atmosphere and all the team knew our names and greeted us each time we went. In addition to PT, they ran a lot of group exercise classes, which were fun, and so we went almost every day!

Our weight-loss was slow and steady. In 10 months, I lost 20kg and John lost 30kg. In the process, we learned more about nutrition and healthy eating. I think doing it together was huge factor in our success, since we would shop and cook together and most importantly, did not lead each other astray, even on holidays. We have maintained the weight-loss now for more than 3 years.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: Why did you decide to be a PT and Health coach?

Rona: I have always been interested in health and fitness and it was more than 10 years earlier (when I had lost weight and got fit after an operation), that I first thought about trying to help others, particularly mature women, to lose weight and get fit.  I saw a gap in the market at that time, as many older women find the gym environment intimidating.  That idea was put on the back burner when my career took off but once I decided to “retire” from banking and having achieved my lasting transformation, it became a possibility. With not working for the first time in my adult life, I had the time and energy to study, so I took the ACE personal Trainer and ACE Health Coach certifications, as well as a nutrition qualification.  I also achieve a Functional Ageing Specialist certification, as this is an area that particularly interests me and is not well served by our industry yet.

Me: Are you happy now? Why?

Rona: I am very happy now, as I feel I doing something very worthwhile and helping others to make changes in their lives.  I was also very fortunate to be hired by a new concept club that’s looking at a holistic approach to wellness for senior executives, business people etc.  This is a very good match for me, having worked in the corporate world for so many years.  I understand their challenges.  Every day, I use my previous corporate experience to help me to help others.  The last 10 years of my banking career were in Risk Management and I see a lot of similarities in the world of wellness.  I am passionate about disease prevention and exercise as medicine.  The world is facing a health crisis of epidemic proportions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc).  I hope to change the world, one person at a time.

Me: What is your schedule now?

Rona: I am currently working full-time at the club I mentioned. My normal day is coaching a few clients, running a small group class and helping with health assessments. I am also continuing my studies in the next levels of nutrition and coaching.

I try to workout every day, except Sunday, when we usually take a long, evening walk. I think the general population believes that people in the fitness industry are super fit but I have seen a large number of fitness professionals who are not “walking the talk”. While I don’t think I am “super fit”, I try hard to maintain a very good level of fitness.

The image is from a personal archive of Rona
The image is from a personal archive of Rona

Me: How can you explain your working style in a fitness industry?

Rona: I design my own workout programmes or borrow from the many sources that I read.  I love to try new things and always test before I use with clients.  I like to use combination exercises, which challenge the mind as well as the body and my current favorite thing is to incorporate a short metabolic circuit into sessions, which my clients enjoy too.  My approach is total body conditioning rather than to train isolated body parts, unless that’s what a client specifically requests.

My philosophy is to get people moving better and feeling better about themselves, at any age. For the future, I would like to further explore the market for mature adults and continue as a specialist weight-loss coach.

Me: How would you describe a good fitness & health coach?

Rona: Personal Training 101 starts with rapport, and that principle endures. A good coach is someone with great listening skills and empathy for their client. It is also someone who understands what their client is experiencing in their lives and someone who can identify and build on the client’s existing competancies and recognise their achievements.

Me: What is your main principle to keep happiness?

Rona: To stay happy, I count my blessings.  I acknowledge how fortunate I am to be able to live the life I lead and to be fit and healthy.  

Brownie (sugar and gluten free)

Yummy! I have found a good ratio of ingredients for a home-made brownie! Of course, there were no sugar, no gluten, no butter. We both say this is a best brownie in our life 🙂

Ingredients:

Bananas – 2 pieces;

Baking powder – 1 tea spoon;

Cacao nibs or cacao powder – 7 tea spoons;

Water – 50 ml;

Eggs – 2 pieces;

Coconut oil – 3-4 tablespoons;

Flaxseeds – 4-5 tablespoons;

Brown rice flour – 4-5 tablespoons;

Dates – 7-10 pieces;

Walnuts – by your taste.

I whip bananas, baking powder, cacao nibs and water up in a blender. In a separate bowl I whip eggs and coconut oil by hand mixer. Then I add a liquid from the blender to the bowl and mix it together. Then add a grounded flaxseeds and a rice flour. You can also add an additional cacao nibs or powder. The wight should be enough thick. Finally I add there a chopped dates and spread in a silicone shape for baking. But before I sprinkle this with grated walnuts. And put it to bake for 35 minutes at 180C.

Homemade brownie is a great desert or breakfast for a healthy Christmas and New Year holidays! 🙂

 

Diet and sweet pancakes

A weekend is a great opportunity to slow the time down, not be in a rush and do what you like. I really enjoy cooking. At the same time, I never spend in the kitchen for more than forty minutes. Because healthy meals do not require a lot of time.

In the morning, I slowly crawled out of bed on an exercise mat. A little more than half an hour of yoga, and I my body is grateful to me. This afternoon, I play tennis which is an intense cardiovascular workout. So 30 minutes of yoga is enough to warm-up joints and muscles. After yoga – a green smoothie, shower and cooking breakfast. As always this happens with different recipes in my case, Russian pancakes recipe was converted into a one without gluten and sugar.

Ingredients for eight medium pancakes:

  • bananas instead of sugar – 2 pieces;
  • baking soda – 1/2 teaspoon;
  • eggs – 2 pieces;
  • coconut milk – 3 tablespoons;
  • cup of quinoa flour (can be substituted for rice flour, if you need gluten-free option, or wheat, if you eat gluten);
  • glass of water;
  • a pinch of salt.

Bananas I mash in a blender, then mixed with all the ingredients. And I leave the dough for 30 minutes to infuse. Then I stirred and still about a quarter cup of water. I fry pancakes quickly with a little olive oil.

In the evening I made a variant of dietary jam. Just mashed in the blender two mango pulp (you can use any other fruit). I added five teaspoons of chia seeds in a mango puree, and put in the refrigerator overnight. The seeds swell and make the mass like a jam. It served as a topping for pancakes with strawberries.

The great compliment for this breakfast is a green tea with lemon and a little clove. It is not only a tasty and healthy meal, but also a way to hear one more time that I am the best wife in the world! 🙂

Continuous improvement

Today, the hero of my blog is Artem Ismagilov. He wasn’t known to have any prior professional swimming experience, however, on the 8th day of the 8th month of 2015 (2+0+1+5 also equals 8) he managed to swim eight kilometers in open water in several hours!

Artem encourages everyone with his improvement and way of life. I watched him become a sports snowboarder from a professional one, and then he moved to stock photography. Both times were vastly successful. At the same time, Artem came third in the Russian Wakeboarding Championship, met his beautiful wife and became a father of two lovely kids. He chose to quit photography, started shooting video and again succeeded as an art-director of the company’s new direction as a video studio.

This year he tried something new – the first in his life swim in open water from shore to shore. Artem accepted this challenge thrown down by his friend Andrei Shishkin. Andrei is also an athlete, who thoroughly prepares for sports events with professional coaches using all the latest technologies. He was sure that it’s impossible to swim 8 kilometers across the lake without the help of a coach. Artem decided to prove that motivation and self-preparation are more important. They had a bet. Andrei has put his fancy sports bike at stake, and Artem has promised to get a tattoo if he loses.

Eight is the lucky number for the entire project: besides being the symbol of infinity, and the fact that the swim happened on the 8th day of the 8th month, even a bicycle is similar to number 8 in shape.

Artem had six months to get prepared. The task was to swim 8 kilometers in open water. In fact, the active phase of his preparation began three months before the event. His job and errands caused the delay. However, the time came when Artem realized that if he doesn’t start now, he won’t succeed. And so he began.

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Eight rules for his preparation:

  1. Perform the most difficult swim for the first time to check your capabilities and set a starting point;
  2. Look through thematic forums and talk with people who did long swims in open water before. Define the goal based on the test swim and draw up the training program;
  3. Draw up a weekly training schedule: one training session in the pool, 2-3 workouts in open water for a few hours each (the lakes are 100 km away) as well as running, skipping rope, and stretching;
  4. Continually estimate your time limits of being in open water and work to increase them (interval endurance swims, alternating rhythm and speed);
  5. Perform strength swims (swim with the same rhythm and speed as long as possible);
  6. A buoy attached to you should contain a running uniform, a phone for navigation and training tracking, as well as Isostar sports nutrition;
  7. Listen to your body and adjust the training on the go;
  8. Watch your breath and learn to breathe correctly.

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Uvildy lake in Chelyabinsk region has been chosen for the swim. The swimmer could stay in the water as long as he wanted, have a rest and eat. The swimmer loses if he grabs the buoy, touches the boat or admits that he lost.

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Eight rules for the swim:

  1. Form a support team in the boat and on the shore near the finish line;
  2. Attach the same sports nutrition to the buoy that was used during the training;
  3. Create a playlist with favorite music, which gives an emotional charge during the swim;
  4. Find the right rhythm and get into it, which helps to move with ease for a long time;
  5. Be mentally and physically prepared for different weather: head tide and waves;
  6. Be familiar with the lake for the swim (Artem admitted that he made a mistake not having a single training session in Uvildy lake);
  7. The buoy should contain only an essential number of items and food to avoid its weight collecting seaweed and creating unneeded obstacles for the swim;
  8. Always remember the goal: to feel the shore and land underfoot. This helps to swim up to the very end.

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This summer wasn’t particularly hot. Artem trained 4-5 times a week, regularly traveling to the lakes in any weather. His wetsuit, movement, family and friends’ support helped to not get cold. Dedication helped, too. Three months of training have passed quickly. The big day has come. Artem puts on his wetsuit, hat and goes into the water. He swam longer than he expected. There was one time when Artem was swimming but he wasn’t moving towards the shore for nearly an hour. As soon as he realized this, he immediately changed his technique, and began to approach the finish line again. The last two kilometers were the most difficult. He was ready to quit several times, to get out and get a tattoo. But he didn’t give up. Artem swam for four and a half hours to cover more than eight kilometers and won the bet. When he reached the shore, people applauded him, while he hardly remembered his name. He could barely speak. But he did it!

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“It’s hard to imagine that I started with one kilometer three months ago!” – Artem says, looking back at that day. “I’ve done what matters most – I’ve changed myself. Although, I must say that when you freak out in the water for several hours straight, all the tattoos, bikes, and all the numbers, including eight, become insignificant. I distinctly remember that the best thing for me that day was to feel solid ground under my feet.”

People: El Kalinado

El Kalinado is a man who wasn’t afraid to begin his new happy life in his 57th year. He left his home and his art studio in Victoria, Canada, sold and gave everything away, and went to travel alone.

I was lucky to meet El Kalinado in a yoga retreat & raw food place in Palawan Island, Philippines. I love the time talking with him, joining his sound healing & laughter meditation, and raw food cooking class.

A magic way from France to Canada

El told me: “I am an artist and a healer; I was born in 1954 in France. The story began when I was 12 years old. I was invited to join the “Bendor Drawing academy”, owned by Paul Ricard, a philanthropist who was also a friend of Salvador Dali. At this young age I was already drawing nude models.

Two years after the death of my farther, when I was 19, I met my future wife in London. As we were sitting at the terrace of a restaurant, my uncle invited this young woman passing by to join us for coffee. She was from Canada. We quickly felt that we were to live together and went to study in France, before moving to Canada to live there for 30 years together.

My wife died nine years ago, when our daughter was 17, and our son was 22. So I stayed in Canada for a while until the children became independent. I then decided to make a big change in my life: I sold and gave away everything, and went to Southern East Asia.

Sound-Healing at Bahay Kalipay, Philippines
Sound-Healing at Bahay Kalipay, Philippines

Yoga, massage and sound therapy

I started to practice yoga when I was in the university. After I had car accident, I needed a lot of massage therapy to recover. I noticed that while receiving massage therapy, the experience could be very different, depending on the therapist. With some, as soon as they put their hands on you, just from their energy you feel better. I then understood that this was not only massage therapy, but also pranic healing energy. So I started to learn massage therapy and Sound Therapy. It made a lot of changes in my life: it changed my habits and my diet. I then studied other alternative therapies.

No sickness for 15 years already

Before, I always had wine with dinner. But learning and practicing different therapies changed my habits. Progressively, without making a conscious choice, I stopped drinking wine, eating meat and avoiding anything that was not resonating with my body and my energy.I used to be sick every winter but since, I’ve not been sick for over 15 years.

Raw food

I try to eat mostly raw vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts, a plant based diet. I mostly eat raw food, but when I live in India, I eat cooked vegetables, rice or lentils one time a day.I like sweets only if they are made without white sugar or artificial sweetener. I used to teach raw chocolate classes in Canada: mixing unsweetened chocolate (coco powder or chocolate mass) with either coconut nectar, maple syrup, agave syrup (or honey if you are un-vegan) dates, and coco butter or coconut oil. This makes a healthy chocolate that must be kept in the fridge.

Picture from a raw food cooking class at Bahay Kalipay, Philippines
Picture from a raw food cooking class at Bahay Kalipay, Philippines

Main rules to be eating raw food

  • Drink 2 glasses of water when you get up, to flush your digestive system.
  • Chew slowly: I recommend to take a spoonful in your mouth, and then put the spoon on the plate, don’t touch it until you chewed the food completely and your mouth is empty. This is very important to have the enzyme needed for proper digestion.
  • It is good to eat fruits separately. Don’t mix them with vegetables and grains.
  • Don’t drink with your meals: drink at least 30 minutes before and 1 hour after your meal.Try to get fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
  • If you live in a cold country, I recommend eating some kind of warm food: hot soup, vegetables or tea, and use some “heat food” like cayenne pepper and ginger.

Why is a green smoothie good?

When you put green vegetables in a blender, you extract all the nutrients from them. If you try to chew spinach or other greens, you have to chew them for at least 10 minutes to get the same amount of nutrients. But always drink your smoothies very slowly so you can digest them properly.

The main rule in my life

I will never retire… I never stop learning… I live in the present as much as possible and I love to help people heal with all the modalities I practice (Energy Medicine, Sound Healing, Emotions re-programing, Reiki, massage and Sat Nam Resayan).”

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Food and activities in the travel: Israel

They said Israel is a second home of start-ups after Silicon Valley now. This place definitely inspired me a lot by fresh ideas, new plans and challenging tasks. But what I liked most was people’s ability to live life here and now: just being yourself, walking, socializing, dancing, smiling and enjoying tasty food.

Food in the travel

  • Mediterranean cuisine is famous for its long positive impact on life expectancy. I could easily find both delicious and healthy food (fresh vegetable salads seasoned with local olive oil, fish and seafood) in any local cafe.
  • But… I had to abstain from eating up, even the most delicious and healthy dishes! I have discovered that food helpings tend to be really hospitable in Israel: three times larger than the average ones in Russian and European restaurants.  Here I experienced my first cheating day of not finishing the ice cream, as one scoop turned out to be much bigger than I had been used to.
  • I was really pleased by beverages variety. For instance, this is possible everywhere in Israel to select from coconut water smoothie, soymilk coffee, mint and lemon tea, or fresh juice. Actually, I encountered lots of fruit shops in every city I visited: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bat Yam and Haifa.
This is just one scoop of ice cream with one flavor in my cup, and two flavors on the cup of my friend
This is just one scoop of ice cream with one flavor in my cup, and two flavors on the cup of my friend

Activities

  • The trip was rich with strolls about Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. My mobile pedometer would register approximately 18 000 steps daily for three days running.
  • I took my time to practice in-home yoga before breakfast.
  • My friend suggested our cycling tour along Tel Aviv shoreline. To tell you the truth, bicycles were not the most comfortable ever, but cycling truly accelerated our movements, contributed to diversity of sights seen and filled our day up with brand new emotions and experiences.

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  • When planning my trips, I always google good gyms and yoga classes or ask my friends and acquaintances about such places. It was my friend Katya this time, who took me to the Russian-speaking morning yoga meditation class, which took place at a sea view classroom.
  • I had spare time for gym on Shabbat. But Shabbos, or Shabbat is a holy day when Jews refrain from work activities. That’s why I quickly designed a training program for the open-air workout. In the morning Katya and me had one-hour boot camp in front of the sea. It is noteworthy that there is plenty of space for those who want to train at the seaside.

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You will be able to find out more about that training program of mine in one of the following posts.

Raw coconut&mango breakfast

Good morning!

I’m so glad to come back at my home and kitchen after long trip! Love cooking healthy food and, of course, eating it then!

Thanks Nutritious&Delicious for the inspiration to cook a super tasty, 100% raw breakfast. The original recipe is here.

 

I’ve changed the recipe a little bit due to the ingredients at my kitchen.

I put for two cups:

  • 1 mango,
  • 1 glass of homemade coconut milk,
  • 10 teaspoons of chia seeds,
  • 2 teaspoons of organic date syrup from Israel.

The taste is amazing! Thanks Nutritious&Delicious!

No to Arthritis: Instruction Sheet

If you are familiar with my fitness record, you know that I had come to gym for health, not for beauty. The problem was solved and I created a muscular girdle in the core to support kidneys and not let them shift down. But soon life called me to the next challenge. The knee joint pains lead me to doctors who diagnosed a case of genetic knee arthritis.

It hurt to tears during inflammation of the knee.

I started studying the arthritis subject with innate systematic approach: discovered other people’s experience, searched for sportsmen’s recommendations, and consulted with orthopedists and rheumatologists.

In the course of treatment I formed the following habits.

1. Appropriate doctors are essential

You have to surround yourself with professional medical support: that of orthopedist, rheumatologist, ultra sonographer and radiographer. I found the right doctors on recommendations of acquaintances. I would arrange an appointment with a doctor, prepare a list of questions, visit the doctor and realize if he met my requirements and if I could trust him. You’d better also do ultrasonography and radiography in recommended clinics and undergo re-examinations at the same places with the same doctors.

2. Tolerating pain is forbidden

Knee pain is the first stroke of joint inflammation. In case of arthritis, the cartilage deteriorates and the bones start rubbing directly against each other. That’ s why I agreed to take medicines prescribed by my orthopedist. I was on non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs and cartilage protectors.

3. Daily exercising is a must

Your physical therapy should be on a daily basis. There are no capillaries in knee joints and important nutrients are provided by synovial fluid, which is transported into the joint space from cartilage only when the joint is active, i.e. during movement. Moreover, it is necessary to build leg muscles to create a muscular girdle for your knees. But it is not recommended to do weight exercises, such as squats, lunges and jumps at inflammatory state.

I relocated my lower body workout from the gym to home mat. I performed light 45-minute leg and butt workouts every day. My orthopedist had provided illustrated instruction sheet to those exercises.

I kept on working out my upper body in a gym with sitting position exercises prevailing. In that way, weight is distributed on hips, not on legs. I always warmed up by cycling only.

I added regular swimming to my training schedule for general joint support and my overall muscular tone maintenance.

4. Eating avocado and cottage cheese is good for you

In case of knee arthritis, nutrition should be focused on cartilage repair. Firstly, your diet should be healthy and balanced. Take lots of vegetables, fruits, green-stuff and safe drinking water. I had refused meat, gluten, roasted and junk food long ago and this point was no hard task.
Secondly, I increased the quantity of fatty fish, avocado, olive oil, prawns and other rich in healthy fats products consumed.
Thirdly, I added casein protein to my evening menu. I found out from several articles that growth hormone in human organism is produced naturally throughout the whole life, however, its level drops over the years. Protein tends to double up the growth hormone production, which facilitates cartilage repair. Casein protein is digested within few hours, which, in its turn, raises the chance of growth hormone production. I tasted casein protein powder but was preoccupied with body response. That was why I replaced it with 100-gram portion of skim cheese and used to have it two hours before bedtime. At the time it was the only dairy product on my menu. And currently there are no dairy foods at all. Collagen, which is contained within aspic, is considered to be beneficial for arthritis treatment. But I refrained from this experiment, as I didn’t feel like eating meat products back then.

5. Taking care of your knees, by all means

I ordered special orthopedic insoles, as proper foot fixation is another foundation for knee joints. And my personal experience proves it well. At least, now, that I have new footwear and insoles, I don’t get tired from long time walking, as I previously did. And you can easily displace your insoles from these or those shoes to the other ones. Now I choose to buy new footwear only if my insoles fit well in it.

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Happy end

I have no bum knees any more. The doctors have noted significant improvements. I have gradually added leg workouts to my training and displaced my in-home physical drills to the gym. I have built my muscles scrupulously and successively. Now all kinds of exercises, seated or stand up, lunges or squats, are included into my regular training programme. But I still tend to listen to my body and to focus more on sets quantity and quality, than muscle mass gain.
My body reveals and health strengthens.
To tell you the truth, this is a great piece of luck to prove first-hand that recuperating your health is possible at any age.

Karin G. Reiter. Australian Medical Nutritionist

Australian Nutritionist Karin G. Reiter inspires me not only to change in nutrition. She was an lawyer in a bank industry some years ago, studied Medical Nutrition, opened her Nutrition clinic in Singapore, became the wife of a happy husband and a mother of two healthy children. In the same time Karin was educated as a personal fitness trainer, shares her professional and personal experience in her blog Nutrisious&Delicious, has launched its own free ebook with healthy recipes, exercise five times a week, and just lives a fulfilled, meaningful life.

LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TO EAT A GOOD FOOD

Karin is my teacher about medical nutrition during the course “Personal trainer FISAF Singapore”. I am very inspired by her lectures, and wanted to know more how she organizes a healthy food habits for her family with two children at ages five and three years old.

Me: How do you teach your children to eat healthy food?

Karin: They were born to know healthy food flavors from birth. They eat vegetables, fruits whole grains like quinoa, lentils, nuts and seeds… I make an almond milk… So they know flours in their systems and they love it. The challenges happen around the ages 3 or 4 when the children see the other children eating unhealthy food. So I do a workshop called “Kids eat healthy”. I educate parents why some food is unhealthy for children and how to get your children to eat healthy food. Because most people don’t really understand why some food is best avoided or how to get their kids to eat healthy. And also I explain sociological side how to deal with that: children should eat 90% healthy food cooking at home or eating at healthy restaurants. My kids love sushi and there are many places in Singapore where you can find fresh juices. So it’s very easy for us to eat out. And we never eat at McDonalds or places like that. And when we go to parties, I allow the children to eat whatever they want. Because this is a small percent of their food. They are still kids.

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Me: You told me that problems happen around the ages three to four. So how do you persuade them to eat healthy food 90% of their time?

Karin: You don’t persuade children. And you don’t teach them what is the nutrition food. You just try to create positive thoughts for their habits. I’m modeling behavior for my children. I eat healthy food, they eat healthy food. They help me to cook food. They help prepare the food, touching it, smelling it, learning about it. They come shopping with us to the markets. So they know well what is healthy food. And when they choose healthy food, I tell them “Good choice, healthy choice”. When my daughter wants to eat unhealthy food, she knows this is unhealthy. And sometimes she can say me “I feel a stomachache”. And I remind her, she has a stomachache because she ate an unhealthy food. Or also there is a big connection between unhealthy food and children’s reaction and feelings. When you have kids one day, you will see that when they eat unhealthy food, they have mass of reaction. Really like running around, crying. And it’s very difficult to manage. So I try to show connection to my daughter how she eats and how she feels.

Me: What are the general rules to choose a good food?

Karin: The first is it’s a natural form: coming from trees, from a ground rather than something coming from a box. And fresh is best. Also little or no ingredients. You need understand all ingredients. I strongly recommend eating 80% of plant-based food: vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and different kinds of whole grain, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat…. Things like that.

Me: And how many times a day do you eat? How many times a day do you recommend to eat?

Karin: There is no one recommendation for every persons. Everyone isn’t the same. Some people need to eat six meals a day, and other three meals a day. I think it really depends on your hunger, your personality. I think generally you should eat around every two hours when your stomach is empty of previous food. So it can be three main meals, and two-three small meals. Or ot can be six small meals.

The photo is from a personal archive of Karin
The photo is from a personal archive of Karin

Me: How much time do you spend for cooking every day? Because some people think it’s quite difficult to cook healthy food.  

Karin: I usually write down a menu plan on Friday for the next week. So know where my kids will go next week, or if we have guests at home. On Saturday I make shop for a whole week. And then usually on Sunday I cook four or five different big dishes. I make a lot of vegetables, I make hummus, I a big soup, I make much amount of beans or lentils, I make an almond milk. I don’t make fresh food in advance. I like fresh salads, green juices and smoothies, which I can prepare very quickly during a week. And I cook some fish, steamed vegetables during a week too. I don’t spend so much time for cooking. I usually spend one day for shopping, one big day for cooking around for three hours, and 30 minutes for cooking during weekday.

Me: How do you help your clients to change them?

Karin: We set goals: where we are gonna to be six weeks later, 12 weeks later or one year from now. And how we are gonna to get these goals. Maybe one week you cut out this type of food. You know, that’s the goal for this week. So it’s about the goals. But also about the plans how to make these goals. For example, if you want to decrease your cholesterol, how are you gonna to do it? Are you gonna to workout three times a week, to eat fresh vegetable salads for lunch every time, and you’re gonna to cook by yourself 90% of time.

Me: What could you recommend to people who have allergies?

Karin: You need to define if you have food allergy or food sensitivity. You feel tired, your mood is not good, your skin is not good, your bowel is not working correctly then you might have food sensitivity. The cheapest way to test if you are allergic to certain foods is to do elimination diet. So generally many people don’t feel good to gluten or wheat, dairy products, eggs and nuts. So and you need to avoid these food for two weeks but 100% to avoid them. And after two weeks one by one to add them and to see if you have a reaction. And if you have some of reaction like your skin, stomachache or headache, or diarrhea. It means you have sensitivity to this food. So you should cut out of your diet.

Me: Could you let us know your food diary for a day?

Karin: I don’t eat the same every day. But I can say what I ate yesterday. I had a green juice for breakfast with muesli, almond milk and berries. And then I had buckwheat with homemade hummus and fresh salad, and lemon for lunch. And afternoon I had berries, and some nuts, and some pineapple. And then for dinner I had a sweet potato with a small piece of fish and a big salad.

The photo is from a personal archive of Karin
The photo is from a personal archive of Karin

Me: And if a person wants to lose just 2-3 kg, what could you suggest generally?

Karin: Go back to the labels of food, which you eat. They should be simple with few ingredients. Drink a lot of water, eat a lot of vegetables in all forms: soups, salads, juices. Limit your fruits during a day (up to three fruits per day), eat only whole grains, and reduce the amounts of animals, which you eat.

Me: Thank you so much! And what is your main advice for people?

Karin: My main advice for people you should listen your body. You should learn about your body. Most people have no idea: they listen to the doctors, they listen to other people. Don’t follow the trends, magazines. The point is not to be skinny; the point is to be happy. And nutrition connects with your happy. When you eat a good food, you are happy. You are happy inside and love yourself enough to eat a good food. So all starts to love yourself and being true to yourself.

Everything happens for a reason

Natalia and I studied together. We were both television journalism students with prior TV work experience. You might expect something interesting with such a background, right? Natalia, now 29 years old, first worked as a translator and then as a PR-manager in a foreign company before eventually ending up as a yoga instructor.

In Natalia’s words, everything in her life has flowed naturally: twice living and working in the USA, a second higher education degree at the Department of Oriental Studies, teaching yoga, studying Japanese in Tokyo for three years and working in a show business. But I don’t think people’s lives are determined by luck. Natalia knows how to dream, and perhaps more importantly, how to make her dreams a reality.

Me: Why did you go to the East, to the origins of yoga?

It had always been my dream. After living in America I could speak English pretty well at the age of 22 and I decided that one foreign language was not enough for me. I had always wanted to visit Japan that is why I chose Japanese. This language is interesting and pretty hard to learn. Plus, three years of living in Japan is a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve experienced and compared European, American and Asian ways of thinking. And it’s been fascinating in speaking of our perceptions of the world.

The photo is a personal archive of Natalia. Model's work in Tokyo
The photo is a personal archive of Natalia. Model’s work in Tokyo

Me: Did yoga change you?

Yes, it did. Nothing would have happened without it; I couldn’t have earned enough money for my education and I wouldn’t have had the strength to change my life so radically.  I feel it gave me the belief that no matter what I chose to do everything would be fine.

Me: So how did it happen?

My plan was to learn Japanese and to get to know the country but sometimes things do not go according to a plan. So I first worked as a translator, then as a model, and then finally found my place in show business. I met many famous people and went to the gigs of rock bands that I’d been listening to since I was a teenager. I never thought I would see them perform live!

Natalia and Paul Stanly in Tokyo
Natalia and Paul Stanly in Tokyo

Me: Wow, how do you combine yoga and rock music?

Easily! I’ve loved rock music since I was 14 years old. This is one of the reasons why I was so lucky to be able to work with rock musicians in Japan. When you’re able to tell Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit: “Hey dude, I was listening to your songs when I was a teen, thank you for your music!”,  you can understand each other pretty well. By the way, there is a popular American yoga instructor with black eyeliner and leather bracelets whose motto is, “Rock your pose! Rock your body!”

Me: Does she practice with rock music?

No (laughing). I’m also true to my temperament and I prefer dynamic yoga – ashtanga vinyasa. This yoga is for energetic people; it suits better to people with western cost of mind. Madonna, Sting and many other successful people do practice it. Yoga helps them to balance their eventful life and prevents them from getting bored during practice.

The photo is a personal archive of Natalia
The photo is a personal archive of Natalia

Me: When you just getting started, which way is better – to practice yoga with instructor or to do it by yourself?

I recommend to practice with professional instructor for the first months. As soon as you get the basics and learn how to feel your body you can try to do it by yourself. Goes without saying that practice with instructor cannot be compared to practice with videotape.

Me: Some beginners have health problems after yoga. What do you think about that?

It happens, and it is quite normal. When you are doing yoga all your muscles are working really hard. Some of them cannot actually be trained on any gym machines. So when you touch some previously stabilized old problems you can feel some pain. Your old injuries can “wake up”. You can even feel something than have never bothered you before. Do not panic. Just tell your instructor about it and he or she will help you to deal with it. You should not endure the pain or give up doing yoga. Your task is to find your optimal load. After that the pain will be gone and will never disturb you again. It applies to musculoskeletal system. But if you have some problems with your blood pressure or headaches, it is better to see a doctor and find a cause.

Me: Who comes to practice yoga?

Yoga is intellectual training. It is usually the choice of educated and successful people. Some people are doing yoga for muscle stretching or because of health problems and they are getting more than expected. Yoga means strength and flexibility of your body, balance and calmness of your mind. If your spine is healthy, you are healthy. Many people cannot live without final shavasana relaxation. It is an ideal asana for having rest after a workday.

Me: That’s right! I’m ready to see my Vietnamese instructor anytime only because of shavasana with stroking and head massage!

Yeah, I use this technique too. And I learnt it in Asia. It is not actually “stroking” (laughing). It is the way your instructor can help you to relax and take more comfortable position. Sometimes you cannot lie down comfortably by yourself, and it is very important. And also an energetic aspect should not be excepted.

Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio
Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio

Me: Can yoga be combined with gym workouts?

Yes, but not at the same day. You should not underestimate the exercise stress of yoga. If you combine them, you will just be tired. It is really cool to do yoga with run or any other cardio exercises.

Me: What about your nutrition?

My basic principle is to listen to the body. If you want to eat some cake: find a reason why. And then let yourself to eat this cake easily and with pleasure. If you want to eat cakes every day, you should definitely find a reason. Maybe it is lack of glucose. You should check it with a dietician. Do not eat something that makes you feel heaviness; eat the food, which you are enjoying to eat. My diet is based on a principle of inverted pyramid: I eat most of the food in the morning and noon. In the afternoon I eat less, proteins prevail, and I exclude carbohydrates and floury food.

Me: Do you eat meat?

I used to eat a lot of meat. In the last six months I eat only white meat and it is not because any ethical issues. I realized that red meat makes my body heavier. Sometimes I have up to 5 workouts a day so I need proteins. That is why I prefer to eat fish and chicken. My only weakness is Korean cuisine.

Me: How did you come to love Korean cuisine while living in Japan?

It happened accidentally. My language school was in a Korean district of Tokyo.

Me: What is the conception of your life?

I like yoga principles in respect to modern life. In every period of life things should happen when they are supposed to be happening. You should not give up your youth for enlightenment. If you like to drink with your friends, do it even if you practice yoga. Do stupid things, gain some life experience. There are many limitations in our life, don’t make more. Practice yoga and try to feel your body. Do no harm. Give more than you take. Don’t wait for anything in return. “Practice yoga and you’ll have everything”. I am the best example of this saying.

Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio
Photo: Alexey Tulenkov by Pressfoto Production Studio

Me: What is your ideal of beauty?

It is when everything is real and natural. You have to do a lot to look naturally beautiful. I mean sport and healthy nutrition. It is much easier to do make up.

Me: What is the freedom?

In my opinion, freedom is wrong idea. What kind of happiness can be found in the freedom? For example, it is so good to be depending on your beloved person! Or find your place in society. Friends and job are limiting our freedom but give us a lot more instead

Me: Why did you come back to Russia?

I decided that it was time to progress in yoga. Neon lights of Tokyo led me a bit away from my main goal. I have just passed through selection into international fitness holding company “Citrus” fitness-club. So now intensive training is in process. Now I’m on the way that I’m going to be on for all my life. I had to change something. It is always a regress without a progress.

Me: What’s next? What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to go to California soon to have a 200-hours class of yoga instructor and get an international level certificate. In my greater plans I’m going to create my own unique approach of yoga practice.

That is so awesome! Will you come to our production studio for some pictures and videos before you go?

Yes, with pleasure!