For as long as I can remember, I was always in the kitchen with my mom, cooking and baking. Partly because it was a chore but mainly because I wanted to learn how to prepare a delicious meal. From the age of 10 I started collecting healthy recipes. I grew up in the hungarian countryside and our cuisine centers a lot of flour and fat, so I have always been eager to learn how to recreate our traditional dishes but with a focus on better health.
After moving from home and starting work, cooking took a back seat and I started discovering new flavours as I ate out on a regular basis. Greek and chinese restaurants were my favourites and the taste explosion was mind blowing. So I ditched the boring hungarian staples and went with the flow. I’m one of those people who gets easily distracted no matter what I’m doing — working on something, travelling or just being out and about with friends. In my 20s it didn’t seem to be an issue. I was always eating on the go, skipped meals if I didn’t have time and inhaled my food when I was in a hurry.
By the time I moved abroad, I picked up lots of unhealthy eating habits
Being in a new country, learning about a new culture and trying to integrate while building life all by myself certainly didn’t help improve my eating habits. I gained weight, experienced mood swings, felt tired all the time and had the worst PMS I can remember. So I decided to address the issue in the best way I knew how: I started implementing healthy habits back into my life. I exercised, meditated, tried many different diets, took vitamins, tried herbs and essential oils. While I managed to stick to my new routine, I still felt exhausted, drained, and ungrounded.
It took me decades of trial and error — while studying nutrition, life coaching and yoga — to realize that I was doing it all wrong. Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t revolve around eating healthy and exercising all the time. You need to take care of yourself on a deeper level, and that includes your mind, body and emotions as well. When you care for yourself like you would for a child, you become more gentle to yourself, more understanding and more accepting of your mistakes. We are human beings, after all, and being a human means making mistakes (just don’t use that as an excuse to over indulge at the next holiday feast).
Ayurveda, an ancient indian healing science, says that the 3 pillars of health are eating, sleeping and sex (not necessarily in this order LOL). If you have too much or too little of any of these, it leads to imbalance and imbalance leads to illness.
So in order to make sure this imbalance doesn’t happen to you, here are 6 tips that have helped me and my clients optimize our health:
1. Eat Your Meals at the Same Time Every Day
Yes, you read that right. Same time, every day! I know it sounds daunting and it is fun to meet up with a friend spontaneously for a bite but bear with me. Keeping your meal times regular teaches your body to be hungry, which produces digestive enzymes. It sounds very sciency, but you need them to digest food properly which gives you the energy you need for the day or that next adventure. After all, you are not what you eat, you are what you digest. Pick one or two of your meals and make sure you schedule time for them in your calendar. If you eat your lunch at the same time every day, you will be hungry at the right time for dinner. This means your stomach will be nice and light by the time you go to sleep, you will get a good night rest and you will be hungry at the right time after waking. And the cycle begins again. If you do only one thing from this list, pick this one.
2. establish a Regular Sleeping Schedule
I know this one doesn´t sound tempting either, but our body needs that rest. Everyone is different and to the contrary of what you read about needing 7 or 8 hours of sleep, you might need more or less. You don’t always fall asleep straight away as your head hits the pillow. Allowing some extra time to settle down might just be what you need to get that beauty sleep. Ideally we should go to bed at sunset and wake up with sunrise. Now this might not work if you live in a country where it gets darker in the winter and brighter in the summer. Instead of doing the math, try to aim for being in bed by 10 pm and wake up by 6 am. This is not set in stone, so feel free to adjust to your individual needs, although being on your social media account until midnight doesn’t count as resting.
3. Create a Self-Care Routine
This one is my favourite because it can be whatever you like. Self-care can be as simple as sitting down with your favourite warm drink at the end of a long day and enjoying every sip by using all your senses. We often forget that this is all it takes for our mind and body to recharge a little bit. Self-care also can be as luxurious as booking a massage with your favourite therapist. Do what works for you and what feels like a little break from your everyday routine.
4. Move Your Body Every Day
Movement doesn´t need to be an hour of sweating in the gym. A simple walk or a gentle form of movement is all your body needs. Listen to your body and the right exercise for you that leaves you energised and refreshed even the day after.
5. Take Care of Your Mind
We get so many impulses throughout the day. Our head is buzzing with to-dos, ideas, deadlines, things to remember. Our brain needs to process all the information we get from every direction, and while watching TV might feel relaxing, and your mind is seemingly resting, it is still processing in the background while “digesting” the program on-screen. Giving your mind a proper break has a huge effect on the body. Meditation has become the new trend and while there are many apps out there, I recommend to just sit in silence for a few minutes and watch your breath. I know, this sounds very boring but this is what you really need. When we quiet our mind and focus on something other than our thoughts, we create these micro moments when the whole body gets to relax. This is just enough time for the body’s self-healing processes to turn on and repair what needs to be done. If meditation is not your thing, find anything that takes you into the flow and helps your mind to relax. Using your hands like cooking, gardening, drawing etc can do the trick.
6. Embrace Your Nurturing Side
We are so used to fighting, pushing, achieving, reaching, building, accomplishing, and doing so many things that when we come home at the end of the day, we forget to put the working womxn hat down and put on the soft, nurturing hat. I might be pushing some buttons here but hear me out: I´m not saying that by being soft and nurturing we must serve everyone. I´m saying that we need to remember to check in with our inner selves and just allow ourselves to be. This is what makes us unique, helps us find balance and fuels us the next morning to take on the world again.
By Katalin Bencze
Ever since she was a child living in Hungary, Kata knew that one day she would realize her dream of learning English and moving abroad. Now residing in Norway, her passion lies in working as a lifestyle and nutrition coach, and yoga teacher since 2016.