Continuing on with our Inspired By series, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the lovely, well-travelled, fitness enthusiast and health coach, Stef. Stef has recently moved from Switzerland to Sydney and has a story very similar to so many women of all ages. She is on a mission to lift others out of the darkness and destruction that comes with disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with food and body image. Keep reading to find out more about Stef’s past, how she cares for herself today, her health philosophy and much, much more!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became involved in the health industry?
I haven’t always been this healthy. In fact, I used to be a fad dieting, self-destructive treadmill junkie that obsessively counted calories and stepped on the scale up to five times a day. I had that “inner mean girl” syndrome, meaning that I was constantly telling myself I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, and the list goes on. After years and years of self loathing, I decided one day that enough was enough and that it was time to start taking care of myself. It’s been a long and hard journey, but five years later I have overcome my eating disorder and have created a healthy, fulfilled life for myself that I am absolutely in love with.
As I became more intrigued by the power of nutrition, mind – body connection and a holistic lifestyle in general, I realized that I wanted to help others with their own struggles. I am now a certified health coach and it is my goal to inspire other young girls and women to live their life to the fullest by becoming the healthiest and happiest version of them self, minus the deprivation, restriction and obsession around food and exercise.
What is your personal health philosophy?
For me, being truly healthy isn’t just about what you eat and how much you train. It’s about so much more than that. You can eat all the kale in the world and live from juice cleanse to juice cleanse, but if you are not nourishing your soul on a deeper level, your body and mind don’t thrive. I think that being truly healthy means nourishing your body with whole foods, exercising because you love your body (not because you hate it!) and living a life that fulfills you and makes you happy. It’s something that I had to learn the hard way, but now I truly understand the importance of having the right mindset.
How do you begin your morning?
I love starting my morning by thinking about three things that I am grateful for. If my partner and I wake up at the same time, we ask each other what those three things are and then get up together. Next up is either a mini yoga flow (5 minutes), a journaling sesh or I go straight to preparing breakfast, depending on the schedule for that day. Oh, and I like to oil pull or drink my lemon water with ginger, cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar while getting breakfast ready. Depending on my schedule, I might even get my workout in in the morning, so on those days I’m off to a class straight away and will have my nourishing morning routine post-workout.
What does a typical day look like on your plate?
I don’t believe in dietary labels and love mixing things up and trying new things. That means that no day ever looks the same! I tried going fully vegan once, but realized that, because of my restrictive past, it was triggering at times. These days I eat a very balanced, mainly plant-based diet with lots of fresh unprocessed foods. If I do eat animal products, I make sure I buy organic produce of the highest quality. I listen to my body and nurture it with whatever it asks for; that may be a vegan salad with quinoa, spinach and sweet potato or a bar of (dark and organic) chocolate. Some staple meals of mine are: tofu stir fry with buckwheat noodles and leafy greens, a green smoothie with vegan protein powder, hummus with veggie sticks as a snack and a warming oatmeal for brekky.
Right now I’m actually on Sarah Wilson’s 8-week I Quit Sugar program, and like I said, I love experimenting with new foods and seeing how my body and mind react. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so it’s been more of mental challenge than anything.
Fitness is a huge part of your life. What is your workout routine and do you have any tips you can offer on how to commit to an exercise regimen?
Since moving to Sydney, I haven’t had a real workout routine per se. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t worked out everyday! I’m actually using Classpass at the moment and I really enjoy trying out new studios and types of workouts throughout the city. I’ve also been very active in nature and have been going on regular runs and even took up surfing. I find it really important to mix things up and love to push myself out of my comfort zone every day, otherwise I get bored easily! These days I’ve been doing one crossfit/functional training/ weight lifting type of workout per day + one more relaxing stretching session like yoga or pilates.
If you struggle sticking to your workout routine, I recommend finding a workout buddy that holds you accountable and also to schedule your workouts into your calendar. It’s all too easy to forget or neglect the commitment to yourself, but if it’s scheduled in, it makes it just that bit harder to ignore.
What are the three foods you have to have on your desert island?
I go through phases with food, but I could never live without
What is the greatest health advice you have ever been given?
That health is a journey, not a goal. It took me many years of dissatisfaction and body dysmorphia to realize this, but now I understand the importance of “enjoying the ride”. If you are always working towards that one far distant goal, then you will never be happy with yourself in the moment.
It seems you have travelled/lived all around the globe! Where did you find was the easiest city to embrace a healthy lifestyle? Do you have a favourite fitness studio or cafe in that city?
Sydney by far! There is such a huge health scene here with many amazing studios, healthy cafés, sporty events and a bunch of beautifully inspiring like-minded people that help you stay motivated and on track. In fact, that’s pretty much the reason why I moved here…Europe, and especially Switzerland (where I moved from) is so far behind on the trend, so it’s been a refreshing scenery change for me. Plus, the warm weather and beautiful nature just makes you want to be active outdoors all day long. One of my favorite cafés is Sadhana Kitchen in Bondi (if you’re skeptical about raw vegan cuisine, this place will change your mind!) and I love Urban Yoga and Humming Puppy for a good yoga session.
Like so many of us, you have overcome a difficult relationship with food, body image and self love. Do you ever still struggle with this? And if so, what do you do to pull yourself out of it?
Yes, definitely! I still struggle from time to time, just like everyone else. But over the years I’ve assembled a whole list of tricks that help me deal with a bad day. From taking a walk by myself to dry body scrubbing, writing in my gratitude book or talking it out with my bestie or partner before the feeling manifests itself, it’s all about self love and acceptance on those days. It’s when everything seems to go wrong that kindness is more important than ever. No matter how busy I am I will try to find some “me time”, as my health and happiness will always be number one priority.
I also like to remind myself of this quote (one of my faves!):
“You are under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.”
The quote is a reminder that even if you had a crappy start to the day, it doesn’t have to ruin the rest of their day. Become aware of your feelings, work through them and pick yourself back up.
One more thing that I want to add: It’s always been my goal to be as authentic and raw as possible with my audience. I allow myself to be vulnerable and try to always share when I feel down, frustrated, annoyed, insecure etc. There are way too many accounts out there that showcase this picture-perfect world, and it can be very triggering for girls who compare their own life to the highly edited life of social influencers. What’s important to realize is that we all struggle from time to time, and it’s my goal to show both the ups and the downs.
Please share with us one of your favourite clean recipes!
Stef’s Vegan Banana Blueberry Pancakes
Start by making your flax eggs: mix the ground flax seeds and water in a small bowl, mix with a fork and leave in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Mix all your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, spices).
Mash your bananas and add to the dry mix along with the mix, vanilla and flax eggs.
Once all well mixed, add the blueberries and mix gently.
Heat up a pan with a small tsp of coconut oil.
Add 2 big tbsp of the mixture at a time and cook.
Add homemade vegan chocolate sauce.
Sprinkle with fresh blueberries and coconut flakes before serving.
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