How Being born in Ukraine and Growing up in Greece Taught me to Take Care of my Body in London.
I am originally Greek but my parents lived in Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia during the Soviet Union where my sister and I were born. When I was 10 we moved to Greece and when I turned 24, I decided to move to the UK and specifically to London to pursue a career in Marketing and then in Nutritional Therapy and Health Coaching.
Before I arrived in England, I always thought food was something you ate when you were hungry to provide energy and be enjoyed with family and friends. Eating fruits and vegetables was for those that wanted to lose weight. I never thought of food as being information for how my body works…
...Until I started feeling depressed, couldn’t keep my weight at the same level for more than a month, were getting easily irritated, were super stressed about everything, my memory was failing me, I could not focus for more than a few seconds and was constantly feeling tired. On top of that, I was never satisfied or happy with anything and my mind was never present.
I remember one sunny day crying my eyes out, not understanding why on earth I was feeling so down and that was when I decided to take control of my life and changed things around. Studying nutrition and wellbeing reminded me a lot of how I used to live with my family, I resonated a lot with the Blue Zones study and have been doing my best to lead a lifestyle similar to my childhood as much as it is possible.
My non-negotiables, that were part of my childhood, and are now part of adult life are:
No. 1 - Spending more quality time with family and friends
Before my teenage years, while living in Ukraine, my family and I would spend a lot of time together playing, talking, even knitting. There were minimal distractions, like TV, so we would use our imagination to entertain ourselves and enjoy the time with each other and others.
Today, I speak on a regular basis with my parents and sister through Skype or Viber as I am based in a completely different country to them. There is always some type of daily interaction and obviously, I visit them once or twice a year. I also make more effort to spend time with friends without looking at my phone when I am with them. When we get silent, instead of reaching for my phone, I start talking about something I notice in the place we are at to keep the conversation going which then stirs another topic.
No. 2 - Staying active in any way possible
I remember while in the Republic of Georgia, we were living in a village with just 2-3 other kids besides my sister and I. We would meet every day and would play from early in the morning to late in the evening with some breaks in between for lunch and dinner or to help our parents and grandparents with house chores.
I may not be able to play all day now, but I am dedicating time to move my body. I love walking and so I walk around an hour, if not more, per day. I also do stretching and yoga flows as well as dancing, either home alone, with my flatmate or in a bar or a club.
No. 3 - Eating salads with my meals
Greeks are known for eating a salad with their meals which I moved away from when I moved to the UK, mainly out of boredom. This was reintroduced back into my daily habits and have made miles of difference on how I feel. Having a salad alongside my protein and carbs, ensures the biodiversity of my microbiome and also feeling satisfied quicker and for a longer time. Plus, they make such a great difference in how I feel and how I cope with challenges thrown my way.
No. 4 - Eating more probiotics
When I arrived in England, my diet was really poor. My mum used to make pickles and sauerkraut frequently because this is what her mother taught her. Growing up that was something that was almost on our table every day. Obviously, not knowing their importance, I ignored these probiotic full foods for years until my health coach studies. Since then I asked my mum to teach me how to make them and now I eat sauerkraut and pickles on a weekly basis which based on studies contribute to a healthy gut and healthy brain.
No. 5 - Studying and exploring
Last but not least, I realised how being playful and curious about the world was important to me as a kid. We would explore our village many times and would always find something new and exciting or would look at the same places with new eyes and create a playground for us where everything is possible and we would be invincible and be anything we wanted to be.
Traveling outside and inside the UK, exploring London, meeting new people and reading books, excite the same part of my brain as when I was a kid. Networking and socialising are really important parts of my weekly and monthly routines. I created friends, got exciting opportunities by approaching and talking to people I have never spoken before. Traveling and exploring my city also provided me with memorable experiences and turned me into an interesting conversationalist.
Almost 8 years after the day I decided to change my life, I am incredibly grateful for what I have achieved and for what I have. I am always excited and full of energy which a lot of people close to me wonder how it is possible. It is much easier for me to focus and I have seen a great difference in my mood.
I still have moments of light stress but they are negligible to what they were before and there are moments that I would rather do nothing, stay home and be miserable but I get over them much quicker.
I am human and I have accepted myself the way I am. When working with clients I can see them accepting themselves for who they are just after a few sessions and this is always a wonder to me. Who would’ve thought food could do that?