Balancing your Wellness

Sophie Uliano and Sonya Summer Welnness

1. What had your journey been to become a lifestyle and wellness coach and expert?
Technically, my journey to wellness started eons ago when I first started practicing yoga. But my true conversion to healthy living started when I was pregnant with my daughter, Lola, about 15 years ago. Pregnancy is called “The gateway to wellness” in our space – So many women start to question old habits when they’re pregnant. And I’m among them! I had crazy cravings (spicy tuna rolls), I started to look at the labels of the products I was using to clean my home, I’m a transplant from the UK and LA’s smog finally started to bother me … The writing was on the wall, I just wasn’t reading it!

I’m a maniacal researcher, and I just started absorbing as much information as possible. The result of that research is my first book, Gorgeously Green. And from there, I’ve been on an educational journey as well as a wellness journey. There’s just so much to know – And I take my job as a voice in the wellness space really seriously. I’m constantly reading peer-reviewed articles, or stacking up wellness trends against each other. I think we all need to be better educated, because there is just so much information available today!

2. What is your wellness philosophy?
I love this question. I believe in a Wellness Bank Account – That you are constantly balancing your wellness – Whether you’re adding to it by going on a long hike, or deducting from it to enjoy a meal out with your family. Ultimately, like any budget, you want to be in the black, that profits are outweighing costs.

I urge everyone in my life to think critically about their Wellness Bank Account – At first, everyone thinks they’re doing pretty good. But then you start to think beyond “how you’re feeling.” Maybe you have a sedentary job – That’s a deduction from the account. Maybe you LOVE ice cream – That’s a mixed bag, because it makes you feel great, but it’s not the healthiest option for any body. Maybe you eat completely plant-based – That’s a huge deposit!

But thinking about your wellness as a budget really works for me.

3. We’ve read that you believe creating a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about practicing yoga or drinking green smoothies. Why and can you elaborate?
Totally – Wellness goes so far beyond diet and exercise these days. “Healthy living” is a series of conscious choices, from what products you use on your body to maintaining muscle mass to where your food comes from … It’s all encompassing.

Here’s a great example: The notion (and popularity) of self-care is just great branding for what I’ve been practicing for a long time. Self-care is often branded as an indulgence … “I’m going to go get my nails done. #selfcare” or “I’m not responding to emails right now because I need some me time.” Self-care is just the practice of taking the time you need to refill your Wellness Bank Account, which is part of healthy living. And it’s great, because you can do something simple like turn on some music and get to work on your favorite coloring book, or you can go a little bigger and attend a wellness retreat (like the one I’m hosting in October), or you can make a huge life change.

4. What advice to you have for someone who wants to achieve a healthier lifestyle, but just doesn’t even know where to start?
Ugh, such a great question. The most simple advice? Go take a walk. Seriously, just moving your body has tremendous trickle down effects, because you’ll feel more energized, that you’re taking care of your body, and you haven’t spent a penny (you’d be surprised how many people think healthy living has to break the bank).

The more complicated answer is: Start to be more attuned to your body. How are you actually feeling, and “fine” is a terrible answer. Are you tired all the time? Do you have a hard time focusing? Are you hungry minutes after you finish a meal? Start to track the signals your body is giving you, and then set out to address one and a time (seriously, you’ll surprise yourself with how even one adjustment can instigate lots of changes).

Here’s an example from my own life: I used to get a headache every time I cleaned my house. For years, I assumed it was just the frustration that I was cleaning while my family lounged, but then I realized tidying didn’t bother me (dishes, putting things away, etc.). I got massive headaches after I cleaned my bathroom … With tons of chemicals. So I threw away every bottle, spray and powder, and replaced them with natural options. Suddenly, I didn’t have headaches as often, so I took less Advil, and I had more energy … You see how the story ends. Small changes can have huge impacts in the wellness space, especially when you’re in tune with what your body needs.

5. What are some of your favorite foods you recommend for glowing skin?
GREENS – I love kale, spinach, collards … Whatever I can get my hands on to put in a green smoothie in the morning. They’re so hydrating, and full of complex, dynamic nutrients … Wonderful for your skin.

DARK CHOCOLATE AND TOMATOES – Ok, obviously not together, but I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. Foods that are rich in antioxidants are wonderful for your skin, because they’re deeply hydrating and improve circulation.

GREEN TEA – One word, babies: Polyphenols. These little gems help improve your skin’s elasticity and keep your skin oh so smooth. Plus, we’re getting another dose of antioxidants!

WATER – This is a no brainer. But it’s worth repeating again and again. No matter your skin type, no matter your age, water is critical to beautiful skin.

6. You are planning your next Hello Gorgeous Retreat in Palm Springs this fall, can you tell us more about it?
Oh my gosh where to begin … I started the Hello Gorgeous Retreat with my best friend because we realized we both were running on empty. Yes we were sleeping, yes we were eating healthy, but we weren’t caring for ourselves as individuals. We gave every ounce of energy we had to others (our families, our friends, our jobs, our pets). So we decided to get away, together, for some serious R&R.

There’s something really powerful about a women’s weekend. Just the motions of unplugging, tuning into what your body and soul need, and putting yourself first are really hard, and really rewarding.

SophieUliano-1Looking back, I think about the things that we didn’t want our retreat to be as foundational. We’ve all been to yoga ashrams, or nutritional retreats spent starving in your yurt. And worst of all, the smaller investments like massages or expensive hotel rooms where you feel great in the moment, but 24 hours later your back to your old, stressed out, overwhelmed self! We wanted this retreat to be about lasting changes – Focusing on information and empowerment so instead of being force fed power greens to feel healthy, you’re inundated with information, recommendations, and bespoke routines that actually carry over into your “real” life.

So, we’ve built the Hello Gorgeous Retreat around the idea of a women’s wellness weekend (alliteration absolutely intended). We’re going to the beautiful Miramonte Resort and Spa in Indian Wells, outside of sceny chaos of downtown Palm Springs. There’s something really magical about the resort – Without getting too woowoo, you feel the power of the desert and the mountains the second you step foot onto this oasis. For five days and four nights, guests will join us for twice daily yoga, gorgeous plant-based meals, seminars on nutrition, fitness, aromatherapy, plant-based cooking, skincare (and so much more), group activities, meditation … We’ve designed the retreat so every hour is all about self-care. We want each attendee to go home empowered, educated and energized to live their healthiest life.

Bottom line: There are just a handful of spots left. If you’re interested, I highly encourage you to check out SophieUliano.com/HGR, or email my retreat director at Katharine@GorgeouslyGreen.com.

7. What app can you personally not live without?
Oh my gosh, I have a new favorite app that I’m telling everyone about. It’s called Forest, and it’s a focus app. It allows you to set a discrete amount of time, and the app urges you to not navigate into the junkie apps we all tend towards. Once your focused time is achieved, you “plant a tree” in your forest. It lovely it because not only does it keep my brain on the task at hand (and not on Instagram), but it is mildly irreverent, which I just love.

8. Are there any wellness myths out there that you want to debunk?
Yes! There’s a myth I’m super passionate about these days: Cardio is NOT the key. For years, we’ve been told to jog, or spin, or use the elliptical as the key to a perfect body. When really, weight training is so much more transformative, and better for your health over all. As women, we start to lose muscle mass as early as our 40s – And ladies, we need those muscles so desperately as we age to combat weight gain, injury, balance … The list goes on and on. And if I hear one more woman tell me she’s concerned about “bulking up,” I’m going to freak out. I’D KILL TO BULK UP! Do you know how hard it is to build enough muscle mass that you get “swoll?” You’d have to mainline protein powder and be in the gym for 3 hours a day. So, take a TRX class, or try weighted pilates, or just grab a great kettlebell and get to swinging – Trust me, your body will thank you!

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