As a modern woman, do you ever find yourself wondering how to manage your career and personal life without running yourself ragged and a burning-out?
If so, this article is for you.
I have interviewed my friend and former client Gabriella Kindert, author of the book The Busy Executive Diet: How to Achieve Your Ideal Weight, Sharpen Your Brain and Balance Your Mind.
A successful executive in the financial services industry, Gabriella's career has entailed extensive international travel, long working hours, and the challenges of juggling it all as a corporate career woman and mother of two.
As her schedule got busier from the demands of work and family life, she made a conscious decision to take control of her wellbeing by completely changing her nutrition and the way she was leading her life.
The positive changes in her appearance and health were so notable, that friends and colleagues soon started asking her for advice. And so she began to see them achieve the same sustainable results that she had obtained through the power of nutrition and a more balanced lifestyle.
In today's interview, she is sharing some of her best secrets for leading a classy career and fabulous life.
You can watch the whole video on my blog, where Gabriella shares some very personal nuggets of wisdom. Or, if you're in a hurry, you can cut to the chase and read the summary below.
Elsa Alexandra: Can you tell us a about how the idea for this book came about? Why did you decide to write it now, at this point in your life and career?
Gabriella Kindert: I was born in Hungary where I did my studies, and then I moved to Western Europe. Coming from a developing country, I felt like I needed to do my best and work hard to prove myself. So I was always worked very hard. At 38-39 years's old, I had two jobs and was also a single mother. In those conditions, I needed to be super focused to remain sane. That's why 8 years ago, I decided to change my nutrition.
EA: Was there a specific trigger that made you change?
GK: Not really. It started as an experiment. I cut-off processed foods and sugar. That's when I realised that I was addicted... I had this urge to go to the vending machine and eat something sugary. That's when I told myself: I have to get rid of this addiction! I decided to cut-off processed foods and sugar completely from my diet. And then I realised the positive impact that this had on me: not only on my weight, but also on my thinking process. My ability to think, to focus, to sleep. Even my skin looked better!
EA: That's when you started researching nutrition.
GK: I started started reading a lot about diet and I also began sharing my knowledge with friends and colleagues. Then, last year, a woman I know came to me in Madrid and said: "Oh Gabriella, you changed my life!". She had followed my advice, and she was so much healthier and happier. That's when I thought: Maybe I should write it down!
EA: Your book is dedicated to your former boss, and you share at the beginning how her advice really shaped your approach to work-life balance and life priorities. Can you talk a little bit about that?
GK: Mireille Almering passed away when she was 43. We were close and she shaped my life tremendously through a couple of key and important messages that I received from her.
Number1: She told me not to forget to have children. I only realised what she meant years later... We're so busy with our corporate career that we think it's not the right time, so we keep postponing it until it's too late. I'm glad I did not forget to have children, and I have my daughter and my son.
Number 2: She was extremely dedicated to her job, and when she first noticed something was wrong with her health, she did not act immediately. She waited two or three months, and it cost her her life... The here message is, if you feel that something is wrong with you, act upon it immediately! At the end of the day, you are responsible for yourself and your family. I'm visiting her grave every year and I don't think there's anyone else from the bank who goes there to put flowers on her grave, but I'm pretty sure that her son and her daughter are still missing her.
Number 3: I thought that she was so strong that she could fight for anything in life and she would get it. And she didn't. Sometimes no matter how hard you fight, you just need to accept that there is something like fate.
EA: You talk a lot about the dangers of processed, pre-prepared foods. As modern women and busy mums, it's easy to resort to pre-prepared juices and meals when we're juggling work and family life. Any advice on how to avoid this as modern career women, whether we're executives or entrepreneurs?
GK: It all starts with awareness. Name it and deal with it! You must make conscious choices. So many products we get from the supermarket have added sugar in them. At the beginning of my journey, I threw away all the processed food I had at home and from then onward I bought only good quality whole foods. If you buy the right products, you will eat the right foods.
I use the acronym PROSPER Body & Brain, where the first letters "PRO" and "S" stand for "processed foods" and "sugar" respectively. Avoid processed foods and cut added sugar from your diet.
EA: What's an easy way to recognise what the "right foods" are?
GK: What you can peel, clean and break is most of the time okay. What comes in a can or plastic, most of the time is not okay.Think about what people used to eat 200 years ago, when they did not have the ability to buy processed foods from the supermarket. They relied mostly on fresh, seasonal food. Follow nature and common sense.
EA: You emphasise the importance of movement throughout your book. Yet, it may feel challenging to incorporate regular exercise in an already packed schedule. What's your advice for busy modern women?
GK: First, there's a mental change you need to go through. We've been raised to believe that working hard is cool. We get a feeling of guilt if we take the time to relax, to go to the gym or do yoga. You need to rewire your mind and think that these things are a basic necessity -- like going to the toilet. This is something that I need to do in order to function.You need to schedule time to relax and to go to the the gym. If even Barack Obama can schedule 30-40 minutes of daily exercise, do you think you cannot afford it? So (1) stop feeling guilty, (2) schedule it! Even when I was going through the most difficult time of my life, working two jobs and being a single mum, here's what I did: I scheduled time to go to the gym on Saturday and Sunday, and also one evening during the workweek. This, in combination with good nutrition, kept me fit.
EA: Can you recommend simple ways to incorporate more movement into our daily lives, when we're too busy to go to the gym?
GK: Even 25 minutes a day walking can add 3-7 years to your life, the latest research shows. The question is how do you incorporate walking into your daily routine and incorporate movement in your day-to-day life? I say that walking with your child, adopting walking meetings, using the stairs and buying a pedometer to control how much you're walking are all good tips to incorporate more movement into your daily life.
EA: In your book, you also talk about the "Chinese walk".
GK: Walking outside for even just 15 minutes after a meal, especially when it's a bit cold is fantastic for your metabolism. I started doing right after each business meal.
EA: I also love your "First Thing of the Day" 5 minute exercise that you explain in the book. Could you share that with our readers?
GK: I recommend exercising the moment you wake-up to kickstart your body. Try the following routine: 25 push-ups, 25 squats, 1-2 minutes of plank. I would like to emphasise that just 5 minutes a day are not enough. In addition to that, schedule a good workout.
EA: Aside from movement and nutrition, you talk about the importance of giving our brains and break in your book. As women, we're so used to multitasking. But, as you point out, research shows that we cannot really multitask from a neurological standpoint. Instead, we sequentially unitask, and this reduces our effectiveness. You've come up with a process to help eliminate our tendency to multitask: Filtering-Organising-Focusing. Can you talk a little bit about that?
GK: Today we have to deal with approximately 10 times the amount of information that we used to deal with 10 years ago. We get 10 times more emails. The information flow today is just tremendous. But there's a negative impact in our lives from multitasking, as the renowned neurologist Daniel Levitin describes in The Organized Mind. So the question is: How can we protect ourselves from this overflow of information? My answer is: filter it! Commit to reading only quality information. Don't read everything. And when you're doing something, focus on the one task. As someone once told me in Greece: " You can have everything in life but not at once".
EA: You talk about the importance of going off line after 8-9pm so that we give our brains a break. Many high-achieving women I speak with though, find themselves logging-on at night to do some work, after they put their children to bed. Can you share some of your wisdom on how to get more rest as modern women and busy working mums?
GK: To be honest, I struggle with this as well and lately I've been working every night. But to protect ourselves, first we need awareness. You need to know that if you read your Blackberry, iPhone watch TV before going to bed, this badly affects your sleep due to the blue-hued LED light from the screen. so make sure you don't use these things at least 1 hour before going to bed. Also, avoid cardio exercise late in the evening as this affects your sleep. Protecting your sleep is not a luxury. It's an investment in yourself, your future and that of your children.
EA: Sleep is, indeed, so important to our vitality. And you say in your book: "Your vitality is the best business card you can have". Can you elaborate on that?
GK: The truth is that we're going to have to work much longer than our parents did. We won't have such good pensions. So when we're 50, 60 or 70, we'll have to compete with people in their 30s, 40s and 50s in the marketplace. When you go to an interview or approach a potential clients, the way you come across and your energy level unconsciously determine whether the other party is going to want to deal with you or not. So it's important to come across as strong, not weak. People expect to see leaders who are strong. Being unfit shows that you cannot control yourself. How can you then lead others? Appearance does influence your future success.
EA: I also know that you have another book in the making...
GK: As a historian by background I've decided to explore how to reduce stress, drawing inspiration from historical leaders. I want to create a movement to help us take better care of ourselves.
The Busy Executive Diet is an incredibly informative and well-researched book.
Gabriella provides a wealth of scientific information demystifying the diet fads promoted by food industry. She also reminds us of sound principles about our metabolism and how to improve our overall wellbeing.
There are many nutrition and lifestyle books out there, but Gabriella's European perspective on how to live make more empowered food and lifestyle choices makes this a timeless handbook on how to live a healthier life.