How She Does It -
Rachel the Happiness Concierge
Posted on 22 June 2016
Every week we interview women about how they incorporate active and healthy habits into their lives. We believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health and fitness, so we aim to capture the variety of ways women choose to be active to give you ideas and inspiration on how to live your best active life.
Tell us about yourself
I’m Rachel, a Happiness Concierge. I help people ace work and life - whether that’s at the gym, relationships or at work. I help other people realise how great they are - and then get on with being their badass self! I live in Melbourne.
What does active living mean to you?
Being active and healthy keeps me sane. If I’m able to balance my work with a healthy approach to live, balancing my friends, family, work, exercise, mental health, eating well and getting a decent night’s sleep - then I’ve nailed it!
What do you like to do to stay active?
I have a lot of energy. In my 20’s, I used to run for hours in a bid to try and ‘get rid’ of all that energy and deal with my demons around my body image. These days, I’ve found something that embraces that energy and turns it into something positive and that’s lifting heavy weights.
I started doing CrossFit a few years ago, which led me to Olympic Lifting and eventually Powerlifting which is what I’m doing now. I remember once a coach said ‘don’t approach the bar like that [half heartedly]. Approach it like you mean it’. I really liked that. It taught me that if you’re going to do something, especially something that’s mentally challenging, put your all into it. Put your insecurities aside. Don’t deflect because you’re scared. Embrace that shaky feeling. Fully commit to that one moment. Zone out anyone else. This is about you doing you right now.
Those lessons I’ve learned from lifting weights over the years I’ve applied to every other area of my life.
Have you always been active and healthy?
I’ve always been active; but I haven’t always been healthy - physically or mentally.
In my 20’s, I started seeing someone who was really self conscious about their body. It started to affect me and played into all sorts of negative thoughts about my body. I started to hit the gym, and pretty soon I was skipping meals, surviving on cigarettes, coffee and sugar. My friends were worried about me, so I avoided that convo by hitting the gym even more, sometimes going twice a day.
I was operating on adrenaline, the survival hormone used for shark attack type scenarios. This, combined with chronic overworking and avoiding social interactions led me to a pretty dark place where eventually I couldn’t stand up one day. I had run my adrenal gland completely dry. I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, anxiety and depression.
I spent eight weeks in bed, back at my parents place, and I could barely get out of bed. It took years to feel completely better again and even longer to develop healthy habits around exercise, eating and positive mental health.
These days, I’m happy to say I prioritise my mental and physical health over anything else; including any job. This commitment to myself has helped me create realistic boundaries around what I will and won’t do and protects me from going to that dark place again.
What daily habits keep you fit and healthy?
The biggest habit I have which has created long term health is deciding how I want to feel - and then making micro, daily decisions around that.
I never let myself get in a state of panic, or anxiety about anything anymore because I know it can always get better and that starts with me. Me asking for help, or reaching out to a friend or mentor to talk through it is the first step.
In the past, I’d feel like I couldn’t tell anyone if I was feeling anxious or a bit depressed. I try not to wait until the ‘meh’ feeling is over anymore - instead reach out while it’s happening and ask for help during that phase. I try and reach out to a friend and say ‘hey, I’m not feeling to great today. Can we get a coffee?’
And physically, I don’t eat diet or sugar free anything. I eat real food, and if that’s a curry or chocolate, then I’m bloody well going to enjoy it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
What is your best active living hack?
You’re never going to look hotter than you do right now. You are a QUEEN at the prime of your life. Go out at ENJOY IT and show that bad self off!
What does a sample workout look like for you?
Pre workout stretch session to open up hips, shoulders, back and switch the glutes on. Then, one of three movements (bench press, squat or deadlift). Accessory work afterwards, to work on weaknesses to get stronger overall.
High five my trainer, admire my guns in the mirror, then waddle down the stairs. Smash a protein shake and hit up the local Vietnamese restaurant down the road for dinner. Hit up Starbucks to be around the ambience of Melbourne City at night and watch people.
Favourite healthy meal?
A post gym Vietnamese grilled chicken with rice or pho to get my energy back after lifting, followed by a peppermint tea to get me into sleep mode from Starbucks as they’re always open late. My brother and his partner also make insanely delicious food so I also try and get an invite to theirs whenever I can.
What challenges do you need to overcome in order to achieve healthy and active living?
Anxiety and depression will always be something which is dormant within me; the biggest challenge is maintaining boundaries in my life which enables me to get enough sleep, food, exercise, perspective to maintain a healthy mental fitness.
What is the best ‘side-effect’ of staying healthy and active?
Where to start! Honestly, being active will have such a positive impact on your physical and mental health, your sense of self, and the quality of your relationships. It’s putting time aside to work on yourself, whether that’s on a yoga mat, walking home instead of driving, lifting weights or running around the block to warm up in the morning.
What (or who) inspires and motivates you?
My friend Vanessa really inspires me. We have known each other since we were in a band together and she has always known who she is, what she’s about. Being around someone who is so mentally strong is really reassuring and gives me courage and support to be myself. I find that really inspiring. She is such a graceful person and has done dance for years and now ballet. I love hearing about her badass ballet teacher!
Also, Beyonce. She is able to fully commit to her performances, whether that’s being fierce, vulnerable, slaying with a dance crew or as a soloist. Regardless of whether you dig her music, you can’t fault that she mentally committs to every performance as though it is her last. That inspires me to never be apologetic about a position I’m in. Own it - do the best I can.
How do you overcome negative thoughts?
With logic. I now question whether a negative thought is based in reality, or whether it’s an emotional response to a situation. Is my thought a fact? Or is it a response to something else at play? What’s really going on here? I keep asking myself ‘what is this really about’, until I hit the nail on the head.
Often it’s me being scared about a worst case scenario. Once I know what that is - I ask myself ‘what would happen if that did actually happen? What can I do to mitigate that risk?’
I’m also a big fan of repeating positive ‘I can do it’ phrases in my head when I feel nervous. Like, ‘I feel nervous because I care about this. I want this to go well. It will go well because I want it to.’
I also love that idea from Tavi Gevinson, where she has a note on her mirror that says, ‘no time for self loathing. Go and create’. I mean who has the time when there is so much cool shit out there to and be a part of?
How do you manage days or periods where you are not as motivated?
Create a deadline and a consequence, or a treat. So, if you’re at work, if X doesn’t happen by [made up time], Z will happen. Create some structure around it. And break the task into smaller bite sized bits. Eg ‘get X section done and then I’ll be allowed to go and grab a coffee.’
If I’m feeling like it’s a mental fatigue thing, that’s particularly hard. If I’m not feeling it, I’ll usually put the laptop down, head out of the house / office and go grab a coffee and come back pretty swiftly with caffeine, some fresh air and perspective in check.
I don’t have a problem motivating myself to hit the gym because I genuinely love it. If I’m not motivated to go to the gym - that tells me I’m either mentally or physically tired. I might skip the gym for a few days / weeks and hang out with friends, or get into a Jane and The Virgin or Ru Paul Drag Race marathon. Still feels awesome and I’m resting my mind and body.
What do you do to treat yourself?
I treat myself every day! I made a decision a long time ago to get more fun in my life everyday. The gym is a treat as it makes me feel good and I’m working on myself. Any kind of food is awesome because it’s food. Coffee is amazing because I’m in Melbourne. Hanging out with my friends who make me laugh and love all my crazy bits is a massive treat. Going to Tokyo as often as I can afford it. Getting a resort in Bali and sleeping for a week. I could go on!
Top 3 songs on your workout playlist?
Definitely R’N’B, hip hop or pop. Sassy ladies singing about how fabulous they are or very average guys bragging about how great they are. I always think, ‘imagine what I could do if I had that confidence and my skills’. Bring it on!
What is your active truth?
No one knows what I want as much as I do. No one else is going to make that happen but me.
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I am visiting Brisbane on July 6, giving a workshop on exerting your boundaries at work, at home - and at the gym. Book your ticket using the code ACTIVETRUTH to receive $15 off the ticket price. Book here.