Synchronising life with her core values and passion are key ingredients in Lola Berry’s success recipe. The devoted foodie talks about living your truth, finding balance and the inspiration behind her new cookbook.
Lola Berry has been obsessed with food ever since she can remember. Growing up, she was always the last kid to leave the table, and at birthday parties, while the other kids were playing games, she was the one analysing the edibles.
Her mother, a nurse, and father, a veterinary surgeon, were both passionate about health, and instilled in her from a young age the importance of eating well.
“Mum would send me to school with spirulina balls and salmon salads,” she says with a smile. “And I was brought up thinking dried apricots were lollies. Now I can appreciate how lucky I was.”
For the down-to-earth Sydneysider, food is not just an obsession, it’s her life.
A nutritionist, author, wellness blogger, wholefoods advocate and self-confessed health nut, Lola is a leading authority on all things good for you. She has penned four books, including the best-selling The 20/20 Diet, has her own web series – which is hosted
at lolaberry.com – and has appeared on TV screens from Melbourne to Manhattan spreading her healthy, whole-foods message. The driven 29-year-old also recently completed her yoga teacher training, was signed to prestigious talent management agency Harry M Miller Group, and has just launched her very own natural skincare product, Oscar Youth Elixir; a calming cold-pressed facial oil infused with organic floral essences.
But though Lola’s star continues to rise, her food philosophy still has humble roots.
“The proof is in the pudding,” she says. “If you eat good food, you feel awesome. If you
eat junk, you feel like junk. Food is meant to nourish you. When you pick up a product
at the supermarket and the ingredients list reads like you’re in a year 12 chemistry class, it’s probably going to outlive you; that can’t be good for you. It’s not about buying expensive ingredients, it’s just about eating real food.”
The berry on top
When we catch up with Lola at her light-filled Paddington abode, she is enjoying some rare downtime after completing her latest book The Happy Cookbook. She is dressed casually in a pair of brightly coloured yoga pants and a plain t-shirt after teaching a guest yoga class at Sydney-based studio Flow Athletics earlier in the day, she is the embodiment of the lifestyle she inspires others to live.
“My whole heart is in The Happy Cookbook,” she says. “The recipes are still The 20/20 Diet concept, and the focus is still on a paleo-inspired way of eating, but I also talk about yoga, meditation, sleep, relationships, romance and a bunch of other stuff that is important to your health and wellbeing. Because that’s what this book is about – a lifestyle, a way of life and giving people the very best options for their health.”
Though it’s hard to imagine Lola as anything but her glowing self, the inspiring wellness woman admits it was health issues of her own that motivated her to start nourishing herself.
As a young, 20-something fun-seeker, who was then studying a Bachelor of Performing Arts, Lola was burning the candle at both ends.
And soon, her wellbeing began to pay the price: she was undernourished, unhappy with her weight, and totally underwhelmed with her health.
“I was a bit of a party girl,” she laughs. “I was working as a DJ and partying five nights a week. I wasn’t really into health or nutrition.”
But somewhere deep down Lola knew she wasn’t living her passion and, after a while, fate intervened.“
“The proof is in the pudding. If you eat good food, you feel awesome. If you eat junk, you feel like junk… It’s not about buying expensive ingredients.”
“I had a crush on a boy, so I decided to go on a summer detox to look good in a bikini,” she laughs. “I quickly noticed I felt better, had more energy, my eyes were clearer, skin glowed and I just felt healthier. I felt like a better version of myself and it was all the result of simply eating good food.”
Lola became totally obsessed with superfoods and fascinated by the powerful impact diet has on mind, body and spirit. And though she thought she “wasn’t smart enough to study”, Lola felt like she had finally found her calling. So, despite her reservations and self-doubt,
she enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Science at Endeavour College of Natural Health, majoring in nutritional medicine. Little did she know at the time that it would soon become one of the most pivotal decisions of her life.
Her love for nutrition and food quickly blossomed into a fully-fledged passion and, three months into the degree, Lola decided she wanted to be the “Steve Irwin of fruits and vegies”.
And she has made it her mission ever since to debunk the myths that good health – and good food – are boring, limiting and expensive.
The pillars of health
Balance is another essential element of Lola’s real food movement, leading her to develop her five pillars of health: relationships, career, financial security, family and health; the philosophy behind it being if you haven’t got control over your health, it is only a matter of time until it is has a domino effect on every other aspect of your life.
“A few years ago I was seriously on cloud nine. I had just brought out a new book, been signed to a big-name publicity agency in the UK, was in love, financially secure and everything was good with my family,” she says. “But then, almost overnight, everything
changed. My boyfriend dumped me over a text message and, of course, I thought it was something I had done wrong, so I started bingeing on unhealthy food and undereating. All it took was two weeks for me to lose my health and to not have control over my nutrition.”
After that, it didn’t take long for everything in Lola’s life to start crumbling around her. Her poor health saw her underperforming at work, so she soon lost her job and, by extension, her sense of financial security. Then she felt so ashamed, embarrassed and
humiliated that she didn’t want to be around her friends and family. Ditto losing her relationships.
“When it rains it pours, and it didn’t take long for me to hit rock bottom,” says Lola, who admits she also suffered from an eating disorder. “But I have no regrets because going through all of that made me realise I wanted, and needed, to start loving me first.”
Gift of love
Health, Lola learned the hard way, is the key to happiness, and good health starts with good, wholesome food.
“Food is a way to nourish your body,” she says. “Eating should be enjoyable and fun and healthy food is not something to be intimidated by. Don’t be afraid to try new things or to make mistakes in the kitchen – it’s all part of the process. Learn to embrace and be OK with the stuff-ups.”
When she started out, Lola’s goal was to make healthy food as easy, accessible and delicious as possible, and – since launching onto the scene eight years ago – nothing much has changed.
“It’s an honour to be able to help people change their lives every day,” she says, her face beaming.
But though she might be a bestselling author and a much-loved household name, Lola measures her success not in dollars or book sales, but by the people she has been honoured to meet, and the experiences that have shaped her along the journey.
“The fame game isn’t very real, so I’m just doing the best I can and enjoying some pretty awesome experiences,” she says, cringing at the idea of being labelled a celebrity foodie.
“I’ve seen a lot of success and I’ve also seen a lot of failure, so I just want to take it as it comes because nothing in this life lasts forever.”
So is health just a fad, we ask, or is eating well really the new black?
“It’s super inspiring to see that health is being celebrated – and at the moment especially – so it’s a great time to be in the industry,” says Lola, who is proud to admit she is a total food nerd.
“When I first start doing this, health was a bit hippie and a bit woo woo and not very cool factor, so it’s great to see it getting such an awesome rap. Health is, after all, one of the few gifts you can give to yourself. When you think about it, that’s pretty amazing.”
The Happy Cookbook (RRP $34.99) by Lola Berry is published by Pan Macmillan and available through leading bookstores or visit lolaberry.com