Lola Berry | Profile Magazine
Lola Berry brings a raw, real and honest approach to cooking, and I’m not just talking about her favourite recipe for salted caramel slice. Sick of being labelled too fat or too skinny, Lola is living by her own advice and for the first time in a long time, is truly happy in her own skin.
“If you hear a dog in the background, I’m just running through my dad’s vet clinic. When I stay with my dad, I stay at his house, which is just above the vet clinic and I’ve stolen their kettle to make some coffee and I’ve just returned it, but now I’m all yours. I had a very short timeline to borrow the kettle!”
Chatting to Lola Berry, I feel like I’ve made a new friend. We bond over our shared love of avocados, the excruciating time we spend at the hair salon (it takes 10 hours to tame her mane!), our same age of 31 and the fact that it’s not until a woman is in her 30s that she can truly be herself, dismiss the negative self-talk and fade out the noise around us.
And boy can Lola talk from experience on the latter. At the beginning of her fledgling career, the 23-year-old nutritionist had a regular television segment, where she copped criticism by viewers for being ‘fat’.
“I remember someone walked up to me on the street and said, ‘I saw you on TV this morning, great segment,’ and I would say, ‘Oh thank you so much, what did you think?’ and she goes, ‘You should never wear yellow, you look pudgy!’”
More recently, Lola has experienced the other end of the spectrum, slammed for being ‘too skinny’ while on a working trip in the Maldives and Mauritius.
“A lot of people were writing (on social media) saying, ‘You look sick, you look too skinny,’ and I thought, screw this, I am so over listening to other people’s judgement and I’m doing this for me now, so take it or leave it,” she says honestly.
“I’ve learned not to care what other people think, so that’s the biggest thing that I live now. I do what feels right in my body, not what feels right in someone else’s body and I’m happy to go to dinner and I make up everything from the menu, I want that piece of fish cooked in that way, with those greens, and I own it; I’ve stopped caring what other people think.”
For Lola, health equals happiness and the turning point in achieving both, is when you start putting yourself first – making a change because you deserve to feel good, be your best, do your best and not to care what other people think.
“That’s a powerful place to come from and I think that’s the first step to health and happiness – do it for you,” she says.
“Physical health and mental happiness are so heavily intertwined. From a nutritional standpoint we call your gut your second brain, because 90 per cent of the serotonin receptors are in your gut, that’s the stuff that makes you feel happy.
“If I go through a break-up or something and I reach for the chocolate or cupcake (I still reach for those things, I’m not going to lie), I’ll get my sweet fix, but the next day I’ll be lower and it’s probably a result of it reacting poorly in my gut and my mood being lower, and the one thing that lifts your mood fast is sugar, so it can become quite a vicious cycle.
“But you make a choice and you have to have the willpower to say, ‘No I want health and I want my happiness’. There are going to be moments when that’s tested and that's when you need to come back to your why or your purpose – which is your choice.”
Working as a DJ when she was 18, Lola admits she was a bit of a party animal, indulging in booze and her favourite ‘foods’ giant Caramello Koalas and lamingtons. But a crush on her “dreamboat” DJ teacher prompted Lola to flip her unhealthy lifestyle on its head.
“I started to pull all of the processed food out of my diet and I decided to eat a lot of real whole foods. I wasn’t vegetarian, vegan or paleo, I just came back to wholefood, I wasn’t worried about fructose, I wasn’t worried about sugar, I was just getting rid of the bad refined stuff and I brought it back to real stuff, and I lost 20 kilos,” she says.
“It only takes 48 hours to feel good. Most of the population eats moderately well, there might be a little bit of gluten in there with your toast and Vegemite in the morning, but it’s more the little slipping things like sugar with your coffee, opening the Tim Tam drawer at 4pm, it’s more those things and that’s what compounds.
“If you go back to real food, cooking fish and veggies at dinner time, lunch might be leftover dinner or a quinoa salad, breaky is a green smoothie – living what you would call a clean life; within 48 hours you will have dropped fluid, so you’ll drop up to 2kgs and you will see the very fast benefits in your mental state, you’ll be clearer, you’ll feel happier and have less negative self talk.
“A lot of people think it’s too hard, ‘I’ll start the detox later, I’ll do this later it’s in the too hard basket,’ the fascinating thing is it can be in your hands within two days.”
Now leading a fast-paced jet-setting life, Lola admits she too has the occasional slip up, but has the tools to get back on track, and through her eight cookbooks, is teaching others to do the same.
“I’m a bit of a sponge, if I experience something I’ll try to reshare that,” she says of her inspiration behind her recipes.
“I also don’t believe in missing out on something, so if there is something that I love, like Dad and I both love sticky date pudding, and so I’ll try to create a healthier version – we shot this last week for an upcoming book. One of my naturopathy teachers at uni said, ‘If you pull something away from the client, replace it with something,’ so if someone loves chocolate, I’ll get them onto a raw vegan chocolate, or if someone loves chips, there are chips that are cooked in coconut oil.”
All this talk of delicious and nutritious food has me hungry and I start thinking about what I have brought into work for lunch – homemade spinach, leek and ricotta quiche with a side of sweet potato cubes that I spiced with paprika, cumin and turmeric, #healthandhappiness.
Avocado and pineapple. Avocado can be sweet or savoury, it’s very versatile and it’s so delicious. The body, especially women thrive off really good fat like that. And pineapple I’m a sweet tooth and I love ending the day with a little bit of chopped up pineapple if I’m really craving sweet, I feel like that hits a spot in my body because I don’t have it all the time, it’s my little sweet treat, but I could eat a whole pineapple in one go.
Favourite go-to meal to cook in a hurry
Crispy salmon. I did it the other night in 10 minutes, it’s so fast. I get a pot on with olive oil, garlic, onion and I chop in quartered brussel sprouts. In another pot I put one tablespoon of coconut oil and salmon in it. After the salmon is crispy on one side I flip it and do the other side and then what I do, and this is the biggest faux pas ever, I get a knife and fork and I hack it apart in the pan and it turns into these little crispy salmon nuggets. Then I smash avo and put avo next to it.
Originally published in Profile Magazine