Persevere or Pivot? How does one know when to switch paths and have the courage to take a risk on a new life track, even after a decade of planning for something very different.
Labrini is one of the very few people who dropped everything to move overseas and follow her dream job, which once attained wasn’t what she expected. With a sense of ease and inner courage, she gracefully pivoted careers and is now on a path to fulfill her life's purpose. The question is, how did she know that the pivot she was making would work?
Today we delve into the life of Labrini, to understand how one inherently knows that what they are doing is right when so many of us are too scared to pivot or think that what we are doing is wrong. Labrini discusses her successes and learning curves, all to come out the other end with a strong sense of direction and daily fulfillment through following her gut, so to speak.
With a new balanced lifestyle and career path, Labrini walks the walk and talks the talk as a Food and Health Coach. She practices and preaches balanced eating habits and non-diet approaches, whilst working her way through a nutrition degree. In between her busy schedule of study, exercise, wellbeing, holistic nutrition and education around sustainable eating habits, I managed to carve out some time with Labrini and pass on a few golden nuggets that might inspire you. Without further ado, let's delve into the life of Labrini.
EXIE: Who are you?
LABRINI: I’m a Melbourne girl, though I’ve been living in Hong Kong for a few years and recently moved to New York. I work as a Food and Health coach focusing mostly on balanced eating and non-diet approaches, and I’m also working my way through a nutrition degree.
EXIE: How did you get your job?
Actually, I started out as a freelance stylist and went on to work in creative marketing within the fashion industry. I’ve always been creative and it’s all I ever thought I was good at. So, I dropped all my science and math subjects in high-school to pursue the creative ones and ended up with a Bachelor of Arts in Textile Design. I loved what I did as it took me abroad and gave me some amazing experiences. But after years of working in fashion, I started to fall out of love with the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the creative aspect of my job [I was working as a photography director, which kept me on my toes, and I was always around talented people working on great projects]. But ultimately I was struggling to see a future in the industry for myself and I started to feel like I didn’t fit into fashion anymore. Not long after that, I was made redundant.
My career pivoted when I noticed my ongoing personal interest in nutrition. Over the years I made some improvements to my own health and that interest just kept growing to a point that I really couldn’t ignore anymore. Losing my last job in fashion was the best thing that could have happened to me in hindsight, as it forced me to step back and reassess what I wanted to do with my life.
I decided to go back to study, first to get my health coaching certification and then onto a Nutrition degree… I’m currently halfway through that degree and will soon be certified as an Associate Nutritionist. Currently, I’m building my Health coaching business where I work one-on-one with clients to help them build healthy habits. It’s already so rewarding as I love working on something that impacts people so positively and forces me to keep learning.
"The moment I decided to just go ahead and start a new degree was when my fiancé asked me if I’d regret not doing nutrition for the rest of my life and if I could really see a future for myself in fashion."
EXIE: When you lost your job and changed career paths, did you have an 'ahah' moment?
LABRINI: Yes! When I was interviewing for other jobs before I lost the one which kept me in Hong Kong, I could tell I was losing interest in the industry. Every interview I went for I cared less and less if it went well or not, and at this stage, I had already started studying health coaching. The moment I decided to just go ahead and start a new degree was when my fiancé (then boyfriend) asked me if I’d regret not doing nutrition for the rest of my life and if I could really see a future for myself in fashion. He said he’d support me in the career change and my family told me the same. Once I came to terms with the fact that I’d be letting go of the only skills/career I’d ever had, I couldn’t even bring myself to take any more interviews in fashion. Support from the people closest to me is everything. Even my extended friendship group in Hong Kong pushed me on with the career change.
EXIE: Changing careers is a huge thing and to study again is an even bigger risk. How did you really know moving into nutrition was the right thing to do?
LABRINI: Nutrition since high-school was always an interest of mine, but as I was a really strong creative (and not so strong in science) I decided to pursue the creative side of my personality. Before moving overseas I wanted to go back to study nutrition, so I just knew it was the right move and it was what I wanted, regardless of how risky and daunting it was to go back as a mature age student with no science background.
EXIE: What did you give up when you shifted careers?
LABRINI: A secure income, a visa to be able to live overseas without hassle, health care and social connection. All the admin things can be dealt with, but the social connection is the main thing because I coach online mostly and I study off-campus. This is a big change from having an office to go to and having people to interact with every day.
"Regardless of my location, it’s a non-negotiable for me to eat well and maintain my exercise schedule."
EXIE: You travel around quite a bit and have lived in a few different cities around the world. How do you manage to keep a balanced lifestyle, from fitness to eating well and generally staying healthy?
LABRINI: For 6 years I lived in Hong Kong and most recently I have moved to New York. Every city has its benefits and challenges when it comes to maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
But, regardless of my location, it’s a non-negotiable for me to eat well and maintain my exercise schedule. When I first moved to Hong Kong I struggled with finding food that I like. Western and European food was expensive and good quality produce was hard to come by. Hong Kong has a big city fitness culture, which balanced out the party lifestyle nicely. Since moving to New York my access to food has become unlimited, so I can find everything I want very easily. Though, as the majority of American take out food is far from ideal, I make an effort to cook at home often to ensure my partner and I are eating wholesome food as much as possible.
It’s been really fun (sometimes too fun) living in big cities, but it also gets tiring being amongst the chaos every day. Traveling away to less busy destinations helps me unwind and clear my head throughout the year. During the week I carve out time to destress whenever I can, by practicing yoga and treating my gym sessions as an outlet. It’s a work in progress!
EXIE: Why did you move from Melbourne to Hong Kong?
LABRINI: I didn’t really plan to move to Hong Kong, to be honest. I’d always wanted to live overseas and I had been traveling to Europe every year so I always thought I’d end up doing a stint there, but one year on my way back from to Melbourne after a holiday I stopped to visit a friend in Hong Kong who had been setting up a business there. I took on some contract work to help out and eventually that turned into a more permanent opportunity, so I just stayed. I had it in my head to stay for 2 years, but one opportunity turned into another and I found myself loving life there. Next thing I knew I had been there for 6 years!
EXIE: What did you leave behind when you went to Hong Kong?
LABRINI: Family and friends and my dog. I was working freelance and traveling a lot in and out of Melbourne, so I didn’t leave much behind there. I only knew one person in Hong Kong and it was a really different environment. But eventually, I met a great group of friends and loved the work I was doing so I settled in pretty quickly. I was lucky that my family came to visit often and I also went back to visit them frequently.
"In the beginning, it was hard to keep up the pace of my studies whilst shifting the business to a new country. I’ve had to become very self-driven and extremely organized. Everything is different when you make such big changes."
EXIE: What is the difference between then and now i.e. your last career in Hong Kong versus studying and your new career in New York City?
LABRINI: My fiancés job is what made us move to New York. My career/study change was made prior to us relocating, so they aren’t connected. In the beginning, it was hard to keep up the pace of my studies whilst shifting the business to a new country. I’ve had to become very self-driven and extremely organized. Everything is different when you make such big changes.
EXIE: How do you feel living away from your family?
LABRINI: Living abroad has been the toughest but most valuable experience I’ve had in life and I’m so glad I’ve done it regardless of the challenges. Being away from family is emotionally hard and it’s become more challenging the longer I’ve been away. When I first moved overseas years ago I was younger, excited and distracted by the new scenery and people. Then when I settled in and living abroad became normal life, I started to miss having family around more and more and missed being together for the milestones. But my family has always been supportive and we see each other throughout the year as much as we can. I’ve gained a new family in my financé and friends I’ve made along the way. Funnily enough, I’ve become closer to my family since being away and think I appreciate them a lot more.
EXIE: How do you feel then vs now? Do you have a spark that you have never felt before? Or are you regretting the shift?
LABRINI: No regrets. The more I work and learn, the more motivated I become. I’m in my last year of my degree now and everything is starting to come together and I’ve never been so sure I made the right decision. I do miss aspects of my “old life” but I know it was the right move for the future.
EXIE: What drives/motivates you in your new career?
LABRINI: Being in a position to help people and to be active in a quickly evolving science. Improving health is a life-changing thing. I’m driven by the fact that I’m approaching it from an educated, evidence-based standpoint, rather than the pseudoscience and misinformed wellness industry that is so prevalent on social media these days.
EXIE: What is the ultimate dream for you?
LABRINI: Working one-on-one with clients has always been a goal for me. Eventually, I’d like to have a practice to do that. But beyond that, I’m interested to move into early life and pre/postnatal nutrition because I think this is where the most impact on lifelong health can be made. My works’ underlying theme will always be the non-diet space - that’s my philosophy and an important message I’d like to spread.
"My works’ underlying theme will always be the non-diet space - that’s my philosophy and an important message I’d like to spread."
EXIE: What does your typical day look like? Can you schedule it in hour blocks for me?
LABRINI: As I work and study from home, my daily routine is vital in keeping me sane. Being in the same space most of the week is a challenge as I’m a massive procrastinator. At the moment I have a really heavy study load (30 hours of online study a week), so I treat the study as my full-time job and slot in working with clients around that. My schedule really depends on what I have on for work and study that week but on a normal quiet day my schedule usually follows as the below:
- Wake-up and have coffee immediately.
- Read a couple of chapters of whatever book I have on the go.
- Do the whole social media time-wasting thing.
- Have a smoothie or some fruit before leaving the house to go to the gym.
9 - 10am
- Yoga or Freestyle Gym Session
- Breakfast and then I study/work until lunchtime
- Lunch - I always stop and cook or go out for lunch, I like to take a proper break as anyone else would in an office setting
- Study/work for a few hours
7pm - 8pm
- Cook and eat dinner. My fiancé and I make a point of having dinner together at the table most nights.
- Be lazy. Usually, my fiancé and I will watch a movie or read if we’re in for the night.
Then that’s it! I don’t work or study in the evenings, as I like to keep my day as “normal” and routine as possible. It probably seems boring, but with a flexible schedule, I can catch up with friends and take time to do other things when I want. Having a loose schedule helps keep my week on track, allowing me to enjoy the weekend as everyone else does!
EXIE: You mentioned you procrastinate. What happens when you procrastinate? How do you snap out of this?
LABRINI: Ugh yeah… I don’t snap out of it sometimes, to be honest. Sometimes I just allow myself to have an unproductive day and then I make up for it the next day. But generally what works is to move to a different space that helps minimize distractions; go to a coffee shop or work outside if the weather is good. When that fails I go for a workout, whether that be a yoga session, a walk or a jog to break up the day.
"When I feel flat, I try and force myself out of my routine in some way. It might be as simple as getting outdoors for a workout or spending the day in a different part of town."
EXIE: What's your favorite type of work-out?
I love to exercise and couldn’t live without it. I use it as my outlet and it never fails to get me out of a bad mood. Currently, I do a mix of vinyasa yoga and freestyle gym sessions throughout the week, which incorporates mostly bodyweight and free weight exercises. I love running too but I’m not very good at it! As much as looking fit is a nice kickback of working out, I exercise regularly because of what it does for my sleep, stress and mental health more than anything else.
EXIE: What's your favorite style of clothing to wear whilst working out?
LABRINI: High waisted tights and a sports bra preferably matching! It’s the best for the type of workouts I do and it’s what I’m most comfortable in. I find a set like that to be the most flattering without worrying about flashing a butt cheek. I hate feeling too exposed at the gym but at the same time don’t want to be restricted either. It’s a fine balance.
EXIE: What are your favorite sneakers to work-out and hang-out in?
LABRINI: Adidas has always been my go-to. I always plan on buying some kind of a Nike shoe but still end up with Adidas. I don’t know what’s up with that?! I don’t like anything else from the brand. Out of the gym, I’m a Converse All-Stars girl and have been for years!
EXIE: What do you think about the EXIE product I sent you?
LABRINI: The Pheonix Twinset is honestly the most flattering and comfortable set I’ve worn without exaggeration. I LOVE it! It’s like tights that suck me in but don’t feel restrictive and yours do that perfectly. Looking ‘put-together’ when I work out is always a nice added motivation and a good set of sportswear like that can make you feel strong.
EXIE: What is your philosophy on staying healthy?
LABRINI: For me, health needs to be flexible and realistic. Anything I incorporate into my life is sustainable and part of my lifestyle. I have rebelled against the diet mentality, with skepticism toward nutritional information in the media and don’t subscribe to detox’s or fads.
This is a product of learning about how the human body and nutrition works and I’m so thankful to have that knowledge because it’s helped me shut out a lot of the noise. What I focus on instead is having a good balance in my meals and eating a wide variety of foods. I don’t restrict myself and I enjoy the things I love without stressing over it. It’s taken me a while to get here, and like everyone, I have my vices. But I believe that the more we stress about our weight, diets, and food the unhealthier we become.
"Ultimately I give a lot of trust to my body by recognizing that it’s a powerful machine that needs to be facilitated to do its job."
EXIE: What is your favorite thing to eat? Can you share a recipe?
LABRINI: There are so many that I can’t decide which is my favorite. I love so many different types of food, but one of my favorites is a simple one from childhood; Greek yogurt with honey and some fruit and nuts. It just so happens to be a very well balanced snack.
EXIE: What are your plans for staying healthy in 2020? Do you have some tips you can share on maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
LABRINI: My plan for staying healthy is the same all year round. I don’t diet or change my behaviors for different occasions or seasons but instead focus on keeping my habits consistent and sustainable, which includes enjoying occasions when they come around. For me, terms like "letting myself go” or "cheat days” don’t come into my vocabulary, as I don't believe it's productive to have that mindset. I simply have some days or weeks where I eat less nutritious food and work out less than usual and that’s just me being a human! It all balances out in the end.
My tip really is to just treat special occasions as you would every other day, try not to put so much focus on the “splurging” aspect and don’t try to compensate by over-exercising or under-eating afterward. Just enjoy it for what it is and get back into your normal habits when the celebrations are done.
"For me, terms like "letting myself go” or "cheat days” don’t come into my vocabulary, I don't believe it's productive to have that mindset. "
EXIE: Do you have a New Years' resolution? What is it and why? If not, why not?
LABRINI: I do, but my resolutions aren’t usually health-related because I work on those all-year-round. My resolutions are usually around work or personal improvements. This year I want to brush up on my Greek that I’ve slowly been losing over the years.
EXIE: Your skin looks so good - what's your secret?
LABRINI: Thank you! I’ve struggled with my skin for years so that’s a compliment. Over the years, I have tried a lot of things including heavy medications to clear acne. But what worked for clearing up my skin was a natural-based supplement and since then I follow a simple skincare routine with some active ingredients. I don’t wear makeup on most days and when I do it’s very little. Packing my diet full of fruit, veggies and healthy fats, as well as sweating it out at yoga or on a run helps too. I think it would be impossible to maintain healthy skin without these simple routines.
EXIE: What are some golden nuggets you can share with the audience?
LABRINI: First, unfollow anyone on social media who makes you feel bad about your body or stressed about your diet!
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to cut out an entire food group, who asks you to count calories or tries to sell you a fad diet or any type of detox. Your body is a powerful machine that is capable of more than you think, so there’s no need to be scared of food! Simply start by incorporating more variety into your diet with vegetables, whole grains and a little less processed food. Then find the type of exercise you actually enjoy regardless of how it will make your body look. Be patient with yourself. It's very important to understand that health and diet is not a short term fix. This is something you need to sustain for the rest of your life, so don’t expect to see quick results… any changes you make you ideally should keep for the long term so they have to be sustainable.
"Your body is a powerful machine that is capable of more than you think, so there’s no need to be scared of food."
EXIE: Anything else you would like to share?
LABRINI: At the moment, I’m focusing on working with people who really want to look at their health and diet in a holistic and sustainable way. That means designing a diet that can be sustained for your whole life. Reliance on fad diets, products, calorie tracking and all that pressure to conform to one ideal really isn’t sustainable or beneficial long term. Instead, I work with clients to develop habits that are health-focused and that support the body to perform its best independent of the noise. I offer flexible online coaching where together we work towards your specific goals, and I provide guidance and motivation while incorporating gentle evidence-based nutrition.
You can find Labrini on instagram @labrinifoodcoach
And more information via her website www.labrinikianidis.com