"Perfect body = perfect life? It doesn't exist"
She's known for her tag @BODYBYLEAHSIMMONS but the body is not all that she's about. In fact, she's come to realise that the body is just a bonus when you get your mind sorted out - something she's discovered after much soul searching. How the EFF does she do it? Leah let us into her home when she was pregnant (she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Lucky, late last year), and shared all her tricks.
I was in the music industry for the best part of 18 years running a record label and DJing but a shift in my health goals saw me give up nightclubs for fitness clubs. I’m now a Pilates instructor, personal trainer and kundalini yoga teacher. I’ve been in this industry for over a decade and the incredible journey I’ve been on has led me to develop my own fitness program - The Elevate Method. The principle behind it is that it trains all FOUR Facets of Fitness – Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual. I firmly believe that the health of one area directly affects the health of another so in order to be truly “fit” you need to work on ALL areas.
Society told me that if I had the “perfect body”, all my problems would disappear. That if I looked a certain way I would be happy. I’d have the perfect life, the perfect relationship and the perfect career. How wrong I was. After almost killing myself to achieve that ideal physique, lo and behold, I was still miserable. More so actually as I also had to maintain that body!! So I began asking myself WHY I was still unhappy. Why hadn’t it worked when almost all mainstream media was telling me otherwise?
THE PATH TO MINDFULNESS
I decided to delve more into the mind to find out what actually makes it healthy, how you can change it, if you can at all, and what that looked like exactly. My first stop was social media where, on the surface, it seemed like a very positive place to go. Instagram is full of helpful affirmations, healthy looking food and happy looking people. But I realised it all came down to the way people viewed that content that decided the effect it would have on them. And how people view it depends on their mindset, their values and their belief systems. We have so many ingrained beliefs instilled in us from our upbringing that it plays a huge part in our emotional responses to the world around us. So we view the world through those eyes. Every reaction, response and reply comes from that place. Trying to change that with one little Instagram post is not going to cut it. Through the work I have done I KNOW you can change your mindset and that knowledge led me down a path of self-discovery. I pieced together what worked for me and now I have a great little “toolbox” that I can draw upon depending on my needs. What surprised me the most was how important the spiritual connection is in your overall health. And I’m not talking about religion. To me, spirituality is about the connection you have to yourself and to others. It’s about your relationships and the view you have of yourself and the world around you.
My weekly workout routine didn’t change much during pregnancy. I was very mindful of my technique though as everything moves when you’re pregnant so I made sure that I trained with a qualified trainer to oversee my form. I like to mix up my training so try to strength train 2-3 times a week for muscle and bone density then I do I Pilates twice a week for flexibility and mobility. I have a morning kundalini yoga practice that really helps me stay grounded and allows the energy in my body to flow freely. All in all I just make sure I move my body once a day, which could even be a walk if I haven’t done anything else.
I think relying on one type of exercise you can plateau quite easily and you should do different things, but it’s whatever works for you, there’s no one size fits all
I eat for nutrition so my diet is quite simple. I’ve never been a foodie and I don’t really enjoy cooking (I’m getting better!) – so if I do it’s usually something easy like a lean protein and some steamed veggies. I would eat that every night if I could. I believe in eating across all macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats and fibre) so I don’t cut any food groups out and make sure I eat a good balance, especially during pregnancy. It comes down to where you derive them from that is important. You can still have a very balanced diet and be plant-based. Education around food is key.
Once every 6 weeks or so I’ll switch to liquids for a week which is not so much a fast, it just delivers my fooda different way to give my digestive system a rest. Think bone broths, vegetable juices, smoothies, soups etc. My favourite food is Japanese and I do indulge in a wine or two but not very often!! Everything in moderation I say.
If I’m training I also have a protein shake every day made with vegan protein powder, frozen banana, water, some kind of green powder, cinnamon, ice and maybe half a date if I want it sweeter.
Emotional health is one of the most important things to me. Staying on top of my emotions, not attaching to every little thing that comes up as a drama and living stress-free is vitally important to overall health. When we get stressed we release “stress-hormones” such as cortisol and adrenaline. These can wreak havoc on our adrenal and endocrine systems if not kept in check. What helps me immensely is meditation. I meditate every day for 20 minutes. I had a wonderful meditation teacher who taught me that meditation is like a party that all your thoughts are invited to. The ones you pay attention to stay and the ones who you don’t will eventually leave. I think that is a great analogy as it’s near impossible to cease “thinking” during a meditation. You just have allow them to all flow through and bubble away.
I used to take a lot of supplements because again, we are bombarded with the idea that “health” is in a pill. Supplements are great if you’re truly deficient in something but as a rule I would only take what I needed. Your body is so amazing at doing everything for you. While I was pregnant I took iron, folinic acid and magnesium as I needed to top up my stores in those but ordinarily, I derive my vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from wholefoods - it’s the number one natural place to get them.
The less I do to my skin the better, I used to have PCOS so I need to treat my skin gently, I can’t do heavy peels or anything it irritates my skin. I use Cetaphil cleanser and moisturiser and once a month I’ll have a facial. I also make sure I drink loads of water, it’s your skin’s best friend.
Makeup-wise I usually go for a black eyeliner look and my favourite is Lancome black kohl eyeliner, I’ve been using it for 20 years, it’s the BEST. I use a combination of two colours of Nars concealer to get the right colour for my skin and then a Mac Bronzer on top.
This year I’ve completely de-plasticed and de-chemicaled my house. I’ve removed all single use plastic for me as well as in my son’s lunchbox. We both have keepcups. I’ve also made all my own household cleaning products using essential oils – I went a bit nuts over it but the thought of my baby licking chemicals off the floor made me sick so I went on a rampage and got rid of everything.
WHAT'S YOUR SUPERPOWER?
I have X-Ray vision. And that doesn’t mean I can see your underwear. I can see the truth and spot bullshit a mile off. I don’t take things at face value because a lot of the time, what people want you to believe isn’t actually what is going on... and I help people see the truth. Sometimes whether they want to or not!
Interview: Nedahl Stelio
Photography: Chris Mohen
Hair & Makeup: Melanie Burnicle @2Twenty2Group