With a thriving wellness business, regular columns in Good Magazine and Indulge in the NZ Herald, three children, and a passion for marathons, it's no surprise that Rachel Grunwell knows a thing or two about balance.
Rachel's new book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness is full of expert tips from global wellness experts alongside delicious nutrient-dense recipes, and details her personal wellness journey from tired, unfit mother and journalist to multi-marathoner and wellness expert. We spoke to Rachel about balance, yoga, and how to create a race-ready mindset.
Congratulations on your book, Balance: Food, Health + Happiness! Tell us a little bit about the creation process.
I was an investigative journalist for twenty years, and I have been working and writing in the wellness industry for seven years, so the book was the culmination of my life's work. It took two years to write, and I really fine-tuned the art of writing in the process.
I feel so lucky; as a writer, I get to interview some of the best minds in the wellness world in fitness, health, nutrition, movement, and psychology. For the book, I spoke with thirty of the most amazing wellness experts who shared life-changing wisdom.
The neuroscientist I interviewed has helped some of the most elite athletes in the world perform at their best, but we as normal people can also learn from these amazing minds. We all want to perform at our best!
After all your extensive research and experience, what does balance mean to you?
Balance is different to everyone. For me, it's doing what I love to do; it's taking nourishing "me" time to do yoga or meditate, which helps me to perform at my best, so I feel in balance when I'm juggling my family, a busy health business, and writing. Living in balance means having daily rituals that nourish me. Balance is shifting every day, and no one does it perfectly. But I know now what nourishes my body, mind, and soul, so I know how to get back to that state of calm.
There are different pieces of the wellness puzzle, and if you're too far in one zone, you'll be missing out on the other areas. Some of the puzzle pieces are eating well, moving well, but also thinking well and living well. A lot of people I come across in my health coaching really struggle with thinking well, emotional intelligence, and the psychological aspect.
The book is designed to be read a little differently: you can pick it up and dive into a chapter where you want to grow, learn, and be better. You don't have to read it from start to finish, and you don't have to buy thirty different wellness books - just one.
In my work and the book, I share science-backed wellness wisdom: it's well-researched, and I know the benefits behind it. To share that wisdom is a gift.
Yoga obviously plays a special role in your life, both personally and professionally. How did you embark on your yoga and mediation journey?
I did yoga casually for decades, and it was something that always made me feel good, but I never really got the mind, body, soul connection until I learned to teach. I'm still learning and layering knowledge all the time. I came into it initially for the asana, but now I absolutely love the yoga way of life.
I love to tell people that I started off as the worst fidgeter during meditation; I couldn't sit still, and I had terrible monkey mind, so I've come from that place, and I really understand it. The best thing to do it start small, and build on it. We're all living busy lives, and even one minute of practice is a beautiful thing.
Is there a particular style of yoga that you practice?
I love all the styles, but I'm most passionate about teaching a yin style. It's so restorative for the body. I do a lot of yang activity; I lift weights, run, and coach, and I feel so lucky to be able to teach yin; it helps to rebalance people - their bodies but also their minds. My style of teaching is focused on education. It's not about looking pretty in a flow or moving in a way that's not right for you, instead, I teach you how to tune into your body so you can tell when it's out of balance.
Your new book has some incredible food inspiration and recipes. What's your go-to snack or meal for busy days?
My favourite way to eat is just eating nourishing whole foods. The book is full of beautiful, real foods, but we have a gorgeous chocolate beetroot cake topped with chocolate ganache in there, for example. My philosophy is living in balance. I tell my clients that I have cake, I have a glass of wine occasionally, and I enjoy it - I savour it, but it's mindfully chosen.
A lot of wellness experts preach deprivation, but life is about progression, not perfectionism. People fall down if they feel guilt-ridden, but toxic thoughts are more toxic than sugar. It all comes back to self-love.
You're a marathon aficionado - how do you cultivate the right mindset to get through a race or reach a goal?
It all starts with believing in yourself. You can't start if you're missing that self-love, and it's also about knowing that you deserve that time to feel and perform your best.
A lot of the marathons I run are about me giving back; I help guide disabled athletes through a race to achieve their dream. If I can help someone who is blind believe in themselves and have an unbreakable mindset during a marathon, then they will just keep on achieving when the race is done. If you set yourself up to succeed and learn those behaviours, they will filter through to other areas of your life.
As we've learnt from Rachel, you can create your personalised version of balance by tweaking pieces of the wellness puzzle.
Yoga and meditation are ancient practices that are even more relevant today to keep us balanced. Calming the body and the mind in today's fast-paced society is essential; we are constantly stimulated, and the resulting stress can create a multitude of health problems. While the wellness "trend" continues to grow, the basics remain the same: look after your mind, body, and soul as best you can.
To learn more about balance, check out Rachel's fabulous new book here.