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Inspired living

Heart of gold: In conversation with Lola Berry


Lola Berry

Lola Berry

Living fearlessly from the heart is at the core of Lola Berry’s existence. We sit down with the bestselling author, yoga teacher, nutritionist, podcaster and coffee entrepreneur to find out more about her bulletproof sense of being.

With a smile that lights up her whole face and a down-to-earth nature that you can’t help but adore, Lola Berry is the embodiment of health and happiness. The street-style meets bohemian vibe to the bestselling author, yoga teacher, nutritionist, podcast host and co-founder of her very own coffee company blends effortlessly into the mix of Torquay locals surrounding her getting their morning caffeine hit. We’ve just practised a heart-opening yoga sequence and have made a pit stop at the café next door.

Berry apologises for being on her phone as I order our long blacks. “Sorry mate, I’ll be done in two secs.” She’s writing an Instagram post to her 121,000 followers about a podcast episode that’s just gone live where she interviewed friend and fellow nutritionist, Jessica Sepel, on the lessons she’s learned from failure. The Berry right here sporting navy tights, a yellow hoodie and slide sandals with her hair in a bun looks every part the same Berry you’ll find inside her 10 books, on screen in TV appearances and on her social media feed. What you see is what you get with this powerhouse of a woman.

Where creativity meets business

There is an entrepreneurial flair to the creative 34-year-old that has manifested in commercial endeavours ranging from a smoothie bar to a medicinal coffee company, with the latter her latest business baby. She launched Lola Coffee with her boyfriend and music producer Matt Sofo and their good friend Rob Salha last year. A big part of the inspiration for the specialty-grade instant coffee creation, formulated with a medicinal mushroom, was from Berry’s own experiences spiking her (and Matt’s) coffee with lion’s mane mushroom and experiencing first-hand its brain-boosting effects.

Lola Berry

Lola Berry

“I’ve always added medicinal mushrooms to my coffee,” Berry declares. “Out of all the [medicinal] mushies, lion’s mane is the thing everyone’s researching at the moment for anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s, which is so exciting. I wanted to study neuroscience after my nutrition degree,” she explains, which was a Bachelor of Health Science from Endeavour College of Natural Health with a major in Nutritional Medicine. “I’m obsessed with brain health,” she continues, which has no doubt influenced her passion for natural nootropics.

A therapist is like a gym session for my mind. Because if your mind is out of whack, then forget the rest.

Before Lola Coffee was welcomed into the world, the Melburnian co-owned a smoothie bar in the South Melbourne Market called Happy Place. “I sold Happy Place about six months ago,” she explains. “There were five business partners and we all had other passions. It was at this point where one of us needed to make Happy Place our number-one passion and give up a few things, or we sell.” Berry stops for a moment before her face lights up with curiosity. “It was an interesting experience actually — I’m fascinated by human behaviour — when I told people I sold, there were two very distinct responses: ‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘Oh my God that’s so exciting!’ For me, it’s exciting that I’ve had a business, sold it, written books, not written books — I’m now not attached to anything that I do.”

There’s a term in yoga philosophy known as aparigraha (Sanskrit for non-attachment), and letting go of Happy Place is an example of this in practice. “Good ol’ yoges,” she muses. “I always talk about having that fiery discipline on the mat — tapas — then being able to leave and not attach yourself to any kind of outcome. And then everything is a bonus.”

Healing from the inside out

Despite the warmth, joy and light that beam out of her, Berry has also done her fair share of dancing with darkness. Having lived through the challenges of an eating disorder and its long road of recovery, Berry has had to dive deep within herself in order to heal from the inside out.

“I’ve always been a massive dreamer, and I’ve never questioned my career. But I’ve definitely questioned my self-worth, my self-love — having had an eating disorder — so I’ve had a lot I’ve had to work through with therapists,” and has been working with the same therapist for the past two years.

“I’m really big on therapy,” she continues. “I went two years ago for a really shitty break-up … it was really horrible. I had just held hope for too long. I’d almost taken the courageous hope that I use in my career into my love life, which doesn’t work … so it took about six weeks of consistent once-a-week [therapy] to let go of it. Then I said to my therapist, ‘Can I keep coming to you? I don’t think I need to heal something right now but I just want to be a better version of myself.’ And he said, ‘Lola, my goal is to make you bulletproof.’ So this bulletproof mentality is what I take into nearly everything I do.”

“We spend all this time on our body, but what about our emotional and mental health? What are we doing for that? For me, a therapist is like a gym session for my mind. Because if your mind is out of whack, then forget the rest.”

For me now health is about tapping into who you are. It’s being real, doing what you love, being true to yourself.

Healing her relationship with herself and food has taken time and dedication. I didn’t start writing books until I’d faced all of that, but it would still pop up when I was hurt with heartbreak,” Berry admits, painting an honest picture of what recovery looked like for her. “They say getting out of an eating disorder takes years, and then your weight fluctuates, and it’s this really horrible rollercoaster. But I made sure I didn’t write any books — especially health books — while I was still facing that.”

Underneath Berry’s struggle, however, was an authentic, heartfelt desire to radiate health. “One thing I’m really proud of is that I’ve always been a healthy girl … now I look at food and think, ‘Yes, it’s here to nourish us, but it’s also here to celebrate with people we love.’ For me now health isn’t even about what you’re eating or what you’re doing. It’s so much more than that — it’s about tapping into who you are. It’s literally the essence of who you are. It’s being real, doing what you love, being true to yourself. To me, that’s health.”

Heartfelt yoga on and off the mat

Living her truth is also a notion explored in Berry’s yoga teaching and practise. “At the moment I’ve been cheating on yoga and going to Pilates,” she admits with a laugh, but in no way have her 500 hours of yoga teacher training gone to waste. “I always teach [yoga] to the heart, but I don’t teach fancy asana [postures]. So when I plan a class, I’ll have a heart theme. And I’ll hold people very emotionally accountable to that.”

Credit: Brandon Celine

Credit: Brandon Celine

In her most recent teacher training, instead of leaning more into parts of the practice she is less drawn to — like inverting or sequencing — Berry actually connected more deeply with the parts of the practice she values most, like teaching from the heart. “I thought my training would enhance my sequencing but it just taught me to be more myself,” she says.

“I always say the way we show up on our mat is a reflection of the way we live in life,” she explains. And for Berry, this translates into a practice of living wholeheartedly. “I feel most connected when I’m being true to myself and my heart. The heart is king of all,” she says, referring to life both on and off the mat. “Heart-to-heart is the only way, I think. For a real connection.”

Living without expectation

Berry has always maintained a strong sense of faith and trust in her decisions in life, which have been nurtured by her willingness to let go of expectations. Working hard but remaining flexible as to how the future unfolds has been an active practice of hers, especially over the past decade.

“A lot of people think that to work hard, you’ve got to have this bulldog essence about you — in the media industry anyway — and you don’t have to. It might take you a little bit longer to get there because you’re not standing on people to get up, but you can work really hard and not hurt anybody and be so kind,” she reflects. “I never believed that when I was younger.”

“I definitely believed that you couldn’t have career and love at the same time. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. Because when you’ve got a really healthy relationship, your heart’s open, you’re giving more of yourself, you’re free. The two can absolutely coexist,” she says. “The trick to that is no expectation, which I have been working on so hard.”

“I can feel when I’m agitated, and it’s usually because of expectations I’ve got on myself because I’m quite tough on myself. But when I drop all expectations, I’m just like, ‘I’m going to give this all my best shot. I’m not here to impress anyone. I’m just here to do what feels right and I’m going to go about it in the most honest, true-hearted way that I can.’”

Choosing freedom over fear

Berry isn’t one to shy away from personal development, and regularly steps outside of her comfort zone to help support her growth. Her latest experiment in this is through acting, which she has been studying for the past 12 months. “As much as it scares me, I absolutely love leaning into fear,” she says. “Acting school forces that upon you too! It’s giving me a much tougher skin.”

“I’m the oldest person in class and I just don’t care. Again, I have no expectations. All I know is that it fills up my heart more than anything else at the moment,” she says, while also acknowledging its therapeutic effects. “Acting is almost a form of personal therapy. You’re forced to get outside of your comfort zone every single time you step onto the stage. It’s friggin’ scary.”

On the other side of fear, for Berry, is freedom, and another example where she has transcended fear to find freedom is through her podcast, Fearlessly Failing. “I celebrate failing because that’s where we actually learn, grow and better ourselves. If we just succeeded all the time then we’d learn nothing,” she explains.

I feel like I’m here to live from my heart and I always hope that inspires people on some level.

“It’s funny because a lot of people on the podcast don’t like the word ‘failure’. They’ll say, ‘Can we change it to lessons?’ and I say, ‘How do you feel about failing forward?’ — so failing into something better, which is a cool way to look at it.”

Embracing the mindset of “failing forward” is a powerful way to build strength and resilience. “I think because I’ve failed so much too, I’m like ‘let’s celebrate it’,” she says. “Everybody fails. That’s why I’m so comfortable talking about eating disorders, because every second girl at some stage in her life has either restricted or worried about food. We’re holding onto so much crap mentally, physically, emotionally — on every single level,” and this sense of understanding about everyone’s trials and tribulations in life has allowed Berry to hold space compassionately when interviewing her podcast guests.

Perhaps Berry’s most grand gesture of leaning in to fear is by choosing to open her heart to the world on a day-to-day basis. “If you can come from that space, people will just see your energy and your essence, rather than what you think they see,” she says. “I feel like I’m here to live from my heart, and I always hope that inspires people on some level. Whether that be through a podcast, creating a book, acting, creating a kind of escape for someone — that doesn’t bother me. As long as there is some form of inspiration.” Consider us inspired.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, we encourage you to contact the Butterfly Foundation by calling 1800 33 4673 or visiting thebutterflyfoundation.org.au.



 

Ally McManus

Ally McManus, the editor of WellBeing Yoga Experience and the founding editor of Being magazine, is a freelance writer and editor in magazine and book publishing. She also teaches yoga and meditation on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula.