Continuing our #designedtomove series, this week we spoke to Lauren Bongiorno, a dynamic yoga and bootcamp instructor and healthy lifestyle blogger about her health and fitness journey, the fundamentals of mind-body connection, and the keys to self-empowerment.
Where is home?
I am very lucky to be able to call New York my home.
Describe what you do for a living.
I get to help people live a healthy and happy life! How great is that job? I am a boot camp and yoga instructor and have my own business as a diabetic holistic health coach.
Most rewarding aspect of being a yoga and boot camp instructor?
Everyone who comes to a yoga or boot camp class is looking for something. Whether it is looking for someone to help push them to a higher mental or physical level, an outlet from their crazy day, looking to cultivate more self acceptance, or to feel good in their own body. Whatever it is, the most rewarding part of being an instructor is knowing that for that one hour, they chose me to help guide them through their journey.
Fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
I love karaoke. And 60’s music. Put those two together and I’m one happy girl!
What began your journey as a health and fitness enthusiast?
Growing up, I was a competitive soccer player and even made it to the division 1 level in college. Now I love doing anything active! Hiking, rock climbing, yoga, HIIT…anything that lets me break a sweat and challenge my body! I didn’t start becoming health conscious until about 4 years ago. I stumbled upon some health documentaries that talked about how many hidden ingredients are in our food and what the chemicals are really doing to our bodies over time and it got me so hooked on eating healthy. I started reading books on holistic health and ever since then my body has never felt better because of the changes in my diet.
You live by the motto "One Body. One Mind. One Chance” What does that quote mean to you?
I think that those 6 words are so powerful. We are only given one body, one mind, and only have one chance to do it right. And by “right” I mean to live life to the fullest, to be in the moment, and to keep a healthy body and mind so we can more clearly and more easily live out our purpose.
Where does your strength stem from?
When I was 7 years old I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. At such a young age I was faced with the decision to let diabetes consume my life, or to take control of it. Overall, dealing while diabetes, the sleepless nights from high blood sugar and the crippling low blood sugar attacks, has made me psychologically stronger each and every day. I’m grateful for having diabetes because any other challenges that come my way do not get me down. It’s kind of like, once you dig a 50 foot hole, a 10 foot hole is nothing.
Tell us about your blog Lettuce Be Healthy And Happy. What inspired you to take the leap and start your own blog?
About four years ago I became really conscious of what foods I was putting in my body. I wanted to live a healthy life and I knew that wouldn’t be possible if I was constantly eating processed and packaged foods. The more I researched, the more I wanted to share with my family and friends. Two years ago I started Lettuce Be Healthy and Happy and on it you can find everything from fitness and yoga tips, to healthy living motivation, to vegan and vegetarian recipes, to simple food swaps for a beginner who wants to get healthy but take it slow!
Any tips for maintaining a healthy regimen and lifestyle?
It’s all about the mindset. Rather than thinking, “I can’t have that cookie” or “I can’t sleep late because I have to go to the gym before work”, train your mind to think “I’d rather have a few pieces of dark chocolate because that is what will make my body feel best!” or “I know that after my morning workout I will be so proud of myself."
Any advice for those who are in a similar situation and need motivation?
Keep a journal. Write down your goals for each week. Seeing your thoughts on paper is so powerful. Also, try 14 days of writing down what you eat and what you do for exercise. Then write down how your body feels in response to each. You’ll start to see patterns of when you feel good and when you don’t feel good and that will help reinforce healthier choices!
Favorite yoga pose?
My favorite yoga pose changes depending on what I’m working on physically in my practice. Right now, handstands are so much fun. I think I love them so much because it took me about a year to get to where I am today. Some days though after an intense workout, my favorite pose is a nice juicy hip opener like the pigeon pose.
Favorite recipe featured on your blog?
I’m a big fan of food swaps... taking traditional unhealthy meals and just using healthier ingredients! So instead of reaching for a packaged energy bar, which is usually filled with a ton of process ingredients, I make my own little no bake protein energy bites. The best part is that you can customize them however you want. My favorite ingredients are:
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup almond butter
dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons of plant based protein powder
Just mix all ingredients in a bowl, roll the dough into small balls, and store in the fridge!
What’s the best way to explore the world around you?
I’m a big fan of traveling. One of my goals in life is to have my feet touch as many places in the world as possible! There is just so much to see, so many different people all with different stories, and so many valuable lessons to be learned.
What’s your most memorable life lesson?
I was fortunate enough to learn early on in life that sometimes, what’s “popular” or what society promotes necessarily doesn’t mean it's what you should do. Each of us were put on this earth because we’re unique and have a purpose. We shouldn’t waste that by trying to follow the rest of the pack.
What do you believe is the key to self-empowerment?
Hm. I think that it’s in self-exploration that you discover all that you are capable of and how the only limits you have are the ones you put on yourself. As long as you believe in yourself, and believe that you are strong, and have a purpose in life, the opportunities are endless and where life takes you is up to you.
What 5 songs would be featured in your ultimate workout playlist?
Work - Lil John
Can’t Hold Us - Macklamore
Old Thing Back - Matoma
I Want You Back - Jackson 5
Lava - Laid Blak
What’s your proudest moment to date?
My proudest moment to date is probably finally being confident in who I am and what I stand for. For a while I was caught up in doing things to impress other people ... and that’s silly. Because the only person you have to prove yourself to is yourself. There’s nothing more satisfying than feeling comfortable in your own skin and knowing that as long as you are true to your soul, you can never go wrong.
What does being ‘active’ mean to you?
Our bodies are meant to move. But today so many jobs require sitting at a desk for 8 hours straight and we don’t get the movement our ancestors did! Being active is moving your body in whatever way makes your body feel loose and energized. So whatever it is — Zumba, running, spin, yoga, pilates, or HIIT, find something that makes you sweat and just do it!
How would you describe your style?
Boho and athletic. Actually I should have put athletic first because 99% of the time I’m in workout clothes. There’s nothing more comfortable than a pair of workout leggings, with a cute sports bra and comfy pull over. However, when I’m in regular clothes I like to keep it simple with a pair of boyfriend jeans, and a Free People top.
What attracted you to 8120?
8120 has such a great group of people running the company. They’re honest, reliable and you can trust that you are buying from a business that is passionate about what they do!
What’s your next adventure for 2015 going to be?
My next big one will be in August when I go to Colorado. I'm definitely excited to be surrounded by those incredible mountains! After that, I’m trying to swing booking Hawaii for the Wanderlust festival. That would be my ultimate adventure and it's calling my name!
You can follow Lauren's health and fitness journey on Instagram at her profile @lettucebehealthyandhappy
All Photo Credits to Katerina Miras. The interview was edited for clarity and length.
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