You don’t ask someone who’s broke to show you how to become a millionaire; you ask a millionaire to do that. As the proverb goes: ask and you shall receive.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally, or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nordine Zouareg.
Nordine is a French American fitness personality, coach, bestselling author, and speaker. His holistic methods are groundbreaking in the high-performance, fitness, and wellness industries. He is a former Mr. Europe, Mr. World, and a Mr. Universe champion.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of course, I’d love to share a little about my childhood. Born in the back of an army truck traveling south of the Sahara Desert, I was three months premature. Low self-esteem and extreme anxiety attacks were my regular companions. I’ve endured illness, poverty, hunger, racism, and police brutality, to name a few of my life’s challenges. It’s while watching a sports documentary featuring gymnastics that a fire within me was lit. I began looking for ways to improve my mental and physical health, first through gymnastics, then weight training. I had one goal in mind, to conquer my low self-esteem and build my self-worth.
Life for me, and as a young boy, was hard indeed. I grew up with nine sisters and three brothers, all of whom I helped raise as a young child. My father worked long hours and my mother did all she could to raise the children. For several years, I had to miss school for a two-week period while mom would be in the hospital for childbirth, so that I could assist my dad with the children. Being the head of the family at such an early age, even for a short while, taught me resilience and grit. I was learning about what it meant to grow up as a child-adult.
As I mentioned earlier, for most of my childhood, fear and anxiety were in control of me. I was desperate to reclaim my life. I also mentioned that gymnastics and weight training became my coping outlets and in only four years I was able to win several world titles such as Mr. Universe and Mr. World. My path has been a natural and sometimes painful progression. I longed to be someone, to find my purpose. I wanted the ability to love and surrender to the present moment, where fear couldn’t reside. Fear creeps in us all, and if we let it, it will control us. We all have periods in our lives where we are frozen with fear; we don’t seem to get anywhere. The bottom line is this: People and things inspire you, but real lasting inspiration can only come from you… you add the fuel to your fire.
Today I continued to learn and grow. I keep pushing through, because for me, staying stuck in a fear mode is not an option. Earning titles gave me a platform on which to deliver my message and foster my passion for health and wellness.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I love this question and I think that to be fair to those who impacted my career; I need to split the answer into three parts.
The first part has to do with the person not only inspired but coached me during my bodybuilding career of 12 years. Serge Nubret, a five times Mr. Universe and a French movie star, was a very charismatic man. Serge could help me keep the flame burning and taught me the ropes of the game. He was instrumental in my winning several world titles.
The second part is linked to my transition from the world of bodybuilding to the health and wellness industry. Very different, I know! I met my second mentor, Dr. Dharma, bestselling author, and founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation, in 1996 when I was at a crossroads in my life. It was after I left competitions. I was yearning for something more rewarding, something that would make a difference in people’s lives. I remember it was at Gold’s Gym in Albuquerque that Dr. Dharma approached me after hearing me shout in French. Very intrigued, he wanted to meet me. Fast forward a couple of years, I landed an executive position with the prestigious Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson. I was asked to develop and lead their wellness program. In less than a year, I could deliver on my promise, and because of our ingenious and state-of-the-art wellness program, the resort was awarded the title of best destination resort spa in the world. During my ten years tenure, we won five #1 top world awards.
Renowned author Dr. Deepak Chopra, whom I met only twice, influenced the third part of my career. His impact was immense. After two serious knee injuries I’d suffer at the resort, I needed a change; I needed to move on to something new while staying in the health and wellness industry. It’s one of Deepak’s quotes that blew my mind and guided me. To this day, it remains cemented in my psyche. “You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices.” Isn’t this powerful? It was the right quote at the right time for me. It helped fuel my desire to succeed, to do more, and to be more. For the next few years, I set my course in building my coaching and speaking business, wrote two bestselling books, and created my private wellness retreat called Your Life Is Now℠, which I offer at top award-winning resorts and spas nationwide.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Each mountain I climbed on my journey to success had someone who’d already gone to the top, sitting there waiting for me to ask them for advice on how to get to the summit. Serge Nubret was a former Mr. Universe who helped me with winning the title he one’s held. Dr. Dharma, who as a bestselling author, helped me become one. You don’t ask someone who’s broke to show you how to become a millionaire; you ask a millionaire to do that. As the proverb goes: ask and you shall receive
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Ah, ah, ah! I had many of those moments but the one that stands out is epic. A philanthropist once hired me to help her with her work/life balance. Upon receiving my contract and an airline ticket to travel to the beautiful Mauritius Island (a 30-hour journey), I packed a suitcase and was on my way to facilitate a six-week program. After a long journey, I arrived at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport. A driver was waiting for me there. The amazing ride to the resort was breath-taking; a combination of colors, happy people, and a beautiful landscape made it magical. Upon arriving at the resort, and to my surprise, the front desk agent handed me a note from my client, who was supposed to be there. The note read: “I’m so sorry Nordine but I can’t make it to the Island this time. Just enjoy yourself for a week. I’ll have my assistant change your return date to the states.”
Although I got paid for the program in advance, it was still a very disappointing experience. Fortunately, things would turn around the very next day. Jetlagged out of my mind, I couldn’t sleep so I decided to take a walk on the beach, which was just a few hundred meters from my bungalow. That night would become one of the most important time in my life. At around midnight, I stumbled upon a big boulder and decided to sit there, gazing at the starry sky while listening to the calming sound of the ocean, I suddenly fell into deep meditation for well over three hours. When I came back to the physical plan, I was left with one powerful and clear sign: as an instrument of the Universe, my purpose for being here was to deliver a message of health and wellbeing. This astonishing spiritual experience had strengthened my belief and inspired me to continue to teach, speak and write. One lesson I learned because of this incredible event is to never underestimate the power of serendipity!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’ve read many books, and I must admit, Awareness by Anthony DeMello, is the one that had largely influenced my career transition from ego based and obsessive to non-obsessive and soul-driven occupations such as writing, speaking, and coaching. It helped me change my perspectives on happiness, psychology, and spirituality. The book’s concept is rooted on eastern and western philosophy, which encourages readers to see happiness as a love state of being rather than an ego driven and materialistic element we must chase. The understanding of such a revelation made me revisit many aspects of my own life.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
It would be unfair to the many wonderful authors of the many powerful quotes that have been floating around for millenniums to just pick one. But I guess, and for the sake of this interview, I can share another quote that’s been very inspiring, and which had an enormous impact on my life. Carl Jung once said: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I was in my twenties when I read this quote. And like many people my age, I was very ego-centered; I thought the world was there to get me. I was afraid. This important truth for identifying in others what’s already in us made such a difference to me and in the way I perceived people.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m working on several projects I think are going to be important in helping people with their mental and physical health. As we continue to experience the pandemic’s devastating impact on our society, socio-economic factors and political instability are threatening many American families’ future. Therefore, I have created a unique wellness retreat and workshop experience at award-winning resorts/spas nationwide called Your Life Is Now! This is a program that will allow individuals or groups to learn about powerful tools they can use to create equilibrium in their lives. I’ve also recently released my new book InnerFitness: Five Steps to Overcoming Fear and Anxiety While Building Your Self-Worth, published by Skyhorse Publishing. The book offers inspirational and motivational tools to deal with inner conflict while using methods to regain their health and shape-up their bodies. And finally, I also launched an online program catering to individuals who can’t afford luxury retreats, or even to those whom after their retreat, would want to keep applying what they’d learn during their stay. I call the program Nordine’s InnerFitness Tribe.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives: Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Yes, of course! As a life, wellness, and fitness coach, a huge part of what I do with my clients involves creating equilibrium between all four aspects of one’s life. As humans, we use four different types of energies. I call them The Four Human Energy Reservoirs: our physical energy (physical reservoir), our emotional energy (emotional reservoir), our mental energy (mental reservoir), and our spiritual energy (spiritual reservoir). These reservoirs, like our car’s gas tank, need to be refueled regularly if we want to keep going. When one or more reservoirs are depleted, it can certainly cause serious health concerns. Thus, creating equilibrium between all four becomes vital to one’s mental and physical health.
But for your question’s sake, I am going to address the mental aspect.
Mental Energy: We can define mental energy as the ability to engage in cognitive work. How well can you focus? Are you feeling drained or are you feeling mentally sharp most of the time? Your mind contributes largely to your energy levels. Having high levels of mental energy will provide you with better focus, greater awareness, improved willpower, and motivation, and increased productivity. Your mind has a surprising effect on your physical energy. Your thinking pattern also affects the way others perceive you and how you perform. When you feel self-confident, you look self-confident. Your performance will increase, multiplying, therefore, your chances of success in whatever you are doing.
Boost your mental energy by building these three habits:
· Decrease distraction: Reducing distractions provides more opportunities for our memory to function optimally.
· Practice positive thinking: There is a slew of research on this topic. No one can dispute the health benefits of positive thinking. It helps with anxiety, lowers depression, increases wellbeing, and improves cardiovascular health.
· Stimulate your brain: Any mentally stimulating activity can help with your brain’s health. Reading, learning new skills, or doing puzzles are great ones.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
This is an important question. Meditation is one of the most powerful tools I know for tapping into the subconscious mind. Health wise, meditation is the bridge that connects your body and your mind. Initially, I suggest a basic meditation practice.
Some of the many benefits to be reaped are:
• An enhanced state of awareness
• Increased creativity
• Stress reduction
• Lowered blood pressure
• Reduced levels of anxiety
• Elevated mood
• Increased ability to focus
Upon starting your meditation practice, you may feel uncomfortable; don’t worry about that. Practice makes perfect, you’ll feel more comfortable within a matter of days. And don’t be anxious about “clearing your mind.” Thoughts will intrude, and that’s okay. Just acknowledge them and go back to your breathing. Use a “mantra”, which is a word such as “one” or the name of a loved one to help you focus.
There are just four simple requirements for practicing basic meditation:
1) A comfortable position
2) A quiet environment
3) A mental device (such as your mantra)
4) A focused attitude
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
Excellent question. Healthy eating represents 60% of the equation. The rest is all about the mind. I can’t help my clients change their behavior. Only they can control their choices and create that change. However, I can help them determine what their goals are and what they want for themselves, help them identify their current negative and positive behaviors, and create a plan of action that will facilitate the changes they want to make. Doing all that is a process — one I go through with my clients every day.
Change doesn’t happen in an instant. Hence, most of us, at least initially, are afraid of change. If you don’t believe me, just think how many people remain for years in dead-end jobs or moribund marriages. Why? Because they are not happy with the result of their current behavior, but at least they know what that result is. And they’re afraid that if they change it, the result may be worse rather than better than what they’re familiar with. Even our bodies hate to change. All our systems and our organs are constantly working to keep things the same. Our bodies seek homeostasis — to maintain internal stability. That’s a biological fact.
So how do we create change for ourselves, physically and mentally? As I have mentioned it earlier, it’s a process. We move from not thinking about change at all to thinking about it, planning it, and then testing various means of creating it.
Anyone who’s reading this article, may at least have reached the point of thinking about change. To move past that point, one needs to ask oneself three questions:
· Why do I want to change my behavior (the pros)?
· Why shouldn’t I try to change my behavior (the cons)?
· Do my pros outweigh my cons?
If the answer to the last question was “yes,” you’re at the point of being interested in change. Being interested, however, isn’t a strong enough feeling or motivation to get you where you think you want to be. If you’re merely interested, you’re not committed, and you’ll most likely give up as soon as you encounter an obstacle or challenge.
Being interested means you’ll do what’s convenient. However, being committed means you’ll do whatever it takes; let’s say you’re thinking about something as simple as changing your hairstyle. You’re interested, but you’re not committed. Chances are the minute someone questions the thought, or if you can’t get an appointment right away, you’ll drop the whole thing and move on to some other “interest.” To follow through no matter what, you need total commitment. Your hunger for change needs to transcend the status quo. That’s the difference!
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Emotional wellness is not as easy to balance as the other aspects of oneself. I often talk about equilibrium in my talks, my writings, and my coaching practice. All four aspects, the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual, must be in harmony. If you are experiencing challenges in other areas of your life, it’s just a matter of time before you emotionally feel the impact; you’ll drain your emotional energy reservoir. And if you fail to address the lack, you’ll eventually empty each energy reservoir, one by one, until you reach what I call inner conflict. Do you see what I’m saying?
Emotional energy is how you feel about your life: How happy are you? Are you feeling upbeat, enthusiastic, optimistic, happy, feeling energized, being in touch with the loving and creative part of yourself? Are you free from anxiety, doubt, fear, or depression? Taking stock of your emotional well-being is a must if you want to perform at a high level and create optimum productivity.
Boost your emotional energy by building these three habits:
· Build a meditation practice: By allowing uninterrupted time for yourself; preferably 10 to 20 minutes (or more) upon arising.
· Spend time with family and friends: Emotional connection with family and friends is of outmost importance for your wellbeing. Have meals together or simply partake in activities such exercising or just having fun time together.
· Listening to upbeat or relaxing music: The effects of relaxing or soothing music does wonders for your mind. It can reduce anxiety, improve blood pressure, and sleep quality.)
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Yes, I once had the opportunity to work with the great and beautiful movie star Sophia Loren. I remember we were sitting at the Albuquerque International Sunport’s lounge, just us two, doors guarded by the APD. Amongst the many things we talked about, the power of smiling came up. Mrs. Loren admitted that smiling was a tool she’d use to stay young and beautiful. “A smile always attracts a smile!” she’d say. It’s no secret that smiling helps increase your mood while reducing stress. It also improves overall cardiovascular health. And because you typically smile when you’re happy, your brain produces more endorphins — the chemical that helps relieve pain. A smile affects every aspect of your being. So, smile often and unconditionally.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I believe that our spiritual wellness is enhanced by knowing who we are, our ability to cope with challenges, and our willingness to love unconditionally. When I was a boy, a suffered from low-esteem and life was very hard for me. It’s not until I had enough of the school bullies, racists, and poor health that I discovered I was tapping into the wrong source. I needed to switch from an ego driven self to a higher level of existence. I transcended fear into love and connected to self-worth instead. It took awareness and understanding, but I got there. Self-worth helps you love yourself and others unconditionally. It gives you spiritual energy and boosts the other three reservoirs: mental, emotional, and physical.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Absolutely! Nature is a powerful tool to recharge our spiritual reservoir. Several factors can deplete our spiritual energy. Stress, life situation, and negative people, to name a few, can exhaust our emotional and spiritual energy. Imagine having a meeting with extremely negative and sarcastic individuals, depending on the number of people and the amount of energy exerted, you’ll feel drained. My advice is to take a five to ten-minute break after a mentally and emotionally draining meeting and walk in nature. While walking, just empty your mind and stay in the present moment. Sing a song or think of people or things you love. Just walk!
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Wow! I have lots of ideas that would inspire a movement. The Self-Worth Movement would be one that could inspire many people and help them reclaim their “raison d’être.” Society driven self-esteem has failed us and it’s time to wake up to reality by realizing why we are here. I love this quote by his holiness The Dalai Lama, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Here you have it!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Ah yes! Let’s hope he reads this. Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson is the one celebrity I’d love to have lunch with, better yet, a workout session together. I’m sure that we both would enjoy either. Dwayne and I share so many things in common. We like to work out, hence, we both hold the titles of World Champion, in different sports of course. We also strongly care about nature and humanity, and we both suffered from anxiety. Resilience is also a quality we share. I’m sure the conversation would be thought-provoking and would turn into a long-lasting friendship.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
People can easily reach me online via my website nordinezouareg.com, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn using my name Nordine Zouareg.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.
Thank you for the opportunity!