A professional chef, yoga instructor and active proponent of the locavore movement, Lena Elkousy is consistently engaged in dialogue about what we eat and how that impacts the quality of our lives, both in personal health and the quality of our environment. We asked Lena some questions about her food philosophy, fitness faves and female body image. Her answers are BEYOND honest and independent.
Name three things you like about the way you look.
My hair – it’s turning white very early and it’s happening quickly! I love it. My smile – I try to make it contagious. And, my skin – it loves the sun as much as I do. I rarely burn!
Name three things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with looks.
I love that I am a nurturing person. I like my adventurous nature and ability to adapt. I like that I can make people laugh.
How often do you feel pretty?
We all struggle with insecurities. What do you struggle with in regards to your appearance?
I think that the pressure society puts on us as women to be thin and perfect can be so heartbreaking. Sometimes I look in the mirror with dissatisfaction. But then I remind myself, I am a healthy, happy person. Our bodies do incredible things for us, and being grateful for that is key. We cannot all be fashion models – most of us have other callings in life.
In your opinion, what makes a woman beautiful?
Her attitude towards others and towards life.
When do you feel most proud of who you are?
When I look at the people who surround me in my life – they are lovely, beautiful souls. It makes me feel like I must be doing something right.
What are you most afraid of?
Abandonment and commitment.
In our experience, self love is the driving force behind happiness. How do you show yourself love?
I agree. Self love has always been a hard one for me. I recently got my own place, and I have been finding new rituals to show myself love – listening to my body, having a gentle home yoga practice, eating well, getting lots of rest, using a detoxing skin brush, doing self massages with coconut oil and taking baths. Taking the time to do things like these reminds me that I deserve to be treated well, and that love radiates from you.
Who inspires you?
Oh man! There are so many amazing people to be inspired by in NYC. People are doing such cool things here. I am inspired by anyone who is chasing their dream – and actually making it happen.
What do you appreciate more as you age?
Filtered water, sleep, and how I am learning to listen to my heart more and more.
More women should…
Dance like nobody is watching, to the beat of their own drum.
What is more important to you today than it was 10 years ago?
10 years ago I was 19. I came from a rather isolated childhood, and I didn’t really know how to be a good friend. Building and maintaining relationships is one of the most important things to me now.
More women need to be inspired to age gracefully – what’s your advice?
Take care of yourself. Drink lots of water, eat well, get lots of rest. Practice yoga everyday, be gentle with yourself, and do what moves you. And stop trying to fight it – aging is inevitable.
What do you do for exercise?
I ride my bike a lot around Brooklyn, where I live. I practice and teach at a yoga studio that is a block and half from me in Bushwick. And, of course, lots of brisk walking around the city! I also try to go upstate or to Long Island every month or so for a gorgeous hike.
Any hidden gems in your hometown or other that you can share?
If you find yourself in Brooklyn, have a meal at Dear Bushwick. The food is delicious and creative, and they have great cocktails and a cozy hip New York vibe.
What is your must have from Beyond Yoga?
The pants – they fit perfectly and the material is super soft.
Tell us more about your passion for healthy living and how you became a chef?
I always loved being in the kitchen as a child, and I was intrigued by food and health. I read a lot and started cooking professionally when I was young, and I totally fell in love with it. Yoga is a newer venture in my journey. I started practicing about 5 years ago and it changed the course of my life. I have been teaching yoga for about a year now, and it is beautiful to see how food and yoga are so closely related.
What is your favorite type of food or favorite meal?
Greek food is my favorite, and always has been. Simple, pure, healthy, delicious.
Want to see inside Lena’s bag? Check out her Everyday Essentials.