This International Women’s Day delve into the world of renowned wellness entrepreneur and writer Ifat Hindes. Ifat is the founder of Project Wellness and HER Magazine Asia, an exciting new publication that inspires and empowers further pursuits of women - we can’t wait to get our hands on the first issue!
Find out more about Ifat’s entrepreneurial journey from pioneering Hong Kong’s first entirely gluten-free restaurant and bakery to launching this new publication, her top tips on finding wellness in a hectic city and how she made sustainability central to her life.
How did your passion for wellness first begin?
I have always been curious about wellbeing, trying to understand and study the human body - so much so that back in 1995 I started to self-study at home with our Encyclopaedia's and Britanica's labelled “Food for Mood”. I knew I had body dysmorphia and I had been recently diagnosed with clinical depression so I wanted to have a better, deeper understanding of why I felt the way I did, why my brain and body reacted the way it did, and if a non-chemical approach could help me in any way. Needless to say I am still trying to understand and figure out these questions almost 30 years later! It is a constant journey through the self, when I started questioning wellness was just about food, but now it’s about the connections between everything, the mind, and the ripple effects.
Can you tell us more about your entrepreneurial journey with healthy eating?
I think healthy eating has always been in the education and principles my mother gave me through learning our family’s routes of cooking traditionally. Bone broths, Israeli cuisine (Mediterranean & Middle Eastern), getting creative with wholesome real foods in a way that is nutritionally dense and rich. That being said, I always struggled with the idea of being perfect, and what is perfect? Perfect for me or for others and the way they look at me. So whilst having these principles instilled in me, I was also hypocritical with not eating, and not loving myself enough. This too was a journey that I had to go through, to learn and understand why I am the way I am now: I eat when I’m hungry, there are days where I’m eating and indulging loads and other days where I’m not. Loving myself, being kind to myself, understanding myself, those are my priorities. Without these, I can’t be anything for my family and loved ones.
The launch of Choice Healthy Foods and Choice Cooperative in 2013, Hong Kong’s first entirely gluten-free restaurant and bakery, was born from the lack of options available in Hong Kong. As an entrepreneur I am constantly evolving, educating myself on the topics that interest me and then creating what I believe is a necessity, answering a need within Hong Kong to begin with, and then hopefully further.
As babies, my children all suffered from reflux. The gluten-free diet and sugar free (avoiding processed foods) was what made the acid reflux reduce. I dove into studying the chemistry of gluten-free baked goods and vegan diets because the vegan diet is kinder to those with allergies. Two years of self-study and research led me to launch what was described as a ‘pioneer' or 'trailblazer' in Hong Kong. My first client was The Peninsula, then Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, some of the city’s top clubs and F&B outlets which also led to the winning of awards. I am a passionate person, highly sensitive, but if harnessed correctly, I can achieve amazing results.
Choice was sold before the birth of my third child. I suffer from Meniere's Disease, which is classified as a chronic disease, so I could not withstand 18 hours on my feet anymore. This is where Project Wellness was born. Either through food education or curating workshops for in-house events, I continuously work with families and businesses to improve wellbeing.
Why did you decide to launch HER Magazine Asia?
If I am being completely honest, and I think I should, HER Magazine Asia came about through a difficult, very emotionally traumatic experience. Originally I had planned for three years to launch a separate magazine and through chance meetings I agreed to include persons I did not know well as business partners. As I said before, all I do is passion based. Entering this business was out of my personal journey as a writer, based on wordplay and things I did, so this was a personal execution of passions. Before I knew it a couple days after my 40th birthday celebration I was told the company was incorporated and trademarked without me.
I felt hurt, cheated and knocked down. Not only from opening my heart and making these people family, but from giving my being. My spirit was broken. With the family I come from, the fight they had to go through, from Auschwitz and ongoing battles, we were always taught kindness above all. As a result of this, I could not comprehend this experience.
My closest girlfriends told me to use this as an opportunity to go even further, higher and better than before. So maybe my path was meant to be this way. I began to heal, and through healing realised staying faithful and not vengeful, staying true and not allowing the hurt to take over, I reached a place where I could truly forgive the past and wish them the best in their endeavours as that was never really what I wanted to be a part of.
HER Magazine was born out of the sheer necessity to bring kindness, compassion and understanding to our readers. I felt through the experience I went through, we need some honesty, humbleness and realism. In life, we are so blessed, especially here in Hong Kong. Together with our partners and editors we have managed to harness the power of the spirit of woman, which is by nature designed to nurture and this is what we hope to do and what we have been doing. Our mission statement is to be an honest and stimulating resource that inspires and empowers further pursuits of women.
We delayed our launch due to the current economic climate and in the meantime we have been active with sell-out small events. We have an incredible storytelling style that we have developed with special inspiring interviews with women from across the globe.
Life in a hectic city like Hong Kong can often prove tough for also achieving a healthy lifestyle, do you have top tips you can share?
Firstly, try and understand what type of a person you are, and with that be kind to yourself. I suffer from Meniere's Disease so at times my body just won’t communicate with what my mind wants to do. As much as I want to get out and get fresh air and exercise, the sofa and home is as far as I can move.
Secondly, I try and walk most places, if I’m in North Point, I almost always walk to Central, under an hour and a pretty straight route. "Legs moving = mind healthy” I think it’s super unhealthy to envy achievements of others hoping for the same, but a healthier approach would be following achievements of others getting inspired by their commitment and try to see what works for you.
Water, water, water and then some more water!! Carry your bottle and download that water app which tells you where in Hong Kong you can find a tap and fill for free. Fresh probiotics, Kimchi, Kombucha. Kefir, Sauerkraut and so on. These fresh non tablet versions are so good for gut health, as your gut is the second brain of the body, so when that’s healthy, your mind is healthier.
Eat your colours! Whether you are vegan, meat eater or vegetarian - eating your colours are a sure way to attain good health. Get out into nature and absorb Vitamin D and if you can’t hike, walk on the beach barefoot, the sounds of the water and waves and the sand on your bare feet is so healing and grounding.
Surround yourself with people who are your tribe, who root for you and accept you for who you are. Negative relationships just tear your spirit down and when we are not mentally sound we are not that healthy at all. You are the top five people that you surround yourself with. I love my tribe these days, they lift me up and make me better just by being around, they are my family.
How did you become interested in the sustainable lifestyle movement?
The simple answer would be, my kids and their future, we need to be responsible for what we leave them with, how we teach them to look after themselves and the world in which they live.
What lifestyle changes have you made to become more sustainable?
I woke up one morning after falling into a deep depression and I looked around myself in our big house and I noticed, I hardly use the kitchen, I hardly look at certain cabinets, I hardly use 80% of my home, and I have no idea what else was in that part of my house too, cleaning it well took more than half the day and there was always something messy. It dawned on me that possibly living simpler, would probably make our lives simpler and happier. Thus began the process of cleaning, donating and recycling - it took a good two months. We moved into a small apartment that was the equivalent of one floor of our duplex, in a gorgeous complex with beautiful facilities and not too many towers, so it wasn’t too busy with people.
The move was hard for my husband and helper (who had to do many trips back and forward), and I still have a couple boxes left to sift through, but it was so rewarding. Cleaning our home is much easier, life is much happier and the kids are so busy running around daily in the complex with their new neighbours.
What are some of your favourite fashion, lifestyle or beauty brands?
I love to support my friends' businesses, they are super passionate and I learn so much from them at the same time.
Tribe of Sunday - I love their ethics and values. The designer is a gorgeous human being who is very honest about her process. She makes as much as she can as sustainable as possible (my leather jacket is recycled leather for example). Her mission statement is also about the inclusion and support of all women with love and kindness. She is a gem!
Emmanuel F - a godsend for hair, I call him a 'kind, loving Doctor of Hair’. He has saved me not once, but twice, and continues to give so much of himself to his clients who generally become his friends. He has many awards in sustainable aspects and he is making waves with organic care as well.
Omsa - These ladies have created a way to include spirit and self into everyday tasks and push their followers into loving themselves and being kind to others too. I love all their products from beauty to home.
Anthea Cooper Jewellery - natural stones to enhance your uniqueness. Her creations are gorgeous, I love the storytelling in the pieces and how she incorporates her history into the jewellery.
Vinoble Cosmetics - my absolute fave at the moment. Vegan and ethical! Made in Austria and the first of its kind in the luxury market. Enzyme scrubs, face washes, creams and more! I go to Dr Jolie Beaute in Jordan for their special facials. Another one I love is Dr Barbara Sturm, her range of supplements that complement her skincare line have really helped me especially when I suffer some allergy attacks.
@hmdcollective & @joinhula are two other favourites. The women behind these brands have taught me to use, reuse, donate and swap. I thank them possibly more than they will ever know for all that they have taught me.
Do you have any advice you can share for someone who is just embarking on their sustainable beauty and/or lifestyle journey?
The advice I would give is to research, research and research. Become as well learned as you think you can be in the direction you are looking to get into. Secondly, approach your mentors, people who inspire you and seek as much advice and guidance as possible. Surround yourself with those who want to see you succeed not those who tear you down. When you think you are ready, create a test group of people, and ask others to become your unofficial advisory board. I have three on mine who are not personally invested in HER Magazine, but are completely rooting for our success and positive journey.