Holistic nutritionist Riyana Rupani is a mum to three boys. Here she shares how she had PCOS and infertility, why guilt-free me-time is so important, and 5 ways mums can start living a healthier lifestyle
Originally from New York, Riyana Rupani lived in Bahrain for a short time before moving to Singapore where she has been living with her husband and three sons for 12 years. Riyana has three boys: Sumair (7), Shaan (5), and Shiv (4) – and yes, she had all three within 3.5 years! Having kids at all had been a struggle as Riyana suffered from multiple health issues – from PCOS to infertility to colitis – and it was only after prioritising real food and lifestyle changes that she saw a change for the better. We chat to Riyana to hear how she swapped her corporate life to train as a holistic nutritionist so she could help others achieve their unique needs. Riyana shares how she balances her business with motherhood, how she is an advocate for guilt-free daily self-care and her gold tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle.
Tell us about your career!
My passion is creating delicious foods that not only taste good but are good for you too. I work with clients one-on-one and in groups through my Clean-in-15 program, and recently launched my own line of products featuring a range of clean chili sauces and grain-free crackers.
Before my career in wellness, I spent over 15 years working in corporate America and Asia. I totally understand the pressure of corporate life and the stress that comes with juggling work and family. I found my passion for nutrition after years of suffering from multiple health issues – from PCOS to infertility to colitis to name a few – which led me down a long path of medication and doctor visits. While medication helped me feel better, it didn’t help me heal. I didn’t understand why I was facing these health issues or what I could do to prevent them.
Fast forward a few years, I now have three boys and I’m in remission from PCOS and I’ve turned my health around through diet and lifestyle changes (this also helped me get off the medication I was taking). I am now on a mission to help others do the same. Being able to relate well and empathise with what my clients are going through has really helped me find success with them.
Any tips for others starting their business?
– Try to stay productive and focused with your time! Make long-term and short-term goals, make a to-do list, and don’t sweat the small stuff. It can be easy to get distracted when starting out.
– Imposter syndrome is real but do your best to not let it hold you back. Overcoming self-doubt and learning to own my success and achievements was a major hurdle I had to cross.
– Put yourself out there (in person and on social media). I’ve learned that people want to know the face behind a brand. For me hiding behind pretty pictures of food wasn’t going to cut it, but the more I put myself out there, the easier it got.
– Build an authentic brand. Personally, this was a journey for me. It’s very easy to compare or follow what everyone else is doing, but figuring out what makes you different is what makes you special.
How do you balance your mom role and your work?
Balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood hasn’t been easy. It’s a constant battle between wanting to get work done and being present with the kids. Learning to switch off can be challenging, and while it’s a work in progress for me, I know how important it is to set those boundaries. Some of the things I do to ensure I am giving my family and myself a little TLC:
- Block my calendar before 9am and after 6pm. I like to get my workouts in before my day starts and keep the evenings free to focus on family time.
- I also block my calendar for 2 hours every Friday for any self-care sessions I need (shopping, nails, lunch with a friend, etc.).
- I try to get out of the house during the weekends with my boys so that I’m not tempted to open my laptop. Sundays are also official no-work days!
- If I need to catch up on work, I’ll get it done after the kids’ evening routine but I have a strict “no device” post-9pm rule! This ensures I get to bed on time for the much-needed sleep my body needs.
- I also use the weekends for more creative work like recipe development. My kids are a constant source of inspiration. Getting them involved in the kitchen and having them help me create is so much fun! They really understand what mommy does and want to be a part of it.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Singapore as a family?
We absolutely love going to all the beautiful gardens and parks here! It’s a weekend tradition. Pool time, trying different local flavors, and exploring the awesome museums and galleries here are also top of the list!
You have three kids – how do you maintain a close relationship with each child?
My boys are super close in age. I had all 3 within 3.5 years which makes it hard. I do my best to carve out activities I can do with each of them and I make sure they each get independent mommy time every day. Even if it’s just a 5-minute cuddle session, I feel it makes a difference. My eldest son, Sumair, loves to read so we take trips to the local library or spend time reading together; my second, Shaan, is all about baking (I call him my chocolate monster) so he is my partner-in-crime when it comes to making sweet treats at home, and my youngest, Shiv, loves being out and about so he is my companion whenever I’m running errands.
Any tips on sibling rivalry?
Another tough one! I’m not sure if what I am doing is right or wrong, but I make sure I tell each of them (when the others aren’t around) that they are my favorite but to keep it a secret. It makes each of them feel super special. I also make sure to praise them and be specific when telling them I am proud of something they did. It’s amazing how different each of them are. I want to make sure they know they are amazing for what they do differently.
What is your self-care routine?
I try to weave in self-care practices throughout the day starting with a cup of hot lemon water and a pinch of salt while my eldest son has breakfast and gets ready to catch his school bus at 6.45am. Once he is on the bus I get a little me-time before my younger two are up for the day. This is my time for movement – I schedule a mix of yoga, walks, and weight training throughout the week – and when I set my intentions for the day (aka my to-do list). After 9pm, I make time for my skincare routine, herbal tea, journaling, and a little red light therapy. Lastly, I give myself a 2-hour break every Friday to take care of myself, whether it’s catching up with a friend or getting my nails done. Making sure I take the time to do things that make me feel good is super important to me.
What are your 5 top tips for mums on having a healthier lifestyle?
- Take time for yourself without feeling guilty. As moms we are constantly taking care of everyone else and putting ourselves last. I love the saying “Fill your cup up and let it overflow into the lives of others”.
- FPF – Fiber, Protein, Fat. Look for these 3 components when building your plate.
- Plan ahead. Use the weekends to create a meal plan and meal prep for the week. It takes time to get into the rhythm but this will reduce meal time decision fatigue during the week!
- Kitchen closes at 8pm. Wrap up meals by 8pm because whether you are a mom or not, nothing good happens in the kitchen after 8!
- When in doubt, BREATHE! A lovely and easy breathing technique I use when feeling stressed and overwhelmed is the 5-7-8 breathing technique. Breathe in through your nose for 5 counts, hold for 7 counts, and breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. This will automatically take your body from sympathetic (the fight or flight state) to parasympathetic (the rest and repair state).
Best restaurants for healthy (but tasty) eating?
I recently teamed up with The Dempsey Project and Salad Stop to create healthy grain-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free options on their menus, so those are at the top of my list!
Other restaurants I love that have both healthy and tasty options are Culina, Blue Kouzina, Pano Kato, Persea, Tiann’s, The Living Cafe, Grain Traders, Fotia, Como Cuisine… And these are just from off the top of my head. So many great options out there!
As a mama I wish I were better at… not sweating the small stuff and enjoying the moment.
I wish I had more time for… at work – recipe development. Personally – spending more time with family and friends.
I always feel saner after… a really good night’s sleep.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about… which kid has crawled into my bed.
My favourite moment of the day is… post-dinner unwinding time.
Thank you for a lovely chat and some great tips Riyana!