‘Cooking can be a form of self-care’: Sofia Levin on food for wellbeing

Graduating from Carey in 2007, Sofia Levin’s passion for food and writing have taken her around the world as a travel and food journalist. Sofia freelances for Good Food, SBS Food, Domain Review, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Broadsheet and runs Seasoned Travellera newsletter and soon-to-launch website that encourages people to learn more about other cultures through food.

As a part of our Invitation to Wellbeing series, Sofia provided the Carey community with some video recipes to enrich our wellbeing through food – you can access them on Canvas.

We spoke with Sofia to find out more about her food and wellbeing philosophy.

Why is food important to a person’s overall wellbeing?

I have a slightly more obscure take on food as it relates to wellbeing. Of course physical health is crucial, and what you put into your body is just as important as what you don’t, but food also has the power to bring joy and break down barriers. That means food is not only good for the soul, but also good for the world.

What is your interpretation of what it means to have a healthy relationship with food?

In its simplest terms, I believe a healthy relationship with food means being able to enjoy it without any negative associations. If you spend 10 minutes eating cake and feel bad about it the entire time, you need to work on your relationship with food. If you find yourself munching celery sticks wishing you could eat that cake, you don’t have a healthy relationship with food. A healthy relationship with food is about balance, and not being too hard on yourself. I wouldn’t advise eating the whole tub of Piccolina gelato in a single sitting, but when you have a bowlful, enjoy it; bask in the bliss of its decadence the same way you might enjoy a massage or manicure. Remind yourself that you’re lucky to live in one of the world’s best cities for food and produce, and eat mindfully – no scrolling on your phone when you have a mouthful!

Do you have any advice about how to encourage healthy eating habits in the home?

It’s important to talk about food openly. Remember, not all unhealthy food is delicious, and not all healthy food is unpalatable. Variety truly is the spice of life; there’s little more exciting than exploring new ingredients and different cuisines. Getting involved in both shopping and cooking can encourage healthy eating habits, too. Look up recipes together on the internet. Lockdown permitting, visit the local farmer’s market as a family and find out what’s in season. Talk to producers about life on the farm, learn where your food comes from and never turn down a free sample!

‘There’s little that brings me more joy than food, and if that doesn’t count as wellbeing, I don’t know what does.’

What are some of the self-care activities that you recommend the most?

In food terms, self-care to me means allowing good quality, ‘unhealthy’ food into your life now and then for the sake of enjoyment, i.e. mental health. Cooking can also be meditative and a form of self-care – it is truly rewarding to create a meal from raw ingredients. Baking or cooking for family, neighbours or friends, especially during lockdown, can be good not only for your own wellbeing, but for others, too.

What was something that you got out of the Invitation to Wellbeing?

As someone who revels in the pure enjoyment of food, the Invitation to Wellbeing was a chance to reflect on what wellbeing actually means in my industry. There are so many messages about weight loss and fad diets that I think people forget that the definition of wellbeing extends beyond physical health to happiness and enjoyment. There’s little that brings me more joy than food, and if that doesn’t count as wellbeing, I don’t know what does.

What is the main message you hope to leave with the Carey community?

I want the Carey community to think of food as something that provides more than nourishment; think of it as a chance to consider nature and our food systems in Victoria. Think about where ingredients come from, who grows them, picks and packages them. Be grateful for all the work that goes into what ends up on your plate. Remember that food can be an adventure, an opportunity to try something new and discover more about other cultures and yourself. Absolutely shop local and cook more, but it’s easy to order outside your comfort zone within your five kilometres – you might just surprise yourself.

Category: