When she was younger, naturally thin Dania Lecomples used to tell people she got her abs from laughing. Nowadays, the co-owner of Nouveau Noir Boutique hits the gym four times a week to do yoga and strength training. “I started working out to change my lifestyle,” she says. But one thing that has stayed consistent throughout the years is her great sense of style (and business sense!), which prompted her to open Nouveau Noir with her sister, Darah Lecomples, and her best friend, Salimah Jivani.
With its brick walls and carefully placed lighting, the boutique’s interior makes you feel like you are in your cool friend’s loft — and you are raiding her closet. The clothing selection reflects Dania’s shopping philosophy: Save on trendy items, spend on investment pieces. And since investing in her health is also one of Dania’s top priorities, we asked her to share her tips on staying healthy and happy no matter the circumstances.
What is your eating philosophy?
I am a vegetarian. I love vegetables — anything vegetable I’ll eat, pretty much. I have pretty healthy habits but I don’t do portion control. If I want a bowl of pasta, I am going to eat it. And I am not going to go train harder after. I am lucky that my favorite thing to eat is sea bass and veggies.
What is your favourite workout and why?
Yoga. I also like to do a lot of core exercises. I do weights once or twice a week because I feel like I am not strong enough in my arms and legs, but my ultimate workout is yoga. I like the silence and the fact no one is talking — just to be by myself and have that moment. Also, what I love about yoga is that it’s not about perfecting your move but doing what fits you and making sure you are in that zone — doing it for yourself. And I find that a lot of people don’t do enough for themselves. So this is the one hour when I can just concentrate on me and I don’t have to think about anything. Everything is blocked out.
What is your favourite healthy dish?
Quinoa salad. I am obsessed with quinoa — I eat it with everything. I will make a quinoa salad at the beginning of the week and by Wednesday it’s done. I put quinoa, cucumber, mango, red pepper and purple onion with tons of vinegar. It is amazing and everyone who has it loves it and it’s so healthy for you. It’s something delicious that you can have as a snack or a meal.
What about your favourite treat?
My guilty pleasure is a dark chocolate brownie!
How do you de-stress?
Through yoga. Taking time for myself. And, honestly, I always find showers really de-stressing. Especially a good eucalyptus shower, just to breathe and concentrate. When I am stressed out, I am all about taking a moment to take it all in and then block it out. I think that yoga is really good for de-stressing. If I am in a bad mood, I’ll go do a class. If I can’t do a class, I’ll do sun salutations in my room.
Another thing that helps me de-stress is to stop overthinking things. I now use the philosophy, “everything happens for a reason”. I just accept things. Obviously it doesn’t come right away, it takes time to see clearly or see past this initial part, but once you get there you realize it’s not the end of the world — there are much worse things happening in the world. I take things one step at a time.
How do you manage having a healthy lifestyle with a busy schedule while maintaining a work/life balance?
I don’t. It’s really difficult, especially after working all day — after 6 p.m. you just wanna go home and sit on the couch. At the beginning of the week, on Sundays, I always look at the gym schedule and be like, OK, I am going to do yoga at least twice — these two days is when I am doing yoga and I make sure that it is set in stone. And then I will either take another class or do solo workouts the other two times.
And it’s really important for me to write it in my agenda. I feel guilty if I don’t do it — it’s just like an appointment. No matter how exhausted I am, I know that when I leave that class and when I am done that workout I’ll feel amazing and I’ll have another three hours of energy. Also, I think it’s important not to force yourself to go too far to do anything. Being close to where I work, train and play makes my life easier.
When do you feel the most confident?
I feel the most confident after leaving the gym. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Even though I am probably sweating like no one else, I feel good. And my energy is up. And I don’t even care what I look like. And for me not to care and just be myself, I think that’s what confidence is.
What would be your advice to a friend going through difficult times?
Look at the future. I believe that everything happens for a reason. God will never put something in front of you or put you in a situation that you cannot handle. Whatever turmoil you’re under, you were put in that position because you’re strong enough to overcome it and you’re going to learn from it or some kind of epiphany is going to come from it. But it’s there for a reason — negative or positive. And don’t look at it as a negative. See the silver lining. I’ve had really bad things happen to me in my life and I don’t think I would be the person I am today had I not gone through these.
What is the greatest challenge that you’ve had to overcome and what did you learn from it?
My biggest challenge is overcoming anxiety and learning how to deal with it and put perspective into it. I used to be a really anxious person, I would not be able to sit still. I had knots in my stomach, my head would kill me, I wouldn’t sleep at night. For anyone with anxiety or depression, there is hope at the end. And it’s not going to come after one day or one year. It’s the big picture, it takes time. I had to speak with someone, take medicine. After all this time, I feel OK with myself. Everyone expects everything to happen quickly, but you have to work for it. It’s not going to come overnight.
So that was the biggest challenge I had to overcome. It put me in a position where I was hidden and shielded. Whereas now I feel more comfortable in my own skin. And not enough people deal with mental health. People don’t give enough significance to it. In my parent’s generation, people didn’t talk about it. And now, [mental health] is my platform whenever I support any type of organization.
Finish this sentence: I feel the happiest when…
I am with my family and close friends. They mean the world to me. There is no better support system than those around you. If you have an idea, if you want to start working on something, your best critics are always your family members and the ones close to you.