Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Degrendele Bernadett - Every path leads back to proper nutrition
"You are what you eat." This trite-sounding, but at the same time visionary point, popped in as I spoke to Bernadett Köteles-Degrendele, a nutrition therapist of Hungarian origin (Felsőerek) living in Belgium. We spoke about conscious nutrition, without which, she claims, it is impossible to live a balanced life.
Her personal story also sheds light on the fact that if we don’t devote enough time to ourselves and developing the right diet for us, our body will sooner or later signal a problem. Bernadett is helping others today, showing how positive changes start in our bodies when we feed them what they really need.
- Did you start eating consciously as a result of your childhood pattern?
“Meals have been central to our family’s life. We loved to eat well, but we also made sure to prepare the food in healthy ways. We didn’t have sugar at home, but instead we had plenty of vegetables and fruits in our garden that not only provided work, but also fresh, organic ingredients for our meals. My grandfather was a chef (from Kalocsa). My mother was inspired by him, and also chose this profession, so we had a family code that we bake and cook at home. I later realized what a gift this knowledge is. So, the basics were there in childhood, but awareness had to wait.”
- When did the point in your life come when you started paying more attention to your diet?
“As I started going to the university in the big city (Budapest), my biorhythm turned upside down. There was a shortage on organic, vitamin-rich vegetables picked freshly from the garden and it was not obvious where to get quality meat. Also, exercising outside in fresh air had to be planned; you could not take it for granted anymore. My body soon signaled that the balance was disturbed: my blood test showed hormonal issues and the doctors were puzzled. When they found out exactly what was causing the symptoms, they performed a surgery and prescribed me steroid medications that I would have to take for the rest of my life. But I didn’t accept that! Since I’ve always been interested in naturopathy and wellness, I started learning, developing myself, and graduated with a wellness degree. In the meantime, I met doctors and naturopaths who believed in a more holistic approach. It became clear that I must first change my lifestyle in order for the healing processes in my body to begin. I followed conscious nutrition and paid close attention to the source of my ingredients. One year after my surgery, I was healed and I have been asymptomatic for 15 years now. Years of learning, a wealth of experience and overcoming difficulties have led to the realization that when an imbalance develops in us, the body is able to correct itself, especially if we act in time. And the most obvious solution is conscious nutrition, which is never too late to start.”
- What kind of life event makes you work as a nutritionist today?
“I moved to Belgium ten years ago — I went on a mission for my job at the time — and I found love there. My husband and I lived a healthy, very sporty life. Obviously the work was stressful, but luckily we both showed a similar interest and commitment to a healthy lifestyle. When my husband was diagnosed with a serious illness, the doctors said it was a miracle that he was still alive. Since then, I have been infinitely grateful for all of our days together. Experts said that our conscious nutrition has contributed to him being with us today. As often happens in life, we find ourselves on our knees and powerless, with the doctors in control. Even in those situations, we need to know that we can do a lot for ourselves. One obvious way is our nutrition; it is always there. I delved more and more into the subject, because I wanted to help and understand the deeper connections. I graduated as a nutrition therapist in Belgium and today I help those who come to me online and in person. Fortunately, I was able to learn from very good professionals at home and abroad. There is a lot of misinformation on this subject, and I am committed to give a good guidance.”
-What is the role of a nutritionist? When should you contact one?
“A nutritionist focuses on what you eat because we want to maintain balance in your body. If necessary, we correct what is lacking (e.g. vitamins) or relieve the body (e.g. from toxins) in order to help it do its job optimally. My guests come to me with various health and weight problems, but there are also athletes who want to make sure they get the right amount of nutrients into their bodies. My first question at the initial consultation is whether the guest is willing to work for their own health, i.e. do they value themselves so much that they are willing to change? I don’t promise quick results. We plan together to find what will work in real life. I can’t bring success by myself; I need the guest’s commitment and, of course, their trust.”
- You've developed a new brand called Bernadett Begonia. What is the essence of your method?
“This profession also requires a lot of learning and continuous self-education. The bottom line is that proper nutrition is always tailored to the individual. First, we look at the general lifestyle, eating habits and needs of the guest, and only then do we start to develop the necessary diet along with them. For those who turn to me, I recommend the natural methods: if there is a lack of vitamins or minerals, we look at those together to see what can be taken via a better diet. My starting point is often Traditional Chinese medicine, which is why I make free, season-related videos that pass on the basics to those who are interested. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the health consequences of different levels of food sensitivities/intolerances or, in more severe cases, allergies. If we don't deal with it, they can provoke various inflammations or other symptoms in the body, which then give birth to new problems. However, there is a lot of confusion with so much information, and a therapist can help you find your way around this. I don’t put any food on the banned list without replacing it with something else. I also consider it important to be at home in the world of micronutrients. I always help my guests, even with recipes. I use the latest technologies, software and tools that can help my guest keep track of their own condition as well. In the meantime, I also keep working with a lab. My goal is that when we set up a diet and lifestyle, the guest doesn’t go back to the old ways. For me, this is a real success. In addition to the diet, we also select what other methods can help the guest go the right way: self-suggestion, meditation, qigong, or simple breathing exercises. I also learned to be a mindfulness trainer, which I constantly use in my work because the spiritual part of healing is more important than we think.”
- Going alone on the path to change is always lengthy and hectic. With a therapist, can this journey be shortened?
“What motivates me is that I can show people the right direction, so they don’t have to tread the road alone. I have experienced how lost you can feel in the ocean of information. Without the right support, we lose a lot of the time. Those are valuable wasted years. If the road is too long to get to the right professional, we can have a lot of bad experiences by then. That’s why it’s important to choose the right person to work with on your problem.”
- What do you think about the different diets that promise a miracle?
"I would never talk to anyone about being, let's say, vegan." In such cases, however, it is my job to draw attention to how, among other things, vitamin B12 can be supplemented. I also explain the signs and consequences of potential vitamin deficiencies in the body. However, I tend to speak up against extreme diets or fashion diets and share my opinion because they are often really harmful and dangerous. I am always honest with my guests and I try to help them find their own way with many options.”
- What principle do you believe in?
“Clearly in prevention. If there is a serious illness, the doctor must be in control of the healing process, and I can only supplement his/her work with my professional knowledge. I have a focus on natural methods. I believe that we should be eating food that is rich in nutrients and, as much as possible, clean. If we have a choice, we should also go for local sources. It is important that as few as possible preservatives and additives enter in our body. If we need to take supplements, they need to be clean. I really look carefully into what dietary supplements or vitamins my guests take. However, the key to success is faith. Faith in ourselves, love ourselves and to be optimistic about the world.”
- It's clearly personality dependent, but can it be changed?
“It is possible and even obligatory to work on developing a positive attitude if we do not want to make the mistake that people with negative attitudes are complaining about. The thing is, if we complain, we are unable to notice the solution because our negative thoughts obscure the path of opportunity. This does not mean that we should be cheerful in all life situations, but we should always strive to let only positive energies into our lives, and this is a serious learning process for everyone. We know that food feeds from within, but we must not forget that the words we utter and the thoughts that are expressed in us also affect the functioning of our body. The effectiveness of therapy thus also depends on how the guest views themselves and the world that surrounds them. I learned from a very dear guest that ‘there are no problems, only solutions’. He can stand up from any situation, even though he has a rather difficult fate. He is not bitter; he is always looking for a solution.”
- Is it also important in what state of mind we eat food?
“Of course! Psychically, it is critical how we look at the food we consume. One of my guests, when she first visited me, lived in the belief that she struggled with a number of food intolerances and took plenty of supplements. She panicked completely when she was offered hot chocolate because she believed that cocoa was not good for her body and because of this she started to get anxious and imagined that it would be bad. Obviously, we can’t trivialize a severe food allergy, but if consuming a food causes us anxiety in the first place or just causes remorse, that’s definitely not the right direction. For example, she was helped by stress-relieving exercises, and we determined what and when to take - and not all at once - and instead got used to carob instead of chocolate. She is no longer anxious today. So I suggest so that we never panic. If you have a food allergy, be sure to let the host know, and you can’t avoid that particular food, try to eat little of it, but do it with good humour and not guilt.”
What kind of people do you feel good with?
“I’ve noticed that I’m paying more and more attention to surrounding myself with people who are honest with themselves and don’t blame others, and instead take their destiny into their own hands. It’s a tremendous experience for me to succeed when someone changes their habits because I manage to show them that they can follow their real path in life. I, too, expect this honesty and attention from those around me. It recharges me when I am with someone where we mutually motivate, help each other, and have a common goal to grow.”
- Is the glass always half full for you?"
“Absolutely! However, that doesn’t mean there are no ups and downs in my life. I basically try to focus on the positive things. For we can find positivity in any life situation, as well as a single thing that was worth getting up for that day. Later, it will be possible to draw strength from these little things in a more difficult period. Mindfulness also helps in this: finding beauty in every moment and giving thanks for it.”
- What motivates you in your work now?
“I enjoy being able to combine the diverse points of view and knowledge gained in different trainings and create a complex picture of them. This is because I need a wide range of knowledge in order to be able to give personalized advice that meets the guest's specific needs. I am delighted when my guest manages to realize and put into practice what we have discussed. If I only have one tiny part in this change, it adds a lot of motivation to keep learning. My goal is for more and more people to recognize the power of proper nutrition and lifestyle. I think that Western and Eastern medicine could be intertwined. The dialogue between them could be much better, because they can work together really well. I also work regularly with doctors who have prescribed a treatment and I help the healing process by developing proper nutrition. There is no better way to health than conscious nutrition - even in the prevention phase.” Photo: Panna
* This article has been translated from the original article of https://www.impulzivmagazin.hu/ Interjú itt: https://www.impulzivmagazin.hu/koteles-degrendele.../
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