Melissa Leong’s golden rules for self-care

After Melissa Leong felt the effects of a busy lifestyle, she resolved to find more balance. Now, she’s never felt healthier or happier in her own skin.

From the balance of sweet, sour and spice in a great Thai curry to the simple but significant importance of seasoning, Melissa Leong has long understood the importance of finding a harmony of flavours in every dish.

But the desire for balance goes well beyond the food writer and MasterChef judge’s tastebuds.

It is also something she applies to everyday life.

Although the 39-year-old has always sought equilibrium through regular exercise and eating well, it wasn’t until she developed the autoimmune condition pyroluria that she was forced to really practise what she had long preached.

“Pyroluria is basically a fancy word for burnout,” she explains.

“It is essentially an autoimmune condition – not a disease – that has sadly become more prevalent in modern day society.

“Basically, your body stops absorbing zinc and vitamin B that help with everything you need for good health. Everything from digestion to cell turnover and how you sleep.”

melissa leong

‘I didn’t feel my best self for a while there’

Melissa says she developed the condition through her intense workouts and travelling the country on an extensive writing assignment.

Adding vitamin supplements to her diet, prioritising sleep and scaling back her vigorous fitness regime helped Melissa to conquer her condition.

“I just pushed myself a little bit too far, doing a bit too much exercise and a little bit too much work. I didn’t feel my best self for a while there,” she says.

“Now that I know what that feels like, I work very hard to make sure that I never go back there again.”

How Melissa cares for her mind, skin and body

Listening to her body

While Melissa enjoys high-intensity workouts, she no longer does them five times a week.

Instead, she balances these physically demanding cardio-fuelled sessions with Pilates, meditation and yoga.

“I am now gentler on my body in that I listen to myself,” she says. “If I feel I need to be a bit horizontal and stationary for a while then I’ll do it.”

You are what you eat

Melissa believes good nutrition is an essential part of looking and feeling her best.

Her work often involves tucking into calorie-laden dishes, so she balances that with a healthy diet of home-cooked meals using lots of fresh produce.

“What you eat really does impact on your outward appearance,” she says.

“Obviously I don’t always have control over what I eat in my line of work and sometimes that that can manifest itself in overindulgence.

“So, I always make sure that I supplement my diet with great nutrition wherever possible. Whenever I can I cook for myself and supplements are a really essential part of how I stay well.”

Getting a skinful of nature

Melissa says her mother taught her the importance of good food and good skincare.

As a small girl, Melissa would watch her mother applying sun cream and moisturiser – something she now carries through into her own daily routine.

She credits her glowing complexion to quality skincare and a consistent routine morning and night.

“Your skin is the largest organ in the body, and you absorb so much through it. So, if we place so much importance on eating well because it nourishes us from the inside out, the same logic should prevail for skincare as well,” Melissa, a brand ambassador for Andalou, explains.

“I’ve loved working with brands like Andalou because they really emphasise quality and the fact they have no ‘nasties’ in their products.

“I’m a fan of high performance skincare, and the more natural the better. I like that Andalou uses the power of fruit stem cells to pack a punch.”

melissa leong

Melissa’s top 5 tips for health, happiness and wellbeing

  1. Sleep is crucial

Even though I am a night owl, I find that I need a full eight hours to feel ready to take on the day.

  1. Learn to say no

Boundaries are crucial. You can’t turn up to everything and you can’t help everyone.

  1. Prioritise ‘me time’

Strap on your own life vest and/or oxygen mask first. You can’t help others if you aren’t in the position to do so.

  1. Make time to exercise every day

It helps you feel good.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of vitamin supplements

Vitamins can help fill the gaps when stress levels and nutrition aren’t where they should be.

Written by Siobhan Duck.