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Mind

Changing Rooms' Natalie Bassingthwaighte on the health wake up call that changed her life

The chart-topper and host of Changing Rooms opens up about mindfulness and making a relationship work.

By Paul Ewart
Actress, singer, TV star and entrepreneur: Natalie Bassingthwaighte (or 'Nat Bass' for short) has worn many hats during her enviable career.
And though she's undoubtedly a high achiever, not so long ago this relentless schedule had the media personality feeling "out of control" and dangerously close to a breakdown.
Thankfully she heeded the signs and took the opportunity to implement some major health and wellness changes in her and her family's lives.
"It was about a year ago that I started to feel it," the 43-year-old tells Good Health & Wellbeing. "I was so frazzled and overwhelmed that my head was about to explode… I just couldn't quite keep up with the pace of my life. I felt broken. I realised that if I didn't stop to breathe it would get even worse."
Juggling often "three or five jobs at once" along with the demands of raising two young children left the former X Factor judge ready to snap.
"The turning point was at a function when I ended up chatting to a woman in the media industry who has always inspired me," says Natalie.
"I asked her how things were going and she confided that she was finding it tough. I asked about her son and she said, 'He hates me. I'm always working, I never see him.' It shook me. I didn't want the same thing to happen with me and my kids. The next day I woke up and knew I couldn't keep doing what I was doing. I knew I needed to be present. It was a revelation."
The Changing Rooms host learned she needed to be more present. (Image: Instagram @natbassingthwaighte)
A staple on screens and in the charts for the past 15 years, Nat began her rise to fame after she nabbed the role of home-wrecking Izzy Hoyland on Neighbours in 2003.
Three years (and three Logie nominations) later, the go-getter swapped Ramsay Street for the mic, fronting the band Rogue Traders, before launching a successful solo musical career, where her debut album, 1000 Stars, reached number one on the ARIA Charts. Her musical credentials saw her join reality TV show The X Factor for four seasons.
Most recently, she's revisited her acting roots by reprising her role on Neighbours, and now she's helming a new run of the renovation hit Changing Rooms on Network Ten.
While she's undoubtedly got a lot on her plate, this time around Natalie is determined to keep work/life balance top of mind.
"I've implemented small changes and set myself boundaries, which have helped change my life," she explains. "For example, I was working on my computer until 11 o'clock at night and I'd be going to bed stressed about everything I had to do. Now, I've stopped working at night.
My husband [Cameron McGlinchey] and I created a rule that between 5 and 7pm, when we have dinner together as a family, phones aren't allowed. Also, we've cut a lot of TV out of the household. Rather than having it on in the morning, we listen to music, and we no longer have a TV in the main living area.
"These changes mean we're all much more present. I feel more relaxed and I'm sleeping so much better – my husband has even said he's never seen me so balanced and calm. It's still not perfect, but we're focused on trying to make it happen."
Nat is joining the Changing Rooms team. (Image: Channel Ten)

Holistic health

Fitness has also become even more of a priority for the actress who is now using her workouts as a way to achieve some extra zen. Though she's always been conscious of exercise, these days she sees it as a cure-all for both her body and mind.
"My self-care has changed over the past six to 12 months," she says. "And I can't believe I'm saying this, but I now really enjoy getting up at 5.30am to do exercise. When I get home and I'm still the only one awake, I'll have a nice cup of hot water and apple cider vinegar. Starting my day that way I think to myself, 'This is good.'
"I used to be a bit of a gym person many years ago, but I find that I can get quite muscly very easily. These days I love Pilates – the focus on the core is especially great for those of us who have had children! Also, I've only really gotten into yoga over the past six months and I'm obsessed with it.
I needed to find something to help quieten my mind. I've never been one who finds switching off easy and it really helps. I want to have a strong body, but I also want to have a strong mind. When I exercise now it's a complete workout for me: mind, body, soul."
WATCH: Why you should try reformer Pilates. Post continues after video...
This holistic view of health has spawned a new passion for mediation, which Natalie has managed to instill in her day-to-day life.
"I've only really just found an ease with it, so I can do it anywhere," she says. "I do it daily – every night before I go to bed and often a little 10-minute meditation at some point during the day. If I'm feeling stressed, overworked, or overwhelmed, it picks me up, grounds me, and helps me to move through life a little smoother. It changes everything. I've even implemented it in my kids' lives and they now go to bed listening to a little guided meditation.
"Depression is something I've worked through over the years. And when someone has these tendencies, I don't think a quick-fix solution is the answer. You need to support yourself and care for yourself. Aside from being a mum, these days my top priority is self-care. After all, if you don't care for yourself, how can you care for others?"
"Aside from being a mum, these days my top priority is self-care. After all, if you don't care for yourself, how can you care for others?" (Image: Channel Ten)
The self-care the singer speaks about is applied to what she puts on her plate too. Admitting that she "goes through phases" on the virtuous scale, in general Natalie follows the 'everything in moderation' school of thought when it comes to food.
"I'd like to say, 'Yes, I'm incredible', but it's not always the case," she concedes. "But I try! Every morning I'll make a smoothie or some muesli; for lunch and dinner it depends on what I feel like – I'm not strict with myself. But if I have filming or a photo shoot, then I step up my regime to get a bit leaner. I think putting too much pressure on yourself means that you're more likely to fall apart. It's okay to have some chocolate or some wine, just nothing excessive."
WATCH: Easy ways to minimise stress. Post continues...

Future focus

Along with mindfulness, the importance of a good diet is something Nat and her husband are keen to impart to their two young children, daughter Harper, eight, and son, Hendrix, five.
"It rubs off on the kids too," she says. "I want them to have a good relationship with food, that's really important to me – teaching my children something that will benefit them in the future. I'm very conscious of what my kids eat, they don't have much sugar, and I make sure their lunch boxes are full of fresh fruit and vegetables.
"I feel like there's such a responsibility being a parent – you are the example. We want to teach them good things, to eat well, believe in themselves, to be respectful and to have good manners. My husband and I drill them with all of that kind of stuff constantly. It's a privilege – and a big responsibility – to be able to help shape these little people's lives."
WATCH: The heartwrenching moment Natalie Bassingthwaighte is reunited with her kids on I'm A Celeb. Post continues...
Motherhood also proved to be a catalyst for a successful business venture for the mum-of-two. After struggling to find clothing options suitable for her childrens' sensitive skins, Chi Khi – the line of unisex bamboo kids' clothes – was born. Launched in 2015, the line has exploded globally, with the likes of Cate Blanchett, the Kardashians, Fergie and Jessica Alba's children wearing the range.
"Chi Khi is my third child!" she says, smiling. "I wondered what I was capable of if I was no longer employed in the crazy media world as an actress or a singer, because you never know when you'll stop being flavour of the month. After having the kids, I read that bamboo was great for sensitive skins, but I couldn't find much out there – nothing cool anyway – so I made my own."
Nat and her husband want to teach their kids healthy habits too. (Image: Instagram @natbassingthwaighte)

Team spirit

Another tool in Nat's arsenal for juggling a busy career and family life is her drummer and songwriter husband of seven years, who she met while part of Rogue Traders. Tying the knot in 2011, they've been together for 12 years – an impressive feat given the notoriously short-lived romances in the world of celebrity.
"He's phenomenal," she says, beaming. "We're each other's support network, we've always been a team, we really respect one another and we really admire one another. We're both really hands-on parents, but both of us still have our careers, so one month when I'm more busy, he's at home more; the next it's the reverse. We're very understanding of the other's dreams and aspirations.
"I think the secret to our relationship is really caring about each other individually. As much as we're a great team, we never make the other do all the work. It's appreciation, that's what it comes down to. If you're a nice person and respect one another, anything is possible."
Nat and her husband have been together for 12 years and are each other's support network. (Image: Getty Images)
Navigating her fifth decade hasn't phased the straight-talker either. At 43 she's happy to be fit, happy and healthy.
"Turning 40 didn't bother me," she says. "I always celebrate my birthday for a month. A lot of people don't want to know, but I think it's so much fun. Getting older doesn't stress me out to be honest, but who knows, maybe I'll be freaked out when I turn 50!
"Of course, your body is definitely not what it used to be – no matter how hard you work out. After having kids I don't think I'll ever have a flat stomach again!"
When our chat turns to staying youthful, Nat admits that remaining fresh-faced is a "big priority" but in this age of normalised plastic surgery and Botox injections, she doesn't want to follow the flock.
"I don't want to look like Catwoman or like I've had a full facelift!" she says.
"It makes me quite sad to see women who have gone full tilt. I want to age gracefully. I still want to look like myself, but a fresher version."
The emphasis on looking "natural" aligns perfectly with Natalie's new ambassadorial role for Ultherapy Australia – a non-invasive treatment based on ultrasound technology that uses the body's own healing mechanism to rebuild collagen.
"The thing I like about it most is that it's non-surgical. You can literally go in at lunchtime, have a treatment, and leave – there's no downtime."
"I want to age gracefully. I still want to look like myself, but a fresher version." (Image: Instagram @natbassingthwaighte)
Natalie also applies this grace when it comes to the changes in her body.
"After having kids, my body changed so much it was a real eye-opener," she recalls. "I was like, 'Where did these boobs come from?' And then I'd think, 'Where did those boobs go?'" she laughs. "But I wouldn't take back what I have now for the world. The miracle that your body goes through to have the child is extraordinary. Saying all of this, I'm feeling the fittest I have for years."
And the TV star has found there are plenty of plus sides when it comes to ageing too.
"When you're in your twenties, you're so self-conscious," she reflects. "Thinking that you're not good at anything, aren't slim enough, aren't pretty enough… the judgement you place on yourself is quite horrible. I'd hate to go back to my twenties!
"Now I'm much more level-headed and so much kinder to myself. It's a far nicer place to be. I feel incredibly lucky that I have such an amazing husband, incredible children, and am continuing to have such a successful career. I'm happier now than I ever have been. I really am very blessed."

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