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Wellness without the BS with Cherry Dipietrantonio


Wellness without the BS with Cherry Dipietrantonio

Felicity Cohen: Hello, I’m Felicity Cohen. I’m so excited to introduce you to my Wellness Warriors podcast. For over 20 years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for helping thousands of Australians find solutions to treating obesity and health-related complications through surgical intervention and holistic managed care.

My podcast is dedicated to all the people past, present, and future who have helped shape my journey and continue to inspire me to work consistently to achieve a healthier Australia in both adults and future generations. I hope you enjoy it. 

Good morning and welcome to the Wellness Warriors podcast today. It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Cherry Dipietrantonio, thank you so much for joining me today. Cherry, you have lived a life that seems to have been absolutely jam-packed and when I read a little bit about you and learn about you, I feel like I’m almost reading an excerpt of Eat, Pray, Love.

The first thing that stands out for me is that when you first appeared on season five of the Real Housewives of Melbourne, your tagline was, “life is a journey, not a competition” and I love that, and I really want to hear a little bit more about what does that mean to you? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yes, it’s interesting Felicity and it’s lovely to meet you, so thank you so much for having me on. I love that tagline too, but I must say I’m not entirely sure it went down well with the audience! I think they sort of thought, “uh-oh, I’m not sure about this one”, because you know, it’s a show that is actually so competitive. I think for me, I can remember when I did my yoga teacher training at a beautiful place called the Australian Yoga Academy, and on the wall, they actually had something that was about yoga as a practice and not a competition. And I, you know, it’s one of those things that I used to look at regularly because I would be in a class full of people that were sort of, you know, trying something new for the first time. Maybe having a change in career and often we become competitive in life. So I think, yeah, seeing those words on the wall really resonated with me and not just on the yoga mat, but in life as well, and just to have your own unique experience and to stay in your own lane I think it’s really important.

Felicity Cohen: I think that’s something that yoga really does teach you, I mean, for me personally, yoga is such a personal thing and when you’re on the mat you become centered and you become focused and it’s definitely not a competition. It’s about what is the value of that practice for you personally, on that particular day, at that moment. What was it that led you to yoga? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Well, actually, my mum practised yoga, but she used to practice yoga from books and, you know, I’ve got memories of her doing really mindful breathing. I think back then, I didn’t really know what she was doing. It was probably because us kids were stressing her out and that she sort of used that tool of self-soothing.

So definitely my mum was an influence and I started practising yoga sort of on and off in my late teens and twenties. But to be honest with you Felicity, I didn’t really get it. I’ve even got memories of me going with friends and sort of thinking it was wrong, like “what’s all of this and it’s all a bit serious” and not really getting it.

And then there was a stage in my life where I think I was just going through a bit of a difficult time and yoga absolutely saved me. And I find as a yoga teacher that often, not always, but often people will find the practice because they’re a little bit broken in some way and whether it’s broken that, you know, you might have an injury that you’re working on and you’ve had to rethink what your exercise looks like, or that you’re dealing with anxiety and stress and that your GP or a friend has recommended, you know, go and try yoga. So, yeah, so I found yoga or yoga found me at a stage in my life when I really needed it and I haven’t been back. 

Felicity Cohen: Let’s just unpack that theme more, because I think that’s common to so many people when they do seek out yoga practice, it can, for many people come from that space of a challenge, a trauma, a difficulty where they do find that yoga is so cathartic and therapeutic and really helps them to move forward.

I love yoga because it gives me such a great sense of balance and calm and it’s meditative, and there’s so much that I gained from it. Can we just talk through, you know, that response to managing trauma and how it’s been helpful, and what did that look like for you? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Okay. It happened over time, it wasn’t instant, and you know, I don’t know if I can really do it justice by using the right words to describe it, but I knew that it made me feel good and that was what was my experience was. So I thought, “okay, there’s something about this, I don’t really know what it is, you know”. I’m just, my mind is flashing back to a stage in my life when I have panic attacks as a teenager and I’ve got a very clear memory of my mom trying to teach me how to breathe properly. But I mean, when you are sort of in the heights of a panic attack and someone is trying to introduce this new way of breathing for the first time it’s too late, you know, you can’t get to that stage of reset.

So I just find that it was that slow journey of just realising that the practice made me feel really good and then gradually over time, it sort of, I just found that it was just this massive shift in how I was living my life. 

Felicity Cohen: Your profile seems to be so incongruous with what we anticipate or expect from that traditional profile that fits the Real Housewives, it’s really quite a departure from anything that I’ve seen before. Tell me a little bit about what drew you to become involved with the Real Housewives of Melbourne series?

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Look, I do love a challenge, you know. Actually the year that I first started talking to the producers was also a yes year for me and I’d made a pact with myself that I was just going to say yes and I did. There were lots of things that had sort of come up in that 12 months where, and I don’t know if that was the best decision, but I just thought, you know, I just want to say yes a bit more and try some new things. So yeah, there’s part of me that has a definite sense of adventure and I think when I first started talking to the producers, the fact that I was so far removed from what that show is, which is basically that space that is built around conflict, and my life and work as a yoga teacher was completely the opposite of that, and I don’t genuinely have conflict in my life and I don’t think that’s because I avoid it, it’s more that I’ve just sort of gotten to a stage where I surround myself with people that make me feel good, that I’m aligned with, and it just doesn’t seem to be something that’s in my life. So, yeah I found that as sort of, okay, well this is interesting, this is a bit of a life experience, how will I deal with this? So yeah, it sparked my attention that’s for sure. 

Felicity Cohen: How have you actually managed to reconcile that situation where you are faced with that pressure cooker type environment and there is all of that conflict? How do you self manage in those situations, and how do you prepare? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Absolutely it’s a pressure cooker and you know, it’s interesting when you watch it back because you really only just see a snippet of what really goes on. It was so much more challenging than it looks and I think I probably thought that it would be the other way around and that it would appear to be more dramatic, but it wasn’t, it was far more intense actually being in that situation and filming for 16 weeks. Also, you sort of look at some of the storylines and the situations and they don’t really add up. You’re not seeing everything that happens so the reactions sometimes don’t seem warranted. 

In terms of preparation, I honestly don’t think you can prepare for something like that, just because you’re dealing with a group of seven strong, very different women, and I don’t even think that the producers know what to expect, “expect the unexpected”, I would say, but you can prepare, you know, by going in with the best mindset that you can possibly have. I’d seen the show previously and I had said to myself, “okay, I didn’t want to allow what I had seen on the show to influence my relationship with the women”, I really just wanted to take them at face value. Something else that I went in with was just knowing that as human beings, you really can make a connection with anyone and everyone. Even though we might not seem like the most obvious of friends, you can see a connection, even if it’s something sort of very surface level, you know, or both being mums or, both being into fashion, something like that, or maybe you both like having the heart to hearts. So I just sort of thought, give everybody a go and try and find a connection somehow, that was basically my preparation. 

Felicity Cohen: So what was the best connection for you? Who did you really resonate with and what did that relationship look like, and has it evolved since? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: So going into the show I knew one of the ladies, Kyla Kirkpatrick, and straight away, Anjali Rao and I connected, so the three of us, and it’s quite apparent on the show that it was sort of the three of us versus them, that’s basically the truth, that’s how it was! We just definitely had a nice connection, but I actually felt like I was fine with everybody. That was the thing I found interesting when we stopped filming, I was genuinely in a good place with each of the ladies and then what transpires is how it sort of plays out once it’s televised, and then all the stuff that comes up in the media, it’s more of a game, you know, I think those ladies have learned to play the game and that was the thing that I found very confusing, you know, I didn’t expect that, but that’s a big part of the process. 

Felicity Cohen: Is there something in particular that you feel that you really learned about yourself going through that journey of that 16 weeks? What is the biggest light bulb for you that you learned about yourself? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yeah, it’s interesting watching yourself back on television. So I’m far more naive than I realised. Absolutely, you know, I like to think of myself as a woman of the world but watching it back, I think I was naive in a sense that I thought I understood the show, but I probably didn’t understand it in its entirety because you can’t until you’ve experienced it.

Also, I’m very trusting and I trust easily, even with the producers and everybody. I sort of would take people, I would trust what they were telling me, and I think that’s a nice way to live your life and I don’t want to change that about me, but in that sort of scenario, you can find yourself on the back foot if you’re too trusting. Another thing that I can remember saying to one of the ladies at the beginning was, “oh, I’m not a crier, I don’t really cry”, which isn’t really true because I do, especially if it’s watching a television show or something, I can cry very easily. I was so emotional on the show and I think there were three times that you see me crying because it is like you said Felicity, it’s a pressure cooker. So these are the three things that I would say I learnt, I was trusting, naive, and more emotional than I ever realised.

Felicity Cohen: You’ve had such an interesting life journey, Cherry, you know, coming from Southampton and having spent quite a bit of your time, from what I understand, backpacking until you met your husband and then landed in Australia. Tell us a little bit about that part of your life and what led you to where you’re at now?

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yeah, gosh, it feels like such a long time ago. I met my husband in Bali and actually, I hadn’t done a lot of travelling before I met him. So the truth of that is I turned 18 in August and finished school, I was studying performing arts, I was really into musical theatre back then, and I was supposed to be going on to a school in London for three years, a performing arts school, and then I met my husband in September, so I didn’t end up seeing out the travels as planned. I spent a lot of that time with my husband, we kept sort of catching up when I came to Australia, he would fly up to Sydney and then when I was in Queensland I would go down and stay with him in Melbourne.

So yeah, we have this big year, around the world trip planned and I basically just did Bali and then sort of was mostly in Australia. Interestingly, the girls I travel with, there were four other girls that I was travelling with and they had already gone back to England because they’d run out of money, but it was my mother-in-law who really encouraged me to finish the rest of the trip and to continue on my own, which was sort of, you know, a bit of an overwhelming concept because I just got so used to being with those girls and with my husband, so being on my own was a scary thought. But I did it! So, I went to New Zealand, LA, and Hawaii. So, I had a bit of a stint on my own, but when I went back to England, basically mum and dad said, “well you need to pay us the money that you owe us young lady, and you need to go to university now as planned” and I said, “no, I’m going back to Australia” and they said, “oh no you’re not!” and then Andre, my husband, bought me a ticket and that was it. Then I moved back over here and yeah, grew up pretty quickly. I think, you know, it’s interesting isn’t it, once you have children of your own, and I think of Oliver now who’s turning 17 next month, and I think, “wow, I was his age, there about, when I met my husband”.

Felicity Cohen: How amazing, and I think it’s so interesting that those travel moments in our lives can define and dictate your whole future pathway. So it’s really interesting listening to you and I’m kind of thinking maybe we should all tell our children not to go to Bali because that’s actually how I met my ex-husband, then ended up living in Paris for a few years before coming back to Australia. So, yes, maybe keep the children away from Bali, you never know what might happen! 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yes, so for my brother and sister our my mum was like, “you’re not going travelling!” and kept them very close. So I think, you know, it’s great to have the kids sort of out and about and exploring the world, and to be honest, I think I still would encourage them, but yeah, maybe go with them.

Felicity Cohen: If not encourage them. So, you’ve got loads of qualifications apart from being a yoga instructor and a wellness coach. Tell me a little bit about your philosophy around how you actually evaluate, assess, and work with your clients from a wellness perspective? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yeah, so I think probably the difference with me is that I’m not that goal-focused as such. So, you know, when a new client comes to me and we’ll fill out all the paperwork and something that pretty much always comes up 99% of the time is that they want to lose weight. It may be, I want to lose 10 kilos in seven weeks for my sister’s wedding or something like that, and that’s fine, I’ll listen, write it down, acknowledge it. But then as our journey progresses, I try to move away from that fixation on weight and to really focus more on the felt experience and just growing a love, creating that love of movement. That’s what I love about one-on-one teaching, is that I have the opportunity to be really flexible.

You know, my client can arrive and I have devised a plan the night before that’s sort of full-on, you know, 60 minutes of HIIT, and then they arrive really tired, emotional, and depleted, so that just won’t work and we mix it up. It could be that we just do yoga, or we do half an hour of HIIT and then 20 minutes of yoga then 10 minutes of Pranayama and meditation. So I love that, being able to really give them that beautiful individualised, unique one-on-one experience. 

Having said that, I really miss teaching in yoga studios, so I’m probably heading back into teaching in the studios, that there is something really special about that, you know, that experience when you’re together with so many like-minded souls, so I’ve been speaking to a few studios at the moment. I think that for me would be a perfect balance, to have the clients that I see privately, and then also to move back into regular studio sessions. 

Felicity Cohen: Fantastic. What is unique about your personal approach to your teaching method and style of teaching yoga?

Cherry Dipietrantonio: I think every single yoga teacher is unique, you know, there are similar themes throughout, sure, but you never go to a class that’s the same and that’s one of the things that I love so much about yoga. Also you can have that flexibility as a yoga teacher as well, sometimes I would have a plan to sort of have a certain type of class and then the people arrive and you have to read the room, you have to be flexible. So yeah, in terms of my yoga teaching style, my classes do tend to be quite dynamic just because I love a fast pace but soulful Vinyāsa. I love that and so I do tend to teach in a similar style. What style of yoga do you enjoy Felicity? 

Felicity Cohen: I think I’m attached to a particular studio because I just love the teachers and there’s not a class that I don’t love. Interestingly, they also do Pilates and Barre classes and I was actually one of those people who thought that Pilates was for people who don’t really want to do much exercise. It wasn’t until I went to a class and it was the most incredible experience and I loved it. But for me, it’s more about a need to fit more of this into my life and if I can get to a yoga class, that’s my favourite thing ever. Every single yoga class I go to, I walk away thinking I need more of this and I just love it.

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yeah, you don’t ever go to a yoga class and think I wish I never went!

Felicity Cohen: It’s really interesting that your clients who see you as a wellness coach and come to you personally on their journeys, many of them have weight as being the core and central concern that they’re addressing when they first see you. You’re really open about expressing that you’ve had a previous connection to disordered eating. What did that look like for you, and how did you actually identify that you had something that you needed to fix within yourself and how did you do that? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yeah, so I had a very secret disorder for many years. I mean, really it was on and off for about 10 years, and it was bulimia and also sort of just very obsessive eating. It’s interesting because I didn’t grow up in a household where there was no influence, no unhealthy influence in terms of unhealthy relationships with food, so I grew up having a very healthy relationship with my body. So I think when I sort of try to unpack it and understand where that came from, I think it’s more about me feeling lonely, you know, I think it suddenly hit me that, oh my gosh, I’m over here living in Australia and I’m young, I don’t have my family surrounding me, and also there were some moments where I sort of, like I touched on before, I really thought that my life would be in musical theatre, my career, and had some moments of just sort of feeling really sad about that because it’s hard to get back on that journey when you don’t have the support around you.

So yeah, I definitely think that when I think back about the eating disorder, it was definitely more about trying to control my life, and when I’ve done sort of research on any kind of eating disorder, that’s something that sort of pops up a lot. So for me, it wasn’t so much, I want to lose weight, I want to look a certain way. I can remember sort of when I would lose weight, the fixation for me was definitely the scales, so that’s something that I don’t do, I do not weigh myself any more. I’m also not interested in my client’s weight, and as I said to you, I will write it down just out of respect for them because everybody’s different, and if their goal is to lose 10 kilos, I need to listen to that. But I just want to be able to teach them that what matters is how you feel and how you feel about yourself, and then generally you do start to make better choices in terms of, you know, being more active and thinking about the foods that you’ve put in your body and how you treat yourself. I mean, you can go to all the yoga classes in the world and drink all the green juices, but if that internal dialogue is unhealthy, then it’s kind of pointless. I think that number one is having a nice, healthy relationship with yourself. 

Felicity Cohen: Absolutely agreed. Cherry, you’ve spent a lot of your time fundraising for disadvantaged families, and you’ve got a real conscious awareness of philanthropy and the work that you do to support and help others. Tell me a little bit about the work that you do? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yeah, so there’s a charity here in Melbourne, an incredible charity called the St Kilda Mums, and they help women that are disadvantaged, mothers that are disadvantaged, and quite often women that are fleeing domestic violence, you know, literally leaving in the middle of the night with their child and nothing else. So the work that these people do is basically reaching out to the community to get donations which could be anything from shampoo and conditioner, to a toothbrush, car seats, all those things that we sort of take for granted. There are so many women, it’s actually quite overwhelming when you think about it, that don’t have anything. I had basically been to a few events of the St Kilda Mums throughout the years and it just really resonated with me, and I just feel that it’s really important to shine a light on these women that need our help.

So I’m hosting a wellness day which is happening next month, and very excited because I filmed one on the real Housewives of Melbourne, so I’m very excited to do the same thing again but without the cameras, without the chaos! We’ve got boxing, HIIT, yoga, the most delicious, yummy, healthy food, sound healing, and a DJ to make it fun.

Felicity Cohen: Fabulous, sounds like the kind of day that I would just love to fit into my schedule. What date is it and where is it happening? 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: So it’s on Friday the 17th of June from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM at Grow Events Space. So yes, if you look me up on Instagram you’ll see some more information, and find the tickets online. It’s $110, but well worth it with all proceeds, every single cent, going directly to St Kilda Mums. 

Felicity Cohen: And also for our listeners, if they’re not able to access the event, but they really love the work that you’re doing and they want to make a donation, maybe we can actually provide a link for them so that they can support what you’re doing as well through that.

Cherry Dipietrantonio: That would be amazing, yeah absolutely!

Felicity Cohen: Wonderful, absolutely love that you are doing that and, you know, finding the time to support and help others and giving back is just spectacular. So congratulations on taking the time out of your busy life to contribute and give back to others. 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Thank you, Felicity. It’s almost a bit of a selfish thing as well because I think when we do good things, we feel good. So it’s a win-win. 

Felicity Cohen: Absolutely. So finally, our listeners are all wellness warriors and we know that wellness is worth fighting for. We all spend so much of our lives working towards maintaining good health and looking to make sure that we’re looking to achieve positive outcomes for our physical, mental, and spiritual health is a real challenge. If we find a moment in life where we really think we’re losing that and have to fight to regain it – have you got a moment in your life where you can identify that was an issue for you, that you were struggling with your wellness and that you really had to work to reclaim it?

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Yes, well I guess the first thing that comes to mind is when I experienced the eating disorder, but more recently than that, I actually had a shoulder injury which meant that I’ve actually had 12 months off yoga practising and teaching yoga in a studio setting, and gosh, do I miss it, but I didn’t realise how much that physical practice really had so much benefit in my mindset you know? Because I thought it was fine, if I can’t do yoga and if I can’t work out to the extent that I used to, that’s fine because I can do meditation, I can do Pranayama, but definitely, that physical movement plays a massive part. I actually found myself taking quite strong painkillers, and I was just not in a great space. My specialist had told me that basically the worst thing that I can do is yoga, and that was just awful to hear, and I really just trusted in the wisdom of the experts, but I also think it’s really important to really listen and tune in to your own intuition.

Now I’ve sort of started to reintroduce yoga and I’m feeling amazing. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that they were saying I was going to have to have like a total shoulder reconstruction which was scary, but I think I’ve kind of avoided that! So I think if you’re not feeling great, then ask for help, whatever it may be. If you’re experiencing anxiety, go and try a yoga class and if that’s not enough, then seek help from a psychologist, like I did when I had my eating disorder and remember it’s trial and error a lot of the time. With my shoulder injury I’ve seen an acupuncturist, a physiotherapist, and then you sort of come to a place where you find the things that work for you.

Felicity Cohen: Thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you here on the Wellness Warriors podcast, and congratulations on all the wonderful things that you fit into your life and giving back to others. It’s really beautiful to hear about, and it’s been a pleasure to meet you today Cherry. 

Cherry Dipietrantonio: Uh, thank you so much for having me. I love talking about wellness, I could do it all day every day.

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