An interview with psycho-nutritionist, Gina Taujan

Gina Taujan - photo by Nuta Kiki

Say hello to Gina Taujan, a licensed psycho-nutritionist with over six years of experience in the field. Inspired by her own personal journey and the transformative power of food, Gina developed the first Food Reeducation Program aimed at helping people prioritise their health and wellbeing. Through several weeks of guided support and information, Gina's program helps individuals become aware of the connection between the food they eat and their mood, energy, creativity, determination, and body health. A native of Romania and a regular on the electronic music circuit, she’s well positioned to chat about some of the dietary pitfalls that we all succumb to every now and then. We checked in with her recently to learn more…

Hey Gina! Thanks for chatting with us! Can you please start by introducing yourself, so people know who you are?

Hi, I'm Gina Taujan (@healthybyginna) and I've been working as a licensed psycho-nutritionist for over six years. It's a path I chose inspired by my own experience which helped me notice how much the food we choose to eat can influence our mood, energy, creativity, determination and body health.

I started on this road at a time when people were not very concerned about the food that they were putting in their bodies. This is how the first Food Reeducation Program took shape, which I thought of as the start of a personal journey in which you learn to choose yourself as the main priority. It is a course of several weeks in which I guide people and give them the support and information necessary to make them aware of the effect that food has on our lives, especially colourful, healthy food based on living food. I want people to discover on their own how the food that they put on a plate have a direct connection with self-esteem and self-confidence, our daily well-being and how they can even restore balance in the body.

I used to work with people and I can say that my past experience helped me a lot, but I consider that my most important asset is the love for what i do also what i preach is something that I already tested on myself and i have seen the benefits of it, thats why i would like to see everybody try this kind of lifestyle and see how life can smile back.

As someone who's been to many Sunwaves parties, we wanted to start by asking how do you prepare for the marathon dancing sessions?

Sunwaves for me is a place to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and also that kind of place in which all my social things are left behind, disconnect and just enjoy the moment. Everytime I leave that place I feel inspired, creative and with a good energy, all that comes from music, dancing, the sea, random chats, you name it - from the whole atmosphere in general.

When I go to a party, I don't have a specific preparation routine beforehand, but if i would have to name the order it would be : sleep, eat, rave repeat :)). I think it is important to constantly maintain a balanced diet, especially if we are talking about an active lifestyle that requires a lot of energy resources. All this energy to do daily tasks with and for parties is maintained, and restored, with the help of a healthy meal, speaking of healthy meals, you will find me many times during the festival going to Vitamina Bar, which provides a nice variety of smoothies, yummy and healthy sandwiches,salads, the things that provides the necessary nutrients to keep you going, important note - never forget to eat during the festival -. Hydration is also essential, so I will always have my water bottle with me. In addition to all this, we must respect the body's need for rest and sleep and respect these in the same manner as we respect the need of having fun, in order for the body to recover.

How do you manage to strike a balance between partying and staying healthy and maintaining a nutritious diet? How important is organisation and self-discipline here?

As I mentioned above, you can maintain this balance easily. First of all, by paying attention to food choices. Think of the food on your plate as the "fuel" that helps this body carry us everywhere, including our dance steps to all the parties we want to go to.

It can become difficult, over time, to really enjoy the fun and be always present with energy, if you don't take care of your body in parallel during the rest of the days when you are not partying.

This is where organising and self-discipline come into the picture. One cannot exist without the other. You need to create some habits to follow, for example to book the day after the party for resting, to include nutritious foods in your daily diet, to have tasty and satisfying meals. Go for a walk in the park or wherever you can find nature around you to disconnect, to get a breath of fresh air and to stimulate your mind. Motivation comes and goes, you need self-discipline in order to create healthy habits. After all, we want to enjoy our favourite festivals as long as we wish , so we are the only ones responsible for taking care of our health and vitality.

Working as a DJ is prone to pitfalls, especially around diet. Have you met a lot of DJs whose health has suffered badly as a result of their lifestyle? How do you encourage them to change?

I can understand that the life of an artist becomes demanding over time. It is not at all easy to be always on the road, between gigs, to skip sleep during the night and at the same time to transmit energy and good vibes to people everywhere you go. Things get complicated especially when you can't stick to a classic routine.

I think it is important for a DJ to manage to create a balance between the classical routine (everyday life when you are at home) and the routine of an artist. I emphasise again the importance of rest, along with the correct prioritisation of needs and let's not forget, of course, hydration, and healthy & nutritious diet. It’s important to stay away from heavy processed food and lean towards food that comes from nature’s side - don't forget - always have colours in your plate.

Let's say you are a DJ and you are at the airport, you leave one gig and head to another, use that time to ensure a satisfying meal, not one that is heavy but one that leaves you with energy at the end. Being tired and hungry can lead you to junk food, the so-called comfort food, the one that gives you the satisfaction of taste for the moment, but after you finish eating you end up feeling tired, maybe bloated, and with the feeling to just faint on a sofa. Refuse that temptation, because it does not bring you any benefit. Also airports can be tricky with finding good food but as i always say, try to choose the ‘lesser evil’.

Wherever you are, whether we are talking about the airport, restaurant, hotel, you will always find healthy options in the menus. It all depends on how you understand your body's needs and how you choose to feed it to support you in this life as a DJ.

So who would you recommend something similar ahead of a long night at a club? Or is it different for every person?

It is different for everyone, because we are all different. What I like or what suits me, like food choices, will not necessarily suit you. However, we all have one important aspect in common: healthy and colourful food is suitable for everyone.

Furthermore, I encourage everyone to listen to their body, and understand what it really needs. To notice what is good for you and what is not. The body’s needs can be easily misinterpreted and maybe that need that you might feel for junk food is just the body telling you that you are fatigued. Drink some water and go to sleep.

As I said before, the most suitable foods that help us support an active lifestyle are those that are coming from mother nature, consumed in simple seasonal combinations. In addition, I would recommend everyone to experiment with various recipes and find those combinations to their taste that they can keep and integrate into their daily diet. When you're out of ideas, go back to what you know and have already tried.

Gina Taujan - photo by Nuta Kiki

You've also worked with a lot of DJs over the years. Do you generally encourage them to avoid a heavy meal before they play for example? And are there any foods that you'll absolutely avoid full stop?

I haven't worked with many DJs, but I had the honour to take part in such an adventure thanks to my fiance, Catalin (Prichindel). The way I encourage him is the way I would encourage everyone that needs to be creative, so yes, stay away from heavy meals because that only consumes your energy and maybe you want to put it into your act.

The last thing you want as a DJ is to be left with an ounce of energy right when you’re supposed to delight people with your music. That's why it's also important to pay attention to the way you are eating. And this is also works for dancers, when the stomachache hits you don’t feel like dancing or in the mood for party.

What I would like you to remember here is that our body is an intelligent machine and you cannot fool it so easily, especially when you choose to give it processed, fried foods that do not benefit the body. In the digestion process, the body already spends enough energy resources. I recommend avoiding fried, fatty or processed foods. Choose to eat a light meals, i’m mostly eating vegetables that comes with the season but if you are a meat person, choose a quality meat, preferable one that you know where it came from, pay attention to quantity and always with a lot of veggies in order to help your system to digest it properly. You'll thank me later.

In terms of drinks, what do you recommend at the club?

Water! We laugh, we joke, but I would like you to remember that hydration is essential. However, I understand the context and if you want to drink i recommend you to avoid drinks that have a lot of sugars, rum and coke for example. Also the quality of the alcohol is important so you might want to check that out.

In order to avoid dizziness or nausea during the party, as well as the hangover the next day, it is best that the glass of drink is accompanied by a glass or a bottle of water.

Obviously dancing is good cardio, but is there ever a case where people overdo it too much that you notice?

Even if dancing is good for us physically and mentally, it is very good to know your limits and not to overload the body's energy resources. Therefore, it is preferable to leave the dance floor when we feel the body sending us signals that it is exhausted.

Now... onto the recovery. Let's be frank and admit here that a certain amount of people will probably be recovering or 'coming down'. How do your dietary choices here impact the severity of the comedown?

This is a culminating point, in which we realise if our relationship with food is one that brings us benefits or if we need to work on it. Our food choices can either help us restore lost resources after the party, or drag us even more into that state of lethargy.

If we put colourful nature-based food on our plate, therefore rich in the necessary nutrients, we will help our body restore its reserves and restore its serotonin and dopamine levels. On the other hand, if we choose to eat processed, fatty, fried foods, which lack any nutritional value, the only things we will get will be sustaining the state of fatigue or anxiety. And that's just on a mental level. Besides these, we can check the list of discomfort, bloating, stomach ache and bad digestion.

Eat while being really present at the table and try to avoid distractions such as the phone screen or whatever is running on tv.

And why do you think we always reach for comfort foods such as pizza and soft drinks in this situation?

We make such food choices because we are not aware of, or do not know how to read the body's needs, and end up confusing its real need for correct food, rest and hydration.

The tiredness that sets in after a skipped night urges the next day laziness .

At the same time, let's be serious, no one has the energy to stay in the kitchen and cook, so processed fast-food food becomes an appealing and handy alternative. We look at this comfort food as a moment of indulgence. We feel that a pizza or a burger will  make us happier, maybe even give us an energy boost. In reality, the exact opposite happens!

You can turn all meals into a healthy meal if you pay attention to details, for example, if you go for a pizza, choose to remove the processed meat and put veggies instead. A pizza with vegetables can turn into a suitable meal, we have colours, taste, nutrients.  In this way, we managed to create a hearty meal that nourishes our body and does not induce even more the need for laziness.

PS : Cheese might look delicious but sometimes lactose intolerance can be a mess so pay attention to how you feel after you eat it! 

Finally, what 'superfoods' would you recommend we all try out?

I recommend adapting our meals season wise and to eat fruits and vegetables that are available during that time. For now we can fully enjoy beans, lentils, chickpeas, broccoli, cauliflower, normal or sweet potatoes. Pinterest gives us enough inspiration on how to combine all these foods. On my Instagram page, @healthybyginna, you can find a variety of tasty recipes that are quick to prepare and satisfy even the pickiest taste buds of them all. In addition, you don't need to be an expert in cooking to prepare a colourful, nutritious and appetising meal.

When you go to a festival or a party, I recommend that you have an energising bar in your purse with simple ingredients that are easy to read. Walnuts in combination with prunes, almonds and dates are a suitable choice and, more than that, because what we make is infinitely better and healthier, you can mix the ingredients, then shape them into bars and there you go: your healthy snack on the go.

I conclude with a humble exhortation, to always have colours on your plate and to take into account the needs of your body, before, during and after the party.

Keep up with Gina on Instagram at @healthybyginna=