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Conversations: The Haute Pursuit’s Vanessa Hong on Health & Self-Love

The super fit mind behind @thehautepursuit and @thpshop.co also tell us how she got those abs. And no, there were no shortcuts.

There are many reasons why people follow a certain person on Instagram. For followers of The Haute Pursuit’s Vanessa Hong – better known as @thehautepursuit – it is likely a mix that involves a lot more than just her personal style. There are snippets of the work she does for her label THP, for example, and then there are those fitspiring (that’s a word that people use, right?) pilates and yoga pose shots that makes you feel like you’re long overdue for a good stretch. Looooong overdue.

She’s even started sharing recipes for some of her favourite wholesome, go-to meals on Instagram, something that isn’t very common among the who’s who of the platform. As someone who is the kitchen equivalent of a bull in a china shop and prefers to learn recipes off Instagram as opposed to actual cookbooks, her recipe posts are things I can appreciate. Here, Hong talks to us about beauty, eating well and the real trick to getting abs like hers.

You founded your label THP. How did it all begin?
A lot of people don’t know, but I’ve had a store since the very beginning of my blog, although on a much limited capacity! Since then, I’ve built a real team and finessed the whole process, creating everything from women’s ready-to-wear to what we call “Objects” (stationery, tech cases etc.). Funding a start-up entirely by oneself is no easy feat – you can ask any entrepreneur – but when the vision is strong, it drives everything else. In terms of competition, I think we are situated very well. There aren’t a lot of brands doing what we do. We’re creating a culture at THP, not a product.


You travel quite a bit because of work and, as well know, packing and unpacking can be quite the chore. What are some of your go-to, easy-to-style pieces on trips?
When I’m not being photographed, I keep it super simple. I travel with motorcycle leather skirts and usually five men’s tees from Muji. For shoes, I always have a skinny stiletto and two to three pairs of trainers (always either in white or black). Another trick is to not unpack! I usually carry two to three luggages with me, so I often leave one entirely unpacked.


You seem to be under the sun and in the water a lot. What are some of your favourite melt-free, waterproof products?
I try to protect myself as much as possible from the sun – large brim hats and non-toxic sunscreens like La Roche Posay.


What goes into your everyday beauty look?
My makeup routine is quite simple. I use La Prairie’s Caviar SPF Foundation every day and Benefit’s gel liner. I love highlighters, so I have several on rotation. But my favourite is Illia, which is completely 100 percent natural.


Okay, let’s talk abs. Could you walk us through your process of getting those abs of yours?
I’ve been thin my whole life but never really worked out until my early 2os. It definitely took several years to transform my body from waifish to more of a dancer’s body: toned, lean and efficient. I do a variety of things including interval training, pilates, cardio plus daily yoga. My approach to fitness comes from a place of wellness versus vanity. I love burpees, push-ups and eating a clean, plant-based diet.


What are the foods that you don’t take and what are the foods that you take a lot of?
I don’t eat anything processed. No alcohol, no white sugars, no pasta. I rarely shop in large grocery stores – I buy all my food local and organic, and preferably from sustainable farmers. I eat a lot of seeds and nuts, dark leafy greens and legumes.


Were you always a health nut? What was the trigger?
No, I wasn’t! Moving to Beijing in 2009 changed everything. In my first few years in China, I was always sick. I finally had enough and decided to take things into my own hands. I started reading nutrition books and educating myself on holistic, internal healing practices. So, in many ways, moving to China changed my life for the better.


What’s a cheat day like for you?
I don’t like the idea of a “cheat” day, I think this is why people yo-yo out of their diets. If you approach eating well from a place of love and expansion, then it becomes your lifestyle versus a chore. I see eating well as treating myself every day. What’s better than a long, fruitful, healthy life?


Nothing beats making your own meals, because then you know exactly what goes into it. What are some of your go-to dinners that are wholesome yet easy to make?
I love macrobiotic plates. These are really easy and you can make things in bulk and in advance. The macrobiotic diet is really interesting and definitely worth a read if you’re not familiar (plus, it’s crazy delicious). Otherwise, I’ll always make a bowl with seasonal vegetable (right now, lots of garden kale, carrots and other bright varietals) and one of my homemade sauces.


So earlier this year, I made up my mind to start treating my body better, to work out more and eat clean. But, of course, there are been times where I find it hard to keep to the commitment. Especially when I’m travelling.
I think this is similar to what I talked about earlier. I think you need to switch gears on how you see fitness and eating well. If you see it as a chore, no matter how diligent you are about your schedule, you will not have long-lasting results. However, if you approach it from a place of self-love and deep appreciation for your body and mind, then it really isn’t that hard and over time, it will become enjoyable.

Also for travelling, I always plan ahead with food options (using food apps like Yelp) to make sure I know where to go for healthy, fresh food. If you don’t have a gym in your hotel, go for a walk! I walk everywhere when I travel!


(Psst, we finally got Facebook. Like us over here, maybe?)

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