Home and Away's Ada Nicodemou on her struggle with perfectionism and staying healthy

''I've always been of the belief that you've got to do something for yourself every day.''

By Trudie McConnochie
When fans bump into Ada Nicodemou around Sydney, she'll always stop for a quick photo – but she's usually in quite a hurry.
That's because the bubbly soap star has a to-do list longer than her popular character Leah Patterson-Baker's list of relationship disasters.
Fortunately, her multitasking game is strong.
In fact, when the 41-year-old phones Good Health and Wellbeing for our interview, she's driving home after a long day of filming – "I do my phone calls in the car – when I'm at home with [my son] Johnas, I don't have my phone anywhere near me because I want to try and focus on the moment more."
Ada admits she's eternally got a lot on her plate, and she knows reducing that mental load and learning how to say no is paramount when it comes to her health and wellbeing.
"I do get overwhelmed," says Ada, who has been on Home and Away for 18 years.
"I've been evaluating how to simplify my life because I am bad at saying 'no'. I'm one of those people who does about 20 things in the morning before I leave home and every time I've got a day off, I'll add five to 10 appointments in, and I need my house to be perfect, and all that stuff, then I run myself into the ground.
"I was waking up tired all the time because my mind wouldn't stop. So now I'm trying to say no to things, I'm trying to write down lists, I'm deciding what's more important than others, and putting the phone down."
The 41-year-old star says she first realised how important it was to make sure she didn't get overwhelmed when she became mum to Johnas, now six, her son with ex husband Chrys Xipolitas.
"The most challenging thing I found was realising that there were a lot of things you can't control," she says.
"You can't control a newborn and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I'm a real perfectionist, and I've struggled with that because I like to have the 'show home'. I like him to be perfectly dressed and I like him to eat nutritional food, but you have to let go of all of that, because otherwise you'll just drive yourself insane."
One thing Ada definitely can control is her fitness – a cornerstone of her health and wellbeing ethos.
The popular actress religiously devotes at least 20 minutes a day to exercise, four to five days a week, using a treadmill at home or her own weights.
But earlier this year she decided she wanted to get serious, so she embarked on an intensive eight-week one-on-one weights-training regimen. It was tough… but so is Ada.
"I love it!" enthuses Ada, who continues to do regular weight-training sessions even though the program has finished.
"I'm lucky because I'm one of those people who enjoys training. For me, it's more about trying to manage time between work and being a parent and trying to find time for myself. I don't have as much time for training as I would like but for me it's about the quality of training. Weight training is great because I feel like you don't have to do as much – you don't have to do a one-hour cardio session, you just have to do the right exercises."
Naturally, an intensive fitness regimen plus a busy schedule requires the right fuel. Ada has always been conscious of the value of nutrient-rich food thanks to her mother Jenny, and that's a lesson she, in turn, is passing on to her son.
"I was very lucky to grow up in a household where Mum never dieted, so I've never seen my mum stress about her weight – it was always about healthy eating," she explains. "We had an abundance of beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables. Mum's a great cook and baker – every Sunday morning we'd wake up with the smell of fresh bread.
She continues, "As you get older I think it's more about your energy levels and making sure you're eating nutritious food. I think I've always had a balance. I do like the odd glass of champagne and red wine, and I love food – I'm Greek; I love my food and I've got a sweet tooth as well. But I'm 41 now, I can't be eating as many desserts as I was having in my 20s!"

In fact, when you start Ada talking about food, it's hard to get her to stop.
The down-to-earth star, who is in a relationship with internet entrepreneur Adam Rigby, confesses with a laugh that food is on her mind "from the moment I get up to the moment I go to sleep".
That doesn't mean, however, that she's prone to overindulging – Ada is very disciplined.
"It's not that hard to eat well. It's not that hard to grill some chicken and steam some vegetables, or throw together a salad with some tuna. I love eggs, and I love making a Greek dish called 'chip omeletta' and it's basically a chip omelette, but you can add anything to it. I usually do zucchini, a little bit of potato, haloumi, spinach and eggs. It's just so good!"
She continues, "I'm not the world's best cook but I think I'm quite good with flavours. I've bought some roo fillets – because kangaroo's very lean – and I'm going to do a deconstructed hamburger tonight. You won't come over to my house for a gourmet meal, but it's always tasty."

Ada's self-care credo

Ada's approach to nutrition is one facet of her overall commitment to her wellbeing.
She's also very committed to keeping herself mentally well, and is determined not to fall into the trap of neglecting herself, as many mums can find themselves doing.
"I've always been of the belief that you've got to do something for yourself every day," she says firmly. "Mothers, and women in general, tend to say 'yes' to everything and give ourselves to everyone and always leave ourselves last. I need to be strong for myself first so I can look after my son. Whether it's getting up in the morning and exercising, or having a cup of tea before he gets up. I like to have facials and get massages; I love spending time with my friends. It's making sure that I do something nice for myself every day."
There's no doubt that Johnas is the light of Ada's life, featuring often in her Instagram posts.

The soap star has been through some incredibly turbulent times over the past few years, with the very public breakdown of her marriage and coping with the devastating loss of her stillborn son Harrison in 2014.
But even on the darkest of days, Johnas, as well as her supportive group of girlfriends, has been a never-ending source of joy.
"His giggle is just… oh, it warms my heart! I'll never get sick of it," says Ada, with palpable affection in her voice. "
This is Johnas' first year at school so I'm just trying to bring up a little boy and turn him into a fine young man one day – that's really important to me."
Reassuringly for fans of Home and Away, who have watched Leah's struggle through surrogacy, single parenthood, widowhood – twice – and evolve to become a Summer Bay stalwart alongside Alf Stewart, Ada has no intention of leaving the show anytime soon.
"I hope I'm there until the end," she says. "I absolutely love it!"

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